CORVALLIS, Ore. – The top horticulturist at Oregon State University will be recognized next week for supporting the state's organic industry.
Anita Azarenko, the head of OSU's horticulture department, will receive the Organic Policy Analyst award from the Oregon Organic Coalition on Sept. 15 at a luncheon in Portland. She is one of five people who will be honored that day.
During Azarenko's 23-year tenure at OSU, she has overseen the addition of courses in permaculture and organic gardening and farming to OSU's undergraduate horticulture program. She also supported the development of a nine-week organic gardening course taught by the OSU Extension Service and Oregon Tilth in Portland. Moreover, she encouraged the Extension Service to hire several agents who are passionate about organic farming to help small-scale farmers.
She successfully worked to get land certified as organic at OSU's Lewis-Brown Horticulture Research Farm near Corvallis. She also secured federal funding for research on organic crops and the ecological management of soil.
Additionally, she implemented a strategic plan in OSU's horticulture department to increase research, teaching and public outreach with regard to sustainable and organic crops. Current projects involve research on tree fruit, berries, organic blueberries and sweet cherries, biological pest management, cover cropping, and soil fertility in vegetable crops.
She and several colleagues are wrapping up a study that compares the living components of soils in organic, transitional and conventional cherry orchards near Hood River. Azarenko, who received a doctorate in horticulture from the University of Maryland, is also helping OSU develop an online course for organic farming and gardening.
When she's not on campus, Azarenko can be found on her 160-acre farm near Sweet Home. She and her husband raise cattle and grow timber, hazelnuts, hay and organic fruit.
The luncheon Azarenko will attend was timed to take place during "Organically Grown in Oregon Week," which Gov. Ted Kulongoski designated as Sept. 14-20. The event will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center at 721 N.W. 9th Ave. Katy Coba, the director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture, will be one of the keynote speakers.