Hundreds Gather to Celebrate Local Farming and Food

Kate Brown with Ed Ray

Oregon Governor Kate Brown visiting with OSU President Ed Ray at the 2019 Harvest Dinner.

The 8th annual Harvest Dinner at the North Willamette Research and Extension Center (NWREC) last September brought together 300 local farmers, agricultural industry and business leaders, university faculty, and elected officials—including Governor Kate Brown.  The Harvest Dinner has become a premier regional event celebrating one of Oregon’s key industries.  Agriculture and associated businesses make up about 20% of Oregon’s economy and workforce.  

The dinner once again showcased the research and education work done at OSU’s only experimental farm in the Willamette Valley, shared through a farm-to-plate dinner experience.  Many of the fruits and vegetables served came from the Research Center’s experimental trials during the past summer.  

Other menu items included innovative food products developed by faculty and students at OSU’s Corvallis campus and other research locations around the state.  Guests enjoyed popular cheeses created by OSU students, surimi noodles—a product that looks like a pasta noodle but is made entirely from fish, and a seaweed product called dulse.   Both surimi noodles and dulse were developed by OSU at their Food Innovation Center in north Portland.

Mike Bondi, NWREC’s Director and creator of the Harvest Dinner event in 2012, says the Harvest Dinner gets bigger each year.  “We started out like a small garden party, but each year we’ve grown by 20%.  Now, we are big enough to attract a large number of agriculture’s key businesses and leaders.  Their attendance is a good attraction for other key leaders in the state like the Governor, the OSU President, and the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s Director.”

The 2019 Harvest Dinner welcomed Alan Sams, the new Dean of OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences.  Sams came to OSU in November of 2018 to take on the leadership of one of the nation’s top agricultural research and education institutions.  He was the Executive Associate Dean in the College of Agriculture at Texas A&M University prior to his arrival in Corvallis.  Sams spoke to the crowd about his perceptions on Oregon agriculture gathered in his first year, and his thoughts about future priorities.

“The diversity of Oregon agriculture has been an incredible thing to see as I’ve traveled the state this past year,” Sams said.  “OSU’s challenge and opportunity will be to meet the needs of farmers and business leaders around the state with relevant research and education in a rapidly changing state, country and world—and, all while preparing the next generation of agriculturists and leaders.  But we are up to the challenge, have an outstanding faculty, and great history of success in this state.”

Governor Brown summed up the Harvest Dinner, adding, “This is a really wonderful opportunity to bridge the rural-urban divide over the dinner table…what I love about the work happening here [at OSU and NWREC] is the innovation and creativity around food products.”