Archive | Environment RSS feed for this section

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.”

What Happened to the Ditch Bill??

12 Sep

I wanted to write a quick follow up because I have been getting a lot of questions regarding the ditch bill, House Bill 2437,  from last legislative session and what happened to it.  This bill allows us a way to legally clean our ditches to maintain drainage, a practice we have been doing on our farm for 118 years.

Here are the quick facts:

  • The process for us to do our jobs was broken, no one disputed this fact.
  • This bill was worked on for months utilizing the concerns and needs of farmers, environmental groups, municipalities, and legislators from across the state.
  • This bi-partisan bill passed the house and senate with vast majority supporting it fully.
  • August 4, 2019 The bill was put on Governor Brown’s veto list.
  • August 9, 2019 House Bill 2437 was signed into law!! (insert high fives here)

Here’s a little more detail:

This bill addressed a problem that needed a solution; the process we had was not working.  A work group was formed to bring all parties to the table.  We didn’t all get along at first; honestly at the end of the day no one who was at the table got exactly what they wanted either.  Everyone compromised and worked together to find a solution.  Because everyone around the table knew that if this wasn’t fixed, it would only kick the can down the road.

On August 4th when it showed up on the veto list, I was so disheartened.  I didn’t hear directly from the Governor why this bill was on the short list for veto, but I have my ideas.  I think possibly one extreme environmental group had her ear and was yelling loudly.  A group that was consulted on this bill and refused to give any feedback (they wouldn’t work at all through this bi-partisan process).  I also wonder if it was some sort of backlash because Cap & Trade didn’t pass.  These are my assumptions obviously, but what I can say is what I told the Capital Press when they called to get my opinion,

“Even with a positive outcome, it can then come down to political games, and I don’t think that’s fair.”

Obviously I’m overjoyed that in the end the Governor signed the bill.  For one thing as I have said before this was a real solution to a real problem.  But if I take a step back and look at the bigger picture, I’m glad because this is how democracy is supposed to work.  When politicians and citizens work together, their efforts cannot (or at least should not) go unnoticed.  They should not be silenced by the cries from one extreme uncompromising group.

As for the Governor, it’s her job to look out for the state as a whole, not lend her ear only to a select few.  As Governor, she should respect the process by which our legislature stands by, by which it MUST stand by.  When she signed this bill, I believe she did just that.

Political games aside; I’m just a farmer who found herself unable to do the work that has been done for around 120 years on my farm.  I worked through this difficult process with a lot of really hard working folks all with different goals in mind (across the aisle seems like an easy step when considering the hurdles this group overcame).  We found a solution.  We got it passed.  And Governor Brown signed it.  So in my book, this is going down as a win for our state, for farmers and environmentalists, and for democracy in Oregon.

 

One more article regarding this bill and what it means to farmers:

An Open Letter to Gov. Kate Brown on Ditch Cleaning

 

An Open Letter to Gov. Kate Brown on Ditch Cleaning

1 Aug

Dear Governor Kate Brown,

I know it’s been a trying legislative session, and I know that you’re work here in Oregon is never really on a break.  But today I’m writing to ask you to please sign HB 2437, the ditch cleaning bill that was passed this session.  This bill is so vitally important to farmers and landowners in Oregon.

My land is part of G.A. Miller Drainage District, district #1 in Oregon.  It’s been functioning since 1901.  This ditch was hand dug and runs about 5 miles in the St. Paul area.  We have been maintaining these drainage ditches to protect our farmland for 118 years.

Here is a short video of how we do this and why.

This past winter, after two years of working with Department of State Lands, I was asked, along with other stakeholders to participate in a legislative work group to find solutions.  The current system, it wasn’t working and I have yet to find anyone that will disagree with that.  So EVERYONE came to the table.  Environmental groups, fish groups, farmers, university specialists, legislators, land owners, EVERYONE!  And we all worked hours and hours and hours to find compromise, something that would work for everyone.  Not one group got everything they asked for.  Not one group walked out of those meetings thinking they nailed it.  EVERYONE compromised to find a SOLUTION that would help not only the problem at hand but continue to make solutions better for the state of Oregon and protect our lands; wetlands and farmland alike.

The bill that came out of all that work was on a path to success.  Because of all that work and support from Rep. Susan McLain, Rep. David Brock Smith, and Rep Brian Clem, it passed the House and the Senate with amazing bi-partisan support.  And now it sits on your desk Governor Brown.  So I’m writing today to ask that you please sign this bill.

This is good legislation that was put through a robust process in the Capitol.  We need tools to protect our land, tools that have been used for over 100 years here in this state.  I believe that by signing this bill you are assuring that more research will be done, we will learn even more about best practices for ditch cleaning and maintenance, and you will protect wetlands and farmlands in the process.  Please don’t take this tool away from us and please sign House Bill 2437.

Thank you.
Sincerely,

Brenda Frketich

 

***Please click here to also send a letter to Gov. Kate Brown.  She needs to hear how important this tool is for all landowners and farmers!  As always please share and if you have any questions just let me know!  Thank you!

%d bloggers like this: