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Larry Thompson, shown at his fresh market berry stand talking with
customers, is available for Internet downloading at
FARMER ELECTED FOR THE FIRST TIME
TO LEAD WESTERN U.S. SUSTAINABLE AG EFFORTS
Logan, UT -- Larry K. Thompson, age 44, a second-generation berry
grower from Boring, Oregon, was recently elected the first farmer chair of
the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) effort.
Western SARE is a multi-million dollar competitive grants program
administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and mandated by the U.S.
According to Thompson, it is significant to have a farmer lead the
Western U.S. effort because he can bring a grassroots view to the job. When
he considers sustainable agriculture policy, or research, education and
professional development priorities, his foremost question will be "Does it
work at the grower level?"
"Farmers and ranchers are Western SARE's top clients, in my
opinion," Thompson said. "During my tenure as chair, I want to look at how
much producers are employing the sustainable agriculture science we've
supported over the last decade, and shore up the path between research and
Thompson was elected chair by his colleagues on Western SARE's
governing Administrative Council. He will lead the USDA-sponsored program
which aims to expand knowledge and adoption of agricultural production
methods that are profitable, environmentally sound and foster thriving
"I am thrilled Larry decided to take on this role," said Phil
Rasmussen, regional coordinator of Western SARE and a soil scientist at
Utah State University. "We appreciate his willingness to donate his
personal time to the program to improve agriculture for future
The Thompson family began growing berries in Gresham, Oregon in
1947. The farm has since expanded to its current size of 100 acres and 27
"In 1983, my father passed away suddenly and I took over the
responsibility of operating the family farm. My father and I had used cover
crops to stem soil erosion, but found we had the positive by-product of
very little insect or fungus problems," Thompson said.
A SARE-sponsored case study of his farm by Oregon State University
scientists begun in 1988 confirmed that his and his father's approach to
agriculture was a model of environmental soundness which also built up soil
"After the researchers drilled me about my methods, and I had the
chance to interact with them about the scientific implications of my
practices, I embraced the label of sustainable agriculture with
The Thompson farm today cultivates a high number of beneficial
insects through cover cropping and other techniques, applies no chemical
insecticides or fungicides, and uses about a quarter of the recommended
amounts of herbicides for weed control.
Since his father's time, Thompson has shifted the marketing of his
crops from processors to fresh market. He believes strongly in consumer
outreach to build demand for products that taste good, meet local needs,
connect farming with its urban neighbors, and reward producers for
"Farming is a lot of fun, but you have to look at it as a business
as well as a way of life," Thompson said. "I hope that my interest in
direct marketing will help Western SARE equip producers for the economic
challenges and opportunities of the new century."
He and his wife Kathy, who have farmed together for 22 years,
believe strongly in the broader picture of why sustainable agriculture is a
vital farming model for the future.
"How I make my living has to fit in with my goals as a caretaker of
the land, he said. "When I leave this ground, I want it to be in better
shape than when I arrived."
This means, he said, that even with a good profit, he regularly
asks himself: Am I taking ample care of the environment? How is what I'm
doing aiding the community where I live? Does my farming life positively
"We raise Hood and Rainier strawberry varieties that are the
sweetest berries in the world," Thompson said. "We want folks to come and
talk with us at our fresh market stands, experience picking berries in the
field with their children, and just enjoy the true fruits of their
And now as a regional leader of sustainable agriculture research
and education, Thompson offers his expertise, success and abundant personal
energy to the task of improving agricultural life and profitability for his
peers in the Western U.S.
Since joining the Western SARE team as a competitive grants
reviewer six years ago, and after five years as a member of its governing
Administrative Council, Thompson said "I'm ready to translate my
understanding of sustainable agriculture and the amazing diversity of the
West into strong leadership for this program."
Thompson graduated from Oregon State University in 1976 with a
major in horticulture and a minor in chemistry. The Portland area Chamber
of Commerce awarded the Thompsons the 1991 "Family Farm of the Year" honor.
Thompson participates in other agricultural organizations, such as
the Oregon Horticulture Society, the North Willamette Horticulture Society,
the Oregon Vegetable Commission, the Oregon Fresh Market Growers Society,
the Oregon Raspberry and Blackberry Commission, and the Multnomah County
For Pacific Northwest News Outlets
The Thompsons operate fresh market fruit and vegetable stands at
four area farmers' markets and on-site at their farm. U-pick operations for
berries and vegetables and other farm activities take place
seven-days-a-week from June through pumpkin-picking in November. For more
information or directions to the farm, call (503) 658-4640.
About Western SARE
Since 1988 through federal fiscal year 1998, the U.S. Congress has
allocated more than $92 million to the SARE effort; Western SARE has
received $20.7 million.
The SARE program, which was authorized by Congress in the 1990 and
1996 Farm Bills, is managed in the West by an Administrative Council. The
committee of scientists, producers and administrators represent a variety
of interests and provide local leadership to research and training efforts.
It operates in cooperation with the USDA SARE office and the Cooperative
State Research, Education and Extension Service.
Utah State University is host to the SARE program in the Western
Region, which includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii,
Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming and
the Island Protectorates of American Samoa, Guam, Micronesia and the
Northern Mariana Islands.
Senior Public Information Rep/ Communications Specialist
Mail and contact information:
University of California
One Shields Avenue
Davis, CA 95616-8716
FOR UPS, FED-X, or other priority mail:
SARE, University of California
DANR Bldg, Hopkins Rd.
Davis, CA 95616
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