Author: Oregon Aglink (page 2 of 4)

We Are An Industry In Transition

Farmers don’t age gracefully. Being successful in agriculture requires a strong will and an independent mind. It is why most farmers work 40-plus years toiling in all sorts of extremes, and the stress, long hours and crazy weather conditions wear on a body. Let’s face it, most experienced farmers and ranchers look more like Joe Pesci than Sean Connery. However, it’s not the look of most farmers that concern me. It’s the fact that there are so many farmers who look alike.

The statistics tell us that the aging agricultural community could be the most pressing challenge our industry faces, beyond even water, pesticides, labor and land use. According to data from the 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture (a new one is scheduled to be surveyed in 2017), the average farm operator in the United States is 58.3 years old, up from 57.1 in 2007 and 54.9 years in 2002.

Closer to home, the numbers are even more stunning. In September of 2016, the Oregon State University Center for Small Farms and Community Food Systems partnered with Portland State University to release a report on the future of Oregon’s agricultural land. Here are some nuggets from that document:

  • 60 years was the average age of Oregon farmers in 2012, compared to an average age of 55 in 2002 and 50 years in 1982.
  • 24 percent of all Oregon farmers in 2012 were beginning farmers, down from 32 percent in 2002. Although 15 percent of beginning farmers are under the age of 35, nearly half of beginning farmers are aged 45 or older.
  • Farm operators aged 55 and older control 64 percent of Oregon’s agricultural land, or 10.45 million acres, which could change hands in the next 20 years.

So, we’re getting older. The younger generation isn’t coming to the party, and there’s about to be a huge transition of land.

With the escalating value of that land, no wonder it’s difficult to energize the industry with young farm owners. Thanks to strong land use policies, the farm land isn’t likely to be paved over for a strip mall, but what we are seeing is venture capital and large corporations being introduced into Oregon’s ag mix more and more. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but Oregon agriculture is currently comprised of 97 percent family farms, and that statistic is going to change. Being family dominated resonates with an urban populace, and as the percentage of family farms dwindles the louder a misinformed public is likely to become.

More than half of Oregon’s farms are likely to change hands over the next decade. As an industry we don’t have the luxury of debating this issue for the next five years before we take action. We need to start implementing programs now that help our farms and ranches to successfully transition from one generation to the next.

Every operation is different and has its own set of circumstances. There is no cookie cutter program that will benefit the masses. However, there are strategies that every family-owned farm operation should consider.

Father Time is responsible for that Joe Pesci complex, but with the proper planning you can ensure the legacy of your farm or ranch operation through the next generation.

 

 

 

Geoff Horning, Executive Director

Why We Farm

It’s been a wet and slow start to the season here in Oregon. I’m sure by the time you read this article the memories of our record slow start will be forgotten. So with the objective of saving time I constructed a brief “multi-media” journal for this issue. (Less typing – more pictures and even a video)

Step one before reading this article: open your computer or phone internet connection and do a Google search for “start with why video.”  The video in question is a TEDX talk by author Simon Sinek.

At the beginning of 2016 I was working for an ag tech start-up company and collaborating with an international team on a project to clearly define the company’s marketing message and value proposition.  We sifted through multiple exercises to define the who, what, when, where, how and how much.  Ultimately the project produced the desired outcome.  During my research and gleaning ideas from the all-knowing internet I came across the video “Start with Why”.

It was apparent to me that the team had answered all the key questions except WHY.  Although not a necessity to market your company, the gentleman in the video demonstrates how WHY creates focused meaning within an organization and connections with its customers.

Inspiring urban Oregonians to have an enlightened perspective of Oregon agriculture is a monumental challenge.  Outreach programs like Adopt a Famer have created action through open-minded early-adopters, but we can accomplish even more.  Oregon agriculture and the Aglink membership are made up of diverse businesses and individuals.  Some know their WHY and other may struggle to define it.  Finding ways to distil Oregon Aglink’s collective WHY can be the catalyst to bridging the gap with the HOW of our Cultivating Common Ground initiative.

Some producers may farm and ranch for pride, others for the lifestyle and maybe some just simply because their parents and grandparents did.  Think how strong our collective messages would be if we could connect to consumers with inspiring statements of WHY we farm!

Dairy Meets Classroom: Melissa Collman of Cloud Cap Farms

by Allison Cloo

Melissa and her daughters on the farm.

Halfway through its sixth year at Oregon Aglink, the Adopt a Farmer program shows no signs of slowing down. It has evolved from its pilot year with three schools to nearly 50 in its current form. This year alone, the program will use its field trips and classroom visits to introduce approximately 5,000 middle school students to local farms. In some ways, the reach is even greater.

Melissa Collman of Cloud Cap Farms, a second-year participant in the Adopt a Farmer program, knows an encounter with a student on a field trip could be the starting point for a whole chain reaction of understanding.

It seems so simple: a student asks a question, the farmer gives an answer. The information doesn’t stop there, though. That student could share their newfound knowledge in the cafeteria at lunch, or around the dinner table with family. The experience may end up online on Instagram, with a middle schooler taking a selfie next to a Holstein munching hay.

So what makes Adopt a Farmer so different from other programs or field trips that bring around 500 students to Cloud Cap Farms each year?

First, Melissa says, “the kids are typically older than the students we normally see.” As opposed to the kindergarten and elementary students that Melissa often guides through her barns, middle school students in the Adopt a Farmer program are right on the edge of adolescence, developing their critical thinking skills and expanding their sense of the world.

Beyond that, Adopt a Farmer also tries to recruit urban or suburban schools where students may have little to no firsthand knowledge of where their food and fiber originates. “The kids are very removed from agriculture,” Melissa says. “Some of these kids have never left the city.”

Still, the students visiting Melissa’s dairy often arrive with more than the simple image of Old MacDonald and picture book farm animals. Even if they are removed from agriculture, as Melissa notes, they receive plenty of food- and farm-related messages “on the internet or [from] their parents.” The gap between an urban student and their rural neighbors will be bridged one way or another.

So, while some students ask the innocent and funny questions like “Do boy cows make milk,” other students echo myths about dairy farming spread on social media and blog posts.

On one such occasion, Melissa recalls, “a boy walked up to me and said milk has pus and blood in it,” repeating a common accusation of animal rights activists and concerned vegans. Melissa’s solution? “I milked a cow in front of this little boy and he got to see for himself that there was no blood and no pus and he was shocked.”

She saw an opportunity to explain how farms care about food safety, making sure that only quality milk is leaving the farm, and animal health too, separating and treating any sick cows before they return to the line. It was a happy ending to a tough question. Melissa remembers, “He was so excited to go home and tell his Mom that he saw for himself that the milk was safe and that our cows really did look happy.”

Not every farmer-student interaction deals with such challenging questions, but each interaction does offer a chance to build up a sense of trust and empowerment. “Some of those questions are tough to answer,” Melissa offers, “but it is important not to lie. There are ways to explain why we do what we do that can help consumers understand.”

Harrison Park School students at Cloud Cap Farms in Fall of 2016.

One of the more successful strategies that Melissa uses to differentiate enclosures for her dairy cows and their calves is to explain it in relatable terms. Calves advancing from their individual hutches to small groups and then larger pens is laid out as the process of graduating from preschool to grade school and high school. Younger animals are vulnerable to spreading germs or injury, but as they grow older they learn to socialize and be productive members of their society.

Field trips on a working farm present challenges, of course, but Melissa makes it look manageable. The schedule can be a bit tight trying to balance chores and visitors, but she finds the time. Safely conducting tours around live animals and moving machinery means a little extra vigilance and good communication with teachers and chaperones.

The final element of the Adopt a Farmer program may also be part of what makes it so valuable. Getting a farmer like Melissa into the classroom for a visit or two may be tricky to schedule when she needs to milk her cows twice a day, but logistically it ends up being easier than bussing several dozen students from one place to another. Something as simple as putting the farmer in the classroom has a big impact, though, and Melissa knows it.

Melissa shows students how butter is made in a jar in Spring 2016.

Aglink staff will help with the activity, like making butter in a mason jar, but the farmer is the star of the day. “I think it makes the kids feel a little special,” she says, “They not only came to see your farm, but you go and see what they do. Not often do kids get that from a stranger who isn’t being paid to be that role model.”
At the end of the year, Melissa receives batches of thank-you cards from teachers and students, who write about their favorite memory from the field trip or her visit. She makes note, she says, of things that will help her better tailor her message for the next year.

“After doing tours now for years and doing the Adopt a Farmer program for the last two, it is becoming painfully clear that kids really don’t have a true understanding of where their food comes from.” She continues, “Having a real life reference is way more memorable and impactful than just reading something from the internet. These moments, though, are not possible if we don’t put ourselves out there.”
 

REAL Oregon

Warren G. Bennis, the founding chairman of The Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California, and widely considered a pioneer in contemporary leadership studies, said, “The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born—that there is a genetic factor to leadership. This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.”

If leaders are truly made rather than born, are we developing good leaders within Oregon agriculture? Before you answer that question, I’m not asking if we have good leaders within Oregon agriculture. Certainly we do. I could fill pages with names of distinguished leaders within our industry that I admire. But, are we developing them or are they getting those attributes from other resources?

Honestly, the answer is subjective and nuanced. One of the strengths of Oregon agriculture is the diverse number of associations and commodity commissions that represent our industry. Trade associations, in particular, have historically been leadership breeding grounds. While there are still organic leadership development elements in every association, the reality is that today most associations are made up of people who already possess certain leadership skills that are necessary to complete certain objectives.

Despite having great leaders throughout Oregon agriculture, I’d argue we’re not developing these leaders. Their leadership training is coming from other resources. Leadership development is a strategy and culture that needs to be nourished. It requires focus and a little fertilizer to help it grow, and not simply the loudest person talking bull…

A leadership development strategy defines the goals and expectations for leaders. It also defines the key capabilities, competencies, and experiences of a successful leader. They are not the same for every person or organization, but those definitions drive leadership selection, outcomes, and for the associations within Oregon agriculture it will help with program development. Managed in this strategic way, leadership becomes more than simple lip service for the industry.

So, where do we go for this leadership you ask?  Great question.

At the urging of a couple of growers in Malheur County a little over a year ago, OSU Extension agent Bill Buhrig started contacting agricultural representatives throughout Oregon about the creation of a natural resources leadership program. It’s not an original idea. After all, natural resource leadership programs exist in 38 other states, and Oregon even tried to launch a program at the turn of the century that didn’t quite get off the ground. Bill was persistent, and in short order had a steering committee in place representing 18 agriculture, fishery and forestry entities.

Throughout 2016 this group worked diligently to lay the groundwork for REAL (Resource Education & Agricultural Leadership program) Oregon. REAL Oregon is a leadership program that will bring future leaders from agriculture, fishing and forestry together to learn leadership skills and gain a greater understanding of Oregon through a series of statewide sessions. The mission is simple, but complex: Build natural resource leaders who make a difference for Oregon.

The first class is scheduled to begin in November, but this spring they’re accepting applications in what is hoped will be a competitive process.

The urban/rural divide in Oregon is real. The chasm feels like it’s getting exponentially larger. There is a lot of talk about bridging that gap, but it too often feels like a bridge to nowhere. Oregon’s natural resource community needs a legion of polished leaders who can both listen and represent our interests. As an industry it’s our responsibility to develop that army.

Bennis spent his career making leaders out of ordinary people. While only in its infancy, I believe this program can have the same impact for Oregon’s natural resource community. The program outline is in place. The resources to launch the program are there as well. The most important element for the success of the program are the people who become a part of it. For specifics about REAL Oregon, I encourage you to visit their Web site at www.realoregon.net. If you’re feeling really courageous, complete the program application to be a part of the first class. We need you.

 

 

 

Geoff Horning, Executive Director

 

Welcome to 2017

As I begin this year as President of Oregon Aglink, I’d like to thank the membership, board, and executive director for the privilege to serve the agricultural community in this role. My overarching goal for the year is to learn as much as possible about the risks and opportunities farmers are faced with and find ways to help weave them into the educational and communication platform that is Oregon Aglink.

As producers, we’ve all seen the change in perception that the 98% of society has about the 2% that is engaged in agriculture. Change is familiar territory to ag producers, and their ability to identify and capitalize on it demonstrates our resilience and ingenuity. We’ve all dealt with change in the form of regulation or marketing dynamics of our crops. Many of these changes have a concrete and straight forward cause and effect.

A good example of change that I’ve seen over the decades is associated with one of my favorite events growing up on the family farm in the Willamette Valley. When harvest was winding down and the seed was in the barn, the excitement of field burning was in the air… literally. Getting the word from the local fire chief that burning one of your fields was a go set into motion people and equipment that transformed fields with tons of hay and chaff to a clean black slate to begin again with next year’s crop. The cultural practice had significant benefits to the crop and farmer.

The side effect of burning was obviously a temporary compromise of air quality due to the smoke it generated. My guess is that this side effect was perceived as a negative among valley residents who had no connection to farming. The fate of field burning was sealed on August 3rd, 1988 when a tragic fatal automobile accident occurred on Interstate 5 due to smoke and the lack of visibility. The state regulated field burning by phasing out the practice.

This left growers, industry professionals, and academics the challenge of finding new ways to replicate the agronomic value of field burning. Through research, trial work and good old farmer ingenuity, seed producers solved the challenge dealt to them by this regulated change. The challenge was clear and apparent. Farmers are great at solving these types of concrete problems with pragmatic science and economic discipline. Someone throws up a hurdle and we see it and react.

Fast forward 30 years and think about the risks and opportunities that exist for farmers today. What would happen in today’s society if the tragic events of August 3rd, 1988 happened today. How would our chosen profession be viewed and perceived? I’ve always held the belief that farming is a noble profession. Not every person classified as the 98% has the same reverence for the profession that provides the food and fiber that sustains them. Oregon Aglink serves as an organization to close the gap on any misperceptions. It’s here to communicate and educate what, how, and why we farm.

I highlighted field burning because, in my mind, it was a great example of reacting to a clearly defined risk and challenge. It’s a great testament to the industry’s problem solving abilities. Now it’s the time where I toss you some food for thought. Is our industry great at proactively innovating when risks and change are continuous, unclear, fragmented, and subtle? How good are we owning and promoting the realities of farming to our non-farming members of society? Is our radar up to identify these subtle and progressive changes and meet them with a mind-set of proactive innovation?

Traditional thoughts of what innovation looks like might take the shape of what happened in reaction to field burning’s exit: a clear and timely change-management to a challenge. I’d like to raise the awareness that some of today’s risks to agriculture require a constant, long-term mind-set of innovation. The innovators on the front line of our industry today that are communicating, educating and bolstering positive perceptions aren’t university stalwarts with PhDs but strong voices such as Brenda Frketich @NuttyGrass, Shelly Boshart @BoshartDavisAg, Marie Bowers @MarieB41, Molly McCargar @FarmerMolly9, Robert Saik @rsaik, Oregon Farm Bureau @OreFarmBureau and Oregon Aglink @oregonaglink.

Innovate every day! It’s a new year and a changing world.

 

 

 

 

Jeff Freeman, Oregon Aglink President

Customer Service, Smart Growth Winning Combo

by Mitch Lies

From left, John Hocket, Jeff Freeman and Bob Hockett, outside Marion Ag Service’s new 70,000-square-foot fertilizer plant, which is set to begin operating in February. The plant will increase the company’s storage capacity nearly eight-fold.

Over coffee one day in 1978, Bob Hockett agreed to buy out his four partners in Marion Ag Service.

“I had all these ideas to buy more equipment, buy this and buy that, and the rest of them didn’t,” Bob said.

Thirty-eight years later, Marion Ag Service is still expanding. And the five still meet almost daily for coffee, often joined by half-a-dozen other local farmers at Marion Ag Service headquarters, just outside of St. Paul, Oregon.

“If we’re not doing the right thing in the field, we hear about it every day,” said Bob’s son John Hockett, the company’s vice president of sales.

Indeed, Marion Ag Service is an agribusiness success story rooted in long-term relationships and smart growth.

As John put it: “Dad didn’t sit still very long.”

Jeff Freeman, left, and John Hockett, in Marion Ag Service’s new 70,000-square-foot fertilizer plant. The plant, scheduled to open in February, includes sixty 500-ton storage bins, in addition to two fully automated blending lines.

The company’s most recent expansion involves a 70,000-square-foot fertilizer plant, which includes two fully automated blending lines that will enable growers to get fertilizer blended to individual prescriptions.

Set to begin operation in February of 2017, the plant will increase the company’s storage capacity to 29,000 tons, nearly eight-fold of its existing capacity, providing opportunities for other companies to warehouse fertilizer in the facility, as well. The facility consolidates many fertilizer functions under one roof, delivering supply-chain efficiencies for the regional fertilizer marketers and users. The opportunity should help companies get product to growers in a timely fashion – something that can be at risk with the Willamette Valley’s current storage capacity.

“The windows for applying fertilizer are short sometimes,” John said. “Like this fall, it rained all October, so now (in November) everybody is going full bore.

“If everything works out perfectly, we can keep up,” John added. “But as soon as there is a hiccup in manufacturing or on the railroad, now you’re out of product. Growers aren’t fertilizing, and that’s a problem.”

The plant is among Marion Ag Service’s most aggressive expansions over its fifty year history. “This was a big step for us,” said Jeff Freeman, director of sales and marketing for Marion Ag. But it is far from Marion Ag’s only expansion.

Marion Ag Service set its roots in 1967, when Bob Hockett branched out from full-time farming, joined with Allied Chemical, and became one of the first liquid fertilizer distributors in the Willamette Valley. In 1976, Bob teamed with four other farmers to form Marion Ag Service, with a primary purpose of warehousing and marketing soft white wheat, and applying lime and dolomite.

Two years later, Bob bought out his partners and Marion Ag became the largest distributor of Ashgrove lime in Western Oregon.

In 1994, Marion Ag Service purchased St. Paul Feed and Supply and entered the dry fertilizer, seed cleaning, grain storage and feed markets. Also that year, company hired its first crop advisor. Today the company’s collective technical staff includes six full-time consultants that work with farmers and nursery professionals on a one-by-one basis, helping ensure growers get the most out of their crop productions.

Expansions continued in 1996, when Marion Ag purchased railroad access in Brooks, allowing the company to venture into warehouse agreements with key fertilizer manufacturers, such as Simplot, PCS and IRM.

In 1998, Marion Ag centralized its seed cleaning and conditioning, moving from downtown St. Paul to its headquarters, a few miles east of St. Paul. Also in 1998, the company began to develop private a label wholesale fertilizer service, which today services turf and ornamental resale professionals in eleven Western states, Hawaii and Guam.

Expansion continued in 2000, when Marion Ag purchased six acres adjacent to its new facility and constructed a prilling plant, which allows for flour lime and other nutrition components to be processed into a more easily spread form.

In 2005, the Aurora plant was expanded to accommodate growth in organic demand. The plant today is certified for handling of organic substrates.

Today Marion Ag employs roughly 100, and services growers from Albany to Portland in the agriculture, horticulture, nursery/greenhouse, turf resale and organics sectors.

Looking back, John said he believes one of the ingredients to the company’s long-term success lies in its ability to make decisions quickly.

“As opportunities came to the table, Dad and (COO) Tom (Wimmer), both being progressive, would look at each other and say, ‘This makes sense,’ and they’d do it,” John said. “And, for the most part, that continues today.

“If it makes sense and it is a win-win for the growers, as well as for us, we jump in and do it,” John said. “There is not a lot of hemming and hawing.”

He added: “As we went to our customer base, with whether it be grass-seed cleaning or blended fertilizers, and they wanted more and it made sense to grow our business in that direction, those were easy decisions to make.”

Other keys Bob identified are good employees and good customer service.

“You don’t have to drive very far to find a fertilizer plant,” Bob said, “and if you don’t have the equipment, the product and the people to take care of this guy, he’ll go down the street. And in a year or two, he might drift away and go to some company that will take care of him.”

Then there are those morning cups of coffee with growers sitting around a table, and the fact that Bob still produces grass seed.

“Dad might tell me, ‘Your fertilizer prices are too high,’” John said. “Well, he is the owner of the company and he is telling me my prices are too high, because he also is a farmer. That kind of keeps us in check.”

Reap What You Sow: Tax Planning Opportunities

Curtis has been helping his clients with strategic tax planning, compliance and consulting services for more than 10 years.

As we look back at the last calendar year, it’s a good time to sharpen your pencil and consider some tax strategies that may help minimize your tax liabilities. Here are three areas that every agribusiness should be aware of when working with their tax advisor:

Transition of Family LLCs: In order to minimize estate taxes, farmers often transfer their land and real property into family-owned LLCs. Minority interests may be granted in these LLCs to their heirs at discounted values due to lack of control. These discounts can be up to 50% of the fair value of the LLC interest and help reduce the estate tax impact of the gift. However, if proposed changes to the IRS Code are enacted, this tax planning tool will go away.  To date, it’s not certain what the final effective date will be for these changes, if they are enacted into law.  Therefore, if you have a family owned LLC and have not evaluated the impact of these potential changes on your estate and business transition planning, we recommend that you contact your CPA or attorney immediately to evaluate the appropriate course of action for your personal situation.

Eric provides his clients assurance services which includes audit, reviews and compilations and specializes in financial consulting and employee benefit plan audits.

New Repair Regulations: IRS regulations now allow businesses to expense asset purchases of $2,500 or less, per unit (up from $500 or less). This increase alleviates the time and effort required to track, capitalize, and depreciate relatively minor purchases. It also provides an incentive to make year-end purchases as they can be expensed against income for the current year, even if they were only placed in service for a day.  Businesses should create or update their written capitalization policies to document their chosen dollar threshold to be applied consistently to all asset purchases to take advantage of this strategy.

Expanded Bonus Deprecation on Trees and Fruit Bearing Plants: A tax savings opportunity is available to those who haven’t elected out of UNICAP (i.e., the IRS rules for capitalization of inventory for cash basis tax payers). These businesses can plant trees and plants bearing fruits and nuts now and take bonus depreciation. Under the old rules, agribusinesses would have to wait until the tree or plant become commercially productive to claim the depreciation expense. This potential tax savings should be considered when you are deciding when to plant any new fields.  The available bonus depreciation is 50% in 2016, 50% in 2017, 40% in 2018, and 30% in 2019.

Don’t Forget

Here are some additional reminders for you to review with your tax advisor:

Entity Structure Planning: The PATH Act of 2015 made permanent the five year waiting period for built-in gains associated with C-Corporations that have converted to S-Corporations.  If you have been considering converting to an S-Corporation because of the tax advantages now may be the right time to convert to an S-Corporation.

Tax Filing Deadlines:  This new tax year brings a few adjusted deadlines for businesses that you should be aware of as you gather documents in preparation for your 2016 returns.  Partnership returns are now due by March 15th (previously April 15th) and C-Corporation returns are now due by April 15th (previously March 15th).

Oregon Pass-Through Tax Rate: Effective last year, Oregon taxpayers may apply a lower tax rate on active pass through income that they receive from an S-Corporation or Partnership (other than a single-member LLC). However, there is an election that must be made on the Oregon business tax return to take advantage of the reduced rate.   You should work closely with your tax advisor to ensure this election was made correctly – the tax impact for many could be as much as 2%.  If you have questions on taking this election, you may contact one of our team members at agribusiness@aldrichadvisors.com.  Unfortunately, once the initial filing deadline has past a missed election cannot be corrected with an amended return.

Many of these tax saving strategies may seem daunting, however, when you are working with your team of experts they can be easily implemented to help you reap what you sow and keep more of your hard earned dollars.

Planning Ahead

Our knowledge of the entire agri-business supply chain from grower to processor to retailer allows us to help our clients achieve their goals. Please contact either of us at Aldrich Advisors (formerly AKT) at 503-620-4489 if you’d like to review these opportunities or discuss other options for tax savings.

The Electoral College vs Popular Vote

The dirty secret about Oregon Aglink the magazine is that the deadline for my column is weeks before you’ll read it. Coming up with fresh column ideas can be challenging, especially in today’s world when a hot topic has the shelf life of a snow flake in Phoenix. Take this column, for example. While we’re not a political organization, it’s hard not to have politics at the top of mind during election week. This morning the entire conversation revolves around the protests throughout the country because Donald Trump was elected president.

While the weak minded are focused on vandalism and physical and mental intimidation, many scholars are pointing to the fact that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. Their form of protest is to demand change away from the Electoral College that determines who wins a presidential election. They want the popular vote to determine the winner.

On the surface, I can reason with that frustration and even welcome the rational. I just whole heartedly disagree with it.

In order to appreciate the reasons for the Electoral College, it is essential to understand its historical context and the problem that the founding fathers were trying to solve. They faced the difficult question of how to elect a president in a nation that:

  • Was composed of 13 large and small states jealous of their own rights and powers while suspicious of any central national government
  • Contained only 4 million people nationwide, or basically the population of Oregon
  • Concerns were rampant that states with larger population bases would create a dictatorship

Why were these questions discussed? Let’s look a little deeper. Virginia, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts represented 41 percent of the population in 1776. Can you begin to see how founders in the other 10 colonies were a little leery of the bigger colonies? This was especially true of the largest colony, Virginia, which represented nearly 25 percent of the nation’s population. The founding fathers were determined to find a more equitable system that allowed all 13 colonies equal input.

It’s a system, by and large, that has worked well.

The popular vote, which is used in most state-wide elections? That’s up for debate. Especially in States such as Oregon that have primarily one metro area.

In 2016 Oregon surpassed 4 million people who reside in the Beaver State. Roughly the same population as the original 13 colonies combined. If we pretend that Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington Counties are the equivalent of the three highest populated “colonies,” we find that these three counties represent 44 percent of Oregon’s population. Multnomah County is our “Virginia,” representing nearly 20 percent of the population.

Dennis Richardson was just elected Secretary of State in Oregon. He is the first Republican to win a state-wide election since Jack Roberts was elected Labor Commissioner in 1994. In most cases the Democratic candidate has won with relative ease, primarily because they dominate the three counties previously noted. Democratic principles are usually stronger in metropolitan communities, whereas Republican principles are usually stronger in rural communities.

This is why rural interests are not represented well in state-wide elections. For the purposes of an example only, Hillary Clinton took 52 percent of the popular vote in Oregon and Donald Trump took 41 percent. Rightfully so, she earned the 7 electoral votes from Oregon. However, if you look at the county-by-county breakdown, Clinton took only 8 of 36 counties in Oregon.

What’s my point? Oregon has a significant urban-rural divide. Most of that anguish is built around local politics, often forced upon rural communities by their urban neighbors. What if Oregon had its own version of an electoral college where each county had a larger say in how an election turned out?

I realize this is never going to happen, and even if it was entertained it would be skewed to where the larger population base would still have a greater say. However, if such a system did exist I do believe that our state-wide officials would probably give a little more than the current lip service they give our rural communities. Stronger dialogue would occur that would create solutions rather than build larger chasms between urban and rural populaces. And, that’s something to think about.

 

 

 

Geoff Horning, Executive Director

Courtesy of the Media Circus

I am entering 2017 with a bit of apprehension and dismay, courtesy of the media circus that our election year produced.  The whole election fiasco wore me out.  There was nowhere to run and hide from pre- or post-election polls, opinions, and results.   To top it off, we had to hear about the countless number of protests happening, whether they had anything to do with the election choice or were a random march disputing the rights of the oppressed.

I would like to put all of the malicious actions, the he said/she said rhetoric, and the excuses behind. Instead, let’s focus on having more respect for others and their beliefs, cultures, and ages. All three of those played a key role in the election and what happened afterwards.  Although the presidential race was far from predictable, there were moments of sheer clarity. Apparently, we have entered a new era of generational diversity and culture clashes.  The conflict is real. The largest generation is aging and taking their “Team Player” mindset and leaving the work force. At the same time, younger cohorts are trying to validate their own importance with a tech-savvy mentality and a push for obscure cultural changes.

As a parent, I see the limit-pushing and electronic-loving temperament in my kids, but what better way to witness age variance and character contrasts than within our own family businesses?  I, for one, work with my parents from the “Traditionalist” generation, our long-time employees from the “Boomer” and “Generation X” eras, and just a few “Y” (Millennials) who round out our staff.   These four generations cover seventy-six years of knowledge and experience, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, and each aging just the same.

Now that I’m in the Boomer category and no longer just the bosses’ daughter, I’m in denial that my “out on a limb” attitude has curved more towards the “better safe than sorry” territory. A few years ago, my sense of invincibility would allow me to gravitate to the scariest ride at the fair, to crawl onto a roof to stage the best Christmas light display, or to look risk straight in the eye and know that—no matter how this turns out—there would be someone to pick up the pieces.  Now, instead of jumping first and asking questions later, I’ve become more concerned about the bigger picture: is my choice going to affect someone else?

It’s crazy business becoming responsible, and it is quite clear that everyone does it on their own time. Maybe, though, that mix of generations and sensibilities is a good thing.  Being president of this fine organization has challenged me to think out of the box and to step out of my comfort zone to try something new.  The Oregon Aglink Board and the wonderful staff is made up of very progressive and knowledgeable people all stemming from different generations;  I see this and am excited for a coming year that promises to be one hell of a ride.

 

 

 

Lori Pavlicek, President

 

Leadership: A Family Tradition

by Mitch Lies

From left to right: Neal, Pamela, daugther Lauren Lucht

From left to right: Neal, Pamela, daugther Lauren Lucht

For Pamela Lucht, providing leadership to community and agricultural organizations is a family tradition.

Pamela, administrative manager for the family’s business, Northwest Transplants in Molalla, has served as treasurer on several boards and committees over the years, including six years as the Molalla FFA Alumni Chapter’s treasurer.

Recently, she took over as treasurer for Oregon Aglink.

“(Oregon Aglink Executive Director) Geoff Horning asked me if I would do it, and I said yes, because there was a need and I believe in what Oregon Aglink is doing,” Pamela said.

Her commitment to Oregon Aglink adds to the Lucht family’s legacy of leadership that dates back to Charlie Lucht, father of her husband, Neal.

Neal, president of the Oregon FFA Foundation and chairman of the Molalla River School District’s Board of Directors, tells a story about how he once asked Charlie why he participated in so many boards and committees.

“He looked at me incredulously and said: ‘Who else would you have do it?’ Leadership happens,” Neal said. “If the right people don’t choose to, the wrong people will. There is never an option for no leadership.’”

In addition to serving as treasurer of Oregon Aglink, Pamela and her farm participate in the organization’s popular Adopt a Farmer program.

“The Adopt a Farmer program is relatively new to us,” Pamela said, “and we are really excited about it.”

“My favorite thing is just seeing the kids get engaged and ask questions, and seeing the lightbulb come on when they start to understand the process,” said Neal and Pamela’s daughter, Lauren, who is the marketing director for Northwest Transplants.

“It is really fun to see that lightbulb come on,” added Neal, “to see that connection that somebody actually grows everything I eat.”

“I hope we are inspiring some entrepreneurship among some of those kids, too,” Pamela said.

That spirit of entrepreneurship has long been present in Northwest Transplants. The business started with just 11 greenhouses when Neal and Pamela purchased it from the Lucht family’s Crestview Farms in 1990.

Today Northwest Transplants operates 92 greenhouses, moving about 80 million seedlings a year through the operation.

The business’s origin came from the realization that the transplant technology they provide offers many benefits to producers, especially as the industry and consumer needs began to change.

“When I was growing up, we worked with transplants, but typically in old technologies,” Neal said. “We’d looked at other areas of the country and appreciated how they utilized their greenhouse plug-tray plants for field planting. But the management and production logistics had never really been thought out for the production of a variety of crops in our temperate climate.”

The farm sought advice from Oregon State Extension advisors and others, but found that no one had answers.

“They told us we really just couldn’t do it here,” Neal said. “So we spent three years working on solving the program of what combination of greenhouse management and technologies could be made into a commercial seedling production venture. We developed some of our own concepts on climate modification and greenhouse management to fit our economic resource of a seasonal climate.”

“Now we grow over 300 varieties of crops each year,” Lauren said, “including everything from medicinal herbs, such as stinging nettle, to traditional cold crops and crops that thrive in specific environments, like peppers and sweet potato.”

Although Northwest Transplants operates solely on a contract basis, its business model includes much more than simply taking orders from farmers.

“Many times we have to look at what growing trends are out there. How might we impact those crop systems for the future? What technologies can we bring with our ability to control climate to affect the outcome of that particular crop and affect its profitability?” Neal said.

“We do our research, and many times take it to our customers,” he added. ‘We are constantly managing our relationships with our customers, rather than just sitting back and waiting for a contract. We’ve always tried to stay focused on how can we grow the success of a particular grower and improve profitability on their farm.”

Northwest Transplants works with about 200 growers, both large and small, Neal said. The farm produces plugs in unique soil mixtures that are tailored for individual crops. The ingredients in their blends are sourced from all over the world. The organic mixture they produce, for example, calls for peat moss from Northeast Canada, vermiculite from South Africa or China, and another ingredient, which Neal wouldn’t reveal, from Northwest Canada.

Northwest Transplants today is in the process of completing what Neal described as the final phase of maxing out the capacity of the operation’s existing 20-acre site. The family farm recently purchased a 100-acre site across the street from its operation, which the family plans to use, at least in part, for production agriculture.

One thing certain to be in the mix for the Lucht family’s future is a continued emphasis on providing leadership to community and agricultural organizations.

“We are just really passionate about giving back,” said Lauren, who is a member of Oregon Aglink’s Adopt a Farmer Committee. “If you have the capability to lead, we believe you have the responsibility.”

 

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