There we go again, bucking the trends. As the U.S. Census forecasts increased graying of the agriculture industry nationwide, Oregon is growing a fresh crop of young farmers, plowing new ground for themselves and the industry.
Take Nick Moxley, for example. He’s the Klamath farmer on our cover, shown muscling irrigation pipes onto part of his nearly 400 leased acres where he grows organic alfalfa, wheat, and cattle. That’s what he does on the weekends, between classes. Moxley is 22 years old and a full-time student in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences. In this issue of Oregon’s Agricultural Progress, we follow Moxley and a few young, first-generation farmers who are trading their Calvin Kleins for Carhartts and making their mark in the future of farming.
We also take a look at Oregon’s venerable grass seed industry and how it has transformed itself with a 90-percent reduction in field burning. This turning point has been described as one of the greatest political redirections of agriculture in the U.S., and it has reaped unexpected rewards for growers in Oregon’s second-largest agricultural industry.
We explore another turning point, as Experiment Station researchers go back to the future in search of plant-based alternatives to petroleum products such as plastics, rubber, and cosmetics. A new generation of agronomists is testing new varieties of plants that had been replaced by petroleum synthetics following World War II. These new plants, and the seeds to grow them, represent new opportunities for agriculture in Oregon as the world’s economy grows beyond petroleum.
And any search for new plants—and old ones, too—must include a visit to the OSU Herbarium, the largest collection of Oregon plants in the world.
As they say, things look different in Oregon. And nowhere is that more apparent than in Oregon agriculture. As Nick Moxley sagely advises, “Learn all you can and then take a risk. Otherwise you’ll never make it farming.”