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Mia Nelson

Farm girl Mia Nelson grew up outside of Glencoe, Minnesota, where her dad managed the local Green Giant packing plant. "The world's largest corn packing plant," she says. "I worked there summers." After two years at Rice University in Houston, she transferred to Oregon State to study biochem. "I wanted to be a vet," she says, "but I quit school to work for the Green Tortoise bus company." GT had a shop in Lowell, where buses were converted for cross-country touring. She worked there three years, drove a couple of trips, and met her husband, Richard Johnson. In 1992, with the help of her dad, who took early retirement and moved west, they bought a 500-acre farm near Lowell, where they now raise self-reliant New Zealand Kiko goats. Learn about Kikos at the Lookout Point Ranch web site. Their land purchase included a tract within the town of Lowell. "We blundered into becoming developers," says Nelson, who spent 15 years dividing and selling the land. "I lost my ignorance and learned how land-use decisions get made." When she saw how population forecasts could be manipulated to influence urban growth boundary decisions, she began volunteering for LandWatch Lane County. In 2009, she was hired by 1000 Friends of Oregon as its Willamette Valley Advocate. As a member of the Technical Resource Group that advises the Envision Eugene planning process, she found an error in the way population density had been calculated. Corrected figures showed that two proposed South Hills expansions wouldn't be needed. "My work as a developer was helpful," she says. "Now, I can finally feel proud of what I'm doing."

happening people

photograph and story by Paul Neevel

Eugene Weekly / 19 March 2015

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