Eugene, Oregon Lane County Agriculture Extension Service Closes: The Loss Of Oregon Blue Collar Jobs: Agriculture, Timber, Construction, Manufacturing
On this blog, I predominately cover what is essentially the relegation of the construction industry, by way of urban planners, to the new urban design “trend” of “microsized smart growth” properties and their affiliated neighborhoods, with ridiculously small lots and narrow streets.
However, this dramatic change in architecture and neighborhood design, and the consequential decline of construction due to urban growth boundaries,impact fees, and other growth regulations, parallels a much larger trend: the gradual loss of many blue collar industries, such as agriculture, timber, mining, domestic terrestrial drilling, and US manufacturing, the latter from Bill Clinton’s free trade agreements.
Nowhere are all of these declines perhaps more evident than in Oregon, with its strict urban growth boundaries, logging restrictions, farming restrictions, and now the closure of Eugene’s agricultural extension service (run by Oregon State University in Corvallis).
Overall, I get the feeling that Oregon doesn’t care if blue collar industries stay in business or not, compared to elsewhere in the country. With the decline in construction and timber production, and 12% unemployment, certainly rural Oregon has unemployment rates far above single digit figures found in the Corn Belt or rural New England.
As a gardener, nothing could agitate me more than two things: the closing of a 96 year old extension service (forthcoming on September 2, 2010), combined with building smart growth homes on 1/10th of an acre, with an alley of garages, instead of a fended backyard for a vegetable garden.
Alley of garages - INSTEAD of backyards - in Ashland, Oregon. The front yards face the main streets (not shown). No room for fruit trees or a vegetable garden!
Consider what the Lane County Extension Service provides: educational programs for gardeners, farmers, foresters, youth, families, 4H, outreach at fairs and other public events, Master Gardener Certification programs, and food assistance for the needy (that luckily, will be preserved).
According to Steve Dodrill, chair of the Lane County Extension Service:
“For nearly a century, Extension has helped Lane County residents make educated decisions that strengthened the economy, sustained natural resources, and built healthy communities, families, and individuals (…) The loss of local funding and programs means Lane County residents will now need to turn to Extension’s online resources for access to the trusted, objective information that OSU provides.”
The Lane County Extension Service even offers a Mobile Cannery Service by way of bicycles. Their programs are diverse and will be a profound loss to what once a community centered around agriculture. Overall, there are more than 650 trained volunteers from the Extension Service. From this map, Oregon State University offers an extension center in every county, and numerous agricultural research centers.
Eugene has several large community gardens. I especially like this sign with the pile of “free leaves” dumped by The City of Eugene:
Free Leaves for gardening in Eugene, Oregon.
Although, there is hope on the horizon for the Lane County (Eugene’s county) Extension Service, as this article from the Eugene Register Guard describes.
While Tom Lane (me) does not live in Eugene, Oregon nor in Lane County, Oregon (and has no relatives there, to my knowledge), I’ve looked past the smart growth, and seen the amazing diversity of small farms and backyard gardens in the productive Willamette Valley.
As a gardener, I’m sure I’d be right at home there, but the climate is too wet, and rents are too expensive due to urban growth boundaries and smart growth.
The various land use regulations are an incredible irony, considering that free land was once available to hardy emigrants of the Oregon and Applegate Trails! See photos below:
Applegate and Oregon Trails, display at a rest area in Jackson County (near Grants Pass, Oregon).
Free land; no impact fees; no urban growth boundaries! Perhaps we should return to an agricultural society of self-sufficient permaculture farms?
LCC tie may extend Extension | An agreement with the college could allow the unfunded service to continue a key farm and garden program
By Matt Cooper
The Eugene Register-Guard Friday, Aug 20, 2010
Lane County Extension — the food, farms, flowers and families service with the unusual name — is near to extending its life in the community, at least in part.
Because of a lack of funding, the local arm of the Oregon State University service will close most programs Sept. 2.
But the service is in talks with Lane Community College to preserve the farms and gardens program, Deborah Maddy, associate director of OSU Extension in Corvallis, said this week.
“I think we’ll be able to work out something,” Maddy said. “Will it be all finalized by Sept. 2? Probably not. We’ll build a little flexibility into our policies to allow a transition to deliver some quality educational programs to producers and farmers and those who are interested in natural resource based programs.”
Extension is so-named because it “extends” OSU courses into counties across Oregon.
The local service lost about one-third of its funding in 2008 when the Lane County commissioners discontinued support because of county government’s own revenue woes. With the failure of a five-year, $6 million property tax ballot measure three months ago, the service no longer met the state requirement of providing $50,000 in local funding per program per year to match state and federal spending on the service.
The 96-year-old Lane County service has offered programs for youth, homes and families, food preservation, gardening, farms and forestry. But only a nutrition program, a service to low-income families, is assured to continue because it’s funded entirely with federal dollars.
Under the new partnership, LCC’s Small Business Development Center and eDev, a nonprofit micro-enterprise development organization in Eugene, would use a $114,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide the local match for the program for two years, said Jim Lindly, director of the center. That money could be used to pay for support staff, program costs and office expenses.
Under the arrangement, extension horticulturist Ross Penhallegon, whose $60,000 annual salary is funded with state money because he is a member of the OSU faculty, would continue to teach the farm and garden program in classrooms at LCC, or in the same building that the nutrition program will occupy, at 783 Grant St. in Eugene.
The business center provides a nine-month program in agricultural business management that serves 45 to 50 farms at a time. Penhallegon has been a technical assistant and also recruits for the program during visits to local farms, and the partnership would allow that relationship to continue, Lindly said.
Nationwide, ever-tightening budgets at all levels of government are forcing county extension officials to close their doors or come up with new revenue streams.
“As dollars restrict, we’re going to have to figure out ways to work more efficiently, fund the programs we’re doing and get rid of programs that do not provide a good return on investment,” said Steve Dodrill, staff chairman for the local extension service.
Officials say the loss of local government funding must be replaced with higher fees and charges for programs, grants, donations and other monies. Also, there could be more use of the Internet for online classes or information databases that would charge for access to experts, Dodrill said.
Officials and supporters also hope by October 2011 to restart the local 4-H program, which serves kindergartners through high schoolers with projects in plant science, animal science, home economics and more, Maddy said. Talks also have begun to resuscitate the local family/community health program, she added, although efforts to restart both programs are in the preliminary stage.
Cindy Land, a member of the Lane County budget committee and a chief opponent of the May ballot measure, said extension’s partnership with LCC would be an “excellent solution.”
Lane County taxpayers already shoulder a comparatively high tax burden, Land said, noting that county taxpayers pay an average of $15.55 in taxes per $1,000 of assessed property value — 13th highest in Oregon.
“There’s no objection to the (extension) programs — the programs are a wonderful addition and complement our community,” Land said. “It’s not something that should be paid through additional property taxes.”