Pole barn a versatile building option for farmers

Pole barns may be the most versatile buildings in agriculture. Farmers, ranchers, wineries and processors can modify them to suit their needs.

Long Brothers Building Supply in Woodburn, Ore., offers pole building kits that allow farmers to do most of the work themselves, at their own pace.

Depending on its intended use — usually farm storage or animal shelters — kits for pole buildings range from a 24-by-24-foot livestock shelter all the way up to a 72-by-240-foot building.

One of the nice things about pole buildings is they can be completed in leisurely stages and can often be converted to different applications without too much trouble.

“My dad has had a shop for 30 years and he finally retired,” Kelly Long, owner and vice president of operations, said. “He went through and insulated everything and put in a metal ceiling.”

Pole buildings can be built in stages, she said.

“A lot of people build the shell in the summer and then in the winter they’ll work on electrical and insulation and interior wall-type stuff — some people get fancy and sheetrock the building or a part of it.

“Depending on what you’re doing you might need lighting or maybe some plumbing; we’ve got the parts, toilets and utility sinks for all those things,” she said. “We had one barn that got turned into a doggie daycare, which is pretty cool; we actually take our pets there.”

Because of the agricultural nature of their clientele, Long Bros. also does a brisk agricultural fencing business.

“A lot of the people that are putting up barns, especially if they’re using them for horses or other animals, are also putting in fences,” Long said. “They can get their agricultural fencing posts, wire, gates — all of that here.”

In fact, Long says, the extensive inventory offered in both their hardware section and lumberyard make them a “one-stop shop.”

Part of their customer service is being on hand to help customers through small homeowner projects to complicated remodels.

“We have a huge senior citizen population at Senior Estates and sometimes they just need someone to come fix something for them,” Long said. “We have quite a variety of individuals on the lumber side of things and another group that works on the agricultural applications.”

The Long Bros. Facebook page offers ideas for projects that customers can do with the things the store stocks. Hardware stores can often be overlooked by crafters as an economical spot for hobby supplies. Long, a crafter herself, teaches sign-making workshops from time to time at the store.

“We have been here for 45 years now,” Long said. “Our grandparents started the business here in Woodburn in 1974. They retired and our dad took over. My cousins are here now; we are the fourth generation; our great-grandfather started in Keizer forever ago.

“We pride ourselves on being family owned, and if we didn’t have our customers, we couldn’t do what we do,” she said. “We try and just help our customers from start to finish and make sure that they come first.”

Washington legislator wants to expand cottage foods

A Washington legislator has proposed doubling to $50,000 a year the gross revenue makers of homemade foods can collect before they come under the state’s food processing law.

Rep. Carolyn Eslick, R-Sultan, said she introduced House Bill 2218 at the request of a constituent, who said she won’t be able to make her business work with the current $25,000 cap.

“We need to make it as easy as possible to make money, especially for those trying to raise children,” Eslick said.

The Legislature in 2011 authorized “cottage” food-makers to sell their homemade products directly to consumers. The state has about 300 licensed cottage food-makers, who are regulated by health officials and the state Department of Agriculture.

The food-makers prepare their products in home kitchens, pay fees and are subject to inspections. There are rules to follow, including one that bars infants, small children or pets from the kitchen during food preparation.

Lawmakers initially capped gross income at $15,000 a year. The limit was raised to $25,000 a year in 2015.

The Department of Agriculture is open to talking about raising the cap, an agency spokesman said.

A $50,000 cap on annual gross sales would match the limit for California’s cottage food-makers. In Oregon, the cap is $20,000.

In Idaho, homemade foods that don’t need refrigeration can be sold without a license directly to consumers.

Eslick also has introduced legislation to change labeling requirements on homemade foods.

House Bill 2217 would eliminate the requirement that food-makers put their home addresses on labels. Instead, the labels would have the number of the permit issued by the state Department of Agriculture.

“These are moms taking care of their children. They don’t want people coming to their home,” Eslick said.


OSU has a new small farm book

Oregon State University’s Small Farm Program has published a new book to help new farmers get their start and sustain their new operation.

“Whole Farm Management: From Start Up to Sustainability”  is a comprehensive guide developed by the Small Farms Program at Oregon State University to help aspiring and beginner farmers make smart business decisions to ensure lasting success.

“Drawing on the experience and insights of 12 contributing authors and 16 farmers from across North America, the book offers a holistic approach to farm management for small and medium size farms that use sustainable and organic methods, and sell their products through local and regional markets.

The book is available from Powell’s City of Books, Indie Bound — Community of Independent Book Stores, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.


Registration opens soon for OSU’s Small Farms Conference

Registration for Oregon State University’s popular Small Farms Conference will open by Dec. 18.

The day-long event will be held Feb. 22, 2020, at OSU’s Corvallis campus at the LaSells Stewart Center and CH2M Hill Alumni Center.

“The Oregon Small Farms Conference is a daylong event geared toward farmers, agricultural professionals, food policy advocates, students and managers of farmers markets,” according to the event’s website.  “Twenty-seven educational sessions are offered on a variety of topics relevant to the Oregon small farmers. Speakers include farmers, OSU Extension faculty, agribusiness, and more.”

Those who register through Jan. 20 will be charged $60. Registration from Jan. 21 through Feb. 7 is $85. Registration is not available at the door.

In addition to three seminar sessions, the conference includes a networking session, “Think With a Drink,” which will allow attendees to confer with other small farmers over beer, wine or cider.

For more information, go to the conference website.

The conference is sponsored by Northwest Farm Credit Services.


Get your tickets for the California Small Farm Conference

The 32nd annual California Small Farm Conference will be conducted Feb. 27-29.

“Local food, innovation, community roots and healthy soils—just a few of the things you’ll find growing on small farms and ranches all across California,” according to the event website.  “Join us in February 2020 for the 32nd annual California Small Farm Conference where farmers, ranchers and local food advocates gather each year to explore hot topics in sustainable agriculture, work to bridge field and fork, sharpen their skills, network and give voice to those growing a more resilient food system from the soil up.”

The event includes workshops, on-farm demos, field days, an ag policy forum and the Agrarian Lovers Ball.

The event will be conducted Cuesta College North County Campus in Paso Robles.

For registration information and a complete schedule, go to the event website.


Small farm produces unique sheep

EUGENE, Ore. — As the operator of a small farm, Stephanie Schiffgens recognizes the importance of being a no-waste sheep operation.

Appletree Farm specializes in breeding Gottland sheep for high-quality animals. Every lamb that doesn’t contribute to improving the breed is culled for a fleece, pelt and meat.

“There is so much waste; we live in such a wasteful world and economy,” Schiffgens said. “That being said, I have very little space here, and in order for the farm to pay for itself, I have to use every product.”

Schiffgens became interested in Gottland sheep, which are native to Sweden, in 2013 after her son saw them at the Black Sheep Gathering, a sheep show in the area. Schiffgens said that she fell in love with them and realized how versatile they were, as well as being docile and easy to handle.

At this point, she is breeding 10 Gottland ewes. She upbreeds her flock using imported Swedish semen that she buys from larger U.S. breeding farms, as well as her own rams with Swedish genetics.

“There’s a lot of challenges to get genetics,” she said, “A lot has to do with patience.”

Although the natural breeding is straight forward, when Schiffgens artificially inseminates her ewes it’s more challenging. Ewes take about 60% of the time, and it’s a surgical process.

“It’s still challenging because we lose a lot of the semen and that’s expensive,” she said, adding that a vial of semen will cost between $120 and $190.

Seven of her ewes have been artificially inseminated this year, but she will also put them in a pen with two to three rams to see what takes.

Schiffgens said that ideally she wants a well defined three-dimensional curl and even color throughout the body of the animals; she added that it’s more important to work on curl than color.

Between the meat, pelt and fleece, she can make between $450 to $580 a lamb.

Along with the sheep, Schiffgens also has a CSA, community supported agriculture operation, for free range eggs, produce and flowers. She works with another farm in the area for the flowers.

She runs the CSA from June to mid-September, along with a limited supply of storage crops for winter.

Seeds for her produce come from the U.S. and European Union, because Schiffgens is originally from southwestern France, where her family runs a large-scale produce operation.

“I have always grown something in my life,” she said.

In the future, she wants to expand her breeding program to include high-quality rams. With 10 acres, she said she doesn’t have enough space for volume, but if she can produce rams, someone with more acres can continue to develop more with the breed.

“I think small farms have their place in the local economy,” she said. “You can reach a lot of people and I feel like this is a little more sustainable; we’re able to pay attention to that. In the end, we make so much less money — you’re happy if the farm pays for itself — but then you have great food, make great connection and you work with a product of quality.”