CORVALLIS, Ore. - About 30 graduate students from as far as Nepal, Bolivia, Uzbekistan, as well as the United States and Canada, will be in Oregon June 19 through July 5 to study issues around rural policy, specifically sustainable rural communities.

The 2010 International Comparative Rural Policy Studies Summer Institute is sponsored by Oregon State University and Portland State University.

According to Brent Steel, director of the Master of Public Policy Program at OSU, and lead coordinator of the summer institute along with OSU sociology professor Denise Lach, the program is designed to give students a breadth of practical experience around issues of rural/urban divide and public policy. The first few days will be spent in Portland, in sessions with researchers who study and teach in rural studies and environmental policy.

The group will visit the Portland Farmer's Market, and then be treated to a special dinner at one of Portland's most acclaimed restaurants, Andina, on June 21. According to Steel, Andina owner Peter Platt will showcase the Peruvian restaurant's innovative methods of bringing food directly from the farm to the table. The Platt family, which includes Doris Platt de Rodriguez and John Platt (OSU alum '82) of Corvallis, are known for their relationship with local farmers and encouragement of sustainable farming practices.

For instance, Peter Platt said his restaurant contracts directly with an organic farm in Peru for a supply of hot peppers that are shipped on a quarterly basis. He said doing business this way ensures the farm, and its workers, are paid fairly.

"They grow the peppers to order for us, process them, vacuum pack them for us, and in terms of carbon miles it is less than having it trucked from Florida," he said. "Also, we know we are supporting a farm with excellent environmental and labor standards."

Platt is working with Beth Emshoff, metro specialist for the OSU Extension Service, on investigating ways to bring university expertise into critical areas for farms and restaurants. One such area is a better processing and distribution network for local farms to service restaurants, particularly ones that do a high volume of business such as Andina.

Platt and his mother will present the dishes served to guests on June 21, educating the diners on the various elements of Andina's Peruvian/Northwest hybrid dishes. "My mother will be there to lend her expertise on the food of her native country, and I will be there to give the business development and environmental policy angle," Peter said.

After leaving Portland, the students will head to Yamhill County to learn about agricultural communities in transition to high value crops, such as wine. Other field studies include: a visit to Hood River to look at technology firms in rural areas, a visit to the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde to explore development in Native American communities, and studying climate change impacts, fisheries, and wave energy in Newport.

The students and faculty will be housed at OSU from June 25 to the end of the trip.

Steel said partial funding of the summer institute is through a USDA Higher Education Challenge Grant with faculty from the University of Missouri and Pennsylvania State University.

"We are bringing some of the top students in the world studying issues around the urban/rural divide together with some of the best researchers in the field, and then getting them into the community to put this human face on these critical public policy issues," Steel said.

Click photos to see a full-size version. Right click and save image to download.


Brent Steel, 541-737-6133