Mid-valley farmers may notice a slight accent when they first meet Clare Sullivan, the new crops specialist for the Oregon State University Extension Service.
That’s because she is Canadian, having grown up in Guelph, Ontario, and Vancouver, B.C.
But Sullivan, 30, is excited to be living in the mid-valley and putting her experience in soil nutrients to work, although she admits she will have to get up to speed on the intricacies of growing and harvesting grass seed.
She will work in Linn, Benton and Polk counties.
“I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to study in college, but in high school, I liked sciences,” Sullivan said. “Fortunately, at the University of British Columbia, there was an interdisciplinary program in natural sciences, and that’s when I really became interested in agriculture. The university has a student farm and I worked there.”
She graduated in 2007.
Sullivan said the Fraser Valley in B.C. is home to a variety of vegetables, berries and poultry.
“I also studied horticulture with fruit trees, range management and even aquaculture,” she said.
In 2012, Sullivan completed her master’s degree in soil science at the University of Saskatchewan.
“The program focused on grain production, especially wheat,” she said. “My studies focused on reducing tillage and nutrient cycling and availability.”
After graduating in 2012, whe took a contract job with the Ministry of Agriculture in B.C.
“I was hired to coordinate a soil study that looked at overabundance of nutrients in soils,” Sullivan said. “There is more animal waste to put on land than there is land available.”
Sullivan said that can lead to high nitrate levels in area groundwater.
“I worked with about 100 farmers on 200 fields,” Sullivan said. “The goal is for farmers to put on enough nutrients to produce maximum yields, but not so much that it is harmful to the environment, or that they are wasting money.”
Sullivan believes her research will prove useful in the mid-valley, which has a groundwater nitrate issue.
Sullivan said she became interested in extension work in Canada, but the program no longer exists there.
“I’ve always liked the concept of being able to work directly with farmers, to provide them with objective information, without costing them extra money,” Sullivan said. “Of course, they pay taxes, but in Canada farmers have to hire consultants if they want the type of information OSU Extension provides.”
On the job since June 16, Sullivan succeeds Paul Marquardt, who held the position for less than a year, but returned to the midwest for personal reasons.
“I was impressed when I came down for my interview and went on a tour of the area,” she said. “I’ve already been to an ag barbecue and I’m going to attend the Seed Council meeting this week. I’m visiting farmers as well.”
She also participated in the OSU Extension Service’s Hyslop Field Day in late May.
Sullivan said she was especially impressed that so many of the farmers she met during her tour were adamant that OSU Extension fill the crop specialist position.
MEET CLARE SULLIVAN
Position: Crops Specialist, Oregon State University Extension Service
Hometown: Grew up in Guelph, Ontario, and Vancouver, B.C.
Education: Masters Degree, University of British Columbia
Personal notes: Sullivan speaks fluent Spanish and spent a year in Spain studying at the Universidad de Salamanca. She is settling into the mid-valley and likes being close to the Pacific Ocean, so she can go surfing. She also enjoys yoga, hiking and gardening.