Part of the Solution

Matthew Mehlschau | Agronomy, Crop and Soil Science

Minor in Agriculture and Food Business Management 

Warrens Memorial Scholarship | Flanagan Scholarship | Jefferson, OR

Feed Our Planet

When I was a senior in high school, I heard a statistic that blew my mind. I was preparing for my Extemporaneous speaking contest through my FFA chapter when I came across this statistic, "By the year 2050 our world population will reach a staggering 9 billion people. That means the farmers, ranchers, and agriculturists will have to produce 40% more food on 20% less land." I was very much taken aback by this as I had often heard from people and teachers that our world was growing and that we needed more food in order to feed everyone. But this was the first time it had been really put into numbers for me. This was the moment that I really found my calling in life and what I was supposed to do. To me, this statistic was both a challenge and a call to action in terms of what I was going to do to overcome it, and it created a burning passion inside of me for the field of agriculture. I wanted to be a part of the solution that will someday be able to feed 9 billion people, but I also do not want to stop there. I want to be a part of the solution that can help feed our planet no matter the size of its future population, and also, do it in a way that is cost effective and sustainable both for the farmer and the consumer.

A Story of my Own

Agriculture has always been a part of my family going back generations. In 1880, my great-great-great grandfather came over from Europe to start a farm in Southern California when he was only 14 years old. Within a very short time, he and his brother had a farm of over 1,000 acres that was passed down and eventually divided up to different children. But my family history of agriculture does not stop there, for my grandfather on one side worked as an agriculture engineer and inventor at Cal-Poly for decades before eventually retiring. My grandfather on the other side of my family was a dryland farmer in Colorado for many years of his life. My father also has spent his entire career working for Weyerhaeuser, mostly as a regeneration manager growing baby trees that will be used to replace those that are cut down to allow our forests to be productive for generations to come. But this is my family's story of agriculture and not my own. I chose agriculture as my field of study largely because I want to make a difference in my life and this field offers me the ability to do that.

Scouting the Grid

My field of study has taken me to many areas inside of agriculture, but predominantly to internships. For the past four years, I have worked as an intern for Pratum Co-op learning the basics of field scouting and agronomy as it relates to the Willamette Valley and the massive amount of diversity we have here. I have had the opportunity to work in and learn about many different types of crops, ranging from your typical grass seed field to blueberries and specialty seeds. 

The most interesting crop that I have gotten to work with has been hazelnuts. I find it remarkable how quickly they have become a staple of the Willamette Valley right alongside grass seed with new fields popping up every year. The most fun experience would have to be my time on the grid sampling crew this past summer. For those that do not know, grid sampling is where you take a soil sample every 1-2.5 acres in a field in order to get a better idea of what is in the different parts of the field. This data can then be converted into a variable rate map for things like lime and potash applications.

The most valuable part of this, however, was the base level of knowledge I gained from working in such a diverse environment that will allow me to be successful in the future. The college of AgSci has helped me establish a  foundation that I can continue to build upon and refer back to moving forward. It has also provided me with relationships with some of my professors that I can use if I get stuck or need help solving a problem even after I graduate.

Lending a Hand

Outside of school and work, I love the outdoors and working with my hands in creative ways. Hunting and shooting are some of my biggest passions during the different hunting seasons, and probably, you'll find me in the woods somewhere in search of a black tail buck. When I'm not in the woods, you can probably find me in my barn working with my hands and building some piece of furniture or table set. I live on a small farm, and I love to find random pieces of wood that others would call "firewood" or "junk" and turn them into something useful that I can put in my house or shop.

I also really enjoy giving back to the people and community that helped build me into who I am today, and because of that, I serve as a wrestling coach at my old high school as well as president of the Santiam Christian FFA Alumni Chapter. I want to help the next generation of kids grow up into productive and well rounded people, and I believe things like sports and FFA are amazing ways for them to get many of those skills.

Raising Community

In five years, I see myself as a productive member in our agriculture community working as an agronomist here in the Willamette Valley. I want to be able to help farmers and growers get the most out of their land in terms of large yields while also finding more efficient and cost effective ways to achieve those same yields. I do not want to just look at what has been done by those before and accept it as the best way to do things. Instead, I want to always strive to find a way to make things better and more sustainable in our agriculture community. Outside of work, I hope to start my own family and raise my kids on my own personal farm where I hope to grow hazelnuts and raise Hereford cattle.

Instagram: @matthew_mehlschau