Weston Miller teaches people who love food how to grow it themselves.
“I love all aspects of gardening — from the research to the labor to the harvesting and most importantly, the sharing of the food,” he says. “All of it feeds me on several levels.”
A horticulturalist for the OSU Extension Service, Weston shares his knowledge with a receptive community of gardeners in the Portland metro area. Most of the questions he’s asked have to do with vegetable gardening and common pests, and he is happy to provide answers.
“We know our audience,” he says. “There is a strong culture of people caring about food and food systems, and we have had a lot of those folks come to us to compliment their passion for food with some actual skills in growing food.”
For decades, OSU Extension has been providing practical advice and training for home gardeners through the popular Master Gardener program. Now, he is taking it to the next level for aspiring urban farmers.
Weston runs the Beginning Urban Farms Apprenticeship (BUFA), a community urban gardening partnership between the OSU Extension Service and Multnomah County.
BUFA is a seven-month program that offers urban garden and small-scale farming education to the next generation of farmers, nonprofit garden managers, leaders in the local food justice movement and entrepreneurs interested in food production-based small businesses.
BUFA students help fund the program by selling what they grow at farmers’ markets and through Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscriptions. CSA is a growing trend that connects consumers to farmers and food producers. Subscribers pay a flat fee for a weekly box of produce throughout the growing season. Food is fresh, local and often organic and free of chemicals and pesticides.
Weston’s garden, located in southwest Portland, is also home to fruit trees and flowers that serve as a habitat for insects, supporting the pollination and growth of the vegetables.
Weston says he has the best job at Oregon State University, and he looks forward to growing the next generation of productive, urban gardeners in Oregon’s largest city.
“About 30 of the folks from BUFA have gone on to the next steps in their agricultural career, working with farms and taking internships with agricultural nonprofits,” he says “We’re very proud of them.”