The Oregon State University Extension Service connects Oregonians to science-based expertise, education, and partnerships including 4-H; public health; agriculture, forestry and natural resources; and community development.
Summer is a particularly high-risk time for youth in Chiloquin who aren’t getting the school lunches, physical activity or social connections provided during school months. A rural town of 700, Chiloquin residents rely on food supplies that come 27 miles from Klamath Falls. The area around the town is the traditional home of the Klamath, Modoc and Yahooskin Band of Snake Paiute people. From 40% to 50% of residents are of Native American descent who have experienced multi-generational trauma from the loss of tribal lands and cultural practices. More than 40% live below poverty level and almost 90% of elementary students qualify for free or reduced lunches. Adding to the problems, Chiloquin parks are considered unsafe because of drug/alcohol activity and vandalism. In 2017, Oregon State University Extension Service and partners instituted a free summer lunch program for youth aged 0 to 18 years old. Historically, Chiloquin had low participation in summer food programs despite high food insecurity. According to Summer Meals for Oregon Kids, only one in eight eligible children participate in rural areas like Chiloquin where there’s a lack of transportation, adults are unavailable to accompany children and many people are not aware of the free program. The lunch program supplies healthy meals to youth and their families, provides social connections and physical activity in a safe environment. The goal is to have the Chiloquin community embrace the summer lunch program rather than have food shipped from Klamath Falls. Working with community partners, OSU Extension provided administrative and coordination support to get the lunch program going. With help from volunteers and student interns, the program was expanded from six weeks to 11 weeks. The team offered not only nutritional homemade food, but also a place for families to come together in a safe environment. Participants had the opportunity to participate in active games, arts and craft, petting zoos, reading and library activities. A highlight of the summer was a cooking class sponsored by Klamath Tribes and OSU Extension. The enthusiastic youth kept requesting more cooking lessons so another class was added at the end of the summer. Students were able to cook recipes used in the summer lunch program and from OSU’s Food Hero. Food supplies were sent home with the kids so they could prepare meals with their families. The program was so successful that the meals served doubled in 2018 (1,297 with 911 fed to youth). In a survey of adults, 73% said they came to spend time with their children and grandchildren and talk to other Chiloquin residents. Frequently, adults with alcohol and drug issues came for a free meal and expressed their appreciation for the welcoming environment. Significant inroads were made for community support and buy-in that will help Chiloquin own the program and aid in healing long-term scars. In 2018, the program won the team category of the USDA Western Region Summer Sunshine Award. In 2020, the program received a grant from Klamath Tribes and funding from Klamath County Health Department to sustain the effort. Partners in the program include Methodist Church of Chiloquin, Klamath Tribes, Klamath County Library, Klamath-Lake Food Bank, Sierra Service Project, Chiloquin Christian Center, Chiloquin First Coalition, and community volunteers.
Oregon State University Extension Master Gardener volunteers are a generous bunch. While busy with activities to expand the public’s gardening knowledge, they still find time to apply their know-how to reduce food insecurity in Clackamas County. The Grow an Extra Row program produces food for those in need while teaching gardening skills. In 2019, the volunteers produced and donated 3,039 pounds of fresh, nutritious produce. The effort started in 2004 when the late Gray Thompson – OSU Extension agent and co-founder of the Master Gardener program – sought to overcome the shortage of fresh fruits and vegetables in the diet of local residents. Thompson secured a 5,000-square-foot plot on the Clackamas Community College campus, enlisted the help and sweat equity of several Master Gardeners and sowed the seeds of what would become the Grow an Extra Row Learning and Giving Garden program. Support and funding is carried on by the Clackamas County Master Gardeners. “Hands on gardening is a great tool for teaching things like how to check soil temperature, extend the growing season, or control pests,” said Weston Weston Miller, Extension community and urban horticulturist in Clackamas County. These lessons and more take place weekly during the growing season in the garden. The public is welcome to join the Extension Master Gardeners to learn and lend a hand with this valuable community service. Call 503-655-8631 for details.
The problem is clear and alarming: Kids aren’t eating enough fruits, vegetables, whole grains and dairy or getting enough exercise, according to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020. Oregon SNAP-Ed, a nutrition education program of the Oregon State University Extension Service, came up with a novel method of delivering healthy lifestyle messages to youths in one eastern Oregon county: Media created by students for students. The Armand Larive Middle School Television Club produced healthy lifestyle videos for several platforms, including email, social media and websites. Over several months in 2018, SNAP-Ed staff familiarized seventh- and eighth-grade student producers with Food Hero and SNAP-Ed resources and helped them identify story ideas, create outlines and shoot and produce stories promoting good nutrition and physical activity. The student-produced stories were viewed by 800 middle school students on the school’s broadcast news program. Thousands more have viewed the videos via email and social media shares by partners including school districts, the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council, the Oregon Department of Education and Oregon State University’s Food Hero campaign. The videos now reside on three different publicly available websites. One video was recognized by the National Scholastic Press Association as an honorable mention for 2018 Middle School Story of the Year. Updated technology equipment was needed for the student team to produce shareable content. Funds for the equipment were secured through a Fuel Up to Play 60 grant with the understanding that the technology be used to promote healthy behaviors. In another video, Armand Larive Middle School students interviewed Anthony Newman, a former National Football League player, when he visited their school. Newman is a Fuel Up to Play 60 Ambassador working with the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council to promote good nutrition and a physically active lifestyle. SNAP-Ed stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education, a federal program funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service.
The dreaded emerald ash borer has wiped out millions of ash trees throughout the eastern United States and Canada since it was discovered in Michigan about 20 years ago. As the beetle has moved west, cities have spent millions of dollars removing dead trees. The emerald ash borer has become one of the most destructive invasive forest insects in U.S. history. Though it spreads slowly, the beetle and other forest pests can be transported to new far-flung places via the movement of untreated firewood or infested nursery material. This is how the borer made its way across the corn belt to Colorado. Conversations in Oregon about the emerald ash borer became more frequent among the ecologist and the restoration communities. People wanted to know when the borer would arrive in Oregon and what could be done to combat it. As a result, 10 forestry-minded organizations, led by OSU Extension Service, mobilized an action team to manage a possible infestation of the beetle. The borer has an appetite for Oregon ash, a native species found all over the Willamette Valley in low-lying areas where it serves a vital ecosystem niche, shading streams and swamps and providing cover for riparian wildlife. In addition, ash trees have been a popular choice for urban street trees for decades. OSU Extension launched the Oregon Forest Pest Detector pilot program with a one-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service . Due to the success and evolving nature of the program, funding continues through 2019. A steering committee of cooperators guided curriculum development. These partners not only ensured the technical accuracy of the teaching material but also provided stakeholder perspectives on many key aspects of the project. During 31 workshops to date, more than 500 professionals who work in forestry, arboriculture, parks and landscape maintenance and environmental restoration from 19 counties worked through a course of 12 trees with varying degrees of simulated damage. Nine field courses were held in seven counties. The field course format is unique among first detector-type educational programs. Participants have rated the hands-on field course as outstanding and a highly-effective educational professional development experience that cements the concepts learned online. The curriculum has evolved as new pest threats have emerged, or as new management, tools and knowledge have developed. For example, when the Asian gypsy moth was found in 2015, OSU Extension developed a new module that was delivered to community groups located in the zone that was to be treated by aerial insecticide. The effort built trust and understanding among the public, and gave them an opportunity to learn from and interface with people from the agencies responsible for managing Asian gypsy moth. While concerns about emerald ash borer sparked the Oregon Forest Pest initiative, similar programming teaches about the Asian longhorned beetle. This pest arrives on contain ships carrying goods from Asia –its favorite tree is maple, which is found in forests and urban tree canopies. In 2017, a new Oregon Forest Pest Detector module was launched to manage the goldspotted oak borer, a potential threat in southern Oregon.
When soldiers are deployed during the Christmas holidays, they leave behind family, tradition and all the trappings of the season. They are likely homesick and missing their families. A 4-H club in Josephine County, part of the Oregon State University Extension Service, decided to do something to show support so they started the 4-H Stockings for Soldiers program. That was 10 years and about 5,000 stockings ago and the 4-H youth are still going strong. “The kids in the club realized that the members of this unit would not be with their families during the holiday season and wanted to let them know that although they were far from home, there were still in everyone’s thoughts and prayers,” said Susan Hunt, 4-H program coordinator in Josephine County. The kids – who stuffed 750 stockings in 2019 – use donated material and sew it together to make stockings and then fill them with personal health products, stationary, socks, snacks, coffee and hot chocolate and much more. They also tuck in a handwritten note. Some years the material runs out and the kids use already made stockings bought by a 4-H volunteer the year before during after-holiday sales. Usually, though, there’s enough material for the 4-H kids and volunteers to sew the majority of the stockings. The enthusiasm of the youth has inspired the community to get involved, as well. Every year the Grants Pass Chamber of Commerce advertises the effort and people donate money for items to stuff in the stockings and for shipping costs. At $17 for four stockings, that adds up. Local businesses get in on the action by putting together baskets to raffle off, also for shipping costs. The youth fit the sewing in when they can, completing a lot during spring and summer when school is out. They also take advantage of down time at the county fair and sew between events and barn duty, Hunt said. Thank you notes come from some of the soldiers each year and in 2019 a special note came from the Commander and Senior Enlisted Leader of the unit. They have also received two treasured American flags with a certificate saying the flags had been flown at Bagran Airfield in Afghanistan. The project cheers up the thousands of soldiers who have received stockings, shows the 4-H members the value of reaching out of their community to help others and teaches the kids responsibility, time management and the value of working together.
Rural landowners in the mid-Willamette Valley have diverse backgrounds and varying levels of expertise in land management, but show a common interest in responsible stewardship of their land. Many of these new landowners ask themselves, “What can I do with my land?” Some are looking to start commercial farms or woodlands and some just want to be effective caretakers of their natural resources. However, all seek the basic knowledge of how to be responsible stewards of their land and need information on soil, water, weeds and conservation. To build people’s knowledge of these basic best practices, OSU Extension adapted a locally-focused, five-week course called Living on the Land that engages local experts to explain soil science, woodland management, pastures, mud and manure management, weeds, riparian areas, water rights, wells and septic systems. OSU’s Living on the Land is based on a course developed by the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and Western SARE – Sustainable Agricultural Research and Education. Expert speakers are recruited from OSU Extension, OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences, the Oregon Water Resources Department, and Polk County Soil and Water Conservation District to offer best practices tailored to Marion and Polk County conditions. “We hear repeatedly from participants about their appreciation for the local focus. We’re not sharing theoretical information, we’re sharing information specific to their county and providing them an opportunity to build connections with their neighbors who are similarly interested in land stewardship,” said Victoria Binning, Extension agriculture program coordinator based in the mid-Willamette Valley. In 2018, a total of 70 people participated in the two Living on the Land course offerings – one in Silverton and one in Dallas. Because of the demand, the program returned to Dallas in 2019 for another 32 participants. Participants rated the program positively, and indicated a 46% increase in understanding of natural resource planning, a 47% increase in understanding of woodland and riparian area management, and a 54% increase in understanding of water rights. They noted plans to pursue more learning opportunities, be more proactive about land management, and implement practices learned in the class. “The time flew by,” said one participant. “There’s an amazing amount of content in 2½ hours. I’ve found the program to be really engaging and very helpful.”
Small-acreage farming is growing popular in Oregon. The 2017 U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Census of Agriculture, released in early 2019, shows that small farms (less than 10 acres) are the fastest growing farm size in the state and increased 7.6% from 2012, compared to a 2.8% national decrease over the same time period. But beginning small-acreage farmers need access to networking opportunities and research-based information to ensure sustainability of their farms and food operations. They typically are a mix of those with farming experience but no funds to rent or buy land, or those who have purchased land with little or no farming experience. In 2012, with the number of beginning and small-scale farms and agriculture value-added operations in the north Willamette Valley expanding, Oregon State University Extension’s Nick Andrews and Heidi Noordijk established Small Farm School, an annual event for beginning farmers to get to know other small-scale farmers in their region and tap into the local food and farming community. “The goal was to create an educational event that celebrates the tremendous innovation happening on small farms in the region and the diversity of small farms, as well as the burgeoning interest in local sustainably-produced food,” said Andrews, professor of practice and Extension small farms specialist. Since its inception, more than 1,500 farming professionals have attended Small Farm School at Clackamas Community College in Oregon City, where they’ve learned about 218 topics. Each year, Small Farm School offers 25-30 classroom and hands-on classes, held during growing season and relevant to about 200 local producers. They might attend classes in “Assessing Farm Resources and Selecting an Enterprise,” “Cost Accounting for your Farm Business,” or “Train and Prune Fruit Trees.” The hands-on sessions have smaller class sizes to allow for participants to use equipment or do farm walks, said Noordijk, Extension’s small farms coordinator. Evaluations from participants consistently give the program a high success rating. More than 90% of 2019 participants in every session reported they expected to implement ideas learned on their farms. Participant comments from the 2019 Soil Biology class included, “I get it and I'll do it! Excellent relevant presentation with great practical advice” and, “I am super eager to go home and use what I learned! Looking forward to adding organic matter to my soil.” A participant in the Electric Fencing for Rotational Grazing class said, “This class was so helpful, I feel I can construct a fence.” OSU Extension Small Farm School partners include the Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District, Clackamas Community College, Rogue Farm Corps and Friends of Family Farmers.
More students in Benton County schools are going outdoors to engage in science learning thanks to the re-energized 4-H Wildlife Stewards program, made possible by passage of the Benton County 4-H and Extension Service District in 2017. “Through the support of teachers, we are seeing a growth in the hours of instruction and number of students engaging in real world science outside the classroom door. Our goal is to increase environmental literacy among Benton County youth,” said Maggie Livesay, Extension 4-H faculty who leads 4-H outdoor education in Benton County. In 2018-19, 20 classrooms from six Benton County Schools were registered with the 4-H Wildlife Stewards program – a 40% increase from 2016-17. “We credit this increase to new resources that enabled establishment of additional opportunities, direct teaching with students and more communication and opportunities for teachers,” Livesay said. And teachers say it’s working. “Teachers indicated the program helped make science real and helped students meet educational standards in the areas of science, research and data collection. Students gained life skills in presentation, communication and teamwork,” Livesay said. Fifteen teachers reported they spent an average of 22 hours of time throughout the year on the lessons, and engaged 643 students in outdoor natural science education. Actions completed in the 4-H Wildlife Stewards program include: Providing two professional development workshops annually. Teachers receive professional improvement instruction from university and local experts on topics like reptiles, amphibians, birds and insects and outdoor science investigations. Modeling shows educators how to get lessons to resonate with youth. Partnerships with Oregon Natural Resource Education Program and William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge kept costs affordable. Providing educational consultations to teachers, two $200 grants for tools and student supplies, and access to more than 30 Natural Science Learning Kits developed by 4-H faculty and staff. Trained volunteers and staff provide annual classroom visits and in-classroom support. 350 students attended the annual 4-H Wildlife Stewards Summit and 300 students attended hands-on learning activities at 4-H Member School Science Nights. “We have been able to alleviate some of the barriers teachers faced,” Livesay said.
Forests cover 85% of Lane County and have long been considered a major jewel in the crown of the county’s natural resources. Lane County’s family woodland owners play a vital role in forest management, providing substantial contributions to local economic, social, ecological and recreational services and improving forest health. Families operate 12% of the county’s private forestland. To ensure stewardship of these family-owned forests, the Oregon State University Extension Service established a county Master Woodland Manager (MWM) volunteer program. In this training program, OSU provides 48 hours of intensive instruction in technical forestry topics and leadership, and encourages the building of a network for continuous collaboration. “There was a need to ensure enhanced management of family forestlands,” said Lauren Grand, Extension forester in Lane County. “Landowners and managers needed the opportunity to learn from experts as well as from each other, and to ensure support for their stewardship efforts.” After they complete the training, MWM volunteers foster forest landowner networks in their local communities, take leadership roles in forest landowner organizations, educate non-woodland owners and participate in citizen-science projects. In 2018, MWM volunteers made 3,157 contacts and gave 314 hours of time to conduct educational activities with the public, other family forestland owners, students, watershed councils and other community organizations. Said one volunteer, “The knowledge I gained by taking the MWM training gave me the confidence to serve on local boards and committees as well as enough confidence that I could intelligently express my concerns, problems, and solutions.” The Lane County volunteers are part of a statewide Master Woodland Managers organization managed by OSU Extension. More than 80% of MWM volunteers remain active past their required volunteer service commitment, with some now serving as long as the program has been in existence, more than 35 years.
Studies show that American youth today are more connected to screens than to the outdoors. Parents of children 8 to 12 years old report their children spend three times as many hours with computers and televisions each week as they do playing outside. Additional research indicates that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional health of children and adults. Faculty with OSU Extension’s 4-H youth development program examined this trend in youth development and worked to find a solution that would help local youth develop an understanding of and appreciation for the outdoors. A needs assessment showed that youth in Benton County and surrounding counties generally have limited opportunities for outdoor education and recreation experiences. To provide youth with a safe environment for hands-on science learning and an outdoor experience at a local park and natural area, Maggie Livesay, OSU Extension 4-H youth development faculty, and Extension 4-H educators partnered with Benton County Parks and Natural Areas to create FOCUS (Forests, Organisms, Creeks, yoU Study) – a five hour, field-based 4-H natural science program for elementary-school students. In 2018, 256 third- and fourth-grade underserved students from schools in the county, including Philomath, Blodgett, Lincoln, Garfield and Mountain View Elementary visited the Beazell Memorial Forest in picturesque Kings Valley west of Philomath for lessons in the 4-H FOCUS outdoor classroom. Surrounded by the forest’s tree stands and savannas, students learned about diverse wildlife habitats and native biodiversity, developed critical thinking skills, and learned about food web interactions of native species and some of the biological indicators of environment quality. The day’s lessons began in the forest’s education center to give students an overview of the site and a sense of place. They divided into small groups and experienced four learning stations, each of which featuring a hands-on learning objective, including: water quality/macroinvertebrates, birds of Beazell, wildlife tracks and signs, lichen as air quality indicators and cultural history. Students used a field journal to record data and observations they saw, heard and touched. Evaluation of the FOCUS program produced high marks from teachers. They found the program well-organized and instructed by knowledgeable people who worked well with students. “FOCUS provided an invaluable hands-on learning experience for my students and gave them an opportunity to learn science standards in an engaging atmosphere,” said one third-grade teacher. A fourth-grade teacher said, “Thank you so much for providing my students with such a great learning experience! They would never receive this rich learning experience without this field trip.” Funding from the Benton County 4-H and Extension Service District, passed by voters in 2017, enabled the FOCUS program to be offered permanently.