Hoot’s Farm Tour!!

It’s been awhile since we have been able to host a tour group at the farm. It’s one of my favorite things, showing folks around our farm and letting them experience a little of our farm life. So when Hoot asked if we could have a farm tour for his school birthday party, the answer was “ABSOLUTELY!!”

And while it’s one of my favorite things, I quickly learned that it’s also Hoot’s. He basically gave the whole tour for all his friends and they had a great time climbing on tractors, learning about crops like crimson clover, and even getting to dig into bins of grass seed, swiss chard seed, and clover seed.

Some other highlights were showing off some farm displays that the kids built for their friends to see, and also going on combine rides.

As folks get more removed from the land and from the farming roots, that inevitably most people have somewhere in their lineage, it’s always nice to give a chance for people to see a working farm. Which is why I have always said that we have an “open farm door” policy here at Kirsch Family Farms. We love to have people take us up on the opportunity to show them around. It always sparks great conversations, allows for people to see what we are up to, and get the chance to ask, “Why do you do it that way?”.

I have to say though, during this tour, it was an absolute joy to watch our kids showing their friends around. I think the “open farm door” policy won’t stop at my generation. Which is just fine by me.

Spring Orchard Preparation

We have had some beautiful weather here lately. And while if I was in charge of the weather, we would have had a few more rainy days the past two weeks, I’m not, so here we are.

This variety is just starting to push leaves out.

But as they say, make hay while the sun shines. So we have been out doing all we can while it’s dry. Which for filbert (hazelnut) farmers that means a lot of orchard preparation.

While we don’t harvest these nuts until the fall, this is a great time of year to prepare the soil to be nice and flat, clean of debris, and ready to pick up nuts off the ground once they fall at maturity.

So what does that mean? It means grabbing those last few branches off the ground, flailing up the leaf material and grass, that’s been left for erosion control through the winter rains. Then scraping the ground to level it out from any tracks or erosion that may have occurred.

While harvest is only a small portion of the year, for many of our crops the maintenance of the crop and the soil underneath is a year round project. We want to keep the worms happy so we allow the leaves to remain for food and nutrients for them. We also allow grass to grow to protect the soil. But all of that has to be reset at some point to allow for those nuts to be picked up off the ground for harvest.

Next up for the orchards is getting fertilizer applied, possibly some irrigation and some foliar applications to keep the tree healthy and happy during the growing season. Then eventually harvest this fall.

We don’t always get this large dry window to get the orchards ready this early, but we will take advantage where we can and control what we can control. Because like I said, the weather is one place where I definitely don’t call the shots!

Please Don’t Silence the Rural Voice in Oregon

The Oregon legislature is currently taking on the enormous task of redistricting. This happens once every 10 years and coincides with census data. This year is a bit different because census data is not planned to be compiled until after the deadline of redistricting here in Oregon. So the question then becomes, how can this process be done fairly and accurately so as to not marginalize or silence the voices of so many? The answer is that it truly needs to be done by an independent commission, not politicians.

So why as a rural Oregonian do I even care about district lines? To answer that question you will have to check back with my last blog. A few weeks ago I wrote about a terrible experience where my rural voice was marginalized to about half the weight of those who were speaking in opposition to my testimony. I know I’m in the minority in many situations, but does that give my voice less importance than anyone else’s? It certainly shouldn’t. And yet I am supposed to sit back while our voice gets cut up into tiny pieces along district lines, just so this can continue?

When you break it down, you can’t deny the fact that rural voices are being marginalized. And this isn’t the first or the last time this will happen, we need to do better, Oregon needs to do better. Which is why I still showed up, just a few hours after being silenced, to testify yet again and try to be heard.

In listening to testimony on the issue of redistricting, I have heard people question the term rural and question MY identity. This is wrong, and it’s offensive.

Did you know…
**25 of Oregon’s 36 counties are categorized as “non-metro” rural, meaning they have no communities of 40,000 or more residents.
**Ten of those counties have population density of less than 6 people per square mile.
**Even Oregon’s most populous counties have many rural and agriculture-dependent residents.
**The lower population of these communities makes them more vulnerable to gerrymandering, where districts are drawn to dilute the voice of these rural citizens.

As a farmer, I know when something doesn’t work. When it doesn’t work, we must change the process. Having legislators choose their electorate is innately a conflict of interest – perhaps the greatest conflict of interest. Seeing how the committees are split up with majority Democrats, knowing the Democrats have control of the Secretary of State and the Governor’s office, I can only believe those that hold all the power want to keep that power, and will draw the lines accordingly. I also can’t help but notice both chairs (Rep. Taylor & Rep. Salinas) of the committee formed for this project are from the greater Portland metro area. I have spent enough time in the Capitol and advocating for the agricultural community to know how “understanding” Portland legislators are of communities outside Portland. In fairness I would also guess that I don’t understand a lot of what needs there are to be determined within the metro area either.

In listening to public testimony over the past multiple weeks, the overwhelming ask is to move this responsibility out of the hands of partisan politicians and into an independent nonpartisan commission and I completely agree.

We know how partisan and divided our state and country is. There is an opportunity to choose people over political power, and ultimately choose what is best for Oregon. The current political situation we find ourselves in makes it difficult, maybe impossible, to achieve fairness without political gerrymandering. Rural district boundaries have been superseded and overshadowed by larger metro areas, and because of this, has diluted voices just like mine.