Oregon strawberries are special. Research has proven that they’re sweeter, redder, and simply better. But they’re on the decline. Just like our state. Like a canary in a coal mine, the Oregon strawberry reflects the health of our previously vaunted livability.
I’ve been doing my best to keep Oregon strawberry growers in business. Almost every day I buy a carton or two from Roth’s Sunnyslope Market in south Salem, which admirably sells quite a bit of local produce.
It isn’t hard to decide between the delicious Oregon variety and the tasteless (by comparison) California berries. The latter travel better, so most of the country has never tasted a real strawberry.
Sadly, I’ll bet that a disturbingly high proportion of Oregonians haven’t either. Every year I get depressed when I open up the newspaper and read that Oregon strawberry acreage continues to fall. From the 1970s to the 1990s, Oregon’s share of national production fell from 14 to 5 percent. The trend surely has continued.
When I moved here from California in 1971 I was blown away by the Oregon strawberry. To be able to drive a few miles from Portland, park the car next to a berry-filled field, and be able to pick (and eat) as many as I wanted for an eminently reasonable price, heaven!
Times have changed. Too many Oregonians take for granted what makes this state special. They are happy with a cardboard, plasticized Oregon, not realizing what a loss it will be to lose a sweet, tasty state. Mediocrity, like California strawberries, never is endangered.
What surprises me is how eager many Oregonians are to embrace average. Or worse—less than average. Every time I go into Roth’s I expect to find the Oregon strawberries sold out. But it seems that many or most shoppers aren’t willing to pay a bit more for a clearly superior local product.
Which sums up the current political climate. It drives me nuts to hear Gov. Kulongoski crucified for proposing that Oregon should put on hold the ridiculous “kicker” law, which requires that tax revenues exceeding projections by 2% or more be refunded to corporations and individuals.
This law, the only one of its kind in the nation, proves that being special is worlds apart from being unique. Sometimes Oregonians take a perverse and misguided pride in being different.
Kicker law. No sales tax. Prohibition on self-service gas. This state needs to realize that sometimes our quirkiness is just plain stupid.
Often, though, it is what we must preserve at all costs. Like the Oregon strawberry. And public education, land use planning, health care, environmental protections. I’m willing to pay more for a higher quality berry. So should Oregon voters, for a higher quality state.
As I’ve noted before, Oregon is not a high tax state. Yet Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron Saxton and his conservative ilk are determined to make Oregon the Mississippi of the northwest, below average and under funded.
I want to keep on eating Oregon strawberries that put berries produced by the rest of the country to shame. If this state’s citizens have any sense, in November they’ll cast their votes for politicians who similarly desire to cultivate what is tasty about our state, not what is mediocre.
Even if it costs a bit more.