The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Bernadine Strik Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Mike Dicianna.

August 21, 2015


Bernadine Cornelia Strik was born in 1962 in The Hague, Netherlands, and spent the first few years of her life on the family farm. When she was three, her parents decided to move to Australia, mostly out of an interest in living somewhere new. Six years later, the family moved again to Vancouver Island, Canada, where Bernadine's parents started an ornamental nursery farm and retail nursery, and where Bernadine grew up.

In the fall of 1979, Strik began undergraduate studies at the University of Victoria. Originally planning to major in marine biology, Strik switched her focus to botany after being inspired by an influential professor. She wound up specializing in plant physiology and also took a minor in French. While a student, Strik worked as a silviculturist for a research project focusing on reforestation, and spent another of her summers as a research assistant studying vegetative properties of woody ornamentals. She received her bachelor of science degree in 1983.

The next fall, Strik enrolled in graduate school at the University of Guelph, transferring from the master's program to the Ph.D. track one year later. Strik's doctoral research was on strawberry physiology and she completed her Guelph Ph.D. in horticulture in 1987.

From there Strik moved to Oregon State University, where she had accepted a dual position as a small fruits specialist for the OSU Extension Service and as an assistant professor in the Horticulture department, where she taught and conducted research. Early on at OSU, Strik continued her doctoral work on strawberries and also researched wine grapes. In 1990 she shifted her focus to caneberries, raspberries and blackberries, and the following year she received the Newer Faculty Recognition Award from the Oregon State University Extension Association.

In 1992 Strik became the Berry Crops Research Program leader at the North Willamette Research and Extension Center (NWREC). The NWREC, which is a cooperative venture shared by OSU and the United States Department of Agriculture, studies the production and physiology of berries with an eye toward developing better berry crop varieties for cultivation in the Pacific Northwest. In 1994 Strik also began leading projects housed in the Northwest Center for Small Fruit Research Program, an initiative that sought to improve and expand the small fruit industry in the Pacific Northwest through research and technology transfer. In 1996 she won the Briskey Award for Faculty Excellence from the College of Agricultural Sciences. The following year, she was promoted to Professor of Horticulture, ten years after arriving at Oregon State.

As the 1990s moved forward, Strik's research focus shifted toward increasing yields in berry fields and improving cold-hardiness of commercial berry varieties. She also planted and evaluated promising new berry hybrids and helped to introduce to the Willamette Valley a type of kiwi fruit that was new to the region. She received the Outstanding Leader in the Blueberry Industry Award from the Oregon Blueberry Grower's Association in 2003 for her development of a high-density plant spacing method that greatly increased yields. In the years that followed, Strik opened new lines of research on marionberries and organic blueberries, and in 2010 she became the lead investigator on a three million dollar project seeking to develop more nutritious and higher-yielding organic blackberries. In 2012 she received the Agricultural Research Foundation Distinguished Professor Award from the College of Agricultural Science, and she was awarded the OSU Alumni Distinguished Professor Award in 2014.

To date, Strik has written or co-authored over 150 papers and articles, many published in peer-reviewed research journals and others intended for members of the berry industry. She is on the executive board of the International Society for Horticultural Science and she continues to investigate numerous berry crops as well as improved machine harvest efficiency, fresh market production, and further development of organic systems.