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2017 Scholarship Winners a Diverse, Skilled Group 

A mother of four who is interested in plant breeding, a field scout with an interest in solving plant problems, an independent consultant for organic and GlobalGAP certifications and a Ph.D. student in horticulture are the 2017 recipients of Oregon Blueberry Commission scholarships.

Mandie Driskill, a 2003 Thurston High School graduate, took to gardening early in life and once turned her entire yard into an edible berry plant collection. When she returned to school after nearly a decade hiatus, Mandie decided to major in horticulture at Oregon State University with the option of plant breeding and genetics in small fruits and berries.

Since enrolling at OSU, Mandie has carried a 4.0 GPA and has earned numerous scholastic awards. Mandie, who is minoring in business entrepreneurship, plans on obtaining a Ph.D. in plant breeding. She hopes eventually to secure a position with a blueberry breeding company.

Sam Kuschnick, a 2015 graduate of Silverton High School, grew up on a family farm and started picking blueberries and blackberries at an early age. In February of 2016, Sam began working for Pratum Co-op as a field scout.

Sam said he finds it intriguing to try to solve plant problems in blueberries and enjoys that aspect of agricultural science. He believes that drone technology will be a great asset to the blueberry industry and is working with the technology at Pratum. “Technology is a key component to removing some of the stress and risk farmers have,” Sam said.

Sam is majoring in agronomy within the Crop and Soil Science Department at Oregon State University. He hopes to be a crop consultant and to one day take over managing his family farm.

Eliza Smith, a 2013 graduate of Blanchet Catholic School in Salem who is majoring in bioresource research at Oregon State University, became interested in the blueberry industry as a career path when she started working for OSU Extension agent Javier Fernandez-Salvador in December of 2015. She now is an independent consultant for USDA Organic and GlobalGAP certifications, working primarily with blueberry farmers in the Willamette Valley, and working for Extension as part of the mid-Willamette Valley Small Farms Program.

Smith, who carries a cumulative college GPA of 3.88, is looking to graduate from OSU next year and begin working with blueberry farmers, either through the Extension Service or through performing organic certifications. Eventually, Smith said, she would like to either manage a blueberry farm or own her own blueberry farm.

Bryan Sales comes to Oregon from Texas, where he received a bachelor’s of science degree in horticulture with an emphasis in fruit, nut and vegetable production from Texas A&M University. He currently is a second-year Ph.D. student in the Horticulture Department at Oregon State University, working on evaluating soil amendments for the growth and production of highbush blueberries in climates of the Pacific Northwest.

Bryan, who graduated from high school in 1989, said he became involved in horticulture later in life. A former restaurant server and bartender in Austin, Texas, Bryan graduated from Texas A&M with a cumulative GPA of 3.85.

Byran’s goal is to stay in Oregon following graduation and continue to work to support and advance the blueberry industry.


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