State organization honors farmers’ market manager

ROSEBURG, Ore. — After just two years, Amanda Pastoria’s impact on the Umpqua Valley Farmers’ Market in Roseburg as its manager has been recognized and honored at the state level.

Pastoria was named 2019 Oregon Market Manager by the Oregon Farmers Market Association at the organization’s annual meeting on Feb. 22 in Corvallis, Ore. There are about 105 farmers’ markets in the state.

“I cried, and I’m not a crier,” Pastoria said of hearing her name. “I was overcome with emotion, I was super touched.

“I’m definitely filled with gratitude,” the 42-year-old added. “I work hard at what I do and it’s nice to receive the appreciation.”

The Umpqua Valley Farmers’ Market, a year-round Saturday market, has experienced increases in vendors, customers and sales in the past two years. Pastoria said vendor spaces have increased by 18%, SNAP sales by 12% and credit card sales by 67% in those two years. The market hit a record high 58 vendors at its peak last summer.

“We’ve had some incredibly small businesses pop up,” Pastoria said. “It’s nice to see that entrepreneurial spirit, to see success stories here at the market.”

Pastoria has established the Food Hero and Fruit and Veggie Prescription programs at the market. Last summer’s 10-week Food Hero program attracted 672 kids who sampled a fruit or veggie recipe, then did an activity and were rewarded with a $2 voucher to spend at the market on fruits and vegetables.

“It’s all about health and wellness,” Pastoria said of the two programs.

Pastoria has also created special activities that enhance the market at Easter, Fourth of July, National Farmers’ Market Week in August and at Halloween.

“I’m always looking for new fun ways to bring people in to enjoy the market on Saturdays,” Pastoria said.

Jim Leet, a 14-year small farm vendor at the market and a past president of the market’s board, said Pastoria has been innovative.

“She’s brought in some new fresh ideas, celebrations that spotlight different times of the year,” Leet said. “She’s been successful in getting those ideas and activities implemented and they have helped bring in new people. She hit the ground running and hasn’t slowed down since.”

Prior to becoming the market’s manager a couple years ago, Pastoria worked at the Big Lick Farm booth in trade for produce. She liked the culture of the market so much that she had her own kitchen certified, made organic vegan and vegetarian foods, and opened her own booth, Nurturing Your Nest, at the market.

But when previous market manager Heather Barklow resigned, Pastoria knew that position was “an excellent fit for me.” She applied and was hired.

“I feel so grateful to do a job that I am passionate about, and love,” she wrote in a letter to the market vendors. “I am incredibly blessed to work with so many creative, hard-working, loyal and dependable vendors. They give the community a reason to gather. They educate the community. They create the desire for our community to return to us each week for amazing quality, local goods.”

Pastoria also recently accepted the market manager position for the Canyonville Farmers’ Market in Canyonville, Ore. She’ll manage that market’s summer season, on Wednesdays, from May to September.


USDA will release Census of Agriculture April 11

The Department of Agriculture will release the results of the 2017 Census of Agriculture Thursday.

The full Census report will include millions of data points, including number of farms, land in farms, total value of production, demographics, and more at the national, state, and county levels, according to a USDA press release. The report, along with a number of related publications, video presentations, and searchable data query interfaces, will be available on the NASS website at  www.nass.usda.gov.

The data will be available at noon Eastern time.

“We are excited to share the new Census of Agriculture data next week,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said in the press release. “The Census data will help inform decisions about ag education, research, farm programs, rural development, and much more over the next several years. Conducting the Census is part of USDA’s commitment to you.”

This Census report will include new information on military service, food marketing practices, and on-farm decision-making. These additions help better capture the roles and contributions of beginning farmers, women farmers, and others involved in running a farm enterprise.

The first Census of Agriculture was conducted in 1840 in conjunction with the decennial Census. After 1920, it was conducted every four to five years. By 1982, it was regularly conducted once every five years as it still is today, mailed to every known farm and ranch in the United States.


Organic farmer markets crops direct to customers

Farmer Curtis Lucero likes to tell a joke he heard about farming: “The only way to make a million dollars in farming is to start with two million.”

Though it’s an exaggeration, farming is not for those who want to get rich quick.

“I grew up in Santa Cruz, where my father, Ben, farmed,” he said. “I went into farming full-time in January 2006 after I retired from the Army after 20 years. We purchased the Galt (Sacramento County) farm in June 2018. My father was my partner until he retired recently.”

Lucero grows about 200 varieties of organic fruit and vegetables on 20 acres from March through December. Tomatoes are his biggest crop.

“We’ve grown over 60 varieties of tomatoes in one season,” he said. “We’ve cut it down to around 30 including my father’s own variety — Ben’s Ivory Pear — which has been grown for over 20 years,” he said. “There are many unusual varieties. The Red, Green, White and Black Zebra get a lot of attention at the markets.

“The Indigo Rose tomato is a newer variety that has gotten quite a bit of attention, too,” he said. “It starts out green, then turns purple and gets an orange blush when ripe.”

Thin-skinned tomatoes are the hardest to grow. They are susceptible to cracking, bruising and rotting. Lucero said pests are also a problem during seasons following mild and dry winters.

“Growing organically we utilize drip irrigation on all of our crops not only to conserve water but for weed abatement as well,” he said.

Lucero said his customers are aware of the differences between conventional and organic. He said the family has had many of the same customers for over 25 years.

The farm markets its crops through farmers’ market associations, Facebook, Instagram and their website, www.luceroorganicfarms.net

“We’ve been honored to work with the Lucero family at the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market in San Francisco for so many years,” said Brie Mazurek, communications director of the Center for Urban Education and Sustainable Agriculture.

In spite of regulations, pests and cost of land, Lucero said he would definitely encourage anyone to go into farming as a career.

“Farming is very hard work, but very rewarding as well,” he said. “It brings you closer to nature and becomes more of a ‘way of life’ than a career. You need to be totally committed and not be afraid to fail.”

But there are no guarantees in farming, he said.

“Remember, you can do everything right during the season and still have a less than productive season,” he said. “You’re at the mercy of God and Mother Nature.”

And, he said, “Don’t go into farming thinking you’ll get rich anytime soon.”


Washington’s Small Acreage Expo planned

The 14th annual Small Acreage Expo will  be on April 13 at the 78th Street Heritage Farm in Vancouver.

The Small Acreage Expo is sponsored by the WSU Clark County Extension. Pre-registration is $15 and runs until 2:30pm on Friday, April 12. Register by April 12 to include a free lunch with registration. Late registration price is $25 and can be paid on arrival. For more information and to see an event program, go to the event’s website.

The farm is located at  1919 NE 78th St., Vancouver, Wash.

The expo allows participants to choose from various workshops covering land management, grazing, weeds, composting and other topics. An open house during the lunch hour will allow participants to meet and learn more about local agencies that serve the public as well as ask questions to local vendors participating in the event.

Sessions include:

Session A (9am-10:15am):
– Managing Grazing for Sustainable Pastures with Gary Fredricks, WSU Cowlitz County Extension
– Maintaining a Healthy Well with Drake Amundson, Clark County Public Health
– Native Vegetation Landscaping with Brad Mead, Clark County Public Utilities

Session B (10:30am-11:45am):
– Weed’em and Reap with Kara Hauge, Clark County Vegetation Management
– Septic Inspection* with Sean Hawes, Clark County Public Health
-Heritage Farm Tour with Joe Zimmerman, Clark County Public Works

Session C (12:45pm-2:00pm):
– Composting Manure with Doug Stienbarger, WSU Clark County Extension
– Advanced Septic System Maintenance with Sean Hawes, Clark County Public Health
– Heritage Farm Tour with Joe Zimmerman, Clark County Public Works

Session D (2:15pm-3:30):
– Improving Drainage with Grant Johnson, Grant Johnson Drainage
– Sustainable Living for Small Farms with Eric Lambert, Clark County Public Works
– Tractor Safety with Joe Zimmerman, Clark County Public Works

*Gravity fed systems only


‘Small Agriculture’ — a digital exhibit from USDA

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Library (NAL) has launched a new digital exhibit named “Small Agriculture.” This exhibit showcases three small-scale farming and niche agricultural initiatives that USDA has supported since its establishment. The exhibit features—

1. The School Garden: focusing on scientific aspects of plants, food production, marketing food products, engaging with the natural world, being outdoors and taking responsibility for your school garden.

2. Subsistence Homesteads: a Federal housing program created in 1933 as a response to the Great Depression aimed at improving the living conditions of people coming from overcrowded urban centers, while simultaneously giving them a new opportunity to experience small-scale farming and home ownership.

3. Victory Gardens and Farms: initiatives carried out to increase the supply and quality of fresh food for the domestic U.S. population during World War II.

NAL is part of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and serves as an extensive resource for agricultural information. For more information on this and other exhibits, visit the NAL website .


USDA seeks 5 nominees for the National Organic Standards Board

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) seeks nominations of qualified individuals for five open seats on the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). The 15-member advisory board considers and makes recommendations on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances and other issues involving the production, handling and processing of USDA certified organic products.

Each member serves a five-year term and represents specific sectors of the organic community. Current openings include:

One individual with expertise in areas of environmental protection and resource conservation.
One individual who owns or operates an organic farming operation or an employee of such individuals.
One individual who owns or operates a retail establishment with significant trade in organic products or an employee of such individuals.
Two individuals who own or operate an organic handling operation or an employee of such individuals.
USDA is also accepting nominations of qualified candidates to fill future unexpected vacancies in any of the seven categories representing the scope of the organic agricultural community.

Deadline for nominations is May 17, 2019.
Members attend two in-person meetings each year and participate in bi-monthly subcommittee conference calls. USDA reimburses NOSB members for approved travel and associated lodging expenses.

Nominations must include a resume and an AD-755 application form. Nominations may also include an optional cover letter and letters of reference.

Nominations may be emailed to Michelle.Arsenault@usda.gov at the National Organic Program or mailed to: USDA-AMS-NOP, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., Room 2642-S., Ag Stop 0268, Washington, DC 20250-0268. Electronic submissions are preferred.


Meet California’s organic farmer of the year

CAPAY, Calif. — Thaddeus Barsotti, who received the Organic Farmer of the Year award last December from the California Certified Organic Farmers and the Organic Produce Network, says all farmers should get an award.

“Some folks with influence in the organic community wanted to give me a shout out, which has been fun and very appreciated,” he said. “However, farming is hard, and in my opinion, any farmer that makes it another season is ‘Farmer of the Year.’”

Barsotti grew up on the family farm in Capay. It wasn’t until he was in college that he realized everyone didn’t grow up growing vegetables and hustling them at farmers’ markets.

For him, the decision to farm was gradual. He was always interested in the farm and went to school and studied agricultural engineering. He figured he would end up in the ag industry in some capacity.

“In 2000, when I was finishing my second year of college, my mother passed away,” he said. “My brothers and I chipped in to try to keep the farm going. After graduation from college, I briefly had a job as an engineer, and it was during that job that I decided to work on the farm full-time — figuring if it didn’t work out I could always fall back on an engineering job.”

That was almost 20 years ago.

“Our farm was certified organic in 1984,” he said. “Before that, my parents were farming in a manner that ended up developing the organic standard. I like to tell people that our farm was originally organic and that my brothers and I are likely the first, second-generation organic farmers.”

They farm 600 acres.

He is firm in the conviction that a farmer cannot eradicate pests.

“What we can do is create a healthy environment in which problem pests are minimized and crops are healthy enough to deal with them,” he said. “We do this by maintaining wild areas that foster beneficial insects and when we see problem pests begin to show up, we treat with organic pesticides to keep the pest population from taking over.”

The summer crops include melons, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, figs and apricots. The fall brings kales, chards, carrots, lettuces, bok choy, radishes and beets. Winter crops are Satsuma Mandarins, Meyer lemons and winter squash.


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.”


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.”


OSU to host pollinator summit

How pollinator-enhancement programs can be developed and enhanced is the subject of the PNW Pollinator Summit & Conference slated for Feb. 14-16 at the Oregon State University CH2M Hill Alumni Center in Corvallis.

A goal is to improve on-the-ground initiatives and reduce knowledge gaps by better coordinating natural resource professionals, land managers, pollinator enthusiasts, university extension agents and other educators, organizers said in a news release.

Scheduled keynote speakers are wildlife biologist Sam Droege of Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and the U.S. Geological Survey; agricultural extension and research specialist Elina Nino of University of California-Davis Cooperative Extension; and assistant biology professor Rebecca Tonietto of the University of Michigan-Flint and The Porch Project. About 20 speakers and presenters are scheduled.

Organizers include OSU’s Extension Service and College of Forestry, state agriculture and forestry departments, Oregon Bee Project and Nectar Creek.