From its earliest settlement, Oregon had an economy dominated by the exploitation of natural resources, particularly forest and agricultural resources. Beginning in the second half of the 20th century, however, the state’s economy diversified with the growth of manufacturing and service industries.
Oregon had a work force of 1,833,000 in 2008. Of those, 35 percent worked in the service industries, doing such jobs as working in restaurants or computer programming. Another 20 percent worked in wholesale or retail grade; 12 percent in manufacturing; 17 percent in federal, state, or local government, including those in the military; 17 percent in finance, insurance, or real estate; 6 percent in construction; 4 percent in farming (including agricultural services), forestry, or fishing; and 20 percent in transportation or public utilities. Employment in mining was a small fraction of one percent. In 2007, 14 percent of Oregon’s workers were unionized.
One of the outstanding features of Oregon’s agriculture is its diversity. Sales of crops account for 74 percent of all agricultural income. Among the many crops are feed crops, such as hay and barley; wheat; vegetables, including potatoes, onions, snap beans, sweet corn, and green peas; fruits, including pears, strawberries, cherries, blackberries, and apples; greenhouse and nursery products; fescue seed, ryegrass seed, and other seed crops; mint; sugar beets; and hops. Beef cattle and dairy products are by far the most important livestock commodities. The significance of nursery and greenhouse products has grown over recent decades, surpassing wheat during the mid-1990s in the value of agricultural commodity groups.
There were 38,600 farms in Oregon in 2008. Of these, 37 percent had annual sales of more than $10,000; many of the rest were sidelines for operators who held other jobs. Farmland occupied 6.6 million hectares (16.4 million acres), of which 31 percent was cropland. Of the cropland area, 35 percent was irrigated. The majority of land used for agricultural purposes was devoted to range for the grazing of livestock.
The distribution of farm products depends primarily on climate and markets. Dairy farming is concentrated in the northwestern part of the state, especially in the Willamette Valley and on the coast. Here the mild rainy winters and cool summers favor the production of hay and pasture. Whole milk, butter, and cheese are produced in large quantities, some for out-of-state markets. Tillamook cheese, one of Oregon’s best-known brands, is produced in the coastal area, and large quantities of cheese are produced in the Willamette Valley. Fruits and vegetables are grown and marketed fresh or processed in canneries and freezing plants in the Willamette Valley, also the center of the state’s hazelnut production. Medford, in Jackson County, produces large quantities of pears and other fruits, as does the Hood River Valley near the Columbia River. Fruits and vegetables are also important in several places in eastern Oregon, especially in the irrigated areas around Vale and Ontario. A number of farms in the state have begun growing grapes for use by local wineries.
Wheat farming, formerly more widespread in the state, is now concentrated in the north central section, in the Deschutes-Umatilla Plateau. Here the moderate rainfall, fertile soils, and relatively cheap land are favorable for the production of spring and winter wheat and other small grains by dry farming. Much of the wheat is grown for export, particularly to Asian countries. One of the best wheat-growing regions is near Pendleton, an area that also produces peas. Cattle ranching is widely distributed in Oregon, especially in the eastern part of the state. Here the semiarid grasslands and forest grazing lands, much of it owned by the federal government, are used for cattle and sheep. The irrigated areas serve to supply hay and other forage crops as winter feed for the ranching areas. Some cash crops, such as sugar beets and potatoes, are produced as well. "Oregon" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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