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Almost Spring Farm Update

1 Mar

It’s been a bit political around my blog lately. But as it turns out we have been doing a lot of farming too. The weather has been cooperating with a good mix of rain and sun.

We got our first application of fertilizer out on the grass seed. We are getting ready to do some spring planting, and even got a little tall fescue in the ground. We have been out in the orchards pruning, removing dead or sick trees and also getting ready for the trees to start bud break.

As a mom and farmer it comes with its own challenges. Last week I was home most of the week while the sun shined with sick kiddos. These kids go stir crazy so we headed out for a small adventure. Fresh air and “Frowing Wocks” always helps everyone’s spirits!

This spring-ish weather makes us all start to get antsy to get outside and be done with “winter”. And soon enough it will be spring. As a farmer though one thing I’ve learned is patience; turns out no matter how hard you try, you can’t push Mother Nature.

Why All the Fuss about the Dust?

8 Oct

This time of year (mostly on social media) I hear so many complaints about the dust.

  • Why do they have to create so much dust? 
  • I can’t breathe, why the dust? 
  • Why do they have to work the ground to death?
  • Why don’t they cover crop? 
  • What about no-till farming?
  • Why, Why, Why??!!

Then this great (and timely) piece written by Tiffany Harper Monroe came out in the Eugene Register Guard entitled “From Dust till Dawn”. 

“As more people move into rural areas, it’s important for everyone to remember that farms and ranches are not just bucolic backgrounds. They are hard-working operations raising food and foliage, and sometimes that means there will be the associated dust, noise, smells and slow-moving farm equipment on the roads.”

I get it, I work in the dust and dirt and there are days where my teeth are gritty with it and my clothes are saturated.  So I want you to know that I’m not arguing that the dust isn’t annoying, but I am asking for a look at the bigger picture and hear another perspective.

This was after a particularly dust filled day transplanting cabbage.

It seems so simple from the outside looking in, straightforward answers and solutions, but when I try to sit down today and write down why we do all that we do and why it happens to create dust, it’s overwhelming.  Because the answers aren’t simple and straightforward, it’s a complicated web that reaches from our farm and across the world.

To make one thing very clear, my answer is not, “Well that’s how we have always done it.”  Also my answer is not, “I don’t know.”

FIELD & SOIL ROTATION
On our farm, one reason we till the soil (which often creates dust) is simply because of the crops that we grow.  We raise seed crops and vegetables on the soil that we till.  To do this our soils need to be rotated.  Rotating, which is done often by tillage helps in many ways.

  • Reduces our pest populations (mice and slugs)
  • Gives us a chance to kill unwanted weeds and plants without pesticides
  • Bring last years volunteer seeds to the surface so you can get a sprout and have a naturally occurring cover crop through the winter
  • Reduces disease pressure in the soil profile
  • Allows for more organic material to be put back into the soil
  • Gives certain parts of the soil a break while different crops are being cultivated

SEED GERMINATION & EROSION CONTROL
Working the soil is important because as we work it down into a seed bed, the seeds that we plant this fall will grow better and grow larger plants before the rains start this winter; helping with erosion. If you were to plant into subpar conditions, it’s really hard for the seeds to get up and growing.  It also can leave areas where the seeds don’t germinate at all, leaving space open for weeds to come in.

WEED CONTROL
Why do we care so much about weeds?  Well in any cover cropping, no till, earth saving book you read, at the end of the day, one of the most important factors is your ability to get clean seed to plant.  We provide that seed, and walking through a field to pull unwanted grass species isn’t fun. and isn’t cost effective.  So the better the seed bed of soil when you start, the better seed we can offer for whoever plants it – one with minimal weeds.

BEYOND JUST OUR FARM & OUR SOIL
As you can see my answers go beyond our farm and just our soil, the crops that we are growing in many cases are heading out as “clean seed lots” to be planted in no-till fields across the US.  They are heading out to re-seed pastures and be used as cover crops to protect topsoil.  When these crops grow on our land they are sequestering carbon.  The environmental benefits to what we are doing are huge, the dust, while unfortunate, is part of that picture too.  The whole ecosystem of agriculture that starts on farms across the US, is bigger and more complicated than one tractor in a field creating small particulates that frustrate some folks driving through the beautiful countryside.  It’s not about how we’ve always done things, it’s about how we are moving forward to continually find ways to make our soils healthier while continuing to produce some of the highest quality seed and food for folks across the map.

I encourage you to read Harper Monroe’s opinion article, it carefully spells out some of the other reasons that we do what we do on our farms.  It includes some great points regarding field burning and additional environmental benefits that farmland here in Oregon provides.

It seems so simple this “dust in the air” issue.  But I am asking you to open up your mind beyond “the fuss about the dust” and see that there is a complex system at work here.  I agree with Harper Monroe,  “The more we keep encouraging communication and building relationships between urban and rural residents, the more we will see that Lane County (and Oregon as a whole) is a place for all of us.”

County Road Safety, House Bill 3213

20 Apr

Next Wednesday (4/24/19) at 5pm there will be a hearing at the capitol on House Bill 3213.  I’m asking for support…here’s why:

As a farmer you can imagine that I live in a fairly rural area.  That said, I’m also only 30 minutes south of Portland, and 30 miles north of Salem.  We are faced with an urban and rural collision, literally and figuratively on our country roadways from folks going through our area to get to and from work.  The problem comes from those who drive freeway speeds on country roads, people who don’t know the turns in the road, or folks who don’t understand how to drive around farm equipment that is going super slow on a 55mph road.

As a volunteer EMT and firefighter I have seen my fair share of accidents on these roads.  Some where folks walked away, many where they didn’t.  Some were due to high speeds, some were due to passing in no passing zones, some were where people were trying to pass a tractor and misjudged the whole scenario.  All of these I don’t take lightly, so the discussion around road safety from a farming perspective is always high on my list, from a rural community member it’s also right up there.

For example, a road just north of where I grew up, which is in our fire district, has seen 10 fatal crashes since last summer.  Let  that sink in.  More than a person a month has died on that road, now coined, “Death Road”.  So what can we do?  The discussion brought a few of us rural community members to the idea of allowing for this roadway to be considered in the program of “Safety Corridors”.  Unfortunately the idea was brought to a halt when it was realized that only state run highways could fall under that program.

So here’s the fix….or at least the step in the right direction….Many thanks to Representative Shelly Boshart Davis who introduced House Bill 3213, which would allow for counties to also handle and maintain safety corridors within the same program that ODOT currently uses.  It’s a process in which a community can lobby to get their road designated.  Once the designation comes, you get signage that goes along with safety corridors and also all traffic tickets automatically double in this corridor.

My hope is that this will enable us out here on the county roads to give other folks who are just driving through a second thought to their speed.  It will help folks realize that this is not the place to pass on a double yellow line, this is not the place to drive 91 mph, this is not the place to go on auto pilot and not pay attention.  And if they don’t realize that, then I hope they are caught red handed and hit in the pocket book.

If you’re interested in supporting this bill I urge you write to your legislator or email support testimony to jct.exhibits@oregonlegislature.gov.  And of course if you have any questions please let me know!

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