Oregon Native Teaches Kids About State’s Agricultural Diversity
When it comes to agricultural variety, it’s difficult to top the state of Oregon.
Situated between California to the south and Washington to the north, Oregon produces more than 220 different agricultural commodities. That makes it the third highest state in the nation for agricultural diversity.
According to Oregon Agriculture in the Classroom – a resource for educators in the state – there are six F’s of Oregon agriculture. They are farming, food, fishing, forestry, fiber and flowers.
One Oregon educator likes to add a seventh “F” to the mix. Katie Feinauer believes it’s important to include fuels on the list because “it is what helps the world go round,” she said.
“Fuels and energy impact agricultural products getting harvested, processed, packaged and where they need to go. Fuels and energy are also a huge impact to the environment and need to be handled with as much care as the other F’s of agriculture.”
Agri-Camp USA Founded in 2015
Katie founded Agri-Camp USA in 2015. It’s a nonprofit educational program in Oregon through which she teaches agriculture, firearms safety, archery safety, environmental stewardship and much more to students ages 5 to 18.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic reaching America in early 2019, she visited more than 50 classrooms in southern Oregon schools for 30-60 minutes each month. She was able to reach more than 1,000 students with interactive lessons that emphasize those seven F’s.
She also facilitated a year ‘round camp (June through May) for about 32 students from kindergarten through 12th grade. The students’ siblings and parents were also invited to participate.
“My original mission was to teach everyone about agriculture and how it benefits them,” Katie said. “But over time I narrowed the focus to youth and eventually to elementary youth. More recently I added firearms safety classes.”
Katie has a few adult volunteer helpers who stay behind the scenes, but does most of the organizing and teaching herself.
Katie Focuses on 7 F’s
Back to those seven F’s. In no particular order, Katie teaches about…
- Forestry. Of Oregon’s 63 million acres, 30 million are comprised of forest land. More than 10 percent of the state’s total value of goods and services is supported by Oregon’s forests. The Douglas fir and Ponderosa pine are the most commonly seen trees. Oregon ranks first in the nation in number of Christmas trees. “Kids see logging trucks all the time, and we talk about harvesting trees and shelter building,” Katie said.
- Farming. There are approximately 36,400 farms and ranches in Oregon, covering about 16.4 million acres. More than 98 percent of the farms are family-owned and operated. Among the agricultural commodities are cattle and calves, hay, milk, grass seed, wheat and many others. “We also incorporate a lot of pumpkins in our talks about farming.”
- Food. Oregon is well known for its delicious food including potatoes, pears, grapes, onions, cherries, apples, blackberries, raspberries and many more. There are more than 9,600 restaurants in the state, employing over 193,000 people. “We talk a lot about natural foods, brands that are grown and processed in Oregon, and food preservation.”
- Fishing. With a 362-mile coastline, Oregon’s fishing industry is a major source of the state’s economy. In a recent year, about 2 million pounds of fish were caught for commercial use. Among the catches are pink shrimp, Dungeness crab, groundfish, salmon, albacore tuna and whiting. “We focus on the contribution Oregon fisheries make, including salmon and trout eggs.”
- Fiber. Sheep, goats, llamas, rabbits and alpaca produce wool for fiber in Oregon. These fibers can be spun, weaved, knitted or crocheted, and can be dyed into colorful combinations. One of the great things about wool is it can be remanufactured, reused or biodegraded. “We discuss fiber mostly in March, because that’s when sheep and alpacas are ready to be shorn.”
- Flowers. Grapes are generally considered fruits, but they grow on the vines of flowering plants. Since 1899, the Oregon grape has been the official state flower. Tulips are another very popular flower in the state. The nursery industry (which also includes Christmas trees) provides plenty of jobs and sales, both in and out of state. “There’s plenty to talk about when it comes to Oregon’s nursery industry.”
- Fuels. Fuel stations, fuel distributors and heating oil producers stay busy in Oregon. In addition to providing many jobs across the state, they tackle the challenge of providing affordable fuels while focusing on environmental stewardship. “Fuels and energy can get overlooked in lists like these, but they are very important.”
Early Interest Never Fades
Katie spent most of her youth in Oregon, but lived in a number of states due to U.S. military life. Those states included Alaska, Arizona, Alabama, New Mexico and Texas.
She currently lives in in Merrill, Oregon, about 20 miles southeast of Klamath Falls.
“Early on I became interested in animals and livestock, and it stayed with me through the years,” Katie said. “I was in 4H clubs and raised pigs. In high school I worked at a dairy across the street from our home and enjoyed firearms safety classes and shooting sports.”
She earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Northwest Christian University (now Bushnell University) in Eugene. Katie has been a deli cook, bartender, volunteer educator and substitute teacher. Her motherly instincts transcend her own family, which includes daughters 13 and 20 years of age.
“I think of myself as ‘supermom,’” she said. “A lot of neighborhood kids have called me ‘mom’ through the years. I’ve done a lot of baby sitting and chauffeuring.”
Conservation vs. Preservation
The northwest portion of the country tends to be more environmentally conscious than other areas. That does not necessarily mean the children are already well-versed in its importance.
“In the classrooms, depending on the teacher, they have a pretty good concept of it,” Katie said. “Out on the streets, it’s hit or miss.
“We talk about conservation versus preservation. Avoid forest fires, don’t put your waste into the ground. Wear secondhand clothing and make it yours. Food preservation is key.”
Katie said she is in the process of developing a 30-page workbook for fifth and sixth graders, which will also include links to YouTube videos.
4Patriots Makes Food Donation
4Patriots appreciates Katie’s expertise and zeal for instilling life lessons, like the importance of food security, in today’s youth. So the company recently made a donation to Agri-Camp USA including (50) 72-Hour Survival Food Kits.
“While schooling is virtual, we will hand out the dehydrated 4Patriots food to teachers so they can take it home, cook it and let us know what they thought about it,” she said.
“And when we get back into the classrooms, we can cook some of it on a hotplate to show kids how to prepare dehydrated food.”
Hopefully the kids will get to taste it as well. Nothing goes along better with learning than sharing in the bounty.