Rogue Farm Corps accepting training applications.

Applications are now open for Rogue Farm Corps’ beginning & advanced farmer training programs in Oregon for the 2021 farm season.

Rogue Farm Corps seeks to train an inclusive next generation of farmers and encourages applicants of all backgrounds and identities to apply. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis until March 1, but early applications are considered first. Apply by Jan. 5, 2021, for priority consideration.

RFC tuition scholarship opportunities are available for BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, veteran, and low-income applicants. (Scholarship application deadline is Jan. 5, 2021.)

Visit www.roguefarmcorps.org to learn more and apply.


Demand for winter vegetables takes root during pandemic

Demand for winter vegetables is growing as more consumers seek to buy local food during the pandemic.

Consumer interest in winter vegetables — such as Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, garlic and winter squash — has typically been far outpaced by demand for imported warm-season vegetables such as tomatoes. But this year, experts say, the winter vegetable market is gaining traction.

“Winter vegetables are the fastest growing greens segment. The market for these crops, especially radicchio, chicory, spinach and purple sprouting broccoli, is expanding faster than any of us can keep up with,” John Navazio, a national plant breeder for Johnny’s Selected Seeds, said in a statement.

Shari Sirkin, executive director of Friends of Family Farmers, said the pandemic has prompted record produce sales for many of Oregon’s small-scale farmers, a trend she anticipates will continue through the cold seasons.

Kelly Crane, executive director of the Oregon Farmers Markets Association, told the Small Ag Press shoppers appear eager for farmers markets to continue running during fall and winter.

Jessica Land, market manager for the Oregon City Farmers Market, told the Small Ag Press there is “definitely” an increase in winter vegetable interest among market shoppers. Months into COVID-19, Land said shoppers want to support local farms and avoid longer supply chains.

The challenge, Land said, is that in normal years, shoppers are more likely to try unfamiliar winter vegetables, like radicchios, at the suggestion of farmers while they walk the market. With social distancing measures in place this and many shoppers opting to order online this year, Land said it may be harder to encourage shoppers to try new things.

But the good news, she said, is that farmers are creating descriptions for their produce on the Oregon City Farmers Market’s app. Descriptions include statements like: “This vegetable tastes similar to” or “This pairs well with.”

Holly Hutchason, executive director of the Portland Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition, or PACSAC, said small farms that run CSA programs are also showing more interest in learning how to winter farm. Last year, she said, her coalition of 85 farms had seven farms offering winter shares; this year, she said, that has leapt to 23.

Researchers at Oregon State University have also picked up on the trend. With funding from the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, OSU researchers, in partnership with the Culinary Breeding Network, are launching a project called “Eat Winter Vegetables” this fall.

Heidi Noordijk, a small farms coordinator at OSU’s Extension Service, told the Small Ag Press the goal of the project is to increase production and consumption of winter vegetables in Oregon.

The project will host field days and events, including the 2020-21 Variety Showcase and Winter Vegetable Sagra, a virtual series of events featuring TED-style talks, interactive Q&A sessions, cooking demos and virtual field tours.

Friends of Family Farmers and similar groups will also be hosting “Fill Your Pantry” events this fall to encourage consumers to stock up on shelf-stable winter farm foods.


Small Farm School goes online

Registration for Oregon State University’s Small Farm School opens Aug. 18.

This year offered as an online event because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the event is a collaboration of OSU, Clackamas Community College, Clackamas Soil and Water District, Rogue Farm Corps and Friends of Family Farmers.

Small Farm School 2020 will be a series of online sessions running Tuesday and Thursday evenings from Sept. 15 through Nov. 19. The sessions will be presented from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Classes will include: Poultry for Beginning Farmers, Field to Market Food Safety from Farm to Kitchen, Racism in Oregon Agriculture, Equitable Food Access: Hear from Farmers in the Field, Pasture Management, How to start a farm business, Developing a Brand Identity, Dry Farming: Vegetable Crops in the Maritime Pacific Northwest, Sustainable Hemp Production Growing Hemp Responsibly,
Data Tracking on your farm, Equitable Food Access: How to contribute to Oregon’s Food Sovereignty Network, CSA in a pandemic, Cut Flowers, Weed control, Winter vegetables in the PNW growing and marketing, Bookkeeping Practices, Regenerative Ag/ Soil Ecology, and Farming while black: Documentary and discussion w/FOFF.

For more information, go the the event’s website.


Here’s a course for small farmers and ranchers

Washington State University Extension is taking registration for a 12-week online course from small-scale farmers and ranchers.

Sustainable Small-Acreage Farming and Ranching will be presented via Zoom on Tuesday evenings from Sept. 22 through Dec. 8. The course is for small- and medium-sized producers, or those who plan to start farming.

“Sponsored by WSU Snohomish County Extension, Snohomish Conservation District, and King Conservation District, the course gives participants a broad overview of production and marketing options for today’s small farm,” according to the event website.  “Whether you are just exploring the opportunities available or already have an existing operation, you’ll learn what it takes to create, sustain, and grow a viable small farm enterprise.”

“Weekly presentations include local growers, organizations, and university specialists with expertise in direct marketing, value-added processing, production planning, agronomy, livestock production, and more. In addition to a wealth of resources on a broad variety of ag-related topics, students will also receive a copy of Market Farm Success by Lynn Byczynski”

The instructors are Kate Ryan, a grower and Agriculture Program Coordinator for WSU Snohomish County Extension, and Bobbi Lindemulder, a cattle rancher and District Operations Program Manager for the Snohomish Conservation District.

Class size is limited, and participants must pre-pay a $200 per family registration fee. To register, and to get more information, go to the event website.


Cooperating small farms may make some COVID-19 changes permanent

Debi Engelhardt-Vogel recently expanded the meat subscriptions and by-the-piece selection she offers at her on-farm store near Kuna, Idaho.

Demand for Vogel Farms meats, eggs, milk and canned items substantially increased with the COVID-19 closures — which prompted some on-farm changes — and remains strong.

Engelhardt-Vogel, who also will introduce beef, pork and chicken bundles this fall, moved to increase her beef supply without expanding her mother herd.

She partnered with Arlington, Ore.-based Weatherford Ranches to bring calves to her small farm for finishing. The first four arrived Memorial Day weekend.

“I’m trying to fill a demand without going big,” Engelhardt-Vogel said. “They have the additional supply needed, so I will be able to monitor supply and go with supply and demand.”

Vogel Farms will also increase on-site pork production, she said. Grandsons Mike and Matt Lester lead the project.

“We’re going to probably triple the number of hogs we produce” to about 30 a year eventually, Engelhardt-Vogel said.

That decision, and plans to soon sell increasingly popular half and whole packaged hogs and cows, reflect strong interest in local food as well as greater awareness of the food supply chain, she said. “The meat supply was disrupted and it had a huge impact on supply. And people didn’t realize how fragile that is.”

Vogel Farms now must schedule meat processing with small-scale local providers farther in advance.

The farm’s meat and eggs are available on-site or through a separate company, Boise Milk, which offers home delivery. Engelhardt-Vogel expects food delivery and curbside pickup to stay popular.

Each August, she begins offering public U-pick harvest of tomatoes, peppers, flowers and herbs. She plans this year to seat customers and offer them breakfast before they form small, well-distanced groups for picking. She has canceled summer and fall hay rides traditionally offered on weekends.

Engelhardt-Vogel and Cathy Cabalo, of nearby Cabalo’s Orchard & Gardens, cooperate on projects through the year. They canceled the 12th annual Corn and Pickle Festival, which is typically on the second Saturday of August at Vogel Farms and draws up to 900 people.

This year, they will instead offer online video versions of the event’s popular classes on topics such as pickling. They plan to resume the festival in 2021, with a lavender garden among the new features.

“So much planning goes into these things,” Cabalo said. “You have to make the call early in the season. There are going to be some sad people, but we will survive it.”

Engelhardt-Vogel and Cabalo also may rework seasonal pumpkin picking and turkey pickup events that draw many customers at once. They are considering offering turkeys at a station reconfigured to encourage distancing, or by curbside pickup.

They may use prepaid sales to reduce wait times. Pumpkin-patch runs likely will see fewer people farther apart.

“I can foresee a great deal of the changes we’ve seen in the past few months continuing,” Cabalo said. Customer pickup of pre-packaged, prepaid orders is an example.

“It’s easier, and people are enjoying it,” Engelhardt-Vogel said of food pickup. “For people who feel at risk or continue to want to maintain a distance, it is a perfect option.”


Oregon farmers’ markets focus on core functions in pandemic

Farmers’ markets are known to cultivate a festive atmosphere that attracts crowds, which is exactly what people are supposed to avoid during the coronavirus outbreak.

At their core, however, such markets are about food distribution, which is why they’re exempt from Oregon’s prohibition on gatherings of more than 25 people.

Now that they must emphasize only food — not fun — Oregon farmers’ markets are preparing to strip their operations down to the essentials during the spring season.

“The social fabric we’ve been weaving for years, we’re rapidly unraveling,” said Kelly Crane, executive director of the Oregon Farmers Market Association.

At least for the time being, live music is out, as are chairs, tables, kids’ activities and anything else that would encourage people to congregate, she said.

Vendors will space their booths farther apart, lots of hand-washing stations will be provided and signs will advise visitors to maintain social distance, Crane said.

A couple of Oregon farmers’ markets have even decided against opening as planned this spring, since they didn’t have enough physical space available to spread out their vendors, she said.

Apart from providing an opportunity to buy food in the open air, the state’s farmers’ markets are critical for the 6,700 small businesses that sell about $63 million worth of goods at them each year, Crane said.

Markets that maintain operations year-round have already seen a decline in attendance, but their sales haven’t dropped as sharply, she said. That’s because shoppers are still showing up individually, without their friends and families.

“People are really supportive,” Crane said. “They want these institutions to be around after the pandemic.”

Many local farmers and ranchers will be especially dependent on farmers’ markets this year, as their wholesale restaurant customers have largely been shut down indefinitely, said Trudy Toliver, executive director of the Portland Farmers Market, which is among the largest in the state.

“Direct-to-consumer sales is what will keep them going in this crisis,” Toliver said.

Community support will be especially important for such companies as artisan cheese producers, which can’t easily scale down or suspend their operations, she said. “They still have to feed their animals and milk their animals.”

Grocery stores in Brookings, Ore., have restrictions on the number of certain items people can buy, so residents see the importance of maintaining local sources of food, said Linda Stimson, market manager of the Brookings Harbor Farmers Market.

“If you stop local farms from producing, it’s hard to get them started again,” she said. “You can’t stop egg production or stop stuff from growing, but you can let it go to waste, which is crazy.”

Farm products sold at the market go directly from the grower to the consumer, which contributes to safety, Stimson said. “It’s not like it’s gone through multi-levels of hands.”

The coastal farmers’ market operates year-round and doesn’t attract as many people as big city markets, but visitors are still self-regulating despite the lack of known coronavirus cases in Curry County, Stimson said.

“People come and get their food and leave,” she said. “As far as festivities, I think that’s the last thing on people’s minds.”


OSU conference draws participants from around the Northwest

CORVALLIS, Ore. — For Jake Carpenter, the strategy was to divide and conquer at the annual Oregon State University Small Farms Conference on Feb. 22.

Carpenter and his wife, Freya, are preparing to take over their family’s 4-acre urban farm in Oregon City, south of Portland. The farm grows a smorgasbord of seasonal produce, including tomatoes, sweet corn, apples, pears and leafy greens, which it sells at the Oregon City Farmers’ Market.

OSU began hosting the Small Farms Conference 20 years ago to give farmers like the Carpenters information and resources to bolster their bottom line. Over 92% of Oregon farms are considered “small” under the USDA definition, meaning they make less than $350,000 in annual gross income.

With so many seminars to choose from, Carpenter said he and Freya decided to split up and canvas as much of the conference as possible. He sat in on sessions covering hoop houses, dry farming and hemp production, while she went to talks on farm stands, winter vegetables and basics for beginning farmers.

“It’s been great,” Carpenter said. “The content is what we were expecting. The tips and tricks are super helpful.”

Carpenter said they expect to buy the farm from Freya’s parents sometime later this year. His mother-in-law, Jackie Hammond-Williams, is one of the founders and a longtime manager of the Oregon City Farmers’ Market, though she plans to retire in May.

Their goal, Carpenter said, is to provide healthy, nutritious food to their family and community. The biggest challenge is getting the most out of the farm, without sacrificing sustainability.

“That takes a lot of effort and a lot of learning to do that the right way,” he said.

A state of mind
At its core, the OSU Small Farms Conference aims to make small-scale farming a viable business by sharing university-led research and highlighting new market opportunities.

Garry Stephenson, director of the Center for Small Farms and Community Food Systems at OSU, said the event focused specifically on expanding farmers’ markets when it began in 2000. About 125 people attended that first year. Since then, it has grown to about 900 attendees who pack the LaSells Stewart Center and CH2M Hill Alumni Center on the Oregon State campus in Corvallis.

“We get all of those people for one day in the same room to interact,” Stephenson said. “It’s not just farmers. It’s the people who support them.”

According to the latest USDA Census of Agriculture, Oregon had 37,616 total farms in 2017, of which 34,714 were labeled small farms based on income. Yet just 682 farms accounted for a whopping 75% of the state’s $5 billion in agricultural sales — a troubling sign of increasing consolidation, Stephenson said.

“We’re losing that classic medium-size farm that we identify as the family farm,” he said.

There is no way small farms can compete at that large scale growing commodity crops, Stephenson said. That’s why, for the last 20 years, the Small Farms Conference has focused more on cultivating specialty crops and developing local or regional marketing channels.

“(Small farms) have more of an entrepreneurial approach to farming, because they really need to be nimble,” Stephenson said.

Economics aside, Stephenson said he thinks of small farms as a state of mind. In recent years, the conference has pivoted to include an emphasis on social and food justice issues such as climate change adaptation and diversity in farming.

Danny Percich, of Full Plate Farm in Ridgefield, Wash., said the event is a chance for him to network and pick up new ideas that he can take back to the farm.

“It’s always invigorating, too,” Percich said. “It kind of gets you excited for the growing season.”

Beginning farmers
Teagan Moran, a small farms education program assistant for the OSU Extension Service, led a session in the morning tailored to new and beginning farmers. A beginning farmer, she said, is anyone who has been farming for less than 10 years.

While farming is deeply personal, Moran said deciding what to grow boils down to three main questions: What do you want to do? What can you do? and What can you sell?

“This is not something that comes overnight,” Moran said. “It is a journey. All of you are at different points on this farming path.”

Before planting, Moran said, it is critical to evaluate several key resources on the farm, with soil quality serving as the foundation for everything. If a farm has Class I soil, it is considered prime farmland, she explained, and the better the soil, the more options are available for high-value crops.

“Some soils can be improved, but will never be as versatile as Class I soil,” Moran said.

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has an online soil survey where farmers can look up which classifications of soil they have on their property. Moran also recommended farmers buy a soil test kit to see if they need to add any organic matter, nitrogen or other nutrients in the ground.

“You can build soil,” she said. “There is hope, even if you’re working with a challenging place.”

In addition to soil, Moran said, location, climate, water rights and other farm infrastructure will directly impact what farmers can grow. Even without irrigation, she said some crops, such as Christmas trees, hay and grains, can still thrive locally depending on climate and rainfall.

Angel Hammon, a 21-year-old senior at OSU majoring in agricultural sciences, said she is interested in running her own farm and starting a farm-to-table restaurant. She participates in the college’s Organic Growers Club, which is how she heard about the Small Farms Conference.

“It has been fun to just fit in immediately, knowing that other people here have the same energy and passion for agriculture that I have,” Hammon said.

Stephenson, with the OSU Center for Small Farms, said if farmers can take home one inspiring lesson from the conference, then it is a success.

“That economy of scale is what those farmers are trying to do,” Stephenson said. “It’s a small business way of thinking.”


All about dairy goats

The Northwest Oregon Dairy Goat Association’s Goat Education Conference will be Feb. 29 at the Clackamas County Fair & Event Center.

“Northwest Oregon Dairy Goat Association invites you to a fun filled day of goat education & learning,” according to the event website.  “A wide variety of classes for goat owners of all kinds! Whether you are a beginner, a 4-Her, or an advanced goat owner, there is something for everyone!”

The daylong event will include educational sessions on a variety of topics ranging from pasture management, animal care, marketing, and soap and cheese making. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m., and orientation begins at 9 a.m.

Pre-registration closes at midnight on Feb. 26, and can be completed on the event website. Adult registration is $40, and youth registration is $20.

The Clackamas County Fair & Event Center is at 694 NE 4th Ave., Canby, Ore.

Sponsors for the event are Coastal Farm and Ranch, Dark Horse Solutions,  Karmadillo Press, Simple Pulse, Twin Pear Farm, and Union Mills Feed.

 


Small farmer crowned National Jersey Queen

ALBANY, Ore. — As far back as she can remember, Gracie Krahn has been living and working with dairy cattle.

Her father, who managed the Oregon State University Dairy Research Center for 13 years, once performed a caesarean section on a pregnant cow with Gracie, then a baby, strapped to his back. She competed in her first open junior livestock show at the age of 4, showing a Jersey heifer named Annie Bluebell.

Krahn, now an 18-year-old senior at Santiam Christian High School in Adair Village, Ore., was recently crowned the 62nd National Jersey Queen by the American Jersey Cattle Association, promoting the breed and U.S. dairy industry at events across the country.

“I really want to tell the story of what truly happens on the farm,” Krahn said. “This is a position to give back.”

Krahn and her family — father Ben, mother Amy and sister Clancey — operate Royal Riverside Farm in nearby Albany, Ore., which opened in 2018 as the only farmstead creamery in the Mid-Willamette Valley. The farm milks 15 cows, mostly Jerseys, and bottles milk for sale at over 25 local stores from Hood River to Eugene.

“My sister and I are sixth-generation dairy farmers,” Krahn said. “It is really in our blood.”

Growing up, Krahn spent many months and holidays helping her father milk and feed cows at the OSU Dairy Farm. She came to love being around the animals, especially Jerseys, for their “sweet but spicy” personalities and rich milk high in butterfat and protein.

“There’s not a better way to grow up than around agriculture and around livestock,” Krahn said.

Both Krahn and her sister have competed in countless livestock shows, exhibiting cattle and hogs. In 2013, Krahn, then an eighth-grader, participated for the first time at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis., which she described as an incredible experience.

Two years later, Krahn won intermediate showmanship at the All-American Dairy Show in Louisville, Ky., while sister Clancey won junior showmanship, becoming the first siblings in show history to accomplish that feat.

Yet as much as she likes working with the animals directly, Krahn said her passion is sharing her expertise with others and mentoring younger members of 4-H and FFA. She plans to run for Oregon FFA state president at this year’s convention, and has already been accepted to Oklahoma State University, where she plans to study agricultural communications and animal science.

Serving as National Jersey Queen is another platform to tell agriculture’s story, Krahn said. She was selected from a group of nine women on Nov. 9 at the Jersey Junior Banquet in Louisville.

“I knew that my passion and love for the Jersey breed ran as deep as anybody’s,” Krahn said. “I’m super blessed that I’m here now.”

In addition to traveling to and meeting consumers at several national events — including the American Jersey Cattle Association and National All-Jersey annual meeting June 24-27 in Portland, her own backyard — Krahn is also responsible for managing the National Jersey Queen Facebook page, posting photos and factoids about her yearlong journey.

“Every time I get a chance to advocate for milk or promote the dairy industry, I hop on it,” she said. “That’s really where my heart lies.”


Weather forecast: La Nina’s on the way

SPOKANE — A La Nina is on the way, bringing with it wetter weather later this spring.

That’s the prediction of weatherman Art Douglas, who delivered his long-range forecast Feb. 4 at the Spokane Ag Show. Douglas is a professor emeritus of atmospheric sciences at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., and is a fixture at the show.

El Nino and La Nina are complex weather patterns that result from variations in the Pacific Ocean’s surface temperatures.

Lower ocean surface temperatures off the West Coast mean a La Nina will develop later in the spring, Douglas said.

“Here in the wheat area, (the forecast is) about normal to above normal precipitation, which is what La Nina would suggest,” he said.

Douglas called for a “warmish” May, with normal to above normal precipitation in the Pacific Northwest.

His summer forecast calls for a warm and dry June and July and a cool and wet August.

In the meantime, the Pacific Northwest has become wetter in the last 30 days, following an El Nino in which the region was “very dry” from April through September, Douglas said.

A high-pressure ridge in Alaska will block Pacific moisture from reaching the West in February, Douglas said.

The pattern will persist into March.

“So it’s going to have an impact on spring weather, but not as bad as it could,” Douglas said.

Winterkill of wheat will be a concern in February and early March, Douglas said.

Through the spring, high pressure ridging in the Pacific and Southwest will favor dry weather elsewhere in the West.

From March through May, Douglas predicts normal temperatures in the Pacific Northwest and slightly drier conditions west of the Cascades.

Douglas said the 2020 forecast appears most similar to the years 1989, 1990, 2008 and 2018.

“Do not go and look at one of those years alone and say, ‘This is what I’m going to have this year,’” he said. “It’s all of these four years together. It’s a blend.”

Warming in the Pacific Ocean over the past five years was due to weakened wind systems and weaker ocean currents. Warming in the Atlantic Ocean is due to enhanced wind systems and ocean currents.

“The two oceans aren’t behaving the same, in fact, they’re the opposite of each other,” Douglas said. “If you believe in global warming, both oceans would have to be behaving the same, and they’re not. These are decadal climate changes we’re dealing with right now, and apparently we’re getting ready to change.”

The forecast should mean a less intense fire season for the Pacific Northwest, which this year will likely end earlier, Douglas said.

Farmers can expect “better early fall moisture and cooler temperatures,” he said.