Capital press. (Salem, OR) 19??-current, August 26, 2022, Page 11, Image 11

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    Friday, August 26, 2022 11
Monroe: ‘Farming is all I know’
Continued from Page 1
‘Farming is all I know’
Both of Monroe’s par-
ents had agricultural back-
grounds. Her mother, Rose,
came from a small village in
Kenya, and her father, War-
ren, is a fourth-generation
farmer from Junction City,
Monroe’s parents met
through mutual friends when
Rose was visiting the U.S.,
maintained a long-distance
relationship and married in
Warren Harper had one
child and adopted Rose’s
four children. The cou-
ple had two additional chil-
dren together: Bryan, born in
1988, and Tiffany, the young-
est, born in 1990.
From the time she could
walk, Monroe recalls helping
on the family farm, which at
the time grew grains, pepper-
mint and row crops. Monroe
hoed, pulled weeds, helped
feed the work crew, and
when she was big enough,
moved irrigation lines.
“Farming is all I know,”
she said.
Her brother Bryan, who
often worked alongside her,
remembers many days in
kindergarten and elementary
school when the pair would
stop at a local shop for sodas
and Reese’s peanut butter
cups before getting back to
the farm.
“For us, it was a lot of
fun,” he recalls.
Childhood, however, also
brought challenges.
As Monroe grew, older
siblings went different direc-
tions, and when Monroe was
in third grade, she and her
brother Bryan were sent to
live with their aunt and uncle
in Bend, Ore., while their
parents filed for divorce.
The siblings lived there five
“It was not the easiest
experience for us growing
up,” said Harper.
Monroe agreed: “That
was a hard time.”
She plucked a sprig of
leaves from a bush and rolled
it in her fingertips as she
Eventually, the brother
and sister moved back to the
Finding her voice
As a teenager, Monroe
began to find her footing —
and her voice.
She became more inter-
ested in science, and in high
school she joined an organi-
zation that changed her life:
FFA. The youth organiza-
tion, focused on agricultural
education, taught her pub-
lic speaking skills and pre-
pared her for leadership and
a career related to farming.
“She absolutely excelled,”
said Harper, her brother. “She
became a state officer, trav-
eled, got a scholarship to col-
lege. It clearly was huge for
After high school, Mon-
Sierra Dawn McClain/Capital Press
Tommy Lee, Tiffany Mon-
roe’s son, reaches out to
touch a young PollyO vari-
ety hazelnut tree. Monroe
calls this young block of
trees “Tommy’s orchard”
because he helped plant
the trees and now helps
tend them.
Sierra Dawn McClain/Capital Press
Tiffany Monroe drives past a cattle pasture with her son, Tommy Lee, on her lap.
Sierra Dawn McClain/Capital Press
Hazelnuts grown by the Monroes.
roe’s passion for agricul-
ture led her to Oregon State
University. Supported by
a USDA scholarship for
minority students, she stud-
ied crop and soil science with
a minor in horticulture, grad-
uating in 2015.
OSU faculty and staff
say that from practically the
moment she entered col-
lege, Monroe stood out for
the curiosity that drove her
research, her willingness
to take on projects beyond
expectations and her pas-
sion for educating the public
about farming.
“What really made her
stand out for me was her fear-
lessness,” said Wanda Cran-
nell, an instructor in OSU’s
leadership academy and an
adviser to Monroe during her
time at OSU.
Taking flight
After graduating, Monroe
left Oregon to pursue a mas-
ter’s degree in community
and leadership development
with an emphasis on agricul-
tural education from the Uni-
versity of Kentucky.
While in Kentucky, Mon-
roe participated in a program
called the National Soci-
ety for Minorities in Agri-
culture, Natural Resources
and Related Sciences, or
Quentin Tyler, now exten-
sion director at Michigan
State University and former
assistant dean at the Univer-
sity of Kentucky’s College of
Agriculture, oversaw Monroe
in MANRRS and said it was
a privilege to watch her grow
into an agricultural leader.
After graduation, Mon-
roe said Tyler helped her
land a job as the first Black
female agriculture and natu-
ral resources extension agent
in Kentucky history. From
there, she went on to work
in the office of marketing
and product promotion for
the Kentucky Department of
Although her professional
career was taking off, person-
ally, it was a painful time in
her life. While Monroe was
in graduate school, her mom
died. She says it was a heart-
breaking period.
“My mom was a phe-
nomenal and empowering
woman,” said Monroe. “It
was hard to lose her.”
Then, as her career was
kicking off, her dad battled
cancer. Monroe didn’t want
to be far from home while
her dad’s life hung in the bal-
ance, so, summer of 2018, she
returned to Oregon.
Coming home, starting
Back in the Willamette
Valley, Tiffany met her
now-husband, Cord Mon-
roe, on her family’s farm,
where Cord was working as a
mechanic and operations lead.
“I think Cord likes you,”
Bryan Harper told his sister.
Harper was right. The pair
started dating in September of
2018 and married soon after.
Their son, Tommy Lee, was
born in 2019.
“We were on the fast
track,” said Monroe.
She laughed.
Cord and Tiffany Monroe
both came from farming fam-
ilies and wanted to continue
farming, but neither owned a
large plot of land on which to
start a new operation together.
In Tiffany’s family, her
brother Bryan was in line to
inherit Harper Farms. Cord
didn’t own significant farm-
land either, so the young
couple started by farming
land owned by Cord’s par-
ents and relatives.
Today, the couple contin-
ues to work the land owned
by Monroe’s in-laws —
growing timber, hay, scar-
let flax seed and about 100
acres of hazelnuts, including
the new PollyO variety they
recently planted that is resis-
tant to Eastern filbert blight,
a fungal disease.
They also keep 14 cows,
one bull, four goats, barn
cats and a Great White Pyre-
nees dog named Winston.
The past few years have
brought many challenges,
including drought, winter
freezes and shipping dif-
ficulties. Monroe says she
tends to the farm with “hard
work and lots of prayers.”
Meanwhile, Cord and
Tiffany Monroe are work-
ing toward building their
own operation. In 2020,
the couple bought a house
in Junction City: Monroe
Farms. Over time, they plan
to buy land as it comes up
for sale, stringing together a
“Starting with so little is
tough,” said Monroe.
But she isn’t starting
alone. Harper Farms has
supplied the young couple
with used equipment. Some
family members have also
aided the fledgling farm
financially. Monroe said
she’s especially grateful for
the support and encourage-
ment of her mother-in-law,
Stephanie Monroe.
Advocate for minorities
Monroe’s work as a
mother and farmer con-
sumes much of her time, but
she still has a heart for advo-
cacy — both inside and out-
side the farming community.
Within the agricultural
community, Monroe tries to
educate other farmers about
the challenges that come
with being Black in a major-
ity-white state and indus-
try. She is also part of sev-
eral organizations aimed at
helping minority farmers
and migrant farmworkers
Her role in the Black
Food Fund, a nonprofit, is
about helping Black farmers
achieve their dreams in the
agricultural sector. She has
also volunteered for the Col-
lege Assistance Migrant Pro-
gram, or CAMP, designed
to support college students
whose backgrounds include
migrant or seasonal agricul-
tural work.
“Tiffany has found a way
not only to voice concerns
for those communities, she
has also helped the CAMP
students find their voice,”
said Crannell, the OSU
instructor. “Speaking up for
somebody else is good, but
helping them find their voice
is probably even better.”
Monroe is also an adviser
on the Letitia Carson Legacy
Project, an Oregon history
project about a Black pioneer
homesteader named Leticia
Educating the public
Outside the farming com-
munity, Monroe educates the
public about agriculture and
natural resources through
writing columns, teaching
workshops and testifying in
the state Legislature.
For example, when the
Legislature recently passed
a law requiring overtime
pay for farmworkers, Mon-
roe testified against the bill,
saying it would hurt fam-
ily farm businesses and have
unintended negative conse-
quences for the workers it was
meant to help.
Monroe said she believes
the public often misunder-
stands agriculture and views
farmers as “the enemy” in
issues related to labor, climate
change, water quality and
land management.
“Lane County in my life-
time has not been natural
resources friendly,” said Mon-
roe. “Having a seat at the table
matters, but farmers and for-
esters are not always included
and heard.”
Monroe says her goal is
to help bridge the political
divide between urban and
rural Oregon, finding com-
mon ground and healing
Those who know Monroe
best say she’s already doing
just that.
Tyler, who was her adviser
in Kentucky, said Monroe is a
peacemaker who treats people
like they matter even if they
disagree with her.
“A lot of people look for
differences. She looks for
commonalities,” said Tyler.
Harper said his sister has
“a positive way of commu-
nicating agriculture’s story
without sounding like she’s
shouting from a bullhorn on
top of a hill.”
Cooper, of the Oregon
Farm Bureau, said Monroe is
“a person of incredible faith
and incredible kindness” who
has earned respect in both lib-
eral and conservative circles.
“People really listen to
her,” said Cooper.
Monroe has even caught
the eye of Oregon Gov. Kate
“She’s incredibly knowl-
edgeable; she’s incredibly
engaging; she is very well-in-
formed,” said Brown. “And
she is an incredibly effective
Despite these accolades,
Monroe says her work is
far from over; she still sees
a disconnect between natu-
ral resources communities
and public perceptions. Mon-
roe plans to continue grow-
ing her family’s farm, being
an advocate for both farming
and minorities and teaching
little Tommy Lee how to cul-
tivate the earth so that he too
can one day run a farm.
In Monroe’s eyes, “there’s
no nobler occupation than to
care for the land.”
Air: Dairies have already voluntarily
adopted best management practices
Borer: Nurseries need to be
vigilant scouting for signs
Continued from Page 1
with what we bring into
the state,” he said, hypoth-
esizing it could have been
accidentally imported via
firewood from out of state.
One week after the ini-
tial sighting on June 30,
members of the nursery
industry gathered for a vir-
tual meeting with the Ore-
gon Department of Agri-
culture to learn more about
emerald ash borer, and
how to identify possible
“That’s really been our
message — if in doubt,
don’t ship it out,” Stone
Chris Benemann, nurs-
ery and Christmas tree
program manager for
ODA, said the state has
11 inspectors for approx-
imately 2,800 licensed
nurseries. She said the first
line of defense is outreach
and education.
In addition to ash, Ben-
emann said the pest can
also affect olive and orna-
mental white fringe trees.
collectively release more than 17 mil-
lion kilograms of methane every year,
equivalent to the emissions from
318,000 cars.
Miller said not only are meth-
ane emissions exacerbating climate
change, but pollutants can also cause
health problems for employees and
nearby communities. She said more
than one-third of all dairy cows in
the state are in Umatilla and Morrow
The largest dairy, at Threemile
Canyon Farms, has 70,000 cows about
15 miles west of Boardman along the
Columbia River.
Mary Anne Cooper, vice presi-
dent of public policy for the Oregon
Farm Bureau, said the petition is a
new tactic from groups that have long
opposed large dairies.
In 2017, legislation was intro-
duced in the state Senate directing the
EQC to establish a dairy air emissions
program. That bill, SB 197, died in
Cooper said dairies have already
voluntarily adopted best manage-
ment practices to minimize air emis-
sions, such as a methane digester built
Twenty-two organizations have pe-
titioned the Oregon Environmental
Quality Commission to create a dairy air
emissions program that would regulate
farms with more than 700 cows.
Petitioners include:
• 350 Eugene
• 350 Deschutes
• Animal Legal Defense Fund
• American Society for the Prevention of
Cruelty to Animals
• Beyond Toxics
• Center for Biological Diversity
• Center for Food Safety
• Columbia Riverkeeper
at Threemile Canyon Farms, which
is used to generate electricity and
renewable natural gas.
The petition, Cooper said, claims
to address so-called “mega-dairies,”
yet the threshold of 700 or more cows
is “very much family-scale operations
in this state.”
“You cannot support a family on a
couple hundred milk cows,” she said.
“Their costs already exceed what
they’re getting on the market for their
• Comunidades Amplifying Voices for
Environmental and Social Justice
• Environment Oregon
• Humane Voters Oregon
• Farm Forward
• Farm Sanctuary
• Food & Water Watch
• Friends of the Columbia Gorge
• Friends of Family Farmers
• Mercy for Animals
• Northwest Environmental Defense Center
• Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility
• Pendleton Community Action Alliance
• Public Justice Foundation
• World Animal Protection
Between added costs due to infla-
tion and the passage of a state law
mandating farmworkers be paid over-
time, Cooper said it has already been
a difficult year for producers.
“This (air emissions program)
will have a real impact on people
and on families,” she said. “We
have an industry with such tight
margins. They’re already trying to
figure out how to accommodate a
number of new regulatory burdens
this year alone.”
Continued from Page 1
The first sign is typically a
thinning canopy, followed
by distinctive S-shaped
galleries where the insects
have bored into the wood.
ODA is considering a
small, temporary quaran-
tine in Washington County
where the emerald ash
borer was first spotted,
Benemann said. It would
limit the movement of
possibly infested wood.
That may affect some local
nurseries, though she did
not know exactly how
“That has not been
finalized yet,” Bene-
mann said. “If a grower
is located in Washington
County, but doesn’t sell
(those species), the quar-
antine wouldn’t impact
them at all.”
Stone said nurseries
will need to be vigilant
scouting for signs of emer-
ald ash borer to reassure
customers and protect the
industry’s reputation.
“We certainly don’t
want to exacerbate the
problem,” he said.