Oregon researchers win $2 million in specialty crop block grants

SALEM — USDA this month awarded Oregon nearly $2 million in funding through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, which will fund 14 innovative projects statewide.

Experts say the grants could make Oregon’s fruits, vegetables, tree nuts and nursery industries more competitive.

This year’s projects include fascinating research, educational opportunities and marketing campaigns, according to Oregon Department of Agriculture Director Alexis Taylor.

“Oregon has a long history of creative and innovative Specialty Crop Block Grant projects and this year is no exception,” Taylor said in a statement.

Over the past nine years, according to grant program coordinator Gabrielle Redhead, Oregon has received about $18 million, which has fueled nearly 200 projects. This year’s awardees include nonprofits, for-profits, government bodies, colleges and universities.

ODA itself snagged $124,214 for a project intended to increase industry awareness and compliance with regulations related to seed production, sale and export. ODA and partners will develop educational materials about seed laws, record-keeping and labeling to help growers.

ODA also received $103,112 for a project that is supposed to connect specialty crop growers with at least 250 small- to medium-sized food companies that buy Oregon specialty crops.

Friends of Zenger Farms, a not-for-profit urban farm, received $166,073 to expand Oregon’s CSA market with a special focus on connecting CSA farmers with low-income consumers.

The Gorge Grown Food Network will use $66,000 to increase marketing and distribution of specialty crops in five counties and on the Warm Springs Reservation.

With its $95,566 award, Growing Gardens, a nonprofit, will expand gardening opportunities for adult and juvenile inmates at 16 Oregon correctional institutions. The program was designed to provide inmates with healthful food and job credentials to help them succeed when they re-enter society.

The Oregon Blueberry Commission received $175,000, which it plans to use to promote Oregon blueberries in Vietnam, the Philippines and Singapore. Experts say Vietnam especially stands poised to become the Oregon blueberry industry’s largest Asian customer.

Oregon Farm to School and School Garden Network will use $92,043 to help producers interested in selling produce to schools and to expand an online, searchable directory so schools can easily find fruit and vegetable producers to work with.

With $175,000, Oregon Processed Vegetable Commission will develop better crop production practices and new markets for processed vegetables and rotational crops.

Oregon Raspberry and Blackberry Commission was awarded $122,834 to expand marketing of Northwest berries in Japan.

Oregon State University won several awards: $93,335 to stop or slow sprouts from growing on potatoes using essential oils, $165,870 to control cabbage maggots in brassica vegetables, $174,984 to help turfgrass growers handle regulatory burdens imposed by greenhouse gas reduction programs, $162,794 to find alternatives to chlorpyrifos for growers who rely on it and $172,918 to turn waste byproducts from beverage-making — such as pomace, spent grains and fibers leftover from alcohol-making processes — into sustainable packaging containers.

ODA says the funds awarded this year will help Oregon producers and processors “face current and future challenges.”


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.


Preparation was key to saving goat herd

The fresh corn that Dr. Lauren Acton and John Wright planned to preserve on Labor Day is still sitting in their kitchen at their farm near Molalla, Ore. They were sitting in a couple of beat up camp chairs on Saturday 300 miles east in Union, Ore., watching their dairy goat herd adjust to its new surroundings.

Acton and Wright own Tempo Farm, a family goat farm in the Willamette Valley. As fires raged in Clackamas County, they had to move swiftly to prepare to move their 100 goats from their farm all while keeping up with the milking schedule. They prepped the farm and packed their two trailers with supplies all day Labor Day hoping for enough time to make multiple trips to evacuate all the goats. But with fires bearing down on their farm Acton made the hardest list of her life.

“I had to play God,” she said. “I had to make a list of who goes in the trailer first, second, and who doesn’t get in.”

By 10 a.m. the next day the fire was miles away, but they began to feel its heat and knew it was time to go. They had put out an early call for help, and employees, friends, and family were driving toward their farm with trailers from as far away as Washington and California.

They struggled to pack in as many goats as possible, but they prepared to leave 40 behind in an open field with water. They hoped the fire wouldn’t come and the goats could survive if it did.

As they faced this hard reality, they got a welcome call from a friend from California — he had made it to the bottom of their driveway with his trailer. With his help they were able to evacuate all the goats from the farm. Some went to California, some to a friend’s place in Moses Lake, Wash., and rest stayed with Acton and Wright at the Clackamas County Fairgrounds.

Soon, however, the fairgrounds was also under threat. They decided to move again to Grande Ronde Dairy in Eastern Oregon owned by their friends Stephanie and Byron Rovey.

The Roveys were able to offer safety, hay, pens, a secondary milking barn, and even an employee to set up their milking operation temporarily.

“Stephanie and I are colleagues,” said Acton. “But the dairy goat industry is a big family. Stephanie is incredible, and she has saved our hides more than once.”

But Acton and Wright were also very prepared for evacuation. Acton is a veterinarian and has traveled the country showing her prize breeding herd. She’s accustomed to moving animals and she has had a long career managing animal-related crises. In her free moments in the last week, she wrote up a long list of tips for evacuating on her yellow legal pad, hoping to help other people.

“First,” she said, “Do not wait for a level 3 evacuation notice. You cannot evacuate livestock in one hour. Evacuate early.”

“Second, if you have animals, you need a way to contain them safely for loading.” For horses, goats and the like, this means having enough collars and halters on hand for every animal. Cattle should be gathered and ready to load near catch pens and chutes.

Acton said the natural human fear of fire makes it harder to think. She stresses that planning and packing ahead is key. She said medication with dosage instructions, boxes of halters, and some feed should be collected so it is easy to pack and go. She also emphasizes making that “hardest list of your life” ahead of time and marking animals to stay or go clearly with paint.

She suggests bringing everything you would need for your animals in 24 hours. “Hoses, hose splitters, buckets, medication, animal first aid kits, extension cords, portable fencing, tools, wire, and rope are key.”

She also said be prepared to keep your animals in the trailer if you break down or there isn’t room at an evacuation site. “Ventilation in your trailer is key. You also need tarps for shade and weather.”

Finally, she said, don’t forget the “human stuff” like sleeping bags, potable drinking water, a change of clothes, good shoes, medication, cell phone chargers, and most importantly, folding chairs. “Evacuation has meant a lot of waiting around,” she said.

 Evacuation tips

Planning for disasters from the American Veterinary Medical Association

• Assemble an evacuation kit.

• Develop an evacuation plan for all of your animals and practice the plan.

• Keep written directions to your home near your telephone. This will help you and others explain to emergency responders exactly how to get to your home.

• Identify alternative sources of food and water.

• Have well-maintained backup generators and a source of fuel for use in food-animal production operations.

• Keep vehicles well maintained and full of gas.

• Keep emergency cash on hand. (Remember: ATMs may not work.)


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.


OSU has COVID-19 resources for small farmers

The Oregon State University Small Farms Program has a website devoted to resources to help small farmers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Access to credible information is important during any public health crisis,” according to the site. “Faculty in the OSU Center for Small Farms and Community Food systems are working with community partners to provide current information that is relevant for small farms and local food systems.”

The site provides information about the virus itself — how it’s spread, safety practices and how to deal with employees during the outbreak. It also provides information about financial resources and ways farmers can change their businesses to meet the challenges and opportunities presented by the outbreak.


New WSU pollinator center to address bee health

OTHELLO, Wash. — Two years ago, the Hiatt Honey Co. in Ephrata, Wash., lost roughly 10,000 hives to diseases and pests.

That’s about 53% of its hives, co-owner Chris Hiatt said.

It was the worst loss since 2004, when the company lost 8,000 to 9,000 hives, Hiatt said.

“This past year was only 33%, so that’s great,” Hiatt told the Capital Press. “Isn’t that crazy for me to say only? The national average was 40% last year. Everyone just expects to lose 30 to 40% through the whole year (to) mites, virus, pesticide pressure.”

Hiatt was one of the speakers during the March 6 ribbon cutting of Washington State University’s new Honey Bee and Pollinator research, extension and education facility. It is designed to help protect and improve pollinator health.

The university purchased the Othello, Wash., building, formerly owned by Monsanto and used for research and corn growing operations, for $2.5 million in June 2019.

No bees were yet at the center during the March 6 ceremony. They were in California pollinating almonds and will be moved to Yakima to pollinate cherries this week, said Brandon Hopkins, entomology assistant research professor.

The university has roughly 100 colonies, each with 40,000 bees. The center will eventually run 400 to 500 colonies, Hopkins said.

The new facility will scientifically seek solutions such as mite treatments or virus controls, any of which would be helpful, Hiatt said.

About six top universities for bee research, including WSU, are working to find answers for the hive losses, he said.

“Honeybees are the single most important pollinator contributing to a healthy global food supply,” said Andre-Denis Wright, dean of WSU’s College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences. “Bees are threatened by a host of challenges, and they need our help.”

Honeybees are “key to the existence of agriculture and, I guess you could argue, to the existence of humans on this planet,”  U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., said.

Hiatt said it’s hard to measure how quickly the center’s effects will be felt in the industry.

The facility will allow researchers to collaborate with seed producers and other farmers, Hopkins said.

For example, WSU pollinator ecology professor Steve Sheppard is leading an experiment in which mushroom extracts are being tested as a way to help bees combat viruses.

Hiatt said bringing the extracts to market would be huge.

“It’s urgent, it’s super-urgent,” he said. “Honey price is down, (the price of) pollination is up, but these high losses just make it harder to stay in business.”


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.

 


Registration still open for Small Farms Conference

Registration for Oregon State University’s popular Small Farms Conference is still open.

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

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

Registration through Feb. 7 is $85. Registration is not available at the door.

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

For more information, go to the conference website.

The conference is sponsored by Northwest Farm Credit Services.