Capital Press | Seed and Row Crop Capital Press Tue, 10 Mar 2015 12:32:33 -0400 en Capital Press | Seed and Row Crop No-till gives farmer an advantage Fri, 14 Mar 2014 09:16:47 -0400 Matw Weaver Bob Sievers farms “ugly” and he’s proud of it.

“On my farm you won’t see black dirt with beautiful, even rows of wheat out there. You’ll see a whole bunch of residue left over from the previous one, two, maybe even three years’ crops with beautiful rows of green out there,” he said. “It’s not the way traditionally things were done, and you have to get over that.”

Sievers took over his father’s ground in Spangle, Wash., in 1989, slowly adding to it over time. He raises winter wheat, spring wheat, barley, peas, lentils and bluegrass on 2,700 acres.

This year, Sievers added canola to the rotation.

“It looked a lot more appealing last year when it was 25 cents a pound instead of now when it’s 15 cents,” he said. “The idea is let’s add another crop and get something that will have some deep root penetration. I think that will help everything out.”

Sievers switched from conventional farming to no-till full-time about eight years ago. He often speaks to growers’ groups about his experiences.

“There’s still a perception that no-till is a failure and it won’t work,” Sievers said. “You’re growing a crop that is as good or better than conventional, and you’re making more money.”

Sievers said he gets frustrated when farmers try no-till for one year and then stop when it doesn’t work. It takes several years to get established, he said.

He sees obvious benefits in using less fuel and fewer passes by equipment over his fields.

“What guys are afraid of is that you give up yield,” he said. “If you no-till and you have a good rotation where you’re rotating crops, you will not give up any yield. In our part of the world, I think we’re gaining yield just because of all the moisture savings.”

Sievers recently addressed the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service meeting on cover crops. An annual cropper without any summer fallow, Sievers wonders how cover crops fit into his operation. But he likes the idea of adding a different crop into the rotation to gain diversification and soil health and reducing erosion.

“Erosion is forever,” he said. “We cannot afford to lose any more soil if we’re supposed to produce all the food we’re supposed to produce in the next (30 to 50 years.) That’s kind of where I’m coming from.”

Sievers hopes to continue being successful and get more diversification in his rotation, breaking up the grasses further.

His children help him drive truck, and he hires several school teachers to help at harvest time. He hopes his son, a senior in high school, will eventually return to the farm.

Sievers says he enjoys the challenges he faces farming, particularly no-till.

“It makes you think, learn, think outside the box and try new things,” he said. “Once you’re successful at it, it’s very rewarding.”

Bob Sievers

Age: 49

Family: Son, daughter

Education: Agriculture mechanics and business classes at Spokane Community College

Hometown: Spangle, Wash.

Producing cover crop seed a challenge Fri, 14 Mar 2014 09:16:10 -0400 MITCH LIES Willamette Valley farmer Garth Mulkey started growing seeds for cover crops in 2007 when a Pennsylvania company contacted him about producing radish seed for the Midwest cover crop market.

But the seeds of his decision to enter the market were planted several years earlier while scouring Midwest farm magazines for stories on no-till, which he adopted in 2003.

“The no-till literature kind of turned into cover-crop literature,” Mulkey said. “And the thing that became apparent is they are going to need seed.”

Today Mulkey owns and operates GS3 Quality Seed, a company he started in 2010 that produces, packages and markets cover crop seeds, primarily radish, in the Midwest. GS3 Quality Seed contracts with several distributors to move its seed and purchases radish seed from about 10 Willamette Valley farmers, Mulkey said.

Mulkey provides marketing for the distributors through his participation in trade shows each winter.

Asked why he and not his distributors market the seeds at trade shows, Mulkey said, “The cover-crop thing is so new that (the distributors) don’t have the knowledge and expertise. They are still learning, just like we are. So, as a service to my distributors and dealers, I am supplying that knowledge and distributing that knowledge.”

The radish seed, clover, vetch and other seeds he grows for the Midwest cover crop market are among several crops Mulkey produces on his 1,000-acre farm in Monmouth, Ore.

He estimates he’s grown about 25 different crops on his farm in the last five years alone.

“I set a goal for myself about 10 years ago to grow a new crop every year,” he said.

The crop rotations help him control weeds and diseases while keeping ground in production, and it helps stretch out his harvest season, which allows him to harvest more acres with less equipment.

“We can spread out our harvest from the first of July to the middle of September,” he said. “(Growing multiple crops) also is risk management. We’re probably not going to have a failure on 10 crops at once.”

Growing a new crop every year has its challenges, he said, adding that it probably takes four or five years to really grasp how best to produce a new crop, given the different weather patterns that hit the valley each growing season.

“Sometimes I think I’m creating work for myself,” he said, “but it’s a challenge and it keeps things interesting.”

He’s looking at phacelia for this year’s new crop. The herbaceous flowering crop is used for cover crops in Europe and for bee pastures.

“We’ve got some customers who are interested in trying it, so we are going to see if we can grow it, and see if we can be priced competitive in the marketplace,” Mulkey said.

Mulkey attributes much of his success in the Midwest cover crop market in part to good timing.

“We got in the market at the right time,” he said.

With corn and soybean prices dropping, Mulkey is a little nervous about the future of the market.

“We don’t know how (the drop in commodity prices) is going to affect the marketplace,” he said. “I think we are going to see stable growth, but not the rapid growth that we have seen in the last three years.”

Garlic farmer savors smell of success Fri, 14 Mar 2014 09:15:37 -0400 JULIA HOLLISTER For the Capital Press

When you drive 30 minutes south of San Jose, Calif., and open your car windows, the pungent, tantalizing scent of garlic fills your senses.

Garlic is king here and George Chiala Farms is one of the biggest players.

“I am the fifth generation farming in Santa Clara County,” said farm manager Ian Teresi. “When I was a teenager I wanted to try some other path but farming is in my blood.”

He admits he didn’t know schools offered crop science and other agricultural classes. His family convinced him to go to California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo and after graduation his first job was with Chiala Farms. He said he knew how to farm but didn’t know why. The farm worked 150 acres then and now the acreage has grown to 1,700. The fresh and the processed sides of the business grew as well.

“Green beans are easy to grow, peppers are a little harder and garlic is very hard to grow, but it is my favorite,” Teresi said. “It’s a winter crop and it’s very ancient and temperamental. It needs water when it needs it.”

Ninety-five percent of the garlic will go the processing plant to be sold as powdered, chunky, roasted garlic and water and garlic and olive oil. Chiala Farms also sells to pizza operations. The farm also grows a variety of peppers.

“We use a big machine to plant the crushed garlic cloves in October and into November,” he said. “We harvest the crop in July; this fits perfectly in our rotation. We use micro irrigation that ‘spoon feeds’ the crops.”

Teresi said he’s concerned about the drought.

“That concern brings me back to the reality that it is something we can’t control,” he said. “Although we have rivers, canals and reservoirs, if it doesn’t rain, those don’t work. You have to take it day-by-day.”

Teresi said farmers are up against so many conditions that they can become “stressed out maniacs.”

“On top of all these regulations are the people — on the federal, state, county and city levels — who think they should tell us how to farm,” he said. “On one side I can understand it; but on the other side I think they should mind their own business and be happy for the food they get.”

Looking five years into the future, Teresi said he sees growth in the industry for several reasons. Consumers are more interested in food and how it is grown. When there is a choice between Chinese garlic and domestic garlic, people choose the latter because it tastes better and it is grown in California. Garlic is unprocessed and a healthy choice.

Teresi hunts with a bow and arrow in the fall but doesn’t eat or touch garlic from July to September because he said the deer can smell him “from 20 miles away.”

However, he said the garlic smell does keep the mosquitoes away when he is bass fishing.

“I love what I do and when I get up every morning I think about my wife and family and then think about my farm,” he said. “I never get tired of growing garlic or eating it.”

Family, neighbors help farm succeed Fri, 14 Mar 2014 09:15:04 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas Scott Turpin’s father is a farmer, and he is carrying on the family tradition.

“In 2002 I graduated from Utah State University, then came back and rented some land,” says Scott Turpin, who lives southeast of Burley, Idaho. “My dad and I still work some ground together. We share equipment. I own some and he owns some and we own some together. With his help, I was able to get started.”

“I’ve raised sugar beets, wheat, alfalfa and potatoes and farm about 400 acres of my own. I hire two neighbor kids to help move wheel lines,” he says.

The crop rotation doesn’t follow any set schedule.

“I usually plant 100 acres of beets. I don’t have potatoes in the plan for this year but usually have 80 acres of spuds. I rotate the hay and wheat, and like to have another crop in between beet crops for at least 2 years — whether hay, wheat or potatoes — before I plant beets again.”

Alfalfa makes a good rotation with other crops because it puts nitrogen back into the soil.

“It’s good for the ground. I also like following beets with potatoes because there is some residual fertilizer from them, too, that I can take advantage of,” he explains.

“I prefer to grow fall wheat; it seems to do better than spring wheat. We usually plant wheat after we harvest the sugar beets. We do some light tillage — disking — when we go from beets to wheat. If we do the same crop back to back we usually plow under any residue.” This puts more organic matter into the soil.

This year he’ll have 100 acres of alfalfa.

“This fall we’ll take out one field, to prepare for another crop. The alfalfa has been in for 5 years; it’s been a good stand. We’ve sold it off the stump to dairies. The fellow harvesting it has been green-chopping, hauling a certain number of loads per day to a dairy,” Scott says.

Selling it this way takes the weather risk out of growing alfalfa.

“It can be harvested and we can get back on the field immediately with water,” he says. A person cutting it for hay is at the mercy of the weather. If cut hay gets rained on before it’s baled, quality and value drops and it can’t be sold as dairy hay. There may be a delay in getting water back onto the field if cut hay has to dry out after a rain.

Amalgamated Sugar Co. buys his sugar beets.

“Our farthest haul is only 5 miles, so this has been very convenient for us. We work together with neighbors during harvest and planting. We share some equipment, and this spreads the expense. It’s been really good to have good neighbors,” he says.

Scott and his wife Amber have 4 children. The oldest girl, Kailey, is 11. “Last year she wanted to raise sugar beets for 4-H. She helped move wheel lines. She was able to start the motors and move them and was good help. She’s excited to do it. The younger ones aren’t quite old enough to do this, but they all like to go out and help. Kessa is 9, Taya is 6, and Casen is only 2,” Scott says.

His wife, Amber, helps a little with the farming, but also works for the school district during winter.

“This works out well because in winter the farming demands are slower and I can help with the kids when she is at work,” he says.

Scott and Amber Turpin

Time farming: Since 2002 on his own

Crops: Sugar beets, wheat, alfalfa, potatoes.

Number of acres: 400

Farm switches from potatoes, keeps name Fri, 14 Mar 2014 09:14:11 -0400 Erick Peterson ELLENSBURG, Wash. — Don’t let the name fool you. At Better Tater Farms of Ellensburg, Wash., few potatoes are to be seen.

Owner Gary Diefenbach said he moved away from potatoes about a decade ago, and now mostly grows Timothy hay and alfalfa.

“I still grow them,” he said, though he produces only a single line of potatoes, alongside tomatoes, cabbages and other garden items, which his wife cans for the family.

Still, potatoes played a big part in the area’s history, he said, and have an important role in his family’s history.

His grandfather, Fred Diefenbach, a World War I veteran, started farming in Ellensburg in 1932, when the Bureau of Reclamation opened the Kittitas Irrigation Project.

He homesteaded 80 acres, and potatoes were among his crops, in addition to wheat and other grains.

Many of his neighbors also grew potatoes, up to the 1950s, when a slow decline began.

One thing that precipitated the fall of local potatoes was the expansion of irrigation in the Columbia Basin, which created greater competition throughout the region.

Even though fewer Ellensburg-area farmers planted potatoes, the Diefenbach family continued. In fact, they increased their production.

Diefenbach’s father, Robert Diefenbach, created new opportunities for the farm. He grew potatoes, and he processed the potatoes of other nearby farms during the 1970s. The farm became even more successful as it sold potatoes to chip companies. Nalley, Frito-Lay, Granny Goose, Bell Brand and other snack companies purchased Better Tater potatoes to make their chips.

Business was good, but it concerned Diefenbach when he took over operations.

“I got uneasy putting all of our eggs in one basket,” he said. “We were so dedicated to growing potatoes that all of our equipment was dedicated to growing potatoes.”

While it was profitable, he started buying equipment for hay, a move that proved wise.

Some large chip companies decided to buy potatoes from only a few large farms, rather than a bunch of smaller ones, and the potato contracts began drying up for Better Taters, a relatively small farm.

While this was happening, most other local potato farmers were also getting out of the business, many of them shifting to Timothy hay, which was becoming increasingly profitable.

Diefenbach said that he grew more hay and fewer potatoes.

One thing that he is not willing to turn his back on, however, is his farm’s name.

“It’s a funny thing,” he said. “People seem to remember us for that name.”

Better Tater Farms

Location: Ellensburg, Wash.

Owner: Gary Diefenbach

Date started: 1932.

Crops grown: Timothy hay, alfalfa, potatoes, tomatoes, cabbages, broccoli, parsnips, peas and corn.

Number of acres: 600

Farmer grows diverse crops near Toppenish Fri, 14 Mar 2014 09:13:43 -0400 Erick Peterson TOPPENISH, Wash. — As his family name dates back over a century in Washington’s Yakima Valley, farmer Richard Halvorson is hopeful that he will be able to expand his own farm and promote agriculture as a whole in the area.

Halvorson owns Logy Creek Farms in Toppenish, Wash., with sister Linda Suhadolink and brother Barry Halvorson. Together, they grow wheat, mint, potatoes and corn on 830 acres.

The family farm, from which they split in 2010, dates back to a romantic story in 1911, according to Halvorson. He said that his grandfather was, at the time, courting the woman who would become his wife. She lived in Toppenish, and he lived several miles away, in Carson.

When fire claimed his land, Halvorson’s grandfather joined his to-be wife in Toppenish. They married and purchased 80 acres, starting both a farm and a family.

“He was really a self-taught man,” Halvorson said. His grandfather was a steam engine operator before farming in Toppenish. Still, he maintained a farm for several decades, until passing it on to his sons in the 1950s, as they were concluding their military service.

At the time, sugar beets and mint were big, and they profited from those crops and grew their farm. By the 1970s, the farm was over 1,000 acres, and it continued to grow.

Halvorson formed Logy Creek Farms in 2010, with 830 acres, and he would like to increase the size of this farm eventually, he said. The time is not right for expansion now, however.

He said that he has some major concerns, one of which is the lack of precipitation. The Yakima Valley is typically a dry location, dependent on irrigation, but this year, he said, is shaping up to be worse than most.

He said it reminds him of other tough years, including 2005, when there was water rationing.

Logy Creek Farms

Owner: Richard Halvorson, Linda Suhadolink and Barry Halvorson.

Location: Toppenish, Wash.

Year started: 2010 (as Logy Creek).

Crops grown: wheat, mint, potatoes and corn.

Number of acres: 830 acres.

Farm continues in spite of tragic setbacks Fri, 14 Mar 2014 09:13:17 -0400 Erick Peterson WAPATO, Wash. — The story behind Inaba Farms, a vegetable producer in Wapato, Wash., is one of struggle.

In 1907, Shukichi Inaba came to the United States from Japan. The law at the time banned Japanese immigrants from becoming citizens and owning land.

Many other farmers were buying land for little money, but all Inaba could do was work fields owned by other people.

Like many other members of a growing Japanese population on Yakama tribal land, he leased property from tribal members.

Then in the 1920s, laws became even more severe, and Japanese people were prevented from even leasing land.

Inaba and others became sharecroppers, making deals with neighbors that allowed them to continue to farm.

“It was tough times,” said Lon Inaba, Shukichi’s grandson.

And they grew tougher.

The children of local Japanese farmers grew to adulthood and were allowed to become citizens and purchase land for their families. Unfortunately, they did not keep the land long. During World War II, the federal government forced many Japanese into internment camps. They had to sell their land and leave it behind.

Many Japanese left the Yakima Valley and did not return after they were released. Their population, which had grown to around 1,000 before the war dropped to a couple hundred after the war.

The Inabas were among the people who returned, though they changed their operation. Whereas once they grew hay, potatoes and wheat, which made for easy harvests, they shifted to row crops that required fewer acres but were more labor intensive.

Labor, Lon said, was supplied by their children, which started a tradition of hard work.

Even into the third generation, families sent their kids to work at an early age. Lon began working when he was six years old.

All of the work paid off for the Inabas, as they have built a farm of 1,600 acres. They continue to grow the same row crops. Lon manages and co-owns the farm with brothers Wayne and Norman Inaba.

“This is a family operation,” Lon said, as even his mother and sister work in the office.

He said Inaba Farms has been a family operation, and a community-focused operation, from its start, and he is proud to say that it will continue. It is, however, changing as the community changes.

There are maybe three or four farmers of Japanese dissent remaining in the Yakima Valley, he said.

The Japanese farming community is growing ever smaller in the Yakima Valley. Their spirit, however, is kept alive through their farms, recorded histories and an annual dinner in Wapato that attracts nearly 2,000 people.

Lon said he is proud to be part of that story.

Inaba Farms

Location: Wapato, Wash.

Owner: Lon Inaba, Wayne Inaba, Norman Inaba and Shiz Inaba

Date started: 1907

Crops grown: Asparagus, zucchini, peppers, onions, green beans and sweet corn

Number of acres: 1,600

Organic lifestyle a good fit for couple Fri, 14 Mar 2014 08:28:51 -0400 CRAIG REED YONCALLA, Ore. — The back-to-land movement that Richard and Kate Wilen joined as young adults back in the 1970s has stuck with the two.

The couple are now in their 23rd year of owning and operating Hayhurst Valley Organic Farm and Nursery that is located in the Hayhurst Valley in the foothills of Oregon’s Coast Range about four miles west of this small rural community.

The farm has evolved into both a wholesale nursery and a row crop operation. Vegetable starts are grown and sold to several outlets in the Eugene and Roseburg areas. The vegetable starts and a wide variety of vegetables are grown and harvested for sale at farmers’ markets in Eugene on Tuesdays and Saturdays, Roseburg on Saturdays and Coos Bay, Ore., on Wednesdays. During the winter, the farm has a 50-member Community Supported Agriculture program.

“It’s the right livelihood for us,” said Richard Wilen, 58. “We’re growing food in a real positive way. If you look at our operation, it’s a lifestyle farm. We found paradise up here in northern Douglas County. We wanted the peace and quiet it offers.”

Richard Wilen is originally from Atlanta, Ga. He moved west in the early 1970s. He became involved in organic agriculture, working and living on organic farms, running the community garden program for Eugene, teaching organic gardening classes and writing a syndicated organic gardening column. Wilen has degrees in both anthropology and archaeology and has also studied the history of agriculture.

Kate Wilen moved to Eugene in 1977 from Connecticut. She studied botany and Chinese at the University of Oregon and soon got involved in organic farming.

“I wanted to have an adventure, to see new places,” the 55-year-old said of moving west.

She also worked for small organic farms in the Eugene area.

Richard and Kate met in 1991, and decided “it would be a good idea to have their own farm and to make a living off the land.” They got married in 1992.

After looking in the Eugene area for property and finding nothing to their liking, they found Hayhurst Valley and purchased 83 acres that included bottom land being used for pasture and hay, and some hillside forest. Billy Creek runs year-round through the property.

“It was virtually bare land and we developed it from scratch,” Richard Wilen said.

He spent eight years commuting the 45 miles from Eugene. He built the pipeline system, the greenhouses and a couple other outbuildings. The couple finished building a house on the property in 1999 and moved permanently to their farm.

Richard Wilen said he remembers the Extension Service telling him farming organically was impossible.

“A lot of us were doing our own research,” he said of other organic enthusiasts. “There was a lot of sharing of ideas.”

The farm pays $1,200 a year, keeps extensive records on its agricultural practices and is inspected regularly to earn organic certification.

Wilen said some adjustments have had to be made from what the couple dreamed of growing. Because their well loses water volume through the summer, the Wilens developed the nursery side of their business because water was no problem in the spring.

“That was a positive economic move for us,” Richard Wilen said.

Surplus starts are planted outside and then in the greenhouses after the nursery season, growing produce for the farmers’ markets.

“We grow a lot of row crops, A to Z, but in small quantities,” Wilen said. “With the fresh market approach, you need new crops coming on all the time.

“We emphasize quality over quantity, then we take it directly to the consumer and get a high price for it,” he said. “The consumers we market to are very concerned about their food. We’re filling a niche.”

The Wilens said they are most proud of being a small farm business that has survived for 23 years.

Hayhurst Valley Organic Farm and Nursery

Location: Yoncalla, Ore.

Farmers: Richard and Kate Wilen

How long in business: Began developing the farm in January, 1991

Acreage: Three acres of row crops, five greenhouses for growing both starts and harvestable produce

Crops: Vegetable starts, small quantities of a wide variety of row crops

Farm flourishes over the generations Fri, 14 Mar 2014 08:28:27 -0400 CRAIG REED The WINSTON, Ore. — Mark Brosi admits that farming is in his blood. It’s definitely in his family.

His great grandfather, George Brosi, began farming in the Winston area in the mid-1880s. He was followed in the profession by his son Marcus (Kelly) Brosi who was succeeded by his son George Brosi. Then it became Mark’s turn.

The first family farm was a mile west of Winston, but since 1906 the four Brosi generations have farmed the same acreage a mile east of Winston. A farmhouse that was built in 1907 still stands and is lived in.

The three older generations have passed on and Mark Brosi, 50, has operated the Brosi Sugar Tree Farms since 1993. He owns 80 acres and leases 60. There are 50 acres of row crops, consisting of melons and “every vegetable possible,” Brosi said. “All the popular items found in a market.”

The farm also has 50 acres of fruit trees and 10 acres of strawberries, raspberries and blackberries. There’s also some hay ground.

“I really like the lifestyle,” Brosi said. “I grew up around it, I worked in it as a teenager.”

The younger Brosi worked alongside both his grandfather and his father. His grandfather specialized in growing prunes and cantaloupes. His father continued with prunes and cantaloupes, and added a variety of fruit trees. Mark Brosi added vegetables after taking over the operation.

After high school, however, Brosi ventured away from the farm.

“I definitely wanted to see what else was out there,” he said.

He attended Willamette University for a year before spending two years in the Air Force. He then returned to college and earned an industrial engineering degree at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Ore.

Brosi wasn’t necessarily planning on returning to the farm, but when his father suffered a heart attack at age 49, the decision was an easy one.

“I knew dad was getting weak and he could only help on a part-time basis,” Brosi said. His father died in 2008.

Brosi developed a produce stand as part of the farm and opened it in 1996. The market is open from late May when strawberries are ready to harvest to late November.

The farm has a strong following of U-pickers who harvest half of the vegetable crops. The rest of that produce is either sold through the stand, to a local grocery store in Roseburg, Ore., to three or four people who re-sell it to customers on the southern Oregon coast or to a Medford, Ore., wholesaler.

Alena Sullivan, Brosi’s step-daughter, has worked at the farm’s market for 19 years and has managed it for the past three summers.

“Sales have increased every year,” she said. “Basically it is farm fresh and that is what people want. If you pick it yourself, it’s about half the price compared to the farm stand, and the farm prices are cheaper than the store.

“Mark is amazing at what he does,” she added. “He doesn’t eat tomatoes and yet he grows the best ones. Everything he grows, he does his best and does an awesome job with it. There’s just a big difference in the taste and the price compared to the store.”

Brosi said that for a few years he saw a decline in bulk sales to people who canned the produce, but in recent years he “has definitely seen an increase in bulk sales for canning.”

“People are really concerned about where their food is coming from,” he said. “Over the years we’ve developed relationships with people and I think we look forward to harvest and seeing those folks again. They’re always concerned about what is happening on the farm. Although we’re really dependent on the weather, especially in the spring, it’s a successful business.”

Brosi Sugar Tree Farms

Farmer: Mark Brosi, fourth generation of the Brosi family to farm the ground near the South Umpqua River.

Location: Winston, Ore.

What: 50 acres of a wide variety of vegetables; half U-pick. Also berries and fruit trees.

History: George Brosi first began farming in the Winston area in the mid-1880s; three generations have followed in the farming profession.

No-till saves the day for valley farmers Fri, 14 Mar 2014 08:22:52 -0400 MITCH LIES AMITY, Ore. — It was the spring of 1998 when Bruce and Helle Ruddenklau first gave no-till a whirl, and then it was only out of desperation.

By that summer, the Ruddenklaus had their own no-till drill and were on the way to changing the way they farm.

Today the Ruddenklaus rarely plow fields, using no-till on just about all their acres, and they couldn’t be happier.

“It has made us way more cost effective at raising lower-value crops and opened up windows of opportunities to raise higher-value crops,” said Bruce Ruddenklau.

The decision to try no-till started with the demise of a fall-planted perennial ryegrass seed crop.

“Come spring, it just wasn’t growing,” he said. “We had to get a crop in there. We couldn’t afford to fallow ground. And I remember going out there and kicking the dirt. It was mellow, and I thought, ‘Gosh, I could just plant right into this.’”

He made some phone calls to a local John Deere dealer who helped arrange a no-till drill rental agreement with a farmer from just north of Albany.

Bruce Ruddenklau planted spring peas into the dead perennial ryegrass “and it was tremendously successful,” he said.

The discovery of no-till helped get the Ruddenklaus over what had been a lengthy spell of fighting the same weed problems year after year.

“Where we were working the soil dry in the fall, we were essentially burying back the weed problems we had in the field,” Bruce Ruddenklau said. “We were really never getting ahead of the problem.”

“We couldn’t afford to fallow anything to take care of a problem field. But that is what it needed to get ahead of the problem,” Helle Ruddenklau said.

In addition to enhancing the Ruddenklaus’ ability to control weeds, no-till allows the farmers to work wet fields in the spring.

“You’ve got a nice firm base that you are going on, and it has enabled us to plant those spring crops in a timely manner to where you can get the benefit of the growing season and the moisture still to come,” Bruce Ruddenklau said. “It has made those spring crops good dryland crop options that under conventional tillage we didn’t have.”

The other significant change in the way the Ruddenklaus farm has been the addition of an irrigation pond that catches water at the bottom of a gully from about 500 acres that normally would just run off the farm into a ditch.

The Ruddenklaus decided to build a dike to catch the water after Bruce noticed what irrigation can do to a crop while leasing irrigated ground from a neighbor one year.

“When I realized what you could do when you push a button and call for water and the crops’ response to that, it really opened my eyes to how beneficial irrigation can be,” Bruce Ruddenklau said.

The irrigation pond holds about 100 acre-feet of water when full, they said.

Prior to adding irrigation and going no-till, the Ruddenklaus said their dream of owning and operating their own farm was slipping away.

“We were struggling,” Bruce Ruddenklau said. “We were at a point where there was no way we could justify the replacement of the tractor and the plow that we had.”

Today the Ruddenklaus are enjoying growing the 10 or so crops they produce each year and meeting the different challenges of producing high-value seed crops.

“It’s been fun to see how the different seed crops work together in rotation together with no-till,” Bruce Ruddenklau said. “It’s kind of like trying to work with Mother Nature rather than trying to beat it into submission.”

Seed crops take special knowledge, grower says Fri, 14 Mar 2014 08:22:23 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas Paul Rasgorshek has farmed near Nampa, Idaho, for more than three decades.

“This year will be my 32nd crop. I started farming on my own in 1982 and now have 14 full-time employees,” he says. “We also do custom farming for two dairies, managing their silage corn and hay.”

Diversification is key on his farm. This spring he’ll have 650 acres of alfalfa seed, 170 acres of sugarbeets, 160 acres of wheat, 72 acres of mint, 16 acres of onion seed, 15 acres of carrot seed and some miscellaneous seed crops.

“Treasure Valley farmers grow a variety of seed crops; there are many seed companies here,” he says. “They own the genetics and hire us to grow their seed crops, paying on a per-unit basis.”

He plants the male and female parent seeds, he says, and produces the hybrid that seed companies sell to commercial growers.

He uses honeybees to pollinate the crops. The female parent lines of those crops are sterile so bees are necessary to take pollen from the “bull” rows to the female rows.

“For the alfalfa seed we use leafcutter bees for pollination, purchasing them from Canada, Wyoming and local sources. Leafcutter bees only live a short time so we purchase them as needed,” he explains. “We purchase immature bees (in cocoon stage) in January and incubate them, timing them to when the alfalfa is blooming the second week of June. They incubate for 21 days at 85 degrees and then hatch and are ready to go to work.”

It takes two years to produce carrot seed or onion seed.

“Onion seed is planted the first of July and harvested in August the next year. Carrot seed is grown the same way. It has to go through the wintering process and grow again from the root so it will bolt and produce seed,” Rasgorshek explains.

The seed must be planted at the appropriate time.

“Carrot seed is planted end of August or first of September. Then the carrots grow big enough to get through winter. You don’t want them too big or too small. Onion seed is planted early July, which allows the plant to get to a certain growth stage so it can survive winter,” he says.

After a seed crop is harvested, a different crop is put into that field.

“We don’t go back with the same crop because it may be a different variety,” Rasgorshek says. A new seedbed has less risk for seed left in the soil from the earlier crop.

Fields are furrow irrigated with water from a canal system.

“We use siphon tubes along the ditch, into the furrows, and have full-time crews changing water,” he explains.

“My dad grew seed crops. My place is close to where I grew up, and we worked together, sharing equipment. In 2003 we relocated our farm to get away from development — and have been farming here since 2004,” says Rasgorshek.

Paul Rasgorshek

Time farming: 32 years

Crops: Alfalfa seed, mint, wheat seed, sugarbeets, onion seed, carrot seed, silage corn

Acreage: 1,200

Atchley Farm grows certified seed potatoes Fri, 14 Mar 2014 08:21:53 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas ASHTON, Idaho — The Atchley farm in eastern Idaho is 15 miles from Wyoming and 45 miles from Montana at the end of the Snake River Valley.

“My grandfather homesteaded here in 1901. My grandmother homesteaded nearby in 1902. Later they married and combined farms,” Clen Atchley says.

Today the main crop is seed potatoes, but they also raise hybrid seed canola and cattle. It’s a family farm; daughter Laura runs the potato operation and son-in-law Clay Pichard handles the cattle operation.

“My wife Emma grows the first generation of potatoes in the greenhouse. The next year we plant them in the field as nuclear generation, and increase them to up to G-2 and sometimes G-3,” Clen says.

The seed comes from the University of Idaho.

“They have a gene bank of more than 300 varieties,” Emma explains. “The university produces plant tissue cultures as a service to the potato industry.”

It can take as long as four years to produce the final seed product. Most of the crop is under contract to farmers in Idaho, Washington and Oregon before it’s planted.

“With each variety we grow several generations in the field and keep them separate in storage to make sure we don’t mix up generations or varieties,” she says.

“The certification process for seed potatoes is intensive, run by Idaho Crop Improvement Association, an independent third party,” Laura says. “We go through two visual summer inspections; they walk through the fields, marking potential viruses. ... They look for signs of disease, bacteria, chemical damage from spray.

“When we harvest potatoes in the fall, samples from every lot are sent to Hawaii to be tested for any viruses they might have,” she says.

“When we load them on trucks to send to growers at planting time, a federal-state inspector is here, cutting potatoes, looking for diseases, making sure the potatoes are making the grade we sold them at,” Clen says. “Potatoes are a 13-month-per-year program because we’re planting and shipping at the same time.”

“We grew 900 acres of seed potatoes, some wheat, and 850 acres of hybrid canola last year. To grow canola seed, you plant males and females. It requires a hive of bees for every acre of canola to pollinate the crop,” Clen says.

“We plant a row of males and the equivalent of 2 rows of female plants, and use a grain combine for harvest. You swath the female plants and use beaters to grind up the males so you don’t get any of that seed,” he explains.

They grow some alfalfa hay for their cattle.

“We’ve been increasing our cow numbers so we no longer sell much hay,” Laura says. “We have 30 registered Charolais cows and the rest are mainly Hereford-Angus crosses.” Most of the cows are wintered on a ranch they bought near Hollister in southern Idaho, where there’s less snow. They can graze through winter with just a little protein supplement. The older cows and heifers stay on the farm and are fed hay.

She and Clay have two children — Catie 5, and Carter 2. The kids like to tag along, and Catie is starting to drive the feed pickup. The whole family loves what they do.

Clen says his daughter got the same “genetic defect” he got from his dad and grandfather — a love of farming. “We just can’t get away from the potatoes!” he says.

Clen and Emma Atchley

Founded: Early 1900s

Crops grown: Seed potatoes, seed canola, wheat, cattle

Acreage: 5,000 acres

Interest brewing in Oregon barley variety Fri, 14 Mar 2014 08:21:31 -0400 DEAN REA BROWNSVILLE, Ore. — A brew with a hint of salty carmel popcorn may pay dividends for a family in the southern Willamette Valley.

The outcome rests on how a barley variety aptly named Full Pint fares with the craft brewing industry’s interest in unique flavors.

“We started with a hundred pounds of seed,” says Scott Sayer, who manages the 1,500-acre family farm. “My interest in Full Pint was diverse. I need rotational crops, and I wanted one that would sell in any economy.”

The family raises several other crops, including ryegrass, vetch, spring oats and spring radishes, on what was primarily a grass seed farm.

Sayer planted Full Pint on an acre in the spring of 2011 and has increased acreage since then. He plans to plant it on 160 acres this year.

Sayer was interested in a malting variety when he planted Full Pint and began checking with malting companies. In December, Oskar Blues Brewery in Longmont, Colo., brewed a 30-barrel batch of Full Pint strong ale, which is expected to be available soon in pubs throughout the country, says Tim Matthews, head brewer for Oskar Blues.

Full Pint has changed the barley world because it was the first variety cultivated “for reasons of flavor,” Matthews says. “I know it can become a mainstay in the craft brew industry.”

Matthews says Oskar Blues has also used Full Pint to brew barrel-aged barleywine and plans to collaborate with the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in developing a bock lager.

The 100 pounds of seed that Sayer acquired from an OSU test plot in 2009 originally was called BCD47, which was being developed for use in making beer and feed and was resistant to stripe rust, says Pat Hayes, who directs OSU’s barley program.

“We were going to call it Half Pint because it was so short,” Hayes says in describing a variety that grows knee-high and doesn’t fall over. He says Full Pint is being used as a parent in OSU’s breeding of winter and spring varieties while retaining Full Pint’s unique flavor, which Matthews describes as salty carmel popcorn and agape nectar.

Sayer says he sold 8 tons of Full Pint grain for malting in 2012 and 20 tons for feed. In 2013 he raised about 300 tons, of which 6 tons were sold to Oskar Blues. Early this year he expects to sell more than 100 tons to another malting company.

Meanwhile, OSU fermentation science personnel plan to brew a batch of the Full Pint malt, which will be subjected to a “sensory assessment.” Hayes anticipates that will occur when members of the Sayer family and other guests gather in Corvallis to taste “OSU’s first all-Oregon beer.”

Sayer & Son Farm

Frmers: John “Jack” and Sandra Sayer, Scott Sayer and Rebecca Huston

Time farming: Five generations

Crops: Row and seed crops

Acres: 1,500

Editor’s Note Fri, 14 Mar 2014 08:21:01 -0400 Depending on who you talk to, the term “family farm” has many different meanings.

To some, it is a political statement and a swing at “corporate” farms and “big ag.” This is in spite of the fact that the vast majority of farms, large and small, are family-owned and -operated. And most are incorporated.

To others, a family farm is stereotyped pastoral setting locked in time, away from the worries of modern life.

In reality, all family farms are different. Some similarities do exist, but no two are exactly the same.

In this Seed and Row Crop special section, we look at some of the family farms in our region. The sizes are vastly different, ranging from a few acres to more than 1,000. And those families depend on their farm to produce their livelihood, not as a hobby.

But the families’ histories are different. There’s the family of Japanese heritage that overcame repressive World War II-era laws to build a thriving 21st Century farm. And the family whose forefather homesteaded the land in the 19th Century. And the family that switched its primary crops to avert a coming sea change in the industry.

Together, these stories provide a much more nuanced picture of today’s family farm.