Community support, federal grants resurrect program
By MITCH LIES
Oregon State University's Lane County Extension Service is back after shutting down for a little over a month.
The service announced last week it has revived its Master Gardener and horticulture programs under a USDA grant and local partnerships.
The service has moved from the Lane County Fairgrounds, where it was located for nearly 50 years, to much smaller quarters at 783 Grant St. in Eugene. It is operating with a skeleton crew of two faculty members and one support employee.
But extension faculty said they were happy to be back.
"This is good," said Steve Dodrill, former staff chair for the county extension service, who now is serving as extension faculty. "At least the agricultural and natural resources program will continue to be on the ground for at least another couple of years, and we will continue to be in this community."
"We're back and we want to stay here for a long time," said Ross Penhallegon, Lane County horticultural extension agent.
Six full-time nutrition education specialists that operate under federal funds also are working out of the office.
The extension service shut down Sept. 1 after voters in May defeated a ballot measure to create a tax to fund the service.
County extension services are required by law to obtain some local funding.
Lane County commissioners stopped allocating county general funds to the service in 2008. Prior to that, commissioners had provided the service upwards of $500,000 a year.
The service operated for two years on private donations, grants and partnerships before shutting down temporarily last month.
The service received $114,000 from the USDA under a grant program designed to assist new and small farms. The service also is generating approximately $40,000 through classes and donations from county groups, such as the Lane County Master Gardeners Association.
Lane Community College is donating class space and helped to write the USDA grant proposal.
Local businesses, such as Rainbow Valley Design and Construction, which owns the building at 783 Grant St., are helping support the service.
Penhallegon and Dodrill said they hope to return 4-H to the county in the future, but those plans have yet to be formalized.
For now, Dodrill said the extension service is advising 4-H participants to join adjoining county 4-H programs.