Agriculture and the Gales Creek Elementary School

Guest Author Sebastian Bannister Lawler, Candidate for Forest Grove School Board Position 3

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Agriculture is synonymous with the identity of our state. According to the Oregon Blue Book, the Beaver State’s top ten commodities in 2011 were, in descending order: greenhouses and nurseries, hay, cattle and calves, milk, wheat, grass seed, potatoes, blueberries, corn for grain and silage, and Christmas trees. While our state is host to many different industries, agriculture remains our driving economic force. But with more than one out of five Oregon workers aged 55 or older, it is important to consider the importance of educating a new generation to carry our state forward.

This future must include a new workforce of farmers who can continue to grow Oregon crops. I believe the site of the Gales Creek School could be utilized as a site for a charter school where students could be exposed to the nuanced complexities of agriculture. Drawing on a focused curriculum and the cooperation of area farmers, students would learn the importance of animal husbandry, the complexities of crop management, and even the basics of equipment maintenance. At present the plan is in its infancy but I envision an ongoing community dialogue regarding the specific details of the school’s curriculum. With state legislators proposing a $6.75 billion dollar education budget, the district may have enough funding so as to avoid suffering tremendous financial losses. The district will not have a surplus by any means, but after several consecutive years of massive cuts, the new budget should provide a much needed platform of stability, allowing us to move forward and begin the process of rebuilding.

In the spirit of growth and progress, I believe the next few years give us the chance to move towards bringing the district’s oldest school back into regular usage. The Gales Creek School has been in operation since 1859, the same year Oregon became a state. As we look to the future, I believe the one hundred and fifty-four year old school can be reborn as a place where the next generation of Oregon Farmers take up the mantle of their forebears, continuing the proud tradition of farming this beautiful land we call home.

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