Weatherman predicts good winter for region’s growers

Pacific Northwest farmers are likely to see normal or above-normal precipitation this year, weatherman Art Douglas predicts.

Douglas, a professor emeritus of atmospheric sciences at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., will offer his popular weather forecast at opening session of the Spokane Ag Expo and Pacific Northwest Farm Forum, 9 a.m. Tuesday, Feb.

Douglas has been a fixture at the Expo since 1977.

“The first thing we’ve got to keep in mind is we have an El Nino, and it’s not been a normal El Nino development,” Douglas told the Capital Press in November.

An El Nino is the warm phase of temperature fluctuations in the ocean and atmosphere in the east-central equatorial Pacific, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It usually means dry conditions in the Pacific Northwest.

A La Nina is the cold phase of those fluctuations, and means wetter conditions in the Pacific Northwest.

A La Nina means “horrendous” winters for the Pacific Northwest, which is not expected at all, Douglas said. He said the main cold for the winter was in November and December, followed by above-normal temperatures from February into April.

Douglas also expected dry winter conditions in the Northern Rockies, and storms off the West Coast.

During the spring, Douglas expects good moisture through northern California, Nevada, the northern Rockies and the Northwest.

“Compared to a lot of El Ninos, not as big a threat for drought, and at the same time, the dry period’s going to be the winter, and it’s not going to extend into the spring, which often does a lot of damage as you’re trying to get the crop back,” he said.

Douglas predicts 90 percent of normal precipitation in the Spokane area.

The biggest question is whether the El Nino continues into the summer and the fall, he said.

El Ninos typically have an average lifespan of 12 to 14 months but some can last longer — two to three years. One El Nino lasted from 2014 to the end of 2016, he said.

Forecasts indicate current weather patterns are similar to the early 1990s, when El Ninos tended to repeat, without La Nina cooling, Douglas said.

Conditions have tended to be drier than normal, Douglas said. The trend should turn wetter in the end of February through to April.

“Average temperatures above normal, far less threat for winterkill … and then we head towards the end of winter-spring, mild temperatures and then normal to above normal precipitation,” Douglas said. “So that’s pretty good.”


Herbal interest turns into full-time business

BUHL, Idaho — Just like a puzzle, all the pieces in Mickey Young’s life fit with him becoming an equine and canine herbalist. But also just like a puzzle, it was hard to see the big picture until the pieces interlocked.

Today, that picture is a successful business promoting the health of horses and dogs through herbal nutrition.

But the story started even before Young was born.

His father, LaVern, grew up in Utah, picking up tips on doctoring animals with medicinal herbs from the Navajos who lived in the area. He later had a career with Bureau of Land Management as a range rider and wild horse and burro specialist, learning more about the plants those animals chose to graze.

Young’s mother, Ruth, was a successful naturopath at a time when naturopathy was little known.

“I learned some from each of them,” Young said.

And as a professional cowboy, champion bareback rider and stock contractor for the National Finals Rodeo, Young knew horses and the dogs that are inevitably a cowboy’s companion.

His parents moved to Idaho, where Young had settled during his rodeo days and opened a health store. His mother helped people with herbs and when they asked for help with their horses or dogs, she’d send them to Young.

“It grew from there, but it didn’t happen overnight,” Young said.

After selling his rodeo stock company, he was looking for something he could do to make a living.

“I had done the herb thing for many years, but I didn’t know there was a living in it,” he said.

A chance meeting with Heather Mack, a veterinarian who practices holistic horse health, would change his way of thinking.

Mack was impressed with the health of Young’s horses and started referring clients to him for his herbal mixtures. That gave Young the confidence to start telling people about the benefits of herbs.

Later, Mack started carrying his mixtures and was his first large, consistent client.

Word spread quickly due to the quality of the herbs and the effectiveness of Young’s formulas. Everything from wounds and digestive issues to kidney and liver ailments seemed to benefit from the herbs, Young said.

He and his wife, Lori, officially started Silver Lining Herbs 20 years ago.

Back then, “people weren’t that accepting of herbs for horses. It was a hard sale, but Mick started educating people,” Lori said.

The business went from mixing herbs in his mother’s shop to outgrowing a basement, then a garage and then a large shop to building a commercial facility.

It kind of started by accident but grew little by little into a full-grown business, Lori said.

Silver Lining Herbs produces about 30 herbal combinations for horses and 20 for dogs, ranging from daily health maintenance and early wormer to joint and lymphatic support. The company uses 80 to 100 different ingredients, sourced from five main suppliers in North America, Chance Schuknecht, the company’s sales and marketing manager, said.

The company has strict quality-control practices and is audited by the National Animal Supplement Council, which has awarded the business its Quality Seal.

The formulas are meant to provide the variety of healthful vegetation horses and dogs had when they could range freely to improve their quality of life, he said.

Young said his goal is to help as many horses and dogs as possible.

“There’re a lot out there that need it, and owners don’t know it,” he said.

He knows of cases where a horse or dog was euthanized because the practitioner or the owner didn’t think a problem could be fixed. In many cases, herbs are the answer, he said.

“I have seen what people would call miracles (using herbs) many years now,” he said.

And he hears it all the time from his customers — animals in advanced stages of illness completely recovering with herbs, he said.

“It’s pretty cool when you see it happen, and it happens a lot,” he said.

Silver Lining Herbs has hundreds of testimonials, but is unable to print them or advertise with them under Food and Drug Administration regulations, he said.

“I’ll always be an advocate for what it does. We’re all pretty passionate about this at Silver Lining,” he said.

Unfortunately, people have lost a lot of the knowledge they had before modern medicine, but it’s pretty hard to improve on nature, he said.

“God put everything we needed here; all we have to do is access it,” he said.


Goat dairy traces origins from 4-H project

UNION, Ore. — Stephanie Rovey traces her goat dairy business back 28 years to her first 4-H project at age 12. She can also trace her current stock back to her base breeding herd — 12 white Nubians.

She has been with goats longer than with her five children; longer than with her husband Byron; longer than almost anything. They have accompanied her on moves to college, to Arizona, and to Oregon. While her parents thought goats were a passing phase, her interest and experience propelled her to study agriculture and to build goat dairy business that is now her livelihood.

Today Stephanie, Byron and their five boys — ages 14, 11, 9, 7 and 5 — raise seed crops, forage, and goats outside Union, Ore.

They established Grande Ronde Dairy in 2015 with 20 backyard goats, converting an old barn into a milking parlor. Their goat dairy business grew steadily until 2017 when they made a leap to significantly grow their herd and business. They were buoyed by increasing interest in goat milk and by their milk buyer, Laura Chenel Chevre, a cheese company in Sonoma, Calif.

The magnitude of Grande Ronde Dairy’s growth from a homemade setup to a state-of-the-art facility is quickly understood by the numbers.

The Roveys started with a 10-stall milking parlor and a 1,000-gallon bulk tank in a freezing, converted barn. Today their 60-stall GEA rotary parlor can milk 300 goats per hour and fill their 5,000-gallon bulk tank every three days. The dairy has grown to 350 lactating goats with 200 more coming on by May. At capacity, their loafing barn will house about 1,000 lactating goats plus replacements waiting to come online.

The new rotary parlor has also increased the sophistication and efficiency of the dairy.

Goats walk up a ramp and past a sensor that dispenses grain in the stall feeder. Once in the head catch, the goats’ ear tags are scanned automatically so milk production, content and safety testing can be tracked goat-by-goat.

An employee attaches inflations to the udder as the goat circles past on the rotary parlor. Milk flow is computer-monitored and when flow drops, the inflations drop automatically. Another employee applies a “post-dip” udder disinfectant before the head catch releases and the goat backs out of the stall. Unless she doesn’t back out because — she’s a goat — and goats have what Rovey lovingly calls “personality.”

“Some of these girls will ride the rotary all day long, which slows us down and requires someone to watch them at the exit.”

The Roveys’ GEA brand rotary milk parlor is the first of its kind installed at a goat dairy in the U.S. Stephanie and Byron flew to New Zealand in 2016 to see the equipment in action and tour dairies. They came back inspired to duplicate the New Zealand model.

“In New Zealand dairies have maximized both animal comfort and efficiency,” Rovey said. As she spoke, the wind picked up and the automatic curtains in the loafing barn began to rise. “The curtains open and close based on temperature to keep the goats happy,” she said. The temperature control, deep bedding straw, automatic waterers, and ample room for movement are all by design.

“This is the goat Hilton,” she said. “The goats are content and come to the parlor clean, which means higher milk quality.”

While goats are much maligned as “can-eaters” and “poor man’s cows,” Rovey eagerly lists the advantages dairy goats over cows.

Goats have a higher feed-to-milk ratio, making them more efficient milk producers. They can be bred at seven months and milked by 12 months whereas cows take about two years to become productive.

“Goats also have a 100 percent replacement ratio,” she said, since they generally have multiple kids.

She also sees a lot of room for market growth for goat milk given consumer trends toward more healthful, less processed foods. The USDA also attributes the popularity of goat milk for cheese making to its higher fat content than cow’s milk. More fat per gallon means more cheese per gallon.

“Goat milk is the most easily digested of all the milks,” Rovey said.

A University of California-Davis analysis of goat milk found that it has less lactose than cow’s milk and is similar in protein content. Due to its differing protein structure, goat milk doesn’t elicit an allergic response and is palatable for many people with cow’s milk allergies.

Rovey’s dream is to see goat milk offered as an alternative in school cafeterias and used in infant formula.

“The rest of the world has caught on to the fact that many infants and children are lactose-intolerant,” she said. “In Europe and China they already use goat milk-based infant formula, but we need more powdered milk facilities in the U.S. to make that happen.”

She also sees goat milk as a high-in-protein alternative to nut-based beverages.

“Nut ‘milks’ are like eating margarine,” she said. “They are a highly processed, unnatural concoctions.”

As for the taste, she encourages people to give goat milk a chance.

“Don’t give up on goat milk or cheese because you tried it once and didn’t like it.” She notes that dairy goat management and goat milk processing have come a long way in recent years. Backyard goat milk from the neighbor is not the highly palatable product her dairy produces.

“Any milk will taste bad if the animal is eating weeds,” she said.

By contrast, the Roveys feed 100 percent Triticale, grass, alfalfa, and pea forage from their farm and supplement with grain during milking.

Rovey hopes that major brands establish processing plants in Idaho, Washington and Oregon.

“This would open the door for more producers to transition or grow,” she said. “I started with a base herd of 12 white Nubians,” she said, as she pointed to a few short-eared decedents of her first 4-H project. “We never expected to live in the Pacific Northwest or to have a goat dairy,” she said. “But now even Byron is proud to say we milk goats for a living!”


Farmer Mac economist analyzes regional outlook

SALEM — With a diverse range of consumer-oriented products and relatively steady net farm income, Ryan Kuhns, an economist for the Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corp., also known as Farmer Mac, sees strength in Northwest agriculture heading into 2019.

On the other hand, sticky input costs and lingering trade uncertainty continue to pose threats and weaknesses for farms, making it essential for producers to consider the whole picture when making business decisions about what they grow, and for which markets.

Kuhns conducted a S.W.O.T. analysis — that stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats — for the region during a presentation Jan. 17 at the Northwest Ag Show in Salem, Ore., crunching the data to paint an overall picture of the economic landscape in Northwest farm country.

The Northwest Ag Show, which returned to Salem Jan. 16-18, featured a full lineup of guest speakers at the Oregon State Fair and Expo Center, discussing everything from estate planning to worker safety. More than 120 vendors were also on hand to showcase their equipment and services.

Kuhns, who considers himself an optimist, started his talk with strengths before ending with opportunities. He said the Northwest has a rich portfolio of crops for human consumption, versus the Midwest where farmers grow vast quantities of corn and soybeans for livestock consumption.

That diversity lessens the volatility of income, Kuhns said, and encourages more direct-to-consumer sales, a major benefit for beginning farmers and especially those that are small-scale.

“I think there’s a real strength to that,” Kuhns said.

The estimated value of Northwest farmland also increased between June 2017 and June 2018, by 2.6 percent in Oregon, 5 percent in Washington and 3.8 percent in Idaho, compared to the Upper Midwest where values actually decreased in some states over the same period.

Though land and asset values have increased locally, Kuhns said total farm debt increased in 2018 and is nearing peak levels from the 1980s. Working capital is shrinking due to higher input costs versus commodity prices, resulting in tighter margins.

At the same time, the U.S. remains embroiled in an escalating trade war with China, and continues to work toward a bilateral trade agreement with Japan after pulling out of the new Trans-Pacific Partnership — or, as Kuhns called it, “the thing that got away.”

Oregon, Washington and Idaho exported nearly $8 billion worth of goods in 2017. Japan is a key trading partner for Northwest wheat and beef, and until the countries can negotiate a trade agreement, Kuhns said the TPP will provide lower tariffs for Australia and New Zealand growers into the Japanese market.

“This has big implications here in the West,” Kuhns said. “We’re going to be at a disadvantage.”

The good news, Kuhns said, is that trade with emerging nations opens new opportunities as populations in those countries rapidly continue to grow. Domestically, Kuhns said younger consumers are increasingly interested in buying local food, giving an edge to Northwest farms.

The purpose of a S.W.O.T. analysis, Kuhns said, is to get farmers thinking about what opportunities match their strengths, or how they can leverage new opportunities to turn a weakness into a strength. Farmers can also plan and mitigate for new threats that exacerbate an existing weakness.

“You’re not just making this list because it’s fun,” Kuhns said. “I believe, in the end, things will work themselves out.”


Farmer grows from part-time to full-time

ROSEBURG, Ore. — Jon Riggs was a high school teacher who decided being a small acreage farmer would be a good summer job.

He had worked as a summer road flagger for Douglas County, but then realized he could do just as well financially farming and could be his own boss.

In 1994, he began his new venture on a quarter-acre of ground behind his parents’ house in a secluded valley just west of Roseburg. He admitted his only previous farming experience was helping his grandfather, Charlie Wallace, in his backyard garden, and that mainly amounted to eating the raspberries, corn, cucumbers and “other good stuff.”

Twenty-five years later and Riggs is now 68, a retired teacher and the farmer on a total of 1.25 acres at four different sites. He sells his summer and fall vegetables and melons at the Umpqua Valley Farmers’ Market in Roseburg and at the Coos Bay Farmers’ Market in Coos Bay, Ore. He also sells to restaurants in Douglas and Coos counties.

“When you sign up for farming, you need to have some tenacity,” Riggs said. “You know you’re signing up for a bunch of fights with nature, you know you’re going to win some, you know you’re going to lose some. But it is extremely gratifying to start with a seed and to end up exchanging something you’ve grown for money with a customer who is smiling at you. Getting that seed into somebody’s mouth completes the process. It’s the ultimate moment that is hard to explain.”

Riggs said he’s had good success growing and selling salad mixes, red potatoes, squash, tomatoes and a variety of melons.

Amanda Pastoria, the market manager for the Umpqua Valley Farmers’ Market, said Riggs has earned a good reputation for the salad mixes and the melons he brings to the weekly market. She noted he usually includes edible flowers in his salad mixes, making them more attractive and flavorful.

“He’s a long-time member of this market and he always has a lot of amazing produce at his booth,” Pastoria said. “He puts a lot of pride into what he does and what he grows.

“From my observations at the market, he’s very engaging and enjoys educating people about the produce, the climate, the soil, the seeds,” she added.

Riggs said that is the teacher in him. He is a graduate of the University of Arizona and earned his master’s degree in education from Southern Oregon University in Ashland. He retired from teaching in 2011.

In his early years of farming, Riggs got help from his teenaged children, GG and AJ. His wife, Akiyo Riggs, has helped at the market booth through the years.

Although the couple’s children are grown and living out of the area, they were able to return last summer for a month or so to help their father, who had undergone surgery for bladder cancer and couldn’t do any heavy lifting.

Riggs has recovered from his cancer scare and is looking forward to another spring of prepping the ground, planting seeds and providing food to market visitors and restaurants.

“I go at it a year at a time,” he said. “I figure out what is the right size for me farming wise versus how old I am. So far so good. I’m limber enough and I have a pretty good tolerance for the aching stuff that comes with farming. I still like what I’m doing and it’s fun when people are smiling at you. I’ll do this for at least another few years.”


Workshop offers cattle basics for new ranchers

A University of Idaho Extension workshop will help new ranchers learn the basic of cattle ownership.

“The Basics and Beyond: Cattle Ownership and Management 201” begins at 7:30 a.m. Jan. 29 at the UI Extension Office at 2200 Michigan Ave. in Orofino.

Idaho is the second-fastest growing state in the nation, said Bill Warren, UI Extension educator in Clearwater County. Many people want to live on rural land and have a new lifestyle, he noted.

“Many of them do not have any experience living on rural land but do want to have cattle, grazing and other things,” he said. “A lot of my programming is geared to that audience, and this workshop is one of those.”

This year, he decided to add more time, going more in depth with some more intermediate topics.

Topics covered will include infrastructure needed to house, contain, and feed  and water cattle, the economics of owning cattle, trade-offs of owning yearlings vs. raising cattle year-round, basic equipment, basics of grazing management, winter feeding, cattle health issues, do’s and don’ts of buying and selling cattle, cattle breeds and other topics.

The workshop will also cover the benefits of owning and managing cattle, including pasture and rangeland management, improved grassland health, weed control and reduced wildfire risk.

Cattle ownership can generate additional income from a rural property, with grazing qualifying ranchers for property tax categories that lower valuation and reduce property tax bills, according to UI Extension.

Warren aims to help participants make better decisions and avoid costly mistakes.

Cost is $10. Pre-registration is recommended. Call 208-476-4434 or e-mail clearwater@uidaho.edu

This program builds on last year’s Introduction to Cattle Ownership and Management by reviewing the basics for new cattle owners as well as adding more depth and intermediate topics for those with some cattle experience.

 


Small-scale cattle producers step onto bigger stage

The folks at the 21-cow Mi-Hud Angus Ranch in Kuna, Idaho, are taking their small operation to a much larger stage.

Owner Mike Relk and 10 of his fellow small-scale cattle producers in the greater Boise area are getting their genetically strong breeding stock in front of more prospective buyers via the internet.

The group put together the online High Desert Select Bull and Female Sale with help from JBS Auctions.

“It’s a way for the small producer to put together a number of bulls of high-quality genetics and market them,” Relk said. “It’s an opportunity for us to showcase our animals.”

The High Desert effort exemplifies the genetic gap narrowing between large and small breeders as technology and data advance. Big operators have more total chances to produce a breeding bull good enough to grace the pages of sire directories. But smaller players say they can also offer excellent genetics, in part by accessing these same superstar bulls through artificial insemination.

“We continue to improve our herd, through specific genetic matings, to have efficient cattle to bring to our customers,” Relk said.

Mi-Hud’s registered Black Angus cattle are bred from high-quality “AI” sires for calving ease, feed-to-growth efficiency and beef carcass traits. The herd originates from cows he acquired five years ago from a large Idaho breeder known for strong genetics.

“I was comfortable with the quality of the cattle right off the bat, but for the small producer, there is no platform to market these good genetics,” said Relk, who historically made most sales through word-of-mouth or advertising.

The online auction, which opened for viewing Jan. 4 and closes at 1 p.m. Mountain Feb. 25, “is a way for the small producer to put together a number of bulls of high-quality genetics, and market them,” he said, adding that the format also figures to provide “true price discovery.”

Eligible animals pass parentage-verification and breeding-soundness tests. Buyers can purchase insurance on bulls for the breeding season, and share that cost with sellers.

“I promise you, somebody from Butte, Mont., doesn’t know about the bulls we have in the Treasure Valley,” Relk said. “This gives them an opportunity to look at the genetics we have.”

Zach Raptosh, a cattle producer and veterinarian in south Nampa, Idaho, said he expects the group to field about three dozen bulls in the auction. All will be DNA-tested to give buyers confidence about parentage.

“Every bull in our sale is sired by some of the industry’s top genetics,” he said. “We are all really passionate about cattle. We are all aiming to be progressive breeders and to raise animals that are in the upper echelon of the breed.”

Thanks to available techniques such as artificial insemination and embryo transfer, “I may only have 25 cows, but my top 10 percent of calves are as good as anybody else’s top 10 percent,” Raptosh said. “That is what we are striving for.”

Dennis Boehlke, who runs about 65 mother cows south of Nampa, has been artificially inseminating all of his cows since 1979. He maintained strong genetics by consistently seeking the best sires.

Many Angus breeders run seven to eight head, he said.

“Some of the better-known bulls over the years have come out of small herds,” Boehlke said. “A good one is a good one is a good one, no matter where it comes from.”

For the small operator, online sales can be more convenient and less expensive than live auctions, he said.

Relk, who has six bulls in the sale, said organizers of the High Desert online auction aim to hold the event annually.


El Nino, a no-show so far, losing steam

The weather has yet to be influenced this winter by a warmer Pacific Ocean and likely won’t be impacted in a major way, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports.

Federal climatologists reduced the chances that an El Nino will form in January or February to 82 percent, down from 96 percent a month ago. If an El Nino does occur, it will be weak, according to NOAA.

“Significant global impacts are not anticipated during the remainder of the winter, even if conditions were to form,” the agency stated, in its monthly outlook on sea-surface temperatures along the equator.

The temperatures guide seasonal forecasts. For months, a warmer-than-average ocean between Ecuador and Indonesia has led climatologists to predict odds are high the Northwest will have a mild winter. In some past El Nino winters, snowpacks that supply summer irrigation have been smaller than normal. Washington’s “snow drought” in 2015 was during a strong El Nino.

This year, the warm ocean has not yet triggered the atmospheric conditions that eventually warm the northern tier of the U.S., according to NOAA. As a result, the sea-atmosphere system has remained neutral.

The sea and atmosphere are most likely to act together in late winter and early spring, according to NOAA, but by then the ocean may not be warm.

After months of warming, ocean-surface temperatures are cooling down toward neutral conditions.

The equatorial Pacific has cooled to 0.7 degree celsius above normal, down from about 1 degree above normal the month before. Climatologists classify temperatures within 0.5 degree celsius of normal as neutral.

By March, the chances an El Nino will prevail are 66 percent, down from 70 percent in last month’s outlook, NOAA forecasts.

In a 90-day period that ended Jan. 5, average temperatures in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Northern California were slightly above normal, except for the southeast corner of Oregon and the southern end of Idaho, where temperatures were slightly below normal, according to NOAA.

The region also received slightly less precipitation than normal.

NOAA was to issue a new three-month weather outlook Jan. 17.


State board passes rules for Oregon Agricultural Heritage Program

The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board has approved new administrative rules for a voluntary state grant program to protect and preserve working farms and ranches.

Established by lawmakers in 2017, the Oregon Agricultural Heritage Program was conceived to address the increasing fragmentation and conversion of farmland — an issue that simultaneously threatens natural resources such as fish and wildlife habitat supported by agriculture, officials say.

A 12-person Agricultural Heritage Commission met six times in 2018 to write the program rules, with grants to help pay for conservation planning, easements, succession planning and technical assistance. OWEB approved the rules at a board meeting Jan. 16 in Cannon Beach, Ore.

Nellie McAdams, Farm Preservation Program director for the nonprofit Rogue Farm Corps, worked with the Agricultural Heritage Commission to coordinate membership and meetings. She said farm preservation is one of the biggest challenges facing rural Oregon economies.

“At this point, we are seeing a major transition of agricultural lands,” McAdams said. “This would provide the funding to help with that planning, and hand off viable farmland to the next generation.”

The average age of Oregon farmers is now 60, up from 55 in 2002, according to a 2016 study by Oregon State University and Portland State University. As older farmers start to retire, more than 10 million acres, or 64 percent, of Oregon’s agricultural lands are poised to change ownership over the next two decades.

The Agricultural Heritage Program is Oregon’s first attempt at awarding grants to keep working lands in production, which in turn benefits the fish and wildlife habitat they support.

“(The commission) sees it as integrating agriculture and natural resource benefits,” McAdams said. “They don’t see them as competing. They see them as helping each other.”

The program is supported by a broad coalition of farm and natural resources advocacy groups, including the Oregon Farm Bureau, Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, Sustainable Northwest, The Nature Conservancy, 1000 Friends of Oregon, the Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts and Oregon Association of Conservation Districts.

The next step is for the Oregon Legislature to approve funding for the program. State Sen. Bill Hansell, R-Athena, and Rep. Brad Witt, D-Clatskanie, will co-sponsor a bill seeking $10 million to fully implement the program.

“Oregon’s working lands are a critical economic driver for the state and it’s important that we preserve our irreplaceable natural resources,” Hansell said in a statement. “I am pleased that OWEB approved these rules so that we are ready to help farmers and ranchers preserve working landscapes and promote resilient rural communities.”

With broad bipartisan support from lawmakers, McAdams said she is optimistic about the bill passing, even as the state faces a budget crunch in 2019.

If the funding passes, OWEB will then decide when to release applications for the grants. McAdams said the program would also help farmers and ranchers secure matching federal dollars for agricultural easements and conservation through the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

“We have a huge opportunity,” she said. “This would be a way to leverage a small amount of funds from a state program to bring in a large amount of federal funds.”


Value-added products bolster small farm

SAGINAW, Ore. — In the age of corporate farming, Scott Byler said Delight Valley Farms is one example of how a small family farm can still be profitable.

The farm has a total of 36.5 acres, and from U-pick berries and raising lambs to establishing a winery, Byler has his hands in almost everything.

“The trick of the whole thing, with the angle of making it as a small family farm, is retail,” he said. “I never thought of us that way, but we are. We take everything from the ground to retail, and we don’t have to give a cut to anyone else. (It) gives me the chance to have a smaller farm and make a living.”

When Byler first bought the land in 1991 he only wanted to sell wine grapes wholesale to wineries. But with only 23 acres dedicated to grapes, he found it wasn’t enough land to do just that. Instead he added retailing grapes to around 35 home winemakers and making his own wine.

Byler said that he always had a garden and would can foods, and from there it wasn’t a big stretch to fermenting. Before the commercial winery, Saginaw Vineyards, Byler’s first wines were made from figs and peach; he continues to experiment with fruits, creating blackberry, blueberry and Marionberry wine along with the traditional grape.

Although the fruits aren’t just used in wines. Delight Valley Farms sells U-pick/We-pick berries, as well as retails jam made from the fruit.

“That’s where you’re going to get your money,” Byler said. “If you’re going to sell carrots, you’re gong to have to sell a lot and have a big farm. That’s hard to do unless you’re born into it. If I can take those same carrots and turn them into soup, now I have a product that’s worth ten times more what it was.”

He said the important thing to keep in mind with pursuing value-added products is making sure the process doesn’t lose money.

Byler also sells lamb meat on the side. He has around 40 ewes, all descended from the sheep his children had when they were in 4-H. Until the past five years he only sold wholesale, but then started to add selling halves and whole lambs to customers.

Then, in the past three years, Byler began to sell USDA inspected cuts of lamb. He said at this rate, it won’t be long before he stops sellng wholesale entirely.

Delight Valley Farms’ whole operation works as a value-added experience.

Right off the Interstate 5 in Southern Lane County, Byler planned his position to help his marketing appeal. A sign advertising complimentary tastings is in his field next to the highway, and every Friday Saginaw Vineyard has its Friday Night Live, as well as events for wine club members.

“It’s been rewarding to see it succeed,” Byler said. “It’s kind of a weird answer, but after 30 years, it’s there and it works. The next generation can take it on, and the next generation will take it on. It’s cool to create something that is a working business.”

Outside of making a living, he said his focus is on the actual farming. He has less interest in the people and finds the wine making to be straightforward, but it’s: “being out there with the grapes and growing stuff.”