What is agriculture in the 21st century?
“The picture of agriculture is no longer the lone farmer on a tractor at sunset,” said Chip Bubl, OSU Extension horticulturist and chair of the OSU Extension office in Columbia County. “Agriculture in the 21st century has transformed into a rapidly changing, knowledge-based industry that contributes billions of dollars to the state’s economy.”
Even in Multnomah County, the state’s most urban and most populated county, agriculture brought in more than $75 million in farm sales last year.
Agriculture in Oregon is deeply rooted. The land grant system that democratized education in the United States created institutions designed to provide education to a broad range of Americans, to produce useful research and to take that research to the people. Oregon State University is Oregon’s land grant university.
Part of that land grant system is Oregon’s Agricultural Experiment Station, OSU’s largest research enterprise. With eleven branch stations around the state and faculty researchers on campus and in every county, experiment station research reaches every community in Oregon, helping families and businesses.
AES research encompasses topics as diverse as cancer prevention, food innovation, environmental sustainability and production of resources from Pacific albacore to dryland wheat. Like agriculture itself, the focus of agricultural sciences in Oregon has transformed and expanded into all facets of life, from offshore seabeds to high desert plains.
In this issue of OAP, we’ll take a look at some of the diversity of research within the Agricultural Experiment Station. We’ll explore the life of an urban farmer and the effort, knowledge and risk behind the pastoral scenery that lies beyond the urban boundary. We’ll glimpse some of the unimagined diversity that AES researchers have found in their pioneering exploration of soil and the unwanted diversity of weeds that have invaded Oregon backyards and fields. And we’ll meet a handful of researchers at the Columbia Basin Agricultural Research Center who help growers perfect the art and science of dryland agriculture in a land blessed by soil and precious little water.
The artwork on our cover is from an exhibit of Art About Agriculture, an annual art show sponsored by OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences that offers an alternative lens to view agriculture and natural resources. The image, by Pacific Northwest artist Aki Sogabe, suggests the contribution of many cultures to the development of agriculture.
Agriculture in the 21st century owes much to that diversity, and Oregon’s Agricultural Experiment Station celebrates patterns of diversity that can be found in communities from microbes to neighborhoods.