Posted: Thursday, May 26, 2011 9:00 AM
Gary L. West/Capital Press
Students at the Oregon State University organic farm prepare seed beds by removing quackgrass and other weeds on Thursday, May 20, 2011. James Cassidy, professor of soil science, is at far right.
Students offer diverse perspectives on college culture
By STEVE BROWN
Ag students pursuing organic and conventional studies share many classes at Oregon State University.
There is some degree of social intermingling, and differences in the two tracks are sometimes apparent, but "nobody has had tires slashed for supporting Monsanto," one organic student said.
Mark Radler, who comes from an urban background, said the student spectrum ranges from "hippie-gen ag people to bashers on either side. ... We have class together, get drunk together."
Amy Garrett, with suburban roots, has seen little interaction.
"Small-farm-organic ag students tend to have lots of potlucks, farm gatherings and participation in community events, from my experience," she said. "I personally haven't seen much of this or been a part of this on the conventional side, but I think that it would be beneficial to bridge the gap."
Student Kristin Dexter said she's unaware of a cultural divide between organic and conventional students.
"The organic growers at OSU are an eclectic group of people from all different majors," Dexter said. "I don't think I've even met a conventional ag student, and if I have, they never stood out as one."
Once he has finished his studies at OSU, Tyler Meskers expects to work at his family's greenhouse cut-flower operation.
With that ag background, he said he perceives conventional ag students as less outgoing about their business.
"Their mentality is fairly easygoing and (they're) aware of how decisions can affect their business more so than small-farm-organic students," he said. "Small-farm-organic students seem to be more ag hobbyists ... and not quite realistic for the large money-making operational scale of business."
Radler said he sees himself traveling and working on farms around the world, then settling down to farm in the Willamette Valley. He said he has "no idea" what he expects to earn.
Garrett is no longer a student and now works with the OSU Small Farms Program.
"Five years from now I hope to be working full-time instead of part-time on the farm I just moved onto this year," Garrett said.
She has a part-time job off the farm.
"Our goal is to grow food for ourselves for the first couple of years and sell or barter with any surplus," she said. "Eventually I would like to make $1,000 a month from the farm to supplement my income, and the big dream one day would be to not need an off-farm job."
Meskers said he expects to start at the bottom of the business.
"I realistically think I will make somewhere around $12 to $14 per hour, even though my enthusiasm, hard-work ethic, education and youth make me think I am worth $250,000 per year," Meskers said. "I think I need to make $18,000 to live very simply."