By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
It turns out the agricultural community isn’t totally on board with plans by 25 fields for Oregon.
More than once, Carrie Cool, executive director of 25 fields for Oregon, has indicated support from the agricultural community for her plans to build soccer fields in the Keizer area for Oregon youth. In a recent article in the Keizertimes, Cool emphasized the support her group has from the agricultural community.
“We were looking for agricultural stakeholders ties, but we didn’t realize to what extent we could really partner with them,” Cool said at the time. “We didn’t grasp what the agricultural community needed. This is big and really cool. We haven’t met a stakeholder yet that is negative on it. We have a positive impact on everyone we’ve met with.”
Not so fast, according to the Marion County Farm Bureau.
Jessica Carpenter from the MCFB said Cool’s comments misrepresent support from her bureau.
“Our board has met with 25 fields, on more than one occasion, and suggested that alternate plans should be considered in an attempt to lessen the impact on the agricultural community,” Carpenter said. “The idea that Marion County Farm Bureau has been overwhelmingly supportive of the plans that 25 fields is proposing is inaccurate.”
MCFB board member Greg Bennett has land bordering the proposed area for the fields.
“Carrie is a very aggressive lady, going at it pretty hard,” Bennett said. “She’s been hired by a group to push this through. The people I associate with, the farmers in the area, they’re not against what needs to be done but they’re not thinking it’s a good location. I think we all agree it’s a great idea for kids, but they need to place it where it won’t have a negative impact on agriculture.”
Bennett noted the land in question could be used for hazelnut trees.
This isn’t a new stance for the MCFB to be taking. Last July, John Zielinski, president of the MCFB board, submitted a letter of opposition to the 25 fields project to Marion County Commissioners. Zielinski referenced a 25 fields flyer indicating MCFB was one of more than 30 stakeholders giving “overwhelming support” to the project.
“By association, the flyer’s message implies that MCFB supports 25 fields’ proposed use for the referenced property,” Zielinski wrote. “The flyer is inaccurate and an unfortunate misrepresentation of MCFB’s position as stated in our letter to you of last April.”
Zielinski then reiterated the MCFB’s position.
“While MCFB recognizes the good intentions of the proponents and can agree with the values that inspired the project, our members do not believe proponents have taken into consideration the impacts of commercial agricultural production practices operated in close proximity to the proposed 25 fields location,” Zielinski wrote. “Marion County has the highest value of agricultural production of any county in Oregon. This can only be the result of a concerted effort by state and local officials to protect farming practices and preserve the productivity of Marion County’s farms. MCFB believes there are other alternatives available to 25 fields that would not impede farm operations and we encourage proponents to further explore those alternatives.”
It would appear those efforts have paid off.
“The Marion County Commissioners have told us not on their watch, especially highly productive EFU (Exclusive Farm Use) land,” Bennett said. “The Department of Agriculture is not in favor, saying it’s not the right location. We all agree it’s a great thing for kids, but let’s create a spot where it won’t have such a big impact on farming.”
Bennett said one issue to consider is the impact on smaller roads in the proposed area if 25 soccer fields are built.
“Long term, we need to think of the amount of infrastructure it would take to support that, and how would they support that,” Bennett said. “We’re not against a program like this, because kids need something. But let’s pick a place that will work. (The proposal) could really raise problems with what we do.”