Oregon Aglink Blog

Process of Change

Posted on April 22, 2020

 According to Merriam-Webster, the first known use of the word transition was in 1545.

Other first known uses from that year include: thick-skinned, traditional, revise, sure enough, and workable. The stories of Oregon’s natural resource industry are rooted in transitions – big and small, they all play a role in where we have been, who we have become, and where we are going.

One of the big, generational transitions for farms, ranches, forests, and fishing boats is that of succession. The next steward of the land and sea is traditionally a passing of responsibility from one family member to another. Traditional (one of those other words first used in 1545) doesn’t currently paint the whole story of succession in Oregon. Succession is happening from family to employees, by sale to other producers or investment groups, and going out of business – a reminder that transition has not always been peaceful, ideal, or comfortable. Especially while going through transitions as big as succession, it is often difficult to feel like it is workable in the present and hard to see what it will be like on the other side of it all.

There may be no better illustration of transition over time than examining the evolution of what Oregon’s land and water has produced throughout the decades.

From the endless orchards full of hazelnut trees of varying ages across the Willamette Valley to the explosion of hemp production all around the state, Oregon’s farmers are pioneers in innovation and their willingness to transition ground to new crops. Many farms no longer have animals like their grandparents raised and ranches look different than they did decades ago. 

Not only are all our producers having to comply with a myriad of regulations, but interrupted access to local, national, and international markets necessitate creativity and flexibility. The ever eternal optimists, Oregon’s food, fiber, and shelter producers are constantly looking to revise practices and improve efficiency in the safest and most sustainable way. What worked for one generation might not be the best for the next – the world is changing rapidly and Oregon producers are at the forefront of keeping up with it all.

At a time in which so many facets of our life are being disrupted, we are served well by remembering that transitions across Oregon’s farms, ranches, fisheries, and forests have been happening long before we were here. In fact, the decisions of our ancestors are why we are here today.

We are strongest when working together, generation to generation, neighbor to neighbor, and community with community.

Thankfully, we don’t have to look far to find these examples all around us or in our past. It’s within our power and our interests to set more of these strong examples for the future.

Mallory Phelan

Oregon Aglink Executive Director