Spring 1990 // Volume 28 // Number 1 // Ideas at Work // 1IAW2

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Town and Country Dialogue


Fred Lundin
Agricultural Agent
Oregon State University-Heppner

Birdine Tullis
Home Economics Program Aide, retired
Oregon State University-Heppner

The problem was how to get town and country people communicating in the face of economic crises. In the Spring of 1986, it became apparent that agriculture and the rural community were undergoing hard times in Heppner, Oregon. This is a community dependent on wheat and cattle production, but interest rates were high, wheat and cattle prices were low, and a new farm program was retiring 25% of the county's farm land with uncertain implications for support businesses. Uncertainty and distrust were widespread.

The agriculture and business sectors needed to communicate with each other. People from both town and country needed to hear and understand each other. So, "Town and Country Days" was conceived.

Commodity groups traditionally hold annual meetings for their membership. Business groups, such as the Chamber of Commerce, held similar meetings. We felt that if all the groups could have their meetings on a single day followed by a banquet, there would be an opportunity to share concerns, and, hopefully, promote cooperation and understanding.

The objectives of the program were to break down traditional barriers of distrust between town and country, promote understanding, and improve cooperation and mutual support. A steering committee was formed in the Summer of 1986 of representatives from the commodity and business groups involved. The first Town and Country Days was planned for November 1986, and included:

  • Booths on topics such as farm financial planning.
  • A lunch featuring a panel discussion of the Conservation Reserve Program and its effects on the rural and business community.
  • Commodity meetings open to the public.
  • A banquet with a well-known speaker, including social time for relaxed interaction.

The first Town and Country Days was well-attended, with 120 at lunch and over 250 at the banquet. After review and evaluation by the steering committee, the event was considered a success and a second Town and Country Days was planned for 1987.

In 1987, Town and Country Days became Town and Country Week. The same basic planning format was used, but expanded. More involvement from organizations and more delegation of responsibility resulted. This meant more people "owned" a part of the event and attendance improved. The theme for year two was "Getting Involved." The week included:

  • Monday-Merchants' Committee meeting.
  • Tuesday-Chamber of Commerce, installation of officers annual lunch.
  • Wednesday-Port of Morrow meeting.
  • Thursday-Wine Tasting and talk by neighboring county official on "Getting Involved."
  • Friday-Small Woodlands Owners annual meeting.

      Soil and Water Conservation District annual meeting.
      Luncheon with Barbara Roberts, Oregon's Secretary of State, speaker.
      Morrow County CattleWomen annual meeting.
      Morrow County Livestock Growers annual meeting.
      Morrow County Wheat League meeting.

An evaluation was done within two weeks. Attendance was up at all meetings, with a lot of crossover between town and country people. The luncheon had 150 and the banquet about 250. Town and Country Week will probably become an annual event.