Ukiah Mushroom Camps

dwheeler at dwheeler at
Mon Jun 15 01:36:55 EST 1998

The following is from The Oregonian, June 12, 1998, B6

Public opinion splits in Ukiah on mushroom pickers’ camps

Some decry the caliber of people in the private camps inside the city limits,
but others tout the economic benefits.

Correspondent, The Oregonian

	UKIAH - Some residents of Ukiah in northeastern Oregon are outraged
at the presence of two private camps for mushroom pickers inside the city
limits.   “No, I’m not happy about it,” a business owner and part-time U.S.
Forest Service employee said as she paused outside the tiny Ukiah Post
Office. “They leave garbage, and it’s not a high caliber of people. I lock my
house every day, but I still feel less secure.”  She asked that her name be
withheld.    The camps were set up by Ukiah restaurant owner Doug Vincent,
63, to compete with U.S. Forest Service camps in the Umatilla National Forest
outside town. In recent years, Ukiah, population 280, has become a springtime
and early summer hub for commercial wild mushroom harvesters, many of whom
are Latino or Asian.	   Disgruntled residents have filed three complaints
about the camps’ sanitary facilities with the Oregon Department of
Environmental Quality since the camps went in last month, actions that some
in the community say were unwarranted.	       Joan Evans, 47, a waitress at
the Landmark Inn Restaurant in Ukiah, thinks “a tent city right in town maybe
isn’t the thing to do. Most of the local people aren’t too thrilled by it.”  
      Still, the pickers “haven’t bothered anybody,” she said of the mostly
Latino pickers in Vincent’s camps. “They’ve been pretty decent people.”  
Vincent, who uses crutches or a cane because of an old bullet wound, acuses
some of the townspeople of “persecuting” the pickers by not being more
accepting.   “We really need to bring enough public pressure so the town will
leave the pickers alone and promote their being here,” he said. “It’s cold
and wet and miserable, and these people work awful hard for their money.”  
Vincent set up the camps on separate vacant lots to compete with nearby U.S.
Forest Service camps established for pickers in the Umatilla National Forest.
Because of a comparatively poor mushroom season, only two such forest camps
went into service this summer instead of the eight originally planned, said
Earle Rother, Forest Service spokesman in Pendleton.	     Early in the
season, the Forest Service made the provocative decision to require
commercial pickers to say in its camps for a fee of $3 per day per person
unless they could prove they had private accommodations. Vincent undercut the
Forest Service rates with a $5-per day per camp fee for as many as four
people. He provides running water, fire barrels, portable toilets and refuse
collection.	  The camps’ presence, and the fact that many of the pickers
congregate at Vincent’s restaurant-gas station, a converted log truck repair
shop called Dan’s Ukiah Service, has caused some hard feelings around town.
Some other merchants accused Vincent of gouging the pickers by raising his
prices when the mushroom season started. Vincent angrily denied the charge,
claiming he hasn’t boosted his prices since last fall.	     “|It wasn’t for
the pickers; it was for the minimum wage and it didn’t go up much,” he said
of his prices. “Do you think these people would talk to me and greet me like
they do if I abused them?”     As many as 20 tents could be found in each of
Vincent’s camps from time to time this season, compared with about 60 in one
of the Forest Service camps.	     Unwelcome as they were, Vincent’s camps
appear to have been good for business in Ukiah. Kelly Keen, 42, owner of
Granny’s Country Store minimart, said the mushroom season brought him out of
a $50-per-day wintertime sales slump to $400 and $500 days.	  “It helps
business,” he said.   Louise Baker, 59, a clerk in the Rhodes Supply grocery
store, said the pickers “spent a lot of money here in town. Oh, yeah, they
come in here for Marlboro cigarettes and Budweiser.”

The above was posted as a courtesy by
Daniel B. Wheeler

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