Jenny Cadigan photo2011 Gerhardt Intern Explores Impact of Oregon Agriculture

By Kevin Pozzi, Communications Intern

In last month’s edition of Oregon Stories, Craig Beebe profiled the history and legacy of Paul Gerhardt Jr., a Senior Planner with 1000 Friends who passed away in 1985 at just 28 years old. Thanks to the generosity of Gerhardt’s parents, an endowed internship was established in his name, a program that is now in its 26th year.

Completing this summer’s Paul Gerhardt, Jr. Internship just last week, Jenny Cadigan took a few moments to share her interests, what she has been working on this summer, and what lies ahead for her.

A native Oregonian, Cadigan originally hails from Eugene and majored in Art while an undergraduate at Western Washington University. Following graduation and a few years in the Portland arts scene, Cadigan grew increasingly interested in the intersection of urban planning and historic preservation—eventually leading her to graduate school at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo to study City & Regional Planning.

“It was there at school that I first heard about the Gerhardt Internship, and really thought about what a great opportunity it was,” Cadigan explained. “I was looking to come back to Oregon where my roots were, I was familiar with the state’s pioneering land use plans, and knew that 1000 Friends was integral in protecting the lands that Oregon is praised and recognized for.”

In her first year at Cal Poly, Cadigan has focused her research and thesis proposal on food systems planning and policy with an emphasis on sustainable urban agriculture.

In this vein, her interests matched those of 1000 Friends, as one of the organization's core values is to foster and strengthen healthy rural economies. Cadigan specifically researched agriculture as an economic engine for the state, looking at the wine industry, various agricultural support sectors, and the value of farm and forestland in three counties of Southern Oregon.

Her report on Oregon’s thriving wine industry examined its explosive economic growth in the past five years (providing $2.7 billion in direct and indirect impacts), its effect on employment within the state, and the increasing emphasis placed on sustainability.

Cadigan also studied the impact of the many support sectors of the agricultural industry, including processing and distribution, and their effect on food security. Specifically she examined whether there is any relation between the parcel size of a farm and overall food security, and also researched the sustainability impacts of small versus large farms.

Finally, Cadigan spent much of her time with 1000 Friends researching the economic and environmental impact of farm and forestland in Josephine, Jackson, and Douglas counties in Southern Oregon. Ultimately, her report found that while development of these lands may be profitable in the short term, such profits are often fleeting, and rarely take into account the adverse environmental impacts and increased demand for social services and infrastructure. Jenny also concluded that the three counties have distinct strengths and that lumping them together for planning purposes makes little sense.

With just one year of study left at school, where does Cadigan hope to land after graduation?

“In Portland, we already have such good planning in sustainable food systems that I anticipate it will be hard to look for work in that area,” she explained with a laugh. “But I’d love to come back to the Pacific Northwest, making our region a better place and strengthening our community through food security and climate change.”

Overall, Cadigan is grateful for the perspective and experience the Gerhardt internship provided. “I think the Gerhardt Internship has really increased my understanding of Oregon history as it relates to land use planning, especially issues surrounding urban growth boundaries,” she explained. “If I don’t end up planning in Oregon, the research this summer offers a great foundation for sustainable agricultural work elsewhere—to take what I’ve learned here, carry it over to other communities, and spread the message of our efforts in Oregon." Check back soon for more of Jenny's research on our website. 

Oregon Stories | September 2011

Previous: Oregon's Food Policy Councils Pursue Sustainable Food Systems