By Amy Schmid, Administrative Program Specialist, & Jessica D. Linnell, PhD, Assistant Professor of Practice, Family & Community Health, OSU Extension Service, Tillamook County
Not many people can say that their playpen was the back of an old truck with chainsaws in it. Valerie Elder (Grant), Forestry and Natural Resource Agent with OSU Extension Service is one of the few that can. She comes from a long family tradition of working in forestry. Her great grandfather immigrated to the United States to work in the woods. Her grandfather and father also worked in forestry. Now Valerie is continuing the family tradition. She said, “At one point I was conducting stream surveys for salmon in the same watersheds that my grandpa and dad had worked in.”
Valerie knew from a young age that she wanted to work in Extension forestry because of the strong affinity she has for those involved with it. She admires those who plant trees they will never see to maturity, and who work toward something so much bigger than themselves.
Valerie began her career with OSU Extension Service in June of 2016. She serves Tillamook, Clatsop and Lincoln Counties, and works out of the Clatsop County Extension Office in Astoria. She was drawn to the North Oregon Coast position because of her love of coastal forest. The area reminded her of home with its predominate forestry and fishing industries.
She has done an incredible amount of work in the short time she has been with OSU Extension. In Tillamook she has worked on various committees including the Tillamook Working Lands and Water Cooperative. She coordinated the Farm, Fish and Forest Tour for Community Leaders: A conversation about water quality. She taught a dendrology course for the Tillamook Bay Community College Agriculture and Natural Resources Degree program and a day camp for our 4-H members as well as assisting our Master Gardeners and property owners with tree related questions. She has also been writing articles for our Extension column as well including this one about Swiss Needle Cast disease in trees.
One of her favorite moments on the job so far came from her TBCC course. She told the students at the beginning that they need to be careful when driving after this class, to not be distracted trying to identify trees. (This came from a grad school professor who would literally quiz her driving down the road). At the end of the class a student came up to her and revealed she thought Valerie was a total nerd when she had made that statement, but now she totally gets it. She said she can identify trees driving down the road. Helping to instill a bit of enthusiasm and excitement in her classes, the community or TBCC is probably one of Valerie’s favorite parts of her job.
Forestland owners have the huge responsibility to provide clean water, clean air, wildlife habitat and wood products. Valerie helps connect people with resources to meet these diverse management objectives. She is quick to offer her assistance and expertise whenever asked. If she does not know the answer she will find it out for you. The variety of questions she gets is something she enjoys and keeps the job interesting. In one week’s time she consults with a maker studio on how to incorporate local wood products, discusses a field day with a local teacher, coordinates and leads a forestry tour with 75 participants, consults with a land owner and drives from the top of Clatsop County to the bottom of Lincoln County.
Valerie’s passion for her work in Extension is evident when she says, “There is no educational requirement for being able to own forest property, and we all can’t spend all day thinking about forests and trees like foresters and loggers do. It’s my job to help connect folks with the answers. I like trees, helping people, and problem solving, it’s the best job in the world.”
By Extension, Your Connection to the Programs, People, and Publications from OSU Extension Tillamook County