Tag: community and regional planning

Exploring Northeast Oregon’s New Natural Resource Economy

By Aniko Drlik-Muehleck

In the lull before the finals week storm (or rather, in the midst of preparing for that storm), first year planning graduate students Aiden Forsi, Michael Graham, and Steph Nappa headed off on a whirlwind tour of Northeast Oregon. Their mission: to gain firsthand experience with the “New Natural Resource Economy.”

The new WHAT, you ask? Good question. PPPM Professor Emeritus Mike Hibbard and his research colleague Dr. Sue Lurie have been investigating what they call the new, or next, natural resource economy, aka NNRE, for many years. As part of a year-long project funded by Meyer Memorial Trust, the Ford Family Foundation, and the Oregon Community Foundation, Professor Hibbard and Dr. Lurie are partnering with the CSC to engage graduate students in an applied economic development project centered on the NNRE in Eastern Oregon.

Students Steph Nappa, Michael Graham, and Aiden Forsi get a tour of Stein Distillery with Professor Mike Hibbard and Dan Stein.

But what is the new natural resource economy? For the long answer, we suggest you read Professor Hibbard’s and Dr. Lurie’s 2013 article in Society & Natural Resources. In brief, however, the NNRE is comprised of small businesses using natural resources in innovative ways that emphasize environmental stewardship. These businesses are contributing to new markets like sustainable farming, habitat restoration, and eco-tourism that complement –not necessarily replace –the traditional, extraction-based natural resource economy

It is perhaps easiest to illustrate with some examples from the students’ trip:

  • Upper Dry Creek Ranch is a vertically integrated, 100% grassfed beef and lamb ranch. The Cosner family has worked for decades to create a system of ranching that centers on the health of their animals and their land.
  • The Plantworks is a native plant nursery focused on habitat restoration. Sandy Roth and Dick Kenton collect seeds directly from habitat restoration sites, nurture these native plants through their initial stages of growth, then work to restore ecosystems using the plants.
  • Stein Distillery is a micro-distillery sourcing local grain from the family farm. Owner Dan Stein transformed a hobby into an award-winning business when he opened to the public in 2009. Spent grains from the distilling process are returned to the farm as fertilizer for the crop that will feed the next batch of handcrafted whiskey, bourbon, vodka, rum, and cordials.
  • Wilson Ranches Retreat is a bed and breakfast on a working, traditionally managed ranch. The Wilson family is committed to educating visitors about ranching practices that preserve and care for the delicate rangeland of North-central Oregon.

Natural resources and agriculture have always been the backbone of rural life, but the American economy is changing rapidly, shifting away from natural resources towards technology and services. This shift has left many rural communities behind. Professor Hibbard and Dr. Lurie believe that growth of the new natural resource economy may pave the way for rural revitalization in areas hard-hit by economic transition.

As the student team continues to investigate the NNRE in Eastern Oregon, stay tuned for ideas about how policymakers and economic developers can support this emerging sector.

Food for the Community

By Kevin Gilbride

It takes a lot for me to be excited. I tend to be a calm, collected person. When I graduated from high school in 2007, I moved to Eugene to attend University without excitement, knowing that I was doing what was expected of me. Barring a few adventures abroad, I have lived here ever since, doing what has been expected of me: graduating from university and getting a full time job. But now I am doing something unexpected, something maybe even exciting.

Now I am a master’s candidate of community and regional planning. I am currently working with the Community Planning Workshop at the University of Oregon. I moved to Eugene as a young man with no concept of a local food movement—I ate what I wanted when I wanted regardless of the season or the impact of my food habits. Local, sustainable food has since become a focus of my life.

Doing what isn’t expected of me by continuing my education has provided me with the opportunity to further my understanding of, and perhaps my obsession with, local food. For the next five months (has it been a month already?), under the umbrella of the Community Service Center and the University of Oregon, I have the opportunity to work with the City of Eugene, Lane County, Eugene Water and Electric Board and a variety of other local partners to assess the financial viability of a year-round public market in downtown Eugene. The idea for a public market originated in 2009 and germinated in a previous CPW project—market feasibility analysis which led into the current feasibility assessment project.

Such a market will bring fresh, local food to the community every day, sold directly by the farmers to the consumers, providing a vital connection between people and the food they eat.

I sit now, reflecting on the opportunities that the next five months of working for the CPW will provide me in my planning education, and while the professional skills that I will develop are a huge bonus, the biggest bonus, and thus a reason for excitement for this project, is the idea that I have an opportunity to directly impact the health of the community that I live in, and that I have grown to love. For this, I am excited.

Kevin Gilbride
Kevin Gilbride

California born, Oregon raised, Kevin has been living in Eugene for nine years. Kevin joined the Master’s of Community and Regional Planning program at the University of Oregon to pursue his goal to promote and construct multi-modal infrastructure. Kevin is an avid soccer player, bike commuter, and hiker, and loves quality local food.