OSU class explores ins and outs of small farming

If you are thinking about starting a farm business, Oregon State University has a three-part course designed to help you.

“Exploring the Small Farm Dream 2019” will be presented at Linn County Extension Office, 33630 McFarland Rd, Tangent.

“Whether you are dreaming of raising sheep, growing berries, or selling heirloom vegetables, this class series will give you the tools to start making choices to determine if farming is right for you,” the course website says.  “In this course you will learn about current opportunities in small-scale agriculture, explore objectives, assess personal and financial resources, conduct preliminary market research, and learn about farm business finances which will all feed into an action plan and guide your next steps. ”

The class will be conducted on the following dates: Tuesday Jan. 29, 5:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.; Thursday Feb. 7, 5:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.; and Tuesday, Feb. 12, 5:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.

“If you are exploring the idea of starting a farm business, this course is designed for you. This includes people thinking about full-time farming, farming part-time while continuing other employment, changing careers to start a farm, and/or developing an existing but informal farming pastime into a more serious business activity. ”

The cost of the class is $60 per person, or $75 for two farm partners.  Scholarships may be available, please contact Teagan Moran at Teagan.moran@oregonstate.edu or 541-766-3553.



Meat goats: Multi-purpose animals

Goat meat has never gone out of style, and demand for it only continues to increase, Oregon Meat Goat Producers President Stacey Rumgay says.

Rumgay’s meat goat operation began as an effort to provide project animals for her Tops 4-H Livestock group in Clackamas County, Ore. In 15 years, she went from a single Boer goat to 100 and this year kidded 140 babies at Western Horizon Ranch, where the goats now outnumber the cattle.

“They make a fabulous 4-H project for the kids that can’t have cattle,” Rumgay said. “We focus on raising quality market goats they can show at fairs and jackpot shows.”

Though prices ebb and flow, on-the-hoof goats fetch $1.75-$2.00 per pound. A good breeding animal commands $500-2,000 and, depending on age and quality, a market goat ranges from $200 to $2,000.

Ruth Kilgore, the OMGP vice president, also got her start leading 4-H members. Now the Bacon Bits & Friends 4-H Club leader is a partner in Kil-Mar Acres, an 80-head commercial meat goat operation near Newberg, Ore., where, as in Rumgay’s case, ethnic groups are the backbone of her business.

“Seventy-five percent of the world eats goat meat; the U.S. and a lot of European countries have not partaken of it until recently,” Kilgore said. “Most of the meat consumed here comes from Australia because we don’t have enough.”

The U.S. accounted for 66 percent of Australia’s goat meat exports in 2017, a total of nearly 21,000 tons, according to the Global Trade Atlas.

“We have all the cattle; it’s been our primary source of protein and what we’re used to,” Rumgay said.

“With our country becoming so diversified and as we become a global society the demand for goat has increased with our ethnic population. I sell at least 100 goats a year but I can’t raise enough; we turn people away. Ethnic groups are our customer base. Goat is very important to them.”

The few ethnic stores and restaurants that offer goat meat import most of it because they are unable to find a constant domestic supply.

“I was contacted by a restaurant that wanted 6-8 goats a month; I couldn’t guarantee that,” Kilgore said.

Goats are multi-purpose animals, providing milk, meat, hair, 4-H projects — and unique brush-cutting services.

“Goats are superior, environmentally friendly brush eaters who can eradicate a blackberry problem in three years,” Kilgore said. “They get along with other animals, picking out weeds like tansy ragwort and poison oak, leaving the pasture for cows and horses.

“There are a few herds east of the mountains with over 1,000 head that run rent-a-goat programs for those with brush to clear, including the Bureau of Land Management,” Kilgore said. “There’s an opportunity there.”

“Fifteen years ago I had over 7 acres of blackberries,” Rumgay said. “I have no acres of blackberries now.”

They are also prolific.

“Most of your goats are going to give you twins and we’re getting more triplets,” Kilgore said. “They’re smaller and easier to handle, eat a different quality of stuff, and are more personable than a cow.”

Rumgay echoes her enthusiasm and hopes consumers will start asking for it and bridge the “disconnect” between growers and grocers.

“Goat is the only red meat low in cholesterol and if you cook a roast just right it’s the texture of a turkey leg — just delicious,” she said. “They’re great for our youth to show and learn about agriculture and excellent at converting weeds, blackberries and brush into high quality meat.

“They’ve stolen my heart,” Rumgay added. “They’re just really enjoyable.”

Raising organic beef a challenge

CHEHALIS, Wash. — PND Organic Beef started life as a dairy.

Paul Olson grew up helping with chores on his dad’s dairy farm. He and Dalene were married in 1975 and raised their five children on that same farm.

As the children found their own interests and began moving off the farm, the Olsons’ chief source of help went with them. So, in 2006, the Olsons converted to a beef farm — PND Organic Beef.

“Our dream was not just any beef farm,” says Dalene. “We had already transitioned to certified organic in 2000 when the option to ship organic milk was introduced here.”

There is a lot to maintaining organic certification.

“‘Natural’ means nothing,” Dalene says. “There are no checks and balances for ‘natural.’ But to remain certified organic, our fields have to be inspected every year, there is lots of paperwork, and our animals have to be inspected every year — in fact, the whole farm and all its fields are inspected. We have a closed herd, except for a new bull every two years.”

Dalene says the most difficult part of running a certified organic beef operation is “keeping and finding fields we can certify. We need fields to be at least five acres. The county uses Roundup or whatever along the roads and fencelines, but to be organic, everything, including roads and fencelines, needs to be free of weed spray and commercial fertilizers,” Dalene says it is getting increasingly difficult to find such property.

The Olsons lease 140 acres for growing hay and haylage. The 250 head of cattle, including cow/calf pairs, are kept on the home place grazing on pasture or being fed hay and haylage when pasture is not available.

“We never feed any grain to our cows,” Dalene emphasizes. “They are 100 percent grass fed. Grain isn’t good for the animals, so it can’t be good for people who eat the meat.”

Some ranchers and farmers find that their children have no interest in continuing the legacy. Dalene says, “Our son helps us every couple of weeks, and he wants to continue our efforts. He wants to diversify — add fruits, vegetables and bees.”

The biggest challenge is winter.

“It gets cold, wet and sloppy,” Darlene points out and says all the work is just more intense in winter. “During calving season, Paul walks into the fields three or four times daily. Most of our cows do fine calving on their own, but every now and then, one will have difficulty or refuse to let the calf nurse. It’s important that we find them in time to save them.”

“We advertise on our website,” Dalene says of their marketing efforts. “There is a lot of word of mouth, and we are on EatWild.com. We find the combination to be effective. The farthest our meat goes is on a barge to Alaska, but we really like interacting with our customers. We meet a lot of good people.”

Dairy Goat Day challenged beginners, experts

PLEASANT HILL, Ore. — For newer goat owner Marit Vike, Dairy Goat Day was an opportunity for her and her husband to learn more information about their animals — and celebrate their anniversary.

Vike has had goats for four years, after her goat enthusiast friends inspired the couple to get their own. Although they consider the goats as pets and do little milking, Vike said she was most looking forward to health and pasture management seminars.

Vike was one of more than 50 attendees at Dairy Goat Day, which was sponsored by Oregon State University Small Farmers Extension Program and Emerald Dairy Goat Association (EDGA) in Cottage Grove. Attendees traveled from around the Willamette Valley, as well as from Central and Southern Oregon and Washington.

“We are so happy to be paired with OSU this year,” Laura Lounsbury, EDGA president, said. “They have been a big asset to us in putting everything together.”

Last year, Lounsbury suggested to the association that they should host an educational day to “ramp up numbers for our nonprofit group and encourage 4-H kids.” She was inspired by the Northwest Oregon Dairy Goat Associations’ annual conference, and attended OSU’s goat education event.

“It made sense to combine our efforts,” Melisa Fery, OSU Small Farms Extension Program agent, said. “(The program) is all about community education and helping landowners or small acreage owners meet their goals.”

She said that the program puts out needs assessments and workshops to ask farmers what they need to know to work more efficiently. The seminar topics were chosen by EDGA and Small Farms Extension, and were geared toward both beginners and life long learners.

“Our hope is that everyone, beginner or expert, can take away a few new pointers,” Lounsbury said.

Seminars included: Adventures with Pack Goats, Common Diseases of Goats, Getting Started with Milk Certification, Cheese Making for the Home Dairy, Managing Internal Parasites, Livestock Guardian Animals, Raising Goats for Meat, Pasture Management, Finessing Freshening: The 123s of Milking, Herbal Goat Foundations and Handling Goat Emergencies the Herbal Way.

During lunch, a demonstration by Becky Gee with EDGA showed attendees “how to build an inexpensive milk stand from PVC.”

Fery taught the general pasture management class. She said that “many Oregon pastures are overgrazed” and there are simple strategies to change that. She liked that it was applicable to people with goats as well as other livestock.

Katherine Drovdahl, with Fir Meadow LLC, was another instructor. She taught both Herbal Goat Foundations and Handling Goat Emergencies the Herbal Way. She said she wanted attendees to start “thinking like a vitalist” and learn ways to handle simple and scary emergencies with herbal remedies.

“I hope they leave more educated and encouraged to try new methods,” she said. “This information saves money and they learn to be independent. If there’s an emergency at midnight, it’s easier to find some dandelions than it is to go to the vet.”

Lounsbury said she was excited about this year’s growth — double the attendance from last year — as well as the variety of different topics.

“The Emerald Dairy Goat Association is committed to sharing knowledge of goats with others,” she said. “It is also a fundraiser for our nonprofit to keep our group alive, as well as encourage 4-H kids in the goat project.”

Teagan Moran, OSU educational program assistant, said these collaborations happen when a need is identified. She said people have reached out to her before who have experience in milking but wanted to branch out to meat goats, and events like these connect the community to skill share and network.

For Fery, after all the planning, she enjoyed watching attendees network and learn from each other.

“Knowing they’re getting some quality educational seminars today,” she said. “Anything they glean and apply to their farms is good for everyone. Good for water quality, soil and (the) animals.”

UI classes focus on financial management

University of Idaho Extension is offering a six-week course in farm and ranch management in Burley and Jerome beginning in January.

The course will focus on financial statements, financial analysis, enterprise budgets, strategic goals, mission statements and six factors affecting profitability.

The classes will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. on Wednesdays beginning Jan. 9 in Burley and Thursdays beginning Jan. 10 in Jerome.

Cost is $100 per farm or ranch. Registration is required by Dec. 21. To register, contact the Cassia County Extension office at (208) 878-9461.

Oregon ‘cottage food’ law showing benefits

A new study based on dozens of interviews at farmers’ markets across Oregon finds the state’s Farm Direct Marketing Law, which took effect in 2012, is working as advocates hoped, providing new revenue streams for small farms while reducing food waste.

The law sought to clarify licensing and food safety requirements for direct-to-consumer sales at venues such as farmers’ markets and farm stands. In Oregon, about 12 percent of farms engage in direct-to-consumer marketing — more than double the national rate — with $53 million in sales from an estimated 4,252 farms in 2015, according to the USDA.

Part of the law establishes provisions for “cottage foods,” or homemade value-added products such as jellies, canned fruit, pickled vegetables and relishes, using farm-grown produce. Under the rules, farmers can sell these goods direct-to-consumer without a food processor’s license so long as they meet certain labeling requirements and sales don’t exceed $20,000 per year.

Every state except Hawaii and New Jersey has some sort of cottage food laws on the books. Opponents argue that reduced regulatory scrutiny may lead to unsanitary practices that increase foodborne illnesses, though researchers with Oregon State University found no foodborne illness linked to the Farm Direct Marketing Law after its first five years.

Rather, the study, published Sept. 12 in the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems and Community Development, concluded the law has seemingly accomplished exactly what it was designed to do, and “we expect more farmers will take advantage of this opportunity.”

The study was funded in part by a grant from the USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture, and led by Lauren Gwin, associate director of the Center for Small Farms & Community Food Systems at OSU.

Researchers visited 20 farmers’ markets during the 2016 season, interviewing 18 farmers and 24 market managers about the Farm Direct Marketing Law. The top two benefits they mentioned were creating new, supplemental income streams and using excess produce to make valuable products such as salsa and preserves, turning potential waste into profit.

One Southern Oregon farmer interviewed for the study said the law was “a huge boon to our farm,” providing an additional $10,000 per year in sales — not enough to afford the flat infrastructure cost it would take to have a facility, “but you know a small amount like $10,000 really helps out our farm for the year.”

Other benefits discussed in the study include the ability for farmers to provide more healthy food choices in isolated, rural communities, and increasing food security in those areas. As one market manager said, “Every product that can be created in a community and sold at the market or a farmstand or CSA is one more thing that can actually be bought there, in rural communities that lack grocery stores.”

When asked how to improve the Farm Direct Marketing Law, farmers mentioned a few barriers mostly around improving public awareness and education about the rules. Others suggested expanding the cottage food exemption to include more products, or increasing the sales cap, and while researchers acknowledged more than half of states with cottage food laws have no limit on sales, “the political feasibility of this in Oregon is uncertain, due to ongoing concern about foodborne illness.”

“Licensed food processors might also object to increased competition from businesses that would be less regulated and have lower compliance costs,” they added.

OSU plans 2019 Small Farms Conference

The 2019 OSU  Small Farms Conference will be Feb. 23 at Oregon State University.

The Oregon Small Farms Conference is a daylong event geared toward farmers, agricultural professionals, food policy advocates, students and managers of farmers markets. Speakers include farmers, OSU Extension faculty, agribusiness, and more.

Featured speakers for the 2019 event include:

• Karen “Mimo” Davis and Miranda Duschack – Urban Buds, City Grown Flowers.

• Ellen Polishuk – Farmer, consultant and author of Start Your Farm.

• Josh Volk – Farmer, consultant and author of Compact Farms.

The day-long conference will also feature educational sessions on farming and food systems, a trade show and networking opportunities.

Session descriptions, registration, and more information will be available in late December. For more information, go to the event’s website.

Webinars target organic farming in the West

The Organic Farming Research Foundation and eOrganic will host a series of eight free webinar trainings on organic farming and soil health in the western U.S.

The webinar will target agricultural professionals including extension personnel, other agency personnel, and agricultural consultants in an effort to increase expertise in organic practices that promote soil health, OFRF stated in a press release.

This series complement the farmer guides OFRF has produced on organic soil health practices, as the webinars will highlight soil health research and practices specific to the western region.

The goal of the trainings is to address the need for region-specific resources and knowledgeable extension services related to organic soil health, biology, nutrient cycling, and more, OFRF stated.

Farmers and other interested parties can participate.

All webinars take place at 11a.m. Pacific Time.

The webinars include the following.

Oct. 24 — Ecological Nutrient Management for Organic Production in the Western Region.

Nov. 21 — Ecological Weed Management for the Western Region.

Jan. 23 — Practical Conservation Tillage for Western Region Organic Cropping Systems.

Feb. 27 — Selecting and Managing Cover Crops for Organic Crop Rotations in the Western Region.

March 27 — Breeding New Cultivars for Soil-Enhancing Organic Cropping Systems in the Western Region.

April 17 — Preparing for Drought: the Role of Soil Health in Water Management in Organic Production.

May 29 -— Meeting Weather Challenges in the Western U.S.: Organic Practices to Mitigate and Prepare for Climate Change.

June 12 — Soil Biology for the Western Region: Organic Practices to Recruit and Nurture Beneficial Biota in the Soil.

People can register for the entire series and attend as many webinars as they wish.

For more detail on the webinars and to register, as well to watch webinars specifically for growers, visit: www.ofrf.org.

Women in Agriculture event to spotlight finances

The theme of the seventh annual Women in Agriculture Conference sponsored by Washington State University Extension will be “Pump Up Your Financial Fitness.”

The one-day event will be held simultaneously 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Pacific time Saturday, Oct. 27, in 35 places in Oregon, Idaho, Washington, Montana and Alaska.

The conference will offer discussions at each site and conference speakers. The featured morning speakers will be farm economist Robin Reid and farm analyst LaVell Winsor, both of Kansas State University Extension. Indiana farmer and agricultural business consultant Sarah Beth Aubrey will speak in the afternoon.

More than 600 people attended last year’s conference, according to organizers.

In Oregon, the conference will be held in La Grande, Prineville, Salem and The Dalles.

In Idaho, the conference will be held in Bonners Ferry, Caldwell, Coeur d’Alene, McCall, Moscow, Sandpoint and Twin Falls.

In Washington, the conference will be held in Bremerton, Chehalis, Colville, Coupeville, Mount Vernon, Nespelem, Olympia, Pasco, Port Hadlock, Renton, Republic, Ritzville, Spokane, Vancouver, Walla Walla, Wenatchee, While Salmon and Yakima.

The Registration fee is $35 after Oct. 14. Until then, the fee is $30. For more information online, WomenInAg.wsu.edu.

Learn how to keep your small farm’s books

Nobody gets into farming to keep books, but managing the businesses is an important part of building a successful small farm.

The OSU Small Farms Program is teaming up with Chemeketa Community College’s Agribusiness Management Program to offer a business management class tailored to the needs of small farmers.

This workshop will be hosted at the Chemeketa Community College’s Eola Campus, 215 Doaks Ferry Rd NW, Salem, Ore., 97304, on Nov. 1, from 2-5 p.m. Doors open at 1:30pm. The workshop is $15 per participant. Snacks and drinks will be provided.

To register, go to the event site.