It is with shock and concern that I learned of the impending elimination to the horticulture program at Linn-Benton Community College. The horticulture department has given both job and life skills to many people over the years.

At Gaia Landscapes, where I work, we look very highly on applicants who have horticultural training. We, like other landscaping companies, have a very hard time finding skilled new employees. Also, the landscape nursery industry is one of the largest in Oregon’s economy.

It is easy forget the value of horticulture and hands-on agricultural skills when we can buy food (artificially) cheaply in the supermarket. But underneath it all, a community that can’t produce its own food and doesn’t value its farmers is asking for trouble. If we don’t maintain a local base of agricultural skills, we risk losing the resiliency we need in these uncertain times.

While I don’t know all the motivations behind this proposed change, I can’t help but wonder about the vision of LBCC. The president of LBCC wrote, “While our financial means may be a limitation, it is not the determinant of our direction.” LBCC’s groundskeeping department is already a visionary leader in reducing chemical use. Why waste the opportunity for horticulture students to see cutting edge work in action? Is LBCC catering only to “high value” jobs? Are rural, down-to-earth skills being ignored because they don't have a perceived monetary value?

I urge the board of LBCC to rethink its vision to include horticulture.

Erik Swartzendruber

Corvallis (April 4)

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