On a Saturday morning in August, Mike and Jeanney McArthur gather in their living room with urban visitors who have made the 120-mile journey east from Portland, Oregon, to learn about their life in rural Sherman County. It’s a tight fit, but there is room for all.
Through the window, the view of freshly cut wheat extends to the horizon line under a sweep of cloudless sky. In the distance, wind turbines stand like soldiers in single formation, their blades turning slowly on the breeze.
“Passing by on the freeway, people don’t even know about us or the open skies or rolling hills,” says Jeanney, a fourth-generation Sherman County resident whose ancestors homesteaded in the area.
“Many urban people don’t understand the geography out here,” adds Mike, a former Sherman County judge and retired dryland wheat farmer. “We hope to give them an experience of the area so they can understand the difference in our lifestyle.”
The two-day homestay is sponsored by Community Oregon—a program that brings together people from urban and rural communities across the state to build relationships and better understand one another as fellow citizens and Oregonians. The program was developed in 2017 by Healthy Democracy—a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to increase citizen engagement and improve political discourse for the benefit of all voters.