Hundreds gather with OSU Extension to celebrate farming
On Sept. 20, the Harvest Dinner at the North Willamette Research and Extension Center (NWREC) in Aurora brought together 300 local farmers, agricultural industry and business leaders, university faculty and elected officials — including Gov. Kate Brown — in Clackamas County.
The event celebrated one of Oregon's key industries. Agriculture and associated businesses make up about 20% of Oregon's economy and work force.
The Harvest Dinner is an annual showcase of research and education work done at NWREC — Oregon State University's only experimental farm in the Willamette Valley — during the past year and shared through a farm-to-plate dinner. Many of the fruits and vegetables making up the dinner meal came from the research center's experimental trials during the past summer.
Other menu items included innovative food products developed by faculty and students at OSU's Corvallis campus and other research locations around the state. Besides the popular cheeses created by OSU students, surimi noodles — a product that looks like pasta noodles, but made entirely from fish — and a seaweed product called dulse were featured this year. Both surimi noodles and dulse were developed by OSU at its Food Innovation Center in North Portland.
Mike Bondi, NWREC's director and creator of the event in 2012, says the Harvest Dinner gets bigger each year.
"We started out like a small garden party," Bondi said. "But, each of the past four years we've grown by 20%. Now, we're big enough to attract a large number of agriculture's key businesses and leaders. Their attendance is a good attraction for other key leaders in the state like the governor, OSU president and the Oregon Department of Agriculture's director."
This year's Harvest Dinner welcomed Alan Sams, the new dean of OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences, who came last November to take the helm of one of the nation's top agricultural research and education institutions. Sams was the executive associate dean in the College of Agriculture at Texas A&M University prior to his arrival in Corvallis. He spoke to the crowd, sharing his impressions gathered this past year and thoughts about future priorities for Oregon agriculture .
"The diversity of Oregon agriculture has been an incredible thing to see as I've traveled the state this past year," Sams said. "OSU's challenge and opportunity will be to meet the needs of farmers and business leaders around the state with relevant research and education in a rapidly changing state, country and world — all while preparing the next generation of agriculturists and leaders. But, we are up to the challenge, have an outstanding faculty, and great history in the state of success."
Brown summed up the Harvest Dinner, saying: "This is a really wonderful opportunity to bridge the rural-urban divide over the dinner table. ... What I love about the work happening here (at OSU and NWREC) is the innovation and creativity around food products."
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