5 Crops and what to plant?

When people first find out that I’m a farmer, usually they don’t believe it.  I am a 28 year old single woman, I look nothing like the 57 year old male married farmer that most people think of and makes up the majority of our farmers in the US.  But once I say again that yes, I am a farmer, the next question is inevitably, “What do you farm and how many cows do you have?”  And I proceed to tell them that we actually don’t have any cows, we’re purely a crop farm and we grow 5 crops; grass seed, hazelnuts, wheat, crimson and green beans.  And here’s about how the rest of the conversation plays out information wise…

  • Grass seed.  We grow perennial grass seed as one of our main crops.  We farm in an area that has wonderful growing conditions for growing the seed that is used on golf courses, in lawns, and on sports fields.  This crop stays in for anywhere from 2 to 4 years depending on the variety and available irrigation.  Our largest battle keeping these fields healthy is battling slugs in the winter which will eat your crop down to nothing in the dormant season so that once the sun does come out and things start to grow, these plants have been hurt so bad they will never come back.  Also fighting off-type grasses is an issue.  This is why we have chosen to use rotation crops so that we can cut down on our chemical usage.

  • Hazelnuts (Also known as filberts).  These are grown in orchards on trees.  We produce a type of nut that after harvested is dried down and sent all over the world.  They dry them down even more in a salt brine and then crack them and eat them as snacks, like pistachios.  For harvesting, the nuts fall off the tree naturally when they are mature, we come by and sweep them up into rows between the trees so our harvester can then pick them up off the ground and after going over some chains and through a fan they are taken via conveyer belt to a tote and then out of the field.  This is usually the dirtiest part of our harvest season, lots of dust and dirt.  Our biggest battle with this crop is a filbert blight that came over from the East side of the state.  It is slowly killing our trees.  We are trying to hold it back by using pruning, scouting, and also chemical programs to keep it at bay.  However Oregon State University has been working very hard to come out with blight resistant trees.  In the past few years they have been very successful and we have seen hundreds of acres of filberts being planted all over the Willamette Valley.

  • No Till Wheat growing through stubble

    Wheat.  We grow winter and spring wheat here.  In the past wheat here has always been a last resort for crop rotation, but with the better prices in the past 5 years the mentality has changed and we are using it more and more as a tool to help with weed issues and keep our fields away from grass seed for at least 2 years.  The winter wheat we plant into minimum tilled ground.  Originally we did this to help save on the rising fuel costs and we have been very happy the results.  However like I mentioned in the grass seed section, we have a very large slug problem so we haven’t mastered no-till yet on the winter wheat.  Spring wheat we grow for seed as well and have had great success with no-till.  The spring wheat is very fast growing and seems to grow faster than the slugs can eat it.

  • Field of Crimson Clover in Bloom

    Crimson Clover.  Our clover is used mostly as a rotation crop to clean up our fields after the perennial grass has been in the ground for 3 years.  We grow it for the seed and it is used all over as a cover crop for other farms.  Also it is a crop that puts nitrogen back into the soil, so it will help with our soil and plant health for the next crop we plant.

  • Green Bean Harvest

    Green Beans. This is another rotational crop that is also DELICIOUS!  We have been growing green snap beans for the past 3 years and it’s been a learning curve.  We went from crops that took all year to produce to one that only takes a few months and it’s ready to be harvested.

So what to plant next year?  It’s a question that our farm faces in our future planning all the time.  We aren’t looking to diversify more in the next two years, but have been looking at a few other options.  Basically we want to be able to keep our land healthy and use continual rotation to help keep weeds down.  And hopefully continue our increase in the use of no-till planting to save not only our topsoil, but our diesel bill as well!

Conventional or Organic…what do you put in your grocery cart??

I am a farmer and I am also an eater. You could almost say that I’m addicted to it…that is putting things in my stomach. I’m also a very avid cooking not-so-much wiz, that loves to try new things and really go out on a limb at times with my experimental foods. I guess you could say I’m a farmer foodie that is just trying to earn her wings in the cooking realm. Because of this I’m usually the one that heads to the grocery store to choose what is going to be put in the cart, in the fridge and eventually on the table. So as I walk through the grocery store I’m always confronted with many many choices! As are most people in the United States, who receive the cheapest and safest food supply in the world (thank you farmers). I see a lot of organic options and conventional options. So what do I buy and why?

Conventional on Left, Organic on Right.
Pretty close to the same, minus a bug hole in the top of the organic.

The organic produce and conventional usually look about the same. Truth be told sometimes the organic does look a bit on the “under the weather” side of things. But that’s beside the point, I think that they both taste good, both have the same nutrients, and in the end both have the same result. So when I go to pick up my produce, here is why I’m more likely to pick-up the conventional…

  • I like to support conventional agriculture. I truly believe that it is still our future and we can’t feed the world without that technology.
  • I myself am a conventional farmer, so I understand how careful we have to be in the US to provide safe food. We don’t just spray to spray, we do it carefully and timely to keep us all safe.
  • The nutrients are not any different, I can still be a healthy person while eating produce that had pesticides sprayed on them.
  • Many organic sprays are not healthy either, and they have to spray more often because they are not as effective.
  • Pricing, conventional is usually much cheaper to buy.

Now I would write here the reasons that I would buy organic, but honestly I can’t say that I buy these products. I think that it’s for a lot of the reasons above and I feel very passionately about them. Plus I can honestly say that I’m very frustrated about the organic movement and what they have done to the reputation of farmers across the US. I come from a farm where all you neighbors are there to help, my agriculture involves lending a hand and some advice to make others also succeed. I come from an agricultural community where literally everyone knows your name and although many of our farms are “Incorporated” we are all still family run farms. With the onset of organic it seems like they are trying to take that away. They make my farm look like we don’t care about the land, like we just go out and spray without any regard to what is going on in the soil, in the air, or around our property. I’ll tell you one thing, we couldn’t care more for the land, because if we didn’t, we would be out of work forever, and this legacy that I’m a part of, I am working hard every day to make sure that it’s there for my children. Organic has hit the scene and they are becoming successful on the back s of farmers who have been here for a long time tending the land. They bad-mouth and accuse and send out false information that just quite frankly isn’t true. I hope that we can find a place someday where we can eat what we want, conventional or organic, and be happy supporting two successful industries!

This is what people think of when they thing “Corporate Farms”…

This is what our “Corporate” Farm looks like, It’s all about family and taking care of the land.

I googled “Organic vs. Conventional” today and came up with a mayo-clinic website. It had a chart of the differences between conventional farming and organic. I would like to point out a few examples of why this debate seems very mis-educated. They say that conventional farmers apply chemicals to promote plant growth. Organic farmers apply natural fertilizers, such as manure or compost, to feed soil and plants. These statements are true, however they are not complete! As a conventional farmer we also apply manure and compost to our plants to help with plant growth and health. It also helps the soil. Basically through the whole list we conventional farmers look like all we do is pour on the chemicals, when in reality I can truly say that we have done all the of things on the organic side. We do them all year long, the difference is that we can’t produce at the level that we need to, to feed all the people in the world, by not taking advantage of the advances in technology that the agricultural community has worked so hard to make available.

I hope that when you go the store you can choose what you want to eat. That you can look and appreciate that we have so many choices that are safe and economical for our families! Thank a farmer either organic or conventional because we are both doing the best we can for you, for the land and for our families!

In my First Year of Farming…

I have been back farming for 6 years now; but at the beginning I think my dad was very hestitant to give me a job.  Not because he didn’t want me to take over the farm someday or thought I couldn’t do it, but because a mix of me being a girl, and also me having been gone for the last 4 years at college.  People can change a lot when they are away, he wanted to make sure that I wasn’t just coming back because I thought it would be easy and something that I could do until I found a “real job”.  So while I was trying to assure him that this was something I truly felt was my passion in life, he came up with a plan.  I was going to be an intern for 2 years.  I would follow him around, do everything he did and see all sides of the business.  Then after 2 years, if it wasn’t working, or either of us thought this wasn’t going to be the best we could split ways no questions asked.  Well it’s been 6 years now and neither of us has looked back.  So after the 1st full year, I wrote a poem for my dad about all the things that I broke during that year.

In my first year, well it’s been quite the wild ride
I’ve learned a lot, and broken a lot
I’m lucky no one died

It began one Monday
Hitch pin, jack stand, and trailer tire
Next a cell phone, and door handle
Thank goodness there was no fire

Mom says, “Don’t worry just take it in stride”
I’m afraid it’s only the beginning to her I confide
If we only knew then what the farm was in for
I probably would have shown ME the door

Gears, boom saddle, and flange all go bizerk
But dad’s still laughing as I just create more work.
“Just try to take it easy” he repeats to me again
It’s a good thing you break things slower than we fix them

Three cell phones and a Nextel clip later
Out goes the starter on grey
I start to worry
He won’t keep me one more day

But as I get into my port-o-potty
And it rolls away
He thinks just for entertainment
I have to let her stay

Plus I’m much too strong to let go
For heaven’s sake I bent the lever on a PTO
Then there are the belts
And we have never gotten along

Flail and Filbert dump cart
I guess that list isn’t too long
Hair dunked in oil, eye socket to a lever
A head bump to the spray booms
Just to make it all the better

Another injury to the noggin from a Filbert tree
What are the odds of that dang branch coming down on me?!
The spreader’s drive line goes out with a punch.
It’s 8am and I’m ready for lunch!

The disc claims yet another cell to the trees.
A beep beep to dad & mom, help me please!
But Fuses, Cam locks, and Nozzles have become easy fixes
Although hopefully I don’t have 3 legged kids from all the        chemical mixes

As the intern in year two
I hope my mistakes go down a few.
For one trying to outrun a hail storm
In a pruning tower, proves bad form

It hasn’t been all mishaps and mistakes this year
Thanks to golf and Marion Ag we also had a lot of beer!
Obviously it’s hard to soar like an eagle
And farming hasn’t exactly proved me very regal

So dad I hope you keep flying with this turkey
And don’t forget we make dang good goose jerky!
It’s been such a great year I truly can’t complain
I’m just hoping the smile on dad’s face means he feels the same


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