From seed to market, Organic Growers Club members learn to do it all.

The OSU Organic Growers Club offers something for everyone
The OSU Organic Growers Club offers something for everyone

An Earth-friendly approach to farming has quietly been taking place for the past five years at OSU. Members of the Organic Growers Club use alternative weed and pest controls, including beneficial insects, to produce a wide range of crops.

James Cassidy was one of the first members of the club when he joined as a soil science student in 2001. Now, a soil science instructor and research assistant, he is marketing director for the club.

“The emphasis of the club is on the food, not the politics of organic versus inorganic or any other political issues,” Cassidy says. “We choose not to use chemicals because our customers prefer that. We have nothing against people who use chemicals, but it’s not for us.”

Cassidy says the club offers something for everyone. Members include staff, faculty, and students from various majors. Many participants find something to do in their field because club activities involve agriculture, social sciences, marketing, and other areas. Engineering students helped create the drip irrigation system, for example.

“We bought the system with our earnings. That’s the way we get equipment,” Cassidy says. “I think of it in terms of how many onions it is to buy something. I know how much work goes into onions, and if they sell at three for a dollar, it’s easy to determine how many onions something costs, so we know if it’s worth it.”

At their 3.5-acre farm just east of Corvallis off Highway 34, club members produce more than 50 different crops, including tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, garlic, potatoes, corn, beets, broccoli, beans, and, of course, onions.

The club distributes its goods through a list of about 300 on-campus customers. “I send out a message every Monday during the season to tell people what’s available that week and how much it costs. They order by Thursday, then we harvest that night and deliver the items on Friday.”

Organic Growers Club website

James Cassidy’s departmental page

Childhood obesity is becoming a crisis in Oregon, and OSU professors are working with schools and communities to get it under control.

Childhood obesity is on the rise in Oregon and the U.S.
Childhood obesity is on the rise in Oregon and the U.S.

Although Oregon is considered one of the hungriest states in the nation, 28 percent of 8th graders in the state are overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

That means those children probably have a fat-rich, nutrition-poor diet and don’t get enough exercise, which can lead to serious health problems–heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure–that will affect them over their lifespan.

Obese children are likely to become obese adults, and in Oregon the Centers for Disease Control estimates the obesity figure for adults at 60 percent. Clearly the way to reverse the trend is to change the habits of the young.

That’s why the College of Health & Human Sciences and the OSU Extension Family and Community Development Program are working with schools and health practitioners to tailor programs that change nutrition and exercise behaviors of children and their families. Here are some of the programs:

  • Bilingual and bicultural Extension faculty, staff, and volunteers work with Hispanic, Native American, African American, Asian, and Russian communities that represent about half of those in limited-income nutrition programs.
  • A school-business-community collaboration in Waldport promotes eating fresh fruits and vegetables and drinking water.
  • Fourth graders in Tillamook are learning the importance of calcium for healthy bones, along with ways to cook calcium-rich foods.
  • More than 450 Spanish-speaking families in Marion County participated in Las Comidas Latinas, an informal course on nutrition and food safety.
  • In Columbia County, nutrition education has elementary school children requesting more fruits and vegetables in their cafeteria.

“We have evidence that shows investments in our children pay off–that early learning and success lead to continued learning and success throughout life,” said Tammy Bray, dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences. “We know, too, that the later we try to repair deficiencies, the costlier it becomes.”

College of Health and Human Sciences website

Extension Family and Community Development Program website

“Fizzy Fruit” combines the health benefits of fruit and the pizzazz of a bottle of soda.

Fizzy pears
Fizzy pears

Imagine biting into a juicy apple, a pear, or a slice of Hermiston watermelon and having your mouth come alive with a zinging, fizzy sensation.

That will soon be possible thanks to the efforts of OSU researchers who are working on getting Fizzy Fruit to market.

The carbonated fruit was discovered accidentally by Galen Kaufman, a Texas scientist, who bit into a pear that had been in a cooler chilled with dry ice. He sensed a delightful fizziness in the fruit and quickly figured out that some of the dry ice in the cooler had changed from a solid into carbon dioxide gas and entered the fruit.

He contacted the Oregon Food Innovation Center in Portland, a joint effort of OSU and the Oregon Department of Agriculture, asking for the center’s help in developing a patentable process for carbonating fruit on a commercial scale.

OSU’s Qingyue Ling, product development engineer for the Food Innovation Center, came up with designs to make the manufacture of fizzy fruit feasible on a large-scale basis. Patents are now pending, with OSU and Kaufman’s company, Fizzy Fruit North America, as co-owners.

The inventor and the OSU researchers say the fizzy fruit may encourage people to eat healthier by choosing fruit instead of other snack foods. Ling says it could become a big hit with school children and their parents. “Children like something fun like fizzy fruit,” says Ling. “And their mothers like the fact that their kids will be eating more fruit. Eating more fruit will also help with the national obesity epidemic.”

Fizzy Fruit news release

Food Innovation Center

Michael Morrissey samples an oyster shooter made through a process the OSU Seafood Laboratory helped develop. Photo: Lynn Ketchum, OSU Extension and Experiment Station Communications

Morrisey takes a bite out of the fruits of his labor
Morrisey takes a bite out of the fruits of his labor

The Oregon State University Seafood Laboratory at Astoria has been working since 1940 to meet the needs of Oregon’s coastal communities and seafood industry through research and development, extension education to the fishing industry, and graduate research, training, and instruction.

In the past 12 years, the Seafood Lab, which is well known for its international surimi school, has received more than $8 million in research grants from federal and state agencies and private industry.

The latest venture is the Community Seafood Initiative, a partnership among industry, research, community development organizations, and business financing to strengthen coastal communities and the seafood industry by enhancing the value of products through product development; research, technology, and education; and business marketing and capital.

“This is a unique and appropriate model for a university partnership,” says Michael Morrissey, director of the Seafood Laboratory. “It’s been running about a year now, and it’s pretty exciting.”

Using a multidisciplinary team of experienced professionals in food science, economics, markets, outreach and extension, community development lending, rural development, consumer behavior, and resource management, the partnership is initially focusing on new technologies such as high-pressure processing and value-added products for oysters and albacore tuna.

Partnering with the Seafood Laboratory are the Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station in Newport; the Duncan Law Seafood Consumer Center in Astoria; Oregon Sea Grant Extension; and ShoreBank Enterprise Pacific, a nonprofit community development finance institution in Ilwaco, Washington.

“Our goal is to help small and midsize businesses find ways of expanding, finding niche markets, and becoming entrepreneurial in developing new products,” says Morrissey, who was selected by Oregon Business magazine in 2003 as one of the Top-50 Great Leaders in Oregon.

“In the fishing and seafood business, you have to see opportunities and act quickly,” Morrissey says. That’s where the OSU Seafood Laboratory and the Community Seafood Initiative step in.

OSU Seafood Lab home page

Seafood Lab faculty

Community Seafood Initiative