I went out today to check on one of our most struggling baby fields. It’s been a cold and tough winter for these young plants. Baby fields are fields that we planted last fall and have not been harvested yet.
These little baby grass plants are slowly…painfully…growing up out of the ground. We planted right into the old stand of grass seed this fall, which is not how we commonly grow grass seed. However as Mother Nature doesn’t always leave you options, this wet fall closed the window on conventional planting for us. This is a risk for us, but we are hoping that once spring comes, this dead looking field behind me, look s a lot more green!Come on little guys! You can do it!
We are planting another round of green beans today. The morning started early for Matt, a 5am start time to get all the per-emergent herbicides on the ground. Next came the rototiller, to mix in the chemicals and create the perfect seed bed.
Then finally the planter getting the seeds in the soil, ready to grow into a great crop of green beans!
The first planting is also coming along just fine.
Although there seems to be an imposter in our field…possibly one our neighbor might know something about!
“Just a good planting marker.” was what I believe was said.
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.
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.
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 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!