Author: Oregon Aglink (page 2 of 2)

Doing More With Less: The Future of Oregon Ag

By Heather Burson

Oregon’s economy, Mexico’s declining farm labor supply and issues at the port all have significant bearing on the future of Oregon agriculture. These issues were the focus at the Agri-Business Council of Oregon’s annual meeting January 22 at the Silverton Wellsprings Conference Center in Woodburn. Three speakers were invited to present their findings, Andres Bergero, VP of Global Trade & FX Solutions at Bank of the West, Diane Charlton, researcher at UC Davis, and Curtis Robinhold, Deputy Executive Director for Port of Portland. Together, they touched on what Oregon agriculture must do to continue to thrive now and into the future.

Their main prognosis calls for several adjustments based on a variety of factors at hand. The current and future state of the U.S. economy being one of them. Bergero shared that overall, the year ahead looks promising. Our unemployment rate is decreasing, consumer debt is lower, the housing market is starting to come back and consumers are getting a boost from lower oil prices. “Consumers have more money to spend, so you can expand what you do,” says Bergero. All of these factors bode well, but the current economic climate is not without its challenges.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One effect producers will have to contend with is a higher GDP. According to Bergero, this puts importers “in the driver seat,” but leaves exporters scrambling to find techniques to overcome a strong dollar and stay competitive. While importers can expect more from a strong dollar than they could in years past, especially if they’re invoiced in that country’s currency, exporter’s products don’t look as attractive with a strong dollar. Bergero advises reducing costs, considering different terms, and renegotiating. All things that will need to be considered as available labor continues to decline.

Job trends show that labor will continue to be a huge factor and will require an intensified response. Bergero shared a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics graph showing waged agriculture will remain flat while self-employed agriculture continues to decrease. A large part of this trend can be attributed to U.S. agriculture’s dependence on an imported labor force. Charlton and her colleagues analyzed 30 years of data that points to this very conclusion and the need for a change.

“In the 1950’s the farm labor force in the U.S. declined rapidly, and the measure they took in the 50s and 60s was to import (labor) from Mexico,” says Charlton.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToday, research shows that only two percent of California’s agricultural workforce comes from the U.S. This means the remaining 98 percent is made up of workers from a variety of other countries, predominately Mexico. A fact that presents an alarming situation. According to Charlton’s research, Mexico’s agricultural labor supply is in decline and several trends are responsible. The country itself is plagued by a falling birthrate, an increase in non-ag GDP, more secondary schools, and an increase in border control. With demand for farm labor in Mexico growing, Mexico finds itself in a transition stage, simultaneously exporting and importing farm labor. “Mexico is importing workers from Guatemala at the same time they are exporting workers to the U.S.,” Charlton says. Thus, the U.S. and Mexico are competing for a dwindling supply of available farm labor.

One solution would be to import agricultural workers from other countries not as far along in transition. Yet, Charlton points out that those other countries may reach transition and then we’d find ourselves with the same problem. She notes a few other viable solutions instead, changing cropping patterns, growing less labor-intensive crops, and adapting ag education. The ultimate solution will require a combination of all three.

Changing cropping patterns to grow less labor-intensive crops goes hand-in-hand with increasing the mechanization of agriculture. Both could help fill the void left by a declining agricultural labor supply. Another practice Charlton recommends to help ag do more with less is changing ag education, “looking at different skill sets that we can bring into this industry to help it grow.” Bergero’s presentation points to job sectors that are on the rise, and one of those is technology. Bringing skill sets from these kinds of industries into the mix could be a huge asset to agriculture and its prosperity in years to come. “If we can match those skills to the work, perhaps make them more technical, match them with technologies to make those workers more productive, that can really keep more people in the sector,” says Charlton.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

These recommendations could be what maintains international trade through West Coast ports, now facing issues and shortages of their own in the wake of recent labor strife. Most notably, the loss of Hanjin. “The loss of container service from Hanjin will reduce one of the lower cost avenues for Oregon agricultural producers to get their products to international markets,” says Robinhold. For some Oregon producers, an increase in costs will become the new norm. “They will still be able to export and import, but by container it could require shipping through Seattle, Tacoma, San Francisco and Oakland, and that increases costs to farmers and producers,” Robinhold says. Methods that require less labor and add different skill sets, like those suggested by Charlton, could help make shipping through other ports more affordable. These are the kinds of tools we need to consider as we move forward.

Although challenges like these lie ahead, Oregon agriculture will continue to persevere as it has always done. Making adjustments is just part of the process. Strong dollar or weak dollar, Oregon’s importers and exporters have the tools to weather the storm and stay profitable. Adapting labor and adding new skill sets will be part of this, as will exploring new avenues so Oregon agriculture can continue to thrive. It all boils down to doing more with less, and Oregon agriculture is ready for the challenge.

 

Growing Oregon’s Future with JD Ranch

By Heather Burson

The Adopt a Farmer program has made a name for itself connecting middle school science students with where their food and fiber comes from. This is accomplished in a variety of ways that all stem from two connection points. Field trips to the farm and farm visits to the classroom. Together, these connections build the most important connection of all, the one between farmer or rancher and student. It’s a connection that begins on the field trip, blossoms in the classroom and extends from there. An experience that Jeff Kuhn, of JD Ranch, and his niece Stacey Kuhn have been proud to witness as participants this year.

“Just the knowledge of our industry has grown, and their curiosity of the industry has grown, and they’ve latched onto it and they really like it,” says Jeff, “they’re pulling it all together from the field trip to the classroom, they’re figuring it out.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Last fall Jeff and Stacey hosted 206 sixth grade students, from Diana Collins’ class at Robert Gray Middle School, to their 2,000 acre ranch on nearby Sauvie Island. Students were able to get the lay of the land, check out some of the equipment and see how JD Ranch produces a variety of crops. Among these were cattle, JD Ranch has a little over 100 head that are part of a cow/calf operation, and chipping potatoes used to create Tim’s Cascade and Kettle Brand potato chips. The group also included adults, helping the program’s message spread further. “On the field trip we had a bunch of adults, chaperones, and they were more blown away than the kids were,” says Jeff. Diana agrees, adding that “They were mesmerized by what the students were learning.” Fast forward to February and it was time for their first classroom visit.

Jeff and Stacey were met with recognition and enthusiasm, as students recalled the field trip and asked lots of questions about the ranch. “That was very rewarding for me, that they remember coming out to the farm and then recognized me and had questions for me,” says Jeff. Students remembered several things from their day there, the cattle, potatoes, potato chips, the shed where potatoes are stored, the sprayer and more. Potatoes were one of the things that made the biggest impression, especially for those who took one home. One student shared that he “took a potato home, named it Fred and ate it raw.” Another student was excited that she took one home and made French fries. Their awareness had grown, and this was even more evident in the questions they asked.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Simple questions, such as how many acres JD Ranch grows on, led to more critical questions like “if it’s a cow farm, why are there potatoes too” and “are potatoes GMO?” Students learned that it’s important to diversify, that there are few true GMO crops, and that methods like crossing and breeding are also used to create different kinds of things. Their questions also led to other kinds of links, like the one between farm and consumer. One of Stacey’s favorite moments was from a girl who just learned that JD Ranch’s potatoes are graded on color. Only a little green, caused by sunburn, or black, caused by bruising or a bug, is allowed. In fact, Tim’s Cascade only allows JD Ranch five percent green within a quarter million pounds of potatoes a day. Upon hearing this, the girl said that must be why there are green chips and some consumers may see those and think ‘I don’t want to buy from that company again.’ A response that impressed Stacey. “She made that connection and that was really neat,” Stacey says.

Next, Stacey linked back to the classroom and their recent studies of evolution. A soil science major in college, she was excited to share her knowledge of what soil is made of and how soil evolves. “I’m really passionate about it, I get really excited about it,” says Stacey. Students learned about the soil’s different components, gravel, sand, silt, clay and organic matter, and how to observe these layers in the soil around them. Gravel feels coarse, sand feels gritty, silt feels like flour, and clay feels sticky. They also learned one of Stacey’s favorite facts that a past professor of hers imparted, that one cubic inch of soil contains over a billion living things. “You’re stepping on that every day, think about that!” Stacey says.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

She also talked about the Missoula flood, comparing its size to the Seattle Space Needle, and its deposits of soil throughout Oregon and the Willamette Valley. Students learned that 200 feet of fertile top soil, from Montana, Washington and Idaho, was deposited in Oregon, with sand, silt and clay deposited from Portland to Eugene. The flood’s effects, the Washington state scablands and erratic rock deposits, impressed students. One boy asked how scientists knew one of the rocks was from Canada, and learned that its composition was different than the soil around it. This got him thinking about how other geographic features were formed, such as the Grand Canyon.

These are the types of connections that happen every day in an Adopt a Farmer classroom, and they’ll continue to happen in this one. Something Diana is excited about as they move forward. “I was really delighted with how much expertise Farmer Jeff and Stacey brought to our classroom, she says, “they totally went above and beyond my expectations.” Two more classroom visits will follow and perhaps another field trip. All of them, opportunities to grow Oregon’s future as one that’s more harmonious with agriculture. “I hope they have more of an open mind about Oregon agriculture in general. With all of these bills being proposed…I hope they think about how it will affect farmers, I hope they understand it more, and I hope they want to be a part of it,” says Stacey. In turn, she looks forward to learning more about her students and “what issues are important to them now, because they’ll be the ones driving the market.” Adds Diana, “I really hope that they are proud of where they come from and know that their local farmers work very hard and we need to support them and trust and believe in the work they do.”

 

War of the Words

geoff horning“You should be ashamed of yourself for caring more about the cows in Asia than the hardworking people in Portland.”

That is the PG version of an anonymous voicemail I recently received from somebody who was upset with my benign quote in an NPR interview. The focus of the interview was the impact of the labor strife at West Coast ports on agriculture. My sin, verbatim: “The problem with the hay component is that the dairies or the beef producers or whoever wants that hay and straw in the Asian market – they have animals they need to feed. And if their customers are not receiving their product, they’re going to start looking for other avenues to get that product.”

I suspect that the person who took the time out of their day to look up my phone number and place the call was less concerned about agricultural practices, and more concerned with her job, or that of somebody close to her. But, that’s not always the case.

Molly McCargar, current ABC president, was asked to be a farmer’s voice in the most recent GMO labeling initiative that was voted down in November. During the campaign, her credibility was repeatedly chastised by opponents despite the fact that she is a multi-generation farmer. Late night hang ups and death threats were popular ploys as well.

Whether it’s a labor strife, GMO legislation or numerous other issues facing Oregon agriculture, the common thread with the heightened level of anxiety is the response to a reactionary discussion. Rarely does this level of vitriol come from a proactive engagement. That’s why as an industry, it’s imperative that we have ongoing conversations with our urban neighbors.

Every industry is vulnerable to crisis, but few generate the passion that agriculture does. Everybody eats and more people every day want to know where their food comes from and the measures taken by the producer to ensure that the food is safe.

The advent of the internet has made it easy for everybody to find information that fits their preconceived notions. The days of playing ostrich are gone. We are an industry in crisis. Without a proactive crisis communication plan Oregon’s producers risk more than just a damaged reputation, but urban-based legislation that will negatively impact their bottom line.

The basic steps of effective crisis communication are not difficult, but they require advance work to minimize damage. The slower the response, the more damage is incurred.

The Agri-Business Council of Oregon is trying to do its part. We communicate with our urban neighbors on several different platforms, but our most effective conversation with long-term results lies within the Adopt a Farmer program.

While the focus of the program is to emphasize the critical scientific components that allow producers, regardless of production method, to feed the world, the ancillary benefits of the program are the relationships forged with an impressionable audience. It’s much easier to have a conversation with students open to learning than it is with adults who have preconceived opinions that are often inaccurate. The program is being received in such a positive light that Susan Duncan, a recently retired Beaverton science teacher of more than 30 years wrote us in a letter:

“The Adopt a Farmer Program has been the highlight of my career, both in the experience of teaching and the years I spent providing environmental education. It is a partnership between teachers and farmers who understand how important it is that students learn observation skills and economics, as well as problem solving and engineering.”

The Adopt a Farmer program is touching lives and leaving an impression. Each spring we start recruiting producers who would be interested in being “adopted.” To learn more about the program feel free to contact me, and also take a moment to watch this video: http://oregonfresh.net/videos/adopt-a-farmer/. As an industry we have to become more proactive in telling our story. We represent the most important industry to the human race and the best people in the world. It’s time that got more recognition. Please help me by speaking up and telling your story.

geoff horning signature

 

 

 

Geoff Horning

President’s Journal: Oregon Agriculture is About Teaching

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGrowing up on the farm I worked every summer starting around age 12, doing things like driving combine, tractors, moving irrigation pipe, or dumping cherry buckets; growing a variety of crops and being a part of the process. I never knew anything different. To me, it was not just a way of life but common knowledge. I could tell the difference between a perennial ryegrass field and tall fescue while flying by at 65 mph on the freeway, without needing a sign to identify it. To those of us in agriculture, these kinds of things seem like obvious common knowledge. But as I’ve gotten older I’ve learned that there’s no such thing. Unless it’s a shared experience, it’s not common at all.

With less than two percent of the U.S. population farming, it’s no wonder it gets harder to have conversations about the production of these products. The more people are removed from what was once a shared experience, the larger the disconnect gets with each new generation. My first glimpse of disconnect, or the lack of common knowledge between urbanites and food production, was when I was about 21 years old. While visiting my sister in California her friends were asking about the farm. As I was telling them about what we grow, one young man asked if the broccoli grew on trees. It seemed like such an odd question, I blurted out such an obvious “Duh, no” kind of response that I felt was required. How could this guy not know how broccoli is grown? For him, it just appeared in the store with no story or explanation behind it. This was 20 years ago and if I knew then what I know now, I would have taken a much different approach to my response.

As I moved through college I bumped into this disconnect over and over again. And each time I was surprised at how little people knew about where or how their food and fiber was produced. I never took the time or opportunity to teach at each of these occurrences, oftentimes I felt myself defending false stories instead. After graduating from college with a health education degree I was ready to head off and change the world teaching and coaching. I knew how to teach about health and coach volleyball. So how was it that I didn’t do the same for the lifestyle I grew up with? Looking back I guess I always thought I didn’t need to. Someone else was there to do it for me. I never intended to end up where I am today.

After several years of coaching and teaching middle and high school age kids I decided to “retire” so I could stay at home with my (at the time) two girls. My dad asked me if I’d be interested in doing the books for the farm part time. Now, 10 years later, my part-time bookkeeping has become full-time farmer with the unique opportunity to continue teaching. Today, rather than blurt out responses making someone look stupid or getting defensive the way I used to, I teach. I share everything about the farm and all that goes into it, hiding nothing. I know that if it’s not me telling our story then it’s someone else trying to tell it for us, and a lot of good information can get lost along the way.

There are many opportunities to get involved and share your story. One of the easiest is by participating in Oregon Aglink’s Adopt a Farmer program. This program is especially important to all of our farms and their future because these kids ARE the future. The future consumer, policy maker, engineer, plant breeder, accountant, banker, truck driver, restaurant owner and the list goes on. These are just a few of the types of careers that we depend on. And we hope that what they learn about our operations, what it takes to get food to people’s plates and that it doesn’t just magically appear in the grocery store, will stay with them for a lifetime. This is why they, and this program, are critical to each farm’s future success. If we all do our part, share our story and teach at every moment provided, hopefully our stories won’t be so critical in the future because we’ve taken the time to make a difference now.

So please join Oregon Aglink and myself in continuing to promote Oregon agriculture and all that it has to offer.

Molly McCargar's Signature - Cropped

 

 

 

Molly McCargar

Member Q&A: Jeff Freeman of Wilco

Jeff Freeman

1) How did Wilco, and its name, come to be?

Wilco’s name originated from Willamette Consolidated. As agricultural supply cooperatives began to merge and consolidate 50 years ago, the roll up of many individual cooperatives became the core of Wilco.

2) What defines Wilco and sets it apart from other coops?

In a word…diversity. Fundamentally, cooperatives are owned by the growers we serve. Our core business is agronomy and agronomic inputs like fertilizer, seed, crop protection products and fuel. Wilco’s leadership in past years has made some key decisions to diversify our resources into retail farm stores. The diversity of our three business units, agronomy, petroleum and farm stores, help us manage our risk and create sustainable returns for our members.

3) How does Wilco serve its local communities?

All employees at Wilco strive to practice a set of core values; integrity, quality, respect, accountability, teamwork and community. Many of our employees live in or grew up in rural communities. We try to stay connected to the issues facing the communities we serve. The list of issues can be extensive, ranging from lack of youth program funding in FFA to regulatory issues that can handicap growers. Wilco fosters community involvement by enabling and supporting our employees to be involved in areas they are passionate about.

4) Where is Wilco looking to expand to next?

That depends if you are asking about Agronomy or Farm Stores. Geographic expansion of Wilco’s farm stores has been aggressive in recent years, adding locations in areas outside the Willamette Valley like Gig Harbor, Wash. and Bend. Expansion of our agronomy business is a key strategy, but it is much more difficult to find opportunities that are fits to our business model. The businesses are quite different, but the same principles apply in that expansion must be a profitable opportunity.

5) Wilco turns 50 in a couple of years, any big celebrations in the works?

We don’t have any formal plans at this time. Wilco is a pretty conservative company so I wouldn’t expect anything too extravagant. I’m sure we’ll take the time to recognize the fact that reaching that milestone was only accomplished because of the contribution of our employees, members, leadership and community support.

6) What do you do at Wilco?

I am the marketing and supply manager for our agronomy business. In practical terms, I get the pleasure of sitting between our vendor partners and our agronomists to supply our growers with the best solutions for the farm. My overriding charge is to provide products and services that deliver the best agronomy and return on investment to the grower and economic benefit to Wilco.

7) What are the biggest challenges and rewards of what you do?

Let’s start with the easy one. The biggest rewards come in the form of the relationships that I get to develop and how a conversation or idea can turn into value for Wilco and its customers. My biggest challenge is assessing what the next trend, hurdle or game changer is for our industry. Farming had a much more positive image associated with it 30 years ago. Society in general has lost sight of the fact that farming is a very noble profession. Helping growers do things the “right way” when it comes to their crop inputs is getting more difficult. Being part of the team at Wilco that assists growers in these practices, and in turn creates a positive image for agriculture, is rewarding.

8) What inspires you to keep doing what you do?

I just like learning. I have two small kids so I’ll be working till I’m old and grey!  This industry is full of really smart people which makes it a very rewarding place to be.

9) What are some interesting facts about you?

My favorite part of work is teamwork. I think it stems from playing every sport I could growing up. Not too many things give the same emotions as a team win!

10) Is there anything else people should know about Wilco?

Wilco’s agronomy business has a tremendous amount of collective experience and knowledge. Many growers have benefitted from the business relationships they have historically had with our staff. Our current staff spans three generational segments. The baby boomers on the verge of retirement are mentoring their budding millennial replacements. As an industry this trend is a current reality. I would encourage any young, professionally-minded person to get into agriculture. If you are willing to put in the time and take the appropriate calculated career risks, the rewards are here.

Building Connections at Wigrich Farms

By Heather Burson

In just four years, the Adopt a Farmer program has seen its numbers quickly grow and expand. Three farmer/teacher pairs the first year, nine pairs the second year, 18 pairs the third year and 37 pairs in its current year. These numbers are just part of the equation. There are many components to Adopt a Farmer’s success, the most important one being the connection between farmer, or rancher, and student. This connection unites math and science lessons with real-world ag applications, and an awareness of where their food and fiber comes from. Both are key reasons why Joe Fitts of Wigrich Farms and Mara Burke of Calapooia Middle School became participants this year.

For Fitts it’s about “being able to share farming with people who may not even know they have an interest in farming.” He looks forward to seeing the genuine curiosity that comes when kids or parents get interested and he’s the one who got them interested in it. A great match for Burke, who was excited for the opportunity to bring her kids into a new environment. “It’s really important to get my students outside, especially into environments where they can see how science relates to the real world,” says Burke. From the moment Burke first visited the farm last summer, it was easy to see these connections and how they’d make a good match.

The two began planning a field trip that would highlight the farm and connect it with the current class curriculum. Burke’s students were going to participate in a national contest called “ExploraVision,” where they would pick a piece of technology and predict what it would look like in the future and how they could improve it. This became the lens through which all of the farm’s field trip stations would be viewed. Oregon curriculum requirements also include an engineering design project, so it was decided that all of the farm’s field trip stations would feature some type of farm machinery as a tie-in. A few months later, on a bright and warm early October day, Burke and her 31 eighth graders arrived at Wigrich Farms for an exciting field trip.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

For the first station, students joined Fitts at the edge of the farm’s 120-acre hazelnut orchard. Each student received a bag of raw hazelnuts to snack on while he shared the farm’s history and some interesting hazelnut facts. Many questions followed, and from those came a discussion about hazelnut paste, what hazelnuts are made into, how they’re formed, how they’re harvested and more. “There were a lot of ‘What’s that?’ questions, and then from that there were a lot of follow-up questions and it was great to see them connect the dots,” says Fitts. Then the students were treated to a look at the harvest in action. The sweeper had swept several straight rows of debris mixed with hazelnuts, so the real draw was seeing the harvester sort out the hazelnuts from the debris. Students were most impressed by the amount of hazelnuts Wigrich Farms harvests per acre per year, approximately two tons or about 4,000 pounds.

After that it was on to a second station for a look at an irrigation machine with Leo Yakis of Valley Fab Corp. Yakis explained the different features of the irrigation machine, from its 1,500 foot hose to the pressure pump that allows it to shoot water 200 feet in each direction. For the students, the most impressive part was hearing about the technological advances that had been made.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Some of their questions showed a lot of insight. I think at Leo’s station they were immediately able to draw the connection, what it takes to irrigate and how current technology makes it easier for a farmer,” says Fitts.

Students learned that an irrigation machine’s computer is equipped with a cell phone that can text a farmer its status, can text them when it comes in for the day or can text them if it has a problem. The fact that the irrigation machine could also be started and stopped via cell phone was something students found fascinating. This led into a third station, completing the day with a look at some of the farm’s machinery, including a tractor that has the capability to drive itself and is equipped with newer GPS technology.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Out of all the moments from the field trip, it’s easy for Fitts to pick his favorite. “I get a lot of satisfaction from sharing with them and seeing that interest reciprocated,” says Fitts. Lunch time conversations provided the perfect opportunity, focusing on farm technology and leading into what we might see in the future. Students thought that hazelnut trees would be genetically manipulated to produce bigger or smaller hazelnuts. They also predicted that irrigation machines would be bigger, wouldn’t have to move or would move themselves, and would know what crops needed water. All were concepts these students took back into the classroom. “This first field trip inspired students working on ExploraVision, it was some real good bonding for them, both on the field trip and after,” says Burke.

Connections like these are just the beginning, as the rest of the school year includes classroom visits from Fitts and perhaps another field trip to Wigrich Farms. Each interaction with students will help build the next generation’s experience with agriculture, something that isn’t lost on Fitts. “I hope that they’re a lot more informed about Oregon agriculture. Whether or not they join the industry, they’ll be community leaders and voters and to some extent they will shape the environment my kids are working in,” says Fitts. Burke shares his hope, and each of them are excited for what comes next in their Adopt a Farmer partnership. “It’s something that I look forward to. It’s not like one more job, it’s fun for me,” says Fitts of the experience. Adds Burke, ““I really appreciate the opportunity and look forward to planning the next steps.”

Executive Notes: Pop Culture’s Influence on Ag’s Future

geoff horningIn the 1940s and 50s, comic books were blamed for corrupting our children. In the 90s, rap music was blamed for everything from school shootings, to violence towards women, to the promotion of gang culture. And more recently, video games have been scapegoated as the source of America’s fascination with violence.

Often, members of these scapegoated communities will argue back with similarly misguided rhetoric. Many will say something like, “I’ve been playing video games since I was 3 and I didn’t turn into some violent ghoul.”

But this statement is only half correct. Of course an entire medium cannot be trivialized into being inherently good or bad, but the statement also seems to suggest that the things that define our culture (video games, movies, TV etc.) have no effect on how we behave as a culture.

And how can that be true? How can something people engage in so closely and passionately have no influence on people and how we think?

Recently I attended the Oregon Society of Association Management annual conference and Shelly Alcorn with Alcorn Associates Management Consulting made a very compelling presentation about pop culture’s impact in telling our message.

Pop culture isn’t just for entertainment anymore. The Internet has vastly increased our media consumption habits. A recent Business News Daily report indicates that the average American spends 23 hours a week emailing, texting, and using social media. That represents 14 percent of the total time in a week. And for the record, that’s not just kids. That’s all ages.

If you think this has no impact on agriculture, you’d be wildly mistaken. It’s common knowledge in politics that the person/issue with the biggest war chest is going to win the election. Thanks to a groundswell of support via pop culture channels that is no longer true in agriculture. And, you don’t even have to leave Oregon to see the results.

During the Jackson County initiative this past spring proponents of the ban on GMOs raised $411,739, while opponents of the ban raised $928,764. Such a discrepancy should indicate that the opponents of the ban would win in a landslide. A landslide did happen. Nearly 66 percent of the voters approved the ban.

Though Measure 92 failed, a similar phenomenon occurred.

I realize that GMOs are a hotly debated issue right now, but why? It’s not like one day everybody got up and decided that they no longer liked their chocolate chip cookies. It’s more than simple coincidence that the issue started coming to the forefront as social media started to explode.

When you spend 23 hours a week taking in our latest pop culture craze you are going to start following subjects that interest you. Food is something that interests everybody in one way or another, and it’s a subject that draws people in. We have an opportunity still to be at the forefront of that conversation, and the one thing we better have learned from Measure 92 is that it’s far less expensive to be proactive than reactive.

So, I implore you to get active on social media. Help tell our story. Don’t tell people what to think. Engage them. Talk to them. Learn about their concerns and have a conversation.

If we don’t, somebody else will. And, well, you know we can believe everything we read on the Internet.

geoff horning signature

 

 

 

Geoff Horning

President’s Journal: WHAT A YEAR!

anissa branchHow fast time flies when you’re having fun! The year of my presidency with the Agri-Business Council has flown by and it was more than fun! This article is my last and an opportunity for me to say “Thank You.” I am truly humbled as I think back on this year and all the help and encouragement I received, as well as the enormous strides ABC has made in this short time. THANK YOU — Our members are who make all of our programs and efforts for the Oregon ag community possible!

SAFETY: Our new small farm safety program, in connection with OSHA, started with a bang and has been extremely successful. We started with just four farms and as we head into 2015, are tripling our efforts and expanding to three areas of the state with close to 12 farms! It is so exciting to see this program grow – I know it will drop farms’ workmen’s comp rates and create safer workplaces for all of Oregon agriculture.

ABC GOLF TOURNAMENT: We raised over $14,000 for all of our programs at this year’s tournament, which was our most successful and attended tournament ever! This tournament is continuing to grow and grow – and is so much fun for all while raising a lot of money!!

DENIM & DIAMONDS: Another amazing event that was also our most successful to date. Over 500 farmers, ranchers, friends and lovers of Oregon ag attended and opened their wallets to raise over $50,000 for all of our programs. An amazing night!

ADOPT A FARMER: The touchstone of our organization, Adopt a Farmer continues to grow and grow! Working with Oregon middle school students and changing their beliefs and attitudes about agriculture for life. Not only are we affecting a future generation, we are impacting their parents and families TODAY! With over 37 classrooms around the state involved, this program is on track to be in every Oregon county in just a few short years. WOW!

I would like to thank everyone who has had any part in ABC and my journey this year. Especially Kirk Lloyd of Risk Management Resources, who has stood by and been available all year to assist ABC in implementing our safety program – It would not have been possible without him!

Geoff, Mallory, Heather, Julie and all of the staff at the Agri-Business Council office who do all the day-to-day tasks that make all of us board members look good! And the ABC Board – 28 members who volunteer their time, experience, advice and money to help this organization grow to what it is and will become – what a wonderful, caring group of people: The best in Oregon ag!

As my final word, I encourage all of our members to share what ABC is doing with another farmer or Oregon ag lover and encourage them to become a part of ABC as a new member. Only by sharing what we are doing with others will we continue to affect Oregon ag for many years to come!

Happy Spring!

anissa branch signature

 

 

 

 

 

Anissa Branch

2014 Award Recipients

Oregon Farm Bureau President Barry Bushue, of Bushue Family Farms, and Dan and Jeanne Carver, of Imperial Stock Ranch, will be presented with Oregon Aglink’s most prestigious awards at the 17th Annual Denim & Diamonds Dinner and Auction.

barry bushue

dan and jeanne carver

 

Member Q&A: Myron Miles of Miles Ranch

myron miles head shot

1) What do you do?

Everything. We have a ranch that’s right up against North Powder, and we have 1,400 acres in two separate places. At Miles Ranch we run a little over 200 cows, a cow/calf operation. We also grow corn silage and premium alfalfa hay. On the side my son and I have an artificial insemination business, and we breed 3,000 cows a year for other people. We conduct 8,000-12,000 pregnancy examinations in the fall, because you can’t keep an un-pregnant cow through the winter. Continue reading

Newer posts

© 2017

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑