An educational use for pasture?

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In the 1980s we Americans were reminded by a national leader, then-House Speaker Tip O’Neill, that “All politics is local.”  A corollary of sorts to that fact is that personal opinion on local matters often trumps everything else on the advantages of selecting the right place to call “home.”

As anyone can attest from the traffic increase, Keizer is evermore frequently called “home” these days.  And, like fellow Keizer residents Maddy Kephart, who finds cows cute, as I do (even if it’s unmanly to admit it), and Debbie Crooks, who just does not want a farm scene to disappear from her daily view (she with the tenacity to stand on a corner with a sign expressing her sentiments), there’s likely a widespread wish the cows and the bucolic scene along a short stretch of Verda Lane could be preserved.

My opinion offers the argument, that’s likely endorsed by Kephart and Crooks, that Keizer, Oregon, is a fine place to live and we’d like to keep it that way.  So, saving even a small piece of Oregon’s one-time nearly-exclusive agricultural-based past would be an added plus to a place that, to begin with, has a lot of ‘specials’ to be appreciated and protected.

Keizer’s got so much going for it that the list of pluses could easily stretch to book length.  Pick any one, such as the relatively light traffic (except for some tolerably heavy use weekday mornings and evenings) but is so much more desirable and less aggravating to use than, let’s say, for two examples, just south of us, Lancaster Drive or south Commercial in Salem, that it comes up on top in any night-and-day comparison.

Then there are the shopping conveniences along Keizer’s north River Road and at Keizer Station.  We also enjoy the security and protection of a well-trained and quick-to-respond police force.  There are parks here that serve all of us as retreats from the hectic pace of modern times.  The people in Keizer are mainly friendly and helpful.  We have good fire and ambulance responders.  We live in a lovely fertile valley only an hour or two drive to a mountain or beach.

But let’s get back to the farm with its cows and grazing land on the east side of Keizer that could soon become the site of yet another large apartment complex.  For openers, who wants another apartment complex what with its concentration of humans issues and addition of traffic problems?

Now for what’s viewed as the brighter side.  It was reported by the Keizertimes’ Herb Swett that the Salem-Keizer School District’s 2014-2015 budget includes a partnership with Mountain West Career Technical Institute which will make available technical education to high school students district-wide, keeping them in school and preparing them for well-paying jobs.

How about adding to the training and education of all district high school students the opportunity to spend some learning time at a small model farm (of course, the existing farm off Verda Lane may need a makeover to achieve “model” status) to acquire skills and knowledge requisite to ownership and employment in agricultural settings (winery work, anyone?), how to plant, grow and harvest one’s own organically-grown food, environment protections, and, among any number of possible learning acquisitions on site, a green house where flower growing and floral arranging is taught?

There may be private and public grant money available for such a purpose.  There may be a whole lot of high school kids who’d stick around to graduate if they had more than the standard high school curricula and  a few technical-vocational courses in a technical institute from which to choose.  There may be an opportunity to realize much worth and value to persons of all ages in Keizer in such a community addition as this would offer.

(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer. His column appears weekly in the Keizertimes.)

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