ONTARIO, Ore. — A search committee is being formed to find a replacement for the retiring director of Oregon State University’s Malheur County agricultural experiment station.
Area farmers say it won’t be easy to replace Clint Shock, who has held the position since 1984 and helped the agricultural industry address some of its toughest issues over the decades.
“Clint, in my opinion, has done more for the agricultural community in Malheur County and adjoining areas than anybody has ever done in the past,” said Jerry Erstrom, a farmer and member of the local weed and watershed council boards. “I won’t say he can’t be replaced but it’s going to be tough. We’re going to really miss him.”
During his time as director of the research station, Shock has led research on onions, potatoes, sugar beets, alfalfa and poplars as well as water quality, erosion control, plant nutrition and the use of soil water sensors.
He helped pioneer the use of drip irrigation and developed improved methods to irrigate onions, conducted research that resolved local concerns about groundwater contamination from nitrates and herbicides, and developed methods to reduce the potato dark-end disease.
He also developed alternative crops for Treasure Valley farmers, which included new production methods for native wildflowers used in re-vegetation projects.
“Clint has been the cement of the industry at the experiment station for a long time,” said Malheur County Onion Growers President Paul Skeen. “Losing Clint is going to be a big deal.”
Skeen said one of Shock’s biggest accomplishments was research that addressed the agricultural water provisions in the Food and Drug Administration’s new produce safety rule. The research showed that the bulb onions grown in the area are not at risk of being contaminated by irrigation water containing even large amounts of bacteria.
That research led to FDA revamping the produce rule’s agricultural water standards in a way that benefits all produce growers in the nation affected by the rule, Skeen said.
Shock was honored by the region’s farming industry last week during the Idaho and Oregon onion associations’ annual joint meeting.
Shock told Capital Press that during his research career, he learned that rather than staying only within his area of expertise, it was more important to work on whatever issues the community needed to be addressed, even though that often meant getting far out of his comfort zone.
“Rather than stay within my training or what I’ve been prepared to do, I’ve tried to do what the community needed to do in agricultural science,” he said. “Every real problem with growers seems to be complex and laps off into different fields, so every one is an adventure.”
Shock also said he learned that any solution that has an economic benefit to it will get picked up by industry.
“That means that if you have some problem that you need to solve, if you can find some way that will provide an economic benefit to someone, then it will get adopted,” he said.