35 Innovators Under 35: Meet Rhyan Grech

Meet Rhyan Grech, a biologist turned restoration coordinator turned organic farmer extraordinaire.

Like many East Coast visionaries that yearn for tall trees, clean streams, and progressive politics, Rhyan Grech made a bee line for the Northwest the first chance she had. Grech finished college in West Chester, Pennsylvania with a degree in biology, then committed to two years of environmental service in the AmeriCorps program. She spent the first year in Western Massachusetts before coming west to spend the second year in Yakima, Washington.
 
After experiencing elk feeding near Trout Lake and riparian restoration in the Yakima Valley, Grech knew for certain that she wanted to relocate to the region.

Rhyan got her shot at a permanent move in 2006. She took an assistant position with Stop Oregon Litter and Vandalism (SOLV), a Portland-based non-profit organization that restores natural spaces and provides environmental educational opportunities.  Through hard work, Grech quickly became SOLV’s Program Coordinator. In this position, she trained volunteers to lead community tree planting and urban stream restoration projects. Grech grew the urban restoration program, ‘Team Up for Watershed Health,’ to 70 long-term restoration sites.

“My job involved gathering volunteers in as many steps of the process as possible, removing invasive species, repairing stream banks, and working with neighbors in stewardship,” Grech explained. Through this work, she came to appreciate Oregon’s focus on water quality issues and sustainable river systems.

To harness the passion of the next generation of volunteers, Grech strongly advocates for community involvement. Her advice:

 “I would say quite simply to volunteer-- I know everyone says that, but it really is amazing the amount of things that you can find out there. With volunteering, there is less commitment and more freedom to drift around to new things.”

In Grech’s case, trying new things has led her to pursue a path as an organic farmer. Through her love for gardening, she was inspired to take a class on soil chemistry, urban gardening, and space management. She jumped at the opportunity to assist a friend on a 2-acre organic farm in Bozeman, Montana.

Oregon’s loss has become Montana’s gain.

Now instead of coordinating volunteers and restoring riparian zones, she spends each day focusing on organic cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, turnips, tomatoes, and herbs.