Capital Press | Seed and Row Crop Capital Press Mon, 20 Feb 2017 05:18:18 -0500 en Capital Press | Seed and Row Crop Seed Alliance helps develop better organic varieties Thu, 10 Mar 2016 10:33:31 -0500 Margarett Waterbury For organic fresh market growers in the Northwest, February through April can be a lean time. Storage crops are dwindling, farmers’ markets slow, and consumers assume they won’t be able to “buy local” again until strawberry season.

But a new project funded by the Washington State Department of Agriculture and the Oregon Department of Agriculture involving the Organic Seed Alliance, a nonprofit based in Port Townsend, Wash., aims to change that.

Three years ago, OSA set out to improve organic seed availability and variety performance for regional season extension through on-farm breeding partnerships.

OSA led a series of conversations throughout the Northwest to ask farmers, chefs and produce buyers what they saw as the most pressing crop development needs.

“Plant breeders are making a lot of guesses about what people want,” said Lane Selman, director of the Culinary Breeding Network and longtime OSA partner. “Involving chefs and produce buyers gives breeders an insight they might not normally have.”

Together, they picked four crops to focus on: storage onions, cabbage, chicory and purple sprouting broccoli.

All suffered from significant issues. Organic storage onion varieties had problems keeping. Most storage cabbages were hybrid varieties, making seed saving impossible. Chicory seed was hard to source domestically, and purple sprouting broccoli was only borderline winter hardy.

Chicory trials began at Midori Farm in Quilcene, Wash., in 2009. One variety called Midori Castelfrano (a big-headed, self-blanching chicory with greenish-white red-speckled leaves) has been selected for cold tolerance down to 14 degrees.

OSA is breeding a new purple storage cabbage with excellent keeping and flavor qualities at Nash’s Organic Produce in Sequim, Wash.

Onion trials are also underway now, and OSA plans to release a report soon detailing the findings regarding agronomy and keeping quality.

Harvested in March with the potential for broad consumer appeal, purple sprouting broccoli represents a major opportunity for market growers. But Northwest farmers had trouble finding cold-tolerant varieties.

“We started sourcing as much material from Europe as we could for a screening trial. We found a range of success in cold tolerance, variability in bud quality, stem length, and productivity,” said Micaela Colley, executive director of OSA. “We picked the best varieties and used them as parents to breed this new Northwest purple sprouting broccoli.”

That new variety will be released in the near future.

OSA had already begun work on purple sprouting broccoli even before this new project. Organically Grown Co., a major organics distributor, had expressed interest in developing the crop further in the Northwest.

“As a new crop, there are differences in opinion about what is most visually appealing,” Colley said. “Retailers have a unique perspective in how they present a crop to the customer: bunched or loose, stem length, and the color of stem versus floret. By partnering with OGC we get that retail perspective, which has an impact on the qualities we select for.”

OSA also plans to promote purple sprouting broccoli through in-store tastings, educational materials and consumer outreach to help build demand.

Tundra swans mix well with potato fields Thu, 10 Mar 2016 10:31:57 -0500 LEE JUILLERAT KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. — Ways that potato fields can be managed to benefit waterfowl were featured during a “Behind the Scenes: Potato Fields to Wetlands” field trip held as part of the annual Winter Wings Festival in the Klamath Basin last month.

The festival, which began more than 30 years ago as the Bald Eagle Festival, is primarily aimed at birdwatchers and annually draws thousands of visitors. Field trips, classroom sessions and workshops about bald eagles and other birds are based at Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls.

The first-ever “Potato Fields to Wetlands” field trip was sponsored by Walkers Brothers Farm-Gold Dust Inc. to show how about 3,500 acres of former cattle pasture lands near Klamath Falls is being used to grow conventional and organic potatoes and to benefit birds.

During the tour, participants visited the Walkers Brothers-Gold Dust fields and neighboring farm fields filled with thousands and thousands of birds, mostly squawky-talky tundra swans. Rows and rows of swans extended in the distance, some appearing as white dots on the southern reaches of Upper Klamath Lake.

This winter, prodigious numbers of tundra swans have been seen on barley fields farmed by Donnie Heaton and nearby potato fields owned by Walker Brothers-Gold Dust Farms.

Participants toured dikes on the former Running Y Ranch just west of Klamath Falls. In recent years, 3,500 acres of contiguous lands have been owned by Malin-based Walker Brothers Farms.

During the tour, Lexi Crawford, an office manager for Walker Brothers, discussed efforts to manage the fields to benefit waterfowl. Through an agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, for example, a third of the barley fields, which are annually rotated, is left for birds.

“We feel as farmers the birds were here first and we have to work to benefit them,” Crawford said.

Most of the Running Y Ranch acreage is used to grow potatoes, including about 20 percent for organic spuds. Fields used to grow potatoes are rotated with barley or red wheat.

Two sections of the Running Y property are leased to other growers for garlic and onions.

Klamath Basin-wide, the Walker Brothers-Gold Dust operation has about 10,000 acres straddling Oregon and California. Except for the Running Y property, which is contiguous, most of the other acreage is broken into smaller holdings. Of those total acres, Crawford said about 2,000 are dedicated to organic potatoes. Both conventionally and organically grown potatoes are used for potato chips and french fried potatoes. In 2015, the business produced about 1.3 million hundredweight.

Along with reserving some Running Y fields for waterfowl and other birds, Crawford said using water from nearby Upper Klamath Lake for flood irrigation “definitely benefits the birds.”

According to the company’s website, Gold Dust-Walker Brothers have been planting organic crops to get a foothold in the organic market and increase the production of the ground.

“Hay crops are known to add nitrogen to soil, which makes them perfect for following a potato crop in a field,” according to the website. “When that same crop is raised organically, with organic fertilizers, not only do you get the benefit of what the hay crop does for the ground, the soil also gets a boost in organic material that conventional fertilizers simply cannot add.”

Lexi Crawford said the Running Y fields are especially productive because of the rich soils and said the fields have lured large numbers of waterfowl and other birds. While the Walker Brothers have been “generous sponsors” of the annual Winter Wings Festival for several years, she said this year was the first time a field trip was offered to show and explain how the Running Y operation benefits birds.

“It’s something we hope to continue next year and in coming years,” Crawford said.

Cutting red clover for silage may keep pest at bay Thu, 10 Mar 2016 10:28:29 -0500 MITCH LIES An agronomic practice of cutting for silage red clover grown for seed may do more than simply providing an additional source of revenue for producers.

It may be disrupting the life cycle of a pest.

Speaking at the Clover Growers Annual Meeting in Wilsonville Feb. 3, Oregon State University Extension agent Nicole Anderson said she has consistently found red clover casebearer moths in Oregon clover seed fields since she and a colleague first discovered the pest in 2012, but she has yet to see any significant crop damage.

“Although we know the pest is here and we know sometimes we have it in numbers that are concerning, we haven’t been able to find significant crop damage,” she said.

The red clover casebearer moth, native to Europe, was first found in North America in the 1960s, when it was found in New York state and Eastern Canada. In 2001, it was reported in Western Canada, where it continues to be a pest of concern.

“It is a big enough problem in the Canadian red clover seed production regions of Saskatchewan and Alberta that their growers have had to stop second-year production,” she said.

In 2012, a Canadian researcher asked Anderson and her colleague to put out pheromone traps to see if the pest was present in Oregon. To her surprise, Anderson said they found the pest in every trap.

Larvae of the pest damage plants by chewing within seed heads and moving from floret to floret. Anderson trapped for the pest in red, white and crimson clover seed fields in 2013, but scaled back to red clover fields in subsequent years after noticing little to no activity in white and crimson clovers.

Trap counts peaked in 2014 before falling back in 2015, possibly due to last summer’s hot and dry conditions.

In all cases, however, whether trap counts were high or low, she was unable to find crop damage of economic significance.

“In general, I think we need to keep an eye out for this and if we see evidence of unusual yield losses, we need to consider this as a source,” she said. “But at this point, we are done looking at it. I don’t believe it currently is a pest of concern in the Willamette Valley.”

After discussing the situation with a leading Canadian entomologist Anderson came to the conclusion that cutting red clover for silage may be disrupting casebearer moth populations just prior to feeding.

In Canada, where the moth is a major economic pest, producers are unable to take off a silage crop in red clover grown for seed due to a lack of heat units.

Farming draws couple back to their roots Thu, 10 Mar 2016 10:27:11 -0500 Erick Peterson The son of a farmer who moved to Washington’s Yakima Valley in the 1940s, Lino Guerra developed a love of agriculture that he shared with his wife and four sons.

And while personal tragedy and market trends have taken their toll, he believes new trends are creating new opportunities.

This pepper farmer is making a comeback.

Talking about it while he brews coffee at the shop he owns at a Sunnyside mall, his eyes light up. Working alongside his father and building a farm that grew to 30 acres was joyful. His wife, Hilda Guerra, loved it to.

“I’d love to be out there again, out with a hoe, out in the outdoors, that’s for sure,” she said.

She raised her sons in the fields, where she taught them the importance and pleasure of hard work. Driving tractors, tending crops and laboring alongside generations of family were greatly satisfying, she said.

It was never greatly profitable, Lino said, and he supplemented their income with outside work. He was a scientific technician at the nearby Hanford nuclear facility and a construction worker. So when he came home, he was often tired. Still, his farm gave him energy, and he was very pleased that his family was enjoying a life in farming.

Unfortunately, the idyllic life did not last. His father grew ill in old age and passed away. About the same time that he became sick, Hilda was injured in a car accident. No longer able to operate the farm without them, the Guerras sold it.

Lino never gave up on the dream, though. He held onto 70 acres just north of Sunnyside. He maintained a garden on that property, and he continued to grow peppers.

His homegrown peppers are ingredients in a product that he markets — Guerra’s Gourmet Natural Seasonings. He sells around 100 canisters online every month. He also applies his seasonings to meats that he cooks at local events that he caters.

Growing peppers brings Lino back to his days long past. He smells Habanero and Jalapeno, and he remembers childhood. He tastes chili, and he thinks of his sons as young boys, and he wants to grow his small operation.

“Times are changing,” he said.

Back in 2005, when he sold his farm, the farm-to-table movement had not yet taken off. Since then, many people care more about where their food originates. He notices that demand is increasing for organic foods from local farms.

People are also getting more creative with their ingredients, he said. He sees people putting pepper in everything, including ice cream.

The wet winter also makes him hopeful that water issues will be less troublesome this growing season.

He is planning to expand his farm. He will grow whatever is trending at the time.

“It’s going to take a while,” he said. “You can’t build a farm overnight, but there are some real opportunities out there.”

Such opportunities, if realized, will bring his boys back together to work on a singular vision. The young men, who have all moved on to their own careers in management, culinary arts and marketing, have expressed a desire to return to farming with their parents.

With Hilda’s health improving, she too is excited about working a farm.

“It would be wonderful,” she said. “But we’re just going to have to wait and see how this could all work out for us.”

Family ‘team’ grows variety of crops Thu, 10 Mar 2016 10:26:03 -0500 Hear Smith Thomas Doug Carlquist and his wife, Melanie, live on the farm where he grew up.

“Originally, I was farming with my brother,” he said. “About 12 years ago he had a son coming back to farm with him, so we separated our operations and started farming on our own.”

On the farm, Melanie is his top hand. Their children have helped on the farm as they were growing up.

“My girls have married and gone on to other things but my son Parker is a senior in high school and still helping me,” Carlquist says.

The farm grows mainly row crops but also raises small grains for several seed companies, mostly soft white wheat and some barley.

“We usually sell to Western Seeds and AgriSource, which are both in the Burley-Heyburn area,” he says.

He’s also grown dry edible beans, for both commercial seed and garden bean seed.

“We’ve worked with a number of companies, and for the garden bean seed we’ve sold to Harris Moran,” Carlquist says.

Many seed crops are grown in the region.

“There are many dry beans grown here, with a lot of different companies contracting,” he says. “We have ideal conditions for growing seed crops; there is very little disease pressure and we usually have sufficient water to bring a crop to maturity.”

His farm has surface water rights from the Northside Canal Co.

“We now have all sprinkler irrigation and we converted everything from wheel lines to center pivots, with hand line or solid set sprinklers in the corners,” he says.

Moving to pivots has been pushed by the labor shortage, he says. It’s hard to find enough help to move hand lines, and pivots are efficient, he added.

The typical crop rotation for his fields is small grains, rotating to beets, and then a crop of corn or beans, and then back to small grains. This seems best for the soil and the plants.

“It helps cut down on diseases. If you plant too soon again with the same crop you end up hurting yourself in the long run,” he says. “Rotation gives more opportunity to control the weeds and insects a little better.”

At this point his son Parker is not sure whether he wants to farm.

“He has other interests. Each young person has to figure it out,” Carlquist says. “Some grow up thinking they are never going to come back, then after they get away from home for a while they decide that farming is not so bad after all.”

Their daughters live in Oklahoma and Virginia, but one is nearby in the Burley area — “and we enjoy being able to babysit our 15-month-old grandson,” he says.

“They would all like to move back to smaller towns and enjoy rural life, but they have good employment where they are,” he says.

“Our farm is just a family operation; my wife is my right hand ‘man,’” he says. “Her parents were in the bee business but she enjoys the farm. She does a little bit of everything — helps with planting, harvest and is able to do anything and everything. It’s a team effort with a lot of versatility.”

Melanie also takes care of the bookkeeping, “which I am grateful for,” he says. “We are blessed to have a good team.”

Extension agent dives into field crop research Thu, 10 Mar 2016 10:24:38 -0500 Denise Ruttan Nearly two years after Clare Sullivan started as an Oregon State University Extension field crops agent for Linn, Benton and Polk counties in the Willamette Valley, she has not lost her Canadian accent — or her enthusiasm for helping growers through research.

In fact, she has found herself in the thick of five big research projects all in initial years of study. She juggles research with talking regularly to growers through field days, meetings, newsletters, social media and email alerts.

As field crops agent, grass seed is king in her crop repertoire; she also handles winter wheat, clover seed, mint, meadowfoam and brassica seed.

Her research involving these crops is grower-driven and industry-funded. One project, for example, involves examining different products and rates for spraying in established white-clover stands. It’s a broadleaf rotation, she said, with many benefits as a rotation crop.

A second project involves studying nitrogen rates in an old crop that is generating new buzz — spring-planted field peas. They are either grown for seed or sprouting peas, depending on the buyer.

“The price is better so people are growing them again,” Sullivan said. “But growers have tons of questions about them because their grandparents or parents grew them but they don’t have personal experience with them.”

Additionally, Sullivan is studying management of tall fescue by mixing plant growth regulators. This plant lives up to its name and naturally grows so tall it can topple over, potentially a huge problem for yield.

“The idea is to get a synergy between the two plant growth regulators to increase yield,” Sullivan said. “This hasn’t been looked at yet in tall fescue. As with the other projects we have to get one or two years of data. We’re starting the first year this summer.”

Lastly among major projects, Sullivan has been working with Pat Hayes, the barley breeder on campus at Oregon State University, and his team to study malting barley.

The team is in its second field season starting this spring. “It is definitely a smaller crop in Oregon but there is interest because Oregon has a growing craft brewing industry, but there is not a lot of malting barley grown here in Oregon so there is a push by brewers to encourage more malting barley to be grown locally in Oregon,” Sullivan said. “But malting barley has some specific requirements by craft brewers compared to barley grown in the field or for feed.”

Those exacting requirements include protein content, plumpness and test weight, among other factors.

“The idea is to look at five different varieties of malting barley and three different nitrogen rates and look at that in three different areas in Oregon with different soil types — the Klamath Basin, La Grande and the Willamette Valley,” Sullivan said.

Hayes’ team goes a step further than standard field research. They malt their harvested grain at a micromaltery, brew their own beer and have a sensory panel taste it. In this first year of data collection, all varieties planted in the Willamette Valley have done well so far, Sullivan said.

In all five of these projects and all her research activities, Sullivan will report data and results back to growers at upcoming field days, which are advertised on the Extension field crops website at

“I’m enjoying it. I’m having fun and learning a lot,” said Sullivan, who prior to coming to Oregon earned degrees at the University of British Columbia and the University of Saskatchewan, and worked as a soil research technician for the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture. “The crops and production systems here are new to me, and I’m learning the differences between crops grown for seed versus for forage or vegetables.”

CSA, co-op, farmers’ market keep farm busy Thu, 10 Mar 2016 10:21:50 -0500 Brenna Wiegand MOUNT ANGEL, Ore. — Running a farm is a risky business. Bill and Janice Scheidler have found ways to reduce that risk.

They not only diversify what they grow, they diversify how they sell it. They have a CSA, supply a food co-op and are a cornerstone at a popular farmers’ market.

Community Supported Agriculture — known by the initials CSA — has become a popular way for customers to buy local, seasonal food directly from the farmer. Subscribers to CSAs typically sign up and pay for their annual membership in the spring.

This reduces a farm’s risk by offsetting the startup cost every year and making it easier to predict the coming year’s income. In return, subscribers receive a weekly share of the farm’s bounty throughout the growing season.

Schiedler, whose farm is called GardenRipe near Mount Angel, Ore., employs a lifetime of experience in extending his harvest season to nearly eight months with a CSA lasting through the prime harvest season and beyond.

He and his wife, Janice, own and operate the family farm originally purchased by Joseph and Kathrina Schiedler in 1874.

About 18 years ago, Schiedler quit his “day job” as manager of a grass seed processing plant and began farming in earnest, starting the CSA soon after.

Local CSA customers pick up their produce at the farm, and GardenRipe delivers to those in the Keizer and West Salem areas every week. That day comes around quickly for both producer and consumer.

“The quantity of produce you receive may seem to be a tremendous amount, and it is,” Schiedler said. “If you’re not prepared to deal with excess produce or are a picky eater, a CSA might not be right for you.”

Schiedler is preparing the ground, setting up this year’s infrastructure and has seeds starting in the greenhouse. The planting, growing, harvesting and weeding will continue into fall as hundreds of boxes are filled and delivered.

Schiedler has changed his business model this year, scaling down the number of CSA members to 32 — about a fifth the average of previous years — and has begun selling produce to the Willamette Valley Co-op in Salem. GardenRipe also remains an anchor at nearby Silverton’s Saturday Farmers’ Market.

“When you’re selling at market it takes a whole day out of farming and there are costs for employees, booth fees and a lot of supplies,” Schiedler said. “With the co-op’s bulk situation, it’s a trip to Salem and doesn’t require much besides a few twist ties.”

In the beginning, their three kids and Bill’s mother helped work on the farm. Mom retired, the kids grew up and for many years Bill and Janice hosted interns who found the farm through ATTRA — Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas — as well as “WWOOFers.” World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, known commonly as Willing Workers on Organic Farms, affords young people the opportunity to learn and live on organic farms in exchange for half a day’s work.

They still use some WWOOFers but decided to curtail the internships for the time being.

“It has to do with dependability as far as their productivity, and it can be stressful when you need to get something done,” Schiedler said. Many interns have never before farmed.

He’s working on about 3 acres now and the ground will soon start filling with a wide variety of vegetables. Keeping up with so many different crops is a challenge, but Schiedler prefers it to growing a single type of crop.

“I’d better enjoy doing it — I don’t think I’ll be joining the Fortune 500 anytime soon,” he said. “It is hard to make a living farming. What a lot of it boils down to is that it is like my hobby as well so I don’t have other things that I spend a lot of time or money on.”

Schiedler grows several unusual vegetables such as okra, melons and celery, but the biggest demand is for traditional offerings: tomatoes, onions, corn and zucchini.

“People make fun of zucchini but we sell a lot of it,” Schiedler said.

The earliest crops Schiedler produces include lettuce, greens and snap peas. These keep coming, while broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower come on. On their heels are beans, cucumbers, carrots, corn and tomatoes. He supplements his boxes with local berries a couple times a season.

When the pepper and tomato harvests are at their peak, the Schiedlers host “Salsa Time,” when members have the opportunity to visit the farm and pick 50 pounds of tomatoes and enough peppers, onions, cilantro and garlic for a large batch of salsa.

By October the boxes his customers receive include winter squash, pumpkins, onions, cherry tomatoes and a late planting of beans.

Organic market matures with farm Thu, 10 Mar 2016 10:20:29 -0500 Hear Smith Thomas Nate Jones’ farm was one of the first certified organic operations in Idaho.

“Our farm was one of the original 11 to be certified organic by the state of Idaho in 1990,” says Jones. “I am grower number 6. I cash rent four different farms in the Glenns Ferry and Hammet areas.”

He started farming in 1975 when he came back to his father’s 160-acre farm.

“We started organic production in 1987. After we became officially certified we added more acres. On my dad’s farm we just grew alfalfa, wheat and beans,” Jones says.

“We weren’t intensely using insecticides or herbicides. After we started farming organically, I wondered if we might be able to grow potatoes or onions.”

They had never grown those crops so they didn’t have to unlearn the conventional production paradigm that says there is no way to grow an onion without a fungicide.

“I’ve grown onions now for 25 years and never used any chemicals,” he says.

For the first 12 years he farmed, it was difficult to make a living. He turned to organics because it seemed financially rewarding and more economically sustainable.

“Organic farming is economically viable; these markets are here to stay,” Jones says.

He recently started growing grain corn for an organic dairy and the yields are similar to those of his neighbors.

“We are being rewarded for our efforts, and it’s also fun, showing people that it can be done,” he says.

“We converted to pivots over the past six years. This allowed us to start growing corn, because we just had hand lines and wheel lines before that,” he says.

His mother still lives on the farm, and Jones has two sons, Hollister and Wilder, ages 22 and 26.

“Currently they are in college, but still help me at farmers’ markets,” he says. “We’ve been selling our produce at farmers’ markets for 20 years — 15 years at Ketchum, Idaho.”

The farmers’ market experience was good for his boys, he says.

“They both thanked me for making them do that,” he says. “Today it is really easy for them to talk to strangers. Now that they are in college, they realize they have communication skills that a lot of young people don’t have.”

The markets have evolved, and marketing is a major part of organic production.

“You can’t just haul your crop to town and hope to get the best price. You need to work at creating your own markets,” Jones says.

Organic prices used to be about 25 percent over conventional prices but in the past five years organic production has developed its own market.

“Today, big food companies want a steady supply. If you’ve been growing beans for a certain company, they want those beans again next year. At harvest, they are willing to talk about next year’s crop. They need to know they will have X number of beans coming in. Futures contracts on organic beans don’t exist,” he explains.

The companies must have a relationship with the grower. This is a better way to do business, because the grower also knows he or she has a market for the crop.

“There were a number of years we just grew it and hoped to find someone to buy it,” he says.

Brussels sprouts new vegetable ‘rock stars’ Thu, 10 Mar 2016 10:19:10 -0500 JULIA HOLLISTER SANTA CRUZ,Calif. — Just a few years ago Brussels sprouts were the “Rodney Dangerfield” of vegetables, but the little green orbs are getting newfound respect these days.

They are the darling of a new generation of chefs and consumers around the world.

“Brussels sprout acreage has increased along with the demand,” said grower Steve Bontadelli. “You can’t watch a cooking show or go to a restaurant without being exposed to Brussels sprouts.”

He said many up-and-coming restaurants in Santa Cruz have them on the menu every day.

“I would say the popularity began about four years because Chefs Emeril Lagasse and Rachel Ray began showing consumers how to cook them and magazine articles followed suit and made them into rock stars of the vegetable world,” he said.

Bontadelli grows Brussels sprouts and, as general manager of Pfyffer Associates, also processes them for three other growers.

Hand-picking begins in June and continues into September. Machine harvesting begins in the latter part of September.

Pfyffer Associates also has farms in Baja California that start production in January so Brussels sprouts are available year-around.

“After harvesting, the Brussels sprouts are cooled and then packed in boxes with ice. They can stay fresh up to three weeks,” he said. “We used to send the sprouts to the East Coast by rail, but now it is all by trucks. Two drivers can drive from here to New York in four days.”

The foggy coastal climate is perfect and allows even growth up the stalk. The price — $40 a box — is nice, too, Bontadelli said.

The smaller Brussels sprouts go to the freezer market and the larger ones go to fresh market.

Growing them is not cheap. The crop needs a specialized harvesting machine that costs $400,000 to $500,000, and growers need a place to clean and store the crop.

The hybrid seedlings begin life in a local nursery and two months later the transplant plugs go into the ground. The plants mature in 8-9 months.

“Brussels sprouts don’t lend themselves to organic production,” Bontadelli said. “I have a friend who grows that way but he can’t keep the aphids out. At harvest, he has to peel the sprouts and shake out the bugs.”

Conventional growers use a specialized pesticide to target aphids.

“The chemicals we use are very specific to the crop and are designed for the specific anatomy (mandible) of the bug,” he said. “It is safe to use around humans because we don’t have mandibles.”

A mandible is an insect jaw bone.

Nutritionally, they are loaded with antioxidants and have the same cancer-inhibiting potential as cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower. This is because they contain the nitrogen compounds called indoles and a significant amount of vitamin C. Brussels sprouts also supply good amounts of folate (folic acid), potassium, vitamin K and a small amount of beta-carotene — all needed for a healthful diet.

“So, please enjoy your Brussels sprouts,” Bontadelli said. “They are good for you.”

How to grow your own native plants Thu, 10 Mar 2016 10:16:38 -0500 Gail Oberst RICKREALL, Ore. — For farmers, gardeners and conservation project managers, wet February is a good time to propagate woody plants, especially those that are native to the region.

Willamette Valley native shrubs and trees are popular for hedgerows, soil conservation projects along streams and in wetlands, or for beautifying landscapes and attracting wildlife. These woody plants are designed by nature to handle whatever the Northwest throws at them.

More than 80 farmers, master gardeners, landowners and technicians from the mid-Willamette Valley attended at a recent native plant propagation workshop presented by the Corvallis Plant Materials Center staff. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service operates the center, but the area soil and water conservation districts and watershed councils sponsored the event.

The workshop preceded native plant sales endemic to this time of year, as winter is the best time to plant woody trees and shrubs, said the center’s Amy Bartow.

Purchasing from nurseries or plant sales is an easy and quick way to purchase native plants.

But those who are planning larger plant projects, including commercial production, might consider collecting and propagating their own native shrubs and trees. Growing native plants from cuttings is almost as easy as “…cut a stem, stick it in the ground, and it grows a new shrub,” Bartow told the group.

Not all native plants propagate easily from cuttings. Some might better be grown from seed or from commercial bare-root stock, center staff said.

Choosing the place to plant is the first decision. For best results, place cuttings in an environment similar to the place where they were found.

Among natives easy to propagate from cuttings west of the Cascades are: Black cottonwood, several species of willows, red elderberry, Indian plum, Pacific ninebark, mock orange, salmonberry, red osier dogwood, black twinberry, red flowering current, common snowberry, Douglas spirea and others.

Cuttings should be taken from several plants, not just one, for best variety. Cuttings are available for free at the center but are widely available in public areas as well. Neighbors, public lands, wildlife refuges are also good resources, but get permission first and check for permit requirements first, said Bartow.

The easiest method for gathering cuttings is to identify plants when foliage, flowers or berries are present. Mark the plant, and then return in the fall, just before planting. Cut dormant plants in the late fall or winter, just before you intend to plant them. Keep the twigs moist.

Cut twigs about the width of your pinkie finger. Best are 1- or 2-year-old vigorous and straight stems or suckers. Cut approximately 3 feet long. Keep moist until planted, 2-3 days at most.

Hammer a narrow stake into the ground to create a pilot hole. Plant two-thirds of the plant in the hole, keeping track of the top and bottom of the plant. Rooting compounds and fertilizer are not needed.

Water if dry, but water may not be needed if planted in winter. Apply mulch — fir needles, wood chips or leaves — to control weeds and use plant tubes or tree guards to protect them from animals.

To plant cuttings in containers, follow the same steps, but water daily. Natives in containers must also be grown outside to promote development of strong root structure, Bartow said.

In addition to local native plant nurseries and sales, following are a few resources to help you propagate woody shrubs and trees.

• USDA/NRCS Corvallis Plant Materials Center, 3415 NE Granger Ave., Corvallis, 503-393-6411, a one-stop location for cuttings, advice and educational materials. If you want to be sure the plant you’ve chosen is native to your area, this website might be a good first stop. Photos and maps and other helpful publications are available.

• Propagation of Pacific Northwest Native Plants, a book published by OSU Press, provides propagation information on nearly 140 native plants. This book is for use by both professionals and home gardeners.

Young farmers flourish in Magic Valley Thu, 10 Mar 2016 10:15:34 -0500 Hear Smith Thomas Brian Darrington knew what he wanted to do for a living when he was still a teenager growing up on his family’s farm.

“When I was a 16-year-old kid in high school I bought my first sugar beet shares, 40 acres of beet shares,” he says. “The farm wasn’t large enough to support more than one family, however, so in 2003 I started farming with my brother, Jeff, when I was 23.”

They grew beans and sugar beets, along with some hay and grains.

“Jeff kept things going until I graduated from Idaho State University. We were fortunate to get into farming when we did,” he says. “The past 10 years have been profitable and we had the opportunity to buy some land and expand. We are not a corporation; we’re just a partnership and split the expenses and income.”

This also splits the risk. They own all their equipment together.

“When you have a $20,000 tractor repair bill you are not on the hook for the whole thing. You can spread that over the total number of acres, and that’s been helpful,” Brian says.

“We farm any little piece we can buy or lease,” he says. “Sugar beets are our number one crop, dollar-wise. Beans are second; we grow commercial beans and seed beans, depending on the price. We plant about 300 acres of beans every year and rely on the field men to determine what they’d like us to grow.”

They have a guaranteed market for sugar beets.

“We were fortunate to buy beet shares when they were cheaper. We own the shares and don’t have to scramble looking for shares to rent,” he says.

“Jeff and I have been doing some double-cropping. We take beets off in the fall, then hurry in to prepare the ground to plant triticale or wheat. We chop off that crop in May to sell to local dairies, and plant beans a week later.

“It’s always a mad dash to get it all done,” Brian says.

“Beans require a lot of machine work. We’ve sometimes gone over a field 14 times to get the ground ready, plant, and harvest the beans.”

By the time you disk stubble, plow it, roll it, spray it, plant it, cultivate a few times, you’ve a lot of hours in the tractor, he says.

Brian and his wife, Ami, have two boys and a girl. Breken is 7, Trey is 5, and Ali just over a year old.

“Ami is full-time taking care of the kids right now, but she has driven tractor and helps me a lot, drives to town when I need parts, and keeps the books,” he says.

“I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to farm, and appreciate the landlords who had faith in me when I was 23. One lady was kind enough to carry my payments the first 7 years when I bought my first farm, then rented me her other farm as well,” he says. “If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have had the equity I needed to buy the other farms.”

Currently, he and his brother own 500 acres together and rent the rest.

It’s difficult for many young people to start farming.

“Somebody has to have faith in you, take a chance on you,” Brian says.

“I am grateful to my parents and everyone else who has worked with me. I had uncles who were willing to harvest my crops and let me return work in kind,” he says. “A lot of people have been patient and generous with me.”

He also appreciates Idaho Crop Improvement Association and the role it plays.

“They certify that our seed is clean and disease-free,” he says. “We have a wonderful growing area here, and supply seeds to the Midwest that they know are reliable. I am glad to be a part of that.”

Wapato farm serves its community Thu, 10 Mar 2016 10:14:06 -0500 Erick Peterson WAPATO, Wash. — Nonprofit Campbell Farm seeks to nourish and instruct needy people in the Yakima Valley while providing a mission-retreat center for visitors, according to Carman Pimms, the farm’s director.

“You reap what you sow,” Pimms said. “I’ve always believed that, and that’s what people learn here.”

Her staff, and workers from nearby Gilbert Orchards, maintain the 40-acre farm alongside a regular crew of around 40 children and adult volunteers.

They are assisted by visiting mission groups that typically range in number from 15 to 20 but sometimes as many as 60.

The workers perform farm tasks and learn many skills, the director said. They plant, raise and harvest vegetables, and they pick fruit.

Youngsters also learn how to can peaches, salsa, green beans, pickles, corn and other foods.

Volunteers also go to other Yakima Valley farms, such as Rasmussen Farm and Inaba Produce, to glean excess produce.

Pimms said this is important work, and necessary in the area, as there are many area families who are poor.

Still, Campbell Farm does more than feed people; it educates them, she said.

“We’re showing kids that you don’t need to go to the store for the foods that you need,” she said.

She and other staff guide young people in self-sufficiency. They work hard, and they pick up farm skills and values along the way. They discover that “foods from the land are the best,” she said.

Larena Van Pelt, a volunteer, is one of the many believers in the farm.

This is a community-based program, a nonprofit that does important work in our community,” she said. “It’s a positive place that does great work for kids.”

She has volunteered for years and even has her own children help.

“When my kids come here, they get to meet other kids from different places. They learn different perspectives,” she said.

Life on the Yakama Indian Reservation, where the farm is, can lead to an insular life, she says. Through association with Campbell Farm, her children meet people who have diverse ideas and experiences.

So she said that she is glad for Campbell Farm, for her family and for the many families that also benefit from it.

“This is a very special place,” she said.

Tips for growing native plants from seed Thu, 10 Mar 2016 10:12:40 -0500 Gail Oberst CORVALLIS, Ore. — Interested in growing native plants from seed, or in seed production? You’re not alone.

The demand for native plant seeds is expanding as farmers, gardeners and landowners seek hardy plants to create hedgerows, shore up creekside banks and ponds to prevent erosion, to attract wildlife or for water conservation and durability, according to the staff at the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Plant Materials Center in Corvallis.

Growing native plants from seed presents unique challenges and rewards, center staff and local conservation experts told more than 60 people who attended a recent workshop in Rickreall, Ore.

Most native grasses, sedges, rushes and forbs — or wildflowers — must be grown from seed; and, woody plants or shrubs can also be grown from seed, although dormant hardwood cuttings are also an option for some. A free guide to growing regional native plants is in a new 192-page book, “Native Seed Production Manual for the Pacific Northwest,” assembled by the Corvallis team, The manual provides seed production information on specific species of native grasses, forbs, sedges and rushes that grow in Western Oregon and Washington, based on two decades of native plant trials conducted in Corvallis and on federal lands.

While it is primarily geared toward large-scale seed production, the book also includes information that could be useful to a backyard grower. The book also includes several pages of discussion and photos about equipment needed for large-scale production. Plant Materials Center and other agencies staff summarized native plant production from seed as follows:

• Choose your challenges. Not all native seeds are created equal. Some are easy to grow; others, not so much. Some seeds mature uniformly, making gathering a cinch. Others mature sporadically. And, unlike seeds bred for specific agricultural purposes, native seeds have a broad genetic base. The variety of native growth responses will test your creativity and possibly your patience. Choose the seeds that make sense for your soil, plot size, equipment and temperament.

• Start with a reliable source of seed. Purchasing parent plants or seed from a reliable native plant nursery or nonprofit plant sale (soil and water conservation districts, watershed councils) are your best bet. If gathering your own seeds, be sure to identify the plant while the flowers or leaves are still intact. Extensive gathering on public property may require a permit. Private property — unless you own it — may require permission.

• Prepare your site. Be sure it is free of weeds, and protect it from predators. Most native grass or forb seeds are small, so should be sown shallowly. Native seeds are generally sown in the fall, before the rainy season. Western Oregon’s wet winters and dry summers are ideal for native seed production, which in many locations can be done without irrigation or special drying equipment.

• If growing shrubs or tree seeds in pots, consider the size of the 1- or 2-year-old plant. D40 pots and potting soil (as opposed to native soil) work well for most shrubs and trees; smaller plugs or cone-tainers work well for grasses and wildflowers. Potted seedlings grown in sterile media will need some type of fertilizer to produce vigorous, healthy plants ready for fall transplanting. Grow outside, but shade in the summer. Keep moist. Quit watering and fertilizing in late fall, before out-planting.

• Most seeds will be brown and crispy when they are ready for harvest. Hand-harvesting is most efficient, but some equipment could be considered. Depending on the ultimate use of the seed, some seed cleaning (threshing, conditioning and screening) may be needed. Seeds of most species can be dried, then stored in a cool place, and will be viable for several years.

Farm makes switch to organic production Thu, 10 Mar 2016 10:10:11 -0500 Hear Smith Thomas Tim Cornie is farming where he grew up, between Hagerman and Castle Ford, Idaho.

The biggest change: He is transitioning the farm to organic production.

He farmed conventionally at first and ran yearling cattle on irrigated pasture — intensive grazing under pivots — rotating pasture with crops.

“I’m now transitioning everything into organic,” he says.

“I’m growing organic corn, some malt barley for Coors and organic alfalfa. I haven’t grown beans for a couple years but I used to grow organic dry beans. I also grow organic wheat and next year will grow organic hard red wheat.”

He uses a no-till drill for seeding, and does a lot of cover cropping.

“We’re improving soil this way, and have seen the worm population explode with the added organic matter. The soil is becoming healthier,” he says.

“In the fall we go right behind our grain crops after harvest and plant flex peas and tillage radish and let those grow up to fix more nitrogen in the soil for the next crop,” he says. “I put cattle on those cover crops to graze.”

This adds manure and organic matter from any remains of plants that are trampled and add litter to the ground.

“I buy thin cull cows that come off the desert after summer grazing, put them on cover crops, add 200 to 300 pounds on them and resell them,” Cornie says.

He’s been divorced for 10 years but has a 14-year-old daughter named Charlie and an 11-year-old son named Wyatt.

“Charlie loves the farm and helps me a lot,” Cornie says.

He expanded the farm and hired a microbiologist from Texas. “We are testing our soils, counting protozoa, bacteria, et cetera, trying to balance our soils biologically. She is creating the proper compost, brewing it and we’re injecting it into the pivots.”

Fertilizing the plants via the irrigation water is effective, he says.

Cornie markets some of his organic crops, including corn, directly to organic dairies.

“I’m working with some really good people — some with brokers, and directly with a few dairy owners. Everyone seems to know somebody who knows someone who needs organic crops; it’s kind of a network, and a growing market,” he says.

“Yields can go down when you farm organically with no pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizer, and weeds can be an issue. We are doing no-till and cover crops and hope to control weeds that way,” he says.

He is also planting flowers along the fencelines to provide habitat for bees, which are needed to pollinate the crops.

“We also release beneficial insects including tiny wasps that attack corn earworms and aphids. The wasps insert their larvae into the aphid and the larvae eat the aphid from the inside out, hatch, and multiply to attack more aphids. We can control harmful insects with bug-on-bug warfare,” Cornie says.

The wasps are prey-specific.

“We release one wasp to control corn worms and another for aphids. We also release lady bugs that prey on harmful insects,” he says.

The hardest part of farming organically is the three-year transition period in which growers are farming organically but still selling conventionally.

“I am not 100 percent organic yet, but more than halfway there,” he says. “I have just a few more fields that are still in transition.”

He diversified with crops and cows and it has worked out well because they are complementary. Cover cropping-grazing is a good tool, he says.

Teen gives asparagus farming a try Thu, 10 Mar 2016 10:07:59 -0500 CRAIG REED ROSEBURG, Ore. — After doing research, Lily Wheaton decided her proposal would focus on growing and marketing asparagus.

Back in early 2015, she was a 17-year-old high school junior who wanted to apply for the Douglas County Farm Bureau Youth Entrepreneur Grant. She explained in her application that asparagus could grow in the bottom soil on her parents’ property near the Umpqua River and that the vegetable wasn’t grown on a commercial scale in the area so it would be easy to market and sell.

A Douglas County Farm Bureau committee selected her application from the three that were submitted.

“Her research, the length she had gone to to put together her application … it was a well-thought-out project,” Matthew Brady, president of the local Farm Bureau, said of Wheaton’s proposal. “There was a uniqueness to her project. Asparagus is not found in Douglas County on any large scale. It was all about trying something new.”

Brady said the grant is available on an annual basis, but the standards to qualify are fairly high so the money hasn’t been distributed every year.

“We’re trying to get young people who don’t necessarily have a farming background interested,” he said. “To give them the opportunity, to help them get started on a small scale.”

Wheaton had estimated her expenses of buying asparagus roots, compost, fertilizer and soaker hoses at $850. As she bought her supplies, she turned in the receipts and was reimbursed by the Farm Bureau.

She purchased 600 1-year-old roots. They included two purple and two green varieties. She planted the roots last May.

She said the roots all put up shoots, but she chose not to harvest any, instead allowing the plants to become more mature. This year she anticipates harvesting lightly, but will track the impact on the young plants.

“Next year in their third year they should really begin to produce and there should be a good harvest,” Wheaton said.

The young farmer said one problem she had to overcome in the plants’ first year was the family’s free-range chickens. They wanted to scratch around the plants. An electric fence put a stop to the birds invading the asparagus crop.

In January at a Farm Bureau meeting, Wheaton gave the group a presentation on her project.

“She’s a very animated and energetic person,” Brady said of Wheaton. “She told us how things were going. She explained the chicken problem and how she dealt with it. She’s doing a good job.”

Wheaton anticipated seeing this year’s asparagus spears begin to shoot up in March. She’s hoping for six spears or more per plant.

She is still considering her options for selling the vegetable — a roadside stand at her home or at a farmers’ market. Her family already sells eggs and chickens from their home so adding asparagus would be easy.

Wheaton also wants to try pickling the veggie.

“I’m really happy the Farm Bureau is doing something like this for young people,” she said. “It’s just cool. It’s definitely a great thing for me to be able to do this. I’m so thankful.”

Selecting asparagus as her project also made sense for her because she likes eating vegetables.

“I do like asparagus,” she said. “I’m not very picky about vegetables. I’ll eat them all.”

Organic niche growers zig when others zag Thu, 10 Mar 2016 10:06:35 -0500 JULIA HOLLISTER PETALUMA, Calif. — Marty Jacobson and his wife, Janet Brown, were working in two very different arenas: He was in advertising and she in sales, but they both really wanted to do something different.

“Just by accident we ran across Martha Stewart’s magazine that ran a cover article about growing heirloom tomatoes,” Jacobson said. “We bought some seeds and grew some amazing tomatoes. We were encouraged to sell them and went to a local market and the owner, Randy Salinas, encouraged us to grow more. We grew heirlooms because there was a big opportunity in the market.”

Allstar Organics took off.

The business also has two acres of aromatic plants and antique roses at their home in Lagunitas, Marin County, and 10 acres of over 150 varieties of certified organic, specialty and heirloom crops grown on their production field in Nicasio, halfway between San Francisco and Point Reyes Station.

Allstar is a warm weather farm with distinct seasons, and a highly mineralized, clay-based soil.

Its soil enrichment program includes a diverse cover cropping system, microbiological drenches and aged nutritional mulches. As a result, the vegetables acquire vivid color, distinctive texture and intense fragrances and flavors.

“It’s been 20 years since we began fooling around and got some acreage in Nicasio for colder weather crops,” he said. “San Francisco’s Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market gave us an opportunity to be seen and pick up restaurants (as customers).”

Everybody buys different things. The couple grows over an acre of garlic for a special customer. They sell tomatoes to grocery stores and markets.

“Unique crops include a striped cherry tomato mix and caldot, a Spanish onion that sends up shoots the size of small leeks, and is the best onion we ever tasted,” he said. “We also grow hard-neck garlic, green garlic and we grow rainbow chard but only sell to one client.”

Allstar Organics also grows spring onions, red onions, scallions, pea tips, yellow peas, snow peas, English peas, snap peas, dragon beans and Romano beans, purple beans and green beans.

The soil in each location is different. The sandy soil in Petaluma is high in nutrients and the clay-based soils adapt to the warmer climate. Both result in healthy plants.

“Nicasio is a cold weather field,” Jacobson said. “We learned how to grow onions, green garlic and fava beans. We sell the fava leaves, small beans and the large fava beans. We also kill it back for a cover crop.”

Tomatoes are the most abundant crop. There is a blend of purple and red-gold tomatoes, a specialized

cherry tomato, peppers, 10 different summer squashes and zucchini.

“We are zigging when others are zagging,” Jacobson said.

“We are attempting to be inventive so that we can prosper. We have balance and are dedicated to local agriculture.”