Nature is her classroom

Deb Conway

Photo By Monica Unhold

Deb Conway doesn’t teach classes at Butte College, but she helps educate students about wildlife restoration and operating heavy machinery. The farm technician uses a herd of goats to rid areas of weeds and blackberries to encourage native plant growth. She has plenty of room to work on the 928-acre campus, nearly two-thirds of which is occupied by farmland and a wildlife refuge. Conway chatted while she surveyed the wildlife refuge in a green off-road cart.

How did you initially get interested in agriculture?

It might sound silly, but I loved Little House on the Prairie. I visited my friend’s grandparents’ farm and thought, “Wow, this is really neat.”

Are those names on the goats’ ear-tags?

Yes, they’re named after different instructors. Doug is the friendliest; he’s the one that’s always in the pictures [people take there]. One time we even took him up to the president’s office to take a picture. That one is Diana, after the new president [Diana Van Der Ploeg, Butte College’s superintendent/president]. I donated her. I have goats at my house. I don’t think she even knows I named a goat after her, but I don’t think she’d be offended. We only name goats after good people.

What is your favorite thing to teach?

I like working on native plant restoration projects, but I’ll tell you, students in the heavy equipment program do more good than anyone. They could do a lot of damage if they weren’t managed properly [laughs].

What happens to the crops you grow?

We sell them and all the profits go back into the program. We have a fresh-to-your-desk motto. People on campus order fruit via e-mail and we deliver.

Sounds like you’re busy with a lot of different projects. What’s your biggest goal for the area?

The biggest thing I want to do is get people out to the wildlife refuge. A lot of people are afraid of mountain lions on campus. Last year during finals week one was spotted out here. I don’t think there’s much to worry about.

What do you like best about your job?

I would have to say working with students who are eager to learn. A lot of the students I work with are just out of high school. It helps keep me thinking young.