Capital Press | Orchards, Nuts and Vines Capital Press Mon, 19 Feb 2018 13:19:29 -0500 en Capital Press | Orchards, Nuts and Vines Oregon Fruit Products taps into fermentation market Fri, 28 Apr 2017 13:36:15 -0500 Margarett Waterbury When Max Gehlar founded Oregon Fruit Products in 1935, he was just looking for a way to stabilize the revenue of his cherry and plum orchard in the Eola Hills northwest of Salem. He likely never imagined that his modest canning operation would last for the better part of a century, buoyed by Oregon’s world-famous fruit industry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Researcher breeds better haskap berries Thu, 13 Apr 2017 12:55:41 -0500 Margarett Waterbury Some people take up new projects in retirement. Golfing, say, or restoring old cars. But for plant breeder Maxine Thompson, retirement from her position as a professor of horticulture at Oregon State University offered the chance to focus on a pet project she’s been involved with for many years: haskap berries.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Henggeler Packing Co. modernizes to meet challenges Thu, 13 Apr 2017 13:15:19 -0500 Hear Smith Thomas Fruitland, Idaho — The Henggeler family has been growing tree fruit for nearly 110 years. The business started when C.B. Henggeler purchased a farm near Fruitland and began planting trees.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapin family grows, dries hazelnuts Thu, 13 Apr 2017 13:14:05 -0500 Brenna Wiegand Bruce Chapin started farming when he got out of college in 1973. He’s the third generation on the Willamette Valley farm near Salem, Ore.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Avocados a challenge for growers Thu, 13 Apr 2017 13:12:16 -0500 JULIA HOLLISTER Ed McFadden grows a different type of tree fruit.

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

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

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

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

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

The growing process is unique.

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

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

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

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

There are human pests, too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Berry farm thrives amid growing suburbs Thu, 13 Apr 2017 13:11:25 -0500 SuzannE Frary Bi-Zi Farms owners Bill and Peggy Zimmerman have an understanding with their neighbors. People are welcome to walk the dirt paths around the fields, but please don’t eat the berries.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Archivist collects hop and brewing history Thu, 13 Apr 2017 13:00:59 -0500 Gail Oberst Tiah Edmunson-Morton’s great-great grandfather, Henry Lawrence “H.L.” Edmunson, grew hops in the late 1800s on a small farm in the Goshen area south of Eugene. Although the family sold the land in the 1940s, the plant is still a large part of Tiah’s life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Family makes switch from tree fruit to vineyards Thu, 13 Apr 2017 13:00:09 -0500 Hear Smith Thomas Marsing, Idaho — The Williamson family has grown tree fruit for four generations, but now the orchard is transitioning to vineyards.

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

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

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

The focus for their products has always been flavor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is still very much a family business.

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

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

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

Fourth-generation farm looks ahead Thu, 13 Apr 2017 12:59:07 -0500 Brenna Wiegand Goschie Farms near Silverton, Ore., is owned and managed by fourth-generation farmers Gordon, Gayle and Glenn Goschie.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fighting the blight continues as growers expand Thu, 13 Apr 2017 12:58:10 -0500 Jan Jackson ALBANY, Ore. — David Chambers, a third-generation hazelnut grower who lives just down the road from the Century farm on which he grew up, cut his orchard acreage to 85 acres three years ago.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oregon’s growers continue to pursue market options.

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

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

Farm produces hazelnut trees through micropropagation Thu, 13 Apr 2017 12:53:09 -0500 Brenna Wiegand Propagation has become the major focus at the Ron Chapin hazelnut farm near Salem.

Chapin, who owns and operates the orchards with sons Larry and Paul and nephews Jeff, Steve and Caleb, said the idea is to maintain a cash flow while their young orchards reach maturity. As with farmers across the Willamette Valley, they must plant new varieties as traditional varieties fall to eastern filbert blight.

“We’ve been pushing the nursery business because we’re going to go through a period of time when we have young trees and no old, producing orchards which is going to be a little bit tight cashflow wise,” Chapin said.

Chapin runs a bare root nursery and micropropagation operation at the 700-acre family farm. In past years, they’ve grown volumes of the Jefferson variety but are switching gears in an attempt to keep up with a growing demand for Webster and are relying on the speed of layering versus tissue culture to grab the business at hand.

“We’re trying real hard to get these things into our layering program because when we put a tissue cultured tree in the ground we have a two-year wait before we can harvest a bare root tree,” Chapin said. “However, without tissue and just relying on grafting and layering to multiply the trees for our layering beds, it would take a decade to do what we do in two years.”

Travis Adams is Chapin’s partner in the micropropagation business and manages the laboratory, where Adams has a bumper crop of Webster trees underway.

Chapin got into micropropagation eight years ago while his daughter Nicole was pursuing her horticulture degree at Oregon State University. She came home excited about the hazelnut micropropagation going on there. Through trial, error and lots of help from others, the lab is now producing nicely and predictably.

“There is always something but we’ve been able to work our way through it; even the volume of the container makes a big difference,” Adams said. “I feel like everything we’ve done right has been by people giving us really good advice and trying to replicate that within the budget we have. We may do things differently such as using Saran wrap on Mason jars, but it’s working really well.”

This year the lab will serve about 15 customers, up from last year’s six, and is on track to produce 150,000 plants. Ron has about 60 bare root customers and will also produce 150,000 trees in addition to some 40,000-50,000 potted varieties. Together, it’s enough to cover 1,500-2,000 acres.

“It is a nice little business,” Chapin said. “There’s a lot of excitement in the hazelnut industry right now because of the prices. You go to the industry meetings and the attendance has doubled or tripled.”

Eastern filbert blight, which could have been the death knell of the industry, is slowly being defeated as farmers replace dying orchards with the sturdy, disease-resistant varieties coming out of Oregon State.

“Without those we would be in a sorry state as an industry,” Chapin said. “Instead, orchards are going in all over the place.”

Chapin’s own orchards yield 3,500-4,000 pounds of nuts an acre, though it’s been as high as 5,000. He’s hoping the new varieties perform similarly — and sooner rather than later.

After planting 400 acres of Jefferson hazelnuts on ground previously in seed and forage crops they’re starting in on replanting replant old Ennis orchards in McDonald and Webster. In seven or eight years, all 700 acres of the farm will be in new varieties.

“Even though we’ve doubled our acreage, our production is flat for the next seven or eight years,” Chapin said. “Industry wide, you’re going to see production go up because the acreage is being planted but there is also a lot of older stuff that’s dying so I don’t think you’ll see it go up real fast; maybe in 10 years or so.

“Ninety-nine percent of the hazelnuts in the country are grown right here and we’re not that big of an industry,” Chapin said. “My brother Bruce and I make up about 2 percent of nationwide production. Most other crops, you’re nothing; you don’t even show up statistically.”

Between his brother Bruce Chapin, two sons and three nephews, the Chapin farm has spawned six independent, hazelnut-related businesses.

“I’m far more interested in each of them running their own business than in having a big corporate farm that everybody owns a little piece of,” Chapin said.

Farmers experiment with chipping hazelnut brush Thu, 13 Apr 2017 12:52:10 -0500 Brenna Wiegand Gervais, Ore. — This year hazelnut growers Paul Massee and his wife, Lynnea Lane, are trying something different.

After pruning for eastern filbert blight, everything 4-6 inches thick and smaller is kept in the orchard and piled into windrows. Only the big pieces go to the burn pile.

Then Lane gets her “new toy” and grinds the branches into mulch that stays among the trees.

“It’s a new experiment this year,” Massee said. “It all started when Lynnea saw a flier for Agrishred out of Newberg advertising the service.”

The couple manages about 100 acres of hazelnuts on land owned by Paul’s mother, Judith Massee. Due to Paul’s teaching job at Sprague High School in Salem, they have traditionally stacked all the prunings and waited until school ended in June to deal with them.

There are several reasons they chose to invest $22,000 in a rear-pulled chipper-shredder. Rears Manufacturing in Eugene built the 10-foot-wide pull-behind ASH chipper-shredder they haul behind a John Deere tractor. The prunings are laid in windrows and the chipper-shredder creates mulch.

The undertaking also required fabrication of a custom belly pan to protect the tractor’s underside from the prunings.

Instead of the material just sitting there until June, the orchard is “opened up” for the winter and the chipped-up smaller brush has a chance to decompose and keep beneficial organisms in the soil. While an Oregon State University study detected viable ascospores above chipped EFB cankers, it determined that there were not enough to consistently infect nearby trees.

“We’re going to have to figure out if it saves money,” Massee said. “Right now, there’s the expense of the machine and of adding belly guards to the tractor. The amount of diesel could be about the same.”

While Massee is looking forward to the mulch smoothing out his travel lanes, the main thing he hopes for is that shredding EFB-infected branches significantly reduces the probability of re-infecting the remaining healthy trees.

“I’m just hoping it is easier to deal with,” Lynnea said. “If you take everything that’s out there and push it into burn piles you end up with these huge burn piles. Then you’ve got to bring the ash back into in the orchard or find someplace to get rid of it. It might as well stay in the orchard. It’s not going to hurt anything like this. The wind can’t whip through and carry the blight.”

Its success remains to be seen, and comments vary.

“It’s a mixed bag; some neighbors think we’re crazy and others think we’re industry leaders,” he said. “It just sounded like a smarter thing to do than what we’ve been doing.”

As for Lynnea, she’s enjoying herself.

“I’m just going to ride that tractor and pull that shredder behind it,” she said.

“Life is an experiment; we’ll give it a try,” Massee said.

Family orchard, co-op packing house work together Thu, 13 Apr 2017 12:50:36 -0500 Hear Smith Thomas Caldwell, Idaho — The Mountainland Cooperative was originally formed in Utah to provide long-term storage, packing and marketing of fruit produced by member growers.

The co-op does no direct sales; all sales are to the retail, foodservice and wholesale trade, mainly in the Intermountain area, but some of the fruit is shipped to other regions of the U.S.

Brad Goodloe manages the Idaho packing house at Caldwell.

“The orchards were started in Utah. We are now the third generation of our family orchard business. A packing shed was started by the co-op in Utah. As the co-op grew and some of the growers grew in size, they moved to Idaho about five years ago and started a packing shed here, rather than shipping the fruit to Utah,” Goodloe said.

Mountainland Idaho works with orchards in the area, including Williamson Orchards and Gary Garret, a grower near Homedale, he said. “We also pack a lot of fruit for Caldwell Idaho Orchards. They are part of the co-op but located here in Idaho. They are part of a welfare program for the LDS Church, supplying fruit to needy people. As members of the co-op, they use us to package their fruit.”

On the farming side, his cousins Sean, Jeff and Daniel Rowley grow fruit at Cherry Hill Farms.

“At the beginning of harvest we do apricots, then peaches and nectarines. The apples ripen later,” he said. Different varieties of apples ripen at different times, spreading out the harvest.

Their family orchards in Idaho grow Gala, Honeycrisp, Fuji and Reds. After being sorted and packed at Mountainland, the apples are shipped to Wal-Mart stores and Associated Foods.

“We also sell apples to a few smaller outlets. Wal-Mart likes to promote local growers, however. We see our products in many grocery stores around here. Associated Foods distributes our products in Utah and the Northwest,” he said.

Goodloe and his cousins all have children, and though they are still young, some of them are interested in the fruit business. Daniel’s children range from 1 to 10.

“They enjoy coming out to the farm, especially the boys. I have all girls and they come with me whenever possible, but are mainly exposed to the packing side of things because that’s what I do,” said Goodloe. “There may eventually be a fourth generation involved with the fruit business.”

Their orchards include long-term leases as well as land they own.

“We look for opportunities to keep expanding. This means buying ground and finding leases. We try to get 20-year leases, to give enough time to get trees into production,” he says.

Some trees today can come into full production quicker than traditional varieties, he said.

“We can usually start small pickings a year after the new trees are put in, and they come into full production in about five years,” he said. “We need a good balance of young trees coming on, along with the older trees.”

He said he is impressed with how well the family works together.

“This is a wonderful thing, and unique. To see a business like this staying in the family and not becoming completely commercialized is great, but it’s also a challenge to try to keep the mandates from government, food regulations, safety regulations, et cetera, and still keep it as a family business,” he said. “We always have to be fluid and up-to-date with all the regulations and not become discouraged. It’s a big challenge and a huge job.”

Apricots enjoy centuries of popularity Thu, 13 Apr 2017 12:49:16 -0500 JULIA HOLLISTER The apricot is one of the “oldest” crops in California, according to the Apricot Producers of California.

“The history of the California apricot started 4,000 years ago when it was discovered on the mountain slopes of China,” said producer’s president Bill Ferreira. “From there this ancient fruit found its way across the Persian Empire to the Mediterranean. Spanish explorers introduced the apricot to California in the 18th century.”

In 1792 the first major apricot crop was produced in California. By 1920, the California apricot was flourishing in the Santa Clara Valley. Eventually California apricot farms found their way to the San Joaquin Valley.

Today, about 150 growers raise 10,200 acres of apricots in the state. About 70 percent of the crop is processed as canned or frozen — the majority of frozen apricots are used for jams and preserves — dried or turned into baby food. The balance sold fresh.

Over 70 percent of the total tonnage consists of one variety, the Patterson, with the balance a mix of other varieties for fresh market. They are canned in Modesto and Lodi, frozen in Watsonville and Atwater, dried in Patterson and Sanger, and a lesser amount in Hollister. Baby food is processed in Medford, Ore.

“Apricots are very fragile; they require a large amount of hand labor to prune, thin and harvest,” Ferreira said.  “The blooms are greatly impacted by rains at bloom time, the fruit by rains at harvest.”

Because apricots are harvested early, few pests attack them. The twig borer is the main pest, and most growers control them by the use of pheromone confusion strips.  Thus apricots require little or no pesticide, just fungicide at bloom time, he said.

Fresh market harvest begins the end of April, with apricots for processing harvested in June. By the beginning of July, harvest is completed.

California apricots make a huge impression on the global stage. Approximately 98 percent of the commercially grown apricots in the U.S. are grown in California. Turkey is the world’s largest producer. Almost all of that crop is dried. Their product is sold in stores at a much lower price than the California dried apricots.

Ferriera said his favorite way to enjoy apricots is not fancy. “I just like apricots in a bowl for canned or eating them out of my hand for dried.”

In spite of the popularity of apricots the public does harbor a few misconceptions.

“The biggest misconception the public holds about apricots is that canned and frozen apricots do not have the nutritional value of fresh,” he said.  “In fact, many times they can be higher in nutrition, given the fact that processed apricots are picked at the peak of maturity and processed many times in a matter of hours.

“Our biggest challenge is getting the word out of the high nutrition value of apricots.” 

Siemers Farm transform into agritourism Thu, 13 Apr 2017 12:48:05 -0500 Katé Lyons-Holestine In 1980 Siemers’ Pick and Pack opened with the intention of catering to local residents seeking apples, cherries, strawberries, potatoes and other produce in bulk to fill their shelves and preserve their own foods for the coming year.

“I remember working orchards and farms up here as a kid,” said Byron Siemers. “A couple farms had quite a big business built up of people coming from town to buy produce since World War II. They would come to Green Bluff to save money and buy in volume from the orchards to can their own food.”

Today, most visitors to Siemers Farm, aren’t seeking to roam the orchards and pick their own apples or purchase produce to fill their pantry shelves. They now visit to ride the train, select the best apples from bins, choose pumpkins straight from the patch and have a picture-perfect, old-fashioned farm experience.

The transition from a full-time working farm selling produce to make a steady living to a destination farm considered an annual family event was gradual, but necessary.

“I’m not sure what we call it, agritourism or entertainment farming,” Byron said. “If we aren’t doing the fun stuff, the value of the farm is only in the produce. There isn’t enough agricultural value here without the fun, and we still grow the produce.”

In the early years, Siemers Farm subsisted on growing and selling apples, cherries, peaches and strawberries from their own and leased orchards. They also grew and marketed potatoes, carrots, beets and a variety of squash. Like many small, dry land farms, costs sometimes exceeded revenues. In 1991 and 1992 the farm received disaster funding for failed strawberry crops due to inclement weather.

“I didn’t know what we needed, but Donna did,” Byron said. “She could see what the farm could be. Those were tough times. If we didn’t make it in the spring with strawberries, we didn’t make it. There were a couple years where our income didn’t reach the poverty line.”

Byron is a well-known figure on Green Bluff, an agricultural area about 30 miles north of I-90 and Spokane, Wash. Siemers Farm is one of the longest, continuously active members of the Green Bluff Direct Marketing Association, an organization of Green Bluff Farms devoted to promoting agriculture and agritourism. The GBDMA sponsors the annual Cherry Picker’s Trot and Pit Spit fun run each July. Byron has led the runners with the pace car — his John Deere tractor pulling an outhouse — for as long as most Green Bluff residents can remember.

“There are so many other big outfits that to be a successful small farmer you have to find or develop a niche market or create a unique fit in the agriculture industry or you won’t make it,” Byron said.

After those difficult years, Donna promised her grandchildren they would save 5 percent of the 1995 wholesale strawberry sales for a big vacation.

“I was standing in line at Disneyland waiting to get on rides with my grandkids when I realized the changes we needed to make at home,” Donna said.

Donna had been a sociology instructor at Eastern Washington University. She used her education and experience to develop children’s educational activities to draw new visitors to the farm. She started with story book time and entertaining lessons on growing corn.

“The first year of school tours were in the corn patch,” Byron remembered. “Donna made a scarecrow and told the kids when they got off the bus the scarecrow was hiding in the corn. When those finally kids found that scarecrow they whooped and hollered!”

Donna promoted the educational tours to schools and visitors to the farm slowly increased. In 1997 construction on the farm’s signature castle began.

“People saw it under construction and asked what it was,” Donna said. “When we told them it was a castle their eyes would light up. People came back and it was the start of making enough money to make improvements each year. We were making enough to add or change something each year.”

One year, Donna took a chance when she saw the City of Chewelah selling its tourist train. She purchased the train and each fall you can hear the train bell calling riders.

“I wrote them a very nice letter offering $6,000 and children’s laughter,” Donna said. “I also promised not to charge any children for riding the train for the first three years. I knew it wasn’t enough, but you can’t really put a price on children’s laughter.”

Siemers Farm is about 45 acres. Through leasing Byron has steadily had between 100 and 150 acres in production each year. That acreage has been steadily decreasing the past few years for a variety of reasons. Apple and cherry trees lost to age and weather damage haven’t been replaced. In 1999 Byron suffered a stroke. Today, Byron is 77, Donna is 81 and they want to enjoy retirement. They have been trying to sell the farm for several years. The asking price is $1.5 million.

Siemers Farm continues to be a popular place to pick strawberries in the spring and cherries in the summer. Apples and pumpkins are sold in abundance each fall. But most visitors come to enjoy the cornucopia of activities. The store has a large selection of locally grown fruit and produce as well as a farm-themed gifts. The castle is surrounded by a corn and shrub maze. Pedal cars, giant slides, live music, wine tastings and the farm’s signature train round out the current list of attractions.

“The Green Bluff festivals and Donna’s school tours brought people who probably wouldn’t have come here otherwise,” Byron said. “It’s made the farm a completely different kind of business.”

Everything you ever wanted to know about pistachios Thu, 13 Apr 2017 12:47:23 -0500 JULIA HOLLISTER Compared to other U.S.-grown nuts, pistachios are the “youngsters.”

“Pistachios are not native to California,” said Bob Klein, manager of the California Pistachio Research Board.  “Early goldminers likely brought in some and there were pistachios in the state by the 1870s.”

However, pistachios were mostly a novelty and didn’t become established as an industry until the mid-1970s.

The plantings were based on a variety that came from seed collected by a USDA plant explorer, W.E. Whitehouse, in Persia — now called Iran — in 1929 to 1930, he said.

In California today about 320,000 acres are planted to pistachios: about 250,000 bearing and the rest non-bearing.

“Iran has the greatest number of acres but California commonly produces more pistachios.” he said.

The U.S. produces 35-40 percent of the global supply and Iran produces 25-30 percent, with Turkey, Syria and Greece accounting for most of the rest, he said. There is some production in Italy, Spain, France, Chile, Argentina, Australia and Afghanistan.

Iran competes on price while California growers compete more on quality, he said. Few Iranian pistachios are imported.

According to Klein, prospective growers should have a lot of patience.

Pistachios are hard to grow and require lots of capital due to the long non-bearing period — 6 years on average.

They are frequently planted in partnerships. Consequently, the research board tracks growing entities rather than individual growers.  There are about 1,200 growing entities in California.

Trees typically flower in late March or early April.  There are male and female trees, about one male for every 24 females and are wind pollinated. Nuts are produced only on the female tree.

“Farming in general is not easy,” he said. “When pistachios were first beginning in California, people thought they had no pests or diseases and were drought-tolerant.”

While they can survive with little or no added water, they won’t produce without adequate water. They have a wide number of pests and diseases that require timely control but compared to other crops can be grown successfully in a wide range of soil types and will tolerate modestly saline irrigation water, he said.

“While I wouldn’t say pistachios are particularly sensitive or difficult, growers have to be aware of pests and diseases, monitor then appropriately and make sure to control the pests in a timely manner,” he said. “Irrigation timing can be critical as well for a good, high-quality crop.”

Navel orangeworm is the most significant insect pest for pistachios — and some other tree nuts — and control is difficult.

What researchers call large bugs (stink bugs and leaffooted bugs) also can be important and control is difficult because they are mobile, difficult to monitor and the damage shows up days or weeks after they have left.

“The nuts are harvested fresh from the tree and taken directly to the processor, where the hull is removed and the nuts dried to a stable moisture of 5-7 percent,” Klein said. “The timing is critical — the hulls must be removed within 24 hours or the shells become stained and unsightly, precluding use for in-shell snacking.”

Dried nuts are stored in large silos and then conveyed into the processing plant for sorting and sizing. Nuts can then be roasted/salted/flavored and then bagged, he said.

“Roasting, in addition to imparting flavor, also eliminates food-borne pathogens,”  he said.

Klein admits the public has a few misconceptions about pistachios.

“Probably the biggest misconception is that pistachios and tree nuts in general are unhealthy due to their fat content,” he said.  “Pistachios have ‘good’ fats, unsaturated and mono-unsaturated fats that actually promote cardiovascular health while containing significant amounts of fiber and other micronutrients.”

And there’s one more misconception, Klein said. “In a minor sense, most people don’t realize that pistachios are naturally split, occurring on the tree before harvest.”