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Improving Water Management in Hazelnuts

17 Jul

On our farm we are always looking for ways to do more with less, improve efficiencies, work smarter and get more done with our hard working hours and dollars. 

We have slowly been moving away from hand line and wheel line irrigation and have made significant investments in linear irrigation systems. This year we made another move to even higher water use efficiency with drip irrigation in our hazelnut orchards. 

We plan to have at least half of our hazelnuts irrigated by drip this year. Which is exciting for many reasons. 

1. Labor: We used to water with hand lines. This took a minimum of three people to move pipe two to three times a day, around 2 hours each move.  And the cost of labor alone is going up significantly.  With our drip it will take only one person to turn the pump on, monitor valves and lines. 

2. Water when you want it and where you want it. Our drip system can easily be run from the pump that we already have and also can run at night when our pump is free from use on other crops. Simply put we can fill in the gaps to keep our pump running most efficiently. 

3. We can inject fertilizer by small doses to our trees. We consider this a spoon feeding approach and it’s shown to help trees grow and produce nuts at a more consistent level. 

4. We can keep our trees healthier by being able to get into the orchard at anytime to spray foliar feeds, kill pests or protect from disease, and not have to pick up pipe that is always in the way. 

5. Water from drip goes further. Drip irrigation has a 95% efficiency rating as compared to handlines which run at only 65%.  Factors such as evaporation and run off are considered when making this determination. 

Here’s a short video of our drip coming out of the tubing. 

You may wonder why we waited so long with a list of positives this long, well on the flip side of the pro and con list lies the cost of putting a system like this onto our farm. Luckily we already had the irrigation pump, but we had to add significant amount of underground mainline, put in a special filtration system, buy thousands of feet of drip tubing, build specialized equipment for putting the lines out and rolling them up. You can see it’s an investment in water, labor efficiency and equipment. 

So why now? Well first of all we have to budget beforehand in order to make improvements on our farm.  This is one improvement that we finally found room to add to our budget.  

And secondly we had some financial help from agencies that are focused on energy and water efficient projects. One being the Natural Resource and Conservation Service (NRCS) and the other Energy Trust of Oregon. Both gave us funds to help us implement this project. We also have Stettlers Supply in Salem Oregon to thank for doing a great job on installation and heading up the project. 

This investment is one of those long term plans that I often reference. This is an improvement that will serve Matt and I as the third generation and hopefully the fourth, the fifth and on and on! 

Walking Fields & Changing Shoes

17 Feb

final-54final-53Out checking fields today and the cabbage was top on my list.  This stuff has seen some cold temperatures this year, but the good news is that it is looking good today!  final-51A little sparse in areas, and it has a river running through the middle of the field still, but other than that, a pretty good crop of cabbage seed should come from this field.  Fingers (always) crossed of course!final-55

I’m also not in my regular farmer attire…colored skinny jeans under my muck boots is not the usual uniform at Kirsch Family Farms.  final-52But I’m wearing a few different shoes today.  Much boots in the morning, then changing to heels to go speak on a panel for Oregon Women for Agriculture.

So another random and busy day on the farm…with my favorite, lots of shoes!  Happy Friday everyone!

Meeting Season

5 Dec

As farmers we work in seasons…and I don’t usually mean the traditional seasons that we all work around.  I mean, harvest season, fertilizer season, rainy season, the all too familiar “it’s way too hot/cold season”…and then there is “meeting season.”

I tell people often that as farmers we rarely slow down.  Yes while harvest might be over, and the 14 hr days seven days a week aren’t our hours for the whole year, our work never seems to end it just changes.  This week for me is no different, this week traditionally marks the start of my meeting season.  Which means that I go to meetings of all kinds…so here is just a taste of the week I have coming up, not much tractor time for me!

  • Yesterday I got to sit in front of a computer for an online meeting to satisfy my pesticide licensing requirements. image1
  • Today I am a speaker talking to those who aren’t in the farming business.  I’ll be speaking at the Oregon Leadership Summit about the future of farming.
  • Tonight is my EMT meeting for our volunteer fire department.
  • Tomorrow I get to learn at a leadership conference of how to be a better farmer and employer.  untitled
  • Wednesday and Thursday I get to participate in the House of Delegates to set policy for our state farm bureau.
  • Not to mention an evening meeting for the Clover Commission Wednesday evening.
  • Friday I get to do some of the fun stuff like be on TV to help people  ear about our great grass seed industry that we have here in Oregon.  Tune in to AM Northwest on Friday December 9th to see me and Jesse Rue!
  • Then next week comes Oregon Seed Growers League Monday and Tuesday….I’m not kidding here folks, it never ends!

So sometimes…I look like this as a farmer, and sometimes I look not too farmer-ish.

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I have to say though that these are great opportunities for us to all learn more about our industry.  Whether it be a presentation on the weather, new crop protection tools, or markets around the world, it all plays into what a farmer plans for and works towards in the year to come.  It’s also very fun to get to see those folks who you don’t run into very often out in a field.  In the end I’m just a farmer, but the hats I wear may vary greatly from season to season, but it’s all for our farm for our land and our legacy!

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