Local voices sought to be heard in support of LBCC’s Horticulture Program late Wednesday in a Calapooia Center boardroom. Former students of the program passed current students in the hall holding colorful handmade signs with hopeful messages on them. One read, “Horticulture equals community culture.”
“It was in that program that I discovered a deep connection to organic vegetable farming,” said Liz Shinn, a local farm owner and graduate of the program. “I would not have been as successful, as fast, as I have been today, because of this program.”
Facing a budget cut that will take effect the next two years, Oregon’s 17 community colleges are scrambling to fit within the proposed state budget that the Oregon legislature has proposed to provide to community college education. With the state set to finalize the budget by July 1, community colleges have had to create their own budgets that fit with the Governor’s proposed base budget of about $543 million. That is 4.8 percent below the current current budget that has seen the college through since 2017.
LBCC administration has decided that part of the schools solution will be to cut the Horticulture Program.
“At the moment the step is to suspend that program, but that doesn’t mean forever,” said President Greg Hamann
The cut is viewed by some locals, students, and faculty as not only a loss to the school, but to the community as a whole.
“We work really closely with the Horticulture Program,” said Sarah Booth, and instructor of Culinary Arts at LBCC. “It makes such a difference in showing students where our food comes from.”
“The loss of this program would be a loss to us as well,” closed Booth.
Although the cut may be a divisive issue, college administration believes it necessary to keep tuition increase below 7 percent the coming year.
“It must be stated over and over again that none of these expense reductions can be made without real, and sometimes painful, consequences, especially those involving the reductions of personnel. At the same time, we recognize that, in the absence of these reductions, our budgetary circumstances only become worse and further jeopardize our capacity to serve our Mission, our students, and our community,” President Hamann said in a campus notice.
In the greenhouse prior to the board meeting, a group of Horticulture Club members sat talking and writing their messages on white cardboard signs. Amidst the bright shades of green, a palpable sadness hung in the air.
“It gives me a defeatist feeling, like there will be no legacy behind me,” said Brittanny Franzoni, a student who will graduate from the program in the spring.
“I feel in a way that this will diminish my degree, diminish the value.”
But worst for Franzoni is that others won’t have the opportunity to experience the Horticulture Program as she has.
“We are all pretty open here, it’s the place where you find all your best friends.”