I met Spring as I was leaving Locavore after interviewing Megan. I could tell right away she was one of the go-getters. I asked her to pick a location that made sense for her. She thought up this greenhouse. Just perfect. While we chatted, snow kept sliding down the plastic walls as the sun slowly warmed the space.
Who are you?
I'm Spring Alaska Olson, born and raised in Valdez, Alaska. I moved to Bend from Breckenridge, Colorado. I spent about 10 years in Telluride and Breckenridge. Then I moved here in 2006. I have been well-seasoned in the natural resource management fields of agriculture and water quality. And over the last few years I’ve started a few small businesses. I'm a mother. I've got a little one who's 10. That's where my focus is - keeping us fed and happy and raising her to be a good leader and to be responsible.
What brought you to Bend?
Breckenridge exploded. It used to take 45 minutes to an hour and a half to get from Breckenridge to Denver and then it was three hours. And then it was four hours. And the traffic was just getting packed and the ski resorts were getting completely overrun and it was just time to go. I didn't really want to move back to Alaska because I was really enjoying taking the things I had learned in college there and then applying them down here. There aren’t the same opportunities up there like we have down here in the lower 48. So I didn't want to go home quite yet. Bend looked like a great place that would offer a similar fun lifestyle that I had been enjoying in the ski towns. Bend is a little bit bigger. Most of those towns have between a thousand and a few thousand people. It was just too busy in Breckenridge. There wasn't a lot to do there. Just full tourism.
I was in the science industry, and it being so seasonal, I could only do so much. I was building rivers all through my time in Colorado. You can only restructure or revegetate a river one time. I would do that in one town and then I would move. I restructured the Blue River in Breck and the San Miguel in Telluride and the Uncompahgre in Ridgway. It was not a place I could see myself staying for a long time because it's quite Disneyland-like and it's extremely costly. Bend was really quiet when we got here in 2006. It was a very sleepy town. I think the population has almost doubled since I've been here. Maybe. I don't know the complete population count at this point because I'm in denial, but I can feel it. I can feel the presence of a lot more people coming in.
What do you like about Bend?
I like Bend because it has all the aspects of what I was raised in and became accustomed to from living in ski towns. It's a big playground. You can bike, ski, fish, climb, swim. There are lakes everywhere. There are a ton of activities. We've got lots of breweries, lots of concerts. It feels like we're living in Colorado again, we're just not making the big drive to get there. There is a ton to do and it keeps getting better every day. For sure.
How do you contribute to the community?
I started the Central Oregon Seed Exchange, so I have a lot of networks with farmers. I saw there was a seed shortage in Deschutes County and there were literally no locally grown seeds available for sale (other than Round Butte Seed Company, but a lot of their seed is imported from Idaho and different regions). I have access to free seed - I started asking local farmers to donate their locally grown, cold-climate, organic seed. Then I set up a vector of transport at Central Oregon Locavore. We have a vintage seed fridge there from which we can give away and redistribute that seed. I myself am broke still and the economy is not doing so well, so the intent was to make sure the people who were struggling to eat healthy food weren't going to struggle to access it. I’ll give it away for free to enforce that old style of living where you grow your own food, you get the kids involved, you get them outside - off the iPad, off the phone that they're glued to 24 hours a day - and engaged with their community and family again. Giving them free seed was a cool project and a good option. I started teaching seed saving classes and pollinator classes. We give away a lot of seed to elementary schools. We work with Deschutes County with the WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) program and a variety of other nonprofit groups. We give away a lot of vegetable and flower seed.
I also volunteer as the chair of the Deschutes County Noxious Weeds Advisory Board. I've been on that board for eight years. I also volunteer with the Living on a Few Acres Farming Conference with Oregon State University. I help plan and design small classes for that. And I work with the Department of Agriculture Intertribal Agricultural Council - a Native advisory council to increase food sovereignty and solve food production issues for tribes. It's a national program. I also own Sakari Botanicals - another Native American business. I do a lot of farming and agricultural consulting. I assist land owners in Deschutes County on natural resource management issues - on how to basically start from scratch. If you buy a piece of property, you've got to work on soil quality, weeds, learn how to use water, implement energy efficiency, learn what to grow, what not to grow, how to manage your farm, and set up a business plan.
Do you have a favorite memory from here?
My favorite memory from here was a Fourth of July many years ago: I skinned up Mt. Bachelor and skied down. Then I went down to Phil's Trail and mountain biked, did a little loop. Then I went across the street to Dillon Falls on my kayak and scooted up the river a little bit and checked that out. The three-event day. This place is awesome. I just killed it! That's what's great about Bend - you can go skiing and then as you're headed down the Cascades Lake Highway you can pull over and fly fish. And then you can go to the brewery. And then you're done - wrap that whole rockstar day up. It was basically free. It took 10 years to accumulate a bunch of crappy gear to get to that point and I had to build a skill set, but yeah, it was a free experience. That was before it cost money to park on those public lands, so it really was free. Or I was cheating - one of the two.
What do you wish for the future?
I wish for people to communicate better. I've noticed that it's been very difficult to create change in this county. We have this big influx of young people in the farming and nonprofit industries and they are really go-getters. And then we're dealing with this old demographic of the bean counters, I call them. This is how it is. This is how it's going to be. I'm retiring so I don't care. I don't think they were ever change-makers. I'm noticing that communication is a huge barrier. The change isn't going to happen unless people communicate. We are working with two different concepts of change: one that doesn't want to and one that is happening. Megan from Locavore is a huge change-maker. We have a lot in common. We'll see a need for something and it's gonna get done. That's the end result. We're doing it. Oh, it's done now. So... next. I'd like to see people communicate better. Drop their guard a little bit, be open to more ideas, work together more, lose the fear factor, the ego needs to come down a little bit. That will actually bring the community together to get to the end of whatever your goal is. Whatever your intent is, just try to communicate better with people. It seems like poor communication holds a lot things up.