Jeff Becker is the Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District Director for Zone 3. This zone covers Canby and the surrounding areas. He is also the current District Board Chair, having been elected by the board in June 2016.
Chair Becker joined the Board of Directors in February 2014 after serving as an associate board member and budget committee member. He is a local farmer in Carus and recently retired as the property manager of the President’s residence at Lewis & Clark College where he worked for 40 years. A graduate of University of Oregon with a degree in business, as well as an accomplished guitarist and song-writer, Becker has long been interested in local food and conservation issues.
Becker has a deep respect for his fellow board members. “The Board is very good at handling the diverse issues that come through the door,” he states. “When people come to us with a conservation concern, we can help. We have a wide range of knowledge and interests represented on our board, and I strive to create the type of leadership that allows our members to feel free to express ideas, even when they conflict.”
He observes that the Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District is a quiet presence in Clackamas County. “People who know us say wonderful things about our work, but those who don’t know us have no idea about the great work we do.” He applauds the District’s annual scholarship program and envisions more outreach to young people, “so when they’re older, they’ll already know about us.”
Small Farmer Supporting the Local Community
Becker is a past president of the Oregon City Farmers Market where he served for 5 years. “I was the volunteer set-up guy every Saturday for 8 years,” he adds. He learned about the District from former market manager, Jackie Hammond-Williams, with whom the District had had a long partnership relationship. After meeting with the District manager, Becker was invited to attend a District board meeting. “I’ve been there ever since. I hadn’t been there very long, and I certainly didn’t have a lot of experience with the District, when I was asked to take on the board chair role in 2016. I’ve worked hard to really understand the District’s programs and partnerships and I’ve taken a deep interest in the needs and expertise of our staff.”
“My experience at Lewis & Clark developed my understanding that there is “always something new to learn and the word “done” never enters my vocabulary. I bring that same perspective to the District. We’re always learning the latest science and techniques to refine our conservation skills and our ability to deliver our resources to the community.”
Now that he has retired, Becker is looking forward to getting even more involved with the District. “I want to get to know our other local soil and water conservation districts and watershed councils and attend their board meetings. Our partnerships with these organizations, and our ability to work collaboratively, helps all of us, ” he shares.
Oregon is Home
While Becker was born in Michigan, his home has always been in Oregon. “I’ve moved back to Oregon four times,” he says. “I just can’t stay away.” He attended school in Oregon as a child an attended University of Oregon where he obtained a degree in marketing. “I just sort of fell into landscaping work,” he shares. “I started a position as an assistant gardener for some big families in Portland area and the work was very satisfying, so I stayed. To increase my knowledge, I got a job at Portland Nursery and took classes at Mt. Hood Community College.”
Becker shares that he didn’t spend a lot of time in nature as a kid. “I was a city boy. I never thought I’d have a job working outside or live on acreage and have a farm.” His family moved a lot when he was a child and he longed for roots in his own community. “When we moved to Carus, I told my wife we are never moving, and we haven’t.”
As a farmer and landscape professional, Becker has first hand experience with soil, water, mud, and manure issues. He raises chickens, goats, and pigs, and says that his garden grows every year. He employs District recommendations on his own property and sees their value first-hand. He says, “It’s easy to promote something that helps me personally as a landowner. It’s like understanding the rhythm of nature – you learn it and live by it.”
“During my time with the District, I’ve gotten to see how dedicated our staff is to their work. Their commitment and expertise makes me feel proud of our organization. Our staff and board take every opportunity to learn and grow in our understanding of conservation issues. We haven’t been stagnant, that’s for sure.”
Becker is excited to begin the District’s strategic planning process this fall. This facilitated process will provide an opportunity for all staff and board members to examine and evaluate the District’s priorities and programs. Becker is a member of the District’s Equity Team and shares that the District has recently begun to look at how it can more equitably share its knowledge and expertise. “Conservation and natural resources are for everyone,” he states. “I want people to have more experience in and access to the outdoors. The more people understand the mechanics of nature, the easier it is to speak about conservation issues.”
Part of the upcoming strategic planning process will include making plans for how the District farm in Beavercreek and Community Forest in Eagle Creek can be developed as a community resource. He observes that developing these properties will take time, but access for the public, whether for research, education, or recreation, is an important goal.