Capital Press | Special Sections Capital Press Mon, 26 Jan 2015 08:17:51 -0500 en Capital Press | Special Sections Something for everyone at Northwest Ag Show Wed, 14 Jan 2015 10:47:17 -0500 MITCH LIES Agriculture reigns supreme at the Portland Expo Center for three days in late January as the 46th annual Northwest Agricultural Show takes center stage.

This year’s show features more than 200 exhibitors, three theme days, seminars, special exhibits and an expanded tasting area featuring locally produced beer and wine.

Opening day, Jan. 27, is FFA Day. Among highlights is the FFA Passport Program, an event open to the public that encourages attendees to get passport stamps at participating vendor booths and enter their passport at the FFA booth for a chance to win a big-screen TV.

Show manager Amy Patrick said she started increasing FFA activities several years ago after noticing participation among FFA members was dwindling.

“We really ramped up our support of FFA the last three years,” Patrick said. “Mostly because I was an FFA kid and it is such a natural fit for the show.”

The second day, Jan. 28, is Family Day, when families, regardless of size, can gain admission for just $20.

“I have personally seen families of nine and 12 come through the gates on one ticket,” Patrick said. “It’s pretty awesome.”

Patrick said the impetus behind Family Day is to encourage participation among the next generation of farmers and ranchers.

“We’re trying to make it easier for folks to come up, bring the next generation, and keep them interested in farming,” she said.

The show stays open until 8 p.m. on Family Day, providing an opportunity for those who work late or have children in school to attend.

The closing day, Jan. 29, is Free Parking Day. “We are paying for the parking for everyone who attends on Thursday as a way to say thanks,” Patrick said.

The day also will focus on small acreage farms with seminars from Black Dog Farmstead.

“The small-farm theme came up because of what I’m seeing in my local area,” Patrick said. “Farm kids, like me, who may have come from larger production backgrounds, now are living on small farms.

“My husband and I have 20 acres,” she said. “It is not a production farm, but we want to make sure we are using our acreage to the best of our abilities and to the most profitability as well.”

Each day also features several hours of seminars, with sections on horticultural crops, nursery crops and small farms. And Oregon OSHA will provide four hours of training each morning on how to safely use and store pesticides.

Northwest Ag Show grows in the rain Wed, 14 Jan 2015 10:43:05 -0500 MITCH LIES Each year, come the last week in January, organizers of the Northwest Agricultural Show hope for rain.

“If it is good weather out, you know where farmers are going to be,” said show Manager Amy Patrick. “They’re going to be working on their farms and not at the show.”

Whether it is the date, the rain or something else, something seems to be working for the organizers of the Northwest Agricultural Show. Now in its 46th year, the show is the second largest agricultural show on the West Coast, behind only the World Ag Expo in Tulare, California.

Around 10,000 people attended the show last year, a 15 percent increase over the previous year.

The Northwest Agricultural Show was started by Patrick’s father, Jim Heater, and Lloyd Martin in 1969. The two attended the Tulare farm show, which was also just starting at that time, and took home some ideas of what they wanted their show to look like.

Initially held at the Oregon State Fairgrounds, the show in the first two years consisted of an exposition of farm machinery and supplies and a handful of seminars. When it was 2 years old, the Oregon Horticultural Council was formed, and the show expanded its schedule of seminars, a formula it maintains today.

The Horticultural Council is made up of the Oregon Nut Growers Society, the Oregon Association of Nurseries and the Oregon Horticultural Society.

“What folks were finding with the different groups is that everybody was trying to put on their own meeting,” Patrick said. “And there was a lot of redundancy between the organizations and what they were trying to do. It was felt that maybe by joining forces and working with the trade show, they could reap some benefits of being a bigger organization: Bring in some speakers that maybe individually the groups wouldn’t be able to pull.”

The organizers moved the show to the Portland Coliseum in the early 1970s, before moving it to the Portland Expo Center in the late 1970s. Organizers decided to hold the show in late January because farm schedules typically were slowest at that point in the year.

“With all the different kinds of agriculture that go on, especially here on the western side of the state, it is about the only time of year you can kind of say, OK, nobody should be doing anything,” Patrick said.

“That’s why we always kept it in January,” she said. “And then we just cross our fingers for rain.”

FFA an integral part of Northwest Ag Show Wed, 14 Jan 2015 10:42:35 -0500 MITCH LIES Capita Opening day of the 2014 Northwest Agricultural Show features an organization with deep roots in agriculture.

And, despite losing its state funding beginning in 2011, it’s an organization that continues to blossom statewide.

“Obviously we are much smaller than we once were in terms of staff,” Oregon FFA Foundation Executive Director Kevin White said. “But during this transition, we have actually grown.”

At more than 5,500 members, participation now is about what it was when FFA membership peaked in the 1980s, White said, and up nearly 1,000 from just three years ago.

With 100 chapters now in Oregon, that number also continues to grow, White said, particularly as FFA reaches into urban areas. Its chapter in north Clackamas County “services quite a few schools in the Portland area,” White said. And the state’s newest chapter, which started recently at Portland’s Madison High School, serves an almost exclusively urban area.

Also, White said, there could be even more chapters if the state was better equipped to service FFA. There is

more demand for chapters, for example, than the state has agricultural sciences teachers, he said, a fact that slows growth.

Asked what the state is doing to address that issue, White said: “Recruiting out of state to find ag teachers that would like to move to Oregon.”

A school district can only form an FFA Chapter if it has an agricultural sciences teacher, he said. Ag teachers serve as advisors for FFA.

At the Northwest Agricultural Show, FFA Day has been a staple for about a dozen years, said show manager Amy Patrick.

The day will include a question-and-answer treasure hunt, where students receive stamps on their “passports” for asking participating vendors agricultural questions.

It will include an FFA Supporters Reception at the close of show that day in the tasting room area, which features locally produced wine and beer. The reception will include presentations from FFA about its new donation program, called Farm for FFA, and a silent auction.

“It will be a great time for FFA supporters, alumni, show attendees and vendors to come together to support the organization and network in a relaxed setting,” Patrick said.

White said the show also is a great opportunity for the public to meet the state’s FFA officers, who will be on hand all three days at the FFA booth.

And it’s a great chance for the officers to hear from past members. “The officers really enjoy hearing folks reminisce about the days they were in FFA,” White said.

Hort seminar focuses on orchard training Wed, 14 Jan 2015 10:40:59 -0500 MITCH LIES In the mid-1990s, Northwest cherry growers were behind the curve in utilizing new training systems.

Not so any longer.

“I’d say that we are now on the leading edge of developing and using some of these systems,” Oregon State University Wasco County Extension agent Lynn Long said.

Long, who has researched cherry production systems in Chile, Australia, Canada and Moldova in the past two years, will talk about what he’s been seeing in his international travels as part of the horticultural seminar, Jan. 27 at the Northwest Ag Show.

“I’m seeing a lot of interest in Chile on the new training systems that have been developed around the world,” he said. Particularly of interest for Chilean growers is the Super Slender Ax system, which was developed at the University of Bologna in Italy and the B. Baum system, developed in northern Europe, he said.

The B. Baum system has two leaders that allow cherries to be farmed off laterals that are pruned annually so fruit remains close to each of the axes of the tree, he said.

“There is also interest in Chile in some of the systems that were developed here in the Northwest,” he said, “such as the UFO, and interest in the KGB system out of Australia.”

Growers are using newer training systems as a means to simplify harvest and pruning and, in some cases, to increase the effectiveness of pesticide treatments. Northwest growers, he said, are adapting systems developed elsewhere for use here.

For example, the KGB system, developed in Australia, today is being used as much as any system in new plantings in the Northwest, he said, rivaling even the Steep Leader system that came out of Washington State University in the mid-1990s.

In addition to utilizing new training systems, Northwest growers today are paying more attention to soil biology, he said.

“In the past, what was going on above ground was the only thing we really thought about,” he said. “You put the fertilizer on and then irrigated and that is about all we knew or understood about what was happening in the soil.

“Now we are starting to think about soil biology — how do we affect the health of the tree by looking beneath that soil level,” he said. “A lot of that started after I took a group of Oregon and Washington growers to Australia a number of years ago and we started talking to growers in Australia about their use of mulches.”

Seminar to aid small-farm operators Wed, 14 Jan 2015 10:40:18 -0500 MITCH LIES New this year to the Northwest Agricultural Show is a presentation on small acreage farms.

Show Manager Amy Patrick said she decided to provide the presentation in deference to an increase of interest in small farms from those new to farming and from traditional farmers.

“It seemed like a natural fit, given what I’m seeing in my local area,” Patrick said.

“I’m seeing that a lot of kids that I grew up with, who came from larger farms, today don’t have the larger farms themselves, but they still have that background and still want to do something with the acreage they have,” Patrick said.

Presenters for the small acreage farming seminar are Tucker and Arianna Pyne, who operate a small farm just outside Rogue River, Ore., and sell at the Ashland and Grants Pass farmers’ markets.

The two are from the Bay Area, but took to farming as they entered their 20s. Three years ago, Tucker purchased what is now Black Dog Farmstead.

They grow a variety of row crops and are preparing to plant a peach orchard that will be interspersed with blueberry plants and herbs. They also have bee hives, goats, chickens and are preparing to branch into quail eggs and quail meat production.

They are preparing to increase the acreage they farm from 2 1/2 to 4.

Arianna, who has been farming with Tucker for nearly two years, said farm life is all she dreamed of and more.

“A lot of people who live in the city have this storybook image of what a farm should be, and what it is like to live on a farm,” she said. “But the realities about farming are different.

“The adjustment for me was realizing that your back is going to hurt, and you are going to have dirt under your nails,” she said. “If you have an animal that is sick and that needs to be put down, that is something you have to deal with.

“Being a farmer is very hands-on,” she said. “And from the second you open your eyes to the second you close them, it is a full-time job, and sometimes even more than that.”

Arianna said she hesitated when she was asked to lead the seminar, but decided she may have something to offer the more established farmers who typically attend the ag show.

“Though we may have come from the city and we don’t know a lot of the fundamentals,” she said, “we are learning pretty quickly, and we are learning things that some large-scale farmers just wouldn’t know.”

OSHA seminars foster pesticide safety Wed, 14 Jan 2015 10:39:41 -0500 MITCH LIES Over the years, Garnet Cooke and Lori Cohen, OSHA compliance officers who present training sessions to farmers on pesticide safety, have resorted to many tactics to interest audiences.

One year they put on a play, where Cooke depicted a compliance officer and Cohen a grower.

“We got a lot of laughs,” Cooke said.

“Basically, we try to mix it up so that if someone comes every year, they are always getting something different.

“And we try to make it fun,” Cooke said.

“We don’t stand up there and say this rule says this and that rule says that,” Cooke said. “We engage with them and we show a lot of pictures of places we’ve been.

“When I was at this one farm, I actually squealed and grabbed my camera when the farmer opened the storage shed. It was a terrible mess with pesticide containers dumped everywhere,” she said. “I thought, this will be great for training.”

Cooke said she also shows pictures of proper pesticide storage.

“People want to see proper usage,” she said. “When you compare the two, it is it really apparent what is good and what is not.”

Cooke and Cohen will be providing three four-hour sessions on pesticide safety at the Northwest Agricultural Show, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day of the show.

Topics will include proper use of respirators, hazard communication and Worker Protection Standard training for employees, changes that are in store for the Worker Protection Standard and how to avoid heat illnesses. Sessions also will include information on practical solutions to common pesticide problems, such as decontaminating enclosed cabs, what to do with old chemicals, how to seal shelves and floors in pesticide storage areas.

Growers obtain continuing education credits for participating in the sessions.

Cooke, who started providing pesticide training sessions in the early 1990s, said she has witnessed a change in grower attitudes over the years, both toward the sessions and toward pesticide safety in general.

“Growers today want the information because they are not getting it anywhere else,” she said. “They want to know how to use pesticides safely. Their attitude has changed.

“Initially, people were hesitant to go to conferences led by OSHA,” she said.

Cooke said she and Cohen are busier now than ever.

“Last year we did 21 (training sessions), and attendance was very high for the most part,” she said.

Invasive insects among nursery seminar topics Wed, 14 Jan 2015 10:37:52 -0500 MITCH LIES As much as 70 percent of the invasive insects and diseases in U.S. forests can be traced back to the nursery industry, many to imports of exotic plants favored by consumers, according to a recent study.

The statistic is troubling for foresters: In many cases, no biological controls are present for these exotic species and their introduction is outside the foresters’ sphere of influence.

Wyatt Williams of the Oregon Department of Forestry hopes to change that.

As part of a multi-pronged approach to combating invasive insects and diseases in U.S. forests, Williams is hoping to increase awareness of the issue among nursery owners and improve communication between natural resource agencies and the nursery industry.

“It would be great if when we find these invasive pests, we had a quick channel to get that news back to the horticultural industry and say, ‘Hey, we found this. Could you check your channels or your plant orders?’

“We could hopefully stop it right there, or they could communicate it back up the line to their exporters,” he said.

Williams will be addressing the nursery industry as part of a full slate of nursery seminars at the Northwest Agricultural Show on Jan. 28.

Other approaches Williams has identified to help reduce the introduction of invasive insects and diseases in U.S. forests include bulking up inspections of imported plants by increasing funding of the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

“Right now, there are something like 63 plant inspectors for 18 stations,” Williams said. “If you do the math that means each inspector is responsible for 43 million plant specimens a year.”

Williams said he also would like to see the nursery industry better promote native plants.

“If you go to some of these large nursery company websites, you can shop for plants with all sorts of attributes, such as fast growing or loves shade, but there is no drop-down menu for native. We have a local movement for food, for energy. How about plants?”

Williams also encouraged nursery industry leaders to attend the department’s annual forest health meetings to inform the industry on current threats.

The idea of halting the spread of invasive insects and diseases in U.S. forests seems daunting, but Williams is confident it can be done.

“We have the infrastructure already in place,” he said. “We have a cooperative attitude already in place among the natural resource agencies, and I want to bring the horticultural industry into the loop,” he said. “And I’m optimistic we can do that.”

Mandako Agri goes the extra miles Wed, 14 Jan 2015 10:28:15 -0500 MITCH LIES Companies from near and far participate in the Northwest Agricultural Show each year. You can count Mandako Agri in Plum Coulee, Manitoba, Canada, as one of the companies from far.

This show marks the third year Mandako Agri has participated. It will be one of more than 200 exhibitors to participate in the three-day show.

Named after Manitoba and the Dakotas, Mandako has grown considerably since it was started by John Redekop as a one-man welding shop in 1988. Today it has between 35 and 40 employees, according to sales manager Llew Peters, who joined the company in 2007.

The company’s reach also has expanded considerably from the days it concentrated on Manitoba and the Dakotas. Today it sells in most of the U.S. and Canada.

The company manufactures and sells a land roller and a vertical tillage machine that features coulters that can move up to a 9 degree angle.

It advertises its land roller as the “heaviest production roller on the market.”

“We build our rollers strong,” Peters said. “We go the extra mileage in putting in extra-thick tubing in the walls, putting in texture braces. It’s a tool that won’t break down. It will last a long time.

“It’s a concept that was started way back with the founder,” he said.

“The goal is always to build it durable and keep it simple,” he said. “It is durable and practical so that it can fit in all sorts of situations.”

The company branched into selling and manufacturing its vertical tillage machine about four years ago when it purchased a company from Ontario, Canada, Peters said.

“We bought the idea, brought it home and westernized it,” he said.

Prior to Mandako Agri’s purchase, the tiller had been built for use on smaller farms in Southern Ontario, he said.

“We beefed it up, made it sturdy to last for the tough conditions that we have out here,” he said.

Peters said the company participates in upwards of 20 trade shows a year, including 5 to 7 in Canada, 4 or 5 in the Western U.S. and 9 or 10 in the Midwest and Eastern U.S.

“It’s exposure, plain and simple,” he said, when asked why so many. “You’re hoping to meet two types of people, especially when you’re starting out in an area.

“You’re looking for the end user, the farmer, to see something and say, ‘That would fit my needs,’ or ‘That would make my life easier or more profitable.’ And you’re looking for dealers, as well.”

Tasting Room offers beverages — and more Wed, 14 Jan 2015 10:26:50 -0500 In its third year at the Northwest Agricultural Show, the Tasting Room continues to be a must-visit area of the show where local wineries and breweries come together to share their wares in a relaxed environment.

Seven Brides Brewing continues to be a hit, filling growlers and offering samples of their selection of brews. The brewery’s Josiah Kelley knows most of the exhibitors and attendees alike and usually has a crowd of folks standing around his booth visiting.

Representatives of Forest Edge Vineyard will also return and bring with them the unique, sustainably grown wines for which they are known.

“Strike up a conversation with Ron or Jan Wallinder and you’ll be instantly drawn in,” show manager Amy Patrick said of the Forest Edge proprietors.

Nehalem Bay Winery has been a fixture at the ag show for years.

“Nehalem Bay Winery was exhibiting at the show even before we put the Tasting Room together, so they were naturally the first exhibitors contacted about the idea,” Patrick said. “Their wines are a favorite among the regular show attendees and make a great take-home purchase.”

In addition to the wide selection of beverages, there is something else that is sure to please: chocolate.

“And not just any chocolate,” Patrick said. Tracy Butera runs Wicked Good Chocolate & More and has been a part of the Tasting Room since its inception and will be on hand again with her sweet treats and temptations.

“The Tasting Room has grown into a great addition to the Northwest Ag Show,” Patrick said. “Take a few moments to stop in while you’re there and see for yourself.”

A special FFA Supporters Reception will be held in the Tasting Room at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 27.

“It’s a great way to combine both events,” Patrick said.

Get a glance at the ‘old days’ of agriculture Wed, 14 Jan 2015 10:26:21 -0500 MITCH LIES Farmers and others who come to the Northwest Agricultural Show are able to view the latest in farm equipment. For some, however, it’s the antique farm equipment that is a big draw.

“People really love this stuff,” said Al Hall, marketing and advertising director of Antique Powerland.

Hall counts himself among those attracted to old farm equipment. The first time he visited Antique Powerland in Brooks, Oregon, it was during the annual Great Oregon Steam-Up.

“I went nuts,” he said. “It was really exciting.”

That was 1998. Today Hall sits on the Antique Powerland Museum Association’s Board of Directors in addition to serving as its marketing and advertising director.

He said many of the 15 museums located on Powerland’s 62-acre site bring equipment to the Northwest Ag Show, marking it as the Powerland Association’s biggest display outside the annual Steam-Up.

Typically included each year are old John Deere tractors from the Oregon Vintage Machinery Museum; old Caterpillar tractors, displayed by the Antique Caterpillar Machinery Museum; vintage cars and motorcycles, displayed by Northwest Vintage Car and Motorcycle Museum; steam tractors, displayed by the Western Steam Friends Association; old locomotives and other antique power equipment.

In all, the museums typically bring more than 100 pieces of equipment to the show.

“We fill up half of Hall C,” he said.

Opened in 1970, Antique Powerland has a colorful history dating back to when several antique farm equipment enthusiasts decided to house and display their equipment at a centralized site.

The association has been run strictly by volunteers until last year, when the Antique Powerland Museum Association hired Pam Vorachek, formerly of the Gilbert House Children’s Museum in Salem, as its first executive director. The association used grant funds from the MJ Murdock Charitable Trust to hire Vorachek.

The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays in April through September. It also is open in March and October on Wednesdays through Sundays, depending on the weather.

The Great Oregon Steam-Up is held the last weekend of July and the first weekend of August each year.

Hall said to look for a robust Steam-Up in 2015. The association will be celebrating its 45th anniversary, and Hall, as enthused as ever by antique power equipment, likely will be there, and smiling.

Farmers should insure their income, health Fri, 12 Dec 2014 10:18:56 -0500 Sarah Kickler Kelber When it’s time to choose insurance policies, farmers can often find themselves considering some uncomfortable questions.

“The question would be, do they have anyone else who can come in and step in?” asks T.J. Sullivan, owner of Huggins Insurance in Salem, Oregon. “If they got cancer, and they couldn’t farm, what would that do to their family?”

That’s where disability policies come in.

“The ability to preserve that income while you get healthy is huge,” says Matthew Woodbridge, a producer at Valley Insurance Professionals in Salem. “All the operating costs that happen day-to-day, you either have to take care of it from home or pay someone else to do it. Disability funds can help maintain that income and keep the business going.”

Health insurance presents its own challenges — both choosing an individual policy and figuring out what benefits are required for employees.

Woodbridge helps his clients assess the options based on several questions, including how often they visit the doctor, what they tend to see them about, whether they have any chronic conditions and what clinic access is like in their area.

“Each insurance company has a network of providers,” he said. “In more rural communities, you don’t want someone to have to drive an hour just to see the doctor.”

In the case of chronic conditions, he points his clients toward carriers offering specific disease management programs.

“If someone is diabetic, that can affect their ability to work at their business,” he said, so getting them signed up for one of these programs can be beneficial to them and their farm.

For larger businesses, there is the issue of providing health coverage to employees.

“The Affordable Care Act sets the standard that if a business has the equivalent of 50 full-time employees, then you need to offer them health insurance,” Woodbridge said.

There is also a 100 full-time employee threshold — penalties for not offering insurance go into effect in 2015 for the 100 FTE level and in 2016 for the 50 FTE level.

Woodbridge suggests business owners work with an agent to help navigate through the marketplace and negotiate with carriers.

“Working with an agent also lets business owners look at all the carriers without having to research each one individually,” he said. “The agents essentially do all the legwork.”

Sullivan pointed out that business owners need to keep an eye on the status of any tax credits they might have in play with the ACA.

“Some farmers have applied for tax credits to afford the price of insurance,” he said. “But then they might end up having a bumper crop and making more than anticipated and seeing their income go way up.”

In this case, they would end up having to pay back the tax credit, so he recommended setting some funds aside.

Woodbridge added that one thing business owners and employees should keep in mind is their rights in regards to insurance.

“In the state of Oregon, you have the right to buy health insurance regardless of legal status,” he said.

In July 2014, the state approved a permanent administrative rule explicitly stating this.

“Undocumented access and the right to purchase insurance is a critical piece of the puzzle,” he said.

Interest rates likely to stay where they are, experts say Fri, 12 Dec 2014 10:18:03 -0500 Sarah Kickler Kelber Are they headed up or down? That’s usually the question about interest rates.

But for now, said Tom Nakano, the answer is neither.

“The sentiment now is that the Federal Reserve will keep short-term rates where they are for most of 2014,” said Nakano, the executive vice president, chief administration officer and chief financial officer for Northwest Farm Credit Services. “What we are seeing is probably late 2015 or early 2016 before they start to raise interest rates.”

There are a couple of dynamics, he said. The domestic U.S. economy is looking better, unemployment rate is down, there’s a strong payroll number, so confidence is building here.

“The driving negative statement on rates is geopolitical,” he said. “The Federal Reserve is saying that even though the United States is doing OK, we have enough concerns about the international world that we want to wait before raising rates.”

What does all this mean for agricultural loans, such as operating loans?

“Agricultural producers typically don’t base decisions about borrowing for short-term needs based on the interest rate environment,” said Curt Hudnutt, chief risk officer for Rabo AgriFinance. “Since most producers have on-going short-term financing needs, they always carry operating debt. In addition, interest rates on operating loans are generally variable in nature and thus will increase as the short-term rate environment begins to strengthen.”

Nakano added that with the interest rate looking stable for the next couple of quarters, his company has been working with its customers to address some of their variable-rate debt.

“On our operating loans, unless it’s a new customer, they’ve been with us for a while, and we’ve told them that if they are on a variable rate, we can fix that rate,” Nakano said. “If they have a variable rate on their farm mortgage, we can tell them it looks like rates are (eventually) going to go up, so you ought to start looking at fixing those variable rates.”

Overall, Nakano said, short- and long-term rates are looking relatively stable for the next 12 months or so.

“Longer-term rates, like those tied to mortgage loans, those will stay where they are at for now, they might go down a little,” he said. “Now is a pretty good time for an expansion, or buying the neighbor’s place, if it’s an option.”

Good financial plans put your money to work Fri, 12 Dec 2014 10:17:39 -0500 Sarah Kickler Kelber After an unexpectedly good season, a farmer might be faced with a conundrum: Where to put those profits — back into the farm or into some other investment?

It’s a good problem to have, to be sure, but it’s not without its challenges.

“Farmers are really good about putting their funds into the farm side, not as much into retirement and non-retirement issues,” said Paul Neiffer, a principal certified public accountant in agribusiness at CliftonLarsonAllen LLP in Yakima, Washington.

He compares the three investment options to the three legs of a stool that must be kept in balance.

“I definitely think having some additional assets outside of the farm makes sense because our farm clients often have all their net worth tied up in the farm,” Neiffer said. “If you siphon some of that off (to other investments), it can help smooth things out when the cycle turns if farming goes down, giving them the liquidity they might need for the farm.”

It starts with looking at a farm’s balance sheet and making sure there is enough on the “current assets” side.

“For a farmer who has bought a lot of equipment with cash and land with cash, that liquidity might not be where it should,” he added. “It might make sense to refinance some equipment and land with lower interest rates.”

He stressed the importance of having a strategic plan covering the next three to five years so you know what your goals are and how to adapt to changes in the industry.

David Buck, the partner in charge of agribusiness services at AKT in Salem, agrees.

“(Making decisions) is best done in the context of a plan and goals that a farmer sits down and thinks about,” he said. “It’s a lot easier if it’s in the context of these goals.”

He recommends a farmer with some unexpected profits first look at debt structures and to pay some of that down if it’s an issue.

“When retirement is looming you want to have the debt under control,” he said. “If debt is under control, a lot of farmers see land as their primary source of retirement since land has always been a great long-term investment and an inflation hedge.”

Then, for farmers with excess cash flow who don’t have land they want to purchase, he suggests some sort of a qualified retirement fund such as an IRA.

The land issue changes if a farmer is planning to pass the farm along to the next generation.

“If you aren’t planning on selling your land or if you are leasing, you have to look at a long-term plan to set money aside,” Buck said. “There are some good tax-favored vehicles for this purpose.

“The tax law encourages individual retirement savings, and farmers can tap into that just like any business entity.”

Neiffer agreed, pointing out that “with retirement, the younger you start, the power of compounding becomes very powerful.”

Buck reiterated that it all goes back to a plan that should be created long before retirement is looming.

“It’s not that difficult to sit down with someone who is more of a numbers person who can look at a 10-, 15-, 20-year approach,” Buck said. “A good planner is going to be able to factor in things like health needs, Social Security components, and so on.”

Neiffer added that investment diversification is not the only thing to keep in mind, that risk diversification and making sure a farm’s structure is properly set up are also key.

Beyond that, he said, farmers can be pretty conservative on the investment side, with, say, a mix of bonds or fixed income equities.

“I’m fine with farmers being fairly conservative with non-farm investments and fairly aggressive on the farm side because being a little more aggressive over a 10-, 20-, 30-, 40-year period, it always pays off,” Neiffer said. “Equities have always outperformed bonds in that time period, and a farm operation is already an equity component.”

If a farmer is faced with excess cash flow, Buck said, “the main thing is to do something productive with that influx. If you have an influx of funds, take them off the table and put them to work for you.”

Crop insurance is one tool most farmers should have Fri, 12 Dec 2014 10:16:50 -0500 Sarah Kickler Kelber In farming, it’s important to expect the unexpected.

Wind, hail, fire, too much or too little moisture, pests, disease. Any one of these factors can impact the quantity and quality of a crop.

That’s where crop insurance comes in.

“Crop insurance allows a producer to insure a crop based on his own history,” said George Harris, a senior insurance agent with Northwest Farm Credit Services. “The program is subsidized by the federal government, which makes it cost-effective for the producers and allows a guarantee for the farmer to protect his crops against natural-related causes of loss.”

As an example, Harris mentions a case in which rain at harvest time caused cherries to split.

“The grower would be paid indemnity for the loss on the cherries,” he said. “If a producer did not have crop insurance there is nothing there for him. The farm has to absorb the loss.”

Crop insurance is typically not mandatory — growers have to decide what level of risk they’re willing to take on. It can be cyclical, though.

“A lot of times, you’ll see a participation rate go up when a new policy is introduced because of the publicity,” Harris said. “But if they go a few years without claims, that drops off. Then we have a catastrophic event and some growers are paid out, you’ll see the participation rate go back up.”

Crop insurance for wheat is its own special case due to market protection.

“When wheat is up high, you’ll see the participation rate go up because what goes up must come down,” Harris said.

This year has seen some changes for crop insurance options. The 2014 Farm Bill introduced a new program called Whole Farm Revenue Protection, which will replace adjusted gross revenue coverage.

This type of insurance covers all the crops that a grower is producing and looks at the total gross revenue of that producer using a historical average based on five years of tax history.

“This allows producers to insure an anticipated income,” Harris said. “They can insure as much as 85 percent of that revenue. As a person goes through a harvest, if their crops fall below the guarantee, then they’re paid a loss.

“This gives them not only a market protection but also protection against market fluctuation and yield loss.”

Sales closing dates for Whole Farm Revenue Protection plans is March 15.

“In the Willamette Valley with all of its specialty crops, that will be a very popular policy,” Harris said. “Many of them don’t have a federally subsidized crop insurance plan.”

These plans, which are available in all counties in Oregon, Washington and Idaho, can insure a farm for up to an $8.5 million liability.

Some other crop insurance changes in the Farm Bill include a supplemental coverage option available for wheat, an increase in coverage level by practice and an expansion in the organic options for many crops.

“Now, irrigated and non-irrigated crops can have separate coverage levels, which is very powerful,” Harris said.

Branding days busy — and important — for ranches Fri, 5 Dec 2014 09:57:01 -0500 Lynda Layne Roaring Springs Ranch manager Stacy Davies says that unbranded calves are very tempting targets for cattle rustlers in the vast open spaces of southeast Oregon and northern Nevada.

These outfits often graze their cattle on more than 1 million acres of Bureau of Land Management land under a grazing permit, along with their private land holdings. Roaring Springs Ranch occupies 425,000 acres in the high desert.

“Cattle theft is very common still today,” Davies says, adding that branding is the best deterrent to theft.

That makes branding months “a very important time of year for ranches,” he says. He takes great care in organizing the ranch’s branding time to efficiently handle about 6,000 calves. Starting in mid-March, a crew of six full-time buckaroos and volunteers and kids brand about 300 calves per day, though the number sometimes reaches more than 500.

By May, the ranch crew is joined by high school and college students who help. Davies says that by then, “The calves are getting bigger, so we are glad to see the young and energetic kids.”

More than branding takes place.

“We get to touch each calf individually,” Davies says, adding that they can be doctored if necessary. It’s also a time to remove horns, treat parasites, castrate and vaccinate for sudden death diseases, pneumonia and other respiratory and digestive ailments. In addition, electronic identification tags — called EIDs — are put in place.

Each ranch uses a slightly different technique to accomplish all the chores, he says.

“We have ropers on horseback that heel the calves and pull them to the fire. One person (on the ground) will grab the calf and hold its head, while the roper keeps the heels tight with his horse. One person carries the syringes with vaccine and gives the shots. Another person carries the branding iron and a third person will bring the EID and also castrate.”

It’s a slick method that allows a six-man crew to brand 60 calves per hour.

Roping the calves is key. Davies says that if the ropers and their horses are under control, the day goes by without incident. Basically, ropers control the safety of the whole operation.

Branding days require hard work, but it can also be fun.

“Some of the most enjoyable days are when he can get a whole family and a few community members to join in for a day of branding calves,” Davies says. “A few times a year, we make it a social event and include families and neighbors.”

That philosophy is echoed by 79-year-old buckaroo Ron Shelley, who works for Rattlesnake Creek Ranch, an outfit that has about 1,200 cows.

“We don’t actually hire help for this. We just trade brandings with neighbors,” Shelley says. “They help us and we help them.”

Most area residents, he says, have been ranching since they were kids and grew up helping other ranch folks.

“It’s just a family tradition,” he says.

Rattlesnake Creek Ranch’s first branding of the year is usually for 350 calves. The sprawling spread is owned by Andy Root. Ron Shelley’s son, Glen, has managed the place for over 25 years. Ron came there more than 10 years ago with the idea of retiring, but says, “I haven’t slowed down a lot.”

Santa Clara rancher turns back the clock Fri, 5 Dec 2014 09:57:13 -0500 JULIA HOLLISTER MORGAN HILL, Calif. — Fourth generation rancher Janet Burback compares ranching today to a century ago when family and neighbors pitched in to help one another.

“I guess it is a throwback to the first settlers in our country helping at branding and other times,” she said.

Her roots run deep. In 1917, her great grandparents ran cattle on land in nearby Gilroy, but sold the property because of drought conditions and returned to ranching later. It has been in the family since then.

Burback took over running the Tilton Ranch in 2006 after her father passed away. It’s a commercial cow-calf operation.

“I do the cattle and my husband, Greg, runs the hay operation,” she said. “We have 2,900 acres in here in Coyote Valley and produce enough hay for our cattle so we are not dependent on anyone else. We are sustainable, stewards of the land and can support ourselves.”

There are a couple of mountain lions that share the space, but they are not a problem if there is enough deer to keep them fed.

The Burbacks’ two children are in college. Their son is in South Dakota studying agricultural mechanics, and the daughter is studying community health in Montana.

“I’ve always told them to go college and work for someone else before coming back to the ranch,” she said. “When they return home now their approach is more open. When I left home to work on a cattle ranch in Canada my dad gave me some advice, ‘Keep your mouth shut and listen to everything they say.’”

Burback believes California has its own way of doing things that are different from the Midwest and other areas of the nation.

“The whole West Coast is different,” she said. “We run cattle on large areas and don’t see them every day, whereas other areas have their herds close by. Also, there are more women in ranching.”

“Janet has been a member of the Farm Bureau for about six years and a member of the Santa Clara County Cattlemen’s Association, Santa Clara County Cattlewomen’s Association for about 10 years,” Liz Gabrio, Santa Clara Farm Bureau executive director, said. “She became a member on the South Santa Clara County Fire District in 2005 and three generations of her family have been a part of the local fire district since its beginning. She has been a 4-H volunteer leader for the past 15 years and continues to be an FFA supporter.”

Regulations, especially water districts, are the biggest challenge to California ranchers, Burback said.

“They put restrictions on our own property where we run cattle and maintain the springs, not wells,” Burback said. “The biggest concern I have is the State Water Board and its interpretation of the law.

“At times it’s not a fun state to live in,” she said. “But you can’t beat the weather.”

Fourth-generation ranch raises seed stock Fri, 5 Dec 2014 09:56:21 -0500 CRAIG REED DAYS CREEK, Ore. — Diane Swingley was raised on her family’s ranch near this Southern Oregon community, but when she returned to it in 1980 after being gone for 15 years, she admitted she had a lot to learn about the cattle industry.

She and her husband, Stan Huebner, joined the Umpqua Valley Forage Study Group and learned about pasture management and forages. The group was mentored by Woody Lane of Roseburg, Ore., a livestock and forage specialist.

Huebner also faced a steep learning curve since his previous career had been in the telephone and electronics industry in Southern California.

The couple ran a 30-cow registered Black Angus operation for many years on their 96-acre ranch that is split by Days Creek, but recently downsized to 20 cows. Their animals are privately marketed as seed stock to other Angus producers. The few bulls that don’t grade out as quality are sold as market steers and beef to local customers.

“I love the science of the Angus association, the business of lineage and genetics to produce the best quality animal,” said the 66-year-old Swingley. She represents the ranch’s fourth generation of owners.

While Swingley likes to study the Angus bloodlines and making breeding decisions, Huebner, 69, enjoys the construction projects that come with ranching.

With the small herd, the animals are easily rotated on and off green pasture during the summer. Water from nearby Days Creek and the South Umpqua River is used to irrigate the pasture.

The acreage also produces about 2,700 two-tie bales that are used to feed the animals.

“They have a very well-managed, well-thought-out operation,” Lane said. “They raise their animals according to very solid principles.

“When they started in the business, they were very enthusiastic about learning the business,” he added.

While the ranch has transitioned to the more specialized Angus operation over the years, its original purpose was to sustain the family of Ephraim and Caroline Raymond, who purchased the property in 1883. The ranch was later passed on to the Raymonds’ sons, Morris and Wallace. In 1952, Wallace’s daughter Evelyn and her husband, Durnin Swingley, moved to the ranch with their two young daughters, one of them being the 5-year-old Diane, and eventually purchased it.

Durnin Swingley milked 16 dairy cows a day and sold the cream. He also built up a flock of about 100 sheep. With more livestock to feed, the prune orchard was removed and replaced by a field of subterranean clover and domestic grasses.

In 1966, Durnin and Evelyn Swingley got out of the sheep business and purchased a herd of registered Black Angus cattle.

“Dad was convinced Angus were the best for mothering and marbling (of the meat),” Diane Swingley said. “We have high-quality animals.”

Swingley graduated from Days Creek High School in 1965 and then from Oregon State University in 1970. She worked for 10 years as an executive and buyer for department stores Emporium-Capwell in San Francisco and Meier & Frank in Portland before returning home to the ranch to help her parents.

“I was a working partner making payments on the ranch,” she said.

Durnin Swingley died in 1992 and his wife Evelyn died in 2001, leaving the ranch to Diane. Huebner, who had been an employee of the ranch for a few years after moving north from California, married Diane Swingley in 2001 and became a partner in the operation.

Ranching is “a wonderful lifestyle,” Swingley said. “I had to leave to really appreciate what my parents had here.”

The burden that Swingley and Huebner face with the ranch now is its future. They have no children, and no extended family members appear interested in carrying on the Raymond/Swingley ranch tradition.

“There’s sadness when I think about it,” Swingley said. “The American family farm tradition is very important. I don’t know how we’re going to keep it going.”

Swingley Ranch

Operation: 20-cow black Angus breeding business.

Owners: Diane Swingley, the fourth generation to live and work the ranch, and Stan Huebner.

Location: Days Creek, Ore.

Acreage: 96.

Business: Privately marketing heifers and bulls as seed stock to other Angus producers.

Brothers run successful cattle, sheep ranch Fri, 5 Dec 2014 09:55:37 -0500 CRAIG REED GLIDE, Ore. — Brothers Paul and Don Santos have lived and worked their lifetimes in the ranching business.

Paul, 69, and Don, 67, are partners in the Santos Ranch that is bordered by the North Umpqua River near this small eastern Douglas County community.

Paul Santos has worked on the ranch since his early 20s when his parents, Gilbert and Mary, moved from a Hollister, Calif., ranch in 1968 and partnered with Ray and Ethel Rose in purchasing 3,500 acres. Gilbert and Ethel were brother and sister.

Don Santos came to the ranch on a full-time basis after earning an agricultural business degree from Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo and spending two years in the U.S. Army.

As young kids and teenagers, the brothers had helped and worked on the Hollister ranch so they were exposed to the ranching lifestyle.

During the 1970s, the river ranch peaked in its livestock production with 500 mother cows and 3,000 ewes.

In 1980, however, the two families mutually agreed to split the ranch. The Santoses took sole ownership of 2,200 acres upriver and the Roses 1,600 acres downriver.

Sons Paul and Don continued to work alongside their father and were partners with him in the cattle, sheep and hay business. Gilbert Santos was active in the ranch work until his early 80s. He remained a partner in the ranch for another dozen years until his death Oct. 14. His sons inherited his share of the business.

“It worked,” Don Santos said of the father-and-sons partnership. “We each had responsibilities and it went from there. We worked well together. Dad was always easy to work with.”

Today the operation isn’t quite as large as it had been and the brothers run the ranch business pretty much by themselves with some help from five border collie dogs and neighbors when needed. On several hundred acres of bottom land and hillside oak savannah, the brothers run 100 mother cows and 400 ewes. The ranch’s hay fields produce 70 to 100 tons of grass hay each summer to help feed the livestock during the dry summer months and the cold winter months.

“The prices are good right now, the best they’ve been,” Paul Santos said of the beef and lamb prices. “They’ve never been this good. I don’t know if the consumers will pay the price in the market.

“They should always want to buy it,” he added of red meat. “They’re used to eating it. Hopefully they’ll continue to eat it and hopefully the prices stay good for a while. Expenses for the rancher are going up so it usually all balances out.”

The Santoses sell their lambs at 100 to 110 pounds either direct to the Dixon, Calif., packing house or to buyer Eldon Townsend of Coburg. The brothers sell their calves at 700 pounds on the average at the Lebanon, Ore., Auction or direct to feedlots.

In addition to their home livestock and hay operation, the brothers also buy hay from the Willamette Valley, the Klamath Basin, Christmas Valley and the Silver Lake areas, haul it back home with their semi-trucks and trailers and sell it to livestock owners in Douglas County. Most of what they broker is alfalfa, selling it to ranchers with pregnant and nursing livestock.

“I’ve always liked ranching,” Paul Santos said. “It must be in my blood. I’ve always enjoyed being outside, working outside rather than being locked up in an office.

“I don’t necessarily like all the rain,” he added with a laugh, “but you’ve got to have the rain to grow the grass for the animals.”

Both brothers said despite the hard work, they plan to continue being active ranchers.

Santos Ranch

Location: Glide, Ore.

Owners: Brothers Paul and Don Santos.

Acreage: 700 and some leased land.

Livestock: 100 mother cows and 500 ewes.

Hay: 70 to 100 tons of grass hay a year, depending on conditions. They also buy and haul alfalfa and grain hay from Central Oregon and sell to livestock owners in Douglas County.

Ranchers go against the grain Fri, 5 Dec 2014 09:55:31 -0500 Debby Schoeningh BAKER CITY, Ore. — In an industry where the latest trend has been to breed larger framed cattle to increase the carcass size of offspring for dinner plate-sized ribeyes, Scott and Rebecca Jager are going against the grain.

The Jagers own and operate a grass-fed/grass-finished cattle ranch near Baker City, Ore.

Rather than follow the standards established in the mainstream grain-fed beef industry, their breeding program at Four Pines Ranch focuses on traits that produce animals easily adaptable to their environment while remaining competitive in the beef industry in terms of taste and tenderness.

They are raising smaller framed cows and calves — Red and Black Angus — that thrive without chemicals, antibiotics and growth hormones, taking the animals from birth to slaughter, completely on grass.

“For production reasons, we select for smaller-sized cattle, which means we can run more animals per acre,” Scott said. “This changes our focus from production per cow to profit per acre.”

It takes longer to finish cattle on grass — about 18-24 months compared to 12-13 months for grain-fattened animals — but the Jagers say the added time and expense is worth the investment considering their finished product is “healthy for consumers, our resources are sustainable, and the cattle are allowed to grow and mature on a native diet without undue stress.”

They choose sires that are rated high for calving ease, a rating usually considered for heifer breeding, but the Jagers use these bulls on their mature cows as well, which Scott said, “makes our breeding season nearly effortless.”

Calving takes place in May.

“This is a natural time for ungulates to calve because the weather is warmer and the grass is growing, giving the cows the best nutritional support for milk production,” Rebecca said.

Some of the hay they raise is sold and the rest is used as winter feed for their cattle. Cattle are fed on the hay pastures, covering the fields with manure as a natural fertilizer.

Since there is no money going out for grain, hormones, worm and lice preventive treatments or fertilizer, with the smaller bodied grass-fed genetics, they can raise more cows and realize a greater profit overall.

Although they do harvest beef in June and November, the Jagers said, the best time for finishing and harvesting is in the spring because the grass is new and growing, which leads to the best flavor, quality and tenderness.

“Heifers are ready to finish when they weigh 10 percent less than moms, and steers 10 percent more,” Rebecca said. “For us that is roughly 1,200 pounds.”

Following a dry-aging process at a USDA-inspected facility to increase the meat’s tenderness, they sell their beef by the cut because, Rebecca said, it relates more to the general purchasers who usually aren’t familiar with hanging weights and what that translates to in yield.

“We bypass the randomness of individual yield by describing a whole beef as 400 pounds, half 200, quarter 100 and so on. This is a typical yield for 1,200-pound live weight,” she said.

The retail price of their grass-fed beef, Rebecca said, is in line with the national average for all choice beef. “When people choose our beef it is more a matter of knowing where and how it is raised.”


Diversified farm can’t meet high beef demand Fri, 5 Dec 2014 09:55:26 -0500 Erick Peterson Business is good — almost too good — for Baron Farms, which Ron Baron owns with his wife, Natalie.

They raise cattle, pigs and eggs on their farm in Wapato, Wash., along with raspberries, strawberries and blackberries. They also have a retail store, called the Local Yokel, in nearby Yakima.

Baron said that he is sometimes his biggest enemy. They raise so many types of crops that it creates a lot of stress.

“In some ways, all of what we have going is sometimes challenging, but it is also rewarding,” he said.

Though he is challenged by the need to keep up with the many parts of the business, he benefits by avoiding the highs and lows that come with a lot of other farming operations. Diversification keeps him from being as harmed as his neighbors might be in a downturn in a specific industry segment. His eggs might compensate for a bad beef market, or vice versa.

In addition, diversification and direct sales create a steady cash flow throughout the year. He relies on regular customers at his store rather than waiting on a big check for an entire harvest.

“If you only get a paycheck a year because you deal in only one crop, that could be challenging,” he said. “We’re able to spread that out because we have more income streams.”

Right now, his egg business is really hot, and he can market more than he can produce, but demand for his beef is also strong, he said.

He sells about 60 to 70 head of cattle a year and is encouraged to expand. As things stand, customers are on a waiting list for his beef. However, he said he “can only go so fast.” If he added many more cattle, he could not attend to them the way he currently does.

Marty Davis, also of Baron Farms, said the farm does not use antibiotics or hormones, and all animals are allowed to roam on about 20 acres of pasture at a time. Cows are kept on one paddock and then moved to another after three or four days. They may be kept on a single field for up to a week, if grass remains tall enough.

He claims that having an abundance of space, rotated often, leads to healthier animals.

People frequently visit the farm, and see the cattle, he said. More and more frequently, people are showing interest in the origins of their food, and they ask to see Baron Farms.

“People can come anytime they want,” he said. They can call the farm, and he’ll give them a tour.

“Transparency is the best selling tool,” he said. If we have anything to hide, that means we’re doing something wrong. We want people to come out here.”

Baron Farms

Owners: Ron and Natalie Baron

Started: 2005

Location: Wapato, Wash.

Number of cattle: 25 to 50

Number of acres: 90

Erick Peterson/For the Capital Press

Ron Baron, Baron Farms owner, stands at his Yakima, Wash., store, Local Yokel. He has a farm in nearby Wapato where he raises cattle, chickens and berries, among other crops.

Morgan horses prove good all-around animals Fri, 5 Dec 2014 09:55:20 -0500 Hear Smith Thomas Wendy Hanger and her daughter Jessica Harvey have been raising Morgan horses for 30 years on their 70-acre farm near Preston, Idaho.

“When I discovered Morgans, I thought they were just as pretty as Arabs and more versatile,” Wendy says.

“I could show the Morgans in English, Western and jumping, and pack a deer on them. I have never found another breed quite as versatile. We give lessons at the farm, and do a lot with kids and youth camps with our Morgans.”

She and Jessica have 10 mares and 3 stallions, raising and training foals and breeding outside mares.

“We had seven foals of our own this year. They were spoken for and sold before they were weaned,” Wendy says.

Jessica shows some of the horses, mainly at the Idaho State Fair at Blackfoot in Morgan classes and open classes — hunt seat and jumping. They also put on two or three of their own shows at the farm each year for local horsemen and kids. Jessica gives riding lessons to people of all ages.

“Kids can spend all day here riding, cleaning tack and learning about raising and taking care of horses,” Wendy says.

The Morgan cross is popular. Some people breed their Arabians or Quarter Horse mares to the Morgan stallions.

“There are a lot of Morabs (Morgan-Arabs) in our area. Some people also love the draft-Morgan cross. The Friesian-Morgan cross is also very popular right now,” she says.

Most Morgans are chestnut or bay, without much white.

“The breed association didn’t want blue eyes and a lot of white, but in 1996 lifted the color restrictions. Morgans can now have white markings higher on their legs. There are actually some pintos and palominos, and buckskin Morgans are very popular now,” Wendy says. She has a perlino stallion that sires buckskin foals.

Jessica has been training Morgans for 20 years, since she was 15 years old.

“We do a lot of ground work with ours when they are young,” Jessica says. “We’ve had a lot of comments from the vets when we take our mares and babies in to breed the mares, regarding how calm the foals are, and easy to handle.”

Jessica enjoys working with children and teaching them about horses.

“We’ve had scout groups come to the farm and the kids brush the horses. We give lessons for kids who come once or twice a week for riding,” she says.

The mares often do triple duty; pregnant mares give lessons, go to shows, foal a baby in the spring, and then the baby goes to shows. In the fall after foals are weaned, the mares do lots of trail riding, so they are busy and versatile.

Wendy and Jessica put on a kids’ show at the ranch Sept. 27. “The lesson kids get together to show their horses and we also invite people from the local Morgan club. In this area there’s not much English riding, so kids that want to learn to ride English can do it here,” Jessica explains.

Ranch family supports predator control Fri, 5 Dec 2014 09:55:05 -0500 CRAIG REED ROSEBURG, Ore. — Both Dan Dawson and Breanne Santos grew up on Douglas County livestock ranches and then moved away to attend college.

They earned their degrees at Oregon State University, Dawson in agricultural business in 2000 and Santos in education in 2002. Dawson had an internship with Jeld-Wen and then had three full-time job offers.

But the couple, who married in 2002, decided to return home to become ranchers. Breanne also got a second grade teaching position at Glide, Oregon, Elementary School.

“I got offered jobs, but I came home,” said Dawson who is now 36. “I like seeing the animals born, I like seeing what you can do with the land to make money with it.”

“I like the outdoors, getting to be around the animals,” said Breanne Dawson, 35.

“Dan decided he wanted to pursue ranching,” she added. “We decided to take that path, to see where it would take us, to give it a try. It has worked out.”

Over the past 12 years, the couple has grown their livestock numbers to 1,500 ewes and 110 mother cows. They own almost 1,000 acres and lease 2,500 acres, including the Dawson Ranch that Dan grew up on.

Dan Dawson sheared sheep through his college years to help pay his educational expenses and continued to shear to help purchase more breeding stock.

The Dawsons have also increased their own family with twin sons Drew and Carter and daughter Reagan.

Since Dan Dawson was a young boy, he helped his father, Junior Dawson, with the sheep, cows and goats on the family ranch. As a teenager he learned to worm and vaccinate the livestock, to irrigate and fertilize pastures for grazing and hay production, to shear sheep, to build fence and to deal with wildlife that preys on the livestock.

“He taught us how to work,” Dawson said of his father. “There was no slouch time.”

Over on the Santos family ranch near Glide, Oregon, Breanne helped her father, Paul Santos, in doing similar types of livestock work. She said she enjoys the rewards of both ranching and teaching.

“One of my passions is being outdoors, being with the animals,” she explained. “Another passion is working with kids. I have the best of two worlds.”

Once the Dawsons got their ranching operation established, Dan Dawson became an advocate, fundraiser and spokesperson for wildlife control. His mother’s father was a government trapper and the young Dawson also learned about hunting and trapping from his father. He saw up close what coyotes and cougars can do to ewes, lambs and calves, and how those losses impact a rancher’s bottom line when there are fewer animals to send to market.

Dan Dawson practiced what he advocated by putting labor and money into his own property to better ward off predators, and in some cases domestic dogs. Over the years he has built miles of fence, using 6-inch woven wire with a string of barb wire at the bottom, one in the middle and two at the top. He also added an outrigger hot wire on the outside of the fence and 6 inches off the ground so any critter thinking about digging under the fence gets zapped.

In addition, he put guard dogs in with his livestock.

His efforts decreased his losses from 70 to 80 sheep a year down to about 30 in recent years.

“To stay in business, you have to be passionate about controlling predators,” Dawson said. “It’s taken me thousands of dollars to get to that point … it’s been a lot of work and money. It’s how I came into a leadership role regarding wildlife control. Somebody needed to and it ended up being me.”

This past summer, Dawson and Ron Hjort of Oakland, Oregon, wrote a bill to set up a predator control district for Douglas and Coos counties. Dawson said the bill would establish a pilot program that would charge a fee per acre for those livestock owners wanting predator control.

“We’re trying to enhance the program we already have,” Dawson said. “People using the program would pay for it.

“So far everyone we’ve talked to about it likes the concept,” he added.

The bill still has to be introduced to the Oregon legislature. If approved, Dawson said the program could be implemented in 2016.

“He’s very passionate about wildlife control and he puts his all into it,” Breanne Dawson said of her husband. “Once something disappears, it is hard to bring it back. Trappers help everybody with livestock and they’re needed.”

The Dawsons are carrying on their families’ ranching traditions, working the land and raising livestock for the lamb and beef markets. And they’re including their own three children in the activities just as they were when they were younger.

Once rescued, horses help others Fri, 5 Dec 2014 09:55:00 -0500 TERRELL WILLIAMS At her Across the River Horse Ranch below Bliss, Idaho, Amita Smith offers a safe haven for unwanted horses.

“If you give kindness, you get kindness back,” she said, explaining her ability to gentle mustangs and win over a few confirmed outlaws.

“It takes time. I give them food and water and let them get curious. ... I bribe my horses in the beginning. Once they like grain, it’s very easy. They follow me anywhere as long as I’m holding a grain bucket.”

Smith, 45, grew up in the island nation of Sri Lanka off the southern coast of India. When she was seven years old, she was given a red American Indian doll with feathers and a drum.

“That’s where my curiosity started,” she said. “They looked like us, but different. I started learning about the Rocky Mountains. I was fascinated by horses and cowboys and Indians. I felt a powerful draw.”

Armed with a dream and determination to make a life for herself, Smith worked to become a professional model. She then went on to establish clothing shops in France, Greece and the French Caribbean. Retiring at age 30, she made her way to Sun Valley, Idaho. But it never felt like home.

Then she met artist Joe Leonard, whose rustic property along the Snake River was for sale.

“I came here and I just fell in love with the place,” said Smith, who bought it in 2004.

The next step was to buy a pair of boots and find a horse.

She got one horse. Then two more. She read books by trainers Tom Dorrance and Ray Hunt. She sought advice from local horse trainers. She took equine classes at the College of Southern Idaho. And, doing what she says is essential, Smith began riding her horses daily.

Along the way, she started rescuing. A small paint mare was rejected at an auction sale for being too mean. Smith bought her by the pound.

“She’s become the most famous kid horse on the ranch,” Smith said. “She was pretty bad in the beginning. It took me a little time, but she completely turned around.”

Another rescue was a buckskin mare severely injured in a chariot racing wreck that killed her teammate. “Tack” needed extensive care, but now is sound and gentle to ride.

A 17-hand mustang, unsold at a Bureau of Land Management auction, was adopted by Smith for $25. After gaining his trust and then training him, Smith rode the powerful gelding this year over a 9,000-foot mountain pass. Other animals — some starved, some abandoned — have found a happy home at Across the River.

There are now 21 horses and two mules at Smith’s ranch. Other rescues include two goats and eight dogs. On a typical day, children are riding draft horses, the pony and several still-healthy retired horses around the arena. Smith takes her kids on rides up the nearby trail to high desert lands, and on four-hour wagon rides to the town of Hagerman for ice cream.

Smith says horses have been therapeutic for everyone at her ranch, including herself.

“I came here, but I was lost in life,” she said, strolling through a corral with a dozen mismatched horses tagging along. “In the beginning, I rescued them. But I am the one who really was getting rescued.”

Contact information

Amita Smith

Across the River Horse Ranch

P.O. Box 84, Bliss, Idaho 83314

Phone: (208) 961-1911


Hay trucker nears 1 million miles Fri, 5 Dec 2014 09:54:45 -0500 CRAIG REED LANGLOIS, Ore. — Rhett Kreutzer and his blue hay truck are on the verge of clocking a million miles.

Kreutzer purchased the International in 1997. It had 4.8 miles on the odometer. The two have rolled over many miles since, hauling hay from such areas as the Willamette Valley, the Klamath Basin, Lakeview, Silver Lake, Christmas Valley and Culver to western Oregon customers in Coos, Curry and Douglas counties.

They have delivered grass, orchard grass, grassy alfalfa and alfalfa to three feed stores and about 15 different livestock businesses, ranging from a couple animals to operations of 200 to 300 beef cattle or sheep.

In mid-November, Kreutzer and his truck passed 980,000 miles. He estimated that over the past half dozen years, he has bought, hauled and sold in the range of 500 to 800 tons of hay a year.

These numbers are not surprising for the 52-year-old Langlois native and resident because the hay hauling business seems to run in the family. Kreutzer’s father, Lowell, now 87, also topped a million miles during a 22-year hay career and his uncle, Lloyd Kreutzer, drove truck for 3 million miles, hauling hay and numerous other products during a long driving career.

“I don’t hold a bucket to what dad and Lloyd used to haul,” Rhett Kreutzer said. “They would drive over east, hand load, tarp up, whatever it took. I had two really good teachers.

“To this day, I respect them both,” he added of the twin brothers.

Rhett Kreutzer was about 8 when he started making road trips for hay with his father. At 15, the son began to help load and unload the truck and trailer. He admits the bales were under 100 pounds back then while today they are well over that weight.

He first drove his dad’s empty hay truck at age 16 on Interstate 5 coming down from Sexton Pass just north of Grants Pass, Oregon, and not long after that he first drove a loaded truck on Highway 97 going north from Klamath Falls, Oregon.

“I was pretty confident in myself, but I was nervous of course,” Rhett Kreutzer recalled.

“He just kind of grew up with it,” Lowell Kreutzer said of his son. “He’s seen me work all my life, and he’s trying to do the same damn thing.”

While Rhett Kreutzer has access to squeeze machines to load and unload today, what makes him unique in this age of mechanical equipment is that just like his father and uncle, he’s not scared to pick up hay hooks and unload his truck and trailer or to load a customer’s pickup, truck or trailer. He specializes in hauling two- and three-tie bales that weigh 100 to 140 pounds each, but can still be handled by hand for customers who only want to purchase several bales or a couple tons at a time.

“It’s something my dad and uncle did. It’s hard work, but rewarding,” the Kreutzer said. “Not many guys want to hand load pickups and trailers and horse trailers for people. That’s the challenge of it, but it just feels good to help people in that way.”

Kreutzer said that on his way home to Langlois with a hay load, it’s not unusual for him to pull the truck over to a wide spot in the road or into a barnyard and unload hay for a customer.

“If it’s convenient, why not stop rather than have them come to my place to get the hay?” Kreutzer said.

The hay that he does take home, he unloads with a squeeze and stacks in his 40-foot by 80-foot insulated shop that has room for 200 tons. He explained the insulated building is a necessity because on the coast with all the moisture in the air, it doesn’t take long for mold to grow in the hay if the temperature isn’t regulated.

Orders are then delivered to customers or they come to get hay with their own rigs.

Kreutzer said it is harder to find two- and three-tie bales because more growers are going to the larger 1,200-pound bales, but he has a few growers who continue to make the smaller bales for him.

“My customers don’t have a use for those big bales, they’re not set up to handle them,” he said.

As he and his blue International approach 1 million miles, Kreutzer is happy to say his driving record is near perfect. He’s had no accidents and only knows of losing one bale off a load.

“That truck is in perfect shape for having a million miles on it,” Lowell Kreutzer said.

Flashover Farm has its roots in Alaska Fri, 5 Dec 2014 09:54:31 -0500 Erick Peterson GRANDVIEW, Wash. — Sean and Marie Glasser admit that their experience with animals was limited when they started farming pigs and cattle just over a decade ago. Once they started, however, they found that they liked it and quickly decided to devote their lives to “natural production” farming.

Sean said that he started raising animals in 1991 when he was living in Fairbanks, Alaska. His school had a pig farm, and it offered him the runts, which he gratefully accepted. He did not have any experience raising animals, but it was simple enough, he said, and he liked the meat.

Driven by his taste for meat from the animals he was raising himself, he bought more.

“It just grew from there,” he said. By 1995, his hobby turned into a fledgling farm, and Flashover Farm was born in Rainier, Wash.

His wife, Marie, joined him in his efforts, though she admits that he does almost all of the work. Her experience, like his, was limited at the start, though she grew up on a farm and recalls bottle-feeding calves from nearby dairies and helping raise chickens, she did not possess the expertise to be of much help to him.

“This is so much more than anything I ever did,” she said of Flashover Farm and her own experience. “I try to help where I can, but this farm is all my husband, and he’s doing a good job here.”

They relocated from Rainier to Grandview, as Sean took a job as a firefighter in nearby Sunnyside and they raise Scottish Highland and Irish Dexter cattle. They also raise Berkshire, Chester and Duroc pigs, and Holland White Turkeys.

“We’re working toward being a sustainable farm,” he said. He produces hay and mixes his feed, raising pigs on barley and pea-based diet.

He boasts of his methods for raising animals, his cattle in particular, taking pride in “minimal intervention.” Cows are given wide space on the 20-acre farm.

The result, he said, is superior beef.

Flashover Farm

Year started: 1995 (in Rainier, Wash.), 2008 (in Grandview, Wash.)

Owners: Sean and Marie Glasser

Location: Grandview, Wash.

Acres: 20

Number of cattle: 20