My dream is that agriculture becomes one of the tools that reunites urban and rural Oregon.
I was born and raised in Pendleton, a rural community in Eastern Oregon. My brother and I represent the fifth generation of our family's wheat ranch centered on the original homestead site. I grew up working the wheat harvest with responsibilities ranging from cook to driving an 18-wheeler. I was a four-year letterman in basketball and three-year letterman in volleyball at Pendleton High, then moved on to competitive basketball in college, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics with a political science minor from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. I also spent plenty of time on horseback, competing as a barrel racer and even having the privilege of serving as the Queen of the Pendleton Round-Up. My family includes husband Marshall, and daughters Claire and Meredith. We have resided in West Salem for several years.
I was appointed Director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture by Governor Kulongoski in January 2003 and reappointed by Governor Kitzhaber. My career in state government includes serving in Governor Kitzhaber's first administration in a number of capacities including Chief Policy Advisor, Economic Development and International Trade Policy Advisor as well as Director of Executive Appointments. I also worked at the Oregon Department of Agriculture from 1989-1995 as a Special Assistant to the Director.
Perhaps the most important thing I learned growing up was an appreciation of the land that is somewhat different, perhaps, from my friends in urban Oregon.
The land is the foundation for farming and ranching operations. The productivity of the land is determined by how well we take care of it. I remember watching my father digging in the soil, checking the moisture, and looking for the first young shoot of green wheat. The anticipation and excitement from that initial sign of new growth never diminishes no matter how many years one has farmed.
I also know first hand the devastation mother nature can bring any given year. It may be drought that withers the crop in the spring, a late rain or hail storm that can lay down a whole field, or a summer lightning storm that can spark a wildfire and wipe out a crop in a few hours. These are perils that farmers and ranchers live with day in and day out.
So what are the results of this hard work by Oregon farmers and ranchers? Oregon's farms and ranches represent the state's second largest traded-sector industry. Perhaps more importantly, Oregon agriculture is the foundation for the cultural fabric that is Oregon. An impressive 97 percent of Oregon agriculture is family owned and operated. Oregon agriculture is everywhere in Oregon, not just east of the Cascades.
How does urban Oregon benefit from the agricultural industry? Most obvious is the incredible Oregon bounty found in grocery stores, restaurants, farmers markets, nurseries, and garden centers. As Oregon citizens become more and more interested in fresh, wholesome and safe food and products, they also are more interested in buying food and products that are grown in Oregon.
Perhaps the less obvious but more important benefit from Oregon agriculture is the cultural values which have made this state what it is. The independent pioneering spirit, hard work, importance of family and community, and love of the land-these truly embody Oregon. This industry provides economic support to the state as well as the beautiful vistas we all cherish. Without agriculture, Oregon would truly be a different place.
Agriculture-so much a part of Oregon's past, so much a part of Oregon's future.