Capital Press | Orchards, Nuts and Vines http://www.capitalpress.com Capital Press Wed, 29 Jul 2015 23:10:56 -0400 en http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/staticimage/images/rss-logo.jpg Capital Press | Orchards, Nuts and Vines http://www.capitalpress.com Curator keeps living ‘library’ of pear trees http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150505/curator-keeps-living-library-of-pear-trees http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150505/curator-keeps-living-library-of-pear-trees#Comments Tue, 5 May 2015 15:44:59 -0400 Denise Ruttan http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150509931 Shop for pears at any supermarket these days and you’ll likely find whole bins full of perfectly shaped Bartletts and blemish-free Anjous, but few other varieties.

When Joseph Postman, on the other hand, walks through his pear orchard on a warm spring afternoon, he’ll spot a Petit Muscat from 16th century France; a Devoe from upstate New York; a Hosui from Japan; a Vavilov from Russia; or perhaps even a Pyrus betulifolia from the wilds of China. Essentially, every pear tree in each row is different.

Postman is a pear curator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service. The agency funds the National Clonal Germplasm Repository in Corvallis, Ore., which is a gene bank for the world’s pears. Such varieties may have little market value individually — hence the dominance of the Anjou and the Bartlett in today’s market. But this plant pathologist-turned-“gene librarian” has made it his life’s work to preserve in perpetuity the world’s genetic diversity of pears.

“To keep old heirloom varieties is important because they’re not grown as much but they still have useful traits,” Postman said. “We’re building a reserve of potential solutions for future problems. A lack of diversity is a genetic vulnerability.”

For example, a plant breeder could pair that cold-hardy Devoe with an Anjou, say, and potentially create a pear suited to withstand climate change.

Postman has worked with the gene bank since 1981, when he was fresh out of graduate school. Oregon State University was building the gene bank as he finished his degree in plant pathology; now it’s a USDA facility.

“I was studying plant pathology in fruit trees and how diseases spread via propagation,” Postman said. “I was hired to develop a program to detect which rootstocks were carrying diseases during propagation and to prevent the spread of viruses in propagation.”

These days, his job is a combination of gardener and data collector.

Gene banks such as the one in Corvallis exist across the country, largely connected to land-grant universities — even though they are now USDA-funded.

“These gene banks originally existed as research libraries. As university libraries keep collections of books that researchers need, these gene banks provide genetic material that breeders need,” Postman said.

At his library, you’ll find more than 2,000 different pear trees. There are also 800 hazelnut varieties, 150 quince varieties and hundreds of berries.

You can search these collections via a sort of “Dewey Decimal” system in an online database. But researchers are refining this system. The gene bank employs a molecular biologist whose job it is to comb pear DNA for markers that give a more precise way of looking up this information.

“He’s using DNA tools to look at the genetic fingerprint of the plant, the same tools used in police detective work. So if a strawberry commits a crime, we’ll know which variety it is,” Postman said.

Another researcher is studying alternative storage methods for genetic material, including high-tech methods like cryogenics for plant tissue.

The living collection is stored on 20 acres at OSU’s horticultural research farm and on a 40-acre parcel nearby. To propagate such often ancient varieties, the scientists here use grafting and cuttings.

Postman has traveled as far away as Armenia to tramp through wilderness searching for wild relatives of the pear.

Other items in the collection are more sentimental, such as the Endicott pear tree. It’s the oldest living fruit tree in North America, named for the Massachusetts governor who planted it around 1630. Every year members of the Endicott family request cuttings for their family reunions. Its flavor is good, but its fruit is unattractive and coarse.

Postman believes it’s all worth saving.

“When blight wiped out hazelnuts here in Oregon, or the climate changes and the varieties we had don’t grow so well any more, it’s important to have these varieties to develop new varieties that are adapted to the new conditions,” Postman said.

Online

For more information about the National Clonal Germplasm Repository, go to http://www.ars.usda.gov/main/site_main.htm?modecode=20-72-15-00

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Hazelnuts prove to be perfect crop for this farm http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150505/hazelnuts-prove-to-be-perfect-crop-for-this-farm http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150505/hazelnuts-prove-to-be-perfect-crop-for-this-farm#Comments Tue, 5 May 2015 15:44:50 -0400 CRAIG REED http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150509932 UMPQUA, Ore. — Elin Miller wanted to plant wine grapes.

But after several conversations with others already in the wine business, Elin and Bill Miller decided a vineyard would need more maintenance and management than they had time for while still working in their corporate careers.

So the couple made the decision to plant hazelnut trees on the property that had been planted in prune trees back in 1908 by William Kamp, Bill Miller’s grandfather.

“Elin didn’t get her way,” Bill Miller said. “But we’re very happy with the hazelnuts.”

“Exceedingly happy,” Elin Miller added with a laugh.

Today, the Millers’ UmpquaNut Farm consists of a 36-acre orchard between the Umpqua River and its tributary, Calapooya Creek. Eighteen acres were planted in 2002 with bare root cuttings and another 18 acres were planted the following year.

In 2006, the orchard’s first harvest of Ennis hazelnuts yielded about 10,000 pounds. After several years of maturity and growth, the orchard’s recent 2014 harvest totaled about 144,000 pounds of clean and dry nuts. The Millers market their crop to Northwest Hazelnut, whose headquarters are in Hubbard, Ore.

“The market (price) has steadily increased since we planted the orchard,” Bill Miller said. “The trend with nuts in general — walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts — in the last several years is that more people are realizing the health benefits of consuming nuts.

“There’s also been market expansion as more countries are buying a lot more nuts,” he added.

Before becoming nut farmers, both Bill and Elin Miller had many agricultural experiences.

Bill Miller is a Roseburg, Ore., native who worked on his Uncle LaVerne Murphy’s sheep and forage farm as a youngster. While a college student in 1967, he helped his father remove the prune trees and transition the land over to grain and alfalfa production.

After graduating from Oregon State University in 1968, Bill Miller worked as an agriculture teacher for two years in Portland Public Schools before a 35-year career in the agricultural chemical industry in California. He retired in 2005 and moved to the nut farm in 2006.

Elin Miller was a city kid in Mesa, Ariz., but got involved in FFA in high school. She had floraculture projects and then during the summers of her college years, she worked in Arizona cotton fields. She was elected to a national FFA office in 1979 and took a year off from college to represent the organization in its western region.

After graduating from the University of Arizona in 1982, Elin Miller had numerous jobs through the years: Working for Shell Chemical Co. in its ag division, executive director of the Western Agriculture Chemical Association, global vice president of public affairs for Dow Chemical, director of conservation for California, regional administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency for Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Idaho, and president and CEO of a spinoff of Chevron’s ag division.

Although she retired from the corporate working world in 2009, she continues to be on several boards, including the National FFA Foundation. She’s the chairman of that board with a three-year commitment through 2016.

In retirement, the Millers are farming land that’s been in the family for over 100 years. They inherited 20 acres and purchased another 20 acres from relatives. It was then a matter of doing research, asking questions and deciding what next to do with the land that had been leased out for several years to a neighboring farmer.

“Hazelnuts are just not as complex as grapes,” Elin Miller admitted.

“The hazelnuts have done very well for us,” Bill Miller said.

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Apple family does it all and keeps growing http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150505/apple-family-does-it-all-and-keeps-growing http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150505/apple-family-does-it-all-and-keeps-growing#Comments Tue, 5 May 2015 15:44:11 -0400 Erick Peterson http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150509933 The folks at E.W. Brandt and Sons like sharing the company’s history and explaining the challenges of this year’s market.

Allen Brandt, part owner with brother Dana Brandt, is the son of the founder, Everette W. Brandt, who along with his wife, Ada, started their operation in 1947 with 16 acres of peaches and cherries.

Their family had been farming in the area since 1908, and through ups and downs E.W. and Ada maintained a business that has been passed down to a new generation.

It was not until fairly recently that the greatest growth has occurred.

Allen Brandt remembers there were less than 20 acres when he completed college and returned to the family business in 1974.

“The rest is history,” he said. E.W. Brandt and Sons expanded to around 1,200 acres in the following years.

He credits the growth to ingenuity and the desire of the company to do everything.

The company, he said, developed a reputation for high-quality fruit, which was made possible because it took control over not only cultivation and harvesting but also packing.

It has been a successful model so far, Allen said.

“We’re still here, anyway,” he said. “We’re growing and hope to continue growing.”

This optimism is shared by Allen’s son, Joe.

“We’re on this path of growth, and we plan on continuing,” Joe said.

But this is a difficult time for the region’s fruit growers, Ryan Moore, a Brandt sales executive, explained.

Washington produced a record apple crop this year, he said, and other growing areas produced large crops, creating a flood of apples worldwide.

Most often, when apples are plentiful in Washington, they are scarce in other regions of the U.S. Then, when they are bountiful in other places, Washington orchards are less productive.

On top of that, a port slowdown hampered the export market.

“The orders are coming and the buyers are there, but if you can’t get them on a boat and to the countries you want to get them to, it isn’t going to do anyone any good,” Moore said.

The option was to send the apples to domestic markets, places that already had a surplus, which has driven down prices.

In addition, trucking is a problem, as many small truckers have either gone out of business or joined with larger groups.

In spite of all the issues, which “blindsided” several growers, according to Moore, some producers are expanding their orchards.

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Honeybee health a concern for many http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150416/honeybee-health-a-concern-for-many/2 http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150416/honeybee-health-a-concern-for-many/2#Comments Wed, 6 May 2015 16:10:47 -0400 Bill Schaefer http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150419854 The plight of the honeybee is an increasing concern among beekeepers, horticulturists, orchardists and government agencies across the United States.

According to a 2012 report released by the USDA the number of professional beehives has declined from 6 million in 1947 to 2.5 million today. The decline in beehives has been exacerbated since 2006 with what has been called colony collapse disorder. During the past six years beehive losses have averaged just over 30 percent, according to the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service.

The report stated that “overall losses continue to be high and pose a serious threat to meeting pollination service demands for several commercial crops.”

Anita Pease, associate director of environmental fate and effects division at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said the EPA is in the midst of reviewing the draft document for a pollinator health strategy.

“Hopefully, it should be out in the next two to three months, if not sooner,” Pease said. “We are considering some proposed label changes for pesticides that are acutely toxic to bees in certain situations where we restrict the use at bloom, but that proposal would go out for public comment.”

Pease said the EPA also is currently conducting a risk assessment of imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid insecticide, that should be released within the calendar year.

Beekeepers and others see a complex and multi-layered reasoning for CCD.

Pease said there are several stress-related issues that the EPA is considering in its risk assessment of pollinator health. Along with the use of pesticides the EPA is also exploring factors including the loss of habitat, the moving of commercial beehives to meet pollination demands of certain crops, pests and pathogens as well as best management practices of beehives.

Pease also emphasized the importance of following label instructions when using pesticides. Referring to a colony die-off of 25,000 bees in Oregon in 2013, Pease said, “It’s my understanding that there was a restriction on the label that said ‘do not apply during bloom.’ If they were applied during bloom when the label said not to, that would be a misuse of the pesticide.”

Nick Noyes, based in Fruitland, Idaho, is a second-generation beekeeper with 9,000 beehives. Speaking from California, where his beehives were in the midst of the almond pollination season, Noyes said he considers the lack of habitat and forage to be the biggest problem his business.

“There’s nothing left when the almonds are done,” Noyes said. “There’s no weeds. There’s no habitat for bees. There’s no flowers. If you look at what’s going on in farming, the only thing that grows in a farmer’s field that is green is what a farmer wants to be in there.”

In an attempt to improve bee habitat, Becky Curry-Lang, Bayer CropScience’s project manager for bee health, said that Bayer has launched an initiative in 2015 called, “Feed a Bee.”

Curry-Lang said Bayer is giving away wildflower seed packets in an attempt to plant 50 million flowers.

“No matter what side of the honeybee issue that you’re on, everyone agrees that forage and habitat is where we can clearly make a huge difference,” Curry-Lang said.

In addition to the 50 million flowers, Curry-Lang said Bayer is trying to also find partners for larger acreage pollinator habitat.

“Maybe it’s a grower that has land they don’t use for their traditional operations or it’s a nonprofit organization. We’ll work to achieve more acreage in providing habitat across the United States,” she said of the initiative. For more information visit feedabee.com.

The Varroa mite, the tracheal mite and the gut pathogen Nosema have also been contributing factors affecting poor pollinator health and CCD.

Curry-Lang said Bayer has a product in development called polyvar, a miticide that may protect honeybees from the Varroa mite.

“It’s hard to control a bug on a bug,” Curry-Lang said. “It’s a very fine line on how much miticide you use to control the Varroa while not harming the bee.”

The polyvar is a plastic strip placed at the opening of the hive so that the bee would be dosed as it leaves and enters the hive.

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Brothers move from hop farming to distribution http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150416/brothers-move-from-hop-farming-to-distribution/2 http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150416/brothers-move-from-hop-farming-to-distribution/2#Comments Wed, 6 May 2015 08:42:26 -0400 Gail Oberst http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150419855 Bruce Wolf and his younger brother Derek operate Willamette Hops in an old barn just a few yards from the house where they were raised. In fields surrounding the office near St. Paul, Ore., hop vines are showing signs of life.

The company’s simple offices mask the rapidly growing business the brothers have built to supply local and international hops to Oregon brewers.

“We don’t grow the hops,” Bruce explains. “But we would bleed green, if you cut us.”

The Wolfs are distributors, working with Haas International and local growers, to provide pelletized and whole-leaf hops to brewers.

The Wolf brothers have deep roots in St. Paul’s hop culture. They are related by blood or by marriage to some of Oregon’s best-known hop growers — Colemans, Weathers, Davidsons and others are all blood or in-laws. Bruce grew up with his wife, Emily Davidson, whose family has been farming hops in the area for five generations. Their grandparents had worked together.

“I grew up on a hop farm, working next to my dad,” Bruce said.

Had the hop market not taken a nosedive in the ’90s, Bruce and his dad, James, might still be farming. The brothers’ great-grandfather bought the land, cleared it and planted hops in the days when the flowers were picked by hand. In 1986, James Wolf was named Outstanding Young Farmer of the Year by the Woodburn Chamber of Commerce for his innovations in hop farming. At the time, James Wolf was farming the hops his father, Philip, had farmed. In 1972, father and son bought the first upright baling system in Oregon and Washington.

“By the time my dad was 19 years old, he was raising his own hops. He had his own fields,” Bruce said. His dad’s first hop variety? Columbia, said Bruce.

In 1999, after a 12-year downturn in the hops market, the Wolf family quit farming hops. When he was old enough, Bruce worked at relatives’ farms. About six years ago, he began working with his grandfather selling hop rhizomes online.

“About 2009 or 2010, we were getting hit with requests for whole hops and pellets,” Bruce said. The light bulb went off. In 2009, he registered his company, Willamette Valley Hops, and brought his brother into the company. “Derek has been working with me shoulder-to-shoulder the whole time,” Bruce said.

Although many Oregon hop growers will sell small amounts directly to the brewer, most of the world’s hop growers set minimum amounts that can be purchased, which edges many small breweries out of specialty markets. Willamette Valley Hops — as do larger dealers — gather enough orders from clients to create minimum orders. Willamette Valley Hops specializes in personal service.

“We’ve even hand-delivered fresh hops to breweries,” said Bruce. Today Willamette Valley Hops has five outside sales representatives.

The company also sponsors a fresh hop festival in St. Paul, donating the proceeds to local schools.

What’s in the future?

“I see nothing but growth for the next five to ten years,” he said.

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Brothers move from hop farming to distribution http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150416/brothers-move-from-hop-farming-to-distribution/1 http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150416/brothers-move-from-hop-farming-to-distribution/1#Comments Tue, 5 May 2015 15:49:03 -0400 Gail Oberst http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150419856 Bruce Wolf and his younger brother Derek operate Willamette Hops in an old barn just a few yards from the house where they were raised. In fields surrounding the office near St. Paul, Ore., hop vines are showing signs of life.

The company’s simple offices mask the rapidly growing business the brothers have built to supply local and international hops to Oregon brewers.

“We don’t grow the hops,” Bruce explains. “But we would bleed green, if you cut us.”

The Wolfs are distributors, working with Haas International and local growers, to provide pelletized and whole-leaf hops to brewers.

The Wolf brothers have deep roots in St. Paul’s hop culture. They are related by blood or by marriage to some of Oregon’s best-known hop growers — Colemans, Weathers, Davidsons and others are all blood or in-laws. Bruce grew up with his wife, Emily Davidson, whose family has been farming hops in the area for five generations. Their grandparents had worked together.

“I grew up on a hop farm, working next to my dad,” Bruce said.

Had the hop market not taken a nosedive in the ’90s, Bruce and his dad, James, might still be farming. The brothers’ great-grandfather bought the land, cleared it and planted hops in the days when the flowers were picked by hand. In 1986, James Wolf was named Outstanding Young Farmer of the Year by the Woodburn Chamber of Commerce for his innovations in hop farming. At the time, James Wolf was farming the hops his father, Philip, had farmed. In 1972, father and son bought the first upright baling system in Oregon and Washington.

“By the time my dad was 19 years old, he was raising his own hops. He had his own fields,” Bruce said. His dad’s first hop variety? Columbia, said Bruce.

In 1999, after a 12-year downturn in the hops market, the Wolf family quit farming hops. When he was old enough, Bruce worked at relatives’ farms. About six years ago, he began working with his grandfather selling hop rhizomes online.

“About 2009 or 2010, we were getting hit with requests for whole hops and pellets,” Bruce said. The light bulb went off. In 2009, he registered his company, Willamette Valley Hops, and brought his brother into the company. “Derek has been working with me shoulder-to-shoulder the whole time,” Bruce said.

Although many Oregon hop growers will sell small amounts directly to the brewer, most of the world’s hop growers set minimum amounts that can be purchased, which edges many small breweries out of specialty markets. Willamette Valley Hops — as do larger dealers — gather enough orders from clients to create minimum orders. Willamette Valley Hops specializes in personal service.

“We’ve even hand-delivered fresh hops to breweries,” said Bruce. Today Willamette Valley Hops has five outside sales representatives.

The company also sponsors a fresh hop festival in St. Paul, donating the proceeds to local schools.

What’s in the future?

“I see nothing but growth for the next five to ten years,” he said.

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Orchardist uses unique tactics to overcome blight http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150416/orchardist-uses-unique-tactics-to-overcome-blight/1 http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150416/orchardist-uses-unique-tactics-to-overcome-blight/1#Comments Tue, 5 May 2015 15:44:34 -0400 Denise Ruttan http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150419857 West of Silverton, Ore., near the old North Howell store, you’ll find a hazelnut orchard that carries the legacy of John Meye’s family.

That same legacy brought this educator-turned-farmer from Illinois to Oregon to help out his grandmother on the farm when his grandfather became too ill to work. After his grandfather passed away, the farm then skipped a generation and changed hands directly to the grandson. Meye was in his 30s when he dropped his plans to obtain a Ph.D. in education and fell instead for the lure of agriculture.

“I’d worked at the farm all my life and always enjoyed coming up here. I ended up changing careers and my life, and lo and behold, 20 years later I’m still a full-time farmer and part-time musician,” Meye said.

When Meye is not playing piano for a local church, he tends to his 27 acres of nearly 2,800 trees, mostly of the Barcelona variety, that his grandfather planted in 1972. Part of that legacy, unfortunately, has meant dealing with the nuisance of Eastern filbert blight.

Orchards such as Meye’s that were planted in the 1970s and 1980s are largely Barcelonas, an older variety that is susceptible to blight. Over the years that Meye visited his grandfather’s farm, he saw the disease become a problem.

“A lot of the old orchards are full of blight and many farmers just take out their trees because they don’t want to deal with it,” Meye said. “Oregon State University has since developed blight-resistant hazelnuts so there are lots of new orchards now with blight-resistant varieties.”

Why does Meye keep at it, then? He wants to keep his grandfather’s legacy alive — and, through the orchard, he’s managed to stay fully self-employed since 1983, a life he relishes.

But it hasn’t been easy, thanks to this disease. When the fungus first appears, it looks like a small, black, football-shaped canker.

“After a few years and you don’t deal with it, it will start killing sections of the tree and if you don’t deal with it at all it will kill the whole tree,” Meye said. “It will take a few years but it will kill a whole tree if left unchecked.”

To fight it, Meye has attacked on several fronts.

“Theoretically, if you prune enough and spray hard enough it will eliminate it but the cost is astronomical,” Meye said.

Meye has developed a system of his own in which he sprays just a little fungicide early as he finds the disease and as late in the season as is necessary. He prunes what he can but not too heavily.

He’s also tried a tactic that involves neither spraying nor pruning, nor even replacing the whole orchard. Filberts must cross-pollinate with another variety to produce nuts. Many orchardists in the old days planted an extremely blight-susceptible variety to pollinate every 20 Barcelonas.

“If the pollenizers got blight, the disease would spread like a brush fire,” Meye said.

About eight years ago Meye removed his blight-susceptible pollenizers and replaced 500 to 600 of them with several newer varieties like Lewis, Yamhill and Gamma, which are far more resistant to blight. The key is diversity plus disease resistance.

The tactic has paid off.

“The pollenizers are now pretty clean,” Meye said. “It hasn’t cured it but it’s helped heal it.”

Production, despite these challenges, has been high in recent years, Meye said. He sells the nuts he cultivates to the processor George Packing Co. His Silverton-grown nuts have traveled the world, enjoyed as far away as China.

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Honeybee health a concern for many http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150416/honeybee-health-a-concern-for-many/1 http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150416/honeybee-health-a-concern-for-many/1#Comments Tue, 5 May 2015 15:44:20 -0400 Bill Schaefer http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150419858 The plight of the honeybee is an increasing concern among beekeepers, horticulturists, orchardists and government agencies across the United States.

According to a 2012 report released by the USDA the number of professional beehives has declined from 6 million in 1947 to 2.5 million today. The decline in beehives has been exacerbated since 2006 with what has been called colony collapse disorder. During the past six years beehive losses have averaged just over 30 percent, according to the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service.

The report stated that “overall losses continue to be high and pose a serious threat to meeting pollination service demands for several commercial crops.”

Anita Pease, associate director of environmental fate and effects division at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said the EPA is in the midst of reviewing the draft document for a pollinator health strategy.

“Hopefully, it should be out in the next two to three months, if not sooner,” Pease said. “We are considering some proposed label changes for pesticides that are acutely toxic to bees in certain situations where we restrict the use at bloom, but that proposal would go out for public comment.”

Pease said the EPA also is currently conducting a risk assessment of imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid insecticide, that should be released within the calendar year.

Beekeepers and others see a complex and multi-layered reasoning for CCD.

Pease said there are several stress-related issues that the EPA is considering in its risk assessment of pollinator health. Along with the use of pesticides the EPA is also exploring factors including the loss of habitat, the moving of commercial beehives to meet pollination demands of certain crops, pests and pathogens as well as best management practices of beehives.

Pease also emphasized the importance of following label instructions when using pesticides. Referring to a colony die-off of 25,000 bees in Oregon in 2013, Pease said, “It’s my understanding that there was a restriction on the label that said ‘do not apply during bloom.’ If they were applied during bloom when the label said not to, that would be a misuse of the pesticide.”

Nick Noyes, based in Fruitland, Idaho, is a second-generation beekeeper with 9,000 beehives. Speaking from California, where his beehives were in the midst of the almond pollination season, Noyes said he considers the lack of habitat and forage to be the biggest problem his business.

“There’s nothing left when the almonds are done,” Noyes said. “There’s no weeds. There’s no habitat for bees. There’s no flowers. If you look at what’s going on in farming, the only thing that grows in a farmer’s field that is green is what a farmer wants to be in there.”

In an attempt to improve bee habitat, Becky Curry-Lang, Bayer CropScience’s project manager for bee health, said that Bayer has launched an initiative in 2015 called, “Feed a Bee.”

Curry-Lang said Bayer is giving away wildflower seed packets in an attempt to plant 50 million flowers.

“No matter what side of the honeybee issue that you’re on, everyone agrees that forage and habitat is where we can clearly make a huge difference,” Curry-Lang said.

In addition to the 50 million flowers, Curry-Lang said Bayer is trying to also find partners for larger acreage pollinator habitat.

“Maybe it’s a grower that has land they don’t use for their traditional operations or it’s a nonprofit organization. We’ll work to achieve more acreage in providing habitat across the United States,” she said of the initiative. For more information visit feedabee.com.

The Varroa mite, the tracheal mite and the gut pathogen Nosema have also been contributing factors affecting poor pollinator health and CCD.

Curry-Lang said Bayer has a product in development called polyvar, a miticide that may protect honeybees from the Varroa mite.

“It’s hard to control a bug on a bug,” Curry-Lang said. “It’s a very fine line on how much miticide you use to control the Varroa while not harming the bee.”

The polyvar is a plastic strip placed at the opening of the hive so that the bee would be dosed as it leaves and enters the hive.

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Olmsteads keep orchard in the family http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150416/olmsteads-keep-orchard-in-the-family/1 http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150416/olmsteads-keep-orchard-in-the-family/1#Comments Tue, 5 May 2015 15:44:16 -0400 Erick Peterson http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150419859 GRANDVIEW, Wash. — With a history that dates back to 1918, the Olmstead family is a mainstay of the region’s orchard history.

Olmstead Orchards is owned by Don Olmstead II, Barbara Olmstead and Don Olmstead III. They say they are just a “moment in time” in the history of the operation, which also includes the patriarch, Don Olmstead, 97, and Don Olmstead IV, who is 12.

As a family, it is their responsibility to keep up with the demands of a changing industry.

Don Olmstead II, who is looking forward to his eventual retirement, said both sets of his grandparents raised cherries on the same ground that he and his son now work.

“This is my 44th year in charge,” he said. “That’s getting close to enough (to retirement).”

He remembers that in his early years, the company would produce around 18,000 to 24,000 tons of fruit. Last year, they produced 230,000 tons.

An important issue is shared by other producers in the area: The season is running two weeks ahead of normal.

This creates extra pressure, he said. Though weather this year can create a product that can reach customers sooner, they also add risk.

“We’re put at Mother Nature’s wrath,” he said, adding that a frost could damage the early crop.

“Every year, it’s part of the game,” said Don Olsmstead III. “You roll the dice and take what Mother Nature gives you.”

At the same time, the Olmsteads deal with food safety issues, documenting their practices and trying to keep their workers educated about proper procedures. Simple things, such as explaining the location of washrooms, must be documented. Pesticide records must be kept, and signage must be placed.

They are all good practices, they said, but organizing the documentation has become a large part of the business. This is made harder because employment changes constantly, sometimes growing from 5 to 105 employees in a day. Making sure that employees know their jobs, and keeping records about it, is laborious.

The work becomes all about management, as they spend their time juggling paperwork and employees. They said that the business is not for everyone, but they enjoy it. Organizing labor, equipment and records, while dealing with delicate fruit that requires constant attention, is energizing, they said.

“We know harvest is a crazy time of year,” the younger Olmstead said. “There’s no sleep, you’re running ragged with sales orders, trucks and deliveries, shipping orders all over the United States. But you know that in four weeks, you’re going to be done with it.”

Olmstead Orchards

Location: Grandview, Wash.

Owners: Don Olmstead II, Barbara Olmstead and Don Olmstead III

Started: 1918

Grows: Cherries (Bings, Rainiers and Vans), pears, prunes, apples and grapes

Acres: 95

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Taste for cider prompts new varieties in orchards http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150416/taste-for-cider-prompts-new-varieties-in-orchards/1 http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150416/taste-for-cider-prompts-new-varieties-in-orchards/1#Comments Tue, 5 May 2015 15:43:57 -0400 Gail Oberst http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150419860 Beer and wine are not the only beverages to take root in Oregon and Washington soils.

Orchardists are now taking a hard look at the Northwest’s growing cider industry. Many are planting apples in response to demand from craft hard cider makers.

“We’re on the cusp of something that’s really going to take off,” said Brad Sleeper, whose new orchard in the Coast Range foothills above Oregon’s Haag Lake is planted to 40 varieties of cider apples. “These new cideries are all going to need apples.”

Growing cider apples is old hat to Kevin Zielinski of E.Z. Orchards in Salem. He planted his cider apple trees in 2000 with an eye toward making his own “cidre” using traditional French methods. Into his Willamette Valley Cidre go his apples traditionally cultivated for their tannins and French cider characteristics — Champagne Rienette, Douce Moën, Muscadet de Lense and St. Martine are among the varieties. E.Z. Orchards’ 155 acres also feature heirloom apples, pears, peaches and hazelnuts.

When fermented, dessert apple flavors are muted, cider makers say. On the other hand, fermentation brings cider apple tastes alive. Most craft cideries blend cider and dessert apple juices, much like a vintner blends grapes for a particular effect in wine, Sleeper said.

“American dessert apples lack the characteristic tannins of European cider apples,” said Abram Goldman-Armstrong, owner of Cider Riot, a Portland cidery. Goldman-Armstrong, for example, uses cider apples grown in Yamhill County — Yarlington Mill, Harry Masters Jersey, Dabinett, Kingston Black, Somerset Redstreak and others — blending these with dessert apples from Scio, Ore., and the Yakima, Wash., and Hood River, Ore., areas.

Cider has been made with wine-like attention for hundreds of years in England, Ireland, Germany and Poland — to name a few. Here in the West, hard cider makers are catching up, prompted by demands of consumer palettes now educated by regional craft beer and wine.

Most of the cideries in the Northwest are also orchardists, using their own apples in ciders they produce, according to Sherrye Wyatt of the NW Cider Association. Of the association’s 60 members, 23 are in Oregon, 25 are in Washington and the rest are in Montana, Idaho and British Columbia. This year alone, 16 orchardists who don’t produce cider have joined as association affiliates, another indication of growing interest in growing apples for cider, Wyatt said.

Sleeper, owner of the small Springwood Valley Farms, has planted 1,150 trees with 600 more in the works this year — due to produce marketable fruit in 2017.

Some growers are hesitant to go all-in. With dessert apple prices currently below the price of production, Jack Feil of Feil 1908 Family Orchard near Wenatchee, Wash., said he is testing cider apple varieties but is waiting for a more mature market.

“Pricing and profit are a big question mark. It appears there are a lot of growers looking into producing cider apples and the volume needed for cider production is not great, so producing cider apples would be a minor supplement to the orchard’s profitability. As of now it’s a wait-and-see proposition for us,” Feil said.

Wyatt, however, doesn’t hide her enthusiasm.

“The region is emerging as a national leader in craft cider production and our cider culture is clearly being established. However, in order for our industry to be a fully sustainable cider region, we need a reliable source of locally grown cider apples, “ Wyatt said.

The association recently submitted a proposal to the Specialty Crop Block Grant program of Oregon Department of Agriculture to seek support for growing cider apples.

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Orchard makes its own cider as a drawing card http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150416/orchard-makes-its-own-cider-as-a-drawing-card http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150416/orchard-makes-its-own-cider-as-a-drawing-card#Comments Wed, 15 Apr 2015 18:48:17 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150419896 The newest attraction at this popular U-pick family orchard is a huge antique cider press. It’s part of a feature started at Cabalo Orchard years ago.

“Fresh apple cider is something we started 4 years ago, selling direct to the public because it is raw and unpasteurized. Our cider season starts early September. Our first apples are ripe by August 15th and cider is a good way to use extra apples,” says Chan Cabalo, who took over the 10.5-acre farm near Kuna, Idaho, with his wife, Cathy, in 2004.

“We partner with a family who had a large antique cider press. We use the press and split the proceeds,” Chan says.

“Originally it belonged to my father-in-law; the fruit trees were planted in 1986,” Chan says. “We grow primarily apples. The older varieties established here include Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Royal Gala, Criterion and Jonathan.”

He and Cathy added other varieties, including Pacific Gala, Gravenstein, Jonagold, Honeycrisp, Braeburn, Granny Smith, Macintosh and Winesap.

“In a smaller orchard we planted cherries, apricots, prunes, plums and 4 varieties of pears. We also have a raspberry/blackberry patch,” he says.

Cherries are the first fruit ready to pick — by early July — and the season goes all the way into October. Boxes of fruit are available at a roadside stand at the farm during summer and fall, but the primary focus is U-pick.

“We sell some through Idaho’s Bounty — an online co-op where people can order fruit,” Chan says.

Many customers come from Boise and Mountain Home.

“We enjoy being face-to-face with our customers, and our produce is all natural and pesticide-free. We follow organic practices; all our inputs are certified organic,” he says.

Cathy does a website: www.cabalosorchard.com, writes blogs and tells about the orchard on Facebook to keep customers aware of when certain fruits are ready. Last summer she started a newsletter. “People kept telling me to call them when this or that was ready to pick. Now they just sign up to receive the email newsletter,” she says.

“We are open Friday through Sunday so I formulate the newsletter Wednesday night to let people know what will be ripe this week. I use an email marketing service provider called MailChimp and can do up to 2,000 mailings per month at no charge. This is a great way to keep customers up-to-date on what’s ready, and saves me a lot of phone calls,” Cathy says.

She and Chan make a team in running the farm and orchard.

“I’m the front end of it — greeting customers, starting them off on their trip to pick fruit, and running the farm stand — and he’s the back end, taking care of the orchard and crops. Between the two of us we have everything covered, and overlap when needed,” she explains.

“Our son and his wife help a lot and we’re hoping that one day he might want to take over, when we retire. His family enjoys coming out here, and the grandkids come, too. Most of them are still small, but they enjoy it, and I think we are creating memories for a lifetime, with them,” Cathy says.

The farm/orchard has a large following in their niche market. “People like the way we grow our produce,” she says.

Cabalo’s Orchard

Location: Kuna, Idaho

Owners: Chan and Cathy Cabalo

In business: Since 2004

Size: 1,400 trees on 6.5 acres

Varieties: Apples, cherries, apricots, pears, plums, berries

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Science backgrounds help organic farmers http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150416/science-backgrounds-help-organic-farmers http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150416/science-backgrounds-help-organic-farmers#Comments Wed, 15 Apr 2015 18:37:13 -0400 Erick Peterson http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150419897 Wanting a peaceful life where they could live near their aging parents, Rebecca J. Hunt and her husband, Jimmie Wellman, found land in Wapato, Wash., where they now own and operate a 13-acre organic ranch.

It is called Sunnyslope Ranch, this place of 2,300 trees. They bought it in 2005 and grow cherries, apricots, peaches, nectarines, apriums and pluots. Apriums and pluots are crosses between apricots and plums, but the apricot is dominant in one and the plum is dominant in the other.

Hunt’s background was in chemistry and Wellman’s background was in microbiology when they lived in California.

In 2005, when they were looking to leave their industry, they started looking for land where they could settle with their parents living nearby. Initially, they were not thinking about being farmers, but then they saw a farm for sale and they started considering the possibilities.

“I thought, ‘How hard could it be? Let’s be farmers.’ It was a turnkey operation for sale, and we just went for it,” Hunt said.

Some things were predictable and not at all hard, even for her as a newcomer, Hunt said.

“Farming is science,” she said. As scientists, they were not baffled by the intricacies of growing.

Still, she was surprised by the stamina necessary and the many hours required, but she said she got used to it. She also became accustomed to the various parts of the job that are not directly associated with growing, such as marketing, sales, transportation, financing and collections.

The many different tasks keep the work from getting dull, she said.

The ranch had been organic for 20 years, which appealed to the new owners.

Organic farming is a personal issue for Hunt and Wellman, who are adamant about healthful living, but it is also good business, and the two issues are intertwined.

A lot of people are interested in health, the environment, sprays, fertilizers and more, she said. They want more control over their food, and they want to know that their food is not contributing to any pollution.

She wants people to know that she is concerned about these issues, too.

“We live here,” she said. “Whatever we put on the trees, that’s what we are breathing. Since we live here, we care about the environment. It’s also a decent market strategy.”

Wellman said that he keeps sprays to a minimum, just doing enough to prevent mildew and aphids.

“For us, the purity of the product is paramount,” he said.

They do not have any aspirations for great growth or change in the foreseeable future. It is enough for them, Hunt said, to live well and in a way that benefits themselves and their parents, pets and community.

“At this point, we’re going to do what we’ve been doing. It’s been enough to keep us busy,” she said.

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Brothers move from hop farming to distribution http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150416/brothers-move-from-hop-farming-to-distribution http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150416/brothers-move-from-hop-farming-to-distribution#Comments Wed, 15 Apr 2015 18:51:58 -0400 Gail Oberst http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150419895 Bruce Wolf and his younger brother Derek operate Willamette Hops in an old barn just a few yards from the house where they were raised. In fields surrounding the office near St. Paul, Ore., hop vines are showing signs of life.

The company’s simple offices mask the rapidly growing business the brothers have built to supply local and international hops to Oregon brewers.

“We don’t grow the hops,” Bruce explains. “But we would bleed green, if you cut us.”

The Wolfs are distributors, working with Haas International and local growers, to provide pelletized and whole-leaf hops to brewers.

The Wolf brothers have deep roots in St. Paul’s hop culture. They are related by blood or by marriage to some of Oregon’s best-known hop growers — Colemans, Weathers, Davidsons and others are all blood or in-laws. Bruce grew up with his wife, Emily Davidson, whose family has been farming hops in the area for five generations. Their grandparents had worked together.

“I grew up on a hop farm, working next to my dad,” Bruce said.

Had the hop market not taken a nosedive in the ’90s, Bruce and his dad, James, might still be farming. The brothers’ great-grandfather bought the land, cleared it and planted hops in the days when the flowers were picked by hand. In 1986, James Wolf was named Outstanding Young Farmer of the Year by the Woodburn Chamber of Commerce for his innovations in hop farming. At the time, James Wolf was farming the hops his father, Philip, had farmed. In 1972, father and son bought the first upright baling system in Oregon and Washington.

“By the time my dad was 19 years old, he was raising his own hops. He had his own fields,” Bruce said. His dad’s first hop variety? Columbia, said Bruce.

In 1999, after a 12-year downturn in the hops market, the Wolf family quit farming hops. When he was old enough, Bruce worked at relatives’ farms. About six years ago, he began working with his grandfather selling hop rhizomes online.

“About 2009 or 2010, we were getting hit with requests for whole hops and pellets,” Bruce said. The light bulb went off. In 2009, he registered his company, Willamette Valley Hops, and brought his brother into the company. “Derek has been working with me shoulder-to-shoulder the whole time,” Bruce said.

Although many Oregon hop growers will sell small amounts directly to the brewer, most of the world’s hop growers set minimum amounts that can be purchased, which edges many small breweries out of specialty markets. Willamette Valley Hops — as do larger dealers — gather enough orders from clients to create minimum orders. Willamette Valley Hops specializes in personal service.

“We’ve even hand-delivered fresh hops to breweries,” said Bruce. Today Willamette Valley Hops has five outside sales representatives.

The company also sponsors a fresh hop festival in St. Paul, donating the proceeds to local schools.

What’s in the future?

“I see nothing but growth for the next five to ten years,” he said.

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Small apple orchard keeps owners busy http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150416/small-apple-orchard-keeps-owners-busy http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150416/small-apple-orchard-keeps-owners-busy#Comments Wed, 15 Apr 2015 18:30:11 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150419899 Fourteen years ago David and Shannon Anderson took a Sunday drive, saw this orchard in bloom and bought it because it was so beautiful.

“We wanted a place to build our house and decided to leave the trees there. It’s a small orchard, but still plenty of work for us,” Shannon says.

“The apples are harvested U-pick. People come with their families for picnics, and pick their own apples. Everything is very casual,” she says.

“One reason we bought the orchard was our kids were young at that time and we thought it would be a good way to teach our kids how to work. Dave and I learned how to work, ourselves!” she says.

Now their oldest, Mitchell, is in college, Rachel is starting college this fall and Tessa is a high school freshman. “Dave and I do most of the orchard work now, but our kids still enjoy the orchard. The ones who are still home run the irrigation all summer, moving sprinkler pipes every 24 hours. They also mow around the trees. I prune, and my husband sprays. We each have our jobs,” Shannon says.

“Our Red Delicious are Oregon Red, which are a little different than what you find in a store.”

“We let people taste the apples before they decide which ones to pick, and they can eat as many as they want, while they are here.”

They can pick the ones they prefer. Various trees’ apples taste different even if they are the same kind.

The orchard is open to the public late September through October for about 6 weeks while the apples are ripe,” Shannon says.

The trees were planted in 1988. Blossoms are beautiful in April, and many people come to take pictures.

The 5 acres was part of a 20-acre orchard that was split.

“The original owners kept about 13 acres and sold a couple pieces. So I have a neighbor with a small orchard, but the people who sold these smaller pieces took all their trees out. We got their customers. Fall is a super busy time for us, but a lot of fun,” she says.

Customers hear about the orchard by word of mouth, the website www.andersonappleranch.com and the Facebook page. The orchard is also advertised on Craigslist.

“We don’t maintain a store. Our garage becomes the store, for 6 weeks. My husband is a real estate agent, so last year he sent post cards to everybody on his mailing list and they got a discount if they brought their postcard when they came to pick apples.”

“We also do field trips. Classes of school kids come and we talk about apples. This is my favorite part of the whole season,” Shannon says.

Last year the Andersons experienced the biggest crop they’d ever had.

“We gave nearly 3 tons of apples to food banks around the area. This is usually what we do when we have more apples than our customers can pick. But the year before last, the blossoms froze and we had only 20 apples in the entire orchard!” she says.

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Orchardist uses unique tactics to overcome blight http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150416/orchardist-uses-unique-tactics-to-overcome-blight http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150416/orchardist-uses-unique-tactics-to-overcome-blight#Comments Wed, 15 Apr 2015 18:18:59 -0400 Denise Ruttan http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150419902 West of Silverton, Ore., near the old North Howell store, you’ll find a hazelnut orchard that carries the legacy of John Meye’s family.

That same legacy brought this educator-turned-farmer from Illinois to Oregon to help out his grandmother on the farm when his grandfather became too ill to work. After his grandfather passed away, the farm then skipped a generation and changed hands directly to the grandson. Meye was in his 30s when he dropped his plans to obtain a Ph.D. in education and fell instead for the lure of agriculture.

“I’d worked at the farm all my life and always enjoyed coming up here. I ended up changing careers and my life, and lo and behold, 20 years later I’m still a full-time farmer and part-time musician,” Meye said.

When Meye is not playing piano for a local church, he tends to his 27 acres of nearly 2,800 trees, mostly of the Barcelona variety, that his grandfather planted in 1972. Part of that legacy, unfortunately, has meant dealing with the nuisance of Eastern filbert blight.

Orchards such as Meye’s that were planted in the 1970s and 1980s are largely Barcelonas, an older variety that is susceptible to blight. Over the years that Meye visited his grandfather’s farm, he saw the disease become a problem.

“A lot of the old orchards are full of blight and many farmers just take out their trees because they don’t want to deal with it,” Meye said. “Oregon State University has since developed blight-resistant hazelnuts so there are lots of new orchards now with blight-resistant varieties.”

Why does Meye keep at it, then? He wants to keep his grandfather’s legacy alive — and, through the orchard, he’s managed to stay fully self-employed since 1983, a life he relishes.

But it hasn’t been easy, thanks to this disease. When the fungus first appears, it looks like a small, black, football-shaped canker.

“After a few years and you don’t deal with it, it will start killing sections of the tree and if you don’t deal with it at all it will kill the whole tree,” Meye said. “It will take a few years but it will kill a whole tree if left unchecked.”

To fight it, Meye has attacked on several fronts.

“Theoretically, if you prune enough and spray hard enough it will eliminate it but the cost is astronomical,” Meye said.

Meye has developed a system of his own in which he sprays just a little fungicide early as he finds the disease and as late in the season as is necessary. He prunes what he can but not too heavily.

He’s also tried a tactic that involves neither spraying nor pruning, nor even replacing the whole orchard. Filberts must cross-pollinate with another variety to produce nuts. Many orchardists in the old days planted an extremely blight-susceptible variety to pollinate every 20 Barcelonas.

“If the pollenizers got blight, the disease would spread like a brush fire,” Meye said.

About eight years ago Meye removed his blight-susceptible pollenizers and replaced 500 to 600 of them with several newer varieties like Lewis, Yamhill and Gamma, which are far more resistant to blight. The key is diversity plus disease resistance.

The tactic has paid off.

“The pollenizers are now pretty clean,” Meye said. “It hasn’t cured it but it’s helped heal it.”

Production, despite these challenges, has been high in recent years, Meye said. He sells the nuts he cultivates to the processor George Packing Co. His Silverton-grown nuts have traveled the world, enjoyed as far away as China.

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Fruit farm embraces cutting-edge technology http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150416/fruit-farm-embraces-cutting-edge-technology http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150416/fruit-farm-embraces-cutting-edge-technology#Comments Wed, 15 Apr 2015 18:33:56 -0400 Denise Ruttan http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150419898 Cutting-edge technology and agriculture may at first seem like strange bedfellows.

On one hand, you have a centuries-old tradition of growing food and other crops. On the other hand, you have drones, “smart” wireless systems and powerful computer chips. Yet more and more, these two worlds are merging.

Darin Olson and his family reflect that growing trend. The Olsons are the fourth generation to own 180 acres of Olson Farms Inc., southeast of Salem, Ore., in the Willamette Valley. They raise peaches, cherries, holly, ornamental almonds, apples, blueberries and nectarines. And they’re keen on modernizing the old ways.

Darin Olson is always coming up with new projects to do just that. At 39, he is the picture of a new wave of young farmers eager to embrace such changes. As a case in point, he calls himself an irrigation specialist instead of a farm owner on his online LinkedIn profile.

Asked to describe his farm in a few words, he says it’s “Dynamic. We’re very innovative.”

For example, he designed and built a mobile chemical injector powered by solar panels. He also designed and installed solar systems to power an irrigation controller. Furthermore, his farm uses a GPS-enabled tractor custom-built for the smaller rows between fruit trees. The GPS allows him to design a map of which trees need spraying at which times, allowing him to use fewer chemicals more effectively.

But it’s not only technology that inspires his creative thinking.

Using Olson’s contacts in the holly industry, he got the idea to sell blooming branches. Fashioning the flowering cuttings from fruit trees into decorative displays has become stylish on the East Coast.

“We sell them to stores across the country,” Olson said. “There’s a lot of crossover with holly. Otherwise the flower industry is very hard to get into.”

But it’s computers that really get Olson fired up. His entire irrigation system is the farm’s showpiece. This cloud-based system means Olson can simply look at his smart phone or web browser for real-time data on how his irrigation system is doing. In the past he had to physically send people out to inspect every inch of the line, and he still might not know the exact location of each leak. Now, he receives a text message on his phone saying, essentially, “I’m broken, come fix me.”

“I always know exactly what’s going on and the system does a very good job,” Olson said. “It’s a very powerful tool that saves time, energy, resources and labor.”

All this information, though, has created new complications.

“The biggest issue in farming right now is dealing with all these reports you get from all these resources,” Olson said.

It can be a case of data overload. So Olson is developing a database that will act as an umbrella for all the data the farm generates.

“The goal is to help our farm become more efficient,” Olson said.

Name a trend, such as big data in agriculture, and Olson knows it. He’s considered drones before, for example, but the farm doesn’t yet have any. He is waiting to see how this green industry shapes up before making an investment. Regardless, he’s always looking to the future.

“My personal feeling is that farmers who make the best use of technology are going to do well in the future, but guys who stick to the old ways are going to struggle,” Olson said. “Over the years I’ve seen technology save us money and made farming easier.”

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This orchard is a full-time job http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150416/this-orchard-is-a-full-time-job http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150416/this-orchard-is-a-full-time-job#Comments Wed, 15 Apr 2015 18:23:27 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150419901 This one-man orchard is a full-time job for Kent Reinke.

“My grandparents put in the orchard in the 1950s,” said Reinke, who bought it from his uncle 3 years ago. “Some of my trees are from that original stock.

He has 4 walnut trees, 20 types of apples, 10 types of peaches and several types of apricots.

“I’ve been planting more cherries, and now have 6 different types of cherries,” he says.

Almost everything is marketed by U-pick, except the nuts.

“I have a little fruit stand by the house, and people come to buy or pick,” he says. “I don’t have many nuts so I just put those in bags. The customers pick everything else, except the apricots. Those trees are too tall. Someone might get up there with a ladder and knock the apricots off.

“I pick those myself and sell them at our fruit shed, and take some to the Buhl farmers’ market, and sometimes the Gooding farmers’ market,” he says.

The orchard is 7 miles northeast of Buhl at the edge of a canyon. People come from Utah and Nevada as well as eastern and southern Idaho to pick fruit. Many are repeat customers.

“I put a (page) on Facebook last year and more people started coming. I post photos of the fruit as it gets ripe. I used to just have an ad in the newspaper but many of the newer people in our area don’t get the paper. So I go on Facebook and Craig’s list and advertise that way,” he says.

“About 200 people follow my postings on Facebook. When the trees start blooming I take pictures. I recently posted photos of pruning the trees,” he says.

His family helps during the peak season.

“My mom and dad come from Gooding and help during the busy season; my mom likes running the fruit stand. My brother sometimes comes on weekends.”

He doesn’t hire any help, and does all the tree care himself.

His grandparents had the orchard while Kent was growing up, and he enjoyed spending time there.

He joined the military and then worked on the Alaska pipeline for 23 years.

“I got tired of the cold and the snow, and came back to the orchard,” he says.

Idaho weather can be a challenge, too.

“Some years the blooms freeze and you have nothing, and other years there is more fruit than you can sell. It was a good year last year; people came to pick clear into November. There were still apples on the trees when it froze,” he says.

He doesn’t worry about fruit that doesn’t sell. It drops from the trees and he disks it into the ground as fertilizer, or the deer eat it.

“Some years I sell most of it, but last year was such a heavy crop I couldn’t sell it all; the deer ate what was left.”

He plants about 100 new trees each year.

During winter he does all the pruning, and applies a dormant spray in late winter.

“This kills all the detrimental bugs that are in the bark. Spraying has to be done early, before any bees come out, before the trees start blooming,” Reinke says.

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Taste for cider prompts new varieties in orchards http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150416/taste-for-cider-prompts-new-varieties-in-orchards http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150416/taste-for-cider-prompts-new-varieties-in-orchards#Comments Wed, 15 Apr 2015 18:27:27 -0400 Gail Oberst http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150419900 Beer and wine are not the only beverages to take root in Oregon and Washington soils.

Orchardists are now taking a hard look at the Northwest’s growing cider industry. Many are planting apples in response to demand from craft hard cider makers.

“We’re on the cusp of something that’s really going to take off,” said Brad Sleeper, whose new orchard in the Coast Range foothills above Oregon’s Haag Lake is planted to 40 varieties of cider apples. “These new cideries are all going to need apples.”

Growing cider apples is old hat to Kevin Zielinski of E.Z. Orchards in Salem. He planted his cider apple trees in 2000 with an eye toward making his own “cidre” using traditional French methods. Into his Willamette Valley Cidre go his apples traditionally cultivated for their tannins and French cider characteristics — Champagne Rienette, Douce Moën, Muscadet de Lense and St. Martine are among the varieties. E.Z. Orchards’ 155 acres also feature heirloom apples, pears, peaches and hazelnuts.

When fermented, dessert apple flavors are muted, cider makers say. On the other hand, fermentation brings cider apple tastes alive. Most craft cideries blend cider and dessert apple juices, much like a vintner blends grapes for a particular effect in wine, Sleeper said.

“American dessert apples lack the characteristic tannins of European cider apples,” said Abram Goldman-Armstrong, owner of Cider Riot, a Portland cidery. Goldman-Armstrong, for example, uses cider apples grown in Yamhill County — Yarlington Mill, Harry Masters Jersey, Dabinett, Kingston Black, Somerset Redstreak and others — blending these with dessert apples from Scio, Ore., and the Yakima, Wash., and Hood River, Ore., areas.

Cider has been made with wine-like attention for hundreds of years in England, Ireland, Germany and Poland — to name a few. Here in the West, hard cider makers are catching up, prompted by demands of consumer palettes now educated by regional craft beer and wine.

Most of the cideries in the Northwest are also orchardists, using their own apples in ciders they produce, according to Sherrye Wyatt of the NW Cider Association. Of the association’s 60 members, 23 are in Oregon, 25 are in Washington and the rest are in Montana, Idaho and British Columbia. This year alone, 16 orchardists who don’t produce cider have joined as association affiliates, another indication of growing interest in growing apples for cider, Wyatt said.

Sleeper, owner of the small Springwood Valley Farms, has planted 1,150 trees with 600 more in the works this year — due to produce marketable fruit in 2017.

Some growers are hesitant to go all-in. With dessert apple prices currently below the price of production, Jack Feil of Feil 1908 Family Orchard near Wenatchee, Wash., said he is testing cider apple varieties but is waiting for a more mature market.

“Pricing and profit are a big question mark. It appears there are a lot of growers looking into producing cider apples and the volume needed for cider production is not great, so producing cider apples would be a minor supplement to the orchard’s profitability. As of now it’s a wait-and-see proposition for us,” Feil said.

Wyatt, however, doesn’t hide her enthusiasm.

“The region is emerging as a national leader in craft cider production and our cider culture is clearly being established. However, in order for our industry to be a fully sustainable cider region, we need a reliable source of locally grown cider apples, “ Wyatt said.

The association recently submitted a proposal to the Specialty Crop Block Grant program of Oregon Department of Agriculture to seek support for growing cider apples.

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Honeybee health a concern for many http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150416/honeybee-health-a-concern-for-many http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150416/honeybee-health-a-concern-for-many#Comments Wed, 15 Apr 2015 18:15:05 -0400 Bill Schaefer http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150419903 The plight of the honeybee is an increasing concern among beekeepers, horticulturists, orchardists and government agencies across the United States.

According to a 2012 report released by the USDA the number of professional beehives has declined from 6 million in 1947 to 2.5 million today. The decline in beehives has been exacerbated since 2006 with what has been called colony collapse disorder. During the past six years beehive losses have averaged just over 30 percent, according to the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service.

The report stated that “overall losses continue to be high and pose a serious threat to meeting pollination service demands for several commercial crops.”

Anita Pease, associate director of environmental fate and effects division at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said the EPA is in the midst of reviewing the draft document for a pollinator health strategy.

“Hopefully, it should be out in the next two to three months, if not sooner,” Pease said. “We are considering some proposed label changes for pesticides that are acutely toxic to bees in certain situations where we restrict the use at bloom, but that proposal would go out for public comment.”

Pease said the EPA also is currently conducting a risk assessment of imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid insecticide, that should be released within the calendar year.

Beekeepers and others see a complex and multi-layered reasoning for CCD.

Pease said there are several stress-related issues that the EPA is considering in its risk assessment of pollinator health. Along with the use of pesticides the EPA is also exploring factors including the loss of habitat, the moving of commercial beehives to meet pollination demands of certain crops, pests and pathogens as well as best management practices of beehives.

Pease also emphasized the importance of following label instructions when using pesticides. Referring to a colony die-off of 25,000 bees in Oregon in 2013, Pease said, “It’s my understanding that there was a restriction on the label that said ‘do not apply during bloom.’ If they were applied during bloom when the label said not to, that would be a misuse of the pesticide.”

Nick Noyes, based in Fruitland, Idaho, is a second-generation beekeeper with 9,000 beehives. Speaking from California, where his beehives were in the midst of the almond pollination season, Noyes said he considers the lack of habitat and forage to be the biggest problem his business.

“There’s nothing left when the almonds are done,” Noyes said. “There’s no weeds. There’s no habitat for bees. There’s no flowers. If you look at what’s going on in farming, the only thing that grows in a farmer’s field that is green is what a farmer wants to be in there.”

In an attempt to improve bee habitat, Becky Curry-Lang, Bayer CropScience’s project manager for bee health, said that Bayer has launched an initiative in 2015 called, “Feed a Bee.”

Curry-Lang said Bayer is giving away wildflower seed packets in an attempt to plant 50 million flowers.

“No matter what side of the honeybee issue that you’re on, everyone agrees that forage and habitat is where we can clearly make a huge difference,” Curry-Lang said.

In addition to the 50 million flowers, Curry-Lang said Bayer is trying to also find partners for larger acreage pollinator habitat.

“Maybe it’s a grower that has land they don’t use for their traditional operations or it’s a nonprofit organization. We’ll work to achieve more acreage in providing habitat across the United States,” she said of the initiative. For more information visit feedabee.com.

The Varroa mite, the tracheal mite and the gut pathogen Nosema have also been contributing factors affecting poor pollinator health and CCD.

Curry-Lang said Bayer has a product in development called polyvar, a miticide that may protect honeybees from the Varroa mite.

“It’s hard to control a bug on a bug,” Curry-Lang said. “It’s a very fine line on how much miticide you use to control the Varroa while not harming the bee.”

The polyvar is a plastic strip placed at the opening of the hive so that the bee would be dosed as it leaves and enters the hive.

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Olmsteads keep orchard in the family http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150416/olmsteads-keep-orchard-in-the-family http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150416/olmsteads-keep-orchard-in-the-family#Comments Wed, 15 Apr 2015 18:14:48 -0400 Erick Peterson http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150419904 GRANDVIEW, Wash. — With a history that dates back to 1918, the Olmstead family is a mainstay of the region’s orchard history.

Olmstead Orchards is owned by Don Olmstead II, Barbara Olmstead and Don Olmstead III. They say they are just a “moment in time” in the history of the operation, which also includes the patriarch, Don Olmstead, 97, and Don Olmstead IV, who is 12.

As a family, it is their responsibility to keep up with the demands of a changing industry.

Don Olmstead II, who is looking forward to his eventual retirement, said both sets of his grandparents raised cherries on the same ground that he and his son now work.

“This is my 44th year in charge,” he said. “That’s getting close to enough (to retirement).”

He remembers that in his early years, the company would produce around 18,000 to 24,000 tons of fruit. Last year, they produced 230,000 tons.

An important issue is shared by other producers in the area: The season is running two weeks ahead of normal.

This creates extra pressure, he said. Though weather this year can create a product that can reach customers sooner, they also add risk.

“We’re put at Mother Nature’s wrath,” he said, adding that a frost could damage the early crop.

“Every year, it’s part of the game,” said Don Olsmstead III. “You roll the dice and take what Mother Nature gives you.”

At the same time, the Olmsteads deal with food safety issues, documenting their practices and trying to keep their workers educated about proper procedures. Simple things, such as explaining the location of washrooms, must be documented. Pesticide records must be kept, and signage must be placed.

They are all good practices, they said, but organizing the documentation has become a large part of the business. This is made harder because employment changes constantly, sometimes growing from 5 to 105 employees in a day. Making sure that employees know their jobs, and keeping records about it, is laborious.

The work becomes all about management, as they spend their time juggling paperwork and employees. They said that the business is not for everyone, but they enjoy it. Organizing labor, equipment and records, while dealing with delicate fruit that requires constant attention, is energizing, they said.

“We know harvest is a crazy time of year,” the younger Olmstead said. “There’s no sleep, you’re running ragged with sales orders, trucks and deliveries, shipping orders all over the United States. But you know that in four weeks, you’re going to be done with it.”

Olmstead Orchards

Location: Grandview, Wash.

Owners: Don Olmstead II, Barbara Olmstead and Don Olmstead III

Started: 1918

Grows: Cherries (Bings, Rainiers and Vans), pears, prunes, apples and grapes

Acres: 95

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Hazelnuts prove to be perfect crop for this farm http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150415/hazelnuts-prove-to-be-perfect-crop-for-this-farm http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150415/hazelnuts-prove-to-be-perfect-crop-for-this-farm#Comments Wed, 15 Apr 2015 19:16:57 -0400 CRAIG REED http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150419889 UMPQUA, Ore. — Elin Miller wanted to plant wine grapes.

But after several conversations with others already in the wine business, Elin and Bill Miller decided a vineyard would need more maintenance and management than they had time for while still working in their corporate careers.

So the couple made the decision to plant hazelnut trees on the property that had been planted in prune trees back in 1908 by William Kamp, Bill Miller’s grandfather.

“Elin didn’t get her way,” Bill Miller said. “But we’re very happy with the hazelnuts.”

“Exceedingly happy,” Elin Miller added with a laugh.

Today, the Millers’ UmpquaNut Farm consists of a 36-acre orchard between the Umpqua River and its tributary, Calapooya Creek. Eighteen acres were planted in 2002 with bare root cuttings and another 18 acres were planted the following year.

In 2006, the orchard’s first harvest of Ennis hazelnuts yielded about 10,000 pounds. After several years of maturity and growth, the orchard’s recent 2014 harvest totaled about 144,000 pounds of clean and dry nuts. The Millers market their crop to Northwest Hazelnut, whose headquarters are in Hubbard, Ore.

“The market (price) has steadily increased since we planted the orchard,” Bill Miller said. “The trend with nuts in general — walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts — in the last several years is that more people are realizing the health benefits of consuming nuts.

“There’s also been market expansion as more countries are buying a lot more nuts,” he added.

Before becoming nut farmers, both Bill and Elin Miller had many agricultural experiences.

Bill Miller is a Roseburg, Ore., native who worked on his Uncle LaVerne Murphy’s sheep and forage farm as a youngster. While a college student in 1967, he helped his father remove the prune trees and transition the land over to grain and alfalfa production.

After graduating from Oregon State University in 1968, Bill Miller worked as an agriculture teacher for two years in Portland Public Schools before a 35-year career in the agricultural chemical industry in California. He retired in 2005 and moved to the nut farm in 2006.

Elin Miller was a city kid in Mesa, Ariz., but got involved in FFA in high school. She had floraculture projects and then during the summers of her college years, she worked in Arizona cotton fields. She was elected to a national FFA office in 1979 and took a year off from college to represent the organization in its western region.

After graduating from the University of Arizona in 1982, Elin Miller had numerous jobs through the years: Working for Shell Chemical Co. in its ag division, executive director of the Western Agriculture Chemical Association, global vice president of public affairs for Dow Chemical, director of conservation for California, regional administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency for Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Idaho, and president and CEO of a spinoff of Chevron’s ag division.

Although she retired from the corporate working world in 2009, she continues to be on several boards, including the National FFA Foundation. She’s the chairman of that board with a three-year commitment through 2016.

In retirement, the Millers are farming land that’s been in the family for over 100 years. They inherited 20 acres and purchased another 20 acres from relatives. It was then a matter of doing research, asking questions and deciding what next to do with the land that had been leased out for several years to a neighboring farmer.

“Hazelnuts are just not as complex as grapes,” Elin Miller admitted.

“The hazelnuts have done very well for us,” Bill Miller said.

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Apple family does it all and keeps growing http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150415/apple-family-does-it-all-and-keeps-growing http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150415/apple-family-does-it-all-and-keeps-growing#Comments Wed, 15 Apr 2015 19:13:29 -0400 Erick Peterson http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150419890 The folks at E.W. Brandt and Sons like sharing the company’s history and explaining the challenges of this year’s market.

Allen Brandt, part owner with brother Dana Brandt, is the son of the founder, Everette W. Brandt, who along with his wife, Ada, started their operation in 1947 with 16 acres of peaches and cherries.

Their family had been farming in the area since 1908, and through ups and downs E.W. and Ada maintained a business that has been passed down to a new generation.

It was not until fairly recently that the greatest growth has occurred.

Allen Brandt remembers there were less than 20 acres when he completed college and returned to the family business in 1974.

“The rest is history,” he said. E.W. Brandt and Sons expanded to around 1,200 acres in the following years.

He credits the growth to ingenuity and the desire of the company to do everything.

The company, he said, developed a reputation for high-quality fruit, which was made possible because it took control over not only cultivation and harvesting but also packing.

It has been a successful model so far, Allen said.

“We’re still here, anyway,” he said. “We’re growing and hope to continue growing.”

This optimism is shared by Allen’s son, Joe.

“We’re on this path of growth, and we plan on continuing,” Joe said.

But this is a difficult time for the region’s fruit growers, Ryan Moore, a Brandt sales executive, explained.

Washington produced a record apple crop this year, he said, and other growing areas produced large crops, creating a flood of apples worldwide.

Most often, when apples are plentiful in Washington, they are scarce in other regions of the U.S. Then, when they are bountiful in other places, Washington orchards are less productive.

On top of that, a port slowdown hampered the export market.

“The orders are coming and the buyers are there, but if you can’t get them on a boat and to the countries you want to get them to, it isn’t going to do anyone any good,” Moore said.

The option was to send the apples to domestic markets, places that already had a surplus, which has driven down prices.

In addition, trucking is a problem, as many small truckers have either gone out of business or joined with larger groups.

In spite of all the issues, which “blindsided” several growers, according to Moore, some producers are expanding their orchards.

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As demand for hops grows, so does importance of contracts http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150415/as-demand-for-hops-grows-so-does-importance-of-contracts http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150415/as-demand-for-hops-grows-so-does-importance-of-contracts#Comments Wed, 15 Apr 2015 19:07:44 -0400 Gail Oberst http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150419891 If you are starting or expanding a brewery, who should be your best friend?

Hop growers, it turns out.

As craft beer drinkers demand hoppier beers, hop growers in the Northwest are doing their best to keep up, according to Nancy Sites, executive director of the Oregon Hop Commission.

Hop growers have expanded their acreage for the past few years — a trend expected to continue in 2015, Sites said. Prices may rise and fall, but Oregon, Washington and Idaho together grew more than 38,392 acres in 2014 — expanding by 3,000 acres for the second year in a row. Oregon added 773 acres, Idaho 436 and Washington 1,959, according to USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service. Washington alone last year grew more acres of hops than were grown in 2011 in all of the U.S.

Expanding demand promises security for growers. But if you are a brewer without an agreement with a grower or distributor, or if you needed a hop variety not yet widely grown, you might have experienced a “shortage.” For example, Cascades, Centennial, Chinook, Citra, Golding, Crystal, Mt. Hood, Perle, Sterling and Willamette all saw increases in acreage in Oregon. Most of the demand growth in the Northwest has been for these aroma hops, the flavorful types that hop popular IPAs.

However, hop growers, like many farmers, aren’t growing much for spot markets, increasing the importance of contracts and relationships between growers and brewers.

More than 99 percent of all craft beer volume in the U.S. is produced using hops grown under contract, according to Chris Swersey of the National Brewers Association. Contracts for hops guarantees brewers product and reduces the chance of “shortages,” Swersey said.

Spot market shoppers, unlike just a few years ago, may be out of luck.

“Craft volume and per-barrel hopping rate growth have changed the game so quickly that annual acreage increases are not always sufficient to re-fill the pipeline. Baby year acres do not yield as well as mature acres,” he said. There were a lot of baby acres planted in 2013. As large brewers follow the consumer demand for aroma hops, those may quickly disappear from the open market, making contracts even more important for the small brewery.

Swersey advocates early planning and contracts for brewers. But contracts may not be the only consideration. Personal relationships forged over beers between growers and brewers often precede contracts. Relationships also give local breweries special access to hop fields — especially during the “fresh hop” season particular to the Northwest.

During harvest, Full Sail each year brings busloads of VIP tasters to Sodbuster Farms north of Salem for a barbecue and hop-harvest tours. McMenamins’ annual “Running of the Hops” and a similar tradition at Ninkasi brings the brewers directly to the hop fields during harvest for their fresh-hop beers. Foresight is Rogue Ales’ middle name. The company grows its own hops on land leased in Independence, Ore.

Might the hop grower’s best friend be bankers and equipment distributors? While the Northwest’s land capacity to grow hops is plentiful, its picking, kilning and packaging equipment may not be up to the task at hand.

“Anecdotally Brewers Association staff has learned that many (Northwest) growers are now investing heavily in expanded picking and kilning capacity, which will provide for increased harvesting bandwidth within optimal picking windows for each variety, thereby improving aromatic oil quantity and quality,” Swersey said.

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Packer Orchards grow over a century http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150415/packer-orchards-grow-over-a-century http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150415/packer-orchards-grow-over-a-century#Comments Wed, 15 Apr 2015 19:04:38 -0400 CRAIG REED http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150419892 Growing fruit in the orchards of his family’s business isn’t Larry Packer’s only concern. There’s also the pressure of continuing his family’s farming tradition that dates back to 1915.

Over the years, the farm has grown from 20 acres of apple trees to 110 acres of pear, cherry, peach and apple trees.

“There’s both pressure and pride,” Packer said of growing fruit crops. “I have a lot of pride in the fact I’m a third generation farmer and my kids are helping now. But there’s a lot of pressure in this business with all that is involved now. There are more regulations and issues. It’s not as simple as it used to be.”

The family’s first orchard was planted by Packer’s grandfather, Clarence Packer, who came to the Hood River Valley to work on the railroad. Clarence Packer gradually expanded his orchards to 60 acres and eventually that acreage was evenly inherited by Packer’s three sons, one of those being Leslie Packer, Larry’s father.

Leslie Packer added 100 acres to his operation. Larry Packer helped his father in the orchard business even while working at other jobs during his 20s and then became a full-time orchardist about 25 years ago when in his early 30s.

Packer Orchards has fruit trees on three tracts, but all are within a 3-mile radius. And Larry Packer is the only family member of his generation who is farming full-time.

“I wouldn’t know what else to do,” Packer said during a mid-March lunch break from orchard work.

Over the years the emphasis in the Hood River area orchards has shifted from growing apples to growing pears and cherries. Packer Orchards harvested 800 tons of summer and winter pears and 150 tons of cherries in 2014.

“This valley grows a good portion of the world’s winter pears,” said Tammi Packer, Larry’s wife.

The Packers’ business is a member of Diamond Fruit Growers, a cooperative of mainly pear and cherry growers. The co-op markets and sells Hood River fruit worldwide.

The Packers expanded their business in 1992 when Tammi Packer started selling fruit at the Farmers in the Park market in Hood River. At the same time, she began baking products at the certified community kitchen at the local fairgrounds and selling those at the market. A few years later, the Packers expanded again and added bigger farmers’ markets in Portland and Gresham, Ore., and Vancouver, Wash., to their schedule.

In 1997, another expansion involved opening a fruit stand and bakery next to one of the family’s orchards and alongside Highway 35 eight miles south of Hood River.

“We opened our own stand because we needed a larger kitchen for daily baking,” Tammi Packer said.

The stand is open seasonally from March through November and is a stop on the Hood River Valley Fruit Loop. The stand has nine full-time employees who bake goodies and make other fruit products for the farmers’ markets in the Portland area that are open year-round.

“We now go to 20 farmers’ markets during the peak season from May through October,” Tammi Packer said. “We’re at a farmers’ market every day of the week except Friday. It can get a little crazy around here getting things loaded, especially on Fridays.”

Packer Orchards still has some apple trees, but those and its peach trees produce fruit for sale at the farmers’ markets.

Larry and Tammi Packer are pleased their three children are involved in the business. All have grown up in the orchards and now Rochelle, 25, takes care of the marketing and organizes the schedule and employees for the farmers’ markets, John, 20, works with his dad in the orchards and Jennifer, 18, and a high school senior, supervises the Packer booth at the Gresham farmers’ market.

Packer Orchards & Bakery

Where: Hood River, Oregon

Owners: Larry and Tammi Packer

Acreage: 110

Crop: Pears, cherries, apples and peaches

Markets: Diamond Fruit Growers, Hood River, Oregon, and up to 20 farmers’ markets

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Orchard caters to kids and families http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150415/orchard-caters-to-kids-and-families http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20150415/orchard-caters-to-kids-and-families#Comments Wed, 15 Apr 2015 18:59:27 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150419893 Carol and Burton Briggs bought their orchard in September 2009 and started doing U-pick the next month.

“It was a quick, short learning curve, that first year,” she said. “We’ve increased our yield every year since, except in 2013 when the late spring freeze cut everyone’s crop way back.

“Last year, however, we had the best year ever.”

The Emmett, Idaho, operation, which they call Candy Apple Orchards, was part of a larger orchard that was subdivided.

“We are nestled among other small orchards,” she said.

They offer demonstrations for school groups and others who are interested in how an orchard operates. She has a website for people who want directions, the hours the orchard is open and various events.

“We have an old cider press and my husband does a demo for school groups,” she said. “We give the kids pasteurized cider to taste. Last year we had 12 groups, about 265 people, mostly pre-school children. We also had groups of home-schooled children, and people from senior centers.”

The tours and field trips have been a good marketing tool.

“Parents come with one of their children for the school field trip and then come back on the weekend with the rest of the family,” Carol Briggs said.

The orchard opens the same weekend as the Emmett Harvest Festival and Street Fair, so a lot of people come at that time.

Their orchard is a team effort.

“Burton takes care of the trees and the property and I run the U-pick,” she said.

They have orchard buckets, and long-handled fruit pickers — so people can reach up into the trees.

“We don’t use ladders, so it’s safer for the public. Even little children can pick fruit high in the tree, and have a lot of fun using the pickers.”

They also have a little retail store where she sells apple butter, pumpkin butter and jams — and frozen take-and-bake apple pies that she makes.

“We planted pumpkins one year and did really well, and hope to have some available this year for people at the same time they come to pick apples,” she said.

They have picnic tables, and some folks just bring blankets and eat a picnic lunch on the lawn in the orchard. One family comes every year for a family reunion.

“This is a nice setting for people to get together,” she said. “Some groups come out for supper after school and bring a picnic dinner and pick apples.”

The orchard is not a money-making venture.

“It’s a break-even, give-back-to-the-community operation — something we enjoy doing. The trees were here when we bought our property, and we just tried to pick up where the former owner left off and continue creating a family environment.”

Carol and Burton are both retired.

“He has two daughters; one lives in Emmett and sometimes helps us. My mother likes to sit in front of our little store during the U-pick to greet people and give directions.”

It all adds to the friendly, informal atmosphere.

Candy Apple Orchard

Owners: Carol and Burton Briggs

Location: Emmett, Idaho

In business: Since 2009

Size: 1 acre, 100 apple trees — Red and Golden Delicious, Rome Beauties

Website: www.candyappleorchard.com

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