• Donate Instead of Dumping: Hints for Moving
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    179159309_d66ec63c1d_oSpring is here, and summer fast approaching. The end of the university school year will be upon us faster than you can say commencement. And for thousands of OSU students, summer is move-out season. We can all agree that moving sucks. There’s never enough time and the last thing anybody wants to do is strap a crappy old couch to the top of their parents’ Prius, but leaving it on the corner is just plain wrong. It’s also technically illegal. So here’s a quick guide of where to take the stuff that you can’t keep when you move.

    Vina Moses Center: Your donations of clothes, kitchen appliances, household electronics, and camping equipment are made available to Benton County families in need. VM also runs the FISH program to help homeless families or those in danger of becoming homeless. Items that cannot be used locally are trucked off to the giant St. Vinnie’s thrift store in Lane County. www.vinamoses.org

    Heartland Humane Society Thrift Shop: These animal-loving volunteers accept clothing, books, collectibles, toys, accessories, and animal-related items. Profits from the thrift store are critical to the financial stability of the humane society in south town. Any clothing they cannot use goes to Vina Moses. www.heartlandhumane.org

    ARC of Benton County: In addition to clothing, books, collectibles, hand tools, and working electronics, ARC accepts bicycles and some furniture. Profits from the two local ARC thrift stores benefit individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. Anything they can’t sell is passed along to Vina Moses.

    St. Vincent de Paul: This non-profit organization has the mission of assisting the poor with affordable housing and emergency services. Their closest donation station and retail store are just down Highway 20 in Albany. They accept a large variety of items, including furniture. You can also drop off unusable clothes and other fabrics for recycling. Anything the Albany store cannot use is shipped off to Lane County. The Eugene St. Vinnie’s sorts donations into items that can be reused, remanufactured, recycled, or thrown away, keeping about 93-95% of donations out of the waste stream. www.svdp.us

    Consignment Shops: Your cute little black dress might be worth some cash. Corvallis currently has several shops downtown happy to take lightly used clothes off your hands. A number of these shops donate what they cannot sell to… you guessed it… Vina Moses.

    Goodwill: The big store on 9th Street has a drive-through donation station which makes it quick and easy to lighten your load of unneeded possessions. Books, clothes, furniture, exercise equipment, and housewares are just a few of the items accepted.

    Goodwill says it provides training, employment, and supportive services for people with disabilities or disadvantages who seek greater independence, but investigations have revealed they pay their help a fraction of minimum wage. That said, it’s still better than dumping stuff. www.goodwill.org

    OSU Folk Club Thrift Shop: This volunteer-run store is also a consignment shop. You can make a buck or two on your stuff, or just donate it outright. Either way, profits go to OSU students receiving scholarships and Benton County agencies through grants. Anything that the shop cannot sell is picked up by Gaia Movement trucks from Portland. www.oregonstate.edu

    Gaia Movement Bins: We mention these bins as an absolute last option for your used clothes. While they are a convenient alternative to a trip to Vina Moses, we don’t encourage anyone to utilize them. As we reported in November, Gaia Movement is widely regarded as part of an international money-making scam with phony environmental projects. To be fair, some of the clothing donated to the bins won’t end up in dumpsters. www.gaia-movement-usa.org, www.corvallisadvocate.com/2014/gaia-movement-bins-likely-funding-mysterious-villain

    Benton Habitat for Humanity Restore: Restore accepts used and new household items, but not clothing or beds. Habitat for Humanity International operates around the globe and has helped build, renovate, and repair more than 600,000 decent, affordable houses sheltering more than three million people worldwide.

    Furniture Share: This non-profit organization was founded specifically to find a way for families in need to utilize discarded student furniture. Furniture Share accepts basic household items and kitchenware in addition to furniture. They do ask that items are in good condition, as their space and resources are limited. For $20, they will even come to you.

     Corvallis Furniture: This furniture store was also born from a desire to stop the trend of students chucking their old furniture. The staff accepts some household items and used furniture in good or easily repairable condition. They will also take latex paints, wood stains, sand paper, and even parts and pieces of wood furniture. Their big orange truck is frequently seen around town picking up donations.


    By Preston Johnson

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  • Opportunity Village? Eugene Tries Tiny Houses, Self-Governance
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    opportunity villageIt’s not just Albany we Corvallisites may want to grab some hints from—our neighbors to the south are also having some success. Eugene’s Opportunity Village has been so successful that the city council didn’t just re-up, they’re doubling-down.

    Opportunity Village’s mission is to create self-managed communities of low-cost tiny houses for those in need of housing. These tiny houses are not heated, but they provide a safe, warmish place to sleep and keep your belongings. The community forms citizen-driven initiatives that help to positively change attitudes, policies, and practices that affect people without homes. The village also works with the surrounding communities to create a secure, stable place for low-income and homeless residents. They believe in self-governance and management, and all residents of the village must abide by community agreements.

    Some people may be skeptical of this project, but in the last year the police have only been called a few times, and it has been so successful that plans are in the works for a newer, more permanent village, with heated houses, called Emerald Village. This village will address the growing need for collateral in homeless communities. Residents will pay a low rent each month. A portion of this rent will be set aside for when the resident is ready to move to an apartment or house and needs the ability to get a loan, or pay rent. This will allow residents to move out of what seems to be a vicious cycle of homelessness. Time will tell how effective the village will be, but for now, it seems like a winning idea.

     So far in Corvallis, the idea of such villages has been met with groans from neighborhood groups and zoning, but with a growing need, maybe open hands would be better.

    By Kyra Young

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  • Compassion Combined with Conviction
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    hand home symbolWhile we debate the best approach to serving the homeless in Corvallis, a seemingly successful shelter model can be found right down the road. Albany Helping Hands takes a balanced approach to serving their homeless community. They provide meals and showers to all, but reserve more extensive services for those willing to make a greater commitment to personal improvement. Those homeless individuals who are ready to put their lives back on track are required to earn the services provided at Helping Hands. The work is part of the treatment.

    Becoming an overnight guest at Helping Hands requires sobriety and an ongoing commitment to self-improvement. An intake interview may include drug and alcohol testing. Once registered, guests must work a minimum of 20 hours per week at the shelter to remain. The longer they remain, the more hours of labor they are expected to put in. There is plenty of work to do. In addition to the main shelter, Helping Hands runs a thrift shop, a garden market, and a woodlot.

    In exchange for their time and elbow grease, guests are provided with valuable tools designed to help them achieve self-sufficiency. These include referrals to social services and county offices, minor medical assistance from a nurse, and counseling from an on-site chaplain. In-house drug and alcohol programs help residents stay clean. Anger management classes help them stay focused. Guests can receive mail and phone calls, storage space for medications and important papers, and a letter of residence for proof of address. There is also a savings program for those receiving income.

    More long-term assistance is provided through classes and training. Guests learn about computers, GED prep, Bible study, job search skills, and resume writing. The staff hopes eventually to add classes covering health, nutrition, and hygiene.

    There are also career pathway training programs. These volunteer positions count toward the guests’ weekly required work hours and give them specific marketable skills. While the primary goal of the kitchen is to feed the homeless hot meals, it is also serves as an excellent training facility. The Food Service Program offers employment in the fields of kitchen assistant, cafeteria attendant, and porter/utility worker. Each includes industry certification requirements and community-based internships.

    Former resident Randy Lindren took full advantage of the Food Service Program.

    “I came in as a homeless person. I did dishes three times a day. Eventually, I managed the kitchen. Now I do whatever they need,” he said.

    Lindren’s success story serves as inspiration to current guests. The fact that he still chooses to work at the shelter demonstrates his commitment to helping others. He clearly thinks the shelter is moving in a positive direction by insisting on sobriety for their long-term residents.

    “They didn’t used to do drug tests and breathalyzers. That definitely made the place more stable, in my opinion,” said Lindren. “There are less people causing problems.”

    The Albany Helping Hands Thrift Store is run by residents and volunteers. A three-stage training program is available for residents to develop skills in retail sales and customer service. Each stage requires 200 hours of hands-on experience. Participants also receive 200 hours of class time, an oral evaluation, written class materials, and an on-the-job training period. The candidates receive a certificate of completion and a letter of recommendation.

    A separate facility east of I-5 houses a woodlot and market. Residents who do their volunteer work here go through three stages of training as well. The Keep Warm Woodlot sells cords of several types of wood to the public. Their work involves learning to safely handle equipment such as chain saws, wood splitters, trucks, and other vehicles. They also learn retail sales and basic knowledge of wood-burning techniques and hazards. The Garden Market teaches residents about all aspects of farming. These include the use of heavy farm equipment, retail sales, and record keeping. The guests farm a nine-acre donated lot per year. All sales go to Helping Hands. Excess produce is donated to other local programs.

    Back at the main shelter, staff member Buddy is another success story.

    “I am a better human being today than I was three years ago,” he said. “I got humbled. I ended up here. It was the best thing that ever happened to me.”

    Buddy believes in the work. He believes in doing the most good for the most people. But he really believes in helping those that help themselves.

    “We do what we can for as many as we can for as long as we can. If they’re willing to meet us halfway, we’ll bend over backward to help,” he said.

     The Helping Hands model balances charity with tough love. It is wet and dry. It provides emergency shelter and accountability-based, wrap-around coverage. It provides the handout and the hand up. Just as importantly, it has a strong staff committed to improving the world one person at a time. As long as Albany Helping Hands keeps people like Lindren and Buddy on staff, they’re bound to keep making a difference.

    By Dave Deluca

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  • Les Miserabres… Les Miserballs…. er, Just Go, It’s Awesome
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    2015 Le MizCorvallis has proved to be a hub of theatrical talent and the Majestics latest production of Les Miserables stands as a testament to that.

    Victor Hugos story of revolution and redemption has staying power. Just over 150 years old, Les Mis has seen adaptation after adaptation and even a reinvention into a musical in 1980. Its popularity reached a fever pitch in 2012 with a Tom Hooper-directed film adaptation of the musical, and it remains a mainstay on theater stages nationwide.

    Lucky for us, the team at the Majestic, the 60-plus member cast, a full orchestra, and the even larger production crew, have put together an adaptation worthy of standing alongside any of its siblings.

    Les Miserables follows the story of Jean Valjean (Joseph C. Battrick), a convict who has served a 19-year sentence for stealing a loaf of bread. Upon his release at the hands of policeman Javert (Robert Allen), Valjean finds the world untrusting of a former convict. After being taken in by a bishop, he resorts to thievery to get his comeuppance on a world that has tossed him aside. Karma reigns supreme, though, as he is caught and returned to the bishop, who then holds his fate in his hands.

    In a life-changing moment, the bishop lets him go. From then on, Valjean swears to make something of his life. From there, the story picks up steam: Valjean becomes mayor of a town, tragic mother Fantine (Katie Smith) grows ill and resorts to prostitution to provide for her daughter Cosette (Aimee Valencia), Javert reunites with his old love… I mean, his old prisoner, and Valjean takes custody of Fantine’s daughter. It’s all interesting, well-sung, and incredibly moving.

    From there, the story explodes outwards and tackles the June Rebellion in France, headed by love-stricken Marius (Joshua Lounsbury) and fiery Enjolras (Brad Strickler). By the end, audience members will have risen to their feet as the full cast takes the stage, joined by the choir tucked away above the audience, and belts out their song of revolution.

    2015 Le MizThe indisputable quality of the ensemble in its entirety allow this show to defy all preconceived notions of the “community theater” label. When you are handling such a large group of people, there will usually be a few weak links hidden within the crowd. While arguments could be made about this particular cast, I’ll take the bold route and say that from end to end, this cast is stellar. Battrick’s Valjean is just as conflicted and powerful as you would hope and he has an excellent Javert to bounce off of in Allen. The two leaders of the revolution, Marius and Enjolras, are portrayed brilliantly by Joshua Lounsbury and Brad Strickler respectively, and they steal the stage as soon as they enter the story.

    And damn, do they all sing well.

    Beyond that, the physical aspects, lighting, stage design, and even the costume design are all fantastic. It all feels like something big, something important. And director Mary Jeanne Reynales names her need for professionalism as the reason why.

    I try to behave like a professional theater [director],said Reynales.I have this comportment, I have these rules, we have this respect for each other. Thats my style. I have a good reputation of taking care of everybody and making sure it runs like a machine which helps to give people confidence to be brave enough and to trust me enough to make them look good.

    Reynales was hesitant to take on the play, despite it being a lifelong goal of hers, but a moment orchestrated by vocal director Bonnie Kousoulakis proved to be her inspiration.

    2015 Le MizBonnie put on a show, last year around this time, featuring her voice students,said Reynales.The first half was full of selections from her voice students and the second half was all Les Mis. Several people who made it into the show, I saw that night. I got chills, I cried. All of them are looking at me like,Are you going to direct this?After that night, I just thought we could.

    Reynales, who has directed plays at the Majestic for over 20 years, called Les Mis herbiggest, most difficult production yet.Needing nearly 200 people to make this play run definitely makes it big, but it is even more inspiring when you consider that it is 200 Corvallisites doing it all.

    Our goal here is to keep it community theater,said Reynales.By definition, community theater is the people within a community putting on a show. This is our playhouse. And its all volunteer. Even those who want to make a living doing this. They all will work here, because they know its an even playing ground.

    Les Miserables will continue its run over the next two weekends, ending on May 24. Tickets are $20 for students, members, and seniors, and $25 for everyone else.

    By Nathan Hermanson

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  • May 21 Arts Walk Primer
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    There are a few change-ups for this month’s iteration of the ever-growing Arts Walk. Add in Fairbanks as a new venue, combo Azure, Pegasus, and Old World for a joint effort, and note the Majestic ties photographer and stage together in a neat little package as some of the highlights for the May 21 walk.

    Full disclosure: we’ve drank from the Arts Walk Kool-Aid and we like it, even opening up our own downtown digs for a monthly exhibit. Here’s what’s going on and where.

    Fairbanks Art Gallery

    Fairbanks Hall, 220 SW 26th Street, 4 to 7 p.m.

    Frank Boyden’s work is meaningfully influenced by the natural world and by the beauty of the Northwest. This artist has been printmaking for over 30 years and the exhibit also reveals his alter ego, Uncle Skulky.

    The Arts Center

    700 SW Madison Avenue, 4 to 7 p.m.

    Sumi Ink Club will be at the Arts Center with one big drawing with anyone who wants to “jump in.” A long scroll of paper, brushes, and sumi ink are supplied; imagination is all you need to bring.


    459 SW Madison Avenue, 5 to 8 p.m.

    Join Christopher Adams [CRVDPLS], Betty Turbo, and Hairy McSpecies for some participatory live drawing. They will be outside the studio on 5th Street drawing up a storm.

    Poptart Collective

    460 SW Madison Avenue, Suite #7, 4 to 8 p.m.

    Sarah Church’s mixed media work celebrates a woman’s right to present herself as she sees fit while examining the impact of the beauty industry on identity. Meet the artist and sip, snack, and cavort with your hosts, Chelsea and Gavi.

    Advocat CAW May imageThe Corvallis Advocate Loft

    425 SW Madison Avenue (upstairs), 4 to 8 p.m.

    Surrealist Cyrus Peery has been quite popular at the loft, so this month he’s been asked back for an exhibit mixing new and prior work. Rounding out the evening will be musical guests from Wild Rose and the availability of some controversial Advocate covers. We’ll see if the chocolate-covered strawberries make a return.


    425 SW Madison Avenue, Suite H-1, 4 to 8 p.m.

    Artist reception for Landscape Impressions, featuring the art of Trey Phillips. In his first solo show, Trey showcases his newly found freedom of paint and expression in his interpretation of nature and landscapes. Leaf impression printmaking will also be available to create your own art or help decorate the nature-inspired gallery space.

    The Majestic Theatre

    115 SW 2nd Street, 4 to 8 p.m.

    The exhibit features local photojournalist Scobel Wiggins’ intimate candids of the actors, musicians, directors, and crew of Les Misérables from audition to opening night. Stay after CAW for the May 21 showing of Les Misérables.

    Art in the Valley

    209 SW 2nd Street, 5 to 8 p.m.

    Featured artist Jana Johnson’s exhibit, Creative Diversity, spans a spectrum of techniques and materials including acrylics, pastel, watercolor, Yupo paper, and monotypes. There’ll also be music and wine.

    Blind Consumerism by Brittney WestBrittney West Studio

    340 SW 2nd Street #3, 4 to 8 p.m.

    Brittney West’s open studio offers absurdity, positive messages, conceptual and activist artwork. The event includes live painting, plus a viewing of originals and “Eco-prints” for sale. Collage activities and snacks in an ambient environment.

    Azure Fine Art Gallery, Pegasus Studio & Gallery as well as Old World Deli

    341 SW 2nd Street, 4 to 8 p.m.

    Collectively hosting community art, Pegasus will be displaying Susan Stogsdill (from Cyrano’s) with her paper and book binding art.

    Pegasus, Azure, and Old World Deli have teamed up to exhibit work from the Window on Art project which placed 15 artists, in 15 different mediums, working live in the window of Footwise. Come see the art that was created and meet these incredible artists at a reception from 5 to 8 p.m. For more information on the window project and the artists who participated, go to www.windowonart.net.


    361 SW 2nd Street, 4 to 8 p.m.

    Susan Stogsdill has been in her studio making wonderful paper art. Come by in May to see her broad range of amazing works including marbled German bells and unique, one-of-a-kind journals.


    341 SW 2nd Street, 4 to 8 p.m.

    Come and see unique collections of jewelry by local artists including the lovely handmade works of Diana Paris. Then peruse endless drawers in search of that special bead to call your own and get tips on making your own handmade jewelry.

    By Rob Goffins

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  • Hard Truths: When Violence is Violence
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    HardTruths_5_7_15The unrest in Baltimore, stemming from the horrific and inexcusable killing of Freddie Gray by Baltimore police, has brought out the worst in most of us, and the best in a few. Unrest is the word I choose because it encompasses a lot of different things. There is the fully warranted peaceful protesting, the marches, and the refusal by people across the nation to let the issue drop. But there’s also the violence and looting. It’s all a part of bodies in a state of unrest.

    Unfortunately this complex situation, with roots that go back to before the birth of the nation and factors as recent as the Internet, has been boiled down by Facebook to “You’re with them, or you’re against them.” This is an unfortunate oversimplification, because it forces us to act against our own nature.

    Let’s dispense with some obvious points: racism exists, and it’s horrible. Some outlets, such as the eternally helpful explainers at Vox, have deployed the straw man that there are people out there who really pretend there is no such thing as racism. Everyone is aware of the existence of racism. The disagreements begin when we start debating how much it affects the lives of people today and whether systemic centralized response is the best course of action.

    Another point: not all protests are created equal. The Web is pretty much awash in people making false comparisons to other protests. Either it’s “Well, Martin Luther King was able to affect change without looting, how come these thugs can’t?” or it’s “Well, the rioters in the Arab Spring needed to burn some things down to overthrow their despots, and we all applauded that, why not now?” The answers to these questions should be obvious: MLK was murdered, and 50 years later we have a lot of the same problems, so one could argue that his non-violence did not work that well. Alternatively, the rioters in Egypt were overthrowing a tyrannical authoritarian, so of course they needed violence. The people stealing items from a burning CVS are not even trying to change leadership; all the leaders in their city are liberal minorities. There just aren’t always obvious parallels between two situations.

    Point the third: just because an expression of rage is justified, does not mean it’s still the best course of action. Constantly throughout the unrest we’ve heard people equivocating, “Well, if you were dispossessed, disillusioned, etc., wouldn’t you riot?” Maybe. But I’d also walk out of every store in town with my favorite item if law and order didn’t exist. That I understand an emotion doesn’t mean it’s an advisable course of action.

    All of this is to say, the root of our problems is in de-individualizing each other. Some protestors are looting, so all the protestors are thugs. Nonsense. Some of the police are violating rights, so we should throw out the rules of law. Rubbish. My grandfather pulled himself up by his bootstraps, so all these people should be able to as well. Hogwash. Racism is real and affects all people of color, so anything done in response to that inequality is righteous. Not everything.

    Every time we take a short cut to understanding, by applying what we know about one to the whole group, we dehumanize the whole group. The truth is racism is a human construct that is difficult to conquer and is not going away any time soon. Not everything we do in response to this inequality is justified, but doing nothing to avoid getting our hands dirty isn’t an option either. Making it a case of us versus them and then choosing a side will only make things worse.

     Gray’s memory is best served by the brave protesters who stand in between the police and those itching to explode in violence, trying to have their voices heard. Maybe we can best honor it by listening.

    by Sidney Reilly

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  • Chicken Fight: Red Bird Acres Vs. Tyson
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    DSC_0133I recently stopped in Fred Meyer to find the cheapest chicken I could. I saw chicken breast, chicken thighs, and whole chicken, each wrapped in glistening plastic. The cheapest whole chicken I found ran just $1.39 per pound. But the work it took to make that chicken $1.39 per pound doesn’t look as pretty as it does in the store.

    That chicken likely lived a six-week existence crammed into a cavernous warehouse known as a confined animal feeding operation. Many of these facilities are operated by Tyson Foods, which slaughters 42.5 million chickens each week. In these facilities, birds are packed by the hundreds of thousands into vast buildings of 20,000 square feet or more, the stale air flush with the odors of ammonia and feces. Often with only half a square foot to themselves, these birds have so little space they must wallow in their own dusty feces. Waste management and associated diseases are a huge challenge here. According to a 2008 report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, considerably greater amounts of antibiotics are used on the livestock population than for the treatment of human diseases in the United States. But industrial agribusiness wants you to look away. Many states have implemented what are known as “ag gag laws” that make it illegal to film in an animal facility without consent of the facility’s owner.

    The National Chicken Council claims these “grow-out houses” are meant to keep birds healthy and the meat safe to eat. This business model certainly provides remarkably cheap chickens. But is this how you want to spend your money?

    Now imagine a different scenario. I visited the Corvallis Farmers’ Market on a sunny Saturday as dogs and children played around me in the fresh air. Tangles of relaxed crowds talked with farmers as they browsed stands piled with onions, chard, and potatoes. Amid this melee, I found Red Bird Acres, where I said hello to farmers Robin and Laura Sage. They’re here every Saturday, the sixth day of their work week. There were only two whole chickens left in the cooler on this busy day and I purchased one. These pastured chickens come at a price: $5.25 per pound. It’s not an easy decision to spend that much on poultry that can be had elsewhere for $1.39 per pound. I’m not made of money.

    But this chicken is different.

    And others agree.

    This spring, Robin and Laura started a Barnraiser campaign to crowdfund new chicken-processing equipment. On the Barnraiser website, people raise money to fund projects for farms, a kind of agriculture-oriented Kickstarter. But it’s an all-or-nothing proposition; farmers must meet their fundraising goal by a certain deadline or they get none of the money.

    In this case, the community stepped up to support this couple’s agricultural vision. The Sages exceeded their goal and raised $11,100 for the new equipment. The couple will purchase stainless steel tables, a scalding plucker, water heaters, an ice machine, and refrigeration and restaurant equipment. They will move it all into the processing facility formerly used by Tyler and Alicia Jones at Afton Field Farm. The building in Corvallis is lined floor to ceiling with glass windows to flood it with natural light.

    DSC_0077Such a gift couldn’t have come at a better time, they said—during the height of the season, they will slaughter 50 chickens per week. And Tyler and Alicia had recently left Afton Field to farm in Washington, giving the Sages their empty warehouse.

    I visited Red Bird Acres in Philomath the other week to see just what makes these chickens so special.

    You’d hardly know the farm’s tucked away on a country road there. A sign out front said merely, “sale pending.” You see, Robin and Laura lease this land on acreage shared by other farmers. They lease it on a work trade; Robin takes care of the cattle. He also holds down a day job at Tyee Wine Cellars, but this is no hobby farm.

    This young couple—Robin will be 32 and Laura turns 34 this summer—has never farmed before. They came to this life from 10 years as emergency medical technicians and outdoor educators. Robin interned at several farms, then completed a year-long internship at Afton Field Farm in 2013, where he met the owner of their current property. Here, Robin and Laura raise chickens, pigs, and a market vegetable garden.

    “We like the people here and people really support us,” Robin said. “We want to continue to provide good food for the community and more than that, do it responsibly. We just want to raise food the way we want to see it raised.”

    For them, farming the way it’s been done for centuries is a radical act. Get Robin started on the industrial agriculture, GMOs, and the Benton Food Freedom Initiative, and he’ll ignite with so much passion that he’ll let a few curses fly. Far from getting frustrated with the system, though, this couple has put their money where their mouths are, so to speak.

    Trouble is, there’s just not much money in this kind of farming.

    “We’d love to own our own land one day, but in the bigger scheme of things that seems like a pipe dream,” Robin said. “We’re essentially peasant farmers who work the land of others. The real estate market is such that it’s a real uphill battle for people like us.”

    There are other challenges, too. The U.S. Department of Agriculture allows an exemption for operations like theirs from continuous, bird-by-bird federal inspection of up to 10,000 birds per year. The processing facility must still follow food safety guidelines. There is no such exemption for small producers for hogs, though, so the Sages can only sell whole pigs, not individual cuts of pork.

    Location is another problem. Without a processing facility nearby, they must travel to slaughter their animals. But the closest USDA-licensed facilities are at least 45 minutes away, Laura said.

    Thanks to the success of the Barnraiser campaign, the Sages now only have to drive a short distance to the Afton Field Farm warehouse to slaughter their chickens.

    Moreover, they must educate their customers to change perceptions of the value of pastured poultry.

    DSC_0096“People are used to paying premium prices for grass-fed beef steak, but they’re not as on board with those prices for pastured chicken. But chicken’s got this amazing home economy; a whole roast chicken can provide three meals,” Laura said.

    On processing days, the Sages get to the farm from their home in Corvallis by 4:30 a.m. Other days, they’re on the farm by 7 a.m. They spend the day on tough, physical chores such as fence mending and moving the chickens from their coops in each pasture. They often won’t get back home until 8 or 9 at night.

    Inside a barn where other people’s horses snort in the distance, this small operation began. One hundred fluffy yellow baby chicks swarmed together in one partitioned area of the barn across a sawdust-covered floor. Light was dim elsewhere in the barn, but under a hutch the chicks enjoyed well-lit warmth.

    Elsewhere in the field, the animals roamed in several fenced-in pastures. The Sages have adopted a free-range model where possible. First there are the hens, 10-week-old reddish-colored Freedom Ranger heritage breed chickens.

    “We raise these chickens almost twice the typical amount of time before harvesting them, at least six more weeks,” Robin said. “Hashtag slow food.”

    Now with the ability to purchase their own processing equipment, that slow food model is easier.

    In the first pasture, Robin hefted a 50-pound bag of Union Point non-GMO feed from Brownsville. He emptied out the feed in a long, straight line, so that the hens didn’t compete with each other. They instantly fanned into a straight line and rooted around in the grass to catch any remnants.

    “They’re intelligent in their own chicken way, in that they recognize Robin as food provider and they recognize me,” Laura said. “I’ve heard they can recognize up to 100 individuals, which is why we keep them in smaller flocks.”

    They munched down the grass, then foraged for dandelions, bugs, and worms on rotated pastures.

    Next there are the Idaho pasture pigs; at 10 weeks old they’re just piglets. This is the first year the Sages have added pork to their offerings.

    Robin got down on his knees in the grass. Like dogs, the piglets bounded up to him. Robin pet the scruff of their necks. But one piglet, whom they call Big Red, butted his short, upturned snout into the scene.

    “That’s just like Big Red, always getting so ‘jelly,’” Robin said to the jealous piglet, scratching his ears.

    Amid a wooded grove at the back of the property, their three-year-old boar, Buddy Boy, rooted around his large fenced area, wet and contented in the dim forest light.

    Back at one of the chicken pastures, Robin continued feeding the birds. Wherever he went, the birds followed, swarming eagerly for their food. But not all of the chickens got the memo that it was feeding time. Robin returns to their house in the center of the pasture, crouching down to take up the stray chickens into his arms so they can join the rest of the flock.

    This is the sort of farming $5.25 per pound buys.

     Now, with the money raised by their community for processing equipment, the Sages can do more of this. Will the community continue to support them?

    By Denise Ruttan

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  • Cell Phone Showdown
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    smartphonesCell phones are an outright necessity these days. Whether you go all in with a fully featured smartphone or if you opt for the bare-bones pay-as-you-go device, you probably have a cellular device rumbling in your pocket right now. With the unending amount of devices and plans on the market today, it can be hard to maneuver through it all to find out what is best for you.

    So, let’s take a look at the providers available in Corvallis and give you a basic rundown of what each can do for you, give them a little background, and then identify something special about them, local or otherwise.

    Caveat: since there are hundreds of different plan and cell phone combos, we’ll simplify things a bit, identifying some top possibilities first, and then our picks for best overall value in a cell phone plan and the best overall device on the Corvallis market today.

    With all that said, let’s get this game started.

    Verizon – Support in Numbers
    Right off the bat, the most interesting aspect of Verizon in Corvallis is the sheer number of retailers, specialty or otherwise, that carry their phones and plans. With stores like GoWireless, Mobile Zone, Phone Plus, and more, Verizon customers can be guaranteed some sort of brick-and-mortar support when it’s needed and that’s a huge plus. Their data speeds are top-notch as well, but there are some shady practices at play at Verizon, with hefty “activation fees” and the like hidden from most of their advertisements. Be cautious.

    T-Mobile – Shaking Up the Cell Phone Norm
    A few years back, T-Mobile shook up the scene by breaking free of the yearly contract. They have been followed by a number of their competitors, but T-Mobile has proved time and again that they listen to their consumers. They are still far from perfect, but they forced the industry to change and that’s commendable. T-Mobile also holds one of the only truly unlimited data plans, along with Sprint, so if you’re looking for heavy data use, T-Mobile should be on your radar. In Corvallis, there are some odd connection issues, but for the most part it shouldn’t be an issue.

    AT&T – The Old Favorite
    AT&T has been in the business for a long, long time, with their roots found in the original Bell Telephone Company. Their importance in the industry has carried through the years, with exclusivity deals for a variety of devices and a consistent first-place hold on the market since 2013. Because of that, it’s no surprise that AT&T’s network has been consistently speedy and high quality, meaning an overall good experience for the consumer.

    Sprint – Struggling to Stay Relevant
    As the mobile device industry has continued to evolve, Sprint, originally right alongside AT&T and Verizon in terms of popularity, has essentially grown irrelevant. Sprint’s biggest deal right now is the “cut your plan in half” promotion, and they’re hoping it brings them back into the spotlight. Customers can bring in plans from either AT&T or Verizon, and Sprint promises to cut the rate in half. Through that, Sprint promises to pay off whatever fees are needed to break your contract with your old provider,waive any activation fees they require, and even offer a $75 American Express reward card. It all sounds like an attempt to stay relevant against the efforts of AT&T and T-Mobile, but the perks seem more than worth it.

    Best Plan
    There are an insane amount of plans on the market to date, whether month-to-month based or stuck to the antiquated yearly contract, and it can be hard to sort through what you need. But if I were to label any one plan as the best—and I’m looking at value here—it would be either Sprint or T-Mobile’s unlimited plans. Sprint comes in at $60 per month for unlimited talk, text, and data and T-Mobile will run you $80 per month for the same. Sprint is a nice cheaper alternative, but T-Mobile’s data speeds are much higher than what Sprint provides. While $80 per month can seem a bit steep, both providers promise to be truly unlimited and that may be worth the investment.

    Best Device
    When it comes to the best device available, it all revolves around personal need. If you simply need a device to make phone calls, you can grab at the bottom of the barrel and come away happy. If you want a smartphone to serve as an accessory to your day-to-day life, you are stuck with a million options.

    Then there is the never-ending debate over Apple or Android. The best way to summarize that discussion is ease of use against freedom. If you want complex customization and the freedom to do whatever you want with your device, stick with Android. If you want a device that is consumer-friendly and will be supported for years after purchase, while being held back by Apple’s restrictive parts, the iPhone might be up your alley.

    Personally, I believe the Samsung Galaxy S5 is a perfect device for the current mobile landscape. Boasting a beautiful AMOLED five-inch screen and a powerful 2.5 GHz CPU, the Galaxy S5 is a powerhouse. On top of that, its successor, the Galaxy S6, is incoming and will lead to a drop in price for the S5. If you are looking for a device that can withstand anything you throw at it, the S5 will do just fine.

    Final Thoughts
    If you want to operate outside of the big companies, there are a few alternatives. They range from Wi-Fi calling through services like Skype and Viber to pay-as-you-go phones that allow you to pay only for what you absolutely need. But these things are usually only good in the short term, as the overall costs build up over time.

    Cell phones are necessary but the process behind choosing which provider to align yourself with is growing harder and harder every day. What it comes down to is what each individual is looking for in the end. There are so many plans, so many devices, and the mobile landscape is ever-changing. There is no clear winner, though T-Mobile has done me well over the years and their efforts to change the contract schemes that some providers still maintain feels worthy of my loyalty.

    If you’re looking for affordability, turn your eyes to a pay-as-you-go plan or AT&T. If you’re looking to put heavy use into your mobile device, then look towards T-Mobile and Sprint, thanks to their unlimited data plans. If you’re looking for support in numbers, you’ll find Verizon to be king here in Corvallis.

     Just keep your eyes open for the best deals and play the negotiation game, and you should end up fairly satisfied.

    By Nathan Hermanson

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  • Hard Truths: Steel Yourself
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    On Prom Night
    Can anyone explain why they call the White House Correspondents Masturbation Dinner “Nerd Prom?” I was a nerd, and I went to prom. And I’m 150% sure it didn’t involve the coolest, funniest, and most popular actors and comedians in New York and Hollywood getting together to make fun of Republicans. In fact, isn’t this just the opposite of nerd prom? Which is just regular prom, right?

    And wasn’t it funnier and more interesting when Bush was in office and some of the jokes were actually directed at him rather than his political enemies? I hate to pile on here, considering on Monday morning the journalistic hangover was palpable, with every writer who didn’t themselves attend the dinner pointing out what a fraud and charade it all is.

    Oh, and did I mention the whole thing was happening quite literally within hearing and seeing distance of Baltimore getting swallowed by race riots?

    Seriously, guys, maybe pick a worse time to throw a lavish party fellating the party in power and the media next year. Like, I don’t know, does MLK Day ever fall on Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day simultaneously?

    On Boredom
    Bruce Jenner did a candid interview with Diane Sawyer that aired this past weekend about his choice to become a woman. Wait, candid means “shamelessly planned-out cash grab,” right?

    The only thing sadder than the spectacle of the Kardashian “reality” empire is the spectacle being made of the only genuine thing to come out of the show. Jenner is becoming a woman. And in post-gender America, I have to sincerely ask, who the hell cares?

    There’s nothing weird about men becoming women and vice versa. It’s 2015, and I really thought we had gotten used to this sort of thing. It’s just not that fascinating.

    And pardon me for pointing this out, but Jenner is a goddamn track star from 40 years ago. All other issues aside, how is it possible that anyone still cares what does or does not happen with Jenner? We have major sports in this country, and track and field is not one of them.

    Seventeen million people tuned in to see Jenner say not much about not a lot of things. The whole interview could be boiled down to these bullet points: I’m becoming a woman; my family supports me; Kim has seen me in a dress before.

    Honestly, the whole thing could have been done more tastefully in a tweet.

    That Jenner is the only likable character ever associated with the Kardashian name is undeniable. I mean, after him, the most likable person in the Kardashian orbit would probably be OJ Simpson. So it’s great to see that people are so supportive, but does this not set us back as a society trying to normalize gender transitions? If more people tune in to see a guy announce he’s becoming a woman (just because he ran fast a long time ago and his stepdaughter has a sex tape) than tune in to watch NCIS each week, we’re not headed in the right direction.

    Unless of course Mark Harmon also makes the change. Then look out, sweeps week…

    On Chippiness
    The Cleveland Cavaliers, anointed the heir to the Eastern Conference title, had a rough go in their elimination of the Boston Celtics this past Sunday. While they did manage to put the boys in green out of the post season, they lost power forward extraordinaire (and Oregon native) Kevin Love to a dislocated shoulder that will likely keep him out of the rest of the playoffs.

    Then in retaliation for what indeed looked like a dirty play that injured Love, Cavs center Kendrick Perkins attacked the throat of Celtics center Jae Crowder, getting ejected. Then, for good measure, Cavs guard J.R. Smith made sure Crowder was done for the day by viciously spin-punching him right in the face, also earning an ejection.

    Now both Smith and Perkins are staring down the barrel of significant suspensions, and the Cavs cakewalk to the finals looks more like a perilous journey.

    The best part of all this chippy excitement is that we’re now going to get to see some superhuman basketball. Suddenly Lebron James is missing his A-List power forward, his enforcer, and his three-point shooting specialist. Which means he’ll have to do it all for his team to make their predestined appointment with the Spurs in the finals.

     Which means once again, violence and retribution will lead to better things for us all. And they call baseball our national pastime. Pfft.

    by Sidney Reilly

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  • Swapping the Cap & Gown for Interview Apparel
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    Ready For New Business ChallengesYou’re graduating college, congratulations! Seems like the cool thing to do these days, especially in Corvallis. But suddenly you realize you’re not a cool kid anymore, you’re a frightened, whimpering, pathetically terrified fledgling adult who hasn’t learned to fly yet—and by fly, we mean wrestle a job interview into submission.

    The first step in learning to fly is not looking like a pathetic, whimpering adult to an interviewer. You will need to dress if you want success, and it is simpler than you think.

    Let’s start from the ground up: shoes. Most people know this, but you should not wear your dirty, disgusting sneakers that smell like a small rodent died in them four weeks ago. Your potential boss can smell them from his desk. You will want a pair of nice shoes that won’t kill your feet but that look nice and shiny peeking out from under your fabulous pants or skirt that we will talk about in a moment. Selection is important, so check out some of these places when buying your shoes: Goodwill has lots of shoes at low prices—just make sure you disinfect them before you wear them; Sedlak’s in downtown Corvallis has comfy shoes—just make sure you don’t get distracted and buy five pairs of super-comfy boots and no pairs of interview shoes; and finally, TJ Maxx has a great selection, decent prices, but unlike Goodwill, you will miss out on the knowledge that the shoes you are wearing have been more places than you, so if you’re insecure about your adventurous side, this is probably the place for you.

    Next up, the age-old debate: pants or skirt. If you are male, and you are not interviewing to be the mascot at your favorite Scottish watering hole, you will probably want to wear pants. You want blue, khaki, or black slacks that fit nicely on your waist (this isn’t prison, y’all) and that come to the bottom of the heel of your shoe, just above the ground. You will want to wear high black socks, so that when you sit down, there is no ankle skin showing. Ladies, you can wear slacks if you like. Make sure they fit nicely, without being too tight or too low on your waist. You can also wear a nice pencil skirt in the same range of colors. The skirt should be longer than the tips of your fingers when your arms hang straight down at your sides. You can find all of these things at TJ Maxx, Ross, Second Glance downtown for women, and Mehlhaf’s Clothiers downtown for men. You can also try the Alley for Men downtown, a great secondhand place.

    Shirts are next. Men, no skater-boy T-shirts for you! A long-sleeved button-up that slightly contrasts your pants is appropriate for less formal interviews, but if you are feeling a little insecure, you can always wear a long-sleeved white button-up with a tie and suit jacket for any interview. You will need to have these items fitted, so go to Mehlhaf’s or Specialty Sewing by Leslie for help. Ladies, you can also wear a ladies’ suit jacket over a nice top. Let’s talk about that top for a moment. While certain professions are an exception, that‘s probably not the type of place you would use a college degree, so it’s best to be a bit modest. Make sure that when you buy a top, it is not extremely tight, it covers most of your chest (V-necks with a camisole underneath are perfect for this), and that the pattern, if it has one, is both appropriate and subtle. You can always accessorize with simple jewelry, just make sure to not go over the top.

    Finally, always make sure to be clean and fresh. Men, this means either trimming your beard or being clean-shaven, not hung over, and ready for action. Ladies, make sure your hair is presentable; you don’t have to go nuts, but it’s best if it is out of your eyes.

     If all else fails, remember the words of the little orphan Annie: you’re never fully dressed without a smile. I mean, she scored big, being adopted by a millionaire and all, so she must know what she’s talking about! Just follow these simple tips, and soon you will turn the weak, sniveling victim of college into a confident, hard-working member of society! Good for you!

    by Kyra Young


    Counterpoint: Don’t Overdress Either

    First, please take the advice Kyra is laying out for you. We of the would-be boss persuasion look for all sorts of signs from job seekers, cues for how well you will get along with everyone else at an organization being the primary subconscious and unavoidable one. Is that fair? Perhaps not, but it seems inexorably human.

    Gentlemen, you may actually need Armani to nail that job at some places, but probably not. It could be a liability if you are so much better dressed than everyone currently working at a place that it’s off-putting. Ladies, the same applies to you—with a special caveat. Do not wear anything that would be appropriate alongside a man in a tux. Some of you do this at job interviews and we interviewers have no clue why, but it is off-putting.

    Finally, of all the other hints one could posit outside of attire: be on time and, for crying out loud, be yourself—we hate having to guess who you are.

    by Rob Goffins

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  • Happiest Hours in Town
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    cocktail5Getting a beer or a nice drink in this town is easy. But a good happy hour—not always easy to navigate. We’ve got no shortage of bars and restaurants, but where do you go when you want to get a little sloshed during the day? This list is by no means comprehensive, but these are some of our top picks.

    Rarefied Buzz at Luc
    If you’re looking for a classy buzz, happy hour at Luc is available Wednesday through Sunday from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Luc offers $5 happy hour drinks, wines of the day (red, white, or sparkling), and cocktails from champagne to Manhattan, with a martini in the middle. Their food menu includes soup, greens, bone marrow, oysters, and sweetbreads, all from $3 to $6! They project old black-and-white movies onto the wall and the whole place is a haven.

    A Classic Pub Feel at  Downward Dog
    Monday through Sunday from 4 to 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. to close, Downward Dog offers drink specials, $1 PBR, $3 micros, $4 libations, and $5.50 wine! They’ve got a great tap selection, and the wines are top notch. The late-night food menu accompanies the drinks and is quite comprehensive, with $4 ahi tostadas, $2 chicken tacos, and $5 habanero-apricot wings. Quality food and booze in this casual atmosphere make for a more than pleasant drinking experience.  Try their weekly specials, such as Whisky Wednesday or Thirsty Thursday.

    For Classic Cocktails in a Speakeasy Atmosphere, Try Snug Bar!
    Tucked underneath Magenta Restaurant, down the stairs towards a speakeasy entrance, Snug Bar greets you like a hug waiting to happen. Seating is ample, and the couches are deep and invite you to sit down and stay awhile. Jazzy music and French New Wave films complete the transportation to the time of Prohibition. Happy hour starts at 4:30 p.m. and includes discounted drinks and food specials.

    Quirky Creative at Crowbar
    If you’re looking for an interesting space and quirky/creative cocktails, Crowbar is your place. Crowbar is the bar attached to the downtown American Dream Pizza. A small space that crowds quickly, the bartenders and drinks are so good. Casual atmosphere and great drink specials. Their $3.50 microbrews are usually local, and their original drinks are $6! They infuse their own booze and create amazingly creative and interesting cocktails with seasonal flair. Try something yummy, and pair it with something delicious from American Dream. Visit for “Slice and a Pint” Sunday! Don’t forget about the seasonal rooftop. Open 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. to midnight, everyday.

    Get Hoppy at Sky High
    Local craft brewery Sky High Brewing has a killer rooftop patio, amazing beers of all styles, and tasty food. Their Philly cheesesteak is better than whatever spray cheese they use in Philadelphia. Pair it with a great brew during their happy (hoppy) hour when pints and house cocktails are $1 less! Open 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. daily, including weekends. The service is great, food and drinks are top, and it’s all local, local, local. In their words, they “combine local know-how and quality ingredients with highly skilled fermentation, cellar and draught practices to pour you spectacular ales and lagers.” They are not exaggerating on their quality and their local-focus. What’s not to love?

    Suds and Suds, 30 Beers on Tap
    Casual beer-drinking environment, sports on TV, Big Buck Hunter in the corner, and pizza? Suds and Suds has it all, more than you could ever need. It’s a lofty claim, but the best place to get a beer in town is Suds and Suds, the bar attached to Woodstock’s Pizza. They offer 30 beer taps, knowledgeable and friendly bartenders, and brewery promos that happen regularly. Happy hour is 6 to 7 p.m. everyday, with $3.75 pints. Keep an eye out for Industry Night on Monday nights, and beer promos on some Thursdays. Discounted pints make for a fun evening while you watch a game or talk to the other lively patrons. It’s cash only, so be prepared.

    We all know that these are not the only places in town to drink on the cheap, or even at all. With many local craft brewing establishments, from beer to cider, wine to vodka, Corvallis has everything you need to get a nice buzz on. Try these places, and all the other ones in town. Stay tuned for our next list of happy hours!

    By Rachel Sandstrom

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  • Welcome to Corvallis… Now Take a Hike
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    Autumn family hikingCorvallis is a hub for all levels of hikers. From nearly every point in the city, you can find a hiking trail of some kind in about five minutes or less. With spring nipping at our heels, we’ve decided to make you a quintessential neighborhood hikes “mix tape,” if you will.

    Let’s Begin with Bald Hill Park
    This is a great spot for novice hikers, but enjoyable for all. The park area itself has several options for hiking, including low incline and concrete pathways, hilly trails, off-leash areas for dogs, and more strenuous trails that head up the hill to Fitton Green—and it’s all just a few minutes from the center of town. The trails range from livestock fields to more heavily wooded, narrow trails that lead to the top of the hill, where on a clear day you can see the Cascade Mountains. Bald Hill is great for a quick, spontaneous hike, but if you mean business when you strap on your Merrells, you might want to consider taking the Mulkey Ridge Trail that connects Bald Hill and Fitton Green, or one of Corvallis’s several other options.

    Fitton Green
    This is another moderate-level hiking spot with some breathtaking views. The trail extends a total of 4.3 miles, involves quite a few elevation changes, and takes about two hours. There are some gravel and dirt pathways which get very muddy during non-summer months. But the views of Marys Peak and the valley are worth trudging through knee-high muck, even on a rainy Corvallis day.

    Chip Ross Park & Dimple Hill
    Same trailhead, two different hikes. Chip Ross is a moderately easy hike offering a sweeping valley view at 270 feet of elevation gain in about 15 or 20 minutes. It’s a loop, with a nice change of scenery going back down. The other option is Dimple Hill, a decent booty-blaster of a hike. The total elevation gain is about 1,450 feet, which is almost two-thirds the gain of the trail for Marys Peak, but in a significantly shorter amount of time. This trail is a true loop hike and only lasts about three hours. Like many other trails in the area, the views from the top are well worth the time and energy. These hikes are located shortly before reaching Crescent Valley High School, roughly 10 minutes by car from the center of town; take Highland, then turn left on Lester Avenue which dead-ends at the trailhead.

    Peavy Arboretum
    In the 1930s, Peavy Arboretum was the site of a Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) camp; today it is one of Corvallis’ best hike locations. Peavy Arboretum is located about six miles north of Corvallis and acts as a sort of gateway to the McDonald-Dunn Forest, an OSU-owned forest. The trail offers a great wooden path option for hikers who don’t feel like wading through the mud during the winter months. This entire area showcases some serious old-growth forest and Cronemiller Lake, a glorified greenish lagoon really, which sits alongside an old dynamite cap house, now functioning as a location for the university’s logging competitions.

    You can further avoid muddy trails by hitting up the 500 service road, which leads to the McDonald Forest and begins at the Peavy Arboretum parking area. What it lacks in mud the 500 road hike makes up for in serious elevation gain that will leave you heaving and huffing if you are not accustomed to such exercise. This hike is great for observing old-growth trees, but lacks that climactic vista so many other trails in the area have. Covering around 7,250 acres, McDonald Forest offers many other options for hiking, biking, and outdoor recreation.

     Outside Philomath
    If you’re feeling a little more adventurous and don’t mind the resonating sound of gunshots, Marys Peak might be just the spot for you. At 4,097 feet, it is the highest point on the Oregon Coast Range. This is one of Corvallis’ most popular hikes and for good reason. From the top you can see both the Pacific Ocean and the peaks of the Cascades to the east. There are a range of different levels of hikes of various lengths from just a short hour-and-a-half to about a half-day trek. The elevation gain gets a little raw on some of these trails, so choose your steps wisely.

    by Maggie Nelson

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  • Local Food Initiative Debate Set: Monday, April 27
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    corn fieldTwo panelists for and two against are set to discuss the upcoming vote on Measure 02-89, time for questions and comments from the audience is also scheduled as part of the evening.  Slated for 7 pm to 9 on Monday the 27th, this forum will be at the Corvallis Branch of the Benton County Library.

    The evening is courtesy of the City Club of Corvallis, like all their programs, this one is free for anyone wishing to attend.  Also like most of this organization’s forums, attendees can expect a lively and respectful exchange between panelists and the audience.

    Speakers will include Rich Holdren, Oregon State University Research Office; Debbie Crocker, Benton County farmer; Clint Lindsey, former Benton County farmer and co-author of measure 2-89; and Mary King, Benton Food Freedom.

    For more information http://www.cityclubofcorvallis.org

    ~Beth Darden

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  • Local GMO Ban on May Ballot: Full Analysis
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    farm tractorSo, what does local GMO measure 2-89 do? What are the pros and cons?

    Ballots will be mailed April 30, and due back on May 19. Measure 2-89 mandates that all genetically modified organisms in Benton County be harvested, removed, or destroyed within 90 days if it passes; it makes use of these organisms illegal after that. The measure envisions  an enforcement regime decided by county supervisors, as well as standing for individual residents to bring legal actions.

    Also envisioned is that the measure would supersede any state or federal laws it may conflict with, including patent laws—it seeks to shift strict liability and costs for removal to patent holders.

    Large parts of this measure may turn out to be unenforceable. Regardless of that, one would most likely vote yes if they agree with the basic premise here—the lawyers can argue about the rest.

    More concerning is the scale of this measure. Some supporters deny that it would kill broad swaths of medical and agro research at OSU, but a read of the measure makes clear that it could, whether intended or not. Beyond this, the measure does not consider the full landscape of genetically engineered organisms in medical treatment and research, or for that matter that their use in crops could become positive at some future point—a solid case could be made for voting against this measure.

    That said, species adaptation ameliorates present claims favoring genetically engineered crops and seed drift can and does contaminate neighboring farms, rendering those crops—as in the case of Eastern Oregon wheat in 2013—unmarketable. There are potential environmental and human health concerns, as research has been broadly inadequate.

    On balance, a reasonable case can be made for a yes vote on Measure 2-89. Federal and state governments have had two decades to respond on this issue, but have only met it with increasing paralysis and apathy.

    Farmers Make Case for Local Food Measure, Here’s Why

    “We had tried every other avenue to protect our seed from contamination by GMOs,” said Dana Allen, co-author of Measure 2-89. Allen explained that farmers in Benton County work together to coordinate a map of plants that are likely to cross-pollinate, but that GMO crops can’t co-exist. “Syngenta walked out of the talks about sugar beets in Southern Oregon,” she continued. “The farmers there already know that you can’t co-exist. We felt that we had to ban the planting of GMOs and patented seeds to protect our food system—we have a really vibrant local farming system that provides a lot of food for Benton County and to surrounding areas.”

    The Willamette Valley is one of the best places in the world to grow a large variety of garden seed crops. “We grow probably 90% of the table beet seed around the world,” said Allen. Yet, “We’ve got some farmers that don’t plant corn anymore because they know there are other farmers close to them who are planting corn that’s a GMO commodity crop.” Organic farmers are at obvious risk for this contamination: organic standards prohibit GMO crops, and seed companies often find GMO contamination in supposedly non-GM crops. But conventional farmers are affected, too; the 2013 GMO wheat found in Eastern Oregon is a case in point—foreign markets halted shipments from conventional and organic farmers alike. “The last thing we want is to have farmers fighting with farmers,” said Allen, who added that one of the petition organizers is a fifth-generation conventional farmer. After the 90-day waiting period and subsequent removal of all GMO crops, the ordinance states that it is the patent-holder, not the farmer, who will be sued if GMO crops are found growing in Benton County. “We did not want farmers being sued, because the harm is coming from the companies that are patenting and selling these seeds under contract, not the farmers who are forced into this.”

    When asked about growers of GMO crops who say they will lose money, Allen mentioned the GM wheat escapee, which prompted many foreign wheat markets to halt imports of Oregon wheat, and said, “That completely destroyed the market. The fear of contamination by our export markets is intense.” She continued, “You have to make a choice—who is the transgressor here? Who deserves the right to plant? To me it is unconscionable that a neighbor can contaminate another neighbor.”

    Some scientists have raised questions on the safety studies that have been conducted on GMOs, with some claiming that many of the studies that seem to show safety have been funded by the very bioengineering companies that stand to benefit from GMO crop sales. Allen doesn’t see the health questions of GMOs as being the main issue for Measure 2-89, but rather cross-contamination and community rights.

    Pesticide Resistance on the Rise
    While the health risks or lack thereof of GMOs may be debatable, pesticide use and pesticide resistance seem to be a clear-cut strike against them. July 2014 news out of Brazil, published in the Scientific American, tells of farmers finding that insects have become resistant to the GMO corn which is supposed to produce the Bt-toxin which would normally kill them. Earlier this month, the EPA looked to set limits on the amount of Bt corn which US growers could plant, citing concerns of increased pesticide use to combat the Bt-resistant corn rootworms. The USDA estimates that 80% of corn planted in the US is now genetically engineered to resist pests via the Bt toxin.

    While there were early claims that GMO crops could reduce pesticide use, research by Washington State University professor Charles Benbrook in 2012 found the opposite. There was a decrease in pesticide use from 1996 to 2001, linked to the traits in main GMO crops. But subsequent years have seen larger increases in rates of pesticide application, translating to a 7% increase in overall pesticide use.

    Glyphosate or Roundup, which the study claims probably has less harmful health and environmental effects than other pesticides, has been the main herbicide that GM crops have been engineered to resist. Roundup Ready crops are not killed by applications of the herbicide, while weeds theoretically are. But, like the corn rootworm, some weeds have become resistant to Roundup. “Glyphosate resistant weeds were practically unknown before the introduction of [Roundup Ready] crops in 1996,” Benbrook wrote; there are now 22 resistant species of weeds, affecting an estimated 50 million acres. The resistance has led farmers to a variety of coping mechanisms including increased herbicide use, manual weeding, and a larger variety of herbicides.

    Dow AgroSciences, in a 2012 press release aimed at opponents of its “technology package” of corn resistant to the pesticide 2, 4-D, is ready to move in on the market: “Farm herbicide use has been steadily increasing for a number of years, and that increase is going to get worse without new agricultural technology like our herbicide-tolerant corn to combat glyphosate-resistant weeds.” They add blithely that “Rates of herbicide application per acre of corn will not increase with our new technology package.” Nevertheless, 2, 4-D resistant weeds have already been documented.

    Studying GMO Safety Studies, Why You Should Worry

    Wading into the debate about GMO safety requires the reader to either slog through hundreds of studies, refutations, and meta-analyses, or throw one’s hands in the air and default to one’s original belief about the subject. Studies abound, but in many cases there is a conflict of interest; a 2011 examination of 94 studies found that while there was no correlation between industry funding and a favorable study outcome, there was a very significant correlation between a favorable outcome and one or more of the study authors having a conflict of interest (p < .001, for the statisticians out there).

    Additionally, nearly half of the studies did not disclose their source of funding. This professional conflict of interest has been documented by other researchers as being strongly related to positive outcomes of biomedical and nutritional studies. On the other hand, only a total of 12 of the studies did have a negative outcome. These negative outcomes have included a list of dramatic health problems in the test animals: stomach lesions, tumors, reproductive issues, and others.

    But in many cases there is scientific debate over the studies. Were there enough test subjects? Was there a statistical difference between the health effects on the control group and the animals fed the GMO crop? Some scientists express concerns that the genes in GMOs, some of which are from organisms that a human would never eat (such as the Bt bacteria), may cause an increase in food allergies. Other authors note that livestock have been fed a GMO diet of corn and soy for almost 20 years and there has been no corresponding surge in health problems among livestock. Some genetic modification is doubtless completely innocuous; more precise modifications for flavor or other characteristics do exist, although they are far outnumbered by modifications for pesticide or disease resistance.

    Lack of Long-Term Studies
    The Public Health Association of Australia and the British Medical Association express concerns that the safety of GMOs has not been satisfactorily demonstrated by long-term studies, with PHAA adding that many animal feeding studies have lasted for only a few weeks, and some have only evaluated animal production characteristics such as weight or milk production. Pro-GMO authors often paint detractors as anti-progress nuts whose paranoia and acceptance of “bad science” reaches a religious fervor. While this is true of some, the anti-science label is used too widely.

    This, unlike the debate over vaccines or global warming, is one where the dangers of taking a cautious approach are nil: it’s a case of “better safe than sorry” with no downside for the “safe” choice. No one will be worse off than they were before the advent of GMOs if they simply abstain. Of course, without a labeling law, abstaining isn’t easy.

    Unintended Consequences for OSU Research, Strongest Case Against Measure

    Measure 2-89 would apply to all of Benton County, and that includes Oregon State University. As a land grant college and research institution, OSU has a lot at stake. If adopted, this measure would essentially halt much of the research conducted at Oregon State, from agriculture to medical.

    The measure bans the planting of genetically modified organisms and calls for the destruction of such materials, likely including materials used for research purposes. If 2-89 applies to research, OSU would be required to destroy research materials that have been used for decades, and the viability of research would be significantly harmed.

    Despite numerous rewrites of the measure to prevent research from being affected by the measure, Steve Clark, vice president of University Relations at OSU, and university faculty continue to lack confidence in the scope of the ballot measure—they fear that it “further opens the door to the implication that OSU research is subject to the law.” While the university, as a state-funded institution, cannot express an opinion on any pending legislation, they can analyze the potential effects, which is what Clark and university staff have done.

    OSU research is active in many fields, from medical to agricultural, and many projects rely on GMOs. Currently, OSU is developing human disease therapy treatments for ALS. This research also involves ways to treat or prevent some types of cancer. GMOs are utilized fairly extensively in this research, and in the agricultural/horticultural research of filberts (hazelnuts). Researchers are working on preventing the effects of the Eastern filbert blight. Oregon is by far one of the most prolific producers of filberts, and the research being conducted will help to limit the effects of the blight, securing income, jobs, and delicious hazelnuts for a ton of people.

    Research is also being conducted to prevent insects that are harmful to crops from reproducing. Instead of killing the insect or pest or spraying produce with harmful pesticides, this research attempts to prevent reproduction of the insects, which is a safer way to cultivate produce and other crops.

    In terms of financial impact, more than 120 faculty in multiple colleges would be affected. Research valued at $18.3 million would be stopped and destroyed; 300 to 400 students, both undergraduate and graduate, would be affected in education or research. People would likely lose their jobs, education would be compromised. Researchers may be hired on to new projects, but if their research ends, it could impact their employment in that activity.

    More importantly, OSU is in the middle of important research that could help a lot of people. From curing diseases to cultivating better produce and reducing the use of pesticides, OSU is trying to do a lot of good through the use of GMO. In reading Measure 2-89, it does not offer research exemptions, and short of a successful legal challenge, it would almost certainly end this sort of work at the university.

    References: Charles M. Benbrook, “Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the US—the first 16 years.” Published in Environmental Sciences Europe, 2012.

    ~Bethany Carlson, Rachel Sandstrom, Rob Goffins

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