Though well established as a large, diversified operation, 4 B Farms will never sit still — not with so many new factors to contend with.
Siblings Jeff Butsch and Lori Pavlicek are fourth-generation owner-operators of the farm near Mount Angel, Ore., that their parents James and Donna Butsch incorporated in 1972. The kids helped out from Day 1.
4 B Farms now encompasses 2,500 acres that include 700 acres of forage and turf-type grasses. They grow about 360 acres of hops, 250 acres of garlic, 300 acres of hazelnuts, 200 acres of wheat, 175 acres of squash seed about 200 acres of various row crops.
Most of their product goes to dealers, distributors, co-ops and canneries with a small portion of hops sold directly to Anheuser-Busch InBev. 4 B maintains 16 full-time workers and 130 during the busy season.
However, they take nothing for granted.
“It’s scary seeing all these tariffs and how they impact ag, especially hazelnuts,” Butsch said. “For example, it was a good crop this year — it came in good and we had good weather — but the marketing people for that commodity rely on China.
“It’s frustrating; you’re pulling your hair out,” he added.
Pavlicek said these days it’s important to stay politically active or on top of measures and bills that pertain to the business. Besides serving as Mount Angel Community Foundation president and Oregon Aglink board member, Pavlicek was recently appointed to a committee of the Hazelnut Bargaining Association, which negotiates prices with processors.
“That’s a very important thing for growers,” her brother said. “Over our generation it seems like part of the buyer’s strategy is to wait until after harvest to come up with the price and that’s not really fair. They should come up with a price that’s talked about and accepted in the industry before the crop is harvested. That way you know how you’re going to market your product as you’re taking it.”
Jeff is involved in the East Valley Water District and various associations affiliated with their crops.
“Doing more with less people is even more important today than it was yesterday and is going to be how farmers survive and do better,” Butsch said. “Mechanization is so important and everybody’s trying to select crops that take less labor.”
Also important is current technology, more efficient equipment and better remedies for pests and disease than their parents knew.
“The thing about Oregon is that it is has seasons, which is part of the reason there are more than 180 different crops grown here,” Butsch said. “Since I started I’ve become familiar with so many more crops that I wasn’t aware were grown here.”
One thing that hasn’t changed is the farm’s desire to employ local youth through the busy season; they recruit from a couple local high schools.
“A lot of those families started here when we had hand-harvested crops; they were here to raise money for school and then they decided to make a career of agriculture,” Butsch said. “Several are now full-time employees.”