Capital Press | Special Sections Capital Press Sun, 23 Nov 2014 10:37:42 -0500 en Capital Press | Special Sections Biggest Expo packs a lot into three days Fri, 7 Nov 2014 10:10:56 -0500 Geoff Parks Willamette Valley Ag Association manager Jill Ingalls was explaining an increase in duties to a cadre of FFA students who will help out at this year’s event, stressing how much it has grown.

This year, the 250,000-square-foot Willamette Valley Ag Expo will be open at the Linn County Fair and Expo Center in Albany from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 11; from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 12; and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 13.

“We’ve added some positions this year,” Ingalls told the Scio High School FFA Chapter, whose members help with a variety of duties during the Expo. “It’s the biggest one we’ve ever had — and it’s getting bigger.

“So far, we’ve actually expanded our floor space, which is a good sign for the economy,” she said. “There will be more pressure on all of our volunteers and staff to handle the bigger crowds that will come.”

The Willamette Valley Ag Association is a nonprofit agricultural trade and education organization whose members are either exhibitors or sponsors of the event, or both.

Jill Ingalls’ husband, Scott, is producer of the Expo. His jobs include organizing the many exhibitors and vendors — more than 140 in all.

This year, the expanded Expo features three days of seminars and classes, including Pesticide Application CORE Course training sessions, training sessions on soil health and an Ag Lime Conference.

An Antique Farm Equipment Display with over 70 tractors and other types of equipment will be in the Cascade Building at the Expo Center.

Wednesday, Nov. 12 is Youth Ag Education Day.

“We encourage all ag students, FFA or 4-H, to attend the Expo free of charge,” Ingalls said. “Students are encouraged to visit the exhibitor booths and gather information related to their current education.” Transportation scholarships are available courtesy of Doerfler Farms.

Oregon Women for Agriculture will host an educational area in the lobby of the main Expo building with refreshments for visitors.

A unique treat is the third iteration of Dine Around Oregon, a “progressive dinner” of Oregon-grown food and beverages that will take place from 5 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 12.

Admission to the Expo is $4 per day with free parking on-site at the Linn County Fair and Expo Center, 3700 Knox Butte Road, Albany.

Proceeds from the Expo go toward the association’s college scholarships.

FYI: Willamette Valley Ag Expo Fri, 7 Nov 2014 10:01:49 -0500 Albany, Ore.

Nov. 11, 12 and 13

• Tuesday 9 a.m.-6 p.m.

• Wednesday 10 a.m.-9 p.m.

• Thursday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

• Admission $4 (price includes $2 discount on the featured lunch)

• Free parking

The nine-member board of directors is nominated by the members and serve a minimum of a three-year term. Board members are elected at the annual meeting, which typically takes place on the final morning of the Expo during the exhibitor breakfast meeting.

Current board members are:

• Bill Lusk, Chair, Ag West Supply

• Eric Fery, Vice Chair, Ag Chains Plus

• Don Kropf, Linn-Benton Tractor

• Tom Wells, Pape Machinery

• Mike Brown, DeJong Products

• Steve Prouty, NW 94 Sales

• Stacy Bostrom, Citizens Bank

• Andy Steinkamp, Wilco

• Terry Marstall, Les Schwab Tires

The Willamette Valley Ag Association contracts with Ingalls & Associates, LLC to provide association management services and event production.

Event Producer

Scott Ingalls

Ingalls & Associates

Association Manager

Jill Ingalls

Phone: 800-208-2168

Fax: 866-509-3212


Training, seminars keep farmers up to date Fri, 7 Nov 2014 09:58:32 -0500 Geoff Parks The Willamette Valley Ag Expo will feature a full slate of educational opportunities spanning three days.

In addition to Pesticide Applicator CORE Training — each worth two to four credit-hours — that will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 11, and again on Thursday, Nov. 13, classes and seminars this year will focus on soil health management and a special Ag Lime Conference.

A training session offered by Soil Health Recology Environmental Solutions will be held Wednesday, Nov. 12. Soil Health Recology Environmental Solutions provides ideas for alternative waste handling, focusing on environmental sustainability and serves communities in the San Francisco Bay area, Portland, Seattle, Northern California and elsewhere in Oregon and Washington.

Recology is also offering a Compost for Soil Health Management Seminar on Nov. 12. In it, the company will share an overview of the uses and benefits of compost in tree and vine applications. The presentation focuses on compost’s contribution to soil health.

The role of custom blending and mechanical application methods as part of strategic cultural practices in orchards and vineyards will also be discussed.

Those who wish to participate in the seminar are asked to register at They can call Kim Carrier at (707) 693-2109 with questions.

Wednesday, Nov. 12, is also Youth Ag Education Day, a popular feature of the Expo. Free admission is offered for any youth educational program related to agriculture.

That includes “any ag-related programs from 4-H to FFA, college ag, home-school ag programs, community garden programs for churches, all sorts of things like that,” said Jill Ingalls, manager of the Willamette Valley Ag Association.

“We do have a small transportation grant available online,” she added. The grant is courtesy of Doerfler Farms.

The 2014 Ag Lime Conference will be hosted by Columbia River Carbonates on Thursday, Nov. 13. Class topics include applying lime to raise pH for crop production, in-field pH testing methods, lime application methods, prilled lime use in Europe and new liming technology.

Columbia River Carbonates is a supplier of high-grade, ultra-fine ground calcium carbonate products and is based in Woodland, Wash.

The Ag Lime Conference is free to WVAE attendees with their admission.

A free lunch ticket will be provided for the first 100 registrations at Certified Crop Advisor certification soil and water credits will be available.

Meeting and class schedule

Tuesday, Nov. 11

Meetings: Oregon Farm Bureau Luncheon (by invitation), 503-399-1701

Training: CORE training, no registration required. 2 to 4 credit hours, 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m.

Wednesday, Nov. 12

Youth Ag Education Day — free admission for student groups (restrictions apply).

Meetings: Pennington Seed Growers Breakfast (by invitation)

Rabo Agrifinance Luncheon (by invitation)


• Soil Health Recology Environmental Solutions

This will be a non-scientific overview of the uses and benefits of compost in tree and vine applications. The presentation will focus on compost’s contribution to soil health as the foundation of successful, sustainable farming. The role of custom blending and mechanical application methods will be discussed as components of strategic cultural practices in orchards and vineyards. To register: http://www.recology.c om/compost-registration Questions: contact Kim Carrier, 707-693-2109

•Forklift certification — classroom and driving training

Free with admission but registration is required. 10:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.

Thursday, Nov. 13

Training: CORE training, no registration required. 2 to 4 credit hours, 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m.

2014 Ag Lime Conference

CCA Soil and Water Credits available. Four classes: Applying lime to raise pH for crop production; In field pH testing methods; Ag lime application methods; Prilled lime use in Europe

The Ag Lime Conference is free with admission to the Expo. Registration required at

Expo funds scholarships for college ag students Fri, 7 Nov 2014 09:54:59 -0500 Geoff Parks That the Willamette Valley Ag Association’s scholarship winners are bright and focused is a given, but Riane Towery of Salem, one of the five 2014 recipients, takes those qualities to a higher level.

Towery, 21, is a senior this year in the College of Agricultural Sciences at Oregon State University. She shows her academic prowess with a 3.98 grade-point average and her focus with a double-major in horticulture and leadership. She hopes to pursue a master’s degree in agricultural education and become a high school ag teacher and FFA adviser.

This year, five recipients were awarded $1,500 apiece toward their college educations. Besides Towery, the other WVAA scholarship award winners for 2014 are Jaimee Brentano of Corvallis, a senior in ag education; Justin Gutierrez of Heppner, a senior in agriculture; Kylee Jensen of Pilot Rock, a senior in agriculture; and Rebecca Thomas of Cornelius, a senior in agriculture. All attend OSU.

Towery said the entire amount “goes directly to my tuition, so I end up with less college debt.”

She said she raised sheep when she was in the fifth grade as part of 4-H and continued in her ag pursuits through her high school years at Silverton High, where her father is an ag teacher.

The WVAA scholarships are given out annually at the Willamette Valley Ag Expo. The Expo is the largest event put on by her group, WVAA manager Jill Ingalls said. It was established to support students pursuing a career in agriculture, she said.

A percentage of the proceeds from the Willamette Valley Ag Expo fund the scholarship program.

This year, Ingalls said the WVAA board of directors decided to bring management of the scholarship program in-house. The board will connect directly with ag colleges and make educators aware of the funds that are available — about $1,000 to $2,000 for each of five to seven students.

Under the WVAA board’s new plan, which does not require a federal student aid application from students or financial need as a primary consideration, awards would go to students who are on agricultural production-based career paths, Ingalls said.

Dine Around Oregon a savory trip for taste buds Fri, 7 Nov 2014 09:51:54 -0500 Geoff Parks The third Dine Around Oregon event at the Willamette Valley Ag Expo will feature lamb, beef, pork and poultry “stations” for diners to choose their favorite entrees made with locally sourced products.

Mary Bentley will have had a hand in all four choices.

Bentley’s Valley Catering of Adair Village will be preparing all of the meals for the flourishing Expo event, created in 2012 by Willamette Valley Ag Association manager Jill Ingalls.

Dine Around Oregon has grown to the four stations. Expo visitors pay $11 for the event. Food is served during the Dine Around Oregon event in all four of the Expo’s buildings. The event is 5-8 p.m., on Wednesday, Nov. 12.

The first year, 320 people took part in the culinary tour de force. More than 500 participated last year. Bentley expects about the same number this year.

But it’s the Oregon food that attracts the spotlight.

“We get products donated from companies such as Norpac (which will be supplying soups and appetizers),” Bentley said. “Willamette Valley cheeses get donated from the dairy people” along with other foods from around the valley.

“Each of the four stations will feature a different Oregon-raised meat, along with all the sides and goodies for a full meal,” Ingalls said. “The lamb will come from Reed Anderson of Anderson Ranches (and) it will be marinated and prepared by Pat Manning of Manning Farms. Both are famous for their lamb.

“We will be putting out 300 pounds of lamb alone.”

She added that the Expo also brings in other contributions from groups such as the Oregon Beef Council, she said.

Bentley’s Valley Catering has been in business since 1998, operating out of the former Officers’ Club building on the old Camp Adair military campus. She has three staff and 30 employees working full- and part-time.

Ingalls said the WVAE board budgets Dine Around Oregon to “buy down” the cost of the ticket, and “sponsors offset costs so we can serve a $35 meal for $11.”

“The goal of this event is to bring families and customers in for an outstanding experience while promoting the Willamette Valley Ag Association’s scholarship program,” Ingalls said.

Frequently asked questions Fri, 7 Nov 2014 09:45:59 -0500 The Willamette Valley Ag Expo is easy to find. It is east of Exit 234 off Interstate 5 at Albany. The address is Linn County Fair and Expo Center, 3700 Knox Butte Road, Albany, Ore.

Which classes are offered?

To view which classes are offered, please take a look at our class schedule, which is on Page 9.

Is there meal service on site?

Yes, it is located in two main buildings. Concessions are open during the Expo hours. The featured lunch special is served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Calapooia building on the upper deck. Enjoy a $2 off coupon on this meal provided on the back of your admission ticket. The menu includes chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes and salads.

Do I have to pay to get in?

Yes, admission is $4 per day, and parking is free.

Is there anything for my family to do?

Yes, several exhibitors are featuring products of interest plus the Oregon Women for Agriculture are hosting an educational area in the lobby with refreshments. Nearby Albany boasts a long list of dining and entertainment options, plus shopping, museums and historic districts.

Click on for more information.

These sponsors help make the Expo a huge success Fri, 7 Nov 2014 09:44:12 -0500 Here is a list of sponsors who have helped make the annual Willamette Valley Ag Expo a success.

Please take the time to thank them, the many vendors and the board members who have all worked hard to make this year’s Expo the biggest ever.

• Sunbelt Rentals, Full Sponsor, Sunbelt Arena

• Complete Wireless, Full Sponsor, Complimentary Coffee for vendors

• Linn-Benton Tractor, Partial Sponsor, Dine Around Oregon

• Peterson Machinery, Full Sponsor, Dine Around Oregon Presenting Sponsor

• Farmland Tractor, Full Sponsor, Antique Farm Equipment Display

• Doerfler Farms, Full Sponsor, FFA transportation to the event

• Ag Chains Plus, Partial Sponsor, Dine Around Oregon

• Citizens Bank, Full Sponsor, Welcome Bags

• Wilco, Full Sponsor, CORE Training

• NW 94 Sales, Partial Sponsor, Dine Around Oregon

• Crop Production Services, Partial Sponsor, Dine Around Oregon

• Ag West Supply, Partial Sponsor, Dine Around Oregon

• Pape Machinery, Partial Sponsor, Dine Around Oregon

• Northwest Farm Credit Service, Partial Sponsor, Dine Around Oregon

• Coastal Farm & Ranch, Partial Sponsor, Dine Around Oregon

• Overton Safety Training, Full Sponsor, Forklift Training

• GK Machine, Partial Sponsor, Dine Around Oregon

Company offers many types of safety training Fri, 7 Nov 2014 09:41:27 -0500 Geoff Parks Overton Safety Training is a new partner with the Willamette Valley Ag Expo.

Jill Ingalls, manager of Expo sponsor Willamette Valley Ag Association, said the professional training service is “jumping in to help provide free forklift training” at the Nov. 11-13 expo.

Overton Safety Training also will have a booth at the WVAE to meet customers and assist them with their company safety training and regulatory compliance needs.

The forklift operator classroom safety training course, written exams and practical operating evaluations for employers will be 10:15 a.m.-3:15 p.m., on Wednesday, Nov. 12. Registration is required.

Training, testing and evaluations of those employers’ forklift operators will take place that day as well.

Based in Aloha, Ore., the company says it is “one of the largest providers of crane, forklift, aerial lift and rigging training on the West Coast,” and is an accredited provider of National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators certification exams.

Several training options are available for employers, said OST owner Ron Overton, including getting all of their training done at one time or by sending a few employees at a time to classes.

“In addition to training, employers can qualify one or more of their employees to conduct in-house forklift training via a ‘Train the Trainer’ course,” he said. “Our forklift training courses offer the opportunity for them to become a qualified forklift operator in just one day.”

Optimizer gets whole job done in single pass Fri, 7 Nov 2014 09:37:12 -0500 Geoff Parks The Optimizer One-Pass Tillage System implement is as big as its name implies — 18 feet wide and 40 feet long — and should be a big draw for visitors at this year’s Willamette Valley Ag Expo.

The Optimizer is a tillage instrument designed by Tillage Management, Inc., of Tulare, Calif., and is manufactured by GK Machine of Donald, Ore.

Steve Prouty is the owner of a manufacturer’s representative company and of NW 94 Sales in Albany. He is also is a two-year board member of the Willamette Valley Agricultural Association, which produces the Expo.

The implement is so large that Prouty said “it’s going in the space outside” his rented exhibition area.

“The Optimizer has actually been around for some time,” Prouty said. “It is a one-pass tillage system and basically replaces anything that will prep the ground for seeding. And it will actually do that, too.”

The machine is designed to operate at 5 to 7 mph and cover 8 to 12 acres per hour, saving “50 percent or more” on fuel, with less soil compaction and improved soil tilth, according to the company.

The company also says the one-pass tillage implement reduces labor by up to 70 percent, shortens turnaround time between crops and increases profits.

“We introduced it into Idaho this season,” Prouty said.

Prouty said farmers in the Oregon and Idaho area talk about how the Optimizer will “go into a corn field after harvest and prep it for seedbed” in one pass. And “it likes to go fast,” he said.

Scio FFA chapter, Expo continue partnership Fri, 7 Nov 2014 09:32:38 -0500 Geoff Parks The Scio High School FFA has been the go-to chapter for the Willamette Valley Ag Expo for over 10 years.

The students play several important roles at the Expo, including serving as ambassadors and greeting attendees at the front door.

Krysta Sprague, in her first year as the Scio FFA’s adviser, is stepping into the successful, longstanding partnership between the FFA program and the Expo.

Sprague had the machinery of the Scio FFA Chapter humming along smoothly just after the start of the school year as plans were laid, assignments given out and activities prepared for the three-day, mid-November Expo. Sprague displays a firm command of her new duties and a determination to continue the success of the partnership. In addition to all four years of high school ag classes, she teaches beginner classes in welding and wood shop.

“I’m so new here and new to this community, so this is a big learning experience for me, too,” Sprague said.

Work her students do at the Expo includes duties as cashiers, greeters and survey-takers as well as hosting at the third year of the successful Dine Around Oregon event, which is scheduled for 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 12.

“My kids work for the WVAE, which gives them money for what they do (pro-rated for hours worked),” Sprague said. “That money goes to pay off some of their debts to the chapter for things like their FFA jackets or anything else they owe.”

Some of the money they earn also goes toward attending the annual FFA National Convention in Louisville, Ky. Each student earns $900 to $1,000 during the year from car washes, sales of food items and events like the Expo, Sprague said.

The Willamette Valley Ag Association, a nonprofit ag trade and education organization, puts on the Expo each year. Association manager Jill Ingalls, works with her husband, Scott, to coordinate the yearly event.

Jill Ingalls made a trip to Scio in September to chat with the students and make sure the students were up-to-date on their Expo duties and responsibilities.

“You guys are very critical to this Expo,” Ingalls told the students. “We really do rely on you to be there to take tickets, sell tickets, act as our ambassadors and greeters and as the first faces people see when they come to the Expo.”

Antique equipment display pulls in crowds Fri, 7 Nov 2014 09:24:30 -0500 Geoff Parks Delbert McLaughlin started as a member of the Willamette Valley Ag Expo’s Antique Farm Equipment Display crew about a half-dozen years ago. The hat he wears says it all: “Git ’Er Done.”

The Willamette Valley Ag Expo relies on the dedication of the volunteer crew crucial to making the display a success, said Francis Garceau, 72, who for years has organized the antique equipment display.

He said antique farm equipment collectors from around the Willamette Valley have joined the effort to expand the event each year, and McLaughlin has been a big part of that effort with his own collection of John Deere machinery.

“We’ve had 80 to 90 pieces of equipment” each year, McLaughlin said. The display has typically been housed in the Cascade Building at the Expo grounds.

“International has had a big show (at the Expo’s Antique Farm Equipment Display) in past years, as well as Case and others,” McLaughlin said. “And, of course, Francis (Garceau) brings all of his Canadian Cockshutts.”

McLaughlin, 75, of Buena Vista, said he is contemplating bringing one or two of his restored antique John Deere GPO, AR, 50, H and LA models. His brother, Glen, who lives nearby, will bring a John Deere B model he has restored.

McLaughlin’s recent purchase of a 16-foot John Deere flatbed trailer will help in the move to the Expo center, he said.

Formerly a millwright and maintenance man at now-defunct Evanite Fiber in Corvallis, McLaughlin said he has been a machinist most of his life but stays busy helping farm neighbors and others in his free time.

In addition to working on the 15 to 16 antique tractors and other machinery — “only four or five still have to be fixed up” — he helps out with a new John Deere exhibit going up at the Antique Powerland museum complex in Brooks.

“I think this is a wonderful Expo,” McLaughlin said. “Personally, I think it’s better than any of the others in the state.

“It seems to be smaller, but it just works better,” he said. “We get a lot of people coming to it and a lot of vendors, and this antique show we put on helps draw some of them in.”

The Antique Farm Equipment Display will be held throughout the three days of the Expo in the Cascade Building at the Linn County Fair & Expo Center in Albany.

High tunnels help extend growing season Thu, 2 Oct 2014 09:17:57 -0500 LACEY JARRELL First-time produce growers should start out with a basic structure and worry about adding stuff later, according to Ivan Schuening, owner of Oregon Valley Greenhouses in Aurora, Ore.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to find the right tractor for your operation Thu, 2 Oct 2014 09:17:55 -0500 LACEY JARRELL When it comes to tractors, bigger isn’t always better.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These tips will help increase tire life Thu, 2 Oct 2014 09:17:51 -0500 LACEY JARRELL More tractor tires are being built to last, but basic care can extend their use even further.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First stop for equipment purchases should be accountant Thu, 2 Oct 2014 09:17:46 -0500 LACEY JARRELL Farmers and ranchers who want to upgrade their equipment should begin looking before the year-end, dealer representatives say.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Energy Trust helps Oregon farmers save Thu, 2 Oct 2014 09:17:36 -0500 LACEY JARRELL Capital Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The incentives are available,” she said.

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

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

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

ATVs need winter care to keep in top shape Thu, 2 Oct 2014 09:17:23 -0500 LACEY JARRELL Capital Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Electrical connections should also be inspected for cracks and damage.

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

Interest rates still low, but heading upward Thu, 2 Oct 2014 09:17:09 -0500 LACEY JARRELL As the economy continues to rebuild from the recession, short- and long-term interest rates are still low but could begin inching higher.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Firesteed Winery fills marketing niche Thu, 11 Sep 2014 14:42:56 -0500 MITCH LIES RICKREALL, Ore. — Firesteed Winery started, innocently enough, when a wine distributor recognized a need for value-based Pinot Noir.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lisa Zuniga serves as the winery’s viticulturist.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Partners plan several wine-related businesses in downtown Roseburg Thu, 11 Sep 2014 14:41:13 -0500 CRAIG REED ROSEBURG, Ore. — Dyson DeMara and Scott Kelley are putting their extensive wine experiences to use in a unique business concept in the downtown area of this southern Oregon town.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winery owner takes road less traveled Thu, 11 Sep 2014 14:41:54 -0500 Erick Peterson ZILLAH, Wash. — Long before he owned Portteus Winery in Zillah, Wash., Paul Portteus prided himself for doing things that were a bit out of the ordinary. He maintains that tradition as he continues to build one of the area’s oldest wineries.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Portteus Winery

Location: Zillah, Wash.

Year started: 1981

Owners: Paul and Marilyn Portteus

Acres: 74

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

Carmela Vineyards owners keep it in the family Thu, 11 Sep 2014 14:41:36 -0500 Hear Smith Thomas Operating Carmela Vineyards and Crossings Winery at Glenns Ferry, Idaho, is a family affair, its owners say.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All wine grapes are clones of certain varieties.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Horse Ranch Vineyards has room to grow Thu, 11 Sep 2014 14:39:44 -0500 Hear Smith Thomas Gary and Martha Cunningham started their vineyard 10 years ago near Eagle, Idaho, after 2 years of searching for a good spot.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tending grapes is a year-round task.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s a story behind the label.

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

Windy Point provides unique experience Thu, 11 Sep 2014 14:38:11 -0500 Erick Peterson In a market crowded with wine and wineries, the folks at Windy Point Vineyards hope to stand apart.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Windy Point Vineyards

Location: Wapato, Wash.

Owners: Liz and Mike Stepniewski

Year started: 1972

Acres: 10

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

Assistant wine-maker switches fields Thu, 11 Sep 2014 14:36:17 -0500 MITCH LIES WALLA WALLA, Wash. — People take all sorts of routes into wine making. For Andy Slusarenko, it was a degree in turf management and a disinterest in mowing grass.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In white grapes, she looks for balance.

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

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

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

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

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