This half-hour OREGON FIELD GUIDE special follows a group of young people who cross the urban/rural divide to experience the realities of rural life. These kids have volunteered to participate in one of the only programs of its kind in the country, and it’s no vacation. They get up at the crack of dawn. It’s cold. They get muddy, help with calving, give vaccinations and share in both the joy and the misery that comes with real rural life.

It all began in 2005 when a group of students from Portland’s Sunnyside Environmental School strutted into a public hearing packed full of ranchers from rural Grant County. They began to rap, share poems and read essays in defense of the West’s most iconic predator — the wolf. The ranchers, seated quietly in their tight Wranglers and Stetson hats seethed in anger. They’d long suspected that urban Portland was a training ground for environmentalists. Now their suspicions were confirmed.

The clash made headlines. Editorials were written. Angry letters were exchanged.

But just as it seemed Oregon’s urban-rural divide had grown into an unbridgeable chasm, a handful of ranchers did the unexpected. They invited the kids to live and work along side them to see their side of life. And the kids took them up on the offer.

What’s now called the Urban-Rural Exchange has taken place every year since 2005, thanks to 4H and the Sunnyside Environmental School. A dude ranch it’s not. This is the real rural Oregon and it’s unlike anything these Portland kids have known.

Tune in to the stations of Oregon Public Broadcasting on Thursday, December 29 at 8:30pm as FIELD GUIDE tags along to Grant County to see how they’re all faring.

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In its 23nd season, OREGON FIELD GUIDE remains a valuable source of information about outdoor recreation, ecological issues, natural resources and travel destinations. OREGON FIELD GUIDE airs Thursday evenings at 8:30pm on the television stations of Oregon Public Broadcasting and repeats on Sundays at 1:30am and 6:30pm. In the Mountain Time zone of Eastern Oregon, the program airs at 9:30pm Thursdays, and at 7:30pm Sundays.

About OPB

OPB is the largest cultural and education institution in the region, delivering excellence in public broadcasting to 1.5 million people each week through television, radio and the Internet. Widely recognized as a national leader in the public broadcasting arena, OPB is a major contributor to the program schedule that serves the entire country. OPB is one of the most-used and most-supported public broadcasting services in the country and is generously supported by 115,000 contributors.