Dairy owner to share lessons learned in starting creamery

OLYMPIA — Rachael Taylor-Tuller and Matthew Tuller of Lost Peacock Creamery will share lessons they learned in starting their goat dairy during a crop walk Sept. 9.

“Join farmers Rachael Taylor-Tuller and Matthew Tuller of Lost Peacock Creamery as they share their story of how they came to be farmers, why they landed on a goat dairy, and how they are working to create a sustainable business model while sharing some of the harsh and humorous lessons they’ve learned along the way,” according to the event website. “As a veteran farmer, Rachael will talk about farming as a method of healing and guest experts will be on hand to share resources and opportunities that exist for veteran farmers.”

Participants will tour the farm and watch the afternoon milking.

The farm is located at Lost Peacock Creamery 5504 Cross Creek Lane NE, Olympia, Wash. The event begins at noon.

The cost of the event is $15 for students and Tilth Alliance members, and $25 for all others. Go to the event website to register.



Mechanical cultivation field day agenda set

Oregon State University is bringing back its mechanical cultivation field day for a second year, providing small-scale and mid-size farmers with the latest strategies for non-chemical weed control.

About 100 people attended last year’s field day at the OSU vegetable research farm in Corvallis. This year, OSU Extension Service is partnering with Washington State University Extension to offer two events — the first on Aug. 27 at WSU’s Puyallup Research and Extension Center, and the second on Aug. 29 at OSU’s North Willamette Research and Extension Center in Aurora, Ore.

Clare Sullivan, extension agronomist for OSU in Redmond, said the field days are funded by a small two-year grant through the USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program.

“The pull is really for more efficient ways to control weeds on the farm,” Sullivan said.

Part of the events will include live demonstrations of tractor-size and walk-behind equipment, as well as organic weed management tools like the Steam Weeder, which uses superheated water up to 250 degrees to kill weeds.

Both field days will begin at 10 a.m., and feature panel talks with local farmers discussing their cultivation experiences.

Registration is $25, and includes lunch. To register online for the OSU event, visit https://tinyurl.com/y6tj7qp9. To register for the WSU event, visit https://wsucultivatingfieldday.bpt.me/.

Oregon Program Agenda

9:30     On-site registration, coffee and snacks

9:45     Welcome, introductions and break into four groups

10:00   Walk-behind implement demonstrations (four stations, 20 minutes each)

11:25   Organic herbicides and steamer demonstrations

11:45   Lunch and visit vendor displays

1:00     Farmer panel

2:00     Break into three groups

2:10     Tractor-mounted implement demonstrations (three stations, 25 minutes each)

3:25     Turn in evaluations. Cold drinks and snacks.

3:30     Adjourn


Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019 WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center 2606 W Pioneer Ave, Puyallup, WA

Dry Farm Field Day at OSU Oak Creek Center

The OSU Oak Creek Center for Urban Horticulture will host its Dry Farm Field Day from 4 to 6 p.m. on Aug. 28.

The drop-in style event  includes a 30-minute guided field tour at 5 p.m. Participants will see see dry farmed potatoes, tomatoes, dry beans, melons, and winter squash. The crops were only irrigated once, in May, since their planting.

The OSU Oak Creek Center for Urban Horticulture is located at 844 SW 35th St., Corvallis.

The event is free, but registration is required.

“There will also be an opportunity to do side-by-side tastings of irrigated and dry farmed tomatoes and melons, visit with dry farmers and researchers, and learn about the various research projects engaging with the Dry Farming Collaborative,” according to the event website.

Youth livestock auction a bittersweet day for fair kids

HERMISTON — As Annikah Perez waited to sell her 147-pound lamb at the Umatilla County Fair’s youth livestock auction on Saturday, her voice wavered as she described the good times she had with Tulip.

“I’m very sad,” the 13-year-old Hermiston 4-H student said, sniffing. “I love Tulip very much.”

The sheep is stubborn, she said, “but that’s my favorite part about her.”

It was Annikah’s sixth year showing an animal at the fair, so she knew how hard it would be to say goodbye to the lamb she raised since birth. But she said she comes back year after year because she loves how much confidence she gains from the process.

Over the course of the hourslong auction in the largest barn at the fairgrounds, hundreds of thousands of dollars flowed from local businesses and individuals to area youths. Many of them plan to use the money for college, or to reinvest it into more animals next year.

The check comes at a price, however. Some of the animals sold at auction will be used for milk, for breeding or as a pet. But every kid who raises an animal for the fair also knows there is a good chance that the companion they fed and watered and walked for months is destined for someone’s dinner table.

Wyatt Harris, 11, from Echo, said the money he got from selling his sheep Smoke would go into his savings fund for college and a truck.

When asked whether he was worried about parting with Smoke, he shrugged.

“Not really,” he said. “I live on a farm so I kind of know what will happen.”

Macy Rosselle, 17, from Pendleton, was also pragmatic about what would happen to her grand champion goat Maverick, who sold for $12 a pound to United Grain Corporation.

“His purpose is for meat, and he will be fulfilling his purpose,” she said.

Still, it tugged at her heartstrings. Although Macy has 25 head of goats, Maverick was her award-winner she has traveled with to multiple fairs.

“He’s definitely my favorite goat by far,” she said. “I’m sad to see him go.”

Ayrin Davis 11, of Hermiston 4-H, had a harder time. She cried in the pens behind the auction arena after selling PJ, her backup lamb. She had already unexpectedly lost her primary lamb a week earlier when it got spooked by something and ran into a fence, breaking its neck.

Rapidash, she said, weighed much more than PJ and might have won grand champion.

“I cried for two and a half days,” she said.

The experience was part of the “circle of life” lessons that raising animals teaches youth who participate in 4-H and FFA.

Daytona Tracy, 16, said for some, that lesson is harder than others.

“You have to understand the process and know next year you’re going to get attached to another animal,” she said. “I know some kids are in it for the money, and then there are ones like me who get really attached.”

She said she tells herself each year that her animals are just going to a new home and “the worst is not going to happen.”

Her goat Rowdy went for $10.25 a pound to Nutrien Ag Solutions on Saturday. She put on a brave smile as she entered the ring with the 76-pound brown and white goat Saturday, but earlier in the week she got teary-eyed as she talked about their impending separation.

“He’s like my baby,” the Hermiston FFA student said. “When I first got him he wasn’t really tame at all so I had to hang out with him as much as possible. I would eat dinner with him.”

Sales results
This year’s auction “smashed” the previous sales record for the fair, according to coordinator Marie Linnell. She said the sales gross was $610,000 compared with the 2015 record of $494,000.

The sale included 53 steers at an average of $3.89 a pound, 120 hogs averaging $7.88 a pound, 60 lambs averaging $8.79 a pound, 17 goats at $12.62 a pound, 13 turkeys at $475 each, 1 pen of rabbits at $525 and one pen of chickens at $400.

In addition to bidding on animals, buyers can also choose to “bump” the check youths receive if their animal drew a price on the lower side. About 30 businesses participating in the UCF Bump program added an extra $28,000 to sales for more than 130 FFA and 4-H exhibitors.

Commentary: Farmland loss is a national crisis, and felt mightily in West

By Hannah Clark

American Farmland Trust

Anyone who has taken a recent drive in America’s western states can see first-hand what we at American Farmland Trust have been saying for years: our farmland is disappearing at an alarming rate.

Between 1992 and 2012, 31 million acres of farmland and ranchland disappeared according to research from our recently released “Farms Under Threat” analysis — the most comprehensive study ever on agricultural land loss in the U.S.

While 31 million acres may not sound like a lot, at AFT, it set off alarm bells. It represents as much agricultural land as is in the state of Iowa. And, perhaps more importantly, 11 million of those acres were our best and most productive agricultural land — land most suitable for intensive food production with the fewest environmental impacts.

In a region so important to the nation’s food supply, AFT’s mantra and famous bumper sticker, “No Farms No Food,” is more poignant than ever. This region grows over 300 commodity crops, from apples and cherries, to potatoes, to sweet corn seed, to hops. It also has one of the fastest growing populations in the nation, and with that comes the demand for housing, shopping malls, schools, and highways — all resources that eat up farmland.

If we want to continue to enjoy the benefits of local farmland and ranchland — not just for delicious food and as a pillar of our economy, but also for the many important environmental benefits it provides — we must come together as Westerners to take action now.

This was made abundantly clear in the recent article, “Western farmland continues to disappear,” by Brad Carlson in the Capital Press.

Let me reiterate and even illuminate important points made in Mr. Carlson’s article.

The numbers coming out of Idaho, as noted in the article, and the numbers coming out of the West in terms of farmland loss are downright scary. We need local and state officials to pay attention to this and to invest in funding and tools for farmland protection.

It is also important to consider how one allows development to happen. Planning is important. Urban sprawl and low-density development are both very damaging to farmland. It is easy to recognize urban sprawl and perhaps simplest to address, compact growth strategies have worked well in communities. Low density development poses an equal threat to farmland, but is insidious, often not recognized before it is too late. This is development that pops up in rural areas creating pockets of houses surrounded by farmland.

Not only does this kind of development chew up prime land, it makes it more difficult for farmers to farm and often leads to the disappearance of key farming services and infrastructure like equipment and seed dealers.

Investing in tools like agricultural conservation easements is also critical. Agricultural conservation easements are a way to keep working farmland and ranchland working, forever — by extinguishing the development rights on a property and compensating the landowner for the value of those development rights. The land stays in production and in private ownership and can be sold or handed down to heirs — but with the promise that it will not be taken out of agriculture.

These issues get more and more critical with a massive generational transfer of land on the horizon. In Oregon alone, two-thirds of the agricultural land will change hands in the next decade or so — and the majority of those landowners don’t have an identified heir or succession plan. Across the West, including in Idaho, AFT is advancing programming to help a new generation of new and beginning farmers access land.

We need to double down on protecting agricultural land in the West.

In Washington state, we’re calling on the legislature to continue investing in the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program, the only state source of funding for farmland protection.

In Oregon, the legislature has an opportunity to fund the Oregon Agricultural Heritage Program, which would be the first state funding source for agricultural land protection and supporting a new generation of farmers.

And in Idaho, we are calling on elected leaders, especially in the Treasure Valley, to ensure good planning to protect our land base — and invest in supporting farmers and ranchers.

Perhaps it’s even time to consider a funding source for agricultural conservation easements in Idaho. After all — No Farms No Food and perhaps even, No Future!

Hannah Clark is AFT’s Pacific Northwest region director. She previously served as the executive director of the Washington Association of Land Trusts, a statewide coalition of 28 land conservation organizations dedicated to private voluntary land protection. Get in touch with Hannah at hclark@farmland.org.

Co-op offers farmers loans for produce

Teresa Retzlaff and Packy Coleman, owners of 46 North Farm in Olney, Ore., have provided plant starts and produce to the Astoria Co+op for the past seven years, becoming one of the first local producers to work with the grocery.

The co-op recently launched a microloan program for farmers, starting with $1,500 to help 46 North install more covered areas to protect flowers from the weather.

Retzlaff described the loan as similar to community-supported agriculture, in which customers prepay farmers in the winter and receive produce throughout the harvest season.

The co-op wanted more flowers for the new store opening later this year in Mill Pond, and Retzlaff wanted to grow more flowers. She estimated it would cost $1,500 to build four 100-foot caterpillar tunnels to protect her flowers from the rain and allow the farm to plant earlier in the spring.

“A lot of times when you’re starting out you don’t just have that lying around,” she said.

Retzlaff and Coleman constructed the tunnels in April using local materials and began taking between $100 and $300 off of each invoice on the plant starts and produce they brought to the co-op, paying off their loan in full earlier this month.

Danny Rasmussen, produce manager for the co-op, said the store is trying to support local farmers and expand its selection of local food in the new location. At peak season, the co-op can source nearly half of its produce directly from farmers, he said.

“We’ll take this on a case-by-case basis,” he said of the loans. “I would like to do one farm again next year. We’d like to extend these loans to farms who have a track record of delivering great products to the co-op. These farms will also need to show us a plan for how a loan can help grow their business.”

The support is crucial for small farmers, who often have difficulty obtaining help from banks and the USDA, Retzlaff said. She has seen a growth in state support for small farms, exemplified by Oregon State University’s Center for Small Farms & Community Food Systems. She and Jared Gardner are planning a local chapter of the support group National Young Farmers Coalition.

“It’s hard, because (with) smaller farms, your cost of production is higher,” Retzlaff said. “Usually your cost of land is higher, especially if you’re starting from scratch.”

But smaller, local farms provide fresher food and a closer connection with customers, she said, while investing locally. “That money keeps circling around and getting reinvested,” she said.

How produce safety rule impacts small farms

Blueberry pickers had come to glean the berries left over after harvest and donate them to hungry families in Salem, Ore.

Pat Zurbrugg, owner of Zurbrugg Blueberries, stuffed his hands in his pockets and shrugged as he watched the gleaners.

“I’m glad to donate my berries to people in need,” he said. “But there wasn’t always so much excess until I switched to U-pick.”

Zurbrugg changed to U-pick because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s new produce safety rule made it difficult for him to continue processing his berries.

“For a busy small farm like mine, it’s very expensive and time-consuming to follow the rule,” said Zurbrugg.

The produce safety rule, part of the FDA’s Food and Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), was created to prevent outbreaks of foodborne illness.

The rule gives the government more oversight over farms — inspecting irrigation water for dangerous bacteria, making sure workers wash their hands and protecting against animal droppings, for example.

Joy Waite-Cusic, food safety researcher at Oregon State University, said most farmers were already following safety practices, but FDA made the rule in response to outbreaks linked to fresh foods.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 48,0000 people in the U.S. — one in six — get sick from foodborne illnesses each year, and 3,000 die annually.

Much of that illness can be attributed to improper handling at the consumer and retail level, but some can be traced back to the farm. According to the National Institutes of Health, outbreaks linked to fresh produce were the leading cause of foodborne illness in the U.S. in 2016.

The rule, though intended to protect consumers, has made it harder for some farms to stay in business.

Oregon Blueberry Commission Administrator  Bryan Ostlund said the rule has both positive and negative sides. It’s positive, Ostlund said, because it improves safety education and practices. “We need farms to understand food safety better, and this rule helps with that,” he said.

But Ostlund said the rule costs farmers time and money. Farmers must keep records, train employees and get inspections. Although the FDA does not charge for standard inspections, some farms need to buy new equipment or hire staff for record-keeping.

“It’s a good rule in many ways, but no one wants more bureaucracy,” said Ostlund. “It’s a march forward, but also a fall back. How does a small-scale farm keep up administratively? How do farmers survive?”

According to Waite-Cusic of OSU, some farms are exempt — such as those with average produce sales of less than $25,000 annually. But for farms big enough to fall under the rule yet small enough that income is tight, the rule creates a burden.

“Those farms are in a financial pinch,” said Waite-Cusic. “They’re impacted the most. They typically run a very lean operation, and they may not be able to afford a record-keeper or food safety staffer. So some are going out of business.”

But not every farmer dislikes the rule.

Greg Bennett, owner of Northwest Onion Co. in Brooks, Ore. said the rule is worth the extra work.

“There’s more training and accountability,” he said. “We’re protecting consumers better. We’ve got more peace of mind that people won’t get sick. The rule protects us, too. If we get into a food recall, we have the documentation behind us to back up our story. But it’s more work. We have a lot more dividers in our notebooks now.”

Waite-Cusic said resources are available to help farms comply with the rule without hurting their businesses. Farmers can request free consultations — called on-farm readiness reviews — with Oregon Department of Agriculture and OSU Extension staff.

Waite-Cusic said resources are under-utilized, and grant money to support the consultations may run out in 2020.

“This is one of the only ways you’ll ever get your tax dollars back,” she said, and laughed. “I want to keep farms in business and keep people from getting sick — a win-win.”

Take stock of your farming operation

The Oregon State University Small Farms program will offer a class July 29 that will teach farmers how to conduct a Gross Profit Analysis and plan for profit as an expense.

“While diversification can increase overall financial health, keeping or adding unprofitable enterprises robs you of time and energy while decreasing overall financial sustainability,” according to the event website.

The class will be conducted from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the auditorium at the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center, 569 Hanley Road,  in Central Point. The cost is $20 for one attendee and $30 for two from the same farm.

For more information and to register, go to the event website.

REAL Oregon taking applications for Class 3

SALEM — A program designed to incubate new leaders in Oregon agriculture and natural resources management is seeking applications for its third class, scheduled to begin in November.

REAL Oregon (Resource Education and Agricultural Leadership) is seeking applications from natural resource professionals from around the state for Class 3. Participants have the chance to learn about farming, fishing and forestry over a series of five sessions held statewide, while also networking with professionals in the field.

REAL Oregon is designed to help members grow into leaders through training in board governance, communication, conflict resolution, public policy work, critical thinking, government interaction, media relations, public speaking and presentations.

Greg Addington, REAL Oregon’s Director expects continued interest in the program this year.

“The application deadline for program consideration is July 25 and we expect it to again be competitive,” he said.

The cost of the program is $2,500.

Addington said it’s important for interested parties not to wait until the last minute. “Applicants need to give themselves some time. A short essay is required as well as reference letters”. Application packages and additional information can be found on the organizations website at www.realoregon.net.

The REAL Oregon board of directors will review application materials in August and announce members of Class 2 in September.

REAL Oregon Alumni are serving on various boards and commissions and have been recruited for other industry and service related organizations. In addition, many alumni have pledged their support to help with future classes and even serve on the organization’s governing board.

“I hope it’s a testament to what we put together that people want to come back and help make this program even better”, said Bill Buhrig, REAL Oregon Board Chair. Alumni are now serving on the organization’s board of directors, its Curriculum and Fundraising Committees, and helping in other capacities.

WSU’s Mount Vernon field day is July 11

Farmers, families, and neighbors are invited to discover how Washington State University research helps their local communities and economy at the WSU Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center Field Day, July 11, 2019, in Mount Vernon.

Research at NWREC runs the gamut of Pacific Northwest agriculture, from spinach and potatoes to cider, berries, corn, and watermelon. Visitors to the field day can view current projects that help farmers, consumers, and local businesses and economies.

The Center is located at 16650 State Route 536, Mount Vernon, Wash. The annual field day is a free event, open to the public, and includes tours, presentations and a free barbecue dinner.

For more information, go to the event website.