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Pioneering Partnerships in Oregon’s Upper Willamette Valley

Soil Health Profile: Teresa Matteson


“We have a vast and growing network of partners, most importantly farmers, who make a difference by sharing their lessons learned.”  -- Teresa Matteson

Soil health means different things to different people -- but for Teresa Matteson, the key word is partnerships.

A soil conservationist for the Benton Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), Matteson has led the charge for outreach, education and partnerships to promote soil health initiatives in Oregon’s upper Willamette basin.

“We have a vast and growing network of partners, most importantly farmers, who make a difference by sharing their lessons learned,” she said.

Starting with a passion for composting, Matteson turned her attention to soil quality in 2006 after attending a local soil health workshop. She built upon more training and exposure to the topic with her 2009 Oregon Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Conservation Innovation Grant, called the Soil Quality Project. The grant funded local workshops and a thriving assessment program based on the Cornell model for soil health.

“The first year we worked with seven farmers,” she said. “Five years later we have worked with 50 landowners and processed 138 field samples.”

Matteson said one of the most rewarding aspects of this project was seeing the results on the ground.

“Based on the lab assessments and farmers’ testimonials, the recommended practices, such as cover crops and organic improvements, actually improved soil function,” she said.

Matteson sensed that interest in soil health around the Willamette Valley was building, so she began the Soil Quality Network in 2011 through a Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education grant. The Soil Quality Network initiated a partnership with Oregon State University (OSU) Small Farms Extension and provided two workshops over two years. These workshops, co-sponsored by the Soil and Water Conservation Society and the Oregon Society of Soil Scientists, reached more than 200 farmers, agricultural professionals, and students from around the Pacific Northwest.

The Soil Quality Network has a permanent website with a global map of soil quality activities hosted by OSU Small Farms. The network continues to grow with Washington State University Extension hosting a workshop in northwest Washington in 2014. Learn more about the Soil Quality Network at:

“The Soil Quality Network meetings were the first significant gatherings of folks interested in building awareness of the principles of soil health in Oregon,” said Cory Owens, NRCS state soil health coordinator. “Teresa is a trail blazer for soil health outreach and a valued partner to the NRCS’s soil health effort both here and nationally.”

Tapping into the vast conservation partnership opportunities across the state, Matteson continues to be a leader in Oregon for soil health education and outreach. Her latest endeavor is funded by the USDA Risk Management Agency called “Reducing Agricultural Risk through Soil Health Education.”

“My most recent project involves six Oregon Soil and Water Conservation Districts working with partners including OSU Extension, NRCS, and local farmers,” Matteson said. “We hosted 47 soil health workshops that reached 977 farmers and students in Oregon.”

Matteson’s talent for bringing the right people and resources together has paved the way for the principles of soil health to take root in Oregon.

“Through these activities, we have established a thriving network of enthusiastic partners who work fantastically together to support soil health education,” she said.



Top profile photo courtesy E.M. Owens, bottom plant photo courtesy Benton SWCD.

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