Mitch Lies/For the Capital Press
Betsy Verhoeven, an agricultural scientist with international credentials, is coming home.
Verhoeven, whose mother, Mary Verhoeven, worked in the wheat program at Oregon State University, and who worked in OSU barley breeder Pat Hayes’ lab as a teenager, has been named Oregon State University Extension’s new field crops agent for Marion and Clackamas counties.
Verhoeven holds a Ph.D. in agricultural sciences from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, or ETH-Zurich, as well as a master’s in soils and biochemistry from University of California-Davis, and a bachelor’s degree in biology from Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio. She started June 20.
“What you see in Betsy is someone who grew up in (OSU’s Department of) Crop and Soil Science, someone with a great foundation, and somebody who well identifies with agriculture as we know it here in Oregon,” said Jay Noller, head of the College of Agricultural Sciences’ Department of Crop and Soil Science.
“She is super intelligent, loves solving problems, including big problems, and she wanted to come home, so here she is,” Noller said.
Verhoeven said she chose to return to Oregon “to be closer to family” and because of her connection with the state.
“Growing up here, both the natural and farmed lands of Oregon were a huge part of my life,” she said. “I want Oregon agriculture to thrive, because I want it to be there and be prosperous for many future generations.”
She said her immediate plans are to connect with growers in the mid-Willamette Valley, listen to their concerns and “get the word out that there is someone here.”
“Longer term, I want to work with growers, faculty and researchers to develop and improve practices that maintain and enhance the long-term productivity of Oregon lands,” she said.
Verhoeven is the third field crops extension agent recently hired by OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences, including the second serving the Willamette Valley, and she is the first field crops extension agent to serve Marion and Clackamas counties since Tom Silberstein left in 2013 to take a position as faculty research assistant in Klamath Falls.
Will Jessie, an Oklahoma native, was introduced May 23 as field crops extension agent for Linn and Benton counties and parts of Polk County. Christy Tanner started June 25 with the Malheur County Extension Service.
“These hires represent the commitment of the College of Agricultural Sciences and OSU Extension to place faculty where they are needed,” Noller said. “We recognize that doesn’t happen as fast as everyone would like, but, nevertheless, it has happened.”
Bryan Ostlund, administrator of three Oregon grass seed commissions, as well as the Oregon clover and mint commissions, said the industry is looking forward to working with the new hires.
“It is a long time coming,” Ostlund said. “Grower issues seem to be stacking up more and more all the time, and we’ve got a lot of work to do, so it is nice to see new people come in.”
Ostlund said he appreciated the commitment of College of Agricultural Sciences Dean Dan Arp to bring on the new field crops personnel.
“There is a lot of pressure on OSU budgets, and it is much appreciated that he came through for us and put in these new agents,” Ostlund said.
Noller said the latest round of new hires may not be over, noting that he hopes in a few weeks to announce the hiring of a weed scientist who will fill the position formerly held by Carol Mallory Smith, who has retired.
He added: “And I think we have a few more surprises coming up.”