Cameron Swartwood, member of Polk County Farm Bureau, lives on a family farm in Rickreall that raises hazelnuts, grass seed, wheat, and canola.
At 15 years old, she’s not quite sure what profession to pursue — at the moment she’s leaning toward orthodontics over farming — but she’s already exploring her options.
On Aug. 18, 2016, Swartwood spent a day with Oregon Farm Bureau staff to learn a bit about what they do on the job.
The day began with a tour of the OFB headquarters in Salem with Communications Director Anne Marie Moss. OFB has a dedicated staff of 15, who serve a grassroots membership of 7,000 farming and ranching families across the state.
Farm Bureau’s primary goal: to give Oregon agriculture a voice in the political and public arenas.
Next stop: the Oregon State Capitol, just a mile away.
Swartwood and Moss met up with OFB Director of Public Policy Jenny Dresler to attend a Youth in the Workforce Workgroup.
The workgroup was convened by Senator Michael Dembrow and Rep. Paul Holvey to discuss ways to create more job opportunities for young people. Dresler tracks labor issues for Farm Bureau, among many other broad issue categories, and she was at the meeting to ensure that agriculture’s perspective was represented.
Senator Dembrow welcomed Swartwood, who as a soon-to-be sophomore in high school was the representative youth in attendance.
No trip to the capitol is complete without a tour. After the meeting, Swartwood got to enter the chambers of the Oregon House and Senate, explore a floor of legislator offices, and sit in the governor’s chair.
“It was really cool to see where laws are made,” she said.
That afternoon, it was back to OFB headquarters where Moss gave an overview of what life was like as a communications director. Between writing, editing, photography, social media coordination, website management, media relations, and grassroots support, she keeps pretty busy.
To help with the goal of highlighting the people of Oregon agriculture, Swartwood tried her hand at meme creation for OFB’s Facebook and Twitter pages. She used an image of herself with her dog Lincoln in a grass seed field with the quote: “You can take the girl out of the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the girl.” Amen to that!
Swartwood understands that sharing photos from the farm on social media this is worthwhile; a lot of people don’t know much about agriculture and are curious about what life on the farm is like.
“Some of my friends think that farmers only wear overalls and straw hats and are barefoot. That’s what you see in kid’s books, so that’s what they think,” she said. “I’m like, ‘Have you seen my dad?’ That’s what a farmer looks like: jeans, t-shirt, work boots, and a hat once in a while.”
During the summer, Swartwood helps her parents with grass seed harvest, pulling weeds from the various crop fields, and cleaning the windows of tractors, among other tasks.
“I like being able to help with growing people’s food,” she said. “It’s nice being outside. It’s really open where we live. There are no city lights, so at night you can see the stars all around. All you hear is frogs.”
Only time will tell if Swartwood will end up taking over the family farm in Polk County — or become an orthodontist — or work for a grassroots agriculture advocacy organization like Farm Bureau.
Whatever path she takes, OFB is proud that she’s a Farm Bureau member and was happy to host her for a day.
Story by Oregon Farm Bureau; photos by OFB and provided by Cameron Swartwood.