A man in an orange shirt sits under a canopy at an outdoor table, surrounded by signs and papers about well water testing.
Ahad Aziz stresses the importance of well water testing at the Independence Farmers Market in September. Photo by Morgan Neil of the Polk Soil and Water Conservation District.

This summer, I was given the opportunity to integrate public health initiatives into the OSU Extension Well Water Program with Chrissy Lucas in Benton, Linn, Lane, Marion and Polk counties. I was fortunate enough to interview several healthcare professionals, public health and environmental science professors and groundwater experts to learn more about the intersectionality of health promotion and disease prevention. I was able to interact with individuals from several different county health departments, the Oregon Water Resources Department, and professors at the Oregon Health & Science University and Portland State University who specialize in science implementation, public health policy promotion and control interventions.  

To help bring more awareness to the Well Water Program I collaborated with the different Extension Service offices and with campus resources to design and display posters and encourage the public to get their well water tested. I also helped with the Be Well Project study in Jackson County and sent out many letters and postcards to the five counties about upcoming nitrate screening clinics. 

With my internship coming to an end, I’m writing a final report for Chrissy and the Southern Willamette Valley Groundwater Management Area Committee on how information relating to nitrate and other contaminants in domestic wells can be shared with other healthcare professionals. What I have learned is that well owners who perceive themselves as having more control over the problems within their wells are more likely to test and perform well maintenance.  

A big shout out to Chrissy, my fellow interns Briauna Herrick and Kelci Free, Nicole Mason, the office specialist in the Extension office in Benton County; and many others for their enthusiasm and for helping me grow. Before this summer, I think I had gone to only one farmers market, but with this internship, I was able to visit many farmers markets, meet a huge variety of people that I probably would never have interacted with and I gained valuable knowledge from their experiences. 

 

Ahad Aziz (from left) with fellow interns Briauna Herrick and Kelci Free at a nitrate testing table at the Corvallis Farmers Market.

Hey everyone! My name is Ahad Aziz, and I am from Tigard, Oregon. I just recently graduated from Oregon State with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and have a few more classes until I also finish my Bachelor of Science in public health with a focus in health management and policy. I’m on track to graduate in December, and I will still be at Oregon State, working on a Master of Business Administration degree. My background is definitely different than most of the other OSU Extension interns. Still, I’m glad to be able to provide that unique and “outsider” perspective to the Extension service and groundwater protection program in the mid-Willamette Valley.

So far, I have worked at four well-water testing clinics and have many more to be a part of for the rest of the summer. My specific intern project is working with the medical community in the area, mainly from Salem to Eugene, and providing health care professionals with the knowledge to best support their patients who rely on well water. I’ve found that there’s a disconnect between health care providers and their rural patients as not many of them realize that some symptoms that their patients come in with might have something to do with nitrate or other unhealthy things in the water.

With that being said, I’m going to shamelessly plug the fact that if you live in the mid-Willamette Valley, you can get your well water tested at an OSU Extension office near you! Just bring half-a-cup of water in a clean cup to Extension offices in Benton, Lane, Linn, Marion and Polk counties, Monday through Friday, during normal business hours, and we’ll get your water tested for nitrate. I’ll be at the office in Benton County if you want to meet me personally, or to give me life advice because I have no idea what I want to do with my future.

I’ll talk to you guys again in September!

Sophia Hampton

Hello! My name is Sophia Hampton (she/her/hers), and I’m excited to be working for OSU Extension in Polk and Marion counties with the Mid-Willamette Valley Small Farms Program. I was born and raised in McMinnville and am back in Oregon for the summer after completing my first year at Seattle University. 

 

Although I don’t have a lot of experience with farming and agriculture, as an environmental studies and public affairs double major, I’m finding my time here quite valuable. I’m learning new things every day. I’m working with my incredible supervisor, Hayley White, Extension agriculture program coordinator in Marion and Polk counties. Hayley works with the Polk County Soil and Water Conservation District and on the Olea Project, an olive research project.

 

So far, I’ve been formatting the Mid-Willamette Valley Small Farms newsletter, producing content for and posting to our social media pages, creating marketing materials for various events like the upcoming Small Farm Social at the end of July, and planning an activity for the Polk County Fair in August. I’ve also had the opportunity to visit and plant strawberries at the Marion Polk Food Share Youth Farm and participate in data collection for the Olea Project at the North Willamette Research and Extension Center, as well as work at the Extension table at the West Salem Farmers Market and the Marion County Fair. These experiences have been fun and informative, and I love meeting people, both those who work with Extension and those who don’t. They are so passionate, knowledgeable and generous with their time and conversations. 

Planting strawberries at the Marion Polk Food Share Youth Farm. Photo by Hayley White.

 

I don’t have a clear idea of what I would like my career to look like, but I know I want it to be related to outreach, education and environmental justice, so with this internship, I hope to gain perspective about where I might fit into those fields. Even as I’m just starting, I can feel that happening. I’m grateful to be part of the Extension team this summer, and I can’t wait to continue learning and contributing.

Briauna Herrick

Hey there! My name is Briauna Herrick, and I grew up in Springfield, Oregon. I just finished my third year at Oregon State University, where I am majoring in agricultural sciences. I decided on this major because agriculture was something I had grown up involved in, and it just seemed familiar and natural. I grew up on my family’s farm in Springfield, where we have a produce stand and grow a wide variety of crops throughout the year. I’m on track to graduate after the winter term of 2023.

As I have pursued my degree, my passion for agricultural industry has grown. I have had many opportunities to get involved through classes, clubs and jobs. Outside of classes I am involved with two clubs on campus. I served as the treasurer for the Collegiate Farm Bureau club and was just elected president for the upcoming school year. I am also a part of a ministry group called Cru and am currently serving on the leadership team this year. Through my involvement with Cru, I had the opportunity to go on a mission trip to El Salvador in March where we installed water filters for many families and got to know individuals in different communities. I have been involved with both organizations for the past three years and they have showed me the importance of sharing my direct experience with agriculture and surrounding myself with community.

This summer I am interning with Chrissy Lucas, Extension groundwater protection specialist and outreach coordinator in Extension’s groundwater protection and education program. Since starting my internship a few weeks ago, I have been to two nitrate screenings, learned a lot about wells and septic tanks, cut and stamped many postcards, and learned how to use the copier. More recently, I have been busy with collecting information about wells and septic systems in other counties and preparing for upcoming nitrate screenings. I have scheduled a few nitrate screenings and am looking forward to holding one at my family’s farm later this summer. The past few weeks have consisted of many emails, scheduling events and staying organized.

Before this internship I thought of Extension as a resource for the agricultural industry, but I didn’t know that so much goes into the job. It’s been fun learning more about Extension as a whole and meeting new people. There is a lot of networking, planning, and communicating. I’ve got a busy summer ahead of me and am looking forward to what is to come!

Hi everyone!

My name is Kelci Free, and I am from Scio, Oregon. I recently graduated from OSU with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural sciences and a minor in agriculture education, with plans to attend graduate school at OSU this fall as a part of the agricultural education master’s program. I hope to become an Extension agent after completing this internship and completing the graduate program.

Kelci Free designed a graphic to advertise an Extension event

For the second summer in a row my internship is with the Extension groundwater protection and education program in the mid-Willamette Valley. So far, I have been busy at work planning out events schedule for the summer. I will be hosting various nitrate screenings at farmers markets, county Extension offices, and even a neighborhood screening. I will continue to grow my skills in networking, advertising for programming, and creating programming in order to gain more experience in what it takes to be an Extension agent.

Before starting my internship last summer, I had really only thought about Extension helping farmers and putting on county fairs. Over the last year I have had the opportunity to see how much more Extension has to offer no matter your interests or backgrounds through its various programs.

Hello everyone!  

My name is Alli Studnick, I am 22 years old, and from the small town of Scio, Oregon, where I live on my family’s 400-acre cattle ranch. Our ranch started in 1944, and I am a fourth-generation cattle rancher. We run about 200 head of cattle and we also raise pigs. I have “3½” horses – when you count my Shetland pony. We also have a goat, four dogs and lots of cats. 

While I am not helping my family on the farm, my hobbies include riding and competing in speed events with my horses Dalton Dixie and Romeo. In July of 2019, I was working at a farm stand and a woman walked in with a dog and asked me if I wanted her. She had found her on the side of a road and couldn’t keep her. So, I took her home, and the rest is history! Ivy is a 2-year-old Australian shepherd and she’s my best friend, we do almost everything together. She loves adventure. She rides horses, four-wheelers, riding lawn mowers, tractors, mopeds, and does everything in between. She’s such a fun dog and I am so lucky to have her.  

This June I graduated from Oregon State University with a degree in agricultural science and minors in crop and animal science. This fall I am headed to the agricultural education master’s program here at OSU to become an extension agent!

When I was younger, I was in 4-H and FFA in Linn County. I showed horses and sold pigs to pay for my horse obsession. I knew that the OSU Extension Service helped put on the fair, but I really didn’t know much more than that. When I was a junior at OSU, I enrolled in a class titled “Intro to Extension and Engagement.” During this course we learned about different programs of OSU Extension and met some of the agents in each program. After the class ended, I was hooked and knew that I wanted to pursue Extension as my career. 

Most of my life has been spent in the agriculture industry, and I’ve just been so inspired by farmers, ranchers, Extension agents for their love and passion of making the world a better place. This is why I decided to pursue a career in Extension, specifically in the agriculture field. Interacting with my community and listening to their stories, challenges, or successes in their farms and ranches makes me motivated to lend a helping hand in whatever needs they might have. Overall, I want to make a difference in every person’s life I may cross, which is why Extension is the perfect path for me!  

This summer I will be an intern with Chrissy Lucas, who is the Extension groundwater quality outreach program coordinator in the Willamette Valley. I am really excited for this opportunity to learn more about this part of Extension, and to meet the different people in the communities of Polk, Linn, Benton and Marion counties!