EUGENE, Ore. (AP) -- Oregon farmers say a mild autumn has partially made up for Oregon's rainy spring, with late season sunshine bringing a happy ending to the 2011 growing season for most food crop farmers in the Willamette Valley.

"Everything across the board ran two, three, four weeks later than usual because of the weather," Geoff Horning, executive director of the Agri-business Council of Oregon, told The Register-Guard ( ).

He said farmers were nervous but things turned out OK. Yields were down for a few crops, but higher prices made up for the lower yields.

Agriculture is a $4 billion-plus industry in Oregon that employs more than 200,000 people.

The state's commercial sweet cherry crop is doing well for the second year in a row. In 2010, cherries broke into the top 10 of Oregon's highest-value crops, with a value of $77 million -- up 113 percent over six years.

Dana Branson of the state Sweet Cherry Commission said the crop was a little spotty in places, but most Oregon growers found success.

"Overall, most growers will make some money this year. It was a good crop with really good quality," Branson said.

Oregon's grape crop went from nightmare to success in just a few months. Grapes were far behind in late September, but then a sunny October and early November saved grape growers, said state Department of Agriculture spokesman Bruce Pokarney.

Blueberries continue to do well in the state, reaching an estimated 60 million pounds this year, up 155 percent since 2003, according to the state Blueberry Commission.

"Blueberries was a gargantuan crop, probably the biggest one I've seen in years and years," said Ross Penhallegon, a Lane County agent for the Oregon State University Extension Service. "It was an extended season. Instead of being four weeks, it was going on six weeks-plus of picking. There were huge berries."

The demand for fresh blueberries from big box retailers, such as Costco, has skyrocketed, said Bryan Ostlund of the Blueberry Commission.

"They're all looking for fruit. They're competing for the same grower, at times. Growers have options," Ostlund said.

Hazelnut growers are just now reaching the end of the season. Usually, picking begins Sept. 1; this year, it got under way the last week of September or later.

Grower Dwayne Bush is making a third pass through his 270 acre hazelnut orchard on Territorial Highway, encouraged by the $1.10 a pound the nuts are fetching this year, compared with the annual average of 85 cents a pound.

"It's not a bumper crop. It's not our best year ever. But it's a decent crop," he said. "With the prices we're getting it's tough to not go back (out), if we can. The price is real high."

Home gardeners, meanwhile, are pushing the tomato season into November by covering their plants at night with little plastic greenhouses.

"Wow, that's a really good year," Penhallegon said. "It's like ... it's the first of November and we're still picking tomatoes. And I have peppers out there that are still doing good."


Information from: The Register-Guard,

Copyright 2011 The AP.

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