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Butler retires from full time at COARC

by: SUSAN MATHENY/MADRAS PIONEER - Marvin Bulter checks an alfalfa trial field at COARC.After nine years as superintendent of the Central Oregon Agricultural Research Center and staff chair of the Jefferson County Extension office, Marvin Butler retired April 30, but returned to work half-time through the end of 2015 as a research leader.

His administrative assistant, Carol Tollefson, took over as the operations director for COARC on May 1.

In the fall of 1991, Butler came to Jefferson County as an extension crop scientist, specializing in vegetable seed, grass seed and peppermint.

“We grew sugar beets for five years in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and I did part of the research on weed control, which is critical for that crop, and did sugar beet variety evaluations for our climate. It was kind of a fun thing with Crook and Jefferson counties working more closely during that time,” he said.

During his tenure, he noted, the trend has been fewer growers raising garlic and mint, and an increasing number of carrot seed acres. “We grow the majority of the hybrid carrot seed for the whole world,” Butler said.

When Clint Jacks retired in 2005, Butler took on administrative responsibilities as the extension staff chair and superintendent at COARC.

“When I was first here, we were trying to get products (herbicides, insecticides and fungicides) registered for our vegetable seed and grass seed specialty crops. It was a big project, and I did research plots to help get products registered," he said.

Another COARC researcher, Peter Sexton, had started experimenting with drip irrigation, and when he left, Butler picked it up.

“Drip irrigation has become important for carrots. We worked with Central Oregon Seeds Inc. and got a specialty crop grant to get it started, and now over two-thirds of the carrot crops are under drip irrigation and it’s had a big impact,” he said.

COARC currently has a staff of nine and is in the process of hiring a soil fertility scientist.

When Butler retired as COARC superintendent, Tollefson became the director, as well as a county leader (called staff chair previously) with Jennifer Oppenlander for Extension.

“It’s a new experiment. She has a Master of Business Administration degree instead of an ag degree. With experience in financial management and managing people, she will run the station more like a business,” Butler explained, which will allow the scientists to focus on their research.

Extension’s community education piece has also evolved into the OSU Open Campus, directed by Oppenlander with assistant Ana Gomez. The program partners with Madras COCC to help families and kids see the value of education beyond high school.

“We’re leading the way in Open Campus offerings across the state and having an impact in the community,” Butler said, noting Oppenlander and Gomez have presented workshops in other areas of the state.

The traditional 4-H program office, headed by Jon Gandy, relocated to the fairgrounds, where many of the activities take place.

Projects Butler will be working on include plant nutrition on wheat to see if plants can utilize all of fertilizers applied in the fall and spring. Alfalfa variety trials will be ongoing; an experiment to see if predator mites can control spider mites in carrot seed is planned; studies on weed control in peppermint and Kentucky bluegrass will begin in the fall; and he will be looking into using a growth regulator in spring wheat to increase the amount of protein.

With more leisure time, Butler said he plans to work less and play more. “My dad passed away about a year ago, which makes you think about the time you have left,” he said.

Things he plans to do with his wife, Linda, include flat water kayaking, golfing, wind surfing, hiking, and taking day road trips in their Mazda Miata.

“I want to have time just to enjoy Central Oregon,” Butler said.



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  • 21 Oct 2014

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