happening peoplearchive

Nellie Oehler

"I always wanted to be an extension agent," says Nellie Oehler, who grew up on a dairy farm near Coos Bay. After she studied foods and nutrition at OSU, Oehler spent a year working with poor families in Jamaica. "It's a wonderful place," she says. "I learned so much about resourcefulness." On her return, Oehler was hired as 4H extension agent for Linn and Benton counties. "I've been involved in some kind of extension ever since," she notes, "with time off to raise two children." In 1983, Oehler founded Oregon's first Master Food Preservers Program at the Lane County extension office in Eugene. Her current MFP class has 16 students. "In return for the eight-week class, they volunteer 40 hours," she explains. "We also have about 40 returning volunteers." Volunteer MFPs conduct summer workshops and maintain a statewide food-preservation hotline that attracts 6000 calls annually. In addition to her half-time OSU faculty position (she also coordinates the Leadership Education Program), Oehler raises sheep, pigs, fowl, veggies, and fruit on 40 acres surrounded by the city of Corvallis. "I call it my little health club," she says. "True work is good exercise."

happening people

photograph and story by Paul Neevel

Eugene Weekly / 29 May 2003

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