Micro hop farm caters to micro breweries

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. — Don Norton likes to think outside the box. Along with growing organic hops, Norton and his wife, Tina, also add value to the plants by selling vines and making wreaths, and by leasing out his picking equipment.

Don Norton first got interested in growing hops because he wanted to home brew, but in 2007 when he heard about a hop shortage, it confirmed that this was a market he wanted to explore.

Although he had no sales when he first started producing — which he said is “supposedly a no-no because you’re supposed to have the hops sold before you even put them in the ground” — he marketed and sold his product until he landed what is now a 10-year-long local customer: Mountain Rose Herbs.

“It worked out,” he said.

The other side of the operation is Tina Norton’s focus. She sells hop vines and wreaths made of the vines to antique shops and florists, and they have been featured at special occasions such as weddings and funerals.

She started the project after shoulder surgery when she needed something to do.

“I taught special education and I was having a hard time without being able to work,” she said. “This helped; this was my therapy.”

A small operation, Norton’s Hop Farm has 1 acre of heirloom, Cascade and nugget hops. Don Norton said that everyone loves Cascade and they’re the easiest to sell, but he mainly picked them to grow because that’s the hop he likes.

Norton didn’t have any background in farming when he started, and said he learned about farming and organics at the same time. He added that it was probably for the best, as he didn’t have to learn how to transition from conventional practices.

“It’s just good to the earth,” he said. “ I always had a little bit of a sense of wanting to be clean, natural and pure.”

He added that “getting better dollars for the product” was an incentive as well.

The farm has gone through several changes over the years, including in its clientele. After Norton bought a hop picker, he leased a 2-acre abandoned hop farm in the area where he was able to harvest 800 pounds of hops. That year, he sold hops to six breweries in the area, including McMenamins and Viking Braggot. He was able to sell out.

Unfortunately, Norton said, the lease fell apart, but it’s given him time to focus on expanding his own field. Although it’s going to be a couple of years before he has more hops to share with the breweries again, he said that he has a good relationship with them.

Although Mountain Rose Herbs has been good to the farm, Norton said his goal is to continue expansion and work on gaining back more of the brewery clients. Down the line he wants to buy a pelletizing machine so they don’t have to wait for the fresh hop season.

Despite the ups and downs that come with the business, Norton said that the farm has been a good adventure.

“I enjoy the sales and dealing with the brewers,” he said. “And days working out in the field with a beer: it feels good and it feels right.”


Small farms, large aspirations

It started with a dream for Miranda Rommel.

The 37-year-old artist has always enjoyed growing her own food. When she and her husband, Andy, bought a 17-acre farm south of Monmouth, Ore., in 2011, they were ready to embrace the lifestyle, raising ducks, chickens and rabbits.

Rommel transformed her hobby into a business, which she named Birdsong Farm — becoming one of an increasing number of small farms and ranches across the Pacific Northwest, according to the latest USDA Census of Agriculture.

A flock of Muscovy ducks now grazes on lush green pasture at Birdsong Farm next to garden beds of garlic, beans, potatoes and cabbage. Rommel sells the meat, eggs and produce directly to consumers through on-farm pickup, or at several local farmers’ markets she attends.

“I went into this saying I’m going to grow all my own food now,” Rommel said. “It’s exhausting, but it’s pretty amazing to sit down to a meal where I grew everything on the plate.”

In addition to their chores, Rommel and her husband work separate jobs off the farm. He is an elementary school librarian in nearby Falls City, and she is a self-employed artist with a business making custom pet portraits out of felt.

But there is something special about farming, Rommel said — digging in the dirt and feeling connected to nature. She also said it is a big responsibility to provide the community with clean, healthful food.

“There is a lot more community connection with small farms,” Rommel said. “It’s a community investment, and a community service.”

Counting farms
New figures in the 2017 Census of Agriculture show small farms — already the vast majority of the region’s agricultural operations — are on the rise around the Northwest.

The USDA defines “small farms” not by acreage, but rather by sales. Any farm that makes less than $250,000 a year qualifies as “small.”

By that definition, small farms easily make up the bulk of operations. Oregon had 34,807 small farms in 2017, or about 92% of all farms statewide. In Washington, the total is 32,016 small farms, or 88%, and in Idaho it is 22,044 small farms, also 88%.

The number of small farms as measured by acreage also increased between the 2012 and 2017, census figures show. The biggest gains were farms between 1 and 10 acres, which in Oregon jumped from 9,119 to 12,536, in Washington from 10,559 to 11,523 and in Idaho from 4,861 to 6,673.

Chris Mertz, director of the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service field office in Olympia, Wash., said counting small farms can be a huge challenge. Farmers may think they are too small to really matter, though Mertz said he feels the agency is getting better at reaching out to those producers and making sure they are included.

“That’s a big part of agriculture here in the Northwest,” Mertz said. “I think we need to acknowledge that and show how many people are involved.”

While the number of small farms continues to grow, Mertz said consolidation of larger farms is another trend dominating the industry. The census measures what it calls “farm concentration of market value,” which reflects how many farms make most of the state’s income.

In Oregon, 682 farms account for 75% of sales. The figure is 942 farms in Washington, and 1,248 farms in Idaho. As more production becomes concentrated in fewer farms, Mertz said it speaks to fewer small farms growing and succeeding as mid-size farms.

“Farming is a challenging occupation,” Mertz said. “You need to get to the point of having the resources available to pay all your bills, raise your family and to have a balanced life. Sometimes in the middle category, there might just not be enough revenue.”

While many small farmers ultimately make a go of it financially, most others such as retirees and “hobby farmers” are happy with the lifestyle, if not the income. About two-thirds of Northwest farms brought in less than $10,000 in 2017, according to USDA.

Resources available
The small farm trend has not escaped state and university officials, who are working to put together programs to help more small farms to flourish and prosper.

Laura Lewis, director of the Food Systems Program at Washington State University, said she is troubled by the erosion of mid-size farms. The good news, however, is that more small farmers seem eager to become involved, which she attributes to the popularity of the farm-to-table movement.

“It’s wonderful to see that we’re adding new farms,” Lewis said. “Some of these smaller-scale farms are really starting to get a better foothold economically.”

Part of that has to do with resources provided by the Food Systems Program, run by a team of 100 WSU staff and community organizations. One program, called “Cultivating Success,” works specifically with new and beginning farmers and was developed in collaboration with the University of Idaho.

Land-grant universities and extension services in other states also have small-farm programs. They work with nonprofits to offer classes and teaching farms where new farmers can learn the trade, and some organizations offer internships for new farmers.

A big part of the focus is helping to grow regional markets for small farms. The Cascadia Grains Conference is one such initiative, providing a platform for small grain growers to build relationships with buyers and sell their crops.

Lewis said the university also works closely with the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s Regional Markets Program. Laura Raymond, who leads the state program, said she has been impressed with how small farms are becoming more creative — making unique, value-added products and finding ways to sell beyond the traditional farmers’ market or community-supported agriculture model.

WSDA has resources to help small farms navigate regulations, and decide how best to invest their resources, she said.

“We look at all of these issues and try to understand how they translate to small and direct-marketing farms, specifically,” Raymond said. “Oftentimes, people get into farming because they love to grow things, but it’s always wise to think about who might buy the things you’re growing before you get too far down the track.”

In Oregon, several bills are also moving up in the Legislature this session to assist small farmers and ranchers, such as House Bill 3090 which would create a beginning farmer and rancher incentive program under the state Department of Agriculture, focused on student loan and tuition assistance.

HB 3090 passed out of its committee of first referral and is currently in the Ways and Means committee.

House Bill 2729 is also in Ways and Means. It would set aside $10 million over the next two years for the Oregon Agricultural Heritage Program, designed to preserve farmland and spur succession planning for future generations of farmers.

Connecting to food
Lewis is reluctant to label the type of people who are starting small farms. She said they come from many backgrounds and experiences.

One thing that’s for certain, however, is that consumers are driving the demand for local food production, much of which takes place on small farms.

“We’ve seen over the last 10 to 15 years (people) just wanting to know who your farmer is and where your food comes from,” she said.

According to the national nonprofit Farmers Market Coalition, the number of farmers markets in the U.S. has grown rapidly over the last 25 years, from less than 2,000 in 1994 to 8,767 currently listed by the USDA in the National Farmers Market Directory.

Farmers also say they were drawn to the job by wanting to know more about their food.

Hillary Gallino, of Powder Creek Ranch in Beaver, Ore., began raising heritage Tamworth pigs on her grandmother’s 362-acre former dairy farm about four years ago. She farrows her own piglets, and starting this year will begin selling bacon and other cuts of meat at the Pacific City farmers’ market to help build her customer base.

“I’m hoping that I can reach more people. It’s very rural where I am,” Gallino said.

Gallino works as a housekeeper in Pacific City, but hopes to grow her business and farm full-time. She is passionate about the Tamworth breed, which she hopes will not be lost or forgotten amid mass production.

“I just found that I really enjoy raising the pigs,” she said. “I want to know where my food is coming from, and provide local food for other people and meat that has been humanely raised.”

Rod Wenger, of Down to Earth Farms in West Salem, started the business with his brother, Jordan, about two years ago. They grow a variety of produce and microgreens — vegetables harvested after their first leaves appear — on less than an acre, and sell at numerous farmers’ markets across the Willamette Valley.

“I think people have it in their head that you need a massive amount of space to grow food. That’s just not the case,” he said.

Wenger said he is not certain whether the business will expand in the future, but he is encouraged that his business can show people food can be grown on a local, small scale, even close to urban areas.

“I think it’s phenomenal,” Wenger said. “Anytime people can get closer to their food, it’s wonderful for our health and our culture.”

 


For high school student, a budding interest in farming

JEWELL, Ore. — When Daniel Kuhnly was a high school freshman, he thought maybe he’d be an engineer. It was, he said, a kind of random choice, but at the time it worked as a fill-in-the-blank to the question of what he was going to do with his life.

He has a more concrete answer now: He wants to go into farming, specifically viticulture. Grapes, winemaking, vineyards.

When the 17-year-old senior at Jewell School graduates in June, his next move is to attend Chemeketa Community College’s Northwest Wine Studies Center in Salem.

Someday, he hopes to have his own vineyard and organic farm. He is intrigued by the mechanics and aesthetics of vineyards — but, more, he is fascinated by transformation.

“A raw fruit can transform into wine, and there’s that whole process of fermentation,” he said. Then there is farming: Dry, gnarled little seeds become plants that can feed and heal people.

“I think it just comes partially from genetics,” Kuhnly said of farming, “and I just like nature. I’ve always liked being outdoors.”

His great-grandfather was a farmer. Kuhnly didn’t know him well. His grandmother in Svensen has had more of a direct influence, with her greenhouse and her yard full of plants and flowers.

Kuhnly spent a lot of time with her last year when he started working at Blackberry Bog Farms in Svensen. The farm grows fruit and vegetables and maintains a plant nursery, Scottish Highland cattle, poultry and a hop yard.

For Kuhnly, what began as an after-school and summer job became a realization. He kept wanting to learn more. He has since gone through training offered by the Clatsop County Master Gardeners. A $1,000 scholarship he was awarded by the group for students going into agriculture and horticulture will help pay for his college classes.

His senior project was to work in the school greenhouse in Jewell. At home, he constructed his own greenhouse using a former chicken coop and goat enclosure.

Neat rows of young plants line the interior of the greenhouse at his family’s home. Kuhnly’s favorite plants to grow are tomatoes, but he’s still figuring out the challenges of growing in different places, different environments.

In the forest-encircled hollow where he lives, soil quality and light are both tricky factors.

In farming, generally, “there’s so many different variables and things that can happen,” he said. “It’s always a mystery.”

The mysteries — even when they are frustrating — are what keep him interested. As he looked across the many plants he’s grown himself or has been given by other gardeners in his life, he said, “I think I’ve learned more in a year than all my years in high school.”


U.S. organic sales top $50 billion

The U.S. organic market hit a record $52.5 billion in 2018, up 6.3% from the previous year and breaking through the $50 billion mark for the first time.

New records were made in both food and nonfood categories. Organic foods sales at $47.9 billion increased 5.9% year over year, and organic non-food sales jumped 10.6% to $4.6 billion, according to the 2019 Organic Industry Survey released May 17.

Almost 6% of all food sold in the U.S. is now organic, and growth in the organic sector continued to outpace gains in overall food and comparable nonfood sales in 2018.

Total food sales in the U.S. increased 2.3% and nonfood sales rose 3.7%, according to the Organic Trade Association, which commissioned the survey performed by Nutrition Business Journal.

“Organic is now considered mainstream,” Laura Batcha, CEO and executive director of OTA, said.

Organic products can be found in every aisle of the grocery store and in box stores, club warehouse and convenience stores and are increasingly available on the internet she said.

The organic seal is gaining new appeal as consumers realize not only that certification is monitored and supported by official standards but it’s the only seal that encompasses the spectrum of non-GMO and free of pesticides, chemicals, dyes and preservatives, she said.

The survey found sales of organic fruits and vegetables, which now account for 36.3% of all organic food sales, grew 5.6% to $17.4 billion in 2018. Organic represented nearly 15% of all produce sold in the U.S., nearly doubling market share in the last 10 years.

Sales of organic dairy and eggs, the second-largest organic sector, were $6.5 billion. Those sales increased just 0.8% due to slower dairy sales. Organic egg sales, however, increased 9.3% to $858 million.

The strongest growth in the organic nonfood sector came from fiber, which accounts for 40 percent of the organic nonfood market. Organic fiber sales in 2018 increased 12.5% to $1.8 billion.


Drought declared in 24 more Washington watersheds

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee declared a drought emergency Monday in 24 watersheds, making public agencies in about half the state eligible for drought-relief grants.

Summer water supplies in the watersheds are expected to be less than 75% of normal, according to the Department of Ecology. The governor declared an emergency in three other watersheds in early April.

“As the climate continues to change, we must be proactive in taking steps to plan for those impacts,” Inslee said in a written statement.

The drought declarations are the first in Washington since a statewide drought in 2015.

Ecology reports the snowpack is melting fast and on Monday was the sixth-lowest in the past 30 years. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts that June, July and August will be warmer than average in Washington.

Lawmakers have set aside $2 million for projects to help farms, fish or water systems. The Department of Ecology plans to begin taking applications for projects in early June.

The grants could fund projects such as drilling emergency wells, trucking in water, leasing water and buying conservation equipment, according to Ecology.

The watersheds named in Monday’s declaration are on both sides of the Cascades and cover all or parts of 23 of the state’s 39 counties. The watersheds are:

Chelan, Colville, Cowlitz, Deschutes, Elwha-Dungeness, Entiat, Grays-Elochoman, Kennedy-Goldsborough, Kettle, Lower Chehalis, Lower Skagit-Samish, Lower Yakima, Lyre-Hoko, Naches, Nooksack, Queets-Quinault, Quilcene-Snow, Skokomish-Dosewallips, Soleduc, Stillaguamish, Upper Chehalis, Upper Skagit, Wenatchee, and Willapa.

On April 4, an emergency was declared in the Methow, Okanogan and Upper Yakima watersheds in Central Washington.

According to a May 8 Ecology analysis, the driest watersheds were projected to have 62% of normal summer water supplies.

Water supplies are near normal in central Puget Sound and above normal in southeast Washington.

Drought conditions have been growing, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Some 34% of Washington was in a “moderate” drought on Thursday, compared to 10% two weeks earlier.

Through the end of the April, 2019 has been the 15th driest on record in Washington. Records go back to 1895. March was especially dry, the fourth driest March on record. Some parts of the state, notably the Palouse and Blue Mountains, have been wet, however.


OSU plans ‘Crop Talk’ series for small-scale farmers

Oregon State University’s small farms program has lined up a series of “Crop Talk” presentations to take place through August.
Crop Talks are farmer-to-farmer educational opportunities, according to OSU. They include a tour of a farm and a discussion of the farmer’s expertise.
The talks will take place in the Hood RIver area and the Willamette Valley. Following is the schedule:

Thursday, June 13: Marketing Your Farm. 6-8 p.m., Tumbleweed Farm, Parkdale. Tumbleweed Farm will focus on marketing. Contact: Rachel Suits,rachel.suits@oregonstate.edu, 541-386-3343 ext 38257.

Tuesday, July 9: Small Farm Entrepreneurship. 6-8 p.m., Lefever Holbrook Farm, Goldendale, Wash. Lefever Holbrook Farm will focus on entrepreneurship as a small farmer. Contact: Rachel Suits, rachel.suits@oregonstate.edu, 541-386-3343 ext 38257.

Tuesday, July 9: Seed Production. 6-8 p.m., Adaptive Seeds, Sweet Home, Ore. This farm tour is hosted by Sarah and Andrew at Adaptive Seeds and will be focused on seed production. Contact: Teagan Moran, teagan.moran@oregonstate.edu, 541-766-3553.

Tuesday, July 23: Blueberry Production. 5:30-8 p.m., Kiger Island Blues, 2322 Southeast Kiger Island Drive, Corvallis, Ore. This farm tour is hosted by Mindi Thorton of Kiger Island Blues and will be focused on blueberry production. Contact: Teagan Moran, teagan.moran@oregonstate.edu, 541-766-3553. Cost: $5.

Thursday, Aug 8: Dairy Sheep and NRCS Infrastructure Projects: 5:30-8 p.m., The Bear and the Maiden Farm, Junction City, Ore. This farm tour is hosted by Barbara Talley of The Bear and the Maiden Farm and will be focused on dairy sheep and their NRCS Infrastructure Projects. Contact: Teagan Moran, teagan.moran@oregonstate.edu, 541-766-3553. Cost: $5.

Tuesday, Aug 13: Transitioning orchards and understanding tree fruit varieties. 6-8 p.m., Tamiyasu Fruits, Hood River, Ore. Tamiyasu Fruits will focus on transitioning orchards to organic and understanding tree fruit varieties. Contact: Rachel Suits, rachel.suits@oregonstate.edu, 541-386-3343 ext 38257.

To register, visit: https://extension.oregonstate. edu/smallfarms/crop-talks


Forecast: Water supplies across Oregon mixed

PORTLAND — Oregon farmers and ranchers can expect mixed irrigation supplies heading into summer after months of fast-changing weather.

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service released its statewide water outlook report for May, predicting near- to above-average stream flows in eastern and southern Oregon, and near- to below-average stream flows in central and western Oregon.

Scott Oviatt, snow survey supervisor for the NRCS in Portland, said reservoir levels are faring well across the state, averaging from 93% to 140% of normal storage.

“Water users that have access to reservoir storage will likely have adequate water supplies this summer, while those dependent upon in-stream flows will need to continually monitor conditions due to rapidly changing weather patterns,” Oviatt said.

Conditions have been feast or famine through most of the water year dating back to October, Oviatt said. The year got off to a slow start until record-breaking snowfall in February, which dramatically changed the agency’s forecast.

Then came early April, bringing heavy rains that mixed with rapid snowmelt to cause widespread flooding and record-high stream flows. More than half of river gauging stations around the state measured record-high stream flows, including 300% to 500% of normal in the Umatilla, Walla Walla and Willow Creek basins of northeast Oregon.

Flooding also occurred in the Willamette Basin, which received 186% of its normal April precipitation. Now, as temperatures rise into the upper 80s and much of the in-stream flow has already passed, Oviatt said the concern will begin shifting toward parched rangeland and the possibility of wildfires.

Overall, basins in eastern and southern Oregon have received 100% to 120% of normal precipitation dating back to October, while those in western and central Oregon have received 85% to 100%.

Snowpack continues to linger at higher elevations in Eastern Oregon, while dwindling to about half of normal in the Klamath, Willamette and Upper Deschutes basins, and as low as 40% in the Hood, Sandy and Lower Deschutes basins.

Thanks to a wet February and April, the U.S. Drought Monitor lists just 17% of Oregon as “abnormally dry,” as opposed to 81% of the state a year ago.

That said, the National Climate Prediction Center is calling for increased chances of higher temperatures and a roughly equal chance of above- or below normal precipitation over the next three months.

“In an optimum world, we would cool down here and still get some spring precipitation carrying through the early part of June,” Oviatt said.  “As we know, by that point in time, we just don’t receive that much precipitation after that.”


Women farmers better represented in Census of Ag

GOODING, Idaho — When Stacie Ballard signed on with a local processor in 1995 to sell milk from her fledgling dairy, the company put the contract in her husband’s name — even though he was working full-time off the farm as a diesel mechanic.When she tried to get the paperwork changed, she was told her husband would have to do it. His name also came first on a business loan for the dairy.

“I was the one milking the cows,” she said, still incredulous.

Wanting a fresh herd, she had started with 23 springers she obtained through the American Jersey Cattle Association. Those springers started calving two to three weeks later.

She milked, fed and tended the cows alone for the first eight years, albeit with help from the couple’s three children. Her husband, Steve, didn’t come into the operation full-time until 2001.

It wasn’t all that long ago, either, that anyone coming to the dairy on business and wanting to talk with the boss assumed the person in charge was a man.

Women have always been part of most farming operations as partners, sharing the workload and helping make decisions. Farmers recognize that, but agriculture is still perceived as a man’s world — by the public and the industry, she said.

“People assume men are running the farm,” she said.

But the reality is women have just as much involvement on the farm as men, she said.

A better picture
Ballard wasn’t the only one struck by the incongruity. USDA was also concerned that women, as well as younger farmers, were underrepresented in the Census of Agriculture — a survey of producers taken every five years by the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

After each census, USDA solicits feedback from stakeholders. Input after the 2012 census led to changes in the census questionnaire to better capture the roles people might play on the operation — particularly the involvement of women and younger people, said Ginger Harris, a NASS statistician and demographer.

“It’s important to know who those people are so (USDA) programs can be targeted across whole communities and reflect the roles of all people,” she said.

The 2017 census added questions about who the decision-makers were in different areas of the operation and allowed respondents to identify additional producers and principal producers (those making decisions) on their operation, she said.

That led to a 6.9% increase in the number of all producers and a 26.6% increase in the number of female producers compared to 2012, she said.

In addition, the changes led to an increase of nearly 70% in USDA’s calculation of the number of female primary producers. Among female producers, 65% identified as a principal producer and nearly 40% were reported as the primary producer on the operation.

USDA defines a principal producer as a senior partner in a farm. There can be several principal producers on any given farm. The primary producer is defined as the person making the most decisions for that farm.

In the bigger picture, women represented 36% of all producers in 2017 compared to 30% in 2012. They also represented 24% of all primary producers compared to 14% in 2012.

Changing the count
Doris Mold, immediate past president of American Agri-Women, served on two expert panels guiding the changes to the census questionnaire.

“We knew there were a lot more women farming,” she said, they just weren’t being counted.

Some of it was cultural, with women who were involved in bookkeeping and marketing not claiming the farmer hat. The panel’s recommendation was to open up the demographic section and add questions to capture shared decision-making and management, Mold said.

That ultimately affected the number of women reporting involvement. While the number of women in agriculture is increasing overall, the census results more reflect that women who have been involved all along are also being counted, she said.

“It’s pretty exciting … we are finally getting the acknowledgement that women have played a role,” Mold said.

It also shows women producers are becoming more confident, considering themselves a farmer and not just a “farm wife,” she said.

“I think women have always played an important role. … That role has not always been recognized,” she said.

The recognition in the latest census is “tremendous,” Mold said.

For a long time, the census didn’t count gender at all, she said.

The census began in 1840 and was conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau until it was shifted to USDA in 1997. It didn’t include a question about the gender of farm operators until 1978.

The important take-away from the latest census is it’s important to count everybody. It gives more information on who’s involved, what they contribute and what their needs might be. Hopefully, that influences agricultural organizations, their boards of directors and how other aspects are designed, she said.

“In general, there are gender differences as far as the skills women bring to the table in all careers” and they need to be taken into account, she said.

In a wider sense, more women are becoming involved in agriculture, and their role is changing. More are studying agricultural curriculums and going into careers in science and technology, Mold said.

A driving force
The higher number of female producers in the latest census is likely a combination of better questions and more women being involved in farming, said Mandy Minick, Washington state president of Northwest Farm Credit Services.

“Farm families have been a two-person operation for a long time,” she said.

In that regard, the census is just capturing the real traditional picture. But now with the younger generation coming back to the farm, there are as many daughters as sons taking over the operation, she said.

The farming business has gotten more complex, and more unique managers are needed. It’s great that the census changed to better measure what’s really going on in operations, she said.

Many women are good at relationships and working with people, and they are involved in all aspects of the business — human resources, employee relationships, financials, marketing and distributing, she said.

“Women are very good at taking care of aspects like that. I think that women are very good at seeing how all the pieces fit together. They have a clear picture of what’s working and what’s not,” she said.

Many are also meticulous and detail-oriented and bring good skills to bookkeeping and financial management, she said.

They are also running whole operations, especially local food operations and urban farms. They are studying more traditionally male types of disciplines such as animal husbandry and range management, she said.

Regardless of the size of operation, what’s produced or the location, there’s a real surge in women being part of production, lending and supply and inputs, she said.

It’s about teamwork
It’s all about teamwork at the Ballard Family Dairy & Cheese, which has grown its herd to 106 cows. Steve is now in charge of the animals, son Travis calls the shots in cheesemaking and Stacie is CFO — handling everything else.

Her responsibilities include banking, loans, taxes, compliance, invoices, vendors, marketing, workers compensation and payroll.

“I tend to be the paperwork pusher,” she said.

Everyone has individual responsibilities, but everything is discussed and the three come to a mutual decision — although there’s been a time or two when she’s insisted on a certain conclusion.

“I think women always have brought different priorities and perspectives to decision-making. I think we’re always trying to do a balance, trying to look at all sides,” she said.

Women have always been involved on the farm, and it’s good that the census is getting a better picture of what’s been going on for years, she said.

But “I still think society is way behind on what women do. The industry and society still give the man the pat on the back,” she said.

Steve is involved in state and national dairy organizations and travels a lot for the dairy industry. He’s normally only at the dairy on weekends, she said.

“But people assume it’s his dairy,” she said.


Signup for Washington produce safety workshop

Three workshops in Washington state next week will help farmers adhere to produce safety guidelines under the federal Food Safety Modernization Act.

The workshops are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. They are:

• May 20: Washington State University Spokane County Extension office, 222 N. Havana St., Spokane.

• May 21: Blue Mountain Action Council, 1520 Kelly Place, Walla Walla.

• May 23: WSU Extension, 97 Oak Bay Road, Port Hadlock-Irondale.

The National Young Farmers Coalition and Washington Young Farmers Coalition, serving farmers with less than 10 years of experience, will host the workshops.

The program covers practices for growing, harvesting, packing and holding fresh produce, said Maggie Kaiser, food safety training coordinator for the national coalition.

The workshop helps farmers learn what’s in the law, including those who might fall under exemptions within the law, Kaiser said.

According to the coalition, all non-exempt fruit and vegetable farms will be required by law to have at least one owner or managerial staff member on site who has attended an approved FSMA Produce Safety Rule training.

Even exempt farms will be required to keep certain records, which will be covered in the workshop.

“We encourage all growers to get educated about the rule,” Kaiser told the Capital Press. “There’s always room for improvement in farm environments for growing produce more safely.”

The training helps identify and address areas of risk on the farm, Kaiser said.

Kaiser said she doesn’t see any indication of changes to the law under the Trump administration.

“We just hope we are able to highlight some very practical and easy, inexpensive ways to implement better food safety practices on a farm,” she said. “We try to put it into what’s already happening on the farm.”

Cost is $35.

For more information, contact Kaiser at maggie@youngfarmers.org

 


UI conference brings heritage orchard efforts together

A University of Idaho conference will bring together experts from around the region in an effort to revive heritage fruit varieties.

The Heritage Orchard Conference will begin at 9 a.m. May 31 at the university’s Sandpoint Organic Agriculture Center.

Many institutions in the Northwest have a small orchard of heritage fruit, said Kyle Nagy, superintendent and orchard operations manager at the center.

“Everybody seems to be doing something a little bit different, with different goals,” Nagy said. “We’re looking to … see what we can all collaborate on in the future.”

The university received the 66-acre center as a donation in 2018.

“We’re kind of looking for how we can help with other programs and collaborate with goals they have already set out,” Nagy said.

The agenda includes presentations from the Lost Apple Project, the Boundary County Orchard Restoration Project, the Wyoming Apple Project and the Montana Heritage Orchard Program.

Demand for heritage and heirloom apple varieties has increased in recent years, largely driven by a growing interest in hard cider, Nagy said. Many hard ciders need a cider-specific variety, most of which are heritage fruits, he said.

“A lot of these old varieties were bred in a time when they were really looking for hard cider varieties,” he said. “Back when potable water was maybe something that was a little harder to come by, a lot of people were drinking cider as their hydration. Being fermented like that, it’s going to be safer for everybody to drink.”

Nagy estimates the conference will have about 75 participants.

The conference may move to other locations in future years, Nagy said.

Nagy hopes to spread the word about heritage varieties to home orchardists and home gardeners, beyond the few modern cultivars available to them.

“There’s just so many neat apples out there that people have never heard of,” he said.