Dayton is a rural community in Washington State's Columbia County, tucked into the southeast corner, near the shared border of Oregon and Idaho. Unemployment hovers around 7%, which is higher than the national average. The region's population has been making a difficult transition diversifying from from its agricultural roots.
It's here that officials plan to open what they're billing as "the world's first organic food processing eco-industrial park." It's an interesting idea. The complex is to be sited within the Port of Columbia, and called Blue Mountain Station. Port officials have teamed up with specialists in food production to develop an integrated, certified organic food facility connecting the many links that stretch from farmer to retailer.
Working as a small, artisinal company under the Blue Mountain Station umbrella brings certification expertise as well. Companies seeking to go USDA-certified organic will be able to tap professional assistance during the transition, according to Port of Columbia officials. They noted that Washington is a leader in the organic food industry. Washington State University, in nearby Pullman, created the first organic farming degree in the United States.
The Organic Trade Association estimates the organic market will grow by 18% a year though 2010. Current economic issues aside, there's still plenty of demand out there for interesting, high-quality new products crafted by small manufacturers. There are enough people out there, even among traditional shoppers, to fuel development of the organic category and help get worthy initiatives like this off the ground.