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Life Beyond the Farm & Having it All

12 Dec

I have found it a very common theme that farmers or those involved in agriculture have a reach that goes much beyond their own acres of land.  Maybe it’s because we are traditionally from smaller communities that have been built with volunteers, or maybe it’s because we have needed help at some point too and have always had a network to reach out to just over the fence row.  Or maybe it’s because we are bored…oh wait…nope…scratch that…it’s definitely not the reason. I have yet to meet a bored farmer!

I don’t often talk about my life outside of farming and family on here.  And probably a lot of it has to do with the fact that I never think of it as interesting or worth blogging about, because it’s just what I have always done and what has always been the norm for my life.  I grew up in a family that volunteered and gave their time where it was needed, and it’s something that runs as deep in my blood as the soil that I farm.  I, like many other farmers, volunteer as a firefighter and EMT in our community.  I also sit on many boards, mostly agriculturally involved.  I give a lot of time to these efforts of making things better for my fellow farmers, making things safer for my neighbors and overall helping where needed in the community.

This is a photo from the Woodburn High School Fire back in 2012, when I was still “Kirsch”

So all that being said, as many of you know I am expecting our third little baby this coming spring.  I actually headed up to the fire department just last night to have department photos taken and looked like this in my uniform shirt.  Which was hilarious but also made me a little sad.

A few months back I had to make a number of phone calls that I truly didn’t want to make, conversations about me stepping down, stepping back, and in some cases leaving all together.  Off boards with friends who have become family, folks who I have sat next to over years, in some cases over 10 years, at the local fire station, farm bureau board room or even coffee shop.  These meetings were more than just meetings, it’s where I learned some of the most valuable lessons of not only about how to be a good fireman, EMT or farmer; but a friend, a good colleague, and a solid person.

At a Marion County Farm Bureau Meeting, showing that “I Farm I Vote”

So last night when I tried (and really I did try) to button up that uniform shirt for what might be the last time in a long time, it was very bittersweet.  It was a blatant sign that I had made a choice, it was a sign that having it all doesn’t always mean you have it “all” and that decisions no matter how tough, have to be made.  I know I have made the right choice in moving back from my involvement, but it doesn’t make it any easier to say “see you later” to the folks who have made life here in this small town, and within the farming industry, so amazing.  I have no doubt that I’ll be back, remember it’s in my blood…and for now farming and having three kids under 4 (which yes I realize is still a lot) will take my time and focus.

I often have people ask me how I do it “all” and I often don’t really know what to say.  But I think now I’ll say that having it “all” doesn’t mean that you get to have everything you want right now.  It means to me that I have to be realistic and make choices that make what I can handle in the “now” all the more worth it.  Moving forward with life is not a choice, time will keep passing, but it does mean we get to make choices in the direction we head.  So for now, I’m heading back to the boys who are calling “mommy” (all the time!) and back to the fields to look for slugs.  For now that’s where my “all” is, and for now that’s all I need.

More Hazelnut Trees in the Ground

28 Nov

If you live in Oregon you have been seeing a major change in the landscape of the fields throughout the I-5 corridor.  Thousand and thousands of little hazelnut trees have been planted the past 10 or so years.  And here at Kirsch Family Farms, the landscape is also changing.

This is a photo of our first planting of Jefferson trees in 2010.

We have older hazelnut orchards of Barcelonas, planted in 1990.  We also have some newer varieties, mainly Jeffersons.  And this year we put in a third variety called Wepsters.  The reasons for our plantings and even the delay in plantings until more recent years has a lot to do with disease management and pressure, and a lot of great work done by Oregon State University to help us with those issues.  But it also has to do with timing of harvest, early or late fall can mean the difference between a dusty (preferred) harvest and a muddy mess of harvest.  And also how much land we want to take out of production for a number of years, to then leave in a permanent or basically permanent cropping system.

What you are seeing here are the newly planted trees.  Too small to really see the tree itself.  It is surrounded by a protective tube to keep it safe from the sun, and has a bamboo post next to it to give it more strength.

This year we planted the Wepsters right behind our house on a small field that was soon to be, I guess you could say “tree locked.”  Meaning with all the orchards being planted around it, there wasn’t going to be much room for getting larger equipment needed for grass seed or grain production.  Case in point, our combine header was rubbing tree branches as it made its way back harvest the wheat.

These are the first rows marked out for our new planting of hazelnuts.

So we decided it was time to plant a few more trees.  We had a neighbor come and mark out the rows using GPS.  Then at the cross-hairs we planted a tree.  Most of the trees were Wepsters (the main variety), with a mix of pollenizer trees as well.  (Hazelnuts can’t pollenize themselves so you plant pollenizer trees throughout the orchard).

These newly planted trees should start to produce nuts in about 4 years, and we hope they will produce nuts for another 4 generations!  Farming is an industry that is always changing and evolving, and the type of crops that you plant in the ground is no different.  It will be exciting to see these trees as they grow literally right in our backyard and seeing a little bit of that large scale “changing of the farming landscape” up close.

Hazelnut Harvest 2017

20 Oct

I saw that I last posted right around a million days ago (yeesh) I have a good excuse, mostly because I hate getting vomit on my keyboard and since this baby started growing that’s about all I seem to be able to manage lately…making it to the toilet.  But that said, there has been so much going on at the farm that I finally sat down this morning and decided I might as well give a quick update on filbert (hazelnut) harvest.

Last year it was a muddy mess, it was one of those years when you see the rain start to fall and you jokingly think that maybe it won’t ever stop.  And then weeks later, the joke is over and it actually never stops.  So this year, having more typical fall weather, a little sun and wind, some good rains, then a little sun and wind, did us well for a nice harvest.  A dusty….but better than mud harvest!!

Unfortunately due to the weather this past year the yields were down quite a bit, and it’s always hard to end the year on a down harvest.

So we had good and bad come along with our final 11th crop for 2017.  I have done a number of posts as to how we actually harvest the nuts.  You click on the links below to see more of those details.
Filbert Harvest from Start to Middle
Hazelnut Harvest…the Rest of the Story

I did do a Facebook live video from the seat of my harvester on one of the last days we were out in the orchard.  Please excuse all technical difficulties…my video skills are rusty at best!
You can check it out here.

And since farming is often a family affair, here are a few pictures of me with our boys while they rode along. 

I do have a lot to catch you all up on, I think we harvested about 4 crops, baby #3 is growing rapidly, as are the crops that we have planted for the 2018 harvest.   So I’m hoping to do some catching up in the weeks to come.  Hope you all have a great Friday!!

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