Farmers Conservation Alliance moved into the former Sheppards building on State Street in downtown Hood River Feb. 1 and is settling in at its new office space.
 
FCA, which formed in 2005, has called a couple of different locations home: The Yasui Building, and later an office located across the street from the Hood River Elks Lodge.
 
Julie O’Shea, FCA executive director, said the growing staff needed more room than past locations could afford, but liked the downtown presence.
“When we first talked to Sheppards, there was a balance between the location and that the ag community would continue to have a presence in town,” she said. “The community has identified the building as ag oriented, but it’s also in town, so our staff could walk to get lunch.”
 
Thanks to a grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust and a loan from the Oregon Investment Board, FCA was able to remodel the building into suitable office space.
 
“The building has such good bones. As an example, we sandblasted the walls and exposed the concrete, and sanded the floors — they went from grey to this beautiful color,” she said, gesturing to the polished brown boards.
 
Other parts of the original building also remain as well: The window displays will be turned into window seats, and the bins that “up until very recently” held seeds along one wall.
 
Board members would come to Sheppards as kids, she said. “It’s a neat transition, to still have an ag and environmental presence downtown.”
 
“It’s a privilege to be in this space,” O’Shea said. “When we moved in, three generations of Sheppards came down to tour the building. We feel fortunate to be in this space … it feels like a special space.”
 
They’re still very much in the move-in phase, she added, but are excited that the building can now be used as a meeting space between clients.
 
“We have room now … if someone is coming from eastern Oregon and someone is coming from Salem, they can meet here to collaborate, which has always been a dream,” O’Shea said.
 
The extended space also means staff can work under one roof. “Before, we were all sitting in coffee shops,” she said.
 
This summer, FCA hopes to work with college-aged students to take photos and video across the districts they serve. O’Shea also envisions a partnership with those districts to showcase artwork from area students that will be profiled during First Friday events.
 
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FCA is a 501c3 nonprofit that works in partnership with rural communities to find “water management solutions that benefit both agriculture and the environment,” said a press release.
 
The Farmers Fish Screen, developed by Farmers Irrigation District in Hood River and federally approve by National Marine Fisheries Service, is part of that process — the screen uses hydraulics to manage debris and protect fish from irrigation, municipal and hydroelectric water intakes, said a press release. The 50th screen will be installed this year, said O’Shea, and are located in nine states.
 
Other parts of its Irrigation Modernization Program include identifying “infrastructure improvements, funding sources, strategic partnerships, renewable energy opportunities, and benefits to agriculture, rural communities, and the environment,” said a press release.

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