Proof Points: OSU Extension Service

Extension is a statewide leader in team building with local decision-makers, volunteers, concerned citizens and others to solve watershed management and water resource issues.

  • Initially launched by Extension in Umatilla County, this project has grown into a statewide program to apply wastewater from food processing plants to crops. The goal is to convert an environmental liability – wastewater -- into a nutrient-rich asset for agricultural production. In one wastewater reuse partnership between food processors and local crop producers, millions of gallons of water were recycled and nearly a million pounds of nitrogen were returned to agricultural fields.
  • Started more than a decade ago, the OSU Extension Master Watershed Stewards Program trains volunteers who receive watershed management education and use it to improve water quality and watershed health in areas where they live. Nearly 400 Master Watershed Stewards have been trained to date.
  • Oregon’s coast and waterways are among the state’s most highly valued environmental and economic assets. In recent years these areas have come under siege by nonnative aquatic and riparian plants and animals that degrade habitats, displace native species and damage native ecosystems. OSU Extension conducts extensive public education and training programs intended to raise awareness of invasive species and the damage they can cause in Oregon’s coastal areas and watersheds.
  • OSU Extension faculty, in collaboration with the state Dept. of Environmental Quality and the Soil and Water Conservation Society, led development of pesticide best management practices for the Hood River basin, which is habitat for threatened winter steelhead and a major tree fruit production region. These efforts have become recognized as a model project that has been adapted to other Oregon watersheds and adopted by an FAO-sponsored effort in West Africa.
  • Responding to anticipated population growth and development pressures, OSU Extension helped cities and other entities in the Portland area develop and implement practices to more efficiently manage storm water runoff. These practices have also been adapted and applied in communities in the Willamette Valley, southwest Oregon and the southern Oregon coast.

Extension research-based nutrition education programs improve the health and well being of low-income Oregon families, children and adults. Oregon has one of the highest rates of hunger and food insecurity in the U.S., with about 12 percent of state households struggling with food issues.

  • With cooperation of many local partners, Extension conducts a “Metro Hispanic Nutrition Program” aimed at (but not limited to) low-income Hispanic families in Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties. This outreach program provided nutrition education and food safety information to over 3,000 Hispanic families and individual adults and youth in 2007-08.
  • Now offered in 24 metro-area schools, the Extension Pyramid Power Program combines nutrition education with physical activity to teach youth from low-income families to make positive food and fitness choices for lifelong health. The Pyramid Power Program reached thousands of K-8 school youth in 2007-08 and partners with in-school staff including librarians, school counselors and school nurses to emphasize key educational messages.
  • Extension collaborated with a broad range of partners to organize the Childhood Hunger Initiative (CHI), which seeks to educate the medical community, policy makers, and general public about childhood food insecurity and hunger. CHI is a diverse partnership of health care professionals, anti-hunger advocates and others from many organizations and agencies. One outcome of the group’s efforts is the “Childhood Food Insecurity: Health Impacts, Screening, and Intervention” online course. So far, nearly 300 nurses, physicians, dietitians and other healthy-care practitioners have taken the course.
  • The Oregon Family Nutrition Program provides information and education to help low-income Oregonians make healthy food choices and choose active lifestyles. Oregon State University Extension Service faculty and staff deliver the community-based program to adults and youth in 31 Oregon counties.

Extension faculty are catalysts in organizing local partnerships to expand and enhance community economic and environmental sustainability.

  • Oregon coastal communities have endured bumpy economic times in recent years as Oregon fisheries struggled with volatile seafood market conditions. In response, the OSU Extension Service, along with other university departments, community agencies and businesses partnered to form the Community Seafood Initiative, which helps seafood-based businesses gain a competitive edge. This project includes research and outreach education components to assist Oregon’s seafood industry.
  • The Sustainable Rural Communities Initiative (SRCI) is one of OSU’s six strategic initiatives. SRCI combines the resources of seven colleges within OSU, the OSU Library, and the Extension Service to provide research and education that will help improve rural community economic development, as well as social and environmental sustainability. To date SRCI has produced numerous reports and publications and conducted numerous outreach education workshops.
  • For many years Oregon’s multi-million dollar grass seed industry depended on field burning for plant disease control. This began to change in the early 1970s when smoke from field burning was identified as a serious environmental issue. Extension educators and researchers worked with Willamette Valley growers to find a solution. This led to discovery of effective alternative field management strategies, experimentation with new plant varieties, and adjustment of planting dates. Results of these efforts have made grass seed production more efficient, saved growers money and helped the industry expand—all while assisting the industry to phase out field burning.
  • The “Toward One Oregon” conference, held in October 2008, brought together more than 200 researchers, policymakers, journalists, community leaders and the public to discuss the linkages of Oregon’s rural and urban areas, and ways that these links can be strengthened for the benefit of the state. Extension led the organization of the day-long symposium in Salem. Organizers hope it will continue as an annual event.
  • Oregon’s 2,000-plus small woodland owners make up a significant part of the state’s timber economy, contributing millions of dollars worth of timber sales annually. Extension provides forestry education through a series of annual events called Tree Schools to help small-scale growers compete effectively in timber markets. Over the past two decades, these very successful events have served diverse education needs of hundreds of small woodland owners via a broad variety of courses and workshops, from log scaling and grading, reforestation and silviculture to wildlife management, soils, ecosystem management and Christmas tree production.

Extension integrates teaching and research to advance food production efficiency and build the capacity of Oregon food systems to compete in rapidly changing world markets.

  • Sudden Oak Death (Phytophthora ramorum) is a major threat to Oregon’s multi-million dollar nursery industry. An online course was created by OSU researchers and Extension educators to teach growers how to reduce the incidence of Phytophthora diseases in their nurseries. In 2008-09, nearly 50 nursery growers and others completed the course.
  • Also know as the IR-4 project, the Center for Expediting Registrations of Pest Control Substances for (Specialty) Minor Crops expedites registration of pest management products for the hundreds of specialty crops grown in Oregon. Together, these crops generate millions of dollars in sales, but individually, many are of small enough acreage that agrochemical companies will not conduct the research required to register pesticides for them. The lack of effective pesticides would severely limit production of many of the state’s high value minor crops, causing significant economic losses for growers and to the state’s agricultural industry.
  • Blueberries and caneberries are signature high-value crops for the Willamette Valley. Oregon blueberry production, for example, has tripled over the last two decades, earning $65 million in farm gate sales in 2007. OSU research and Extension supports this important commodity cluster, its growers and processors with a strong small fruits education program for producers.
  • Extension food technology educators helped launch and sustain the development of an Oregon artisan cheese industry by providing training for all levels of artisan cheese makers, assisting with improvements in product quality, shelf-life, safety, and economics, consulting closely with individual cheese makers to solve specific challenges, and serving as technical advisors to the Oregon Dept. of Agriculture’s Food Safety Division. Establishment of an artisan cheese industry gives dairy producers the opportunity to earn greater returns for specialty products they make on their farms.
  • Extension evaluated and helped introduce drip irrigation technology for high-value carrot seed crops in central Oregon. Drip irrigation can reduce water use by 50 percent, while increasing seed yields by 20 percent or more. Just as important to growers, germination rates are consistently 4 percent higher with drip irrigation. Drip irrigated seed is more marketable and brings higher prices to local growers. Since 2001, nearly 40 percent of the carrot seed acreage in central Oregon has been shifted to drip irrigation.

Extension 4-H Youth Program faculty lead one of the state’s largest and most successful positive youth development programs, preparing thousands of Oregon young people for positive futures.

  • Tech Wizards is a bilingual after school/summer 4-H program, originally designed for low income Latino youth at risk of school dropout. Creation and design of web pages was the original focus of the club activity, but this approach has now expanded to include many other information technologies. Tech Wizards participants are raising their grade point averages, staying in school, and planning on going to college. Graduation rates for club members are 95 percent; well over the graduation rate of 71 percent for the general Latino student population in Oregon.
  • Many Oregon elementary schools are lacking in the area of natural science education. OSU Extension 4-H responded by establishing the 4-H Wildlife Stewards program. 4-H wildlife stewards are trained volunteers who work in partnership with public and private organizations to assist students and teachers to create, use and sustain wildlife habitats on school grounds that serve as living natural science learning labs. To date, 500 volunteers have been trained and the 4-H Wildlife Stewards program has reached more than 12,000 Oregon school children annually.
  • The 4-H Youth Program at the national level is committed to addressing future U.S. science and technology workforce needs by involving 1 million 4-H youth participants in science education and technology (SET) activities. Oregon 4-H is doing its part to meet this national goal through statewide efforts to offer 4-H SET programs. A noteworthy example is the formation of 4-H Lego robotics clubs in many Oregon counties. Youth interest in 4-H robotics and other SET activities is so keen that 4-H contests allowing youth to compare their designs and ideas have sprung up in many communities throughout the state.
  • An especially successful component of Oregon 4-H’s efforts in the science and technology education area is the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp for under-privileged youth. OSU is one of 30 universities across the country to offer this summer science camp. Oregon 4-H faculty and staff organize and conduct the program, which began in 2007.
  • Dropout rates for Native Americans and Hispanic students continue to be above average in eastern Oregon area schools. To address this issue, the Attitudes for Success Coalition was established, and the coalition created the annual program, “Attitudes for Success Youth Leadership Program.” In 2008 the Extension 4-H programs in Umatilla and Morrow counties conducted a leadership/motivational conference attended by 425 at-risk youth in grades 7-12 from 15 area schools. In follow-up program evaluations, 98 percent of participants indicated the program helped them understand the importance of completing their high school education and going on to college education.