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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. 

How Farmers Take Care of Bees

23 May

There is a lot of talk about bees these days here on the farm.  Not only is it the time of year when bees come out to start pollinating the flowers of many of the plants here in the Willamette Valley, but it’s also the time of the year when a lot of pests come out.  This makes it especially challenging for many farmers who are as diversified as we are.  On the one hand as a farmer I need to take care of the crops that do not require bees and have many bugs that are attacking them, but I also need to make sure to protect the bees which are very important not only to our crops and neighbors crops, but to food supply in general (as seen below).

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So how do we do it?  How do I spray a crop with insecticides while at the same time protecting bees?  It’s a good and fair question to ask of farmers.  For us there are a lot of factors in play.  We have choices and I would like to line out a few that we consider.

1. Timing. Bees like many insects are not always out and about.  While they are “busy” by nature, the times when they rest or stay in their hives can be timed and worked around.  This gives us windows of opportunity to make sensitive applications.  For instance spraying at night or during the cool morning hours when those little workers are in their hives.

2. Where the bees are located. This is important because even if you spray an insecticide at night, you should always avoid spraying chemicals that could be harmful to bees on crops that have blooms.  This is when reading labels on your insecticides is so important.  Knowing if the chemical is harmful to bees and how long that time period will last is essential in knowing that you’re not causing harm to bees.  Many times this can also mean moving the bees out of the field for a time period in order to safely protect your crop and the pollinators.


3. Insecticide Choice. There has been a lot of research done in the area of bees.  Bayer CropScience has been a leader in the recent past showing that they believe there are advances in technology that help us find safer products for bees.  They also have been on the forefront of new technologies that have lead the way in helping to make bees healthier, make crops safer sites for them to thrive, and make farmers rest assured that they are not hurting these important insects.

4. Not spraying at all. Of course this is an option and I will say one that we take seriously.  Many times we will select a timing of spray that minimizes risk, say early in the morning, and then will take it a step further and leave a buffer (an unsprayed area) between any blooms and the insecticide.  While this isn’t the best for the crop we are trying to protect, we also understand that sometimes there is just no silver bullet and you have to triage how you manage all your crops across the board.

See…the bees love this farmer!

As farmers I can’t tell you enough how aware we are of the importance of bees for our crops.  These are just four important factors that we take into account when the time comes that we need to make a decision about spraying insecticide.  This list of four, it’s only the beginning in a long line of decisions that we have to make.  I have to admit it would be a lot easier to farm without an entire ecosystem in mind, but as a farmer that is a luxury that I simply cannot afford.

To learn more about bees and how the relationship between them and farmers is being taken care of here in Oregon and across the nation, I urge you to check out these great blogs:
Oregon Green – How a bee is born
It’s MomSense – Hold on Honey, What’s the Buzz about Bees?
Bees Please: Cooperation Needed to Protect a Vital Food Supply Link

Also Bayer CropScience has an excellent website dedicated to bees. Another great place to learn more!
Facebook Page – Bayer Bee Care Center
Website – https://beecare.bayer.com/home

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