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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! 

A Call To Action: Farmers, Ranchers, & Foresters against HB 2859

27 Feb

This Wednesday at 1pm I’m hoping to see the Oregon Capital building FULL of Oregon’s farmers, ranchers, foresters and woodland owners.  We have been hearing from our industry advocates all winter that they are going to need our help this legislative session and that time is now.

The Oregon Legislature has been scrapping for any amount of money they can get their hands on.  Our state is working with a deficit, which it seems like instead of working through the budget they have, many legislators are grasping at straws to fill the gap.  Silly ideas like a coffee tax, or old car tax have already come and gone.  But Wednesday there will be a hearing to take away tax exemptions that are so valuable to farmers in Oregon, I really can’t stress enough how it would make farming here basically impossible.

Without going into too much detail here, Oregon has a very unique land use system.  One that designates land around the state that is Exclusive Farm Use only (EFU).  This land is used to farm, and grow crops. Basically it disallows you from selling as industrial ground, or ground for housing, development, etc.  Because this limits our ability in what we can do on the land that we own, in turn the state has given us a reduced property tax on those parcels.  The state deemed that ground, because they value farm land, as the highest value being farming.  In my opinion I would have to agree, we have some of the best soil in the world here in Oregon.  So that means that I can’t turn around, sell by the square foot to developers, and make a fortune.  Because of the land use system, and the protections that have been hard fought in this state (and I believe rightly so) that ability is taken from us.

So here is the deal, if you as the state think that our farm ground is so valuable that you give us a special assessment in order to farm, why in the world would you take that assessment away, tax us the same as industrial ground, and then force us to keep it as farm ground?  It makes no sense, and you can rest assured that this gutting of farm assessments, is in turn a gutting of land use laws as they stand today.  This will break our system here in Oregon, one that has allowed me as the third generation on this farm to continue farming. The landscape in Oregon – both figuratively and literally – could change. Who really wants that?

final-112Meet the fourth generation on our farm.  These farm boys love hanging out in our fields, fields that will be too expensive to farm if HB2859 is passed.final-111

The other issue in this legislation is removing our personal property tax exemptions, which would end up driving farms into the ground, ending the legacy that is farming in Oregon.  Our industry by nature creates a significant amount of capital expenditure.  We have millions of dollars worth of equipment sitting in our barns, equipment that will only see the light of day for a fraction of the year.  Take a piece of harvesting equipment, like a combine for example, the cost of which could be anywhere from $350,000 to a half million dollars.  This essential piece of equipment will be used for only about 3 weeks on our farm.

So why bother to upgrade?  We update equipment on our farm as technology changes and equipment becomes more efficient for our farm, our soil, and the environment. Just like many households update appliances in their kitchens.  But how can you afford to update if every time you parked a newer piece of equipment in your barn your tax bill increased so significantly it never penciled?  I did the math, and this part of the legislation alone would take our average profit for the past 5 years.  We could never justify planning for the future on our farm, which is what we do every time we make business decisions.  My business plan is not for the next 5 years, or even the next decade, it’s what is going to be best for my grandchildren and their children.  Between land rent, land taxes and property taxes, I just don’t know how our farm would survive.

Our legislature has to take a hard look at their budget and work within their constraints.  I was at a meeting where Representative Tina Kotek spoke a few months ago and something she said made me realize how concerned we all should be this year.  I’ll paraphrase because I didn’t write down the exact quote.  “We have made a lot of good decisions for Oregonians, now we just need to figure out how to pay for them.”  This goes against everything I believe to my core, everything that business, school, farming, and life has taught me.  No, you need to find what you can pay for and THEN and only then decide on what decisions are best for Oregonians.

We seem to be living in a backwards world here and it’s scary!  So please, come and stand up for Oregon’s farmers, ranchers, foresters and woodland owners on Wednesday!  Tell the legislature that they need to work within their budget just like the rest of the real world.  They need to stand up for farm, ranch and timber!

To write a letter to your legislator you can use the link below through Oregon Farm Bureau:
http://oregonfb.org/advocacy/?vvsrc=%2fCampaigns%2f50222%2fRespond

Hazelnut Harvest & a New Harvester (for a day)

17 Oct

Well we got all our filberts (hazelnuts) in before the monsoon weather hit this past weekend.  It was a good reminder that not all harvests go as smoothly as they have the past three years with only dust to complain about…mud is much worse!  But we got all of our orchards picked up twice, so I’m not complaining one bit!


The process of harvesting is no small task.  You have to first wait for the nuts to fall on the ground naturally (no tree shaking around here).  Once down a sweeper goes up and down each row twice.  It sweeps the nuts into the center of the trees one way and blows the nuts out from under the tree the other way, making a windrow between the trees.  


A harvester pulled by a tractor then strattles that windrow, and using a belt pick up system, the nuts are pulled off the ground into the harvester. 


The nuts are then go over a dirt chain to let dirt fall through the cracks, through a fan that sucks out leaves and blank shells, then finally into a dump cart. 


We then unload the dump cart into totes to be taken to the truck loading area.  

Hazelnut Cart Unloading 2016

The full totes are then lifted into the truck and dumped, using a hyster with rotator forks.  

After they leave our farm the hazelnuts are washed and dried at a processor.  This is done in 8 days or less so as to avoid any mold growing.  Once the nuts are dried, they are preserved and can be bagged for storage.

Like I said, harvest went well for us this year, but it’s always interesting to see what is new out in the world for harvesting equipment.  So when I was asked if we would be interested in trying out a new all in one harvester the answer was simple. 

The next day Pape Machinery brought over a Monchiero Harvester.  We were pretty excited to try it, mostly because it takes the multitude of steps I described above to get the nuts from the field to the truck, and shrinks them into an all in one machine!


This harvester sweeps and harvests, and once we got it all set right, it did an excellent job!

Here are a few photos I took of the machine in action, along with a video.  


Monchiero Harvester 2016


Monchiero Harvester Unloading 2016

One big upside I can see to having a machine like this is the ability to just go and start harvesting.  There is no waiting around for a sweeper to get an orchard prepared, no hesitation about how many rows you should sweep ahead of the harvester, it just takes a lot of the second guessing out of harvest.  If you get a window, it would only take you and one other worker to get the job accomplished.  Today on our farm it’s a 4 man job to get our harvest done, taking valuable time away from other fall work like planting and soil preparations.

A big thank you to Pape Machinery for bringing out such a great machine to help us finish up our harvest!

For more hazelnut harvest photos and videos check out some of my past posts. 

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