On January 31st of 2020, a few dozen college students comprising the Lewis and Clark environmental engagement set out on an overnight reconnaissance trip to try to grasp what environmental engagement is and how to do it. Our class arrived at Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm on the morning of day two of our excursion into the field. After driving through expansive and identical growing fields, we were greeted by a clog-shaped sign bearing the farm’s name, beckoning us into a dutch themed oasis. We gathered in a large red building, the titular red barn of their subsidiary company, Red Barn Hemp. The interior was surrounded by counters for vending wine, beer on tap, and CBD. We settled into folding chairs around large plastic dining tables to hear the ins and outs of running the farm. Barb Iverson, the president of the Oregon Farm Bureau (OFB), gave the presentation, as two other employees standing behind the counters interjected bits of information. What was striking about the presentation was how it differed from the brief description we had gotten on the itinerary. Instead of hearing primarily about how Iverson was president of the OFB, or about the cultivation of tulips, we learned mostly about the cultivation and extensive benefits of hemp. What follows is what we learned from Barb Iverson on CBD, the Federal Government, Cap and Trade, field workers, the OFB, agrotourism, and what all of that has to do with what environmental engagement is.
CBD, Red Barn Hemp, and FSOil
From the perspective of the struggling farm, the cannabis industry was depicted as a necessary yet frustrating part of agribusinesses. Throughout the presentation, Iverson shared the difficulties of farm ownership, specifically the family farm that carries emotional weight for those trying to keep it profitable. After struggling with various crops and government regulations, Wooden Shoe Farm found cannabis to be a more economically reliable crop in the current boom for THC and CBD products. Expanding out from the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm, Iverson owns both FSOil and Red Barn Hemp, the companies that produce, market, and distribute hemp products. In beginning her presentation, Iverson identified two active ingredients of cannabis: THC and CBD. THC, or Tetrahydrocannabinol, has psychoactive qualities (properties that get you “high”) while CBD (Cannabidiol) is not psychoactive and instead claims a series of other health benefits. Although both products come from the same cannabis plant, marijuana is defined as any cannabis plant that has a THC percentage greater than 0.3 while hemp is a cannabis plant with a THC percentage of 0.3 or lower, making CBD.
Significant from this section of the presentation was the series of government regulations put on the hemp/CBD industry. In 2018 the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) enacted an updated bill on the legalities of hemp production. According to Iverson, the regulations within the bill make the process of growing and producing the plant increasingly difficult. Where previously the marker for CBD products was at 0.3% THC, the bill states that no THC can be found in CBD products. Additionally, the bill calls for modifications on the preexisting tests that are carried out throughout the production of each CBD crop. Now under the control of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), these changes result in a shorter harvesting window and increased regulation that can result in lost crops if they are not up to date with the 2018 bill. Further, the new regulations call for a background check on all workers handling hemp products, an act that will reduce the already declining labor force in the farming industry. All of this will add to increased overhead for the farm, costing time and money. However, the bill will allow for interstate travel and Seed Certification, a quality assurance program that regulates the selling of seeds.
Iverson continued the presentation by going over the planting and production process of CBD. Beginning with feminized seeds, machinery is used to plant and harvest. Where previously the crop took intensive manual labor to harvest, new machinery allows for less taxing work for field workers. The entire plant is then uprooted and dried before removing the stems from the rest of the biomass. To create CBD oils, the material is then taken to the FSOil facility where it is processed through a series of chemical reactors and evaporations. After the costs of production, the farm averages an annual profit of $204,000 for oil products.
One of the most critical components to farming in Oregon is the right to, and usage of, water. Under Oregon law, all water belongs to the public, and the ability to use water which is tapped from aquifers or found above ground must be applied for. The same goes for water that exists in or adjacent to one’s property. The water rights of land stay with the land which they are granted to, and cannot be moved from one location to another, or along with an owner. To keep the water rights, water must be used once every five years at a minimum.
Under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), signed by President Barack Obama in 2011, the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm, along with all other farms and food producers in America, is subject to intense efforts by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prevent foodborne diseases from harming the public. Viruses such as E Coli pose a major health risk, and if found can result in wide-scale testing and possibly even destruction of crops. According to Barb Iverson, in some cases, the destruction of smaller businesses’ crops have resulted in bankruptcy.
Cap and Trade
Cap and Trade is the common name for the limitation and capping of carbon dioxide emissions by industrial activities. It is a government program that levies fines and sets appropriate carbon allowances for particular industrial sectors. In the case of Wooden Shoe Tulip Farms and American farmers, the fines focus on the usage of fuel, natural gas, and propane to limit their use. A criticism of Cap and Trade by Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm and other farmers is that the program does not account for their ability to sequester carbon, which manifests as hemp production, preservation of wetlands, solar arrays, and other organic growth which requires carbon. Cap and Trade produces roughly $30,000 worth of fines for the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm per year.
Field Workers at Wooden Shoe
An important aspect of the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm are the people that it employs. In her presentation, Iverson discussed the conditions that her employees experience, describing them as fair and giving examples of some of the benefits they receive. The farmworkers at Woodenshoe experience fair wage, paid vacation time, and flexible scheduling, however, there are some withholdings that the workers experience to allow for these benefits. Despite the better conditions that these particular workers experience, Iverson discussed the more negative side of being a farmworker. More specifically she highlighted the unequal conditions that immigrant workers experience, going into detail about the negative impact the Immigration Reform of 1986 had on the progress of the agricultural industry. The reform created a large gap in the population of farmworkers and farms had nobody to replace the spots of the workers that didn’t have proper documentation, not only slowing the progress of agriculture but also displacing many people. Many migrant workers do not receive fair pay or healthy living conditions due to a lack of representation.
The Oregon Farm Bureau
The Oregon Farm Bureau (OFB) is a nonprofit, statewide organization that works to represent the interests of the state’s family and local farmers and ranchers. This can be through informing the general public or through representation in policymaking areas. The main goal of OFB is to encourage educational advancements, economic incentives, and opportunities, as well as social growth for the members of OFB as well as the farming industry as a general whole. Overall, they look to find solutions that will be beneficial to all of Oregon’s agricultural contributors. Barb Iverson who spoke to us as the president of the OFB and works to achieve all of these goals. There are nearly 6,600 farming and ranching members who are part of the OFB and contribute to a variety of over 220 different types of crops as well as livestock. Public policy affects smaller family farms in a variety of different ways. The OFB works to claim its public policy positions in the most democratic way possible in order to give all a voice. They do this by having different board members who advocate for the different farmers in different areas of Oregon. Ultimately, as Iverson mentioned, the OFB’s main mission aims to help farms survive and thrive in Oregon.
Iverson briefly mentioned, while talking about the economic viability of the farm, that Wooden Shoe relies heavily on agrotourism as a source of income. The Farm puts on an annual tulip festival from the end of March to the beginning of May. They advertise the beautiful and photogenic nature of their vast tulip fields, as well as demonstrations of farm activities. While they do also sell the tulips and their bulbs, they put more energy into the organization and tourism of the festival itself. In addition, they do wine tastings in their vineyard as another source of revenue.
One could posit that this is a clear example of environmental engagement. What’s more engaging than inviting the public (for a small fee, of course) to come to see your farm?
The whole arrangement of the festival gave way to more questions than answers. Would the farm still be growing and selling tulips if there was no festival? When does a farm move from farming for farming’s sake to farming to perform the pastoral image of farming? Is the tulip festival part of the farm, or is the farm a prop for the tulip festival? Does it really even matter? While these questions have no easy answers, it cannot be overlooked that the changing landscape of agriculture has changed how family-owned farms get by, and what service they actually provide.
Pertaining to Engagement
Engagement is a key component to factor in any project or idea. Actively promoting and using engagement tactics allows for many different perspectives and voices to be heard. When engagement is pushed, it means that many different fields of study can come together and voice their perspectives which allows for a greater breadth of solutions and ideas that different fields may not have considered before. Overall, engagement should be implemented by all disciplines because it promotes growth and healthy change for all. We were able to see the process of engagement through a number of different entities and institutes that the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm works with.
As discussed previously, Iverson’s section of the presentation on CBD production was notable in that it gave the audience a sense of how many government regulations there are on the hemp industry. Many of the regulations regarding CBD are created by people with little to no experience with the actual product, meaning many of the rules passed are vague or confusing. Increased engagement between farmers and the federal/state government is essential in passing regulations that are not only agreeable between those two parties but also regulations that do not harm farmworkers. Also relevant is that Iverson’s presentation opened up a space for the audience, who consume both CBD and THC products, to engage with the grapplings of farmers who produce the products we consume.
It is also important to recognize the process of engagement with the workers who farm CBD. In terms of environmental engagement, the overall lack of efficiency that the Immigration Reform created for the agricultural industry shows how important engagement is on large scale policy change. The lack of communication and insight on how many migrant workers were actually employed at the time resulted in a gap in farmworkers and a lull in agriculture. Iverson’s depiction of the harsh treatment that some workers experience shows the importance of engaging with marginalized groups whose opinions are often not taken into consideration. To allow for better working conditions farmworkers and farmers need to participate in a conversation that can allow for both parties to progress and succeed. PCUN offers an insight into the farmworkers’ experience and provides opportunities for migrant workers to fight for their rights and give a less discussed perspective of the farming industry. An interesting difference between PCUN’s discussion of worker rights and Iverson’s discussion was the stress PCUN put on how human conditions were affected and Iverson’s stress on how agriculture was affected by Immigration Reform. We believe this showed how much people’s goals and priorities can affect their views and how they want to see reform, making it crucial for different groups to engage. Because we believe this, it is seen that engagement could be improved through better programs connecting farmworkers to advocate organizations and creating a more open dialogue between OFB, farmers, and farmworkers. Allowing for an environment where all views can be heard and respected would allow for better conditions in agriculture as a whole and more effective policy and regulation.
The rights of farmers and workers are advocated for on the behalf of the Oregon Farm Bureau (OFB), as discussed previously. The OFB uses environmental engagement tactics often when taking into account the values of its members. This is especially obvious when they work to take a public policy position. They work rigorously to promote the rights of smaller family farmers and not let them get unfairly pushed around by government regulations. Environmental engagement is all about letting all individuals and group’s voices be heard in order to receive a number of different perspectives on different issues. This can allow for a greater diversity of solutions which is beneficial to everyone. Overall, the OFB is extremely important in creating a sense of community and advocating for the rights of small farmers in Oregon.
Regulation is another key factor that ultimately many different groups, directly and indirectly, engage with. Regulation is passed down to farmers by large agencies such as the United States Department of Agriculture and the Fish and Wildlife Service. Regulation is undertaken by the federal and local government in order to ensure that crops are not poorly monitored, and so that the local environment is not too negatively impacted. These agencies answer to public officials, who in turn answer to the citizens of the United States; public engagement is a constant reality for federal bodies. Lobbying, which is used by entities like the Oregon Farm Bureau as well as environmental protection groups is a force that sways opinion. Through the ability to voice concerns, the federal and local governments will listen to concerned citizens alongside scientists and policymakers within their own departments. These groups play a key role in monitoring and controlling crop quality. Overall, environmental engagement is a key factor in all actions that any groups takes related to the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm.