Capital Press | Special Sections Capital Press Thu, 22 Jun 2017 08:47:07 -0400 en Capital Press | Special Sections Tillamook’s new visitor center to open in 2018 Mon, 5 Jun 2017 15:40:00 -0400 Gail Oberst TILLAMOOK, Ore. — To more than 1.3 million visitors each year, the Tillamook Cheese factory, operated by the Tillamook County Creamery Association, has been more than just a production facility.

The Tillamook Cheese Factory became a must-see family attraction shortly after it was built in 1949.

This year, that attraction is growing to accommodate those visitors. The old visitors center at the Tillamook Cheese Factory will be torn down, and built in its place will be a new 38,500-square-foot facility. The new center is due for completion in the summer of 2018, but a temporary center is open across the parking lot from the factory.

The Tillamook Cheese Factory’s first visitor accommodations were simple: restrooms, a small cheese store and guided tours, according to TCCA spokeswoman Tori Harms.

In 1968, the company built a special entrance and observation area where visitors could watch the cheesemaking process through windows.

The now-old visitors center was part of a 1979 expansion, and was remodeled several times in the following 38 years, adding a gift shop, a dining and kitchen area, an enclosed patio for the atrium and a new upstairs observation deck.

In 2003, the center got another makeover — its last one.

The Tillamook Cheese Factory’s visitors center is as big an attraction as the Space Needle in Seattle, says the association’s CEO, Patrick Criteser. Tillamook is one of the Northwest’s largest dairy cooperatives.

“This project represents a significant investment in our local presence here in Tillamook County and one that we anticipate will attract even more visitors to our area,” said Criteser.

The new center will feature a larger cafe with indoor and outdoor seating and a new, cheesy menu including wood-fired pizza and local wine and beer; improved ice cream, coffee and retail areas; enhanced viewing of the cheese making and packaging area; interactive exhibits; a small theater; a workspace where Tillamook staff can conduct focus groups to get feedback on new products; a private event room for small parties; and improved parking.

In the meantime, a small temporary visitors’ center combines some features of the old and new: the smell of waffle cones greets visitors at the door, just as before. The sound of mooing cows and calves fills the main hall, where children push buttons to hear and see the variety of sounds a cow makes.

Visitors can check out — and play with — the latest milking parlor equipment and tractors and can watch a video of the Seals family’s dairy, a multi-generational operation in Tillamook County, or look at educational displays of farm life.

There’s the popular line of cheese samples, just as in the old center. Racks of jams and jellies and local goodies, T-shirts, stuffed cows, coloring books and jewelry, fudges and candies fill the temporary gift shop.

From the refrigerators, visitors can still purchase Tillamook products — from cottage cheese to smoked cheddar. As before, they can buy a scoop (or two or three) of Tillamook’s famous ice cream, packed into fresh waffle cones or served in a dish.

Coffee, fancy or plain, with real Tillamook cream or not, is also available at the temporary center café.

The temporary center is open year-round from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. June through Labor Day and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. after Labor Day.

Butter’s comeback boosts creamery Mon, 5 Jun 2017 15:39:27 -0400 Brenna Wiegand Larsen’s Creamery does one thing, and does it well.

“All we make is butter,” General manager Tom Hughes said. “There are not a lot of creameries around and that basically identifies us as a survivor. To my knowledge there’s just one other size butter operation that functions as we do that only produces butter, and that’s back on the East Coast.”

This has Hughes concerned.

“With the closures, acquisitions and mergers of so many other creameries it’s kind of left us out here,” Hughes said. “If we’re going to have a lot of milk out here, where’s that milk going to go?”

In the meantime, butter is making something a comeback among health-conscious consumers.

Once reviled as public-health enemy No. 1, butter is now being pitched as a more wholesome alternative to margarine and trans fats. Americans are forecast to eat 8 percent more butter this year compared to last year, the most since 1967, USDA data show.

That’s been helped by large enterprises switching to butter. That includes McDonald’s in its signature Egg McMuffin, calling for an estimated 600 million pounds of milk per year. Jack in the Box and Burger King have also made the change.

Founded in 1927, Larsen’s Creamery is in Clackamas, Ore., and owned by Andrew Gianopoulos. The plant produces more than 25 million pounds of butter a year and has a 9½-acre footprint that includes a 7,000-square-foot production space and 32,000 square feet of cooler and freezer space.

“The demand for butter keeps increasing. You’re seeing the institutional users jump into it. People are coming back to natural fats and they’re recognizing that butter is not the Darth Vader of the food industry,” Hughes said. “Natural, delicious fat is coming back and we’re riding the wave of that.”

Despite the renewed demand for butter, margins are small and Larsen’s must stay on its toes to remain profitable.

Among the challenges is finding skilled employees.

“It’s tough to find qualified people and difficult to pay the wages that are being demanded,” Hughes said. “It’s not an easy job and you’ll find these young millennials come out and want to start at the top and get paid even more than being started at the top.”

He said it takes two to five years to train a good-quality butter maker “and it’s hard to find people that will be dedicated and develop a passion for this business when they can go on down the street to Portland for a more laid back environment.”

Platt’s Oak Hill Dairies grow, diversify Mon, 5 Jun 2017 15:30:14 -0400 Brenna Wiegand Jack Platt’s dream was always to own a dairy, something that’s difficult to do in Southern California, where he was raised.

Now he owns two.

He married Marilyn in 1975 and within a few years moved to Corvallis, Ore., and started a dairy on 25 acres with 150 first-calf heifers.

Nine years later, in 1987, they moved to Independence, Ore., where they bought 100 acres and milked 350 cows.

Today Platt’s Oak Hill Dairy milks 1,600 cows three times a day and raises its own replacement heifers.

“There are just so many variables in the price of milk and the cost of feed that we have virtually no control,” Jack said. “That’s why we grow as much of our own feed as possible to help control our production costs.”

In 2004, the Platts took a deeper plunge and started an organic dairy in nearby Turner, Ore. Organic was growing fast and it seemed a good time to diversify.

Managed by Tim Baker, the Turner dairy milks 1,000 cows three times a day and farms 2,400 acres in Turner and at its heifer facility in Klamath Falls.

Baker gets nervous when rain persists, delaying planting and the day the cows can be let into pasture. The USDA requires organic cows get at least 30 percent of their dry intake from pasture grazing at least 120 days a year.

They’ve also had to find alternatives to traditional medicines including garlic oil for infections and diatomaceous earth for worming and doing away with lice.

“These cows are athletes,” Baker said. “In the summer time the cows will walk two to four miles a day going in and out of pasture and have lots of muscle. They are probably healthier than I am.”

In addition to the inspections required for conventional dairies, organic dairies are subject to an exhaustive yearly certification.

“The audit can take two to three days and involves everything from the seeds to the feed to what we use to wash the milking parlor walls — all of that must be approved before we can use it,” Baker said.

A big part of their success lies in their employees, Marilyn Platt said, and while managing people is one of the most difficult parts of dairy farming, some of their employees have been with them more than 25 years.

“Communication is necessary to keep employees happy and motivated and need to know they’re appreciated,” Marilyn said. “They take pride in their work and we try to treat them how we would want to be treated.”

Nevertheless, as in most areas of farming, labor issues have dairy farmers seeking more automation in the milking process.

“Things have changed so much; we used to be happy with 50 pounds average per cow and now we expect 90 pounds,” Jack said. “With all the changes in genetics, nutrition and overall design of facilities, I don’t expect it to stop there.

“It has its ups and downs, but we are proud to be part of the dairy industry,” Jack said. “Milk is still the purest of foods, whether organic or not.”

Field trips are helpful in giving the public a taste of how their milk is produced.

“We’ve always tried to run an honest, ethical business and we feel we’ve been blessed because of that,” Marilyn said. “The best part of dairying is being able to spend quality time with our family, watching our four girls grow up and seeing our grandchildren enjoy life on the farm.”

Dairy Council of California connects public, agriculture Mon, 5 Jun 2017 15:36:01 -0400 JULIA HOLLISTER Ninety-eight years ago California’s dairy families and milk processors saw the need to showcase the nutritional value of milk and dairy foods.

One vehicle they developed to do that is the Mobile Dairy Classroom.

Combined with training programs and online tools, they can now reach millions in California and throughout the nation.

The Mobile Dairy Classroom started in the 1930s when Clarence Michaels of Edgemar Farms customized a trailer to bring a cow and calf on school visits in the Los Angeles area.

The assemblies based on the Mobile Dairy Classroom are California’s original Farm to School program, said Efrain Valenzuela, the Dairy Council’s Mobile Dairy Classroom manager.

“Today six instructors with agricultural and education backgrounds across the state bring the custom-built units to elementary schools and Ag Days during the school year,” Valenzuela said. “This valuable program reaches 450,000 children and adults each year.”

Since 1919, the Dairy Council has developed other programs to partner with educators, health professionals and communities to elevate the health of children and parents through the pursuit of healthy, balanced eating habits, he said. That includes drinking milk and eating dairy foods, he said.

The Dairy Council is a marketing order with oversight from the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

All of California’s dairy families and milk processing companies contribute to fund the outreach efforts.

“We offer classroom nutrition education lessons for grades K-12 that are free to California teachers,” Valenzuela said. “We also offer nutrition education booklets to health professionals to assist adults and parents in making healthy eating choices and raising children to be healthy eaters.”

In addition, the Dairy Council is part of the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement of California, Local School Wellness Policy Collaboratives and other community outreach programs, he said.

Currently, the council is reaching out to teachers, school food service professionals, healthcare workers and others to raise awareness and boost participation in the free summer meals programs funded by USDA.

Only about 15 percent of students who rely on free and reduced-price meals at school take advantage of summer meals, which offer free breakfast, lunch and snacks to all kids 18 and under — no paperwork or documentation required — when school is out of session.

“Every breakfast and lunch follows healthy meal standards,” he said.

Dairy family adds innovation to operation Mon, 5 Jun 2017 15:37:39 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas ROYAL CITY, Wash. — This large dairy the Columbia Basin 30 miles southwest of Moses Lake, Wash., is owned and operated by Austin Allred and family, who farm nearby.

The facility was originally built in 2000 by the Smith Brothers, who also ran a bottling plant.

“They sold it to Nelson Faria, who ran it a few years then started farming in Texas in 2008. That’s when my dad and I got involved. In 2016 I bought Nelson’s portion so now it’s just our family. We are potato farmers and grow row crops and apples, but I branched out into dairying,” Allred said.

“I was fortunate to be able to work with him for several years before he moved to Texas,” Allred said.

Most of the cows are Holstein-Jersey crosses. Faria utilized the best of both breeds.

“I have 1,000 purebred Holsteins and some purebred Jerseys but most of our cows are crossbred. We are going toward Jerseys; that’s what the market dictates,” he said.

“I spend all my days milking cows and loving it,” he said.

On average of 20 calves are born each day.

“We use sexed semen to ensure plenty of heifer calves,” he said. At this point they don’t sell surplus heifers because they are still expanding cow numbers.

The family farm grows most of the feed. Rotation crops such as alfalfa and silage work well with potatoes.

Austin and his wife, Camille, have a 3-year-old boy named Porter and a 1-year-old girl named Adaline.

“Their favorite thing every morning is go check the cows. Porter just got his first battery-powered 4-wheeler and loves to drive back and forth between home and the office. My favorite thing is to have my kids at work with me,” he said.

“I am new in the dairy world. I grew up growing potatoes and apples with my dad. This is a new adventure, but I have an advantage regarding regulations and challenges that dairies are facing right now because I don’t know much about the past,” he said.

The dairy is up to date and doesn’t have to try to change traditional ways of doing things, he added.

One innovation Allred has installed is a bio-filter.

“The dairy industry has a challenge with manure, and liquid manure management is the biggest challenge. We already process our green water through a centrifuge and are now taking it one step farther and processing it through a bio-flow-through system installed by BioFiltro,” Allred said.

It utilizes large, concrete structures that hold layers of rocks, wood chips and shavings and a top layer of earthworms and bacteria.

“We apply the green water on top of that with sprinklers and within four hours it percolates through and comes out significantly cleaner. This natural filter removes most of the nitrogen and phosphorus, and much of the potassium,” he said.

The water can be put back onto the land via pivot irrigation.

They also have a valuable by-product in worm castings. The worms consume a lot of the wood chips along with the nitrogen and some of the other nutrients, he said.

“We harvest the worm castings, which are used as a nutrient-dense fertilizer by greenhouses, orchards and gardeners,” Allred said.

“The goal is to manage our water in a system that is environmentally helpful rather than harmful. If we have clean water to utilize on the dairy and farm, we use less total water, plus have the benefit of fertilizers from solids in the manure.”

Dairy farmer shares industry’s story by engaging critics Mon, 5 Jun 2017 15:36:35 -0400 Suzanne Frary CHEHALIS, Wash. — Dairy farmer Michelle Schilter had an encounter with animal-rights activists last March that she said was an eye-opener.

She saw the activists at South by Southwest, a food and technology conference in Austin, Texas.

She introduced herself as a dairy farmer and asked what they hope to accomplish. They wanted to end factory farming.

“I asked them, ‘What’s your definition of a factory farm?’” she said.

The activists couldn’t say.

“They wanted to end something, but they couldn’t say exactly what that was,” she said.

Michelle was at the conference representing Dairy Management Inc., which was there to promote dairy products. She serves on the national organization’s board.

She is also chairwoman of the Washington Dairy Products Commission.

The commission and DMI encourage farmers to use social media to tell their stories to reach the “movable middle.”

“They’re the people who aren’t sure if dairy is healthy, or if they should be using almond milk instead,” she said.

Michelle said dairy farmers often hesitate to talk to the public. They worry animal-rights groups might target them, she said.

“They think, ‘Why do I want to waste my time with an activist on Facebook when I’m dealing with things on my farm?’” she said.

She and her husband, Lonny, are third-generation farmers. They own Sun-Ton Farms, a 180-acre organic dairy near Chehalis, Wash.

The farm has about 220 milking cows in a 450- to 500-head herd of red-and-white Holsteins.

Lonny grew up on a farm in Auburn, Wash., before his family moved their dairy to Chehalis in the early 1990s. Michelle grew up in California’s Napa Valley, studied agriculture in college, but didn’t farm until she met Lonny. The couple have three teenagers.

The dairy transitioned to organic in 2006.

“It was the best decision,” Michelle said. Prices for organic milk are less volatile than for conventional milk, she said.

The farm belongs to the Darigold co-op, and its milk is sold through Horizon.

Michelle raises the farm’s calves, some of which move next door to the dairy owned by Lonny ’s parents. Her 3-year-old calf barn is self-flushing and has automatic curtains that adjust for ventilation.

A few weeks after the conference in Texas, a windstorm ripped off the commodity barn’s roof and rain ruined the feed and bedding stored inside.

The dairy’s nutritionist temporarily adjusted the cows’ diet to include more alfalfa and less grain. Keeping cows healthy is the first priority on an organic dairy, said Michelle.

“We have so few options for treating illness,” she said. “If a cow needs antibiotics, we give it, but the cow has to leave the herd.”

People are curious about dairy farms, she said.

Michelle said people want to know if she treats her animals humanely. They want to know if she names her cows, and if the dairy produces a “clean product,” she said. “I do all of that, everything they say they want.”

Couple develops taste for making gelato Mon, 5 Jun 2017 15:35:19 -0400 Marina Riker Jeff and Juli Labhart knew they wanted to start their own business. But they had no idea what they wanted to do.

The two were living in Bend, Ore., when they decided to take a break from their day jobs and backpack around the world for a year. While exploring new countries and cultures, the two were always on the lookout for new places to fill their appetite for sweets — especially for gelato.

Juli Labhart, who is allergic to gluten and corn, found it easier to satisfy her cravings abroad, where the frozen treat was more likely to be made without such ingredients.

“At the time, there were only a couple main ice cream companies that I could eat (in the United States),” said Labhart. “I was like, why are we behind on this?”

When the husband-and-wife team returned to the U.S. a year later, they enrolled in classes taught by gelato-making masters in hopes of being able to craft the dessert from local ingredients back in Bend.

Nearly a decade has passed since then, and business is booming at Bontà Natural Artisan Gelato. What started as a gig selling pints at the local farmers’ market has turned into a 20-employee company equipped with its own creamery. The Labharts run a scoop shop in downtown Bend, and offer their pints for sale in stores ranging from Albertsons to Whole Foods.

“We were new to the food industry, so we had to do a lot of research,” said Jeff Labhardt. “It took a while to figure all of it out.”

Today, the company uses 240 gallons of milk a week to produce up to 3 gallons of gelato every 10 minutes at the creamery in east Bend, where Juli Labhart experiments with new recipes and monitors each batch. Whether she’s mixing dulce de leche and sea salt or Oregon hazelnut, she follows a strict recipe for each batch.

“I love food, and I love numbers,” said Labhart, who studied math in college. “I have a really dorky spreadsheet where I calculate the fat and sugar.”

Unlike ice cream, gelato is about 6 percent fat and made mostly from milk, explained Labhart. In general, ice cream is made with more cream and churned differently so there’s more air, which can mute flavors in comparison to gelato, she explained.

“When you taste something without fat, the flavors are more rich,” Labhart said.

The Labharts use all-natural sweeteners, which means Juli Labhart can eat the gelato she makes — even with her food allergies. The couple seeks out local ingredients — such as hazelnuts and strawberries — whenever possible, and often crafts new flavors depending on what’s in season.

Eberhard’s Dairy Products, which is based in Redmond, supplies all of the company’s milk.

For the Labharts, using local ingredients just made sense. Jeff Labhart grew up in Tillamook surrounded by local dairies, while his wife grew up working in the berry fields of Lynden, Wash. Being able to create and sell a product that supports local farmers was a dream come true for the couple.

“We kind of have an appreciation for that lifestyle and the people who do it,” said Juli Labhart.

Brothers start dairy of their own Mon, 5 Jun 2017 15:34:01 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas CASTLEFORD, Idaho — After interning on their uncles’ dairies in California, Jerome and Nathan Vander Poel started their own dairy.

“Our dad is a veterinarian, and our uncles milk cows, so we grew up around dairy cattle,” Jerome said.

“A year ago we talked about starting a dairy in Iowa or Nebraska. Then we had a chance to look at Idaho and decided this was where we wanted to go,” he said. “My brother and I are young — I am 20 and Nathan is 22 — and Idaho has a growing dairy industry. This dairy at Castleford was one of several we looked at that was for sale.”

It was closed but the brothers determined that it had a lot of potential. It also needed some work on the facilities.

“Then we hand-picked cows from dairies across the U.S. to fill it up,” Jerome said.

“We started with Holsteins, but in January started adding Jerseys because of the way the markets have grown,” he said. “We like a balance, to have both breeds.”

The nice part about starting from scratch was being able to select only the cows they wanted.

“Some dairies, everything is already there when you buy them, including the cows. In a way that would be easier, since we had to bring everything in and fix everything up. But every cow here is one we wanted,” Jerome said.

They are milking 800 cows but plan to keep expanding.

“We wanted to start small and build up. Winters here are totally different than California, so we wanted to start with something we could manage, and test this area before we got really big,” he said.

“We made it through the first winter, which everyone is telling us was the worst in 30 years, so I think we can handle it!” Jerome said. “That was the biggest test, for us.”

He and Nathan plan to grow their dairy — and buy more.

“On our next dairy we hope to just buy it with everything already there,” he said. “The way we did this one, going through the whole starting process, is a lot tougher.”

They have a lot of plans, he said.

“We have uncles in the dairy business and they are good mentors,” Jerome said. “My brother and I have seen about 100 different dairies, run many different ways, so we were able to put our dairy together the way we wanted.”

They are also familiar with animal health, from helping their father.

Theirs has been a valuable education.

“Neither of us went to college. We chose instead to have a hands-on education in the dairy. Even if you do go to college, you have to come back and learn it through experience on a dairy,” he explained.

“Some things, you have to be there to learn it, and some things you learn the hard way and that’s the best teacher. If you make the wrong decision you’ll remember it and never do that again,” he said.

Eventually they will keep a lot of heifers to help facilitate expansion plans, but it will take a little time to build up the replacement program.

The two brothers always had a partnership in mind.

“It’s been a great adventure, because when we came here it wasn’t like having a family dairy to start in, or to ask a family member for advice,” he said.

“We had to piece everything together ourselves and learn quickly,” he said.

They grew up near Modesto, Calif., and their uncles have dairies near Bakersfield.

“When we graduated from high school we migrated down to Bakersfield and started learning the dairy business — and then we ventured to Idaho,” Jerome said.

The goal is to keep their cows healthy and happy.

“A happy cow is a happy life. As long as the cows are happy, we’re happy!”

Dairyman makes sure industry’s voice is heard in Salem Mon, 5 Jun 2017 15:33:12 -0400 Gail Oberst TILLAMOOK, Ore. — Across the pasture from the Tillamook Cheese factory is Chad Allen’s Victor Dairy, a 500-head operation co-owned by his father, George Victor Allen.

“Dad always had a love for dairying,” said Chad. In 1977, George and his father, Ben, established the Allen Dairy in Tillamook with 100 cows. Chad was younger than 2 when his family moved from San Luis Obispo to Oregon.

George also partners with Chad’s younger brother, Casey, in their C&C Dairy operation, with 300 head, located across Highway 101 from Victor Dairy.

The two brothers made the friendly split in 2008. An older brother works for CHS Farm Co-op in Tillamook, and a sister lives in Bakersfield.

Chad, 42, said he always knew he was destined to be a dairyman, but his foray into politics is an indication that he able to influence those beyond his own pastures.

Last year, as the Oregon Dairy Farmers Association president, Chad helped lead the charge on Senate Bill 1517, a pilot project in Tillamook County that would bring wetland developers and impacted landowners — especially dairies — together to collaborate on projects. It passed and is now taking shape as a coalition of people who represent wildlife, dairy, conservation and environmental interests.

Allen also testified before Oregon’s House Special Committee on Small Business Growth, suggesting ways to improve milk and environmental quality by assisting Oregon’s 240 dairies with new technology that might not be affordable to smaller dairies.

“This committee could play a significant role in helping to identify existing funding sources or appropriating new dollars in the upcoming legislative session to shore up this very small population of dairies who contributed more than $650 million to the state’s economy in 2014,” Chad said in testimony in 2016.

More recently, Allen publicly criticized Oregon House Bill 785, which would require dairy farmers to make public any use of antibiotics.

As they do for most dairy farmers, Oregon’s strict standards for confined animal feeding operations — known as CAFOs — keep him busy. Chad’s animals graze for most of the year, but are kept inside during the rainy season to keep waste runoff out of the Wilson River, which borders his property. But Chad has also worked to increase manure storage facilities and tax credits for other dairies in Tillamook, where the waste is digested and turned into methane.

In addition to the ODFA and legislative issues, Chad has been active in the Tillamook Bay Flood District, the Tillamook County Planning Commission and the Oregon Farm Bureau. George is a past president of the Tillamook County Creamery Association board.

Allen’s work to promote farming interests has earned him kudos from the Farm Bureau.

“Chad Allen represents the best of his rural community on the Oregon Coast,” said Farm Bureau President Barry Bushue. “Chad strives for collaboration when tackling complex regulatory issues, reaches out to state agencies, conservation groups and local farmers so all stakeholders can have a voice.”

Chad Allen earned his bachelor’s degree in animal science from Oregon State University, but he jokes that, considering his public activities, he might have been better served getting a political science or communications degree.

After college, he married a Tillamook woman, Adrienne, who was working at an office store where he bought his office supplies. Adrienne, too, came from a dairy family.

“I made a lot of excuses to buy paper,” he said. “I had enough paper for a year, and then I asked her out.”

The couple now has five children. The oldest girl is 11. Four boys followed; the youngest is 7 months.

Victor Dairy’s milk can be found in Tillamook County Creamery Association products.

Cheesemaker teaches old-world techniques Mon, 5 Jun 2017 15:32:17 -0400 Marina Riker BEAVERCREEK, Ore. — Cheesemaking is in Gayle Starbuck’s blood.

In the late 1800s, her great-grandfather trekked thousands of miles from France to Southern California, where he started a farm and raised goats, cattle and sheep.

For the next century, his descendants were raised on that farm, where they passed down family recipes and techniques for transforming fresh milk into cheese, butter and ice cream, Starbuck said.

“It was passed down to my grandmother — his daughter — and then to my mother, who then taught me how to do it,” said Starbuck.

Decades later, Starbuck has moved from the farmstead to a lush two-acre parcel in Beavercreek, Ore., where she teaches some of same cheesemaking techniques her mother taught her. A couple times a month, she holds cheesemaking classes, which fill up quickly. Six students at a time learn everything from which milk to use to how to clean residue off cheesecloth — a sticky byproduct of straining whey from curds to make soft and semi-firm cheese.

Starbuck’s home is surrounded by rolling, green farmland, where she grows fruits and flowers including blueberries, citrus and rhododendrons. Her home’s kitchen was approved by the state agriculture department to be used commercially.

During her beginner classes, Starbuck guides students through a handful of recipes ranging from queso fresco to creamy French-style feta that’s marinated with oils, olives and raisins.

Starbuck, who wears a yellow, floral-print apron, explained the cheesemaking process starts long before students enter her kitchen. Students must first pick out what kind of milk they want to use, Starbuck said.

Buying milk that’s suitable for cheesemaking is easier in Oregon than in many other states, Starbuck said. Oregon’s state beverage is milk, and the state is home to more than 200 dairies. Milk that is vat or regular pasteurized and sold in grocery stores works great for cheesemaking, Starbuck said.

However, students must avoid ultra-pasteurized milk, which is heated above the boiling point and won’t form firm curds.

“A lot of people are under the misconception that you have to have raw milk to make cheese, and that’s not the case,” said Starbuck.

She said the secret to good cheesemaking is controlling the temperature of the milk, which she stirred on the stove top, often using a laser thermometer to check the heat. Once the milk is at the ideal temperature, she takes it off the stove and adds ingredients such as cheese cultures, calcium chloride and coagulating enzymes such as rennet. If all goes according to plan, the milk begins to harden into curds.

“You never know what can happen,” she said, adding that she’s had to rescue some students after heating the milk too much.

Starbuck teaches her students how to strain whey from curds, which she uses to fertilize her blueberries and rhododendrons. Her students practice slicing curds, which are eventually strained into cheeses such as lemon ricotta and sampled by all. Starbuck takes a spoonful of the ricotta while reminiscing about when she used to milk the family’s cows twice daily, seven days a week.

“I miss it,” said Starbuck. “And everyone says, ‘Oh, you were so lucky to be raised this way.’”

Regulations rile California dairyman Mon, 5 Jun 2017 15:30:59 -0400 JULIA HOLLISTER SANTA ROSA, Calif. — A third-generation dairy farmer, Doug Beretta, says the best part of his day is knowing he is taking good care of his cows and helping to feed the world; the downside is complying with regulations.

“Waking up each day, walking to work outside, being your own boss and working with the cattle is the best,” he said. “When you see that 2-year-old heifer have her first calf and start to milk her, it really brings a good feeling knowing you raised and cared for her. It is a big accomplishment.”

Beretta started working on the dairy at the age of 8 and started relief milking when he was 14. Today he owns and operates Beretta Family Organic Dairy with his wife, Sharon, two of their children and four employees.

The 350-cow operation has been certified organic for 10 years.

Beretta Dairy sells the milk as a raw product to Wallaby Organic Yogurt in American Canyon.

“We have Holsteins, Jerseys and crossbreds,” he said. “The crossbreds are mostly Jersey-Holstein crosses, with some other breeds such as Montbeliarde and Swedish Red. The cows are about two-thirds Jersey and Jersey crossbred and about one-third Holstein.

Beretta’s average work day is long — 10 to 12 hours. He also sits on many boards and committees that are ag-related. There are days that he puts in 10 hours, goes to a board meeting at night and gets in bed around midnight and gets up at 5:30 a.m.

He said the dairy industry is a job but it is also a way of life.

According to Beretta, the list of challenges facing California’s dairy industry is long.

“I think regulations — water quality, air quality and animal welfare — are the top of the list,” he said. “People are sitting in their offices making rules that affect all of agriculture who have never run a business, been on a farm, or understand the passion farmers have for their animals and land.”

Animal health is a particular concern for him.

“Without healthy animals and healthy farmland we would not have a business,” he said. “People have to understand that farm animals are cared for better than some humans, but they are not our pets that we bring in the house every night. How many people know that have a doctor on call, a nutritionist that tells them what to eat and four to five people watching over them? Our veterinarian is on call 24 hours a day, our nutritionist visits the farm monthly and is a picture or email away if there are any problems.”

Beretta theorizes that the challenges are some of the reasons fewer people are going into dairy than in the past.

“California has lost over 600 dairies in the last five years, maybe even more than that,” he said.

“I think the decline is due to many things. Low milk price, cost of doing business — labor cost, environmental cost and added regulations,” he said. “Other crops can be planted to make a better living without working 24/7.”

To add value, dairy farmers say, ‘Cheese’ Mon, 5 Jun 2017 15:27:46 -0400 Suzanne Frary CHEHALIS, Wash. — Southwest Washington dairy farmer Sharon McCool makes cheeses that are sought out by Seattle chefs.

Her husband, Gary McCool, attributes her success to stubbornness.

She made her first batch about 10 years ago. It wasn’t a hit. She produced a small wheel without much flavor.

The McCools bought their cheesemaking equipment from a Helvetia, Ore., cheesemaker. Another cheesemaker, Don Gerber, from Switzerland, offered advice and a family recipe for Swiss cheese.

They set up the equipment at Rosecrest Farm, their 125-acre organic dairy. Sharon McCool tried again with the new equipment and her husband’s encouragement.

“I always thought we needed additional income from our dairy,” Gary said.

Cheese now accounts for just 5 percent of the McCools’ business, but it distinguishes their dairy from others, he said.

Trying something different has been a theme in the McCools’ adventurous lives.

Gary McCool grew up on a farm in Oregon. He struck out on his own and bought one acre and one cow. It was the first of four farms he has owned over the years.

Sharon McCool took a very different path. She was a 22-year-old Eugene, Ore., hairdresser when a client asked if she’d like to train to perform on a flying trapeze. A few weeks later, she debuted in Sweden and performed in circuses for 15 years.

The McCools had 40 milking cows in Sheridan, Ore., before buying Rosecrest Farm in 2000. The farm has been around since 1903.

They moved to find a business climate more friendly to small dairies. They found that in Washington state, Gary said.

“There’s more support for dairies in Lewis County,” he said.

The McCools needed another change after a few years of farming in Washington.

“In 2006, I was getting paid the same for milk as in 1985,” Gary said.

Looking for a higher price for their milk, the McCools switched to organic farming.

“It was a matter of survival,” Sharon said.

They had always pastured their cows and had not used chemicals in their fields, so transitioning to organic production was easy, Gary said. Rosecrest Farm belongs to the Organic Valley co-op.

The cheese room is feet from the milking parlor, where shorthorn cows line up in the farm’s 1914 barn. Milk is piped to a 40-gallon vat.

Sharon uses Gerber’s Swiss recipe to make Rosecrest Farm Mountain Swiss cheese. Building on the basic recipe, She has created flavors such as Country Herb and Garlic Swiss and Spicy-Pepperoni Swiss.

Finished cheese ages for about two months.

She sells cheese online, in her farm store and at farmers’ markets in Chehalis and Tacoma, Wash., and Astoria, Ore.

Rosecrest Farm cheeses are also served in Seattle’s Space Needle restaurant, Portage Bay Cafe and Fairmont Olympic Hotel.

When the McCools retire, their son, Keith McCool, will take over the business.

Whatever the future holds for the farm, it might not include expansion. The dairy has 165 milking cows. Dairies with more than 200 milking cows are subject to new manure-handling rules written by the state Department of Ecology.

“That limits future growth,” Keith McCool said.

Three generations work together on dairy Mon, 5 Jun 2017 15:26:55 -0400 Brett Tallman SAINT PAUL, Ore. — On any given day, three generations of one dairying family can be found at Sar-Ben Farms.

This afternoon, Steve and Susan Pierson are in the shop. Their son, Kevin, 29, is feeding cows before milking. Ryan Pierson, 25, is in the heifer barn feeding calves.

Susan’s father, Marlin Rasmussen, though retired, acts as a sounding board for ideas. Only their daughter, Sara, 21, is away, finishing her junior year at Oregon State University.

“Our kids grew up on this farm, went to college and did well,” Steve said. “They could have done anything, but they chose to come back. We’re very proud of that.”

Kevin graduated from Oregon State in 2010 with a degree in agricultural science.

“Even back in high school I knew I’d want to come back,” he said. “Part of it was, I like the work. But the other part of it was the hard work put in by my great-grandfather, my grandfather and my mother and father. I wanted to continue that.”

Ryan also went to school in Corvallis, graduating in 2014 with an animal science degree.

“By the time I graduated from high school, I wanted to do anything but work at a dairy,” Ryan said. “I tried out a couple things, but after awhile I missed dairying.”

Sara was Oregon’s dairy princess ambassador in 2016. She’s in her third year at Oregon State, working on a degree agricultural business.

“Sara always said she wanted to work in the dairy industry, but that she didn’t want to be a farmer,” Susan said. “A few weeks ago, she told us she’d changed her mind. It looks like she’ll be back, too.”

“It makes you kind of proud to see your grandkids coming back to the farm,” Marlin said. “I guess as a family and as a farm we’ve done some things right.”

Marlin’s father, John Rasmussen, came to Oregon from Nebraska in 1959. With his inheritance and the profit from a proven breeding bull, he bought 180 acres south of the Willamette River. Marlin worked 45 years at Sar-Ben Farms before leaving the day-to-day decisions to Susan and Steve in 2004.

“I think of succession as a 30-foot rope,” he said. “You give ’em five feet and, if they don’t hang themselves, you give ’em a couple more. The older generation has a hard time letting go, but if you don’t give up any control until you die your kids are going to get all 30 feet at once.”

When Sar-Ben Farms started grazing their cows in 1997, Marlin, Steve and Susan had all talked to advisers, pushed pencils and deliberated. They made the leap together.

A few years later, Susan and Steve approached Marlin about going organic.

“I told them it takes three years to transition the land,” Marlin said, “and I’m retiring in two. You guys figure it out.”

Steve has a similar plan for handing Sar-Ben Farms off to his own children, though he uses his own analogy.

“Kevin, Ryan and Sara have always had skin in the game,” he said. “They need to know how fragile this can be — because pretty soon it’ll be up to them to make it work.”

A day with a dairy vet: Ben Wustenberg Mon, 5 Jun 2017 15:25:13 -0400 Brett Tallman SALEM, Ore. — Late in the afternoon the day before Mother’s Day, Ben Wustenberg was headed to a 1,000-cow dairy outside Salem to operate on a Holstein with a displaced abomasum.

Also called the true stomach, the abomasum is normally at the floor of a cow’s abdomen. Sometimes it can fill with gas and float high in the abdomen, causing a loss of appetite. It often occurs after calving.

“I did three D.A.’s yesterday,” he said, “That’s pretty typical (of veterinary work) — it all seems to hit at once.”

Wustenberg works for Veterinary Services of Oregon, a St. Paul-based practice owned by Richard Veeman. July will mark his sixth year with Veeman, who hired both Wustenberg and his wife, Leticia, out of Oregon State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

“My dad, Mark, was a large-animal vet in Tillamook,” he said. “Now he’s the vice president of quality and member services for Tillamook County Creamery Association. My mom, Judy, is a dairy nutritionist and my brother, Liam, is a cheesemaker. None of us got very far from milk.”

Outside the milking parlor, Wustenberg stepped out of a pair of Nikes and into rubber boots, already situated inside green rain bibs. Inside he found a sink and sterilized his tools.

“For a long time I wanted to be anything but a vet,” he said, “but during my junior year I had one class on Wednesdays. I started shadowing Richard (Veeman) and pretty soon I spent the whole week looking forward to Wednesday. Nobody would sit next to me in class, though, because I’d come in smelling like a dairy.”

In the maternity pen was a Holstein, number 5892, with her head in the stanchion. “D.A.” had been written on her black-and-white rump in orange spray paint. Her udder was nearly empty and, though there was silage in the trough in front of her, she wasn’t eating.

Draping a sanitary towel over a toolbox, Wustenberg set up his workstation inside the stall. When he was ready to start, Manuel, the herdsman who diagnosed 5892, arrived to help.

“It used to be that a vet would get call to diagnose, operate and follow up,” Wustenberg said. “Now some of these herdsmen — guys like Manuel — call me and say ‘We’ve got a D.A.’ They’ve been doing this so long, they can spot things like a D.A. right away and make the diagnosis themselves.”

After making the incision, Wustenberg worked his way through three layers of muscle with his fingers. Reaching the abomasum, he used a needle and hose to puncture the bloated chamber and drain the gas.

“Some people say the gas smells like almonds,” he said, adding, “I don’t know what kind of almonds they’re eating.”

Thirty minutes after he had started, the 10-inch incision was closed again with a Ford interlocking suture. To prevent the abomasum from floating back out of place, it was pinned to the animal’s side, where the scar tissue from the incision would hold it in place. Aside from relieving herself as the gas was draining, the animal hardly seemed to notice.

“This,” he said, running his hand over the tidy suture to line up both sides of the incision, “is my favorite part.”

As Wustenberg left the barn, number 5892 went back to eating.

Oregon Fruit Products taps into fermentation market Fri, 28 Apr 2017 13:36:15 -0400 Margarett Waterbury When Max Gehlar founded Oregon Fruit Products in 1935, he was just looking for a way to stabilize the revenue of his cherry and plum orchard in the Eola Hills northwest of Salem. He likely never imagined that his modest canning operation would last for the better part of a century, buoyed by Oregon’s world-famous fruit industry.

From modest beginnings, the business grew, employing dozens of local workers and buying fruit such as strawberries, cherries and cane berries from local farmers and orchardists. Over the decades, Oregon Fruit Products started looking farther afield to source its fruit, building an international base of suppliers while retaining their Northwest grower network.

The business remained in the Gehlar family until 2011, when it was sold to Ed Maletis, the former owner of Portland-based beverage distribution company Columbia Distributing. He brought on Chris Sarles, also formerly of Columbia Distribution, to be the new CEO.

Under Sarles’ leadership, the company has dramatically expanded its fruit for fermentation program while also pursuing new products for foodservice — although they assure customers that their iconic black, illustrated cans aren’t going anywhere.

Fruit for fermentation, a line aimed at the craft brewing, wine, spirits and kombucha market, consists of fruit purees in a wide range of flavors, from classic apple and cherry to exotic seasonals such as guava and gooseberry.

Sarles attributes the category’s growth to wider industry trends, as well as Oregon Fruit Products’ ability to deliver a broad selection of flavors. “Like anything, when you have some experience, you recognize where opportunities might exist,” says Sarles. “For me, it was ‘go with what you know.’ How could we be more relevant to the evolving craft beverage scene?”

From his past work, Sarles knew that seasonality was important to brewers, so he introduced rotating, seasonal fruit products with relatively limited availability. He says it gave the company “the opportunity to bring innovation to the brewer, to make them think about what they’re going to produce next.”

Sarles is also excited about market opportunities he sees in food manufacturing. “As I go to different trade shows, I see fruit popping up in all different product types, even areas you wouldn’t have thought of before … when you walk the aisles, first you’re in cheese, then you’re in chips, then beverages, and every one has a tie somehow to fruit,” he says.

For potential suppliers, Sarles notes that documentation, especially in light of the new Food Safety Modernization Act, will continue to be essential. “We want to make sure that the people we’re buying from are thinking forward and doing all they can to be compliant ahead of being required to be compliant,” says Sarles. “(All our clients) want proper documentation, and that’s certainly very important to us.”

As demand for fruit products continues to grow, Oregon Fruit Products is optimistic about the future. “As an 82-year-old company, all of us feel very fortunate to be where we are,” says Sarles. “We’re the caretakers of what some incredibly bright, hardworking people have built over all these years. It’s our responsibility to carry it forward for the next generation, so somebody else can celebrate the next 80 years.”

Researcher breeds better haskap berries Thu, 13 Apr 2017 12:55:41 -0400 Margarett Waterbury Some people take up new projects in retirement. Golfing, say, or restoring old cars. But for plant breeder Maxine Thompson, retirement from her position as a professor of horticulture at Oregon State University offered the chance to focus on a pet project she’s been involved with for many years: haskap berries.

Haskap berries are the edible fruit of Lonicera caerulea, a honeysuckle native to northern boreal forests in Asia, North America and Europe. The extremely cold-tolerant plants produce a deep purple, tangy-sweet berry said to provide a concentrated dose of health-promoting antioxidants.

Maxine began working on haskap in 2000, initially concentrating on varieties from Siberia. “I first evaluated 35 Russian varieties,” says Maxine, “and none of them are any good. They’re small, and they bloom too early, when the bees aren’t out. They’re not suited for this climate.”

Then, a friend passed along a single haskap bush somebody had brought him from Japan. She planted it out, and it bloomed a month later than the Russian varieties. “And the next year,” laughs Maxine, “I went to Japan, and got seeds from eight different sources.”

Today, Thompson works exclusively with cultivars from northern Japan, which she says have a superior flavor and berry size to varieties from Russia, as well as better adaptation to moderate coastal climates.

Thompson’s initial plantings were in fields at OSU, but in 2008, she decided to take her plants home with her. Trouble was, she didn’t have space for all her bushes — so she reached out to Shinji Kawai, a former student and current faculty research assistant in OSU’s Department of Horticulture.

Unlike most Americans, Kawai was already familiar with haskap berries from his native Japan, where they’re harvested and used as a popular ingredient in ice cream, tea and other processed products. Intrigued by the project, he said yes, and dedicated a half-acre of his Brownsville property to the berry.

Since then, he and Thompson have worked closely, working together to grow out selections and evaluate varieties.

They’re looking for traits like yield, flavor, disease resistance, upright habit, a large and firm berry and a dense fruit set pattern.

“It’s been very exciting to be able to work with her,” says Kawai.

So far, the fruit is still too soft and irregularly dispersed for machine harvesting, which means harvest labor costs are a significant barrier to widespread commercial adoption.

Yet Thompson and Kawai have made great strides in flavor and berry size, with some crosses producing 2-gram berries of 16-18 brix, almost twice the brix of the average blueberry. “The taste is just marvelous,” says Thompson.

Today, 90-year-old Thompson is still engaged in the breeding project, making selections and crosses from her plants and Kawai’s plants. Several of her cultivars have seen commercial release, including four varieties through Spring Meadow Nursery. In the next year, she plans to release an as-yet-unnamed cultivar with exceptional berry size and sweetness, also through Spring Meadow Nursery.

Some local food producers are also experimenting with the berry, including Portland-based Stonebarn Brandyworks, which recently released a haskap liqueur.

Thompson and Kawai think there’s much more work to be done, including more marketing to introduce American consumers to the fruit, as well as continuing their search for more favorable bearing traits. “That’s what breeding’s all about,” says Kawai. “When somebody really has a keen observation, they know how to do the selection process, the breeding process, crossing process, then maybe they can find something extraordinary.”

Henggeler Packing Co. modernizes to meet challenges Thu, 13 Apr 2017 13:15:19 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas Fruitland, Idaho — The Henggeler family has been growing tree fruit for nearly 110 years. The business started when C.B. Henggeler purchased a farm near Fruitland and began planting trees.

In 1943 two of his sons, Tony and Joe, started Henggeler Packing Co. to pack and market their fruit. Though the first two years were hard due to spring freezes, they had a good crop in 1945 and chose Fortress for their label to honor the Flying Fortress bombers of World War II.

Their sons Rudy, Tony, Jerry and Robert later became involved in the packing company and orchards.

Since then, many changes have taken place to keep up with the times and meet the challenges they faced.

Wooden baskets were exchanged for cardboard packing boxes, and the storage life of apples was extended with controlled-atmosphere facilities.

In 1994 Jerry’s son Ryan began managing the packing line and storage equipment and Robert’s son Kelly began working with Jerry in sales. Jerry’s youngest son, Chad, began operating and managing the orchards. A new building was constructed with a new packing line in 1998.

Kelly, Ryan and Chad now manage Henggeler Packing Co. Their company currently grows more than half the fruit packed and packs fruit for more than 20 growers in three counties.

“We pack and market several varieties of apples including Gala, Honeycrisp, Red and Golden Delicious, Jonathan, Red Rome, Fuji, Pink Lady and Braeburn,” Kelly Henggeler said.

In 2001 they planted peaches and now grow and pack several varieties, which include O’Henry, Jon Henry, Zee Lady, Summer Lady and Elegant Lady. They also package plums and prunes.

“In our orchards we continue to transition into new varieties and out of older varieties,” Kelly Henggeler said. “This winter we removed several acres of Red Delicious and older Gala varieties that were planted 20 years ago that no longer produce the quality required in today’s marketplace.”

They use high-density planting trellis systems, drip irrigation and integrated pest management that adds efficiency in a sustainable program while protecting the clean water, air and land, he said. “We’ve always done this, but are now using today’s technology.”

A big challenge in the tree fruit industry and other specialty crops is finding enough labor for required activities, especially in labor-intensive crops like apples. “These require a lot of hand labor such as pruning in winter, thinning in spring and summer and harvest in the fall,” he said.

“We’ve been working on that challenge with new technology and platforms for pruning and harvest. These are not automated harvesters but eliminate ladder work and are more efficient. We used a platform for harvesting last year and can operate those any time, with lights at night.”

When harvesting Galas in August it is really hot, and a lot of the crew members volunteer to work a night shift because it’s cooler, he said.

“We are trying to keep ladders out of the orchard, to reduce bruising of our apples. We no longer have picking bags banging against the ladders,” he said.

“We are also involved in the H-2A program, bringing workers from Mexico for part of the year to help with harvesting. We provide housing and transportation but it’s the only way we can guarantee our financial investors (the banks) that we can accomplish harvest at the right time,” he said. “We’re spending thousands of dollars a week, sometimes per day, to get the crop growing, and must make sure we can get it picked in the fall.”

Timing is everything when dealing with a perishable crop with a narrow window for harvest, he said.

The company has tried to diversify by providing storage for other commodities during the off season.

“We generally start harvesting in mid-August, with fruit stored here through January and February,” said Henggeler. “This leaves a significant gap in spring and summer so we fill that with other storage programs, including leasing out our space and some of our packing room to an asparagus grower-shipper. Sometimes they can also use the same labor pool we’re using for packing, which makes it nice for all of us.”

Chapin family grows, dries hazelnuts Thu, 13 Apr 2017 13:14:05 -0400 Brenna Wiegand Bruce Chapin started farming when he got out of college in 1973. He’s the third generation on the Willamette Valley farm near Salem, Ore.

His father, Jack, planted a cherry orchard in 1960 and Bruce and Jack planted their first 12 acres of hazelnuts in 1969. In the ensuing years, more orchards were planted. Today he farms 100 acres of cherries and 500 acres of hazelnuts with his son Austin Chapin and his son-in-law Matt Schuster, who are co-owners of Chapin Orchards LLC and Chapin Dehydrating LLC.

Early on, Bruce also started a hazelnut nursery to reduce the cost of establishing new orchards. Through the years, the nursery has expanded beyond what is solely needed for his farm. The nursery’s mother trees produced so well this season that Chapin Orchards has a surplus of Jefferson hazelnut trees, a variety that has high resistance to eastern filbert blight.

Many of their first hazelnuts were the Barcelona variety. Later they planted a lot of the Ennis variety.

“Ennis was a very beautiful, large nut and went into a special market that resulted in premium prices,” Bruce Chapin said, “but when the eastern filbert blight moved into the valley we found it very hard to keep the Ennis orchards alive. The old Barcelona variety is also susceptible to the disease but not as bad as the Ennis,” Chapin said. “I’ve lost all my Ennis in the Salem area but I believe I can raise a Barcelona indefinitely with an intensive spray and pruning program.”

During 1993-94, seeing that the blight was coming from the north, Chapin planted hazelnuts in Dever-Conner, near Albany, 30 miles south of his home farm, giving him a six-year reprieve from when the disease hit the Salem area.

“I’ve got a very nice-looking Ennis orchard down there but every year the blight gets a little worse,” Chapin said. “The disease is here to stay; our best defense is to keep planting disease-resistant varieties, but replacing orchards is a very slow and expensive process.”

Hazelnuts start yielding a respectable crop after seven years, but full production isn’t reached until after 12 to 14 years.

“In the filbert industry, everything we do requires a long-term perspective and figuring out ways to make it better for the next generation,” Chapin said. “We are very thankful for the forward thinking at (Oregon State University) in starting a hazelnut breeding program. Without the resistant varieties recently developed our industry would be in a rapid decline rather than the growing, vibrant industry it is today.”

To further their involvement in the industry, the farm set up a cleaning and drying station in 1987 and installed a much larger one three years ago, going into business as Chapin Dehydrating. They now clean and dry nuts for more than 40 growers, who sell to Northwest Hazelnut and George Packing. During harvest, they clean and dry about five tractor-trailer loads a day.

Besides working with his son and son-in-law Bruce enjoys working with his church and has six grandkids growing up on the farm to pass his knowledge on to.

“Life doesn’t get much better than that,” he said.

Avocados a challenge for growers Thu, 13 Apr 2017 13:12:16 -0400 JULIA HOLLISTER Ed McFadden grows a different type of tree fruit.

In fact, there aren’t many similarities between avocados, which are technically berries, and other tree fruits.

“Avocados are hard to grow,” said McFadden, who grows avocados in Ventura County, north of Los Angeles. “They are very particular about soil, water and climate. They like well- drained soils, which is why you often see them on hillsides. Too much wind is not good and frost is definitely a limiting factor for avocado production. They prefer water with a low salt content and do best with leaching winter rains.”

About 52,000 acres are planted to avocados in California, and are grown by about 4,000 farmers.

Avocados are frost-sensitive. Most are grown from Santa Barbara County south to San Diego County fairly close to the coast, but there are a few coastal areas in Monterey County that produce great avocados late in the season. California avocado trees bloom in the spring and, depending on the region, will have ripe fruit in the late winter.

They are unusual among tree crops. In the spring and summer they may have two crops on the tree at the same time. Avocados can bear fruit within a year or two but don’t reach commercial production until 3-5 years.

The growing process is unique.

“Avocados do not sweeten like many other tree crops but their oil content increases throughout the time they are on the tree,” McFadden said. “They normally stay hard on the tree, even late in the season when their oil content is high and their skin starts to darken. They do not soften into the creamy goodness that we are accustomed to eating until they are picked.”

Ripening may be accelerated by the naturally occurring ethylene gas, which is why many consumers put a few avocados in a paper bag with a banana when they need ripe fruit, he said.

Pests are a curse, and the greatest threat are the shot hole borers, which can burrow into tree branches and trunks, weakening the tree and introducing fungal diseases. Other pests are the scirtothrip, a small insect that chews on the skin of young fruit and causes unsightly scars, and the persea mite, which feeds on leaves.

A disease called avocado root rot has caused problems for the industry for many decades.

There are human pests, too.

“Poaching is a big problem,” he said. “Thieves sometimes move in at night, strip trees and are out before dawn. Many groves need to be surrounded by secure fences.”

California produces about 90 percent of the nation’s avocados. Around 2 percent come from Hawaii and the rest from Florida. Hass, the most popular commercial variety, does best in California compared to other avocado-growing areas.

The American Heart Association recently designated fresh avocado as a heart- healthy food.

McFadden says the future of California avocados remains bright despite the challenges.

“Water has been a big challenge for the industry. In the southern growing regions imported water has been plentiful but very expensive and tends to be higher in salts than what is preferred by avocado trees,” he said. “In the northern regions (Ventura, Santa Barbara and Monterey counties) we are mostly dependent on well water. So far the vast majority of our groves still have water but we have been very relieved by the recent rains and improvements in our groundwater levels.”

Labor has been a concern for years. The industry competes with other commodities for skilled picking and pruning labor as well as the construction and other industries. During the past couple of years it has become increasingly difficult to get crews for harvesting, he said.

“I am confident that we have the safest food and the safest groves in which to work in the world, but these things come at an increasing cost that California avocado growers are not able to pass on to consumers,” McFadden said.

“In spite of many challenges, I am confident in the future of California avocados. We grow in a region that I believe produces the tastiest avocados in the world and is just hours from some of the most important markets in the world. The world market for avocados continues to expand as does the U.S. consumer’s taste for our nutrient dense fruit.”

Berry farm thrives amid growing suburbs Thu, 13 Apr 2017 13:11:25 -0400 SuzannE Frary Bi-Zi Farms owners Bill and Peggy Zimmerman have an understanding with their neighbors. People are welcome to walk the dirt paths around the fields, but please don’t eat the berries.

The farm’s fruits and vegetables sometimes prove too tempting. Strawberries in particular attract illicit pickers to the property north of Vancouver, Wash.

“We explain that we sell what we grow. It’s how we make our living,” Bill Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman worries not only about neighbors cutting into profits, but he also worries about their health.

“When people pick the berries, they don’t know we have certain times when we spray,” he said. “There are mice and other mammals around, and there could be droppings. There’s a chance of E. coli.”

Interlopers unfamiliar with agriculture are a challenge for the owners of the 105-acre farm in a rapidly developing area of Clark County.

The farm, founded by the Zimmerman family in 1872, is bordered by 27 houses and a two-lane road the county plans to widen to four lanes.

Bill and Peggy Zimmerman started farming full-time in 1981. Their son and daughter-in-law, Doug and Sadie Zimmerman, have joined them.

Since 1993, they have sold their berries, flowers and vegetables directly to customers from their roadside store. Before that, the Zimmermans grew oats and clover seed.

Neighbors have complained about dust and early morning noise. One neighbor said bees were “pooping” on her roof. She was placated with a quart of honey.

Bill Zimmerman said they try to compromise with neighbors. He said there’s give-and- take when farming in a residential area.

Some homeowners are happy to have a farm next door. They’ve told the Zimmermans they prefer fields to another subdivision.

When asked if there’s an upside to farming in an urban area, Peggy Zimmerman said, “Yes. 400,000 customers in the county.”

“We are almost at the limit of what we can sell,” Bill Zimmerman said.

Nearly every acre of the farm, plus 10 leased acres, are committed. About 30 acres are devoted to strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. The fruit accounts for about 25 percent of the farm’s business.

“Local strawberries are always a hit,” Peggy Zimmerman said.

“All the berries do fantastic here. It’s the perfect weather for them,” Bill Zimmerman said.

He credits Southwest Washington’s mild temperatures and low humidity for keeping the berries healthy.

The farm grows early-, mid- and late-season varieties, harvesting fruit from June through September.

After the growing season, Bi-Zi Farms stays open with an October corn maze and pumpkin patch. It also sells Christmas trees and wreaths during November and December.

The Zimmermans hire about 25 pickers. Many stay on through fall. About five employees work in the fields year-round, tending the blackberry and raspberry canes.

In the past, Bill Zimmerman didn’t have concerns about finding workers. That’s beginning to change. It’s too early to know the Trump administration’s effect on labor.

Already, though, Zimmerman has heard talk of workers returning to Mexico because they “don’t want to put up with the harassment.”

Archivist collects hop and brewing history Thu, 13 Apr 2017 13:00:59 -0400 Gail Oberst Tiah Edmunson-Morton’s great-great grandfather, Henry Lawrence “H.L.” Edmunson, grew hops in the late 1800s on a small farm in the Goshen area south of Eugene. Although the family sold the land in the 1940s, the plant is still a large part of Tiah’s life.

“I like to think I have a bit of hop DNA, since I did end up starting the first hops/brewing archive in the nation,” she said of her work at the Oregon Hops and Brewing Archives, housed at Oregon State University’s Valley Library.

The archives are a logical extension of OSU’s role in hop history in the Northwest. The land-grant college in the 1890s began studying remedies to control the “hop louse,” moving to studies of processing machinery and, after Prohibition, to the development of the plant itself, creating varieties resistant to mold, lice and mildew. Modern research is producing new varieties that center on flavors and smells to be used in craft beers.

In 2013, inspired by the regional focus on beer, Tiah began gathering stories and materials connected to Oregon’s long history in hop cultivation, as well as home and commercial brewing history. The archive expanded in 2016 to include cider, mead and barley.

The majority of commercial hops grown in the U.S. today are grown in Oregon and Washington. An interesting history of hops’ commercial migration from the East Coast to the West is at Tiah’s blog,

Collecting and archiving the remnants of farming history in boxes and files is “not very sexy,” Tiah said. “But it’s important that I save it so people can use it.”

The archives are lodged at OSU, but Tiah often shares portions of the archives with the public by talking to community groups, creating displays and using social media.

Because she spends her days collecting it, Tiah is a veritable storehouse of hop history, excitedly chatting about everything from the crop’s first shipping records in the 1820s found at Fort Vancouver, to more recent acquisitions donated by multi-generational hop-growing families.

Oregon’s hop history is extensive, she said, and has included commercial producers that numbered nearly 1,000 in the 1880s. Hand-picked until the 1930s, hop harvests filled the small towns with hand-pickers each summer and fall.

“It impacted everything,” she said, referring to Independence, a small town outside Salem that claims on its website that its population increased more than 10-fold during picking season, attracting pickers throughout the region, and migrant workers from across the nation.

Tiah’s archives are filled with the letters, blueprints, photos, bills of lading, ads, manuals, farm records, recipes and family stories that document in writing the lives of hop farm and brewery owners.

In addition to collecting the paper trail, Tiah has also been recording interviews with farmers and brewers who have played a role in Oregon’s hop history.

“All of the minutia makes for a larger story. It’s like the needles on a tree that make up a forest,” Tiah said.

Donated items are first appraised, and then carefully organized, put in acid-free folders and boxes and stored in a climate-controlled room. The items are cataloged for easy retrieval by future researchers. It is a resource for people who would like to preserve farm family or business history in a way that is both safe and accessible.

The archives in the OSU library are open to the public, but Tiah is also available to bring displays or talk to local groups interested in hop and brewing history.

For more information, contact Tiah, 541-737-7387, or visit the Oregon Hops and Brewing Archives website,

Family makes switch from tree fruit to vineyards Thu, 13 Apr 2017 13:00:09 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas Marsing, Idaho — The Williamson family has grown tree fruit for four generations, but now the orchard is transitioning to vineyards.

“My cousin Patrick, my sister Beverly and I took over management from my father Roger and Patrick’s father John. Before them it was my grandfather John, and he took over from his uncle Henry Williamson,” Michael Williamson said.

Their orchards have done well over the years, but now they are making the switch to winemaking. They started planting vineyards in 1998.

“We’ve cut back a lot of our fruit, though we still have a few peaches, cherries and apricots. Our main focus now is wines,” he said.

The focus for their products has always been flavor.

“Customers at our fruit stands were always telling us our fruit tastes the best. Flavor is what wine is all about, so we thought we could also grow good wine grapes,” Williamson explained.

The climate and soil are perfect on the Sunnyslope for growing fruit or grapes. “For wine, you definitely want the right soil and terrain. You don’t want a heavy soil that retains moisture; you want the water to drain out. ... We don’t get much rain, which is great because we can stress the plants just a little and reduce the amount of growth that goes into leaves and vines. We can control the amount of water with our drip irrigation.”

In this high desert climate, moisture can be perfectly controlled, and this is what gives unique flavors to the wine that other climates cannot. “We can obtain a little higher acidity, which adds a nice balance to the flavor,” he said.

“We also get the contrast of hot days and cool nights during their ripening period in the fall. This helps build sugars (in fruit crops or grapes) in the daytime with photosynthesis and then at night it cools down and holds onto the acidity — so you get a nice balance of sweet and crisp.”

When the Williamsons planted their first vines, Ste. Chappelle — the biggest winery in Idaho — was offering contracts to growers.

“They talked to us and we showed them some of our ground and they thought it would be great for grapes. Our smaller orchard equipment matches what we needed for vineyards and we also had the necessary labor pool. So we started growing for Ste. Chappelle and then planted more than our contract.”

The Williamsons decided to make some wine themselves with the additional grapes and talked with a new local winemaker at that time, Greg Koenig. “He looked at our vines and thought they were great, and decided to make wine for us,” Williamson said.

“We thought the wines tasted good, and this was about the time a lot of new winemakers and vineyards were going in — and reinstatement of the Idaho Wine Competition. It is held at various locations around here, featuring Idaho wines, with judges from across the Northwest. We submitted our wines to that first competition in 2001 and all of our wines won medals, and our Cabernet won best of show. That was very encouraging!” he said.

“So we felt we were doing something right and decided to keep doing it, focusing on quality and flavor,” he said.

Currently there is another surge of growth in the Idaho wine industry.

“We are feeling very optimistic. We sold some of our orchard ground and our fruit packing shed. The market for packing has changed. We’ve always believed in the importance of flavor; it has to taste good as well as look good. We’ve always believed that our customers will come back if it tastes good,” he said. “This is right in line with our winemaking, and catering to wine tasting. For us this was a fairly easy transition and the timing was right. That’s what’s important in agriculture — timing and a bit of luck and hard work.”

Williamsons moved their tasting room to a more accessible location. “Now it’s right on the highway and we are getting lots of customers. Our earlier tasting room was set back in the hills in a more picturesque place, but too far out of the way. Now we are more visible and people can find us.”

This is still very much a family business.

“My cousin Patrick studied at WSU and got a degree in viticulture (growing grapes) and enology (wine-making). He is our vineyard manager. My sister Beverly is a graphic designer so she designs our labels and is in charge of our sales and marketing. I’m the general manager. We divide up our workload,” Williamson said.

The family still grows some fruit. In early summer they have U-pick cherries, and grow some white peaches that go to export markets.

“These are packed in a neighbor’s packing shed and sent to Asian markets. This is a niche market we plan to continue. We also grow a few apricots we sell to Lakeview Market near Sunnyslope. After raising fruit for so long, it’s hard to let go of it completely,” he said. “We don’t want to totally shut a door on something we’ve been doing forever.”

Fourth-generation farm looks ahead Thu, 13 Apr 2017 12:59:07 -0400 Brenna Wiegand Goschie Farms near Silverton, Ore., is owned and managed by fourth-generation farmers Gordon, Gayle and Glenn Goschie.

“Our great grandparents were immigrant farmers from Germany, making their way through Ellis Island, the Midwest and settling temporarily in California, where our grandfather, Carl Goschie, was born,” Gayle Goschie said.

In 1904 Carl and Wanda Goschie planted the farm’s signature crop, hops, which continue to be the focus of the business today. The farm’s current location was established by Herman and Vernice Goschie, the current owners’ parents.

Their 1,000 acres under cultivation include 500 acres of hops, 150 acres of wine grapes and rotational crops of grass seed, sweet corn and grain.

In over 130 years in agriculture the family has seen many changes: new crops, irrigation, internal-combustion engine-driven machinery, public research and plant breeding, mechanization of harvests, labor supply variations and the scope of their family business expanding from local to worldwide.

“Throughout all those years each change continues to be refined and expanded, but the one constant is nature,” Gayle Goschie said. “We see it as a partner to work with, not fight against. As we educate ourselves to the potential circumstances of climate change we look at the crops we are growing and the varieties within those crops.”

For the last several years, climate change has been a pressing topic of discussion at the wine grape symposiums she attends.

“The future of our award-winning wine and beer industry depends on it, too,” Goschie said. “Will growing circumstances be the same in 10 or 20 years? Will the irrigation methods we are constantly improving upon be enough? And with the air we breathe and the ground we grow crops in, are we doing all we can to sustain those investments for the next generation? … And the scope of our farming now includes sharing those thoughts with our customers and their consumers.”

This is no easy task, especially with potential consumers across the globe. To that end Goschie Farms chose a third-party certification, Salmon-Safe, to help with that.

“After almost 20 years, Salmon-Safe continues to keep us on target and on our customers’ radar as consumer awareness continues to broaden,” she added. “The very nature of our business hinges upon sustainability; being stewards of the land is how our industry survives.”

Salmon-Safe offers a series of peer-reviewed certification and accreditation programs linking site development land management practices with the protection of agricultural and urban watersheds. Certification requires management practices that protect water quality and restore habitat.

In October of 2016 the City of Portland became the first city in the world to achieve this certification across city operations and has challenged other cities to do the same. The Goschies are happy that Oregon’s largest city has adopted for every park and byway the sustainability practices they’ve been doing on the farm for nearly two decades. “And as we always wish to point out, so many of our farming neighbors are doing the same,” added Glenn Goschie.

“It’s a great time for Oregon Agriculture and those of us multi-generational businesses that have built it and maintain it,” he said.

Fighting the blight continues as growers expand Thu, 13 Apr 2017 12:58:10 -0400 Jan Jackson ALBANY, Ore. — David Chambers, a third-generation hazelnut grower who lives just down the road from the Century farm on which he grew up, cut his orchard acreage to 85 acres three years ago.

Harder to get rid of, however, is the eastern filbert blight plaguing his remaining trees. Semi-retired after selling the Century farm to his nephew, Brian Graffenberger, Chambers and his son Eric are spending long days pushing over and burning blight-diseased trees and planting new blight-resistant varieties.

EFB, which is caused by a fungus indigenous to the Northeastern U.S., causes only a canker on the native American hazelnut but is lethal when it appears on the commercially important European hazelnut varieties.

EFB was discovered in the West in 1973. The vigorous-growing jumbo-nut variety Ennis was one of the types Chambers chose to grow. Now, recognized as one of the varieties most susceptible to EFB, he is replacing them.

“We’re pushing over and burning about 20 acres, which represents about 2,700 trees,” Chambers said. “In the meantime, I’m replacing them with the Jefferson variety, which was developed and evaluated at Oregon State University in Corvallis. It is supposed to be comparable to the industry standard nut produced by the Barcelona in nut and kernel size. More importantly, it is supposed to be highly resistance to eastern filbert blight.”

Looking at other issues involving the future of hazelnut production, Chambers thinks Oregon’s growing region is on ground that will be OK during the erratic weather expected with climate change. He has seen the brown marmorated stink bugs that are beginning to plague the industry on his property, but has yet to find any damage from them in the orchard. Chambers also sees a continuing marketing challenge in trying to take hazelnuts to the next level.

“We keep trying to figure out ways to increase product sales but there certainly doesn’t seem to be a simple solution,” Chambers said. “Even though Oregon grows 99 percent of the nation’s hazelnuts, it is still only 5 percent of the world’s. It only takes a bad year on our part and we have to rely on Turkey to make up the difference.”

Oregon’s growers continue to pursue market options.

“We’ve talked about approaching United Airlines to dispense hazelnuts on the flights and Hershey to add them to their chocolate bars but we don’t produce enough here to meet their needs. We thought about trying to talk Nutella into building a plant here but it turns out they use 25 percent of the world’s hazelnuts so we couldn’t come close to supplying them, either,” he said. “We are making some headway increasing the kernel fresh market, marketing gourmet products and getting hazelnuts to show up on the menu in restaurants.

“A lot of these issues we are going to have to play by ear. For the here and now, it’s back to getting rid of the blight.”

Hop farmers make improvements for clean water Thu, 13 Apr 2017 12:54:19 -0400 Gail Oberst Salmon-Safe, a nonprofit organization that sets standards for best practices has certified a growing number of hops growers in the region.

Since 2012, Alluvial, Sodbuster, Annen Brothers, Goshie and Crosby hop farms in Oregon have joined the ranks of the certified, following a growing demand from craft breweries for eco-friendly ingredients.

In Washington, Roy Farms, Green Acre Farms, BT Loftus Ranches, Cowiche Canyon Britt Farm and Perrault Farms are certified. In British Columbia, Hooh Hops and Left Fields are certified, and so is the Sierra Nevada Estate Hop Farm in California.

Why target hop growers in the effort to improve Northwest waters? The Willamette and Yakima valleys, home to 90 percent of U.S. hops, are also key watersheds for wild salmon, according to Dan Kent of Salmon-Safe. A farm can earn certification using various methods to reduce its impact on the watershed. Among those strategies: Reducing pesticides that are harmful to fish and wildlife, restoring stream buffers, reducing irrigation water use, creating areas for native plants, and ensuring that there is no runoff or erosion. Certification is often in conjunction with organic certification or other whole-farm plans.

And, apparently, the market is demanding fish-friendly ingredients. Among breweries now using hops from Salmon-Safe certified farms are Deschutes, Full Sail, Hopworks Urban, New Belgium, Sierra Nevada, Widmer, Worthy Brewing and many others.

In 2015, Hopworks Urban Brewery in Portland took the concept one step further, revised its wastewater treatment, and earned Salmon-Safe certification for its entire brewery.

Salmon-Safe innovations on the farm vary. Annen Brothers, for example, installed an updated composting system that keeps rotting vines and leaves from washing into nearby streams, and stores cleaned-up water for reuse.

Sodbuster Farms uses drip irrigation and has reformulated chemical applications to its 900 acres of hops, halting runoff into the nearby Willamette River. Sodbuster President Doug Weathers said he applies the same regimen to all of the 1,200 acres of hazelnuts and grass seed on his farm, earning the farm Wilbur-Ellis’ Technology Grower of the Year award.

Salmon-Safe projects on Crosby Hop Farm added to its credentials as a B Corporation, a designation for companies that have a positive impact on society and the environment. Solar panels and wind turbines power cold storage for Crosby’s T-90 hop pellets. Reduced pesticide use and expanded plantings for pollinators and along streams improved water quality.

Hops are not the only operations looking to meet Salmon-Safe standards. More than 85,000 acres on nearly 500 farms on the West Coast have been certified in the past 20 years.

For more information about Salmon-Safe, visit the web page at, or call the Portland office, 503-232-3750.