With Adversity comes Diversity on our Operation

Just a few days ago we received some tough news from one of the company’s that we grow for. They were no longer going to be doing business and handling the crop that we contracted to grow with them. At first I was very upset, it’s most frustrating because we had already planted half of that certain crop, the other half of the acres was still bare ground. There was an article in the paper saying that the farmers were not effected too much because we had lots of options for crops to still plant. Unfortunately that is not the whole truth, and as of Tuesday it was looking more like summer fallowing our land was our only option.

But this isn’t a blog about our hard times, and it isn’t about the company and what they did wrong. Honestly I truly feel like they did their best and treated us very fairly, this is just one of those things that happens, that’s terrible and hurts not only us as farmers, but our industry as a whole. This blog is more about how in the past two days I have learned about what to do when everything seems to be going well, and all the sudden someone shows up at your farm and the whole scenario changes.

I know for a fact that we aren’t the only ones hurt by this substantial shift. There is an entire industry here in the Willamette Valley that will struggle through this challenge. Also there are many people who were employed because of this company who are going to be hurting. It’s a tough deal, but it’s also life. I just hope that we can all keep moving on, working hard, and being thankful for our blessings we have now.

I have learned that you can’t just give up and take a trip to Hawaii, although that crossed my mind many times! You have to dig in, start calling, start working hard, and figuring out what you need to change to make this work for your operation. For us we have chosen to grow a new crop that we have never grown before. I’m looking forward to learn something new, and also excited to see if this can be something that will work into our operation for years to come. The future is yet to be seen, and I don’t know for sure that everything will all work out in the end. But I did learn that even when the rug is pulled out from under you, you can get upset and moan and complain, or you pick up and move forward. I’ve always been told that farming is a gamble, but until this week I never really understood the stress of what that can mean.  I’m hoping that we can look back at this adversity and be thankful because in the end it led our farm down a healthy path of more diversity.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia…but What if you Farm in Oregon??

While the rest of the country seems to worrying about having enough water this year, here in the Pacific Northwest we have been drowning! So I wonder what does record breaking rain mean for you? What does it mean for an EMT, what about a farmer or a business man? Well we have had this experience here in Oregon this past march and either way you slice it there is good, bad and the ugly for everyone.

Stuck in a Clover Field...TOO WET!

As a farmer it has been frustrating to say the least. We have fields that are so underwater I know that not one pound of fertilizer is getting on them, it’s just going into a huge puddle and dissolving. But I also know that our spring irrigation costs are going to be way down again this year. Water and more importantly power, are a huge cost to our operation. Also while we’re sitting in the shop wishing something would break so we had something to fix, all we can think about is how much work we’ll have once the weather turns. And when it does, the first day you have a sort of Splash Mountain experience as you cross creeks to get to your fields. I’m serious I had water go over the windshield of my fertilizer buggy this year and soak me! I did not have my hands in the air however the look on my face would have been classic as I cringed and saw creek scum dousing my face!  Unfortunately no one was there to take my picture!

As an EMT, usually it means that I’m around to respond to calls, and not too busy. We run an all volunteer fire district and ambulance service, so having people available is key to running a reliable program. Weather brings out all sorts of calls, for instance if it’s hot motorcycles riders are always out in full force and joy riding isn’t fun if you go slow! The rain usually makes people a bit more cautious but hydroplaning and slick roads make for some ditches to find cars fairly easily.

Typical Rainy Day Visibility in Oregon...Hyper Wipers are a must!

To a business person record breaking rain would mean slower commutes or maybe throwing in a raincoat to get to work. Side note, Oregonians don’t use umbrellas nearly as much as other places. I learned this when I was down in LA for school, I was walking around in my rain coat dodging the unruly umbrellas people insisted on using. The only other girl in a raincoat…a fellow Oregonian!

Well enough talk of rain…more importantly we finally got some sun here in OR last week!! And wow it was beautiful! I think that is one thing I have come to love about the northwest, we like the rain for all the green that it gives us, but we also love it because it makes us appreciate those warm sunny days when they finally do arrive. As I write this I see the forecast of rain is in the near future again, but at least we had a few days of break to get some wheat planted, ground worked and grass fertilized! Not to mention a good start to our farmer tans!!

Beautiful Sunny Day on the Prairie!

Youth Labor Laws Scrapped!

Some of you may have heard about the newly proposed labor laws set forth by the Department of Labor regarding youth working in agriculture and how just late Thursday night they have pulled away from these overreaching regulations!!  These laws, if put in place, would have been a huge detriment to our industry.  I believe as a family farmer that safety is hugely important and something that needs to be addressed every day, especially when you have youth working on your operation.  But I also believe that these rules were very over the top and would have prohibited many of us from even employing our own children to drive a combine!

My Cousin Emily who also worked on our farm for many summers!

The DOL asked for comments this past year and here are a few of the concerns that I had, among many, with their new regulations.

November 18, 2011

I am a third generation farmer in Oregon and have been farming with my mother and father now for five years.  Although we are an incorporated farm, we are still a family farm.  In these proposed rules we would not only loose our “family farm” exemption just because we are incorporated, we would also lose the ability to hire youth from our very own families who we have relied on for generations to help during the busy times of year.  I grew up farming as a youngster on the farm and have taken away problem solving skills, a good work ethic, and a chance to have real responsibilities.  All of which have helped me and my siblings and cousins be successful into adulthood.  I think that to take away this opportunity for young people who are family members is a mistake!  I don’t yet have children of my own, but I plan to incorporate not only my own children, but also my nieces and nephews and someday grandchildren into this farm.  Please do not take away this opportunity for them to have a place here.  I hope that future generations of children, nieces, nephews and grandkids can learn what I’ve learned and come away with a true respect for farming and all that it does for this country.

The start of the next generation for our Farm!

Another concern is the 90 hours of schooling that will be required of the youth in order to come and work on the farm.  I think that this is way too much a burden and will cause our ability to get youth to come and help with the harvest impossible.  At a time when agriculture isn’t being taught in every school, and being cut from programs across the nation; we have to think of the realistic problems this will bring.  Plus majority of the information needed when working on a farm is found right there, with the best teachers, the farmer’s themselves.  We already have rigid safety rules that are required for all employees no matter what their age; and I feel that these keep us safe everyday on the farm.  I see more hourly classroom requirements only as a way to decrease the amount of youth that will be able to come back and help farm and get all the benefits that working there can provide.

The maximum height restriction is another inappropriate limitation.  Many of our harvest equipment is much taller than the six feet that this restriction allows, but they are as safe as if they were standing on the ground.  Any other areas that are above that height such as lofts are always on our minds as possible safety danger areas.  Because of that they are always a topic in safety meetings and in training; we are aware of the danger and have put in place safety measures to keep us all safe.  Having been an employed youth on this operation and I can attest to how safe we are able to go about business, even over 6 ft from the ground.  Ladders are another example of a place where we do business over 6 feet in the air.  And again this safety issue is covered over and over again; we tell them how to do things right and in a safe manner.  I believe that because we do follow regulations that are put in place already we have never had an injury from any event that started when a child was over 6 ft from the ground.

I think that this shows how important it is to pay attention and be involved in your industry! Someone once told me that if you’re not at the table, then you’re on the table! Ever since then I have begun to realize how important agvocacy truly is!!

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