The Jefferson Exchange Team

Jefferson Exchange Team

The Jefferson Exchange is Jefferson Public Radio's daily talk show focused on news and interests across our region of Southern Oregon and Northern California. John Baxter is the senior producer, April Ehrlich is the producer and Geoffrey Riley hosts the show.

To contact the producers to pitch a segment idea or make a comment about the show, email them at or call 541-552-7075.


Don't let the name fool you.  Wilderness Poets is not actually about poetry; the Ashland-based company is in the food business. 

Its nut butters and other products are made from the harvests of organic farms in the region, and the company has been at it for more than a decade. 

Wilderness Poets is our focus in this month's edition of The Ground Floor, our business/entrepreneur segment. 


The name is only four letters long, but the issues with it can take volumes to explain.  PERS, Oregon's Public Employee Retirement System, has billions of dollars on hand to pay to retired public workers. 

The trouble is that there's a gap between what it will need to pay workers in the future, and the projections for its income.  The gap is more than $26 Billion, and closing the gap requires ever-larger payments into the system by state and local governments. 

Former Oregon AFL-CIO president Tim Nesbitt and his former boss, Governor Ted Kulongoski, have proposed a pair of ballot measures to bring PERS into line.  Their organization is PERS Solutions for Public Services

Runner1616, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Mental illness is better understood than it once was.  But people who have lived through mental illness and people who work with them say there is still a long road ahead. 

The regional chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, NAMI-Southern Oregon, works to bring stories of mental illness to a general audience with a Movies For Mental Health Film Fest, this weekend (May 18-19) in Ashland and Grants Pass. 

William Smith

We admit to thinking about dessert while we start a meal.  So it's always right up our alley when discussions of food turn to sweeter offerings. 

Those include honey, featured this weekend (May 18th) at the Oregon Honey & Mead Festival in Ashland.  Will Smith, our partner for a monthly food segment we call Savor, returns to take up the subject.  Festival boss Sharon Schmidt also visits.

And we bring in another guest, Marla Bull Bear, who runs a honey-making project with young people at the Lakota Youth Development Project


Oh, the smells from the kitchen.  They can fire up the heart and brain, in addition to the stomach. 

Paul Graham celebrated food in life and in his writing... and then the celiac axe fell, and forced him to cut gluten out of his life entirely.  He described the process of coming to grips with his new reality, in the book In Memory of Bread

Paul eventually realized he was the same person, just fed differently. 

Miroslav Bendik, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Food comes to us from a lot of places on the planet.  But we assume most of those places are actually in the business of agriculture, not, say, the sidewalks of Oakland, California. 

But Oakland is exactly one of the places where researchers found edible greens growing wild.  And even though some of the surroundings--residential and industrial--were a bit bleak, the plants didn't seem to care. 

Even plants grown in soil with potential contaminants could be washed and safely eaten. 


It is more than a pun to say that Ashland will be buzzing this weekend (May 18-19).  Because the Oregon Honey (and Mead) Festival returns, along with another bee-based event, the Feminine Legacy Beekeeping Conference. 

Amanda Shaw will be in town; Mandy runs the swarm-catching business Waggle Works and is the president of Portland Urban Beekeepers.  Her PUB duties include hosting the podcast "Beekeeper Confidential." 

Events came quickly on the vaccine front in Oregon, over a matter of days.  Demonstrations against a legislative bill that would end most non-medical vaccine exemptions for children reached a fever pitch, just at the time the Senate Republicans vanished, stalling Senate business. 

Their return for a vote on new taxes was arranged in exchange for the dropping of two bills, one on gun controls... and the vaccine bill (HB 3063, which had already passed the house).  Senator Jeff Golden of Ashland, who had raised concerns about the bill, visits with his perspective on what happened. 

Then we revisit an earlier interview with pediatrician Paul Thomas and journalist Jennifer Margulis about their approach, written as The Vaccine-Friendly Plan


We connect with other humans in ways that could only be imagined years ago.  No, we don't have telepathy... not yet. 

But we do have all kinds of social media and ways to communicate on personal devices.  Plus other kinds of media only now coming to the fore, as demonstrated at EMCON, the Emerging Media Conference at Southern Oregon University. 

Caz Crozier is the student coordinator for EMCON, which is part of the University's annual SOAR event (Southern Oregon Arts & Research). 

philipp, CC BY 2.0,

If you're thinking about building a home with high insulation value, you don't need to think high-tech.  With enough land, you can grow your own walls over a growing season. 

Straw bale construction provides some real benefits in energy saving and soundproofing, with walls 18 inches thick.  Jim Reiland builds straw bale homes through his business, Many Hands Builders

He is also the managing editor for a new book, Straw Bale Building Details: An illustrated Guide for Design and Construction. 


Ignorance, failure, and doubt would not seem at first to be good companions for science.  But think of how each of them sparks the process of scientific inquiry. 

Our desire to dispel ignorance is what leads us to doubt the orthodoxy, and try and fail to prove our hypotheses.  Stuart Firestein, who teaches neuroscience and runs a lab at Columbia University, speaks on this very subject this evening (May 15th) at Southern Oregon University. 

His appearance is part of SOU's campus theme for the academic year, "From Ignorance to Wisdom." 

Curimedia by tm, CC BY 2.0,

Did you hear about the government plan to strap bombs to bats?  It sounds like something out of a comic book, but it got serious consideration for a time.  As did other plans for military and intelligence schemes that seem almost laughable now. 

Vince Houghton, who is the historian and curator of the Internation Spy Museum in Washington, brings a number of these discarded ideas together in his book Nuking the Moon: And Other Intelligence Schemes and Military Plots Left on the Drawing Board

Klamath Community College

College is not for everyone, we hear frequently.  But some people who could benefit from college--and it from them--face barriers to entry. 

Klamath Community College showcases seven students who have faced physical or mental or other obstacles to higher education, in a series of performances called Education/Transformation. 

Rogue Farm Corps

Not all the Stories of Southern Oregon are about people with multi-generational roots in the region. 

Stuart O'Neill came here just a generation ago to get an education away from his native Washington, DC area.  He liked it, and stayed, and is now the executive director of the Rogue Farm Corps, dedicated to training the next generation of farmers


Maybe you've heard of someone with a wild disposition described as "raised by wolves."  Meredith May insists she was raised by bees. 

Her parents split up when she was five and brought her to live with a grandfather.  He happened to be a beekeeper, and the lessons he taught about bee care and feeding applied well to the rest of life. 

Meredith May tells the story in The Honey Bus: A Memoir of Loss, Courage and a Girl Saved by Bees


The ocean just looks huge when we see it from the beach.  But all we see is surface, and only a few miles out.  It truly is huge when you head farther out and down into the depths. 

Stanford University Marine Science Professor Stephen Palumbi studies the ocean and its many lifeforms; he visits Coos Bay for the final geology lecture of the season at Southwestern Oregon Community College (May 17th). 

SPA Research Lab

It only takes a small difference in temperature for what might have been snow to fall instead as rain.  Subtle changes in many realms add up to big ones as the planet warms. 

These are the kinds of changes Lucas Silva studies in his work at the Soil Plant Atmosphere lab at the University of Oregon.  Understanding how natural processes work now can help us preserve or restore those processes as needed (and if possible). 

Dr. Silva is our guest in this month's edition of Curious: Research Meets Radio. 

Frances Johnston/Library of Congress

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, American intellectuals and politicians, many of them political progressives, led an aggressive anti-immigration movement. Based on the pseudo-science of Eugenics, proponents argued that there was scientific proof of the inferiority of southern and eastern Europeans.

This lead to restrictive immigration laws that kept several generations of European immigrants out of the United States.

In his new book The Guarded Gate, Daniel Okrent delves into the history of the era of eugenics. 

Public Domain via Wikimedia

"Vermeulen.  Valentin Vermeulen" may not roll off the tongue like the name of other international men of mystery.  But the fictional Vermeulen didn't really mean to get caught up in cloak-and-dagger stuff; he's a fraud investigator and the central figure in a fourth novel by Ashlander Michael Niemann, this one called "No Right Way."

Michael Niemann brings his extensive knowledge of world affairs and politics to bear on his work.  There are many real-world details of recent political and international situations.

The stigma may be slowly coming unstuck from mental illness in America, but there's still room for growth.  Just ask the people of Southern Oregon Compass House in Medford. 

Compass House is a "clubhouse" where people with persistent mental illness gather to visit, support each other, and rebuild their lives through a variety of programs and occupations.  Members and staff join us once a month for a segment called Compass Radio, an exploration of what it's truly like to live with mental illness.