Tag: CPW

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.

The Trust Agreement

By Titus Tomlinson and Aniko Drlik-Muehleck

History and relationships in rural communities run deep. This creates a rich web of networks and shared wisdom that can support a community through tough times.

The flip-side of longstanding relationships, however, can be paralysis. As humans, we remember the past and in particular, we remember the wrongs of the past. If someone snubs or undermines me, I’m not likely to want to work with them again. I might even go so far as to tell all my friends and colleagues not to work with them again. Word spreads quickly, and factions start to develop; we dig in and don’t cooperate with people or groups we don’t respect.

Sometimes, it’s perfectly legitimate to cut off relationships. You don’t, for example, want to keep working with someone who is stealing from you. In the context of community development, however, holding grudges does not pay off. If you’re serious about getting things done in your community, you can’t let the past get in your way.

Here at the Community Service Center, we’ve been experimenting with the Strategic Doing framework as a way to move community conversations beyond the usual sticking points of tense relationships and power struggles. It is never easy to change the direction and mood of a community conversation, but here’s something we’ve tried that you might be interested in bringing to your own community work: The Trust Agreement.

The Trust Agreement is simple, but powerful:

We believe in behaving in ways that build trust and mutual respect. That means:

  • Leave your ego at the door.
  • The past is the past.
  • Treat others with the respect you hope to receive in return.
  • We are a coalition of the willing…
  • …ALWAYS focus on the positive. We’re here to talk about what we CAN do, not what we can’t.

When you’re coming in to a particularly difficult meeting where you know egos and historical grudges might be at play, consider beginning your discussion by laying out these concepts. Then courteously yet firmly let meeting participants know that if they can’t embrace the Trust Agreement, this meeting probably isn’t for them.