Amid development, district steps up efforts to aid farmers
By Eric Mortenson
Hoping to aid farmers and other rural landowners in Washington County, Oregon’s most rapidly urbanizing area, the Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District is stepping up its outreach and education programs.
In March, the Tualatin and Clackamas conservation districts hosted a pesticide roundup that allowed farms and other businesses to safely dispose of unwanted chemicals, no questions asked. Twenty-nine farmers, a golf course operator and other businesses dropped off 15,822 pounds of pesticides. Clean Harbors Environmental Services disposed of the waste.
That was followed by a pair of workshops, one on soil health that attracted 33 farmers and nursery operators, and another on stream erosion. While other districts do similar work, it takes on an edge in Washington County west of Portland.
The county includes the fast-growing cities of Hillsboro and Beaverton, and is Oregon’s second largest, with a population of 550,000. Although best known as the home of Nike and high-tech giants such as Intel, Washington County remains one of the state’s key agricultural regions. The county produced nearly $300 million in gross farm and ranch sales in 2013, ranking seventh statewide.
Director Lacey Townsend said the district steers clear of the politics of urban growth, but has stepped up its outreach efforts to farmers and other rural landowners regarding soil health, water quality and quantity, wildlife and invasive species issues. In addition, the district recently hired Jennifer Nelson as outreach coordinator “so we can do more and get our name out,” Townsend said.
“It’s in our mission,” she said.