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Why do we grow grass seed in Oregon??

17 Jan

Here’s a good question, “Why are you growing grass seed on those acres and acres of fields when you could be growing food?”  Well with the recent closing of yet another food processor in this state, the answer to this question can get very complex.  So what I thought I would give you here is the answer to another question, “Why is grass seed an important crop to grow?” 

WHY DO WE GROW TURF TYPE GRASS SEED??
I should start by saying that this is the seed that you would plant for your lawn or is used on sports fields.  Our farm is about 60% turf type grass seed fields.  A mix of variety, but overall it’s either perennial ryegrass or tall fescue (both cool season grasses).  Theses fields stay in the ground anywhere from as little as two years and upwards of 15 years.  On average our fields are in the ground about 5 years.  Which means we are not tilling the soil those years, we plant in year one and we harvest every year the same plants that were originally planted until we have to take the field out.  We have a good climate here in Oregon to grow these grasses, we have an industry that has a long history of investment and research dedicated to making us as farmers able to more with less.  Efficiency on a farm has always been a big concern and when it comes to turf type grass seed that story is no different.

That’s a little background (questions can be left below), but the WHY is what we are trying to get to here.  And that is where the environment comes into the conversation, new technology, and even the simple idea of just getting outside, all play a role. 

Environmental:
If you think of any major environmental disaster, hazard spills, floods, landslides, earthquake, really any situation where there is bare soil, what is the first thing that is usually done to protect that soil from further damage?  They have to plant something, and grass is an excellent tool that can sprout to protect the soil it’s growing from on the surface and also put down roots that hold soil in place.  Roots that also can clean up the ground as a natural filtration system.  Grass in these situations is a tool used that will continue to work for them usually with little oversight and management so they can deal with the larger issues at hand.  It’s also a tool used in combating air and water pollution.  As an example of air specifically, (see carbon sequestration below), China has made an effort to increase plantings of grass to help with their air pollution problem.  The photo below is from India just this year, there are many places similar to this that can use the help from the smog.

Carbon Sequestration:
These plants that stay in year after year aren’t just sitting there doing nothing.  Like all plants they are busy year round taking in carbon.  Yes they have periods where they don’t sequester as much, but overall, grass seed crops are a carbon sequestering tool.  Think of all the good that these acres and acres of crop ground are doing for our atmosphere!  And that’s just above ground, the roots and plant material that is its own ecosystem below the ground is always working.  Our soil is our best resource and grass seed has shown to be a crop that continues the trend of soil health and fertility. 

Interesting fact: Just one acre (about the size of one football field) of tall fescue has been found to sequester 5.45 ton of carbon per year!!

New Technologies:
Our industry is always researching ways to continue to be relevant and solve problems.  One problem how to have grass in areas where water doesn’t fall from the sky with enough volume, or water sources are too expensive or being depleted.  I’m taking about drought resistance.  These varieties use less water, stay greener longer, need less inputs to look good and be healthy.  We are seeing this out in our fields as varieties are greener to the eye when we harvest, but often the seed is mature and ready to harvest.  Another example would be salt tolerant varieties of grass seed.  This serves the market not only of salty soil that’s naturally occurring, but also for roadsides where salt is used to protect motorists in the winter.  That salt can create an issue on roadsides where you need stability, this fits that niche.  Have a soil issue, have a weather issue, let’s see if grass seed can be developed to solve those problems!

Getting Outside, Being Active:
This might seem like such an obvious piece of the puzzle, but I truly believe that grass helps kids (and adults) get outside.  This grass is on sports fields, it’s out your back door, it’s in parks where you can run with your pets.  It’s in all those places that naturally reduce stress and encourage movement.  I think that as a society, this is a big part of continuing down a path of mental and physical health.  Not to mention how much cooler the ground is where there is grass growing, especially in the summer. 

Interesting Fact: It’s been shown that the temperature of ground covered with grass can be 30 degrees cooler than concrete!!

Can you imagine if all around us was just concrete and rocks?  I don’t see that as a place I’d hang out if it was 100 degrees, even if it was in the shade! And what about artificial turf?  Seems like an easy replacement right?  But did you know…..

Interesting Fact: Artificial sports turf field has a budget of $2 million over the life of 20 years, while a nicely cared for natural grass field still budgets in at under $1 million!

You know what all that maintenance and money goes to?  Rubber, labor, and zero carbon sequestration.

Side note: My own personal favorite natural grass turf field….Go Packers!

So while you’re driving around Oregon thinking how irresponsible this is to have all this grass seed growing all around us, think about the end product and markets.  Think about how important that above ground protection and coverage is, think about the carbon sequestration, think about how fun it is to go play catch in your back yard!  And that is where you will find many of the answers as to why we grow turf type grass seed here in Oregon.  Clearly this is just a snapshot of some interesting examples, but as always if you have questions or comments please feel free to type them below!

FarmHer April 12th, 6:30pm

8 Apr

Hey everyone, some exciting news!  Last fall I hosted the FarmHer team out on the farm and the episode they filmed will be airing this coming Friday April 12th, 6:30pm! Below is the press release from the FarmHer team….

FarmHer Follows Women in Agriculture from Washington to Louisiana in the 2nd Half of Season Three

(NASHVILLE, TENN. — Apr. 5, 2019) FarmHer is back with new episodes on RFD-TV.
Meet a helicopter pilot who crafts Artisan cheeses, head to the hops capital of the U.S. and witness a woman who thought she would never walk again, ranch with all her might. The network’s original series highlights another powerful group of women in its
3rd season with host Marji Guyler-Alaniz at the helm. FarmHer airs Fridays at 9:30 p.m. EST on RFD-TV.

Season 3: Episodes 19: Oregon FarmHer Harvests Piles of Grass Seed & Hazelnuts
Friday, April 12, 2019 at 9:30 p.m. ET
When dust settles on Brenda Frketich’s farm, there are piles of hazelnuts. Take in this year’s harvest in Oregon while learning about another top Pacific Northwest crop: turfgrass.

Here are also a few sneak peak videos to check out while you’re anxiously (at least I am anxious) waiting for the episode this Friday.

We had a wonderful time showing this great crew around the farm here in St. Paul.  I have always said that our doors are always open and this was a wonderful way to bring the farm into living rooms across the US.  It airs on RFDTV, click the link below to find that channel in your area!
http://www.rfdtv.com/link/649370/find-us-in-your-area

Don’t have RFD-TV?  No problem…..
On demand service can be found a bunch of different ways including Roku and Amazon Fire. The apps are either “RFD Country Club” or “Rural TV”.

Some of those apps allow you to sign up for a specific category “Rural Lifestyle” for just $2.99 a month and that’s where you can find FarmHer. You can cancel anytime.

Or you can sign up for full on demand service RFD-TV Country Club at rfdcc.com. It has a monthly fee, but with no contract, so you can cancel anytime.

Questions….as always, just ask!!

 

Farming as a Woman

25 Mar

I often get asked about what it’s like farming as a woman, or being a woman in agriculture.  My best answer so far (not of my own making but from a good friend), “Probably a lot like it feels to be farming as a man.”

But I have to say, I’m part of a group (woman) who are the minority in this industry and that can’t be denied.  But how you handle being that minority is something that is different for everyone.  My outlook is summed up like this,

“…it doesn’t really matter, the soil doesn’t care, the tractor doesn’t care, the plants don’t care. And if a guy does care, then that’s on him.”

A few months ago I was asked if I would answer some questions for an article about women in agriculture.  I wasn’t sure how my answers would be taken, quite honestly I’m really lucky to be here farming in Oregon where I do feel like women in farming aren’t held down by their gender.  I know plenty of female farmers, mostly of my age generation, who are working on the farm and making a career of it.  I know that this situation doesn’t exist everywhere across the nation, I know that culturally we are very different from other places.  But I wanted to speak to what I know here, and what my experiences have been.

The article discusses the differences between my own operation and another smaller farm.  Both businesses, both run by women, both drastically different in many ways, but in the end also quite similar.  Take a look by clicking the photo below.  Let me know what you think in the comments, if you have any questions, or feel free to share.

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