August 7, 2009

Yesterday, I had the privilege of spending the evening with Karla and Bill Chambers, owners/operators of the Stahlbush Island FarmsĀ (, and their children.

To me they epitomize the modern farm family running a large family-owned
business, committed to Quality, Sustainability, Innovation, and People, as
it says in their Mission and Vision statement on their website.

The conversation on their back deck, which ranged from alternative energy to
sustainability to education to research and Extension to Canadian geese as
pests to taxes, and the wonderful wine -Elizabeth’s Reserve from Bill’s
mother’s winery – were equally refreshing and enjoyable.

Stahlbush Island Farms Processing PlantBill offered to take me on a tour of their processing plant, which I gladly
accepted. The innovations they have incorporated in not only the production
of various vegetable crops using sustainable approaches, but also in the
processing and the use of the plant waste to generate Methane in a
biogas digester to produce electricity, is very impressive.

Biogas digesterThe best part
is that they are able to follow sustainable practices in their production
and processing, while mitigating their ecological footprint and saving
money. In the classic definition of Extension, these are the Innovators and
Early Adopters.

Following the tour, we ate brats and potato salad. The conversation, which included their children, turned to our college, including the teaching, research, and Extension efforts.

At one point, Karla made the observation that Extension was not really
needed. I was surprised by that statement, but we engaged in a spirited
discussion of today’s Extension.

I truly believe that Extension is even more relevant today because of the
incredible need we have to feed an ever burgeoning population, and to make
sure that the food is safe and secure. Additionally, whether it’s
production systems or meeting the food, feed, fuel, and fiber needs, it
is becoming ever more complicated and technically more demanding, requiring
a more sophisticated and transformative Extension effort that relies on
reaching the end users via different touch points and modes of

But when I went home and thought about Karla’s statement, it gave me pause.
Here’s a person who really is the proverbial ‘choir’ and she questioned the
relevance of Extension. I think our work is cut out, and will require
serious thought. We truly have to become more relevant and bring value.

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One thought on “Stahlbush Island Farms

  1. Susan,

    Thank you for your comment. Dean Ramaswamy has taken another position and is no longer at OSU.

    Elizabeth C. Webb
    College of Agricultural Sciences
    Oregon State University

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