Blueberry farmers

Paul Norris and daughter Ellie Norris are both involved in the family's blueberry farm in the Umpqua, Ore., area and now Ellie is following in her father's footsteps as a member of the Oregon Blueberry Commission. Paul Norris served on the commission for several years until 2011 and now Ellie is in her second year on the commission.

ROSEBURG, Ore. — Members of the next generation from families involved in the blueberry industry are stepping up to fill seats on the Oregon Blueberry Commission.

Jeff Malensky, Anne Krahmer and Ellie Norris are recent additions to the commission.

Malensky is the son of Roy Malensky, who retired from the commission in 2004. The son joined the board in 2014 and now serves as chair of the commission. They are co-owners of Oregon Berry Packing in Hillsboro, Ore.

Krahmer is the daughter of Doug Krahmer, who was a commission member until 2010. His son Zach Krahmer then served on the commission until 2017 and now Anne Krahmer is in her first year with the commission. The Krahmer family owns and operates Berries Northwest of St. Paul, Ore.

Norris is the daughter of Paul Norris, who served on the commission until 2011. She became a commission member a year ago. The Norris family owns and operates Norris Blueberry Farms of Umpqua, Ore.

The Oregon Blueberry Commission was established in 1986 to help support, promote and market the state’s blueberry industry. The commission has nine members who can serve two three-year terms.

Bryan Ostlund, administrator of the commission since 1998, said this is probably the youngest commission he’s ever worked with. Joining Jeff Malensky, Anne Krahmer and Ellie Norris on the commission are Camille Holladay, McKenzie Rosenberry, Karl Dettwyler, Tim Kreder, T.J. Hafner and Will Unger.

“They are taking the lead, they are the future of agriculture,” Ostlund said of the younger members. “I have the deepest respect for those commissioners who provided a volunteer service back in the 1990s and now to see this next generation come along is very satisfying.

“We also have more diversity on the commission now,” he added. “More women who are being very active in their roles. They are strong-minded individuals. We’ve always been blessed with really strong commissioners, some industry stalwarts have been on the commission.”

Ostlund noted that in 1998, Oregon growers harvested 17 million pounds of blueberries. During the 2018 season, 131 million pounds of blueberries were harvested, making Oregon the top producer of the fruit in the U.S.

OBC has played an important role in that growth, helping to make decisions on promotions, food safety regulations, research projects and providing a voice regarding agricultural legislation. The commission has committees for each of those four areas. Each member participates on a couple committees.

Roy Malensky and Paul Norris were both involved in the early discussions and negotiations that eventually opened up South Korea as a market for fresh Oregon blueberries. Their grown children, Jeff Malensky and Ellie Norris, have more recently been involved in negotiations to open export markets in China, The Philippines and Vietnam. They have made trips to those countries on behalf of the Oregon blueberry industry.

Ellie Norris, 36, said she is “very proud to sit on the commission where he (Paul Norris) once sat. There’s a lot of heritage on the commission with a lot more young people involved now.”

Paul Norris said he considers the Oregon blueberry industry a small "family" and that the commission helps promote that feeling. He added that he is pleased to see his daughter and other younger people in the industry take a leadership role.

“The commission’s goal is to set the blueberry industry up for a long run of success,” Ellie Norris said. “We’re investing money in research, nutrition, pest control, harvesting techniques, processing techniques. We want to continue to be a viable commodity. I’m satisfied with what we are accomplishing.”

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