Oregon Aglink Blog

The Choices that Keep on Giving

Posted on October 29, 2020

Is there a decision you’ve made in your life that changed its trajectory?

I know if-then hypotheticals are just that, a speculation for a given scenario. Inherently, this makes it difficult to make a definitive statement about whether a decision would or would not have led to a similar set of outcomes.

For me, choosing to take a job with six months of funding to coordinate a program called Adopt a Farmer is one of those decisions. 

In October of 2013, I went on my first field trip as part of an informal interview so to speak for this new program called Adopt a Farmer. I loved every minute of it. Having finished a straw harvest with my dad that summer after returning from living in South America, I figured this six month job would give me time to figure out what I wanted to do. It didn’t take long before I was hooked.

The impact this program has on people, from farmers to teachers to students, was and still is so fulfilling to me. 

As the first hired coordinator for the Adopt a Farmer program seven years ago this month, the program had just started its third school year with 18 farm-school matches and I knew I was home. Farmers are my kind of people. I felt home because of the people I was working for, not only the staff and the board of this organization, but the farmers who I worked with directly and the entire food-fiber-shelter community who benefit from people being more informed about who, what, when, where, how, and why their food is being grown and the land is being used.

Adopt a Farmer showed me the importance of conversations for farmers and ranchers to engage in with people who eat food and use their end products daily. It highlighted how relationship building creates trust that can carry forward for a lifetime. These first-hand experiences are influential and needed in today’s ever-changing world. In order to make this happen, we’ve needed people who believe in these same things and in our ability to execute them. Farmers and ranchers give hours of their time and resources year after year. Teachers are willing to integrate agriculture into their classrooms. Supporters, from our board of directors and dues paying members to our repeat corporate donors and every one of our one-time givers, this work and its impact simply does not happen without each and every person deciding to contribute how they can. 

Starting our tenth school year of the Adopt a Farmer program this fall is a milestone I’ve been looking forward to, even if the environment we’re operating in is not anything I could have imagined!

We have so much to celebrate thanks to the work of so many. Growing from three farm-school matches 10 years ago, to reaching more than 20,000 students by funding hundreds of field trips and classroom visits, all in order to bring Oregon’s farmers and ranchers a little closer to the students, teachers, and parents in the past decade…I am humbled and forever grateful for every person who has contributed along the way. I’m honored to be doing this fulfilling and necessary work and look forward to seeing what the next 10 years bring us!

Mallory Phelan

Executive Director