Capital Press | Special Sections Capital Press Fri, 24 Oct 2014 18:10:02 -0400 en Capital Press | Special Sections High tunnels help extend growing season Thu, 2 Oct 2014 09:17:57 -0400 LACEY JARRELL First-time produce growers should start out with a basic structure and worry about adding stuff later, according to Ivan Schuening, owner of Oregon Valley Greenhouses in Aurora, Ore.

According to Schuening, high tunnels made out of a steel frame, high-strength polyfilm and wirelock to secure the film to the frame, are the most efficient outdoor grow structures. He said builders on a budget can even build their own frame ends out of wood.

“I’d say 99 percent of the farms and people put their own up,” he said, adding that most growers have their tunnels up early enough to get a fall crop in.

According to Schuening, high tunnels are in high demand because they increase the growing season by about a month and a half, and according to Oregon law, any winter protection or high tunnel with just a polyfilm cover is exempt from building codes if a property is zoned as a farm.

Schuening pointed out that some counties overrule state law, however, and he emphasized the importance of calling the county to find out what a property is zoned and what the required setbacks from roads and property lines are.

Canan Garner, a sales associate at Samurai Greenhouse in Albany, Ore., said if regulations restrict the size of what can be built, growers may be able to scale down or break their concept into smaller greenhouses that add up to the same square footage. He said there isn’t necessarily one type of house that works better than others, but it’s important ensure there is enough air space for temperature control.

“If you end up with not enough height in your (grow) house, your plants might overgrow the space and it gets really, really hot in the summer,” Garner said.

High tunnels are primarily used for lengthening growing seasons, keeping the rain off and warming the soil earlier in the spring, Schuening said. High tunnels are usually not heated or cooled, and converting one into a 12-month growing house with heaters and circulation fans makes it a permanent structure subject to code regulations.

Garner said many tunnels are temperature regulated with roll-up sides and shade cloths will cut down on light transmission and help reduce heat inside a tunnel, as well.

“Doors and roll-up sides are pretty much the standard way to go if you want to stay away from using any sort of electricity,” Garner said.

Schuening said he recommends at least 4-foot sidewalls on high tunnels to maximize grow space and to ensure even heating throughout.

“If you do a hoophouse and no sidewall, you’re wasting 8 feet. So on a 30-foot wide, you’re losing 2 to 4 feet on each side that you can’t grow in, so you’re really down to about 22 feet of growing,” Schuening said.

Schuening said main factor in determining what kind steel frame a tunnel should have is the climate it’s being built in, such as a heavy snow or wind area. He suggested finding out the record snow level to determine what diameter of tubing and wall thickness a high tunnel needs.

How to find the right tractor for your operation Thu, 2 Oct 2014 09:17:55 -0400 LACEY JARRELL When it comes to tractors, bigger isn’t always better.

“You don’t go by big, you go by horsepower,” said J.O. Anderson, a sales representative at Kubota Tractor in Aurora, Ore.

According to Anderson, farmers in the market for a new tractor should think about how many acres they have and the type farming they want to do. He said most small scale farms only need a 20- to 50-horsepower tractor, while large-scale farms — about 100 to 500 acres — will likely require an 80- to 130-horsepower tractor, depending on the crop.

“When harvest conditions are not good, 100 horsepower doesn’t hurt you one bit. When the ground gets soft and muddy, it takes more power,” he said.

Anderson said potential buyers should have a good idea of what they want to do with the tractor, as well as the topography it will be driven on. For steep hillsides farmers will want a wide profile tractor; in orchards, tractors should be low profile to get under tree branches, he said.

John Purkerson, a turf sales representative for Pape, said buyers should also consider whether they want a hydrostatic drive or a gear drive. According to Purkerson, hydrostatic drive tractors can be more efficient for getting around stalls because they are powered by one pedal for forward and one for reverse.

“A hydrostatic drive is like an automatic, so anybody can get pretty familiar with that tractor real quick. A gear drive tractor is going to take a little more knowledge to operate,” Purkerson said.

Although all tractors will run just about any implement, farmers should also consider which attachments they want to use before purchasing, Purkerson said. If there isn’t any farming to do, at the minimum, a rotary mower is needed to keep the grass cut. Most people will have a front-end loader on the tractor just to lift and move things on their acreage, he added.

“If they just have some pasture grass that they want to mow, then we know they can probably be in a smaller tractor,” Purkerson said. “It might take you a while longer to get the job done with a smaller tractor, but it’s still going to do the same work.”

Anderson said used tractors are a good option for farmers who don’t want to buy new, and if tractors are taken care of, they hold their value well. He noted that one common mistake buyers make when shopping for a used tractor is emphasizing what year it was made. That’s not important, according to Anderson. He said that rather than the year, hour meters are a better gauge of how much a tractor has been worked. He said low-use tractor hours range from 200 to 300 hours and medium-use tractor hours are up to 2,000 hours. Tractors with more than 2,000 hours can still be a good buy depending on how they’ve been cared for.

“If you see a good used one, grab it,” he said.

These tips will help increase tire life Thu, 2 Oct 2014 09:17:51 -0400 LACEY JARRELL More tractor tires are being built to last, but basic care can extend their use even further.

Superior Tire commercial sales representative Skyler Marti said he regularly sees tires outlive the equipment they are on. He said modern tires are getting taller, and they can carry more weight, but tires naturally dry out over time and being constantly exposed to the elements speeds up the process.

“If you can store that tractor indoors, you’re doing that tractor a huge service. A lot of times the tire will rot off before it will wear out,” Marti said.

Mack DeYoung, senior purchasing agent for Les Schwab Tire Centers, said air pressure is another crucial factor — especially in winter when equipment can sit for long periods of time — for ensuring tire longevity.

“You don’t want them going flat or sitting flat, which can cause cracks in the tire,” DeYoung said. “That’s for any kind of tire — even a wheelbarrow.”

Whether the equipment is in use, DeYoung said, it’s important to maintain tire inflation based on the manufacturer’s specifications. When it comes to ag operation in the winter versus operation in the summer, equipment owners still need to follow the right air pressure based on the load being carried on each axle and the vehicle’s average speeds.

The faster the tractor drives, the less weight a tire will carry, he added.

Marti said if power hopping — when a tractor has too much horsepower the tires slip and grab quickly — is an issue, tires can be weighted with liquid ballast for traction.

“It’s a safety hazard for the operator. By putting weight on the tractor, you’re decreasing the horsepower and making it safer,” Marti said.

According to Marti, a new biodegradable liquid ballast is replacing a corrosive calcium chloride ballast that was used in the past. The biodegradable liquid is non-corrosive and won’t harm crops if it leaks onto the ground, he said.

“Typically you do it when it’s rainy and you need to put some extra weight to the ground. A lot of the time, you leave it in there year-round,” he said.

To help further preserve ag tires, DeYoung said equipment owners and operators should try to avoid on-road driving as much as possible.

“Eliminate any hard surfaces; it doesn’t just have to be asphalt. It could be concrete; it could be hard-packed dirt,” he said.

DeYoung said the easiest way to extend the life of rubber tractor tracks, aside from proper alignment, is to avoid making heavy, sharp turns at the end of a field.

“It can bind that track up. It can twist it,” he said. “It can roll up the edges and it can detrack it if there’s enough lateral pressure.

“If you can make as wide and easy of a turn as possible, that will definitely help the longevity of a rubber track.”

First stop for equipment purchases should be accountant Thu, 2 Oct 2014 09:17:46 -0400 LACEY JARRELL Farmers and ranchers who want to upgrade their equipment should begin looking before the year-end, dealer representatives say.

“If you wait until the last two weeks of the year, it’s going to be hard to find what you are looking for,” said Jason Koning, store manager at Ag West Supply in Woodburn, Ore.

Cory Carroll, general manager at the Pape dealership in Albany, Ore., pointed out that the higher limits for the Section 179 deduction that had been available expired last January.

“It allowed customers to take that depreciation up front and it’s a huge tax incentive for them,” Carroll said.

According to Melissa Carlgren, a senior tax manager at Geffen Mesher in Portland, Ore., buyers should consider taxes when making purchases, but that shouldn’t be the only factor. She said Section 179, which applies to basically any equipment, has been generous in the past. This year, the deduction has been restored to its original limits.

“For 179, it’s limited to a $25,000 deduction and that’s only if your purchases are less than $225,000,” Carlgren said. “For most farmers it’s pretty easy to exceed that limit.”

Carlgren added that the $25,000 is an income-based flat deduction that requires purchasers make at least $25,000 per year. Right now, she said, no one knows if the limits will remain reduced or be increased to 2013 levels.

“We probably won’t know what the limits are going to be until after the mid-term elections in November. They can make (any changes) retroactive to the beginning of 2014,” Carlgren said.

Another incentive farmers have had in the past that is not in effect for 2014 is the bonus depreciation for 50 percent of the cost of a new asset placed in service, Carlgren said.

According to Carroll, ag professionals should sit down with their accountant to decide whether purchasing or leasing is right for them this year.

He said leasing is more flexible: “If you lease it for five years, you’re making a payment or several payments annually into the term — you can buy it then, but you also have the option just to give it back to the manufacturer. Buying it, you’re just setting it up on a contract.”

“The lease is a true expense and you can write 100 percent of it off,” Carroll said.

Bob McKee, sales associate for New Holland dealer S.S. Equipment in Corvallis, Ore., said there are pros and cons to leasing. It usually takes less money to get into a lease than it does to purchase a piece of equipment, but you have to come up with the money for the next go-around with a rental or a lease.

He noted, however, that interest rates are typically lower for purchases than they are for leases.

Energy Trust helps Oregon farmers save Thu, 2 Oct 2014 09:17:36 -0400 LACEY JARRELL Capital Press

Property owners only have to wait four to six weeks for energy-saving rebates from Energy Trust of Oregon.

According to Susan Jowaiszas, a senior marketing manager for Energy Trust, in 2013, the nonprofit paid out more than $1.5 million in irrigation and greenhouse incentives for 341 projects. Energy rebate programs available now will continue into 2015, she said.

Most incentive programs are vendor-driven, meaning an industrial or wholesale supplier helps people get the most out of their energy dollars by determining the parts needed and total project costs for Energy Trust programs.

Doug Heredos, Energy Trust program manager for agriculture, said the most common incentives are rebates for irrigation hardware, such as sprinkler and gasket replacement.

According to Heredos, one online application form applies to all the irrigation rebates. He noted that Energy Trust does not have a maximum monetary rebate, but it does cap the incentive based on project costs. For example, there isn’t a limit on the number of leaky or inefficient sprinklers that can be replaced with new low-pressure sprinklers, but total rebates for entire sprinkler projects will usually be around 30 percent of the market value.

“Nozzles, gaskets, sprinklers — we just add up all the project costs and make sure the incentive does not exceed that,” Heredos said. “If you were replacing a worn sprinkler with a new one, you could get $4 per sprinkler.”

Other incentive programs popular with irrigators offer rebates for updating handlines and mainlines. Heredos said irrigators can receive up to $2.75 for each replaced gasket and $10 for each section of repaired handline. The handline repairs can range from fixing cracked welds to pressing on new ends, he said.

Oregon residents can also receive a 25-cents-per-kilowatt-hour rebate for upgrading to a drip irrigation system, according to Heredos. He said the rebate is available for up to 50 percent of the project cost.

“Drip irrigation is becoming more popular and more affordable, and it uses much less water,” Heredos said. “If you wanted to, you could remove the overhead system entirely and save a lot of water and a lot of energy.”

“We can offer incentives for new construction, but the incentive will be a little less than if they were upgrading,” he added.

Lighting is another logical place ag professionals can look for energy savings, according to Jowaiszas.

“The incentives are available,” she said.

Jowaiszas noted that Energy Trust offers several energy rebates ranging from solar to natural gas and geothermal. She said the solar program covers all of Energy Trust’s programs, so the incentives are the same regardless of the type of business or home it is for.

Adam Bartini, Energy Trust program manager for industrial and agriculture, noted that the lighting industry is rapidly evolving. He said the fast-paced nature of the industry has caused Energy Trust’s list of lighting rebates to be broad and ever-changing.

Bartini said ag professionals looking to incorporate energy upgrades into their operations should review the directory on the Energy Trust website to learn about local vendors who can help with project cost estimates.

ATVs need winter care to keep in top shape Thu, 2 Oct 2014 09:17:23 -0400 LACEY JARRELL Capital Press

Installing a windshield or buying a pair of fleece-lined handlebar mitts can help all-terrain vehicle and side-by-side owners stay comfortable this winter.

The mitts are 90-degree sleeves that encompass handlebars and the driver’s hands while allowing for full steering rotation, according to Skyler Goar, a Polaris parts manager at I-5 Powersports in Albany, Ore.

ATV owners can warm things up a little more by installing handlebar and throttle heating elements, Goar added. Handlebar heating elements are virtually invisible because they are placed under the grip, and throttle elements are shrink wrapped over the thumb throttle.

“You would think your thumb is no big deal, but when you’re riding in the wintertime, and it’s cold, it literally feels like your thumb will fall off,” Goar said.

Side-by-sides don’t require all the bells and whistles that ATVs do, but they can be fitted with a windshield, windshield wipers, and defroster kit for winter use.

“You can basically make them like a car,” Goar said.

Also much like cars, ATVs and side-by-sides require maintenance for optimum winter performance or spring start-up after they have been stored, he added.

A basic oil and filter change is a good place to start. The most important factor for winter weather conditions is the right viscosity oil for colder temperatures, he said.

Brian Difani, assistant manager at Tread and Track Sports in Klamath Falls, Ore., said ATV and side-by-side owners need to look for non-friction oils that are labeled with additive packages for those vehicles. He said the specialized oil has to perform three jobs: it has to perform as an engine lubricant, a transmission oil and as an oil for gears inside the transmission.

“Buying it at your local dealership is your best bet; they should know what you need,” he said.

Difani said 10w-40 oil is suitable for climates with a broad range of temperatures, and 20w-50 works well in hotter climates. When ATV owners start seeing temperatures hover around zero, a lower viscosity oil like a 5w-30 or a 0w-30 — needs to be used.

Coolant fluid should be topped off before the weather gets too cold. If the radiator is already full, the coolant should be tested to learn the ratio of coolant to water, according to Goar.

“You want pure coolant in wintertime because any water in the system has a chance to freeze,” he said.

The preferred way to store ATVs is in a heated garage. If it’s outside, at the very least, it should have a outside waterproof, dustproof, cover that encloses the vehicle. In addition, when ATVs and side-by-sides sit for prolonged periods of time, owners should hook up a 2-amp trickle charger to the battery, according to Goar. He noted that because power sports batteries are smaller than automotive batteries, they lose their charge faster.

Electrical connections should also be inspected for cracks and damage.

“If plastic connections are already damaged, the combination of extreme cold with the rain and snow and condensation that comes with that, can sometimes start messing with electrical components,” Goar said.

Interest rates still low, but heading upward Thu, 2 Oct 2014 09:17:09 -0400 LACEY JARRELL As the economy continues to rebuild from the recession, short- and long-term interest rates are still low but could begin inching higher.

According to Mitch Stokes, manager at Northwest Farm Credit Services in Klamath Falls, Ore., short-term rates remain historically low. He said the low rates are primarily a result of the Federal Reserve not allowing them to move based upon market dynamics. Long-term rates have already started increasing as the economy picks up steam.

“Interest rates on the long-term end of the curve are higher than they were a year ago, and they are probably going to go higher as time goes on, but it’s a bit of a rocky increase,” Stokes said.

The increases are the result of an expanding domestic economy, he said.

According to Northwest Farm Credit Services Regional Vice President Bob Boyle, demand for farm real estate is higher today. He said some buyers are established farmers looking to expand operations, and others are investors attracted to profits in agriculture.

He noted that the boom isn’t across the board, and some real estate pockets in the Northwest are not generating a lot of interest.

“I don’t know that I would class it as either a buyer’s or seller’s market. I do know that I would describe this market today as one where I’m seeing significant stronger demand for farm real estate than I’ve seen in recent years,” Boyle said.

Boyle said he believes the demand — largely driven by increased profits — for farm real estate will continue into the foreseeable future.

“When you look at profitability in agriculture, we’re on a tremendous run. We’ve had profits at near-record levels for the last four years,” Boyle said. “We’re seeing those profits begin to dip a bit in 2014.”

Stokes said for the most part, now is a good time to secure a loan or to refinance, depending on when a loan was secured and the interest rate.

“If your loan was made prior to the 2009 recession, you might have a bit of a higher interest rate. There may be some opportunity to get a lower one before rates increase dramatically again,” he said. “I would say before this time next year, it needs to be looked at. We recommend to review at least annually.”

Stokes noted that short-term loans — geared toward ag operating costs — are generally based on a variable rate, and they can change daily. Long-term rates are typically 10 years or more and can be a combination of fixed or variable rates, depending on the needs of the farmer.

Firesteed Winery fills marketing niche Thu, 11 Sep 2014 14:42:56 -0400 MITCH LIES RICKREALL, Ore. — Firesteed Winery started, innocently enough, when a wine distributor recognized a need for value-based Pinot Noir.

Twenty-one years later, the Willamette Valley winery is producing high-end Pinot Noir, some exquisite Chardonnay, and continues to stay with its original vision, offering a well-balanced Pinot Noir for $16 a bottle.

And the winery, which started with no vineyard and no wine-making facility, today is growing wine grapes on 225 acres, 130 of which it owns, operates out of its own winery and is distributing its wines to all 50 states and several countries.

Firesteed was started in 1993 when Howard Rossbach, a wine distributor at the time, noticed a shortage of value-based Pinot Noir. Rossbach approached several winemakers with the proposition of producing a lower priced Pinot Noir, but found no takers.

Rossbach eventually decided it was up to him to produce the wine. He purchased grapes from a vineyard, located a custom crush facility and a winemaker to make the wine, and, in 1993, produced his first vintage.

“From those humble beginnings, we now are sold in all 50 states and several countries,” said Debbie Chapman, hospitality and tasting room manager.

Firesteed primarily produces four varietals, using grapes grown at the site of its winery, which is just north of Rickreall on North Pacific Highway West, and from a vineyard planted in 2007 on acreage Rossbach purchased southwest of the winery in 2005.

Rossbach purchased the Firesteed winery in 2003. In 1998 he hired Bryan Croft as his winemaker, a year after Croft arrived in Oregon from the Napa Valley.

Lisa Zuniga serves as the winery’s viticulturist.

The winery is one of 291 vineyards, and 259 in Oregon, certified for its sustainable production practices by the third-party certifier, LIVE, an acronym for low input viticulture and enology.

“We pride ourselves on producing well-balanced wines at good price points, sustainability and care for the environment,” Chapman said.

In addition to its value-based Pinot Noir, Firesteed offers a higher-end Pinot Noir under its Citation label that is aged in oak for 18 months, bottled and laid down for a minimum of seven years.

Its current Citation series Pinot Noir is a 2003 vintage selling for $60, which, Chapman said, is still a low price point for a wine that has aged for upwards of a decade.

“Because we are so widely distributed, that gives us the bread and butter to make higher end wines and still pass that savings on to the customer,” Chapman said.

The winery also offers a high-end Chardonnay under the Citation label for $30.

Most of its wines, however, still sell for under $20, including the Oregon series Pinot Noir and its Riesling and Pinot Gris, which sell for $12.

Partners plan several wine-related businesses in downtown Roseburg Thu, 11 Sep 2014 14:41:13 -0400 CRAIG REED ROSEBURG, Ore. — Dyson DeMara and Scott Kelley are putting their extensive wine experiences to use in a unique business concept in the downtown area of this southern Oregon town.

The friends and business partners have established the Paul O’Brien Winery in a former Chevrolet car dealership building and are working to establish a marketplace of wine-related businesses around the wine production facility.

“The catalyst is the wine,” DeMara said. “Everybody has said this type of concept is not possible, but it’s been done in Paso Robles and in Lodi in California. Why not us? Why not here? We’ve got a great downtown area.”

The partners say their business plan is unique because they don’t know of another facility that started with an urban winery and provided for supporting businesses, all under the same roof.

DeMara, 50, and Kelley, 41, met in 1999 while working for the Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa, Calif. Kelley was a winemaker and DeMara worked in marketing. In addition to the U.S., their work took them to several European and Asian countries to see vineyards and wineries and to give presentations at numerous events. They’ve seen urban wineries expand and become part of fully integrated marketplaces.

Wanting to leave the more corporate California wine industry in favor of a small-community, family-owned culture, they decided on Douglas County. In 2003, DeMara purchased the Hillcrest Vineyard west of Roseburg. That vineyard was planted in 1961 by Richard Sommer, Oregon’s Pinot Noir pioneer.

In 2009, Kelley purchased land near Hillcrest for a future vineyard.

But in addition to growing grapes, the two also had a vision of establishing a marketplace around an urban winery. They purchased the 27,000-square-foot building in March 2013. They had the wine production area set up in time for the 2013 harvest. Grapes were purchased from six Douglas County vineyards and nine types of wine, all bottled under the Paul O’Brien label, were made. Total production was 2,000 cases.

The next step was a tasting room. It opened in early July. An adjoining wine bar is scheduled to be opened in September. The winery, tasting room and wine bar total about 17,000 square feet, leaving 10,000 square feet for other wine-related businesses such as a restaurant, cheese shop, bakery, gourmet market or wine products store.

Dimensions are flexible, the partners explained, but 3,000 square feet are available for a restaurant, leaving seven 1,000-square-foot spaces for retail businesses. The partners would prefer to lease the spaces so they can concentrate on the winery.

“We want people with a like-minded vision,” Kelley said. “We already have people interested.”

Kelley added that people from California to Seattle have shown interest in the winery marketplace.

“We are trying to share the things we enjoy in our daily life,” Kelley said. “We’re about sharing, about enjoying fine cheese, fine bread, a fine glass of wine. It’s a culture of sitting and having conversation rather than a culture of go, go, go.”

Visitors to the winery will get the experience of walking through the production area to reach the tasting room and wine bar.

“It will stimulate the senses ... the smell of fermentation,” DeMara said. “You’ll get a heavy dose of the wine production side.”

After years of suburban malls being popular, Kelley said the trend is that people want to come back to downtown areas, have a glass of wine and walk to dinner at a nice restaurant.

“We just want to share here in Douglas County what many parts of the world already do,” he said. “There’s no reason people shouldn’t be able to come to Roseburg to do that.”

The winery name is a combination of their middle names — Paul for DeMara and O’Brien for Kelley.

Winery owner takes road less traveled Thu, 11 Sep 2014 14:41:54 -0400 Erick Peterson ZILLAH, Wash. — Long before he owned Portteus Winery in Zillah, Wash., Paul Portteus prided himself for doing things that were a bit out of the ordinary. He maintains that tradition as he continues to build one of the area’s oldest wineries.

His history with alcohol production started when he was 19 and he started a home brewery.

“I was too young to buy beer or wine, so I bought the supplies and I made it,” he said.

He moved out of his parents’ home and he began living in an old houseboat, where he hosted frequent parties and introduced wine to friends who typically favored beer.

He was known, he said, as being out of the ordinary for his preference for wine during the late 1960s.

His early influences included his mother’s sister, who also made beer and wine at home. He was also turned on by his parents’ wine appreciation, and by his own travels to wine-producing regions of California.

Other work did not satisfy him, so he explored winemaking. He figured that he would have to start in California, until he read a newspaper article that featured the Yakima Valley, Wash.

There were only a handful of wineries in Washington state at the time, and few in the Yakima Valley.

He and some friends explored the area and visited the few existing wineries, such as ones in Prosser and West Richland.

He found land that was “so beautiful it made our jaws drop,” and they purchased it in the early ’80s, when wine makers were still considered “weirdos.”

He said that wine had not gained its current popularity among the public. There were some sophisticates who enjoyed wine, but most people opted for beer, if anything.

“It was just not an accepted part of our culture,” he said.

Still, he, his wife, his parents and a pair of friends purchased the winery, and together they started out by disregarding some early advice.

People told him that if he was crazy to go into the business. If he was going to do it, however, he should grow Riesling, they said.

“A lot of people were looking at it like farmers trying to make money,” he said. “Riesling was in high demand, and that’s where the good money was.”

He planted Cabernet and Merlot instead, because the people around him were drinking those varieties. The gamble paid off, as these wines sold well to Seattle restaurants.

Then, in the early 1990s, Americans’ taste changed, starting with news articles that informed the public of the health benefits of wine.

“It was night and day,” he said. Wines became more popular, and his business took off.

He now produces 8,000 cases each year, and he is still trying to stay ahead of the market, always attempting to anticipate the next big variety.

He also makes educated guesses about the industry as a whole.

“I think Washington will be the go-to area for wine in this country, or even the world,” he said. “It won’t be in my lifetime, and it might not be for 100 years, but it’ll happen, and it’ll be good for my great-grandchildren.”

Portteus Winery

Location: Zillah, Wash.

Year started: 1981

Owners: Paul and Marilyn Portteus

Acres: 74

Paul Portteus, owner of Portteus Winery, shows vines growing outside his tasting room in Zillah, Wash.

Carmela Vineyards owners keep it in the family Thu, 11 Sep 2014 14:41:36 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas Operating Carmela Vineyards and Crossings Winery at Glenns Ferry, Idaho, is a family affair, its owners say.

“These vineyards were originally planted in 1985 by the couple who built the winery, then my parents purchased it in 1997.” says Douglas Jones, who manages the vineyard.

Jones, his wife and siblings took over management after his father’s death and hope to keep it in the family.

The vineyard has several varieties of grapes, including 6 acres of Limburger — a European variety more than 1,000 years old.

“It makes a dark red wine that’s very good but people are turned off by the name (reminding them of the smelly cheese) so we use it as a blending wine,” says Jones.

They also have 5 acres of Riesling, a half-acre of Semillion and recently planted a half-acre of Merlot. It takes about 750 to 850 plants for an acre.

“We just got 50 starts of another strain of Merlot we’re trying — a clone from France. We’re some of the first people in the Pacific Northwest to try these,” he says. “They were sent to us as little twigs with a few leaves. We water them every day, by hand.”

By contrast, the older vines are watered once every 10 days to two weeks with drip irrigation.

“You want the vines to react as though they are in a drought — to put their production into fruit,” he explains.

All wine grapes are clones of certain varieties.

“Like potatoes, you don’t grow them from seed or you’d get hundreds of variations. Down through the ages people figured out the ones that make good wine and took starts off those plants,” he says. “For instance, there was a Merlot plant somewhere that is the parent of all Merlot plants today.”

The vines are pruned in spring and directed along the trellis system.

“Vines are like trees. It takes about 3 years to get a young plant into production, but if taken care of they live a long time,” he says, adding that some vines in California are more than 120 years old.

Grapes were first planted in the U.S. by Thomas Jefferson, who brought starts from France, but an aphid in the soil attacked the roots.

“People learned they could use a closely related native grape as rootstock and just graft the wine grapes onto those roots. When vineyard growers decide to change varieties they put the new plants on the old rootstock,” says Jones.

“Here in Idaho most of the vines are on their own roots because we don’t have the phylloxera problem — because of our altitude and climate,” he says.

By late August he starts checking the grapes to see if they are starting to ripen, and tries to harvest them before deer, birds and hornets decimate them.

“The longer the fruit is sweet, the more is eaten and damaged. We want to be ready to pick them before we lose a lot of the crop to these predators,” he says.

“The grapes are picked by hand into 5-gallon buckets, collected by a person on a golf cart to put into a big box that holds about 900 pounds of grapes.

“Those go to our crush pad where we de-stem and then crush them in a big press,” he says.

3 Horse Ranch Vineyards has room to grow Thu, 11 Sep 2014 14:39:44 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas Gary and Martha Cunningham started their vineyard 10 years ago near Eagle, Idaho, after 2 years of searching for a good spot.

They selected the location for its soil and climate — which they say is perfect for growing grapes.

“The Snake River Valley is part of an ancient lake bed which is now the Snake River Valley AVA (American Viticulture Area). It is fairly flat, with a layer of silt,” Martha says.

Their 3 Horse Ranch Vineyards is in foothills that would have been the edge of the lake, located on Pearl Road — the old stagecoach route to the Pearl Mines from Caldwell.

“Plans are underway to create a sub AVA, Willow Creek Idaho, identifying the uniqueness of the foothills soil and climate,” she says. This sandy, loamy soil is different from the valley floor.

“We planted our first grapes in 2005, harvested our first crop in 2007, and opened our first bottle of wine in 2008, our 2007 Viognier. It won an award at the Indianapolis International Wine Competition,” Martha says.

“Our ranch is 1,600 acres, with 600 acres that have been identified as ideal for grapes. It has a lot of water, and sandy, loamy soil,” says Martha. At this point only 60 acres are planted. The rest is leased out for pasture.

“We are growing French Vitis Vinifera rather than American hybrid rootstock. We grow Bordeaux style grapes which include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petite Verdot, et cetera,” she says. They also have Rhone Valley grapes.

“We’ve tried to select what we think will work best for our site and provide the best wine. The variety selection needs to be specific to where you are growing the grapes.”

This vineyard is the largest family-owned and -operated vineyard and winery in Idaho. The larger operations are corporate farms owned by companies in Washington state.

“Our grapes are watered by drip irrigation. Each variety has its own water requirement so we water each group of plants as needed,” she says.

Tending grapes is a year-round task.

“We have more than 25,000 plants, and each one must be treated as an individual, pruned and monitored. We start pruning mid-February and are nearly finished by end of June when the tiny little grapes are ready to grow and ripen, so the vines can put all their energy into growing the grapes,” she says.

They are ripe enough to harvest by October. There are several ways to tell if the grapes are ripening.

“The old-fashioned way is tooth-tasting a grape to see if it’s sweet, and whether the seed is brittle/crunchy or still green and soft. The scientific method is to collect samples, crush them and run them through the lab to check sugar levels and acid,” she says.

Each variety ripens on its own schedule, so the harvest is spread out. “They are harvested by hand so we need lots of experienced help with sharp nippers. It’s a big job.”

Last year Gem County was declared a disaster area — freezing weather killed many of the vines.

“We lost a lot of grapes, so for the past 18 months we’ve had to rebuild, but we look forward to a good harvest this fall in 2014. Farmers are the greatest optimists in the world!” Martha says.

They make their own wine and market it in five states: Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. “Our label catches your eye, with the three horses on it, and once you see it you can readily identify it.”

There’s a story behind the label.

“When we moved here as a family with our daughter, we each had one horse so we named it the 3 Horse Ranch,” she says. “There are still 3 horses on the ranch.”

Windy Point provides unique experience Thu, 11 Sep 2014 14:38:11 -0400 Erick Peterson In a market crowded with wine and wineries, the folks at Windy Point Vineyards hope to stand apart.

Liz Stepniewski, owner of Windy Point Vineyards, said that her winery accomplishes that by offering uncommon wines in a beautiful, rural setting.

Windy Point sits high on a hill that overlooks the Yakima Valley near Wapato, giving visitors a sweeping view of the area’s farmland.

“We want to make it worthwhile for people to come here,” she said. The beautiful view is just part of the attraction, however, and the tasting room is also home to turtle aquariums, which help create a family atmosphere. Everyone, young and old, enjoys seeing the turtles, she said.

The tasting room must be a major focus, she said, as it is the portal through which her wines are available. Since the wines are not widely available at markets, most people buy her product through the tasting room.

Windy Point sells around 1,500 cases a year, she said, and the advantage of selling mostly through the tasting room is that she is able to keep prices low.

Many other wineries, she said, spend a lot of money dealing with distributors. In so doing, they can break into new markets, but their cost is high. They may be able to produce a bottle of wine for a dollar, but at the same time they have to sell that same bottle for $35 to $50 at stores, she said.

She hopes that by focusing her attention on the wine, she can build a reputation for quality. She said that her own cost for a bottle is as high as $11 or $12, and most of her wines sell for twice that amount.

It is important for her, she said, to have a niche that includes wines not offered by many other wineries nearby.

“Everybody produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot,” she said. “So, being a small winery, you kind of want to find something different.”

She offers Nebbiolo and Barbera, which are uncommon varieties in the region. A few years ago, she planted Graciano, which is most common in Spain. She calls it “really interesting” and a fun experience to create something this rare.

She said that she had not tried it when she planted it. She only decided to give it a try after reading an article by wine writer Jancis Robinson, who called it one of the best grapes in the world.

When the vines matured and she was able to make a bottle, the wine came as a pleasant surprise. She found the beverage to be dark, rich and full of berry flavor.

The first vintages were offered to her wine club at the tasting room, and they were good sellers. She expects to release future vintages to the public.

These creations are very exciting to her, she said, and she is happy to find a measure of success, especially since she started with limited experience.

“We didn’t really know what we were getting into when we started,” she said. “We broke all the rules, didn’t do a business plan, didn’t do all the things that we should have done. It was all by the seat of our pants, but we had a lot of help from other winemakers, read a lot, had advisers for early testing and we’re doing well.”

Windy Point Vineyards

Location: Wapato, Wash.

Owners: Liz and Mike Stepniewski

Year started: 1972

Acres: 10

Varieties: Nebbiolo, Barbera, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Graciano, Pinot Noir

Assistant wine-maker switches fields Thu, 11 Sep 2014 14:36:17 -0400 MITCH LIES WALLA WALLA, Wash. — People take all sorts of routes into wine making. For Andy Slusarenko, it was a degree in turf management and a disinterest in mowing grass.

Slusarenko, assistant wine-maker at Three Rivers Winery in Walla Walla, became disenchanted with turf management while working at the local Veterans Memorial Golf Course after obtaining a degree from Walla Walla Community College in 1999.

Fortunately for Slusarenko, the owners of Three Rivers Winery, who were regulars at the course, approached him with the idea of installing a three-hole golf course at their winery.

“Finally, they just bugged me enough and I quit my job there and came here and drew in a little three-hole course for them,” Slusarenko said. Six months later, he said, they brought him into the wine industry.

“I was cellar master for a few years, and then, in 2004, I became assistant wine-maker,” he said.

Slusarenko, who was raised on an apple farm in nearby Milton Freewater, Ore., said not only is it ironic that he turned his degree in turf management into a career in wine-making, it’s ironic that he is working in agriculture, at all.

“I learned at an early age that I didn’t want to be a farmer,” he said, “and look at me now, I guess I’m still kind of a farmer. “But this is a little different and I like this aspect better. If you have a bad day, you can have a glass of wine and it turns into a good day.”

At Three Rivers Winery, Slusarenko works under wine-maker Holly Turner. Turner, he said, has a great reputation among area farmers, who sell grapes to the winery.

“They love to have her make their fruit into great wine,” he said.

Owned by Foley Family Wines of Healdsburg, Calif., Three Rivers sources grapes from between 10 and 20 vineyards, Turner said. Sources include a wide variety of appellations, including Horse Heaven Hills, Wahluke Slope, Columbia Valley and Walla Walla.

“I like to source from warmer sites and cooler sites so our products can be consistent year after year,” Turner said.

“I have been working with the same vineyards for quite a while now, and have come into a comfort zone, especially on the Wahluke Slope,” she said.

“The skins are nice and thick,” she said. “I get great concentration of fruit and it has good varietal character.”

Vineyards in the Horse Heaven Hills, where it gets a little windier, are great for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, she said. And Turner likes the “elegance” of the Walla Walla Valley Cabernets, she said.

In white grapes, she looks for balance.

Three Rivers has its high-end wines, priced at $50 a bottle, but it also has lower price points, including a $14 red table wine that is a favorite of consumers.

Three Rivers also recently started producing a “Steel Chardonnay” for $14, which, Slusarenko said, “has been a hit.

“In California, you hear about these Steel Chardonnays with less of that oak, less of that buttery malolactic characteristic, and we thought, let’s try it on a small lot, and we sold it out almost instantly after we bottled it,” Slusarenko said.

The winery doubled its output of the steel chardonnay this year, he said.

Still, about 80 percent of the wine produced at Three Rivers is red wine, he said.

Family switches from cattle to grapes Thu, 11 Sep 2014 14:29:55 -0400 LACEY JARRELL When Dorothy Garvin’s three children suggested she and her husband get out of the cattle business and into the grape business, she was more than a bit skeptical.

After much discussion, Dorothy and her husband, Vern, decided to take the plunge, and after hiring a consultant and converting 66 acres of their Gold Hill, Ore., farm into a vineyard, Sam’s Valley Vineyard opened in 1999.

“It’s an adventure, that’s for sure,” Dorothy said. “No day is the same; no year is the same.”

Now, Sam’s Valley maintains 66 acres of Bordeaux, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon red wine grapes and two acres of white wine grapes. Some Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Sangiovese grapes are also grown. Dorothy said about 60 percent of the grapes are sold to independent winemakers; the rest are processed in Portland under the vineyard’s label, Cliff Cellars. Their wines are sold in five states.

“A lot of labor, a lot of love, and a lot of testing goes into perfecting the wine grapes,” Dorothy said.

Dorothy’s son Lee said not being viticulturists by trade has forced the family to learn how to grow their brand’s award-winning grapes through trial and error.

“If you plant barley in a field and it doesn’t work, the next year you just plant alfalfa. You can’t really do that with a grapevine, because it’s seven to 10 years before you know if the crop is good. You have to stick with it,” he said.

Traditionally, the Garvins produce unfiltered French-style red wines with intense fruit and oak flavors, Lee said. He noted that crushed fruit remnants that are normally filtered out give Sam’s Valley wine an authentic and robust body.

In 2009, the Garvins decided to try their hand at white wine. Lee said the family spent two years waiting to decide if they would keep the whites. The growing process has been slow, but the flavor is good for what has been produced, Dorothy said. According to Lee, the vines won’t fully mature until their seventh year.

“If all goes well, they will live for 50 years,” Lee said.

Over the years, the Garvins have learned how many clusters their vines can support. They work to maintain about 24 clusters per vine to concentrate their flavors in about 3.5 tons per acre. Lee said each year the grapes have a new flavor and body, and ripening and fruiting schedule.

Sam’s Valley grapes have been picked as late as the day after Thanksgiving and as early as the third week in September, Lee said.

“Our shortest harvest was two weeks, start to finish, our longest was almost two months,” Lee said. “Each year is different — it’s part of the adventure.”

Dorothy emphasized that the vineyard is a family business and since opening, each of her three children have contributed to Sam’s Valley in his or her own way.

“There’s been an awful lot of fun in selling our wine. I think it’s brought our family together in many ways,” Dorothy said.

Agate Field Vineyard moves into slow lane Thu, 11 Sep 2014 14:31:23 -0400 Erick Peterson Running a winery is hard work, according to Agate Field Vineyard owner Ginger Radke.

She owns the winery with her husband, Bob Radke, and her mother, Ruth Rashford, and she does not see a real need for her winery to be a big business.

She prefers a “just-right” sized winery, she said.

A few years ago, the family had built the winery to the point that it was producing 1,000 cases a year. This was fun, she said, but it was more work than her family had originally thought.

She said that her mom and dad started the winery and thought that they could build it, sit back and watch it grow, as if money would just flow through the door without a lot of work.

“There’s more to do than that,” she said, and she hopes to warn anyone who is thinking of starting a winery to be ready for a lot of exhausting labor — that is, if they want great success.

To grow, a winery must continuously develop new markets, she said. It must find distributors and keep up on new opportunities, and this takes a lot of work on the part of a business owner.

Her father died last year, and the family decided to reduce production to around 250 cases a year.

“We’re getting smaller and mostly just serving wine club members,” she said.

She also reduced the hours of operation at the tasting room and has been able to relax. With more free time, she intends to travel, taking RV trips with her husband.

At the same time, she is able to maintain a small winery that is still enjoyable for her. She is able to greet visitors, meeting new people and talking with them about wine and travel.

It’s a fun life, she said, and she has been able to converse with many interesting and diverse people, while also being creative with wine.

She likes experimenting with wines, testing, making changes and coming up with new blends. It is fun, she said, to offer new creations to customers, who visit her winery on tours of the Yakima Valley.

With continued feedback, she hopes to develop better wines every year.

Given the competition in the area, including wineries that are within a short walk of Agate Field, she said she has to continually improve.

In addition to working on the wine, she also spends much of her day bookkeeping and performing basic management tasks for the business. These things are fun for her too, she said.

“Right now, we’re doing what we need to do to pay for our building, but that’s about it,” she said. “We could do more, but doing all that stuff is just not us.”

Agate Field Vineyard

Location: Zillah, Wash.

Year started: 2006

Owners: Ginger Radke, Bob Radke and Ruth Rashford

Acres: 11

Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah

Yeast a rarely mentioned wine ingredient Thu, 11 Sep 2014 14:31:53 -0400 MITCH LIES It’s never the signature ingredient and it’s rarely even mentioned, but without yeast, the Northwest’s famous craft beer and wine industries wouldn’t exist.

That fact didn’t escape the attention of Jeannette Kreft-Logsdon, owner, president and founder of Wyeast Laboratories. Kreft-Logsdon founded the laboratory in Hood River, Ore., in 1986, at the dawn of the craft-beer movement in America.

The company has been growing ever since.

“Some of our earliest customers were the pioneers in the craft-beer field,” said Michael Dawson, brand manager of Wyeast Laboratories. “A lot of institutions in the Oregon brewing scene, like Widmer, started at around the same time, and those guys are still customers of ours.

“We’re proud to have been involved in it from the start,” Dawson said.

Wyeast Laboratories today is one of just a handful of companies that supply yeast to the craft beer and wine industries, and, is arguably the biggest in the U.S., Dawson said.

The company, which sells liquid yeast in quantities as small as 1 liter, maintains a supply of about 70 strains, or lineages, of yeast available on a year-round basis. The company also keeps on hand several dozen proprietary strains that it banks for customers. And it has another two to three dozen that it rotates seasonally.

The laboratory keeps yeast in a cold state to keep it dormant, unless it is being propagated, in which case yeast likes to be warm, Dawson said.

Dawson described the company as “yeast ranchers.”

“You’re taking care of these little microscopic living creatures and making sure that they are well fed and happy and stable across multiple generations,” he said.

“When a brewery or winery orders yeast, we take the strain they want, we propagate it up, get the cells to reproduce and grow so we get the volume that we need for the order, and then ship it out,” Dawson said.

Different strains of yeast react differently to different environments and are kept for different purposes, Dawson said.

“Wine yeast is different from beer yeast, and within the beer yeast family, there are different yeasts that like different temperatures and produce different flavors,” he said.

Breweries and wineries typically don’t produce their own yeast, Dawson said, because they don’t have the time and specialized equipment it takes.

“Culturing yeast and caring for it and making sure the strains remain pure so you get consistent results every time is a full-time job,” Dawson said.

The company employs 35 full-time workers and has continued to grow since its beginnings, Dawson said.

“We built our current facility in 2008 and we outgrew it in three years, just because of the growth of the craft brewery industry, and also cider, which is very big right now,” Dawson said. “So we’re looking to expand.”

Hyatt Vineyards builds with new markets Thu, 11 Sep 2014 14:32:22 -0400 Erick Peterson Leland Hyatt started his winery almost out of necessity.

He was growing grapes and selling them. It was mostly a side project to his construction work, he said, but he was still taking it seriously. He did not want to lose money on his grapes.

His efforts, however, looked as though they might fail when grape contracts began to dry up. Three years into growing grapes, buyers suddenly stopped buying.

“That put me into quite a bind,” he said.

In the 1980s, there were few wineries in the area, and not many potential customers for grapes. When his few customers pulled out, he was left with a lot of grapes on his hands, he said.

At that point, he said, he could have taken the loss, or he could have looked for opportunity. He chose opportunity. With his wife, Linda, he built his own winery starting in 1983, and they released their first wines in 1987.

“When I started, I wasn’t dreaming that it could be all this,” he said, as he waved his hand toward acres of grapes just outside his tasting room in Zillah, Wash. “I didn’t know it could even be all of this.”

When he started growing grapes, he had 15 acres in grapes. He then added 40 acres and added more through the years.

Thus, growth happened over time. He now markets 13,000 cases a year.

The Yakima Valley wine country has also grown, both in terms of the number of wineries and amount of land dedicated to wine grapes.

“It’s just been amazing,” he said.

The growth, however, has presented the “constant challenge” of trying to find new markets while competing with hundreds of other wineries that are trying to do the same thing.

Ten thousand of his 13,000 cases are shipped outside Washington state, and he relies on help from distributors to get his product into 21 other states across America. If he is successful breaking into Wisconsin, Ohio and six other states in the coming months, he could increase production to 20,000 cases by the end of the year, he said.

In addition to tackling U.S. markets, he also has set his sights abroad, including China, though he said he has some reservations. China presents great opportunity, he said, but many wineries have the same idea, and they all are trying to establish themselves there.

He shipped product to a Chinese broker a couple of years ago, and he has not done much else, though he remains hopeful.

“China is still growing,” he said, “but you need the right connections. We’ve worked with people, and we’ve received visitors. It’s one of those markets that just needs time.”

In the meantime, he said that he will continue to manage his fields, produce his wine and look for other new markets.

Hyatt Vineyard

Owners: Leland and Linda Hyatt

Year started: 1983

Location: Zillah

Acres: 180 acres

Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Riesling, Black Muscat, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Ice Wine

How to stay safe when working with machinery Thu, 4 Sep 2014 17:40:15 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas Agriculture is a hazardous occupation, and machinery is the No. 1 risk for accidents, says Tom Karsky, Extension Farm Safety Specialist at the University of Idaho.

“Review the owner’s manual if you haven’t used a machine for a while, like at the beginning of the season. While working on a piece of equipment, always turn it off so you won’t get tangled in moving parts — unless you must leave it run to do some trouble-shooting,” he says.

Fatigue can also be a safety issue on the farm.

“Get plenty of rest. Take breaks when working long hours. If you feel drowsy, take a few breaks rather than try to push through to get the job finished. Short, frequent breaks can keep you from dozing off or not being fully alert,” Karsky says.

In hot weather, drink plenty of fluid. Heat stress is a risk. Air conditioned cabs help, but some tasks leave you out in the sun or in a super-hot environment if a cab doesn’t have air conditioning that works. It is important to stay hydrated.

“Do the maintenance required to keep equipment working properly and safely. Repair something after it breaks down, rather than just a temporary fix to get by. Replace guards or shields after they’ve been removed to work on machinery. Sometimes PTO shields get damaged and lose their effectiveness. Those should be replaced,” he says.

When working around fast-moving parts, be careful about what you are wearing.

“Shoe laces, strings on a hooded sweatshirt, or loose clothing may get entangled in the PTO or other moving parts,” Karsky says. Often it’s the clothing that is grabbed.

“If you are working with a loader, keep it low when moving the equipment. Driving with the loader up raises the center of gravity; the machine is more at risk for tipping over,” he says, adding that a raised loader is also more likely to hit a power line.

“Power lines can be problems with loaders, augers, bale elevators, combines or anything that sticks up very high,” he says. “If there’s a power line in your barnyard, try to work around it so you don’t have to go under it.”

A power line to a barn or shop may be lower than the regular power line.

Sometimes when a problem occurs with machinery we do things we shouldn’t, thinking we can fix it quickly, like climbing up on a bale wagon to rearrange bales that didn’t stack correctly, while the machine is running.

“It takes time to turn it off, and people think they can do it in a hurry. You may get away with it for a while but sometime not,” he said. As farmers get older, reflexes, strength and balance aren’t as good.

“The risks we took when we were younger are more dangerous now,” he said.

“When somebody new is operating equipment, teach him how to operate it properly, and go with him for the first hour or two — especially if there is some little quirk with that particular machine. It may work fine for someone who is using it all the time and knows how to deal with that quirk, but if another person doesn’t know that you have to push a lever forward instead of back, it may cause an accident.”

Be aware of where other people might be.

“Don’t allow riders on farm implements unless required for operation or training. Never allow children to ride on or walk near moving implements, trailers or wagons, and never allow anyone to walk closer than 6 feet of any harvesting equipment that is running,” Karsky said. “A little foresight and paying attention to what’s happening around you can often prevent a farm accident.”

How to stay safe when handling cattle Thu, 4 Sep 2014 17:37:30 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas Handling cattle can be safe or dangerous, depending on many factors.

Shannon Williams, Lemhi County Extension Educator with the University of Idaho, says it’s important to make sure corrals and facilities are in good repair and working properly.

“Take time to replace broken boards, poles, re-hang a gate, remove boards or poles lying along the fence, grease the equipment, clean the walkways — the alley to the chute for the cattle, and walkways along the chute for the people helping,” Williams says.

In winter, remove snow where you have to open or shut gates or the ice on a walkway. You want footing to be safe for people as well as the cattle, she says.

“Most of us don’t take time to talk to the crew about what we are doing. Make a plan and discuss it. If you work cattle with the same people, you know how they think, and what they are going to do, and everything usually goes smoothly. If you bring in a new person, they may not know which gate the cattle will be coming through, and might not know where to be — to not be in the way,” she says.

“Have sorting flags/sticks for everyone helping with sorting, so they don’t have to use a broken fence pole to poke cattle or wave their arms and yell. Low stress, quiet cattle handling makes things safer for the animals and the people handling them,” she says. “Work at cow speed (thinking in terms of cow time, not human time). Make sure you allow enough time for the job, so no one has to hurry.”

If you work cattle slowly, and not get them upset, it saves time and is safer in the long run, she says.

If cattle flow through the facility smoothly and quietly and you don’t have to get one back in that runs past the gate or through the chute and gets away, this saves time and cattle are less likely to run over people.

“When vaccinating, make sure the people doing it know how to handle the vaccine. If a person accidentally gets injected with blackleg vaccine, or medication is splashed into their eyes, take them to the doctor — along with the vaccine\product label, to have the serial number, so the doctor can find out what the human risk might be. Have a first aid kit on hand. Know what to do in case of a medical emergency,” Williams says.

“If some animals are more flighty or aggressive, handle them with care, and give everyone a heads-up warning when they come through,” she says. Bulls should always be handled carefully.

Make sure the people helping know how to handle cattle properly.

“If some folks helping don’t have a clue, or you are stuck with them for the day, give them an easy job, out of harm’s way, like the record-keeping,” she says.

“Before you start working cattle, have everything planned. Talk to your crew. If everyone knows their job, things go smoother,” she says.

“If you have to load and haul cattle, don’t try to cram that extra animal into the trailer. If someone is fighting with the trailer gate this can be dangerous,” Williams says.

When sorting cattle in a corral or alley, be aware that if an animal kicks or rams into a gate, it may fly back and hit someone. Fatalities have occurred when people got hit in the head by a fast-moving metal gate. Think ahead and be aware of potential hazards — and what might happen under various circumstances.

Think ahead to stay safe around horses Thu, 4 Sep 2014 17:36:55 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas Safety awareness and thinking ahead are crucial when working with horses, says Susan Dudasik of Misfit Farms in Salmon, Idaho.

She teaches horsemanship as a registered instructor with the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International.

“We all wear helmets here,” she says. Head injuries are the most serious risk with horse accidents, and a helmet can prevent a bad outcome.

“People need to be ‘present’ and aware when working around horses, especially the horses they are familiar with, and not take things for granted. Many accidents happen with old reliable horses just because someone wasn’t paying attention,” Dudasik says. “Keep an eye on what’s going on, and think ahead.”

Make a habit of demanding that the horse respect your personal space.

“When we go out to the pasture to catch ours, they come crowding around us. Everyone here has learned to have an ‘alpha’ horse attitude. When you tell a horse to back up, he needs to do it,” she says.

“We are aware of the horses’ personalities and how they interact. The alpha horse may chase timid ones over the top of a person when you are out in the pasture. We don’t want anyone getting hurt because a horse is not being respectful,” she says.

When horses are led back to their pasture, they are turned loose at the same time. “We turn them around to face us, and then let them go, so they aren’t running around with the loose horses before we are safely out of their way.”

Safety around the barn includes always using a halter and lead rope to catch or move a horse.

“People sometimes use shortcuts and put a hay twine around the horse’s neck. You don’t really have control of the horse, and may burn your hand if you try to hang onto the twine if the horse takes off,” says Dudasik.

When leading a horse, hold the extra lead rope in neat loops, not a coil that could wrap around your arm or wrist if the horse pulled away.

“Wear proper shoes — not sandals, flip-flops, or sneakers. Then if the horse steps on your foot he’s less apt to injure it,” she explains.

“Don’t walk under the neck of a tied horse. If he startles and sets back you could be injured. Take time to walk around him instead,” she explains.

Don’t bend down right in front of the horse. If he picks up a foot, his knee comes forward and may hit you in the face.

Other tips: Think ahead. Be prepared for any action a horse might take. Don’t be in the way.

Always let the horse know when you approach, so you won’t startle him if he’s dozing. “We feed horses out of big tubs, and one pony gets so intent on eating that she can’t see you coming. I’ve seen her nearly jump out of her skin. We had to make everyone here aware of this — realizing that when her head is down in that tub in the manger she can’t see you coming,” says Dudasik.

Check your tack before you ride. Tighten the cinch before you get on, so the saddle won’t turn as you mount. Check it again after you’ve ridden awhile or you may find the saddle slipping.

“Keep a hand on the reins as you mount, so you could stop the horse if he tries to move. Some people just grab onto the saddle horn to climb on, and don’t hold onto the reins — and then have no control of the horse that is walking away,” she says.

Safety is an important issue for everyone on the farm Thu, 4 Sep 2014 17:31:57 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas Agriculture is a dangerous occupation. Accidents and injuries are always a risk when working with farm equipment or livestock, so safety awareness is important, the leader of one of the region’s largest agri-business organizations says.

Geoff Horning, executive director of the Agri-Business Council of Oregon, said his group has a unique relationship with the SAIF Corp. and with Risk Management Resources.

“We want to be the center for Oregon’s agricultural safety messaging. We do this via many different angles, such as the safety DVDs we’ve created. We have a pilot program to find better ways to help small farmers adhere to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) regulations, for instance,” he said.

“Today, every farm, regardless of size, even if you just have one employee, is required to do monthly safety education — which is difficult for some of the small farms,” he said. “This is a new regulation, put in several years ago, but is now starting to be enforced. So we are trying to help people not just become compliant but also boost safety awareness.”

There are risks when handling machinery or livestock, but agriculture is also an industry with very short windows in which to get everything done. People are in a hurry to get crops planted during good weather, or the harvest in before it rains or freezes. Livestock producers have seasons where life is hectic, such as during calving or lambing.

“Human nature is to hurry. Sometimes being slow is faster,” he said. This can avoid breakdowns and longer delays, or avoid problems when handling livestock.

“Here in Oregon, the number one piece of equipment that leads to injuries and fatalities is the ATV (all-terrain vehicle), yet nationwide tractors are still the number one tool that leads to injuries,” Horning said.

People need to have more awareness of their surroundings, and know the equipment they are using — and its limitations, and the human limitations.

“Agriculture has many seasonal employees during busy times and they may not have experience with that equipment or knowledge of that particular farm. Every farm or ranch is different; there will be different hazards and concerns from a safety perspective,” he explained. “Seasonal workers who bounce from one farm to another may think they understand safety at one farm and it is completely different at the next. It is critical to train them about those safety concerns before you put them out on a certain job.”

Even the terrain is different. Someone hired to cut hay or drive harvest equipment may not know where the wet spots are, or slopes that might be hazardous. Equipment is different from one farm to the next. On one place there may be new machinery that requires training; on another farm it may be older equipment that has some glitches and idiosyncrasies that only an experienced operator understands.

“This is part of the reason we’ve created a tractor safety video. It is designed to adhere to OSHA regulations that require veteran producers to take safety training annually. There are 9 points required annually for every tractor operator to review and if they don’t, they are out of compliance,” Horner said.

“We represent all segments of agriculture, so we emphasize that every segment has its own concerns. This is the key to safety — knowing your own farm, knowing where hazardous areas exist and putting extra emphasis on safety training involving those areas,” he said.

Little things are important, too.

“Often I see farm shops where a ladder is wobbly and hinges are about to fall apart. This is an accident waiting to happen. We have to keep an eye on the small things, too, and keep everything in good repair.”

Rehab helps injured workers return to work quicker Thu, 4 Sep 2014 17:28:26 -0400 Salem Health Agri-businesses work hard to prevent on-the-job injuries for obvious reasons — claims can drive increases in workers’ compensation premiums. An injury to an experienced and skilled worker also means lost productivity, the expense of training a replacement, and the costs of low morale and absenteeism.

Ideally, preventing injuries is the way to control costs, but when injury happens, returning that worker to the job is the next best solution. Early return-to-work programs allow an employee to return to work with light duties during recovery.

If an injury requires more than just some time off, rehabilitation can help a worker recover and return to the job ready to perform at 100 percent.

Among farmworkers, sprains and strains of the low back, neck and shoulder are among the most prevalent injuries that come to Salem Health’s Work Injury Management Program. These injuries result from ergonomic challenges in the workplace — repetitive tasks, stooping or crouching for long periods and working on uneven terrain. Often, therapists see repetitive motion as a cause of injury, resulting in conditions such as tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome and “tennis elbow.” Many of these conditions require hand therapy to support recovery.

Farmworkers can also have traumatic injuries from accidents involving equipment.

“A lot of these injuries will not optimally heal without the intervention of physical therapy,” said Juan Lopez, staff physical therapist for Salem Health’s Work Injury Management Team. “These injuries — without therapy — have the potential for complications, such as excess scarring and muscle atrophy.”

Physical therapy can correct improper body mechanics and help prevent re-injuries. Salem Health’s program focuses specifically on work-related injuries and preparing patients to return to their jobs. To make the process smoother, the program works directly with doctors and insurers, ensuring the continuity of treatment and expediting that worker’s return to work.

Work injury management offers targeted, job-specific work conditioning that helps physicians help their patients return to work in a timely fashion. Patients do work-related tasks under the close supervision of therapy staff.

Innovative equipment and job-specific materials simulate the work place. Therapists can observe the patient performing tasks specific to their job, then identify and address the factors that may have contributed to a person’s injury. Patients practice their job and strengthen key areas, so they are ready to return to work with a lower risk of re-injury.

“In our gym, for example,” said Lopez, “we incorporate cinder blocks, ladders, shovels and food service trays.”

Lopez often uses the BTE Primus RS to program therapy for the individual worker. This computer-based tool assesses and duplicates various work tasks such as using a paint sprayer, climbing a ladder, operating a jackhammer, driving a truck or tractor and operating hand controls.

Coordinating all the players that have a role in bringing an injured worker back to the job — the physician, the patient, the employer, the therapist and the insurer — can be confusing. A coordinated, one-stop shop can save money and time.

“Our goal is to help the employer receive back an employee who is empowered to perform, and, in many respects, even better than before the injury,” said Lopez.

Topiary, sculpted plants shape up as theme for Farwest Trade Show Fri, 15 Aug 2014 09:17:14 -0400 CASEY MINTER After 42 years of highlighting the latest advancements in the nursery industry, the Farwest Trade Show is gearing up for another annual gathering.

The theme of this year’s gathering will focus on a less traditional aspect of the nursery industry: topiary and sculpted plants.

“In past years we’ve had the year of the conifer and the year of the acer … this year we are doing sculpted plants,” said Ann Murphy, Oregon Association of Nurseries director of marketing.

The theme of each year’s Farwest Trade Show allows attendees and exhibitors to focus on unique features of the extensive and multi-faceted nursery industry.

“Each year we try and look at a different aspect of the industry and where we think Oregon excels and provides a showcase for that quality,” Murphy said.

Murphy hopes this theme will allow the momentum of last year’s 15 percent increase in attendance to continue. Ornamental horticulture is one of the state’s largest industries, with annual sales of $744 million and nearly 75 percent of nursery plants grown in Oregon shipped out of state. The Farwest Trade Show gathers the industry’s leaders at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, Ore., from Aug. 21 to 23.

The show averages nearly 6,000 attendees and 500 exhibitors. With so much of the business being conducted out of state, networking and communication are vital. Murphy believes that even with technology’s ability to bridge distance and facilitate communication, there’s a lot of benefit to be had in gathering industry members from around the country to one place.

“As some of these face-to-face opportunities become less frequent, shows like this become more important. Even if they’re once a year,” she said. “Farwest is a bit of a family reunion, we like to say.”

Todd Nelson, owner of Bountiful Farms, a nursery specializing in topiary plants, agrees that this year’s Farwest Trade Show will be beneficial and busy.

“The reason we go is to draw new business,” he said. “I have a lot of hopes that this year will be busier, we have seen an increase in tours (at Bountiful Farms) and increased interest from our customers, so I know that things are a little more lively.”

Many of the species featured at the show are common topiary plants: arborvitae, European box, holly, bay laurel, myrtle and privet to name a few. Murphy believes a focus on topiary plants will be friendly both to the eyes and the cash registers of industry members.

“I think there’s an opportunity for our retailers to up-sell some of these sculpted plants and encourage people to be creative with them.”

Creativity is inherent in plant sculpting, and the Farwest Trade Show will offer plenty of opportunities to experience that creativity.

“It’s utterly amazing what you can do with an arborvitae, breathtaking. You can have a patio umbrella from plant material, they’re using plants in restaurants as screening, there are monsters, leaping dolphins, people sitting on a bench weaving, plus your more traditional spirals and pom palms,” Murphy said.

“We wanted to provide an opportunity for people to showcase that.”

Selling, growing nursery plants? There are websites, apps for that Fri, 15 Aug 2014 09:11:27 -0400 CASEY MINTER The importance of an online presence in the digital age has made an impact on the Oregon Association of Nurseries.

In January 2013, the OAN released a new website that serves as an online and interactive form of their traditional print publication, The Nursery Guide.

The website — — is designed to encourage connectivity between growers and buyers, whether they are seeking new varieties of plants to purchase, looking for new markets for old plants or looking to resupply their inventories with materials.

“The goal of the nursery guide is to create awareness of Oregon growers and Oregon plants,” said Ann Murphy, director of marketing at the OAN.

Since the site’s re-launch in 2013, buyer interest has taken off. OAN’s old Nursery Guide website peaked around 30,000 site “hits” per year. In 2013, however, the OAN recorded 90,000 hits, tripling the outreach. And the number is still growing. As of July 14, the website had recorded 73,000 hits since January 2014. With almost half a year left to bring in visitors, the website is on track to far surpass last year’s growth as well.

“The next big push is to add E-commerce capabilities so office staff intervention isn’t required when a nursery wants to purchase additional listings,” said Murphy.

The website has a multitude of features to assist growers and buyers when searching for a product.

“The new site offers advanced search options, including filtering results by zone and type of plant,” Murphy said. “The site now offers thousands of plant photos and descriptions, and every OAN member has an online profile that can be enhanced with photos and descriptions.”

This customization is helpful in the saturated market of plant varieties and products, especially because the OAN is constantly updating the website to add more content. On average, 200 new plant listings are added every year.

The most recent update is a mobile device-friendly version of the website that can be accessed from smart phones and tablets for users on the go. This is one of many modern adjustments the OAN is making to make interactions as smooth and efficient as possible.

The redesigned, mobile device-friendly website is not the only new possibility that will be featured at the Farwest Trade Show. There are several other ways to connect with many in the nursery industry, including several apps that are going to be displayed at the show.

The GrowIt app is designed to help stoke interest in gardening, whether that interest is recreational or professional.

Allan Armitage, a speaker at this year’s show, has also designed an app for retailers and homeowners. The app, called Armitage’s Greatest Perennials and Annuals, features photos, descriptions and advice on a variety of different plants, as well as the garden centers in your area you can visit to find them.

Finally, the OAN has produced an app for the Farwest Trade Show that attendees can use to navigate the showroom floor, check the schedule, find exhibitors and give feedback.

All of these apps are available on iPhone and Android.