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The Sept. 20 event brought together 300 local farmers, ag leaders and other guests at the Aurora research facility

The Harvest Dinner at the North Willamette Research and Extension Center (NWREC) in Aurora on Sept. 20 brought together 300 local farmers, agricultural industry and business leaders, university faculty, and elected officials - including Gov. Kate Brown.KIMBERLY JACOBSEN NELSON -  Oregon Gov. Kate Brown visits with OSU President Ed Ray at the recent Harvest Dinner in Aurora.

This 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 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 OSU cheeses created by OSU students, surimi noodles — a product looking like a pasta noodle, 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 their Food Innovation Center in north Portland.

Mike Bondi, NWREC director and creator of the Harvest Dinner event in 2012, said the dinner gets bigger each year. KIMBERLY JACOBSEN NELSON - Oregon Rep. Rick Lewis, of Silverton (center back), enjoyed some conversation with berry growers in the Willamette Valley. Lewis has taken the lead on providing funding for NWREC the past two legislative sessions for strawberry and caneberry research and education.

"We started out like a small garden party. But, each of the past four years we've grown by 20 percent," he said. "Now, we are 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. Sams came to Oregon State University last November to take over one of the nation's top agricultural research and education institutions. Sams was the executive associate dean in in the College of Agriculture at Texas A&M University prior to arrival in Corvallis.

"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—and, 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."

Governor Brown added her thoughts about 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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