Nelson Brings Nursery Perspective to Board

Board Director Jesse Nelson

Board Director Jesse Nelson at work at Hans Nelson & Sons Nursery

During the past year, we have highlighted our District Board directors with short biographies to help you get to know the people who direct the District. This month we highlight Jesse Nelson, Zone 1 Director, representing the northeast part of Clackamas County. This area includes the communities of Boring, Sandy, and Damascus.

Jesse Nelson is a Clackamas County native, growing up in Boring. He studied business at Mt. Hood Community College. Nelson is now the general manager of Hans Nelson & Sons Nursery, a family business started by his grandfather in the 1930s.

From Customer to Board Member

Nelson was introduced to the Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District through Kris Homma, a retired soil conservationist with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). “We were very fortunate to connect with the District. They helped us sort out some troublesome issues and I was really impressed with their staff, service, and technical expertise,” said Nelson.

the District is a valuable entity that gets a lot of great work done

This good impression translated into an interest in serving as an associate director for the District. This position later led to Nelson’s appointment to the District board in 2011 to replace retiring director Mike Dillard. Nelson said he was happy to do so because, “I believe the District is a valuable entity that gets a lot of great work done.”

As an active nursery grower who has also been a customer of the District, Nelson brings valuable perspective to the board of directors. He notes that landowners may be hesitant to work the District because they think we are connected to Clackamas County government. “We’re not,” he laughs. “Once people realize that, they’re excited to know what we’re doing.”

On Community and Conservation

We work with the land as well as with people to develop real solutions

Passionate about conservation and conservation education, Nelson says “my experience in working with the District, coupled with being a nursery owner who has struggled to help the general population understand our agricultural needs and practices, made me decide to join the board of directors.”

“I am sympathetic to landowners and agricultural producers and I feel very strongly that people need to understand that the District cares and contributes greatly to our communities. We work with the land as well as with people to develop real solutions.”

Jesse inspecting cover crop test of Triticale

The Nelson family walks their talk. “At the nursery we are happy to say that we’ve transitioned all of our irrigation from big gun to drip,” says Nelson. “That includes our fertilizer application. This allows us to target delivery of water and nutrients without waste, which conserves both water and money.”

He notes that they use cover crops regularly to reduce erosion and improve soil tilth. “We also plant lots of hedgerows for pollinator habitat,” he adds. “You can hear the buzz of the bees from the sunflower hedgerows in the summer. It’s fantastic.”
At the family wheat farm in Wasco County, they have developed and installed exclusion fencing to keep livestock out of a creek. This conservation practice prevents erosion and improves water quality.

Looking to the Future

“I’m excited to help spread the District’s values and mission here in the County. We can have a huge impact by getting more folks on board with conservation plans and practices, such as erosion controls that can help them save soil, water, and money. It makes a huge difference for all of us.”

We can have a huge impact by getting more folks on board with conservation plans and practices

Smart sprayer technology dramatically reduces off-target pesticide loss.
Photo by Jason Faucera

Nelson is happy to represent the nursery industry on the District board. He is also interested in asking fellow nursery owners to consider getting involved with the District. “Everyone is busy and there is never enough time, but it’s important to model this level of engagement in our community. We need to nurture different ideas and shake things up a little.” Nelson values the knowledge long-term board members bring to the table, but notes that it is good to have new blood, too.

Looking forward, Nelson is hoping to have more opportunities for board members to see first-hand the great projects the District’s planners are undertaking in the community. He is excited about the development of the new Conservation Resource Center in Beavercreek and continuing his advisory work with Oregon State University for a next-generation smart sprayer to reduce pesticide usage.


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Clackamas SWCD