Capital Press | Special Sections Capital Press Mon, 27 Mar 2017 09:23:51 -0400 en Capital Press | Special Sections Perennial grain offers westside farmers options Thu, 9 Mar 2017 10:26:09 -0400 Margarett Waterbury MOUNT VERNON, Wash. — Colin Curwen-McAdams is a Ph.D. candidate working under Stephen Jones at Washington State University.

He’s spent the last several years working on breeding projects that attempt to create a perennial grain crop by making crosses between wheat and wheatgrass.

Just don’t call it perennial wheat.

“We’re not calling it perennial wheat,” Curwen-McAdams laughs. “When I say that, people think they know what I’m talking about. Perennial wheat, this magical crop of wheat that grows back, like a fairy tale. Perennial wheat is a wonderful idea. But there’s no alignment between that and what I’m actually working with.”

The new crop is called Tritipyrum, a fusion of the scientific names of its parents, Triticum (wheat) and Thinopyrum (wheatgrass). Its goal is to meet the needs of Western Washington and Oregon farmers in need of a grain for their rotational program.

“Here in the Skagit Valley, there are a lot of high-value crops in rotation, and nobody is primarily a grain farmer,” Curwen-McAdams says. “People here don’t really want to grow wheat. What they want is a grain in their rotation to add organic matter, break up soil tilth after heavy cultivation, and reduce the amount of tillage in years they’re not growing heavy-till crops. And, we want it to have utility as a grain crop as well as a feed and forage crop for livestock.”

The new crosses have been made primarily at Washington State University’s Mount Vernon Research and Extension Center, and selection rounds have prioritized regional adaptation. The team is currently working with numerous lines from stable crosses of bread wheat and Thinopyrum, but developing a truly robust perennial remains elusive.

“It’s still a challenge to get something a farmer can really count on in the field, especially in cold winters like this one,” Curwen-McAdams says.

Researchers have been trying for about 100 years to breed perennial grain crops by hybridizing wheat with perennial relatives.

“The fact that we’re not surrounded by them tells you how difficult that is,” Cur-wen-McAdams says.

Yet the dream of a hardy, multipurpose perennial grain crop remains tantalizing for researchers and west-of-the-Cascades growers.

Support from buyers such as brewers, maltsters and bakers has also buoyed the project.

“There are a lot of people interested in the flavor and the story. They want the food they’re producing to be reflective of agricultural and environmental stewardship,” he says.

For example, one line of Tritipyrum has a blue-green seed color.

“In the commodity system wheat has to be red or white, so you’re already out of luck,” says Curwen-McAdams. “But if we can imagine that as an advantage, something that makes it unique and interesting, it can actually help differentiate the crop for regional markets. We’re looking at its potential for malting now.”

Seattle-based Grand Central Bakery has also expressed interest in working with perennial grains.

By involving multiple stakeholders, Curwen-McAdams hopes to cultivate regional ownership of the project.

“It’s exciting to bring these people together from the beginning,” he says. “Otherwise you get one person, like me, making some choices, and then five years later, realizing they made some wrong choices. Collaborating with people with diverse skills and perspectives increases our chances of success.”

Cover crops improve soil health Thu, 9 Mar 2017 10:23:05 -0400 Jan Jackson When you talk to Don Wirth of Saddle Butte Seeds near Shedd, Ore., it doesn’t take long to hear the frustration he has with the 90 percent of the growers who underestimate the value of cover crops.

Talking to the countless number of folks he meets during the 30-plus trade shows and field days he attends a year, Wirth spends most of his time trying to get the message across how cover crops can end up being more profitable than the “cash” crop itself.

Just returned from a conference in the Midwest, he spoke of his frustration.

“My mission is to educate,” Wirth said. “Whether your cover crop is annual ryegrass, crimson clover, kale, peas, radish, vetch or any of the cover crop mixes, your cash crop yields are going to go up.”

Cover crops are about soil health, he said.

“When Dr. Lloyd Murdoch, extension soils specialist from the University of Kentucky spoke at the Oregon Ryegrass Growers meeting in Albany recently, we were both frustrated to see first-hand what farmers don’t know,” he said.

Wirth, who has been in the seed business in the Midwest and in Oregon for more than 30 years, got his start on the farm his family still runs. His family’s involvement in his family-owned and -operated Saddle Butte Seed Co., frees up Wirth to take his message on the road across the nation.

He works with customers from Nevada to Virginia. His sales associates are all farmers in Illinois, Minnesota and Oregon. They assist customers anywhere in the world, including the U.S., Canada and Europe.

“That’s one of the things that gives Saddle Butte a difference,” Wirth said.

Ron Althoff has a degree in agronomy and joined Saddle Butte in 2002 to pursue his passion of improving the quality of soil and water while reducing erosion.

Brian Wieland, who graduated from Illinois State University with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture production, was introduced to cover crops in his quest for better roots and healthier soils.

T.J. Kartes, from Blooming Prairie, Minn., got hooked on cover crops when he saw the difference they made on his family farm, Wirth said.

“We don’t just educate growers about the need for cover crops but help them get started,” he said. “Our staff has the knowledge and training to do that.”

Wirth recommends at least a no-till and cover crop system like one that has resulted in real changes for Ralph “Junior” Upton in Springerton, Ill.

“The effect of Upton’s improved soil has been dramatic,” Wirth said. “Before the change, corn yields were as low as 105 to 110 bushels per acre and after he started his no-till cover crop program, his yields have risen to well more than 180-200 bushels an acre.”

Upton also estimates that no-till farming saves him $10 to $15 per acre, primarily thanks to smaller equipment, fewer trips across the field and less fuel burned in the process, Wirth said.

“Cover crops are about soil health and soil health is about profits,” he said.

For more information, visit

Sweet potatoes run in grower’s family Thu, 9 Mar 2017 10:17:02 -0400 JULIA HOLLISTER Matt Alvernaz knows sweet potatoes, which he calls “nature’s superfood.”

“I am a fourth-generation sweet potato farmer,” he said. “My grandfather was ‘Sweet Potato Joe Alvernaz,’ one of the pioneers in the California sweet potato industry.”

Growing up, Alvernaz spent his summer days weeding sweet potato fields on the farm his parents and grandparents owned near Livingston, a town in Merced County.

“Then the weekends I would spend working on my grandparents’ dairy,” he said.

In high school he was involved in FFA, showing dairy cattle. Alvernaz judged dairy at Modesto Junior College and at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., where he received a bachelor of science degree.

He is now the farm manager of his parents’ sweet potato operation in addition to farming his own 300 acres. His wife, Sarah, is the sales and general manager of a grower-owned company, the California Sweet Potato Growers shipper-packer.

The company packs and ships 300,000 cartons of sweet potatoes and yams each year.

Sweet potatoes are difficult and expensive to raise. They require sandy soil and warm, dry weather and clean water, he said. “They are very labor-intensive and require a large capital investment year after year.”

Each acre demands between 100 and 120 man-hours, and that does not include packing labor, he said. 

Each year, about 20,000 to 22,000 acres are planted to sweet potatoes in California. Ninety-five percent are grown in Merced and Stanislaus counties.

Several varieties of sweet potatoes are available but four main color categories are grown in California: Jewel (orange skin and flesh), Red (red skin and orange flesh), Sweets (yellow skin and flesh) and Oriental (purple skin and white flesh).

The main pest concerns are nematodes, army worms, wire worms, rodents, gophers and squirrels, he said.

Alvernaz said several looming challenges face California sweet potato growers.

“Water and labor are our main concerns,” he said. “Without clean surface water the roots will not produce nor store the way we need them to.”

Salinity in ground water is another concern and therefore not the favored irrigation source, he said.

Competition originates across the continental U.S.

“The Southern growing regions in the United States can be the biggest competition for fresh retail, as they are able to produce sweet potatoes at a fraction of the cost of California,” he said. “Fortunately our soil, water and climate provide us with quality roots to maintain our market share.”

The best news coming from the fields is the health benefits of the colorful globes, he said.

“From a marketing perspective sweet potatoes are enjoying their time in the spotlight,” Alvernaz said. “They really are one of nature’s superfoods, being one of the most nutrient-dense vegetables available.”

Grower ‘spills the beans’ about foreign competition Thu, 9 Mar 2017 10:14:58 -0400 JULIA HOLLISTER SACRAMENTO — By the time Ron Oneto was 4 years old he was sure he wanted to stay on the farm.

“I was born and raised in Stockton,” he said. “My grandparents lived in the orchard. When I’d hear my uncle coming into their yard with a tractor, I would go running towards him. He’d stop, I’d climb on, and he’d let me finish driving the tractor into the yard.”

Today, Oneto and his brother farm 2,200 acres of dry beans, cherries, walnuts, wine grapes, processing and fresh market tomatoes, silage and grain corn and wheat.

He is also chairman of the California Dry Bean Advisory Board.

“Our varieties we grow are Green Baby Lima, Yellow beans, White, Light, and Dark Kidneys,” he said. “Our total acres remains around 500. Each year there are different acres of each, depending on field sizes.”

Oneto said about 44,000 acres are planted to beans each year in California.

According to Nathan Sano, manager of the California Bean Advisory Board, lygus and thrips are the two worst pests for beans in California.

“Thrips are a small insect that usually attacks young plants, stunting their growth,” he said. “Lygus are more known for their feeding on the bean seed preventing growth or puncture damage to the seed, making the bean unmarketable.”

In spite of the pests, beans are a relatively easy crop to grow, as long as it’s dry during harvest time. Wet beans are hard to dry, and they can be damaged if are harvested while moist.

Oneto said the biggest challenge facing California bean growers is the Japanese market.

“They (Japan) account for about 70 percent of the Baby Lima market,” he said. “They have been sourcing Baby Limas from Myanmar at a cheaper price point. The California industry is working quite hard at trying to keep market share in Japan.”

There is also a lot of competition from foreign imports, he said.

Beans can be stored for a long time, too, which allows brokers and handlers to choose where they buy beans.

Beyond Japan, trade in general remains a challenge, he said.

“Trade is a big topic currently, especially since the November election,” Oneto said. “President Trump has said he wants to relook at all trade agreements and I agree. When you hear about how these agreements are put together, U.S. agriculture gets the short end.”

Entry into the U.S. market for foreign crops is often offered as a quid pro quo in trade deals, he said.

“Everyone wants U.S. technology, but in return we must take ‘food’ items from those countries,” he said. “So who suffers? The U.S. farmer.

“It’s not a level playing field. Maybe with the new administration we can see some improvement for U.S. agriculture.”

Diversified farmer faces variety of challenges Thu, 9 Mar 2017 10:10:58 -0400 Brenna Wiegand With 140 acres near Salem, Ore., Don Mantie says his farm is one of the smallest around.

He and son, Kurt, grow wheat, grass seed, blueberries, pea seed and maintain old and new hazelnut orchards. It’s a confusing time that calls for resourcefulness, he said.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Mantie said. “Blueberries have tanked due to low prices and higher labor. The 38-year-old hazelnut orchard has blight and I’ve been up cutting the blight out of it; it’s a tedious and time-consuming job. You can spray all you want but it’s still taking over. I suspect in another 5 to 7 years they’ll be gone.”

Mantie said he is looking forward to the fruits of a cold winter. Unlike the Portland area with lots of snow, which acts more like insulation for pests, his area had less than a half-inch of the white stuff.

“I’m glad we got a cold winter and I am looking forward to it killing some slugs and bugs,” he said.

Mantie retired from Farm Credit Service in 2007, where he worked more than 30 years, spending the last 15 as a farm real estate appraiser.

“That was fun,” he said. “I finally let my appraisal certificate go this year. I hated to because it’s like getting a master’s degree, or even more like a doctorate.”

While working full-time Mantie farmed a couple hundred acres.

“I had a lot of nights on the tractor until 1 o’clock in the morning and then got up and went to work,” Mantie said. “The best thing was when I got a tractor with a cab on it.”

Mantie never met his grandparents; they both died in a flu epidemic when his father was 11. His great-grandparents started the farm and during that time donated the land for a local church cemetery. Deeds go clear back to the land claim.

Meanwhile, the small family farm is becoming outnumbered by larger operations.

“When I was a kid everybody used to have a few cows, pigs and chickens; we used to send milk to the creamery in Mount Angel,” he said. “Farms have generally gotten bigger. … I’m about as small as it gets. You’ve got to have enough acres to afford some of the specialized machinery; the only reason I do is because I was working and did not rely on the farm for a living.”

Mantie strives to do everything he can with machinery; blueberry picking and pruning is a challenge due to labor costs.

“You try not to prune as heavy and not spend as much but sometimes that doesn’t work,” said Mantie, who plans to farm until he is no longer able.

“It’s just part of me,” he said. “A lot of people who retire end up sitting around; they don’t last long. You’ve got to keep busy and there’s always something that needs to be done on the farm.

“It’s not all muscle and brawn,” he added. “If you want to get much done you’ve got to be inventive and you’ve got to be efficient because there’s not a lot of profit in a lot of things. You also hope the weather is with you.”

Father, sons mesh their talents on farm Thu, 9 Mar 2017 10:24:07 -0400 Brenna Wiegand Duane Eder considers himself a first-generation farmer in a land of third- and fourth-generation farmers. He and his brothers started farming in 1973.

“We started out with basically nothing and just built it up,” Eder said. “We did a lot of custom work — combining, trucking, spraying, corn picking — and that gave a cash flow to get the farm started.”

The four brothers have since split into their own farms but still work together in many ways.

Duane and sons Scott and Brian farm about 700 acres in the Silverton, Ore., area as Eder Brothers. They have a diversified rotation.

Two-thirds of the property is in rye grass and tall fescue seed. These crops are part of a steady rotation of onions, green beans, cauliflower, cucumbers for seed, green peas and hazelnuts.

“If you grow only one crop and that thing goes south for a while you have all your eggs in one basket,” he said, “and good rotation helps us with a lot of things; weed and disease control, fertility, keeping good organic matter in the soil.”

For some crops such as grass seed, with the roots and the sod and the straw a lot of material goes back into the soil, he said.

Other crops, such as onions, “you take a lot of tonnage off but there’s not much that goes back in the soil. And you do cover crops, usually oats, in winter to hold the soil down and put back in also.”

Row-cropping takes more equipment than less diversified operations but the farm’s location makes it worthwhile.

“We’re kind of a unique area,” Eder said. “We have no rocks on the valley floor where we farm; the soil is mostly flat. We have Willamette and Amity soils, which drain well and grow good crops. We have surface water out of the Pudding River and wells to water with.”

Eder and his sons have established a nice mesh of talents and the farm’s running well, he said.

Brian takes care of the crew and most of the crops. Duane grows the cauliflower, onions, does the spraying and oversees the office. Scott manages the shop, fertilizing and some of the planting.

“It all overlaps a little bit and we can do each other’s jobs somewhat; it’s a good fit,” Duane Eder said. “The boys do a good job and we really learn from each other. They’re not afraid to take on projects or take over when I’m not there.”

With each year “the boys,” all in their early 30s, assume more responsibility and call less and less when Dad’s away. Duane looks forward to a role of just being around to help out where needed.

“If I’m away, I don’t have to worry,” he said. “The boys are around, and it’s their turn.”

Farming is a good way of life, but there’s no escaping the long hours.

“I’ve always enjoyed it but it’s tough when you get married and have a family because it’s hard on the family, too,” he said. “It’s a good way of life but to get anywhere you’ve got to put in the hours.”

Instagram helps drive farm’s sales Thu, 9 Mar 2017 10:21:48 -0400 Margarett Waterbury BORING, Ore. — Social media doesn’t come naturally to most farmers. But farms — especially farms that depend on direct sales to restaurants and consumers — might be uniquely poised to benefit from social platforms such as Instagram.

After working for established farms in Vermont and Oregon, Dan Sullivan, 31, started Black Locust Farm in 2015. Located in Boring, Ore., the farm is part of the Headwaters Farm Incubator Program. Administered by the East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District, the program is designed to help early-career farmers launch new ventures.

Black Locust Farm leases 2 acres at Headwaters to grow specialty vegetable row crops marketed exclusively to restaurants in the Portland metropolitan area. Major crops include greens, chicories, alliums, edible flowers and root vegetables.

During its first two years, the farm has relied heavily on social media, specifically Instagram, for marketing. Sullivan uses the social photo-sharing app to showcase new crops, give updates about what’s happening on the farm, and interact with the farm’s restaurant customers.

One of Black Locust Farm’s clients is Sarah Minnick, co-owner and chef at Portland restaurant Lovely’s Fifty-Fifty. She says Instagram has been the single most impactful component of her marketing strategy. “As far as advertising goes, it has made pretty much the only difference in business for us. Instagram can be very genuine,” says Minnick.

Instagram lets farmers such as Sullivan piggyback on their clients’ marketing efforts. When chefs like Minnick tag their farmer suppliers in photos, their followers can see it — and, critically, chefs follow one another.

“A lot of my customers who have very serious followings are avid social media users,” Sullivan says. “When they post my veggies, they tag my name, and through them I’ve gained a lot of followers.”

“I see many farms using social media to target not their customers, but other farmers,” Sullivan explains. “Instead, I’m using it as an advertising channel, a way to capitalize on my customers and my relationship with those customers.”

Sullivan acknowledges that social media and farming aren’t always completely compatible. “As a farmer, I’m treading a line between modern society and something a little less tangible. I try to play to that a little bit — I don’t want to over-post. I don’t like to use mine for anything other than farming, I’m not into sharing the rest of my life that way.”

Yet he maintains that Instagram’s impact on his business has been a positive one, and says he’s planning to do more in the years to come.

Sullivan’s advice to other farmers interested in incorporating social media into their marketing program focuses on collaboration. “Reach out to your customers,” he says. “That’s a great place to start, because they’re going to like your photos.”

And a little bit of momentum builds fast. “Once I started getting 50 likes, soon I was getting 200. Farms I started following a couple of years ago with a few hundred likes, now they have a few thousand. It’s a wicked time suck, but it’s worth it.”

OSU looks to Ecampus to train future agronomists Thu, 9 Mar 2017 10:20:56 -0400 Brett Tallman CORVALLIS, Ore. — Tom Chastain, a professor of seed crop physiology and ecology at Oregon State University, has taught seed production every spring since 1992.

But in the fall term, Chastain taught the course, Crop 450, online for the first time.

“It was a new venture for me,” Chastain said. “I like this kind of thing, but I needed help on lecturing to a camera as opposed to a room full of people. And figuring out how I was going to maintain contact with students, answering questions and facilitating discussions online.”

OSU’s Crop and Soil Science Department doesn’t have an online degree program yet, but Chastain estimates that’s only about 18 months off. After a “very favorable” external review in November, Chastain said they are looking to add courses in plant genetics, soil fertility, and several others to the two classes the department offers online now.

“The bulk of the growth at OSU in the last few years has been in online courses,” Chastain said. “My feeling is, once we have some more classes online, we’ll have a big bump in department enrollment.”

The decision to offer a crop and soil science degree online is OSU’s answer to a steady decline in enrollment in traditional crop and soil science classes at OSU, as well as in similar programs around the country.

“The agronomy program is not big,” Chastain said. “We’ve had some enrollment issues, but there are good job opportunities throughout the country. People are just not taking advantage of those opportunities.”

Sixty students are now enrolled in degree programs in Chastain’s department. Chastain said Crop 450, which has drawn an average of 20 students over the last five years in traditional classrooms, had 13 Ecampus students for the same class online. Of the 13, five were from Oregon. The rest were from Iowa, Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Utah, South Dakota and even Tasmania.

“A lot of them are place-bound people,” Chastain said. “They have jobs or families. For whatever reason they can’t take time off to come to Corvallis. My student from Tasmania is already working as an agronomist and now wants a formal education.”

By broadening its reach as a department, Chastain said OSU can reach those place-bound students and begin training more people to work in the field.

Chastain is quick to say he’s not the first professor in his department to take advantage of online classes. Sabry Elias, an associate professor of seed science and technology, saw the same problems in 2010.

“Enrollment for my class wasn’t so big,” he said. “I talked with the head of my department and was able to transfer my curriculum online.”

Seed science and technology is the only class Elias teaches online and, while Elias admitted online classes can’t replace the interactions in a traditional classroom, he is passionate about what he is teaching.

“There is a challenge we’re trying to solve,” he said. “The number of working seed scientists is decreasing to an alarming degree.”

Like Chastain’s online students, the students signing up for Elias’ class are spread across the country and around the world.

“About half of my students now are working professionals,” he said. “They are coming from Kentucky, New York, Hawaii and even Thailand. By offering courses online, we’re able to get more students interested.”

Oregon grower sees opportunity in hemp Thu, 9 Mar 2017 10:19:09 -0400 Gail Oberst Salem — More than 100 farmers in Oregon are expected to grow or process one of the Northwest’s newest cash crops next year, and it’s not marijuana.

About 1,300 acres of industrial hemp are planned this year, according to Lindsay B. Eng, director of Oregon Department of Agriculture’s hemp certification program. Thirteen growers signed up for licenses in 2015, the program’s first year.

Hemp is a variety of Cannabis sativa, but shares none of the psychotropic characteristics of Oregon’s newly legalized marijuana. Hemp has long been used as animal bedding, fiber for clothing, and oils for foods, remedies and lotions. It won’t get you high, but even so, hemp has long been lumped with marijuana, requiring complicated federal approval and licensing to grow it. Hemp growers have lobbied to distance the crop from marijuana.

Jerry Norton of Salem, now in his third year as a hemp seed grower and processor, said the new industry has gotten a recent boost from hemp oil’s rise in popularity. He recently attended a cannabis conference where hemp was the new star.

“CBD is all they talked about. For health benefits, it’s the flavor of the month,” said Norton. CBD is cannibidiol, the main ingredient in hemp oil. Claims that hemp oil can improve mood, sleep, appetite, hormone regulation and immune response and relieve pain have prompted producers to include it in products ranging from soap to craft beer, available at your corner grocery store. Demand is rising but U.S. growers are still scarce. Norton is among those who hope to change that.

Industrial hemp does have trace amounts of THC, tetrahydrocannabinol, the substance that produces the “high” in marijuana. But industrial hemp plants for public consumption by law must contain .3 percent or less THC. Marijuana’s THC content can range from 6 percent to 25 percent THC.

The surge in demand for hemp products is a boon for growers, Norton said. With one of the few plant and seed processing cooperatives in the area, his Salem company, American Hemp Seed Genetics, is reaching out to attract more growers. Norton and his company have grown more than 100 acres of hemp for seed, scattered around the mid-Willamette Valley.

The crop is fast-growing and lucrative, Norton said. In 90 days, hemp grows to 6 or 7 feet in the Willamette Valley’s clay soils. Almost any crop that needs a rotation can be rotated with hemp, Eng said.

But although the crop promises to be lucrative, challenges remain for this newcomer. Money is foremost. Equipment specific to hemp harvesting, seed research, licenses and certification is expensive and hard to find, Norton said. Eng suggested that current grass seed and grain farmers may have a leg up if they own combines and related equipment.

And cross-pollination, although its threat is diminishing, continues to worry marijuana growers. If the relatives cross-pollinate, hemp degrades THC levels in marijuana. Solutions have included temporary hemp bans and improved rules, but Norton said that seed research, GPS tracking by ODA, and cooperation among farmers will hopefully resolve problems.

Norton helped establish the Oregon Hemp Growers Association, a group of farmers that includes Cliff Thompson, the Independent Party’s nominee for Oregon governor in 2016.

Norton’s first two years in the business were spent researching and developing reliable and stable seed not susceptible to cross-pollination. With reliable seed in hand, he expects this year to be a profitable one.

Yields per acre can vary, according to federal reports. Farmers in Canada, one of 30 countries that have long produced hemp, averaged about 700 pounds of grain per acre, yielding 50 gallons of oil and 530 pounds of meal. The average amount of straw grown per acre was 5,300 pounds, converting to about 1,300 pounds of fiber.

For information on how to apply for permits and certification, visit the ODA’s website,, call 503-986-4620, or email

Norton also invites would-be growers to visit his processing facility by calling him at 971-388-4392.

Network aims to link plant breeders, buyers Thu, 9 Mar 2017 10:18:19 -0400 Margarett Waterbury Oregon State University agricultural researcher Lane Selman wants to see more chefs and produce buyers step out of the kitchen and onto the farm.

During the course of her career, Selman observed that seed breeders’ decisions directly impact growers, marketers and buyers. Yet few of those downstream stakeholders knew about current breeding projects, and fewer still understood the enormous impact seed breeding has on the landscape of the agricultural and food system.

Would connecting breeders with downstream crop consumers result in better, more useful plant breeding projects? she wondered.

She held a tasting event in Portland, and invited several local chefs to evaluate sweet peppers from a current variety trial in fresh, roasted and sautéed form.

Not only did they provide excellent flavor feedback, they volunteered important information previously not considered in the project.

For example, peppers with a sunken stem yield more waste than smooth-shouldered peppers. Crinkled peppers are harder to de-seed and process.

Their input guided the development of a new open-pollinated variety called Stocky Red Roaster from Wild Garden Seed in Philomath, Ore.

Selman has spent the last three years scaling that strategy. She formed an organization called the Culinary Breeding Network with the mission of creating stronger links between plant breeders and the consumers who depend on them. The organization focuses on breeding open-pollinated varieties for organic systems, but Selman says the benefits extend well beyond the organic market.

“When we say, ‘varieties bred for organic systems,’ it just means they’re able to perform well without a lot of inputs, and that saves money for conventional farmers. Conventional farmers are impacted by hybrid churn, too. More resilience, better flavor, these are things all farmers want,” Selman says.

Another benefit of the project has been an increased interest in, and understanding of, plant breeding among the public. Selman says, “When I went to the North American Plant Breeders’ Association meeting last year, they talked a lot about how important it is to engage and educate the general public about plant breeding and the misconceptions behind it. What’s GE? What’s a hybrid? The CBN has become very friendly way to put plant breeding on the general public’s radar.”

One of the ways the CBN has reached out to the public is through its annual Variety Showcase. The showcase pairs seed breeders with one or more chefs who prepare dishes that showcase current breeding projects. Held in Portland, the event sells out each year, and has attracted national sponsorship.

Moving forward, Selman hopes to expand her model to other regions of the United States. Organizations in Wisconsin, New York and Maine have all expressed interest in replicating the Culinary Breeding Network’s strategy.

Selman also wants to deepen the connections between breeders and other stakeholders by involving chefs, produce buyers, educators and farmers in hands-on, on-farm selections.

“I want to have more engagement physically in the field,” she says. “I want to see people walking and doing selections from the very early F2 or F3 stages, when there’s lots of diversity. I want to show them the results over years, to be able to release varieties that were created by the whole community.”


Seeding pastures for profit and pollinators Thu, 9 Mar 2017 10:15:49 -0400 Jan Jackson ROSEBURG, Ore. — Woody Lane is quick to point out that to make a profit and stay in the farming business, pasture management is key.

Speaking as president of the Oregon Forage and Grassland Council, Lane, who holds a doctorate and a master’s degree in animal nutrition from Cornell University, is passionate about the subject.

“When I came to Roseburg in 1990, we weren’t thinking about over seeding with things like improved grasses, new clovers, chicory, plantain and hybrid varieties of rape, kale and radish. We certainly were not thinking about seeding pastures for pollinators,” Lane said. “One of the great things about the OFGC is that it is well represented by seed industry members who help sponsor excellent workshops and field tours.”

OFGC was founded seven years ago to promote the usage of improved forages and increase the productivity and profitability of Oregon’s grasslands.

It also keeps its members abreast of the latest developments in all segments of forage and grassland agriculture, which includes seeding for pollinators, Lane said.

The Pastures for Pollinator program was a demonstration started in conjunction with Sujaya Rao of Oregon State University. Because more than 33 percent of the food supply comes from insect-pollinated crops, seed companies and individuals came together with donations of seed or money to help advance the program.

Tom Nichols, of Nichols Livestock Co. and an OFGC board member who raises sheep in the Brownsville-Albany area, talked about pasture management on his operation.

“I worked with some test plots when I was OSU Sheep Center manager and the sheep did love the turnips,” Nichols said. “In my own fields it is hard to manage, however. Some of my pastures have poor soils and the ones that would do well are located where they would cross-pollinate with my neighbors.”

Lane maintains that pasture management is both science and art and takes knowledge and skill.

“Well-managed means properly timed fertilizing, re-seeding and grazing, Lane said. “It also reduces feed costs because it is five to 10 times more expensive to haul the feed to the animals than if they can walk to it.”

More information about the OFGC is available at To contact Wood Lane, call Lane Livestock Services at 541-440-1926, emailing at or visiting

Sweet potatoes get a trial run in SE Oregon Thu, 9 Mar 2017 10:14:07 -0400 Brett Tallman ONTARIO, Ore. — With 20,000 acres of onions planted in southeastern Oregon, the area produces nearly a quarter of the nation’s storage-onion crop.

“Onions are the lifeblood of the area’s economy,” Stuart Reitz, a professor with Oregon State University’s Malheur County Extension, said. “It’s a huge economic engine that supports several hundred growers, processors and three dozen shipping companies.”

With the help of Joel Felix, an associate professor with OSU’s Agricultural Experiment Station in Malheur County, Froerer Farms of Nyssa, Ore., is testing a new crop for the area.

Felix was born and raised in Tanzania, an African nation that, in 2014, produced more than 3 million tons of sweet potatoes.

“The sweet potato is not new to me,” Felix said. “I know it very well; I know the length of time to get a crop and I thought we had enough time to get a crop here.”

In 2010, he put together a demonstration showing that sweet potatoes could be grown in the Treasure Valley.

Word spread about Felix’s demonstration. Potato processors in Oregon and Idaho wanted to know more.

“We have a lot of processors locally who truck in sweet potatoes from North Carolina and California,” Felix said. “By procuring potatoes grown locally, they thought they could cut down the cost of transportation.”

The following year, Felix conducted an experiment looking at varieties and irrigation criteria. After picking the brains of growers in North Carolina and California, he narrowed his search to four varieties suitable for Eastern Oregon’s climate.

“We settled on Covington,” he said. “The variety has orange flesh and some good qualities like resistance to disease and insects.”

Covingtons mature in 90 to 120 days, a suitable window for the growing season in the area. At the end of May, sweet potatoes are transplanted to fields and, by the beginning of October, they’re ready to harvest.

“Another good thing, (the sweet potato) doesn’t use water anywhere close to what Irish potatoes use,” Felix said. “Sweet potatoes are from the tropics; they don’t want to be cooled.”

“We grew our first crop in 2016,” Craig Froerer, CEO of Froerer Farms, said. “About 40 acres. I’d say we had moderate success, but we have a lot to learn.”

Froerer estimated that No. 1-grade sweet potatoes went for 18 cents a pound, while No. 2 and oversized sweet potatoes went for about 10 cents a pound.

No. 1s were fresh packed at Owyhee Produce and sold to retailers, while No. 2s and oversized went to processors in Western Oregon and Eastern Idaho.

Though Froerer does not expect sweet potatoes to replace the 800 acres of onions that make up his primary cash crop, Froerer Farms did invest in specialized equipment, including a sweet potato harvester.

“Looking at his investments, I’d say he’s serious about it,” Felix said. “He’s the only grower in the area with the harvesting equipment and he is continuing to grow them, so the checkbook must be balancing.”

Rice growers awash in import problems Thu, 9 Mar 2017 10:14:04 -0400 JULIA HOLLISTER Charley Mathews Jr. grew up working in his family’s rice fields.

“Like many farm kids, I started to drive a tractor when I was 12, irrigated rice in the summertime, and always participated when I could for planting and harvest,” he said.

He grew up near Marysville, Calif., where he still farms.

Mathews grows medium, premium medium and sweet rice. The medium and short grain varieties grown in California have all the characteristics of Japanese rice — soft and sticky — which is prefect for sushi. California is the world’s low-cost producer of sushi rice, and it is marketed around the world.

Like most crops, rice faces insect and weed pests, he said.

“Since rice is grown in an aquatic environment under a continuous flood, many aquatic weeds thrive and compete with rice for sunlight and nutrients,” he said. “The rest of the weeds are drowned by deep water.”

Insects are a minor challenge but require constant monitoring, he said.

Rice, Mathews said, has historically been viewed as a water-intensive crop. It actually uses about as much water as any other row crop.

Rice is grown in heavy clay and hardpan soils that have an impermeable layer below the root zone that does not allow water to percolate downward.

This soil type would drown trees and other row crops, but is perfect for rice. It does not suffer from salt buildup or any other long-lasting issues.

“I have a rice field that has been in continuous production for almost 80 years,” he said. “The yields seem to go up every year.”

Rice is not as labor-intensive as many other crops and growing it is highly mechanized. With expensive machinery to operate, it is important that growers find talented labor who can get the most out of the equipment.

“Rice growers have several challenges,” he said. “The ones we face locally have to do with air and water quality, and that fact that we are competing with an encroaching urban population that does not like noise or dust.”

Through the efforts of the California Rice Commission, he said, new urban neighbors are beginning to understand the environmental and social value of a rice field.

“Outside California we are challenged with a strong dollar that makes us less competitive,” he said. “Other rice-growing countries are illegally subsidizing their rice production to keep world prices low and unprofitable for us.”

In addition, World Trade Organization trading partners are not allowing California rice on store shelves in their countries as a way to protect their own rice growers, he said.

Imported rice has been competitive with California rice. It is mostly Jasmine from Thailand and Basmati from India. They are very different varieties but are taking normal customers away, he said.

“No one in the rice industry takes what we have for granted,” Mathews said. “We have watched other California crops like sugar beets simply disappear due to poor economics and world competition.”

He said rice farmers try to do everything they can to improve efficiencies, lower costs and increase production without sacrificing quality.

“But at the end of the day, we can only do so much and greatly depend on customers that understand the real value of our product and not just a simple commodity,” he said.

Dairy farmers tackle water quality challenges Thu, 2 Feb 2017 10:13:30 -0400 Steve Werblow Using an innovative online tool to schedule late winter and early spring manure applications, Terry and Troy Lenssen of Lenssen Dairy in Lynden, Wash., can give soil microbes a chance to convert slurry nutrients into plant-available forms before spring growth starts in earnest, while also protecting local waterways from runoff of nutrients and bacteria.

The Application Risk Management tool — known by the acronym ARM — developed by the Whatcom Conservation District uses a complex formula to analyze local weather forecasts, soil type, crop density, water table depth and other variables to determine whether the risks of runoff or leaching are low enough to permit a manure application.

ARM protects more than the creek and the commercial shellfish beds downstream — it protects the Lenssens’ bottom line.

“We got better yields on grass by at least 1.5 tons per acre on fields we were going out on earlier,” said Terry Lenssen.

To qualify to use ARM, the Lenssens worked with district staff to conduct a risk analysis, update their state-mandated nutrient management plan, and establish a monitoring program with sampling wells at one-, two- and three-foot depths. The monitoring wells indicated that using the tool helped the brothers reduce nitrate leaching, says Lenssen.

The Lenssens’ 260 acres of forage crops utilize the nutrients from three to four applications of manure per year. Heavy growth and mild winter weather generally yield five cuttings per year, cycling nutrients back to their 710 cows.

The brothers also practice “relay cropping.” As they cultivate 270 acres of corn ground in early summer, they blow on 30 to 50 pounds of grass seed per acre. After the corn is harvested, a lush cover crop is already in place to protect soil from erosion, capture nutrients in the soil, and filter sediment from stormwater. The brothers apply manure, harvest the grass for forage in the spring, then plant corn again.

“It’s usually winter Italian ryegrass or cereal rye,” said Lenssen. “They grow well over the winter, take manure in the spring, and they’re good feed.”

The Lenssens are not alone in their concern about water quality issues, said Steve Paulsen of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory in Corvallis, Ore. Paulsen works on EPA’s National Aquatic Resource Survey — known as NARS — which assesses the quality of U.S. streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands and coastal waters.

Paulsen noted that the 2016 NARS report shows 45 percent of America’s rivers and streams contain excess nutrients; in the Pacific Northwest, 31 percent of the rivers and streams are high in phosphorous and just 12 percent have excess nitrogen. Meanwhile, approximately 23 percent of the nation’s rivers and streams — including 8 percent in the West — exceed thresholds for enteroccoci, bacteria that include E. coli.

“It’s exciting to see that farmers like the Lenssens are finding protection of water quality is a big plus for their operations,” Paulsen said. “As more and more farmers discover this and apply innovative strategies, we expect to see the pollution numbers found in the national surveys improve.”

For more information on cover crops, conservation systems and the Natural Aquatic Resources Survey (NARS), visit

Grower turns to tank technology for irrigation Thu, 2 Feb 2017 10:15:41 -0400 Gail Oberst DALLAS, Ore. — Bogdan Caceu searched the world to solve an irrigation problem on his farm.

It makes sense that Caceu would look for solutions abroad. His father’s family had once owned large orchards in Transylvania, a region of Romania, that were confiscated by the communists in the 1940s, before Caceu was born.

“You hear that story as a kid, how we lost these beautiful orchards to this violent regime. Farming has been in the back of my mind for a long time,” Caceu said.

His father was an engineer, and Caceu was trained to be a lawyer. But with a dream to farm, in 2009 he purchased a plot of land southwest of Dallas, on the north fork of Ash Creek, which eventually flows into the Willamette River at Independence. Despite inexperience, he connected with experts in the area who have helped him turn 45 acres of scotch broom and blackberries into La Creole Orchards. The work in progress includes olives and truffle-inoculated oak trees, among other crops.

From the beginning, Caceu was faced with irrigation woes common to the Northwest. Even after drilling three wells, he was only able to draw 3 to 4 gallons per minute — far too little to keep thirsty young plants hydrated. Devoted to inexpensive and environmentally safe methods, he looked for tanks in which to save his well water during the rainy season, so he could apply it in the dry summer. Unfortunately, many storage tanks, geared for larger farms and industries, were unwieldy and expensive.

Caceu was undeterred. He searched the world’s water conservation companies and eventually put together a pilot project to build a simple, inexpensive water storage system that holds 35,000 gallons.

“It doesn’t get us through the entire season, but I wanted to see how inexpensive and easy to build it could be,” Caceu said.

The system includes Netherlands-based BuWaTec pre-fabricated tanks that can be built in place in a day. Concentric circles of corrugated steel are quickly bolted together and a liner is installed. A cover keeps water cool, algae-free, and reduces evaporation to a minimum — anywhere between 15 and 30 percent can be lost from an uncovered tank due to evaporation, so covers are important.

But the mesh-fabric cover the tank came with must be removed occasionally to avoid collapse due to snow and ice. Instead of that work-intensive option, Caceu settled on 7-inch-wide floating plastic hexagons that cover the surface, made by Denmark-based Hexa-Cover. Caceu estimated the entire system cost less than $16,000 and could be put together by a few people using simple tools.

To round out the water storage project, Caceu installed a solar-powered pumping system from the Danish company Grundfos. The solar panels run the pumps in the wells using less power than a light bulb and operate even on cloudy days.

“We get to start the first day of irrigation season with a full tank,” said Caceu.

Caceu’s other efforts to conserve water on his land include a drip and micro-spray system that delivers precise water and nutrients without any runoff. Also in the offing are projects related to the Conservation Reserve Program, a voluntary incentive program for farmers, managed by federal and state agencies.

A nod to his innovation, Caceu is the winner of Polk Soil and Water Conservation District’s 2015 Conservation Award. He serves as executive director of the Olive Growers of Oregon, the nonprofit that represents the pioneering olive growers in the state.

“It’s a wonderful pleasure to own this land,” he said. “And a responsibility.”

Beavers be dammed, district cares for Napa watershed Thu, 2 Feb 2017 10:14:38 -0400 JULIA HOLLISTER California’s Napa Valley is home to about 400 premium wineries but Richard Thomasser, operations manager of the Napa County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, is more concerned with beavers.

“Wildlife management — monitoring beaver activity and protecting against excess tree harvesting by beavers for dams — is an important part of our work,” Thomasser said.

Beavers are just one of the things the district deals with. He wouldn’t say they are a “big” problem because many actually create beneficial habitat in riparian areas.

Thomasser said he doesn’t want them to chew down all the riparian trees, so the district protects some of them to prevent that from happening.

The district started in 1951 and now covers 426 square miles of watershed in the valley.

“We are principally a flood control agency,” said Thomasser.

The district doesn’t own any water supplies. It provides flood and storm water services within Napa County, including five cities: Napa, American Canyon, Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga.

Most of the district’s work involves the Napa River and its tributaries, which is a 426-square-mile-watershed, he said.

The services the district provides to the vineyards relate principally to flood management and riparian area maintenance and restoration.

The work is done on an “as-needed” basis.

“We encourage protection of the river, streams and riparian areas and conduct projects such as invasive species removals, native vegetation planting, erosion control and debris removal,” Thomasser said.

The district also coordinates the cities and the county in complying with the state’s storm water management regulations, he said.

“We have varying issues and problems depending on areas along the river,” he said.

Besides beavers, these include homeless encampments in the city of Napa reach, invasive species and erosion in several areas.

Funding is one of the biggest challenges for the district. He said there are always more projects and activities to do than funds to do them.

The county recently launched a “Do It Yourself” groundwater monitoring program. The program allows Napa County residents to borrow a well water-level monitoring tool for free to measure their wells.

“The recent rains in Northern California have put a big dent in the drought, at least in that part of the state,” he said. “Napa County is actually in pretty good shape with its local water supplies. We get our domestic use water from the State Water Project, which is generally in good shape this year.”

Animal feeding operations get help keeping creeks clean Thu, 2 Feb 2017 10:10:57 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas Assistance programs for farmers and ranchers can help get livestock away from streambanks by developing alternative sources of stock water.

Eileen Rowan, of the Idaho Soil and Water Conservation Orofino field office, says one of the most successful efforts has been animal feeding operation projects in a 5-county area in north Idaho.

These involved cooperation between the 5 districts, Soil and Water Conservation, Department of Environmental Quality, Natural Resources Conservation Service, landowners and others.

“We started some projects in 2006. The last one was completed in 2014,” she said.

These projects were aimed at improving water quality by reducing sediment and bacteria and nitrate contamination. This was done by changing the facilities to keep runoff from feeding areas out of streams, she said.

Winter is usually when cattle are concentrated for feeding, and traditionally feed yards have been near streams so the cattle could drink.

“These projects involved fencing cattle away from the creeks,” Rowan said. “Then you have to provide another watering source. This required pipelines, troughs, spring developments, and in some cases we had to drill wells.”

Final cost-share figures approved by the AFO Committee came to slightly more than $1 million. Funds were from the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality and the Idaho Soil and Water Conservation Commission. The average cost-share for each of the 60 projects was roughly $17,604, or about $122 per animal in designated feeding areas.

The projects helped stockmen comply with water quality requirements for feed yard runoff.

Ray Stower’s ranch, 6 miles from Whitebird, Idaho, is an example.

“We live right along the creek, and this was my grandparents’ ranch. The old feedlot is a fenced-off area for winter feeding. The cattle went to the creek for water,” Stower said.“When we have 250 weaned calves in there and they are bawling, pacing the fence and all go to the creek, it creates a lot of impact, especially if it rains for several days.”

Trails going into the creek carry muddy water, he said.

“I decided to see if there would be any help for correcting this,” he said.

The first time he talked to Soil and Water Conservation there wasn’t any help available.

“The next year, Eileen called and said there was money available if I still wanted to do it,” said Stower. “They created a great plan and gave me a lot of help with it. This project accomplished what they wanted, and was really good for us, too.”

It became a win-win situation.

“I hated the idea of having more fence to maintain, and paying taxes on an acre I don’t get to use (next to the creek), but the benefits far outweigh any drawbacks,” Stower said.

The project included an alternative source of water for cattle.

“Up the draw there is a really good spring; I’ve never seen it go dry. So we put in a spring box and piped water gravity flow down to our feed yard with a 1.25-inch pipe,” he said.

He used a 12-foot diameter rubber tire for a water trough. It holds about 1,300 gallons and has room around it for many cattle to drink at once.

“A year ago, when we weaned in the fall and first used the new pen, I was worried that the spring wouldn’t keep up with 250 calves,” he said. “For about 10 days we opened up the gate to the creek, and fenced off a small water gap so calves could go to the creek if necessary.”

It was a spot where the banks were solid.

“This option was created in case I ever needed to have cattle water in the creek,” he said. “We put panels across it so they could only access the creek in that one spot.”

He is happy with the entire project.

“Eileen was really good to work with, and it turned out well. If anyone wants to look at it, to see what might be possible on their own place, they are welcome,” he said.

Excess electricity aids aquifer recharge Thu, 2 Feb 2017 10:08:33 -0400 Dianna Troyer BURLEY, Idaho — Southwest Irrigation District near Burley, Idaho, is finishing a winterization project that will enable year-round recharge of the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer.

A $600,000 grant from the Idaho Department of Water Resources is enabling the district in southeastern Idaho to double its pipeline system from the Snake River at the Milner Pool to injection wells south of the river, winterize pump stations and upgrade them to turn on and off as needed.

“We plan to have the project done by March 1,” says hydrologist Brian Higgs, District 140 watermaster and owner of Water Well Consultants.

The winterization project came about after the Bonneville Power Administration and United Electric Co-op, which provide electricity to the district, launched a successful pilot program in the spring of 2012.

BPA offered a reduced electrical rate to pump water to recharge the aquifer because it relieved the administration of an oversupply of electricity, especially at night, when power demand declines.

The administration must balance electrical generation with demand to keep its system from being overloaded.

At times, BPA faces an oversupply of electricity, especially in spring when high winds generate power at turbines and melting winter snowpack causes high river flows. Also during spring, electrical demand tends to decline before the air conditioning and irrigation seasons begin.

With the recent upgrades, the district’s system will have flexibility and be able to increase pumping during the hours of light electrical demand and decrease pumping during hours of heavier electrical usage on the grid.

The contract with BPA for the 1.8 megawatt project was renewed for four years.

“(The district) pumped an average of 1,900 acre-feet of recharge water annually on the old system,” says Higgs. “The district’s new pipeline will operate throughout the winter and pump more than 10,000 acre-feet to injection wells located more than 10 miles south of the river.”

The demonstration project provided numerous benefits and could be a model elsewhere, says Higgs.

“It helped us maintain our agreement with the Surface Water Coalition,” says Higgs. “Without it, we would have likely faced serious curtailments. In some locations, we’re in good shape, but other areas at a longer distance from the river are still suffering.”

The Idaho Department of Water Resources estimates the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer has been losing about 216,000 acre-feet annually from aquifer storage since the 1950s, resulting in declining ground water levels and spring flows. The department’s State Water Plan set a goal of having managed recharge averaging 250,000 acre-feet annually.

The SWID program, along with other major recharge projects at Lake Walcott and the Raft River Valley and to the north near Idaho Falls, will help the department eventually reach its goal.

“The average recharge for the past few years has been about 80,000 acre-feet,” says Higgs. “Eighty percent of that has occurred below American Falls Reservoir. However, the new Egin Bench recharge project to the north in Fremont County is operational. Recharge by the IWRB should top 150,000 for 2017.”

Higgs says SWID members look forward to continuing the recharge efforts near Burley.

“Next winter, we’ll be able to run without worrying about freeze-ups,” says Higgs.

Joint effort will bring riverbanks back to life Thu, 2 Feb 2017 10:07:29 -0400 Brett Tallman CARLTON, Ore. — Until last fall, both banks of the North Yamhill River west of Carlton were a thicket of blackberries and reed canary grass. But thanks to an agreement between three area landowners and the Yamhill Soil and Water Conservation District, a 2.3-mile-long riparian buffer will be planted there this spring.

“It took some convincing,” Josh Togstad, a Riparian Specialist with YSWCD, said. “The landowners are losing some production. The buffer will be at least 50 feet from the top of the riverbank and up to 225 feet, depending on the meander of the river.”

The project is funded by a $177,000 grant from the Oregon Department of Agriculture. It’s part of a million-dollar set aside to help private landowners meet DEQ water-quality standards in what the ODA calls Strategic Implementation Areas.

All told, 33 acres belonging to the Sitton family, of Carlton, Kathy Magar, of Gaston, and a third landowner will be planted with 60,000 native plants and shrubs such as Oregon ash, red osier dogwood and big-leaf maple.

“We’ve done projects like this before,” Togstad said, “but the average is probably five acres. It’s the first project of this size in our area.”

Intact riparian buffers, Togstad said, are the last line of defense for clean water. They cool streams, stabilize banks, and filter runoff.

“A (100-foot buffer) filters something like 90 percent of phosphorus and 90 percent of nitrogen out of runoff,” Tog-stad said.

YSWCD will also plant perennial grasses on bare soil between shrubs and trees. Grasses not only prevent weeds from seeding in, but also filter sediment from surface runoff.

“After about five years, trees will be big enough that they won’t be killed by mice or smothered by weeds,” he said. “After 15 years, they’ll be tall enough to provide shade.”

Though shade is good for the river, it is often a source of concern for farmers.

“There was some worry it would throw shade on fields,” Togstad said, “so we’re tapering the buffer, with the tallest trees right along the stream.”

“The other concern was clogged tile lines,” he said. “Most of that land is tiled for drainage, so we’ll leave some open sections for tile lines, probably 10 to 15 feet wide.”

Once the buffer is planted this spring, YSWCD will maintain it for five years.

“After that,” Togstad said, “the established buffer won’t need much more than mowing and spot spraying.”

Though the maintenance agreement with YSWCD ends after five years, landowners also have a 10- to 15-year agreement with the FSA. Through their Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, the FSA pays a one-time, $500-per-acre payment for enrolling, as well as an annual, per-acre payment for the duration of the contract.

“It’s pretty appealing,” landowner Lester Sitton said, “and it’s a good thing to be doing. I forget how many generations (of the Sitton family) have been farming here. Several, anyway. Thinking long term, we’d like to sustain several more. That’s what was done for us and that’s what we’d like to do here.”

Spokane Ag Expo and Pacific Northwest Farm Forum at a glance Fri, 27 Jan 2017 09:37:01 -0400 The 2017 Spokane Ag Expo and Pacific Northwest Farm Forum

Adults: $12 ticket price includes the Spokane Ag Expo trade show, Pacific Northwest Farm Forum main session, speakers, seminars and free parking at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena (main front lot — West 700 block of Boone Avenue).

Youth (12-18 years): $8 each, and children under 12 are free.

The Ag Expo/Farm Forum Ticket is good for all three days of the show.

Tickets can be purchased at the Convention Center Complex in the Exhibit Hall ticket offices at both entrances throughout the week of the show.

Discount tickets for $8 are available at all North 40 Outfitters locations in Washington and Idaho through show week.

The Spokane Ag Expo and Pacific Northwest Farm Forum events are all under one roof at the Spokane Convention Center, 334 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.

Spokane Ag Expo: Convention Center Exhibit Halls

Farm Forum Tuesday main session: Convention Center Lower Level Ballroom—300A&B.

Agricultural economic forecast: Convention Center Lower Level Ballroom—300B.

Farm Forum seminars: Convention Center Upper Level Rooms 401A-C, and 402A&B. Lower Level Rooms 302A&B.

FFA program: Convention Center Lower Level Ballroom—300A-C.

Career Fair: Convention Center Lower Level Meeting Rooms 302 A & B.

Free parking with Shuttle Bus Service: Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena Main Front Lot — West 700 block of Boone Avenue.

Tuesday, Feb. 7

Farm Forum Main Session featuring the presentation of the Excellence in Ag Award and weather expert Art Douglas: 9-11 a.m.

Ag Expo: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Exhibitor presentations: Noon, 1:30 p.m., 3 p.m.

Farm Forum seminars: Noon, 1:30 p.m., 3 p.m.

Wednesday, Feb. 8

Farm Forum main session featuring Washington State University economist Randy Fortenbery and Washington Grain Commission CEO Glen Squires: 9-10:30 a.m.

Ag Expo: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Exhibitor Presentations: 10:30 a.m., noon, 1:30 p.m., 3 p.m.

Farm Forum seminars: 10:30 a.m., Noon, 1:30 p.m., 3 p.m.

Thursday, Feb. 9

FFA program featuring motivational speaker Amberley Snyder: 9-11 a.m.

Ag Expo: 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

Career Fair: 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

Photo contest captures moments of farm life Fri, 27 Jan 2017 09:02:12 -0400 Matw Weaver Photographs capturing the essence of rural life will again be displayed at this year’s Spokane Ag Expo and Pacific Northwest Farm Forum.

They are part of the Expo’s annual photo contest.

“This contest celebrates rural life, and we love to see all the moments that make up that life,” said photo contest judge Rajah Bose, a Spokane photographer and co-founder of the photo and video design studio Factory Town. “Whether it’s brilliantly lit, harshly gritty or just simply sweet, there is no better person to find those moments than the ones living it.”

The contest received 75 entries.

In the youth category, winners were:

• First place: Avery Hughes of Newman Lake, Wash., for “What Are You Looking At?”

“We were sure this was a painting at first as it seemed like a perfect composition,” Bose said. “We appreciated the photographer’s ability to get in tight on this image, which yielded a beauty that wouldn’t have been obvious in a wider image. Beautiful texture and color.”

• Second place: Anna Leitz of Spokane, for “Are You My Momma?”

• Third place: Hughes for “Grape Leaf Perspective.”

The Greater Spokane Incorporated’s Choice award went to Leitz’s “Are You My Momma?”

Honorable mention went to Hughes’ “Bovines at Sundown,” Emma Kate Bartels of Spangle, Wash., for “Snazzy Jazzy,” and Leitz for “Team Work.”

Judges were surprised to see fewer entries in the youth category this year, Bose said.

“Even so, there were some great images to choose from,” Bose said. “We love to see photos that show your life and the unique moments you see around you every day. Teachers and parents, this is a fun and educational way to capture and tell the stories happening around the ranch, home and surrounding farms.”

Adult winners were:

• First place: Alyx Hanson of Elk, Wash., for “Resistance and Resilience.”

“This image was a universal favorite among the judges,” Bose said. “The emotion was easy to read in the kid’s face, and there was enough context that made the picture quick to understand.”

• Second place: John Bartels of Spangle for “Early Morning Wash Rack Trip.”

• Third place: Steve Shining of Spokane for “Dusty Plowing.”

The Director’s Choice Award went to Ashley Hanson of Elk for “Cold Weather Women.”

The Greater Spokane Incorporated’s Choice award went to Sharon Lindsay of Spokane for “Vintage Harvest 2016.”

Honorable mention went to Ryan Esvelt of Rice, Wash., for “Morning Drive,” Jim Heywood of Chattaroy, Wash., for “Dance of the Harvesters” and Sue Tebow of Moses Lake, Wash. for “My Bulls.”

Bose offered advice for next year’s photographers: “Focus on capturing genuine moments, great light and beautiful composition.”

Free parking available for the Expo Fri, 27 Jan 2017 09:31:26 -0400 Visitors to this year’s Spokane Ag Expo can again take advantage of the free parking available at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena’s Main Lot.

By parking at the arena and riding the shuttle bus, visitors can avoid the expense of finding parking at the Convention Center.

Parking Lot Hours:

• Tuesday, Feb. 7: 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

• Wednesday, Feb. 8: 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

• Thursday, Feb. 9, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

Shuttle Buses Sponsored by:

Directions to the free parking at the Arena from I-90 Maple Street Exit:

• Go north and continue over the Maple Street Bridge to Boone Avenue (first light after crossing bridge). Take a right on Boone and head east through two street lights. The Arena will be on your right. Shuttle buses will be located on Howard Street, which runs along the east side of the Arena.

Directions to free parking at the Arena from I-90 Division Street Exit:

• Go north and drive past the Convention Center, which will be on your left, and continue across the bridge. You will now be on the Ruby Street Couplet. Continue north to Sharp Avenue and take a left. Head west past Division Street two blocks and take a left to Boone Avenue. Take a right and go three blocks; the Arena will be on your left. Park in the lot directly in front of the facility.

To get directly to the Convention Center Complex from I-90:

• Take the Division Street Exit. Go north to Spokane Falls Boulevard and take a left. The Complex will be on your right. Parking lots for a fee are in the Complex and the surrounding area.

Ag award adds category to honor lifetime achievements Fri, 27 Jan 2017 09:29:52 -0400 Matw Weaver The Spokane Ag Expo and Pacific Northwest Farm Forum are expanding their annual awards to honor excellence in agriculture.

In addition to adult and youth categories, this year the Excellence in Agriculture Award will include a legacy category.

For some previous nominations, the Expo board felt the people or businesses should be recognized for their impact and contributions over a longer period of time, said Dick Hatterman, chairman of the award committee.

“It’s for somebody who has contributed over a lifetime, 20 years, 30 years, to the ag industry,” Hatterman said.

“The importance of the award is to recognize people and organizations that have contributed to the success of the industry,” Hatterman said. “The industry has its ups and downs, but it’s the people and organizations that continually put out effort who make sure it keeps moving forward.”

This year’s winners will be announced at the opening session of the Pacific Northwest Farm Forum, which will be at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7 in the Convention Center’s Lower Level Ballroom. This is the fourth year the awards are being presented.

Hatterman said the committee is always pleased and excited to see which nominations come in.

Last year, the Expo honored Shepherd’s Grain, a farmer-run business, and the LaCrosse, Wash., FFA marketing team, comprised of students Jason Wigen, Abigail McGregor and Britte Harder. Wigen is now a student at Washington State University majoring in crop science. McGregor and Harder will graduate this year.

“It was just a wonderful experience, having your peers acknowledge that you’ve accomplished something, in their view,” said Shepherd’s Grain co-founder Fred Fleming, who accepted the award. “For me, it really was a humbling experience to have that sort of recognition. It’s one of those things that someone said, ‘Thank you.’ It was a real gift.”

The students’ marketing plan for Dixon Land and Livestock in Pomeroy, Wash., won first place at the FFA national convention in 2015.

Lacrosse FFA adviser Lisa Baser liked that the award isn’t specific to FFA members.

“It’s a regional award that any kid could have been eligible for,” she said. “It’s great that the AgriBusiness Council does that, especially because a lot of these kids will pursue a future in agriculture.”

Hatterman asks industry members to be thinking about possible nominations in the future.

“It’s important to have people involved and help leading the charge, and consequently it’s important to recognize those people who are helping the ag industry,” he said.

Who’s who at this year’s Spokane Ag Expo Fri, 27 Jan 2017 09:26:29 -0400 • 195 Industries

• ABC Hydraulics

• Adams County Economic Development

• Adams Tractor of Spokane

• Ag Cab Solutions

• Ag Enterprise Supply

• Ag Spray Equipment

• Agco Corporation

• AgDirect

• AGPRO Marketing & Manufacturing Inc.

• AgraSyst

• Ag-West Distributing

• Air Filter Blaster

• Airguard Inc.

• A-L Compressed Gases Inc.

• All Seasons Tree Service

• Allsport Polaris Honda Yamaha

• Alpine: The Starter Fertilizer Company

• Anderson Products Co.

• Ariens Company

• ATI Solutions

• Augies Ag Sales

• Barber Engineering Company

• Barnes Welding Inc.

• Barr-Tech LLC

• BatchBoy by Pump Systems, LLC

• Bath Fitter

• Battery Systems

• Bayer Crop Science

• Best Western Wheatland Inn

• BestSel Marketing

• Booker Auction Company

• Bourgault Tillage Tools

• Bratney Companies

• Brown Bearing Company Inc.

• Buck & Affiliates Insurance West

• Burlingame Machinery Consignments

• Busch Distributors Inc.

• Cannonball Engineering

• Capital Press


• Carpenter, McGuire & DeWulf, P.S.

• CCTV CameraScan

• Central Lube Northwest


• CHS – Energy

• Class 8 Trucks

• Cleary Building Co.

• CliftonLarsonAllen LLP

• Cobalt Truck Equipment

• Coleman Oil Company

• Columbia Bank

• Columbia Hearing Centers

• Columbia River Carbonates

• Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers

• Connell Oil Inc.

• Cooperative Agricultural Producers Inc.

• Cordex North America

• Crop Insurance Solutions

• Crop Production Services

• CropX

• Cross Slot USA

• CSC Exteriors Inc.

• Cummins Northwest

• Cutco Cutlery

• D & J Farm Supply

• Day Wireless Systems

• Ditch Witch Northwest-A Pape’ Co.

• Diversified Crop Insurance Services

• Doughboys Tools & Equipment

• DSI Recycling Systems Inc.

• Dutch Industries

• Easter WA Noxious Weed Boards

• Eastern Washington PTAC

• EconoHeat Inc.

• Edward Jones Investments

• Eljay Oil Inc.

• Ellis Equipment

• Embroidery Wholesale

• Evergreen Implement

• Farm Bureau Insurance/Western Community Insurance

• Farmland Tractor Supply

• Fasteners Inc.

• Fastline


• Flexxifinger QD Industries Inc.

• Fluid Applied Roofing LLC

• Fluid Design Products Inc.

• FMI Sales

• G & R Ag Products

• General Implement Distributors

• Giant Rubber Water Tank

• Gibby Media Group

• Global Harvest Foods/Mills Intl.

• Grange Insurance Group

• Great Plains Mfg. Inc.

• Greenacres Gypsum & Lime Company

• Greenway Seeds

• G-Tech Flitz/Flitz Intl.

• Hahn Diesel Performance & Tuning LLC

• Harold Ag & Mobile Products

• Harvest Solutions

• Haybuster/Duratech Industries

• Hefty Seed Company

• Hi-Hog/Shelton Corrals

• Hillco Technologies Inc.

• Hinrichs Trading Company

• Hortau

• Hosty of Spokane

• Hotsy of Spokane

• HUB International Insurance

• Hydrotex Lubrications

• I Q Technologies


• Industrial Communications

• Inland Power & Light

• Intelligent Agricultural Solutions

• J. E. Love Company

• JD Skiles

• Jim Wilhite’s Bale Wagon, LLC

• JK Boots

• Jones Truck & Implement

• Junior Livestock Show of Spokane

• K 3 Herzog Distributors LLC

• K102 Country

• Kaman Fluid Power

• Kaput Products

• Kenworth Sales Company

• Kile Machine & Mfg. Inc.

• L & H Seeds

• LaFarge Canada Inc.

• Landoll Corporation

• LDJ Mfg. Inc. DBA: Thunder Creek Equipment

• Les Schwab Tire Centers

• Lexar Homes

• Life Flight Network

• LiquiTube Marketing International

• Long Construction Inc.

• Longhorn Barbecue

• Magnation Water Technologies

• McKay Seed Company

• MK Commodities, White Wheat Report

• Morgan Enterprises

• Morse Steel Service

• Moss Adams LLC

• Mountain High Truck and Equipment

• Mountain High Truck and Equipment

• Mountain View Metal Works

• MPP Tools

• Multi-Trail Enterprises


• National Weather Service

• Nick’s Custom Boots

• North 40 Outfitters

• North Pine Ag Equipment Inc.

• Northstar Clean Concepts

• Northwest Farm Credit Services

• Northwest Farmland Management

• Northwest Fuel Systems

• Nu Skin Pharmanex

• O’Reilly Auto Parts

• Odessa Trading Company

• Oxarc Inc.

• Pacific Northwest Direct Seed association

• Pacific Petroleum & Supply

• Palouse Pulse LLC

• Palouse Welding & Machine Inc.

• Pape Machinery

• Pape Material Handling

• Pape Rents

• Pioneer West

• Pohl Spring Works Inc.

• Prime Attachments & Custom Fab.

• Quality Steel Buildings Inc.

• Quality Water Northwest

• R & H Machine Inc.

• R & M Steel Company

• Rainbow Springs Ranch LLC

• Rainier Seeds Inc.

• RCO International – All American Ag

• Reman Sales

• Renewal by Andersen

• Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers

• Rowand Machinery Company

• Ruseler’s Custom Creations

• S & W Seed Company

• Scales N.W.

• Scales Unlimited

• Scentsy Wickless Candles

• Schaeffer’s Specialized Lubricants

• Schlagel Mfg.

• Schulte Industries LTD

• Seeds Inc./Plants Of The Wild

• Skinner Tank Company (STC)

• Skone Irrigation & Supply LLC

• Smith Packaging

• Solid Structures LLC

• Soucy International

• Spectrum Crop Devl. Corp./Progene LLC

• Spokane Community Coll., Environmental Sci. Dept.

• Spokane Conservation District

• Spokane House of Hose

• Spokane Seed Company

• Spray Center Electronics Inc.

• Spray Center Electronics Inc.

• Sprayflex/Ag Trucks

• St. John Hardware & Implement

• Star Rentals Inc.

• Steel Structures America Inc.

• Stintzi Insurance Inc.

• Stor-Loc

• Summers Mfg. Co.

• Superior Steel Products Inc.

• Syngenta

• Systems West LLC

• T&S Sales

• The Concrete Doctor

• The Exchange Newspaper

• The McGregor Company

• Tire Rama

• TNT Truck Parts

• Touchmark on South Hill

• Tractor House/

• Trans Canada-GTN

• Triangle Ag-Services

• Uncle Sam’s Flag & Gift

• University of Idaho Biodiesel Education

• University of Idaho College of Ag & Life Sciences

• US Transmissions Inc.

• USDA National Appeals Division


• USDA, NASS (Natl. Ag Statistics Service)

• Valley Synthetics

• Vermeer Manufacturing

• Visit Spokane

• Vitazyme

• Viterra

• Voortex Productions

• WA ST Dept. of Labor & Industries

• WA ST Patrol-Commercial Vehicle Division

• WA State Department of Natural Resources

• Walker Mowers

• Walla Walla Community College

• Washington Ag Forestry Leadership Foundation

• Washington Assistive Technology Act Program

• Washington Association of Wheat Growers

• Washington Cattleman’s Assoc.

• Washington Policy Center

• Washington Trust Bank

• WaterFurnace

• West Coast Seed Mill Supply Co.

• Western Farm Ranch & Dairy

• Western Reclamation Inc.

• Western Trailer Sales Co.

• Wheatland Bank

• Wheeler Industries

• Whitley Fuel LLC

• Wilbur-Ellis Co.

• Wilco Disturbers Inc.


• WSU College of Ag, Human & Natural Resources

• WSU Spokane County Extension

• Xpain Solutions

• Ziegler Lumber (Ziggy’s)

• Zions Bank

Popular weatherman to offer his annual forecast Fri, 27 Jan 2017 09:22:01 -0400 Matw Weaver Art Douglas admits he’s a “weatherbug.”

“I can’t put the computer down, I’ve always got to know what the weather’s doing,” he says. “I’m just fascinated with it.”

And, he says, “If you get fascinated with weather, the next step is, you obviously are interested in forecasting.”

That fascination with the weather has turned into Douglas’ life’s work. He is a professor emeritus of atmospheric sciences at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., having started there in 1982 and retiring in 2007.

Other agricultural audiences Douglas speaks to include the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and Gavilon, an Omaha commodity management firm.

But Douglas draws a particularly loyal audience at the Spokane Ag Expo and Pacific Northwest Farm Forum, where he will offer his forecast following the presentation of the Excellence in Ag Awards, which starts at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7, in the main ballroom of the convention center.

Douglas began speaking at the show in 1989.

“The farmers like him and they trust what he says,” said show manager Myrna O’Leary. “The one year, we couldn’t get him and (we) wanted to hide. They were angry Art wasn’t there.”

Douglas knows what his farmer and rancher audiences want to hear.

“They’re not just interested in the weather,” Douglas said. “They want to get a hedge in the future and listen to what might possibly occur.”

Douglas said he is not particularly interested in the day-to-day forecasts found on television or from the weather services.

“Models are doing a pretty darn good job now of forecasting six to eight days, and they even get it right sometimes out to two weeks,” he said. “But the real challenge continues to be the next month to three months.”

At that point, numerical models still have a tough time predicting the weather, Douglas said.

“The reality is, it’s a very complex science,” he said. “But to me it’s challenging.”

In December, Douglas said he expected colder weather than the last three or four years, with below-normal precipitation and lower snow levels.

“The question is, is there enough soil moisture in the ground to hold it through a cold, dry winter?” he said. “Are you going to be able to keep snow on the ground? It’ll be cold, but are we going to get enough snow storms to keep protection on the ground?”