Having spent his professional career in the Extension Services of Oregon State University, University of Wyoming and University of California, and working with ranchers and farmers, Tom Bedell recognized the critical importance of knowledge and understanding of people who live and work on the land. That is why he and his spouse, Gretchen, established the Thomas E. Bedell Undergraduate Internships Fund with the OSU Foundation. This internship focuses on giving an OSU undergraduate Rangeland Ecology and Management student practical experience with Oregon ranch families learning some ranching skills but especially to find understanding of what it takes to glean a living from successfully managing the land, water, plant, animal, financial and especially intellectual resources at their disposal.
Tom grew up on a small farm near Santa Cruz, CA that provided family income in the 1930's and 40's. Chores were a daily necessity and the rural work ethic was instilled in him early on. Tom was fortunate in having an educational heritage; both parents were graduates of University of California at Berkeley in the 1920's. They expected Tom to attend UCB also, but he was active in Future Farmers of America in high school and the practical curriculum and "learning by doing" philosophy at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo attracted him. He graduated with a B.S. in Animal Husbandry in 1953. His student deferments from the draft during the Korean War expired and the U.S. Army was his home for the next 21 months, the last year being spent in South Korea.
Tom was pragmatic in his selection of a graduate major as his former spouse was at UCB and UCB had no Animal Science taught there. But, range management was taught and he recalled having one range course at Poly that he liked. Thus, it was range management he chose in 1955 for a M.S. program under major professor Dr. Harold F. Heady. Tom further "knew" he wanted to work with farmers and ranchers if possible and especially in extension work. Fortunately, he was hired by the University of California Agricultural Extension Service and spent 1957-63 as a Farm Advisor with the last four years in Modoc County.
Further graduate work was in order for his PhD at Oregon State University working under Dr. Don Hedrick on seasonal forage preferences of cattle and sheep using the recently developed esophageal fistula technique. No extension positions were available upon graduation but the OSU program was expanding and Tom taught and did research at OSU 1966-1970. A 100-acre farm south of Corvallis raising sheep was his home during that period.
Hoping to again return to extension he became the first Extension Range Specialist at the University of Wyoming at Laramie in 1970. While there he established a monthly newsletter, collaborated with other faculty, helped with short courses, and did applied range research on several of the field stations and on ranches. Although the University of Wyoming was a fine place to work with friendly and progressive ranchers, Tom wanted to return to Oregon and that opportunity arose in late 1973 when a three county position became available in Polk, Marion and Yamhill counties. Tom moved back, bought a 40-acre place in Polk County and continued animal and pasture extension work including the now familiar monthly newsletter.
In March 1976 he became Extension Rangeland Resources Specialist at OSU and retired from that position in July 1992. He continued the tradition of writing The Grazier, begun in 1940. Extension range work in Oregon provided many wonderful opportunities to serve its people and the range profession.
The Society for Range Management is Tom's professional home where he served on many Section and Parent Society committees and offices. Included among them were as Councilman in the Wyoming Section, President of the Pacific Northwest Section in 1978, SRM Board of Directors 1982-85 and SRM President in 1989. After retirement, Tom became active on Oregon soil and water conservation district work serving as Chairman of the Benton District, chairman of the state soil and water conservation commission and on the State Board of Agriculture. He continues to raise sheep and make hay on a small acreage near Philomath where he has lived since 1976.