Farm Safety on the Road: Harvest 2017

Across America, all farmers have at least this in common: farm safety is important. It is important year round. And it’s even more important during harvest when farm equipment is on the road. For us grass seed farmers in Oregon, harvest is literally around the corner. In fact, there are a few fields already cut and awaiting harvest as I type this. By this time next week, we’ll be heavy into grass seed harvest.

Windrowers, or swathers, headed to a field to “cut” the grass.

Across Oregon, mostly in rural Oregon, there is farm equipment on the road every day now, and will be for the next few months. We’re harvesting over 220 crops in Oregon and that’s going to take a lot of farm equipment – big and small – to get seed, feed, fiber and food from the field to ultimately your dinner table (or front lawn!).

So this morning was a perfect time to appear on AM Northwest on KATU as part of the Oregon Seed Council. Nick Bowers of KB Seed (@kb_seed) and I talked about why on-the-road-farm-safety is important, why farm equipment is on the road, and when it’s safe to pass. Watch the video here.

Some tips for motorists from the the farming community:

  • Farmers have as much right to use the roads as the rest of the public.
  • Farmers are simply getting from field to field with their equipment.
  • Slow down; a car traveling at 55 MPH takes only 5 seconds to overtake a machine traveling at 15 MPH if the length of a football field is ahead.
  • Don’t pass within 100 feet of an intersection, bridge, corner or overpass because the equipment may be wider than the roadway and need to use both lanes in those areas.
  • Equipment will need the entire road to turn, either right or left, off the highway.
  • Don’t assume the farmer knows you’re around. He/she may not be able to see in all directions, depending on the type of equipment he’s using.
  • Even if the farmer sees you, he/she might not be able to get off the road right away.
  • Farmers do know they hold up traffic and they will try to pull off the road as soon as they can do so safely.
  • Motorists should not pass farm equipment unless they can see clearly ahead of the equipment. Drivers must also be aware that someone from behind may be trying to pass.

Farmers have an important obligation to use safe practices on the road too:

  • Oregon law requires a slow moving vehicle reflector on any machine that travels the road slower than 25 mph.
  • Edges of equipment should be marked with reflective tape and reflectors.
  • When on the road, equipment should have front lights on and rear spotlights off.
  • Avoid using highways during rush hours, bad weather and at night when they can.

Moral of the story? Caution and courtesy goes a long way when dealing with slow moving vehicles on the roads. Pay special attention during the busy travel and farming seasons to make sure everyone stays safe.  We all have a stake in safety around farm vehicles.  Drivers are counting on farmers to be visible and predictable, and we are counting on them to be cautious so we all make it home safe and sound.

Happy Harvest!

For more information on Oregon grass seed, see here.

For rural road safety from the Oregon Farm Bureau, see here.

For more pictures of farm equipment of the road, see below:

Bad Bill Crushed: HB2859, a Win for Farmers, Ranchers and Foresters 

Today, over 100 farmers, ranchers and foresters showed up at the Oregon State Capitol for a public hearing for House Bill 2859. Irony would have it that we just finished the wettest month in record in February and then today, March 1st, was beautiful and sunny. Guaranteed had it been rainy, we would have had twice that many at the hearing.

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And in overflow outside the hearing room because it was packed!


Brenda Frketich did a great write up about the bill earlier this week if you want to learn more about it: read it here. Or you could find it here on OLIS. With the sharing by many people on Social Media and with Oregon Farm Bureau doing a great job gathering grassroots, the natural resource community showed up!

Why? Honestly it’s simple: our way of life and livelihood was being threatened.

After over 30 farmers, foresters and ranchers testified to the Revenue Committee what this bill would do to their operation, Chair Barnhart literally said, “In other words, you win.” Because of the overwhelmingly response from the natural resource community, the committee understood the ramifications. It was the first time I had ever heard a round of applause in a committee hearing! It was fantastic!

Farmers, ranchers and foresters: great job, way to show up and make your voice and your story heard!

For a summary, see some Tweets from the day.


And for pictures of some that testified and attended, see here:


There’s a lot more to fight this legislative session unfortunately, but today I’m happy for the win.

 

To see submitted testimony on OLIS, see here

 

Our Ag Story, What’s Yours? A Keynote Address.

One week ago, I had the opportunity to give the keynote address at the 2017 Dunn Carney Ag Summit with fellow agvocate and friend, Brenda Frketich. While there were some unintended laughs (see Brenda’s Nuttygrass blog here), the theme was certain: thank you for listening to our story, but what’s yours and are you willing to share it?

Our hope is that we inspired people to share their story. The agricultural community needs more that do. If you’d like, please read the transcript of our keynote. We’d love to hear your story.

Keynote address follows… thanks for reading!

Shelly: Is that Brenda Frketich? Haven’t I seen you somewhere?

Brenda: Well maybe if you’ve had your TV on in the past few voting cycles…you know a lot of Trump, Hillary…and then there’s farmer Brenda talking about measure 97, a gross receipts sales tax, measure 92,  GMO labeling, measure 84, repealing the Oregon estate tax…you get the drift here.  My name is Brenda Frketich and I’m a third generation farmer from St. Paul.  I grew up farming and after a short hiatus down in Los Angeles to get a business degree from Loyola Marymount University, I found myself wanting to get back on the farm.  In 2006 my dad offered me a position as an intern, and I haven’t looked back.  Today I am the owner operator of Kirsch Family Farms.  I farm 1000 acres alongside my husband Matt, and a team of very dedicated employees.  We farm a variety of crops including hazelnuts, grass seed, wheat, clover, vegetables and vegetable seeds.  Beyond crops we are also raising a few kids, we have two sons, Hoot who is 2, and Davor who is 1. Up here with me today is Shelly Davis.  Shelly, I feel like I see YOUR face everywhere.

Shelly: Sometimes it feels like that! Most likely you would have first seen it when I won America’s Farmers Farm Mom of the Year given by American Agri Women and Monsanto in 2015. Since then I started blogging, and have become more outspoken about the current situation of farming and transportation here in Oregon. I’m at the state capitol too much – as are you – and tend to be involved in different organizations. My name is Shelly Davis, and I’m a third generation farmer from Tangent. Along with two of my siblings, parents and close to 50 employees, we help manage about 1000 acres of grass seed, hazelnuts and wheat. We also run a 34 truck trucking operation hauling agricultural products and bale about 23,000 acres of grass straw that we compress, containerize, and export to Asia as feed for dairy and beef farms. My husband Geoff and I are raising 3 girls, 14, 11 and 9. He manages his family business and he’s a 3rd generation glazer. Running our separate family businesses and raising a family sure keeps us hopping. I mentioned I blog.. you blog too Brenda, called Nuttygrass. Where did you get that name?

Brenda: Well back in 2012 I was at a conference about how to be an advocate for our industry.  I was talking about how I really enjoy writing and how I was already telling stories about farm life, mostly to many of my college friends who grew up in places like Southern California, pretty removed from the farm.  A blog seemed like a great fit, and the speaker, agvocate in her own right, Michele Payn said, “Well you’re a nut and grass farmer, why not call it NuttyGrass?”, and here we are today.  When I started it really was just as simple as telling stories and letting friends keep up with me on my farming adventures, but it has evolved into much more.  

The content that I produce at times can seem fluffy, like just a cute photo, or something very non-controversial, but there are also times that I challenge my readers to take a step back and look at the bigger picture as to why we are really doing what we are to grow our crops.  And that also requires me to take that step back and ask myself, “Why do we do this on our farm?”

From the beginning I decided that I was going to be transparent and that is what I have done.  It’s not always pretty, I have posted some pretty sad and honest posts, but people need to hear that we aren’t just always standing in our fields smiling in the sunshine, there is a reality out there that needs to be understood.  And on our farm it comes with spraying, it comes with pesticides, it comes with risk, losses of crops, and stress.  But also it comes with a great life, hopefully a living, joy at what you can accomplish, and yes even some wins.   

Shelly, your blog is called Daughter of a Trucker – doesn’t sound too farming focused, can you talk more about that?

Shelly: That’s a great question. Our friend Marie Bowers has had her blog since 2011 called Oregon Green and she writes mostly about farming, and you have your blog that also mostly talks about farming. I’ve always been extremely proud of my family’s trucking background on top of our farming history, and it turns out that trucking and transportation in Oregon needed a voice! I started Daughter of a Trucker literally days after the port slowdown started in November of 2014. I found that the general public didn’t know what was going on, and didn’t understand how international container shipping ports worked and why this was such a big problem.

I found my blog to be my voice.

In addition to transportation, I also write about our farm, happenings at the legislature, and items of concern in Oregon in general like the Owyhee Monument talks, which considering today is inauguration day and President Obama did not designate the Owyhee Canyonlands for a monument, I’m going to call that a win for the Natural Resource Community! I mentioned America’s Farmers Farm Mom earlier… Farm Mom is in it’s 8th year, it’s a national program that recognizes women who balances life at home and on the farm with a passion for community and agriculture. I was nominated by someone outside the agricultural and farming community and I would say that connecting with those outside the agricultural audience has been my biggest success in blogging.

I think that’s probably both a struggle and focus for all of us: reaching that outside audience. We can preach to the choir all day long, and I will continue to do that in order to inspire others to do the same, but our goal is to explain our story to those that don’t understand it.

I was absolutely inspired after meeting these other “Farm Mom” nominees from different parts of the country and learning about their struggles and their successes. There’s so many people I’ve met through the country that have literally said “There’s farming in Oregon?” Uh, ya, there is. It’s given me a platform to talk about farming that isn’t corn, soybeans and cotton. That of course is no offense to our new ODA director who has come from Iowa! But like she said, Oregon is diverse and that makes it exciting. It also makes it challenging. Farm Mom gave me the final prompting to get my voice out there as much as possible whether that’s radio, speaking, or blogging. You know, one thing I really struggle with is consistency. I’m more of a passion blogger – when something hits, I write about it. But, you are a consistent blogger, and I think that’s amazing. It takes quite a commitment doesn’t it?

Brenda: It does take a lot.  Being consistent while connecting with all types of people is the balance that I try to achieve.  I want those who, I like to say wear all kinds of shoes to find value in what I share.  I say that because my non-farmer friends and I often joke about how different our lives are.  While I am wearing muck boots out in a field many of them are wearing heels and working behind a computer everyday.  Then some days we are just moms and have our tennis shoes on because quite frankly our kids are becoming increasingly faster than we are.  I want to hit on all of that, on the life of a working woman, the life of a farmer, and the life of a mom.  


Because of that I can go from posting a photo of my kiddos playing out in the field, to writing about GMO’s and people still come back to read even if they really only liked the photo of my kids.  I want to bridge the gap that exists where people connect to me in one way but then assume things about my profession as a “farmer” and how I farm.  I want my readers to know that yes, I’m a mom, yes, I go grocery shopping, yes, I have to make healthy food decisions for my family, of course, I don’t like the idea of being poisoned, of course I want to take care of the environment.  Then I go to work as a farmer, and I take on the responsibility of growing safe & healthy food and of taking care of the land.  I want people to see that regardless of the shoes that I wear throughout my day, none of my basic beliefs change.  After I have gained their trust and some understanding, I can then hit on some of those bigger issues.

Shelly: What kind of bigger issues are you talking about?

Brenda: These days it seems like I get a lot of people sending me articles asking what I think about everything from GMO’s and pesticide, to water quality and organic farming.  Many times I can use this as blog content, instance when a friend of ours, Anna Scharf, tagged us in a photo on Facebook about herbs at Fred Meyer that were labeled, “non-GMO”.  We saw it as an opportunity to connect with our local grocers and let them know that there are actually no GMO herbs, so really there is no need to label them!  

Or when people became unglued because there was a blog on why wheat is now toxic and is slowly killing all of us because we are all spraying it with Roundup right before harvest.  I wrote on how we treat our wheat, when we spray roundup, and why it’s a good tool for us.  

Those are just two examples.  Shelly, what are some of the bigger issues you have covered in your advocacy work?

Shelly: It seems my pieces on the ports and labor slowdowns garnered a lot of national attention and led to being able to talk to big publications like The Economist and the Wall Street Journal. I say this not to ask for kudos but because it goes to show that what I know – what you know – is not only valuable, but the information that you and I might take for granted because we grew up doing it, is so necessary to be heard on a much greater stage. Oregon agriculture, our economy, and transportation both locally and internationally is more entwined than we thought, and now we’re realizing. It. You mentioned your response to the Toxic Wheat blog post. That blog that you wrote made it onto the Huffington Post, which is crazy! But, isn’t that what we want? Our story to be shared in hopes that it gives the outside world a different perspective, a farmers perspective. 


One thing I’ve noticed by putting myself out there… I’ve learned a lot. Because I need to know my stuff if I’m going to write about it! I’m sure you’re the same. Do you get contacted a lot because of your blogs and topics you write about or the fact that you’ve been a face to campaigns?

Brenda: I do get contacted pretty regularly for many different opportunities.  And I often get asked how I was found, especially with some of the very public media campaigns I’ve been a part of.  A large piece of that comes down simply to just being a good source for the media.  Now I realize the media can be tricky because as much as we love to hate them, they are necessary and do play an important role in how we are viewed by the public.  So if I’m contacted I always try to get a certain amount of information before answering any questions.  Who are they, who do they work for, what is the story about, who else are they interviewing, what is their deadline.  Then before I answer anything I pull up google and make sure this is someone I want to talk to.  Make very sure that this article doesn’t have a chance to misinterpret myself, my farm, or agriculture as a whole.  Obviously there will be mistakes that happen, I have been misquoted at times, but having those relationships is important.  And being a good source does not go unnoticed.

Beyond media work however, I always take advantage of any outreach I can.  For instance I try to take every opportunity to invite people to come and tour our farm.  When I give presentations I never hesitate to mention that we have an open door policy at Kirsch Family Farms.  I have given a fair amount of tours just because someone called me up, sometimes even years after they heard me speak, and asked to bring a group out to see what we are up to.  I know Shelly does the same, and we extend that same invite to all of you here today.  

Testifying at the legislature and having that type of involvement is no different.  If you want to know what’s going on, if you want to have the opportunity, then join the organizations who support us.  Not unlike the media looking for a good source, groups in agriculture are always looking for people to come and help support their efforts.  Let people know you’re interested and they will come knocking at your door, at times almost knocking down your door to help them out.

The end result of this, thanks to social media and our level of connectivity in today’s world, we are all able to go beyond the one facebook meme, the one tweet about harvest, the one blog post about growing up on a farm and share online to extend agriculture’s reach.  We want to be telling our story, we don’t want anyone else to do it, because they will inevitably get it wrong.     

Shelly, what do you think?  How do you feel about being contacted?

Shelly: You know the saying, “ignorance is bliss”, well it’s true. I wouldn’t say it bothers me. It’s kind of a love/hate relationship. I’ve also learned that I can say no if it doesn’t fit within my time that is needed for family and work. Recently I learned from Senator Betsy Johnson that you have to keep going and talk to both sides of the aisle, and to be that person your legislator knows they can go to for information. I’m always honored to be someone a person trusts for good information. And this cliché also rings true: “If I don’t do it, then who?” The farming community has an incredible story to tell and some are better storytellers than others. But that doesn’t mean that every story isn’t valuable, and like Brenda said, you are the best person at telling your story. The more voices that are out there, the stronger the farming, ranching and timber industries can be! If we doubled or tripled our presence on Social Media, in the Capitol, or in the newspaper, think how strong the Natural Resource Community can be!

I know there are a few college-age attendees here today, and possibly some younger or beginning farmers. To you, I want to speak directly and I say this to FFA and 4-H kids all the time. Join us, you are more than welcome to this big group called Agriculture. I want you to know that we are your biggest cheerleaders. We want you to try, knowing you will fail at times, but that we are here to help you along. Maybe it’s getting up in front to speak somewhere, maybe it’s trying to figure out what crop to plant next year, or it’s working towards your degree in vet medicine. Whatever it is, I believe you’ll find encouragement wherever you look in this community.

Brenda –  Alright so…here’s a question that I know both Shelly and I hear all the time, “Shelly, what is it like being a women in ag?”

Shelly: Well, our friend Marie states it best: probably feels a lot like a man in Ag. Which is true, but I’d be remiss to not acknowledge some challenges. Those being children, trying to fit it all in, and not being the traditional face of a farmer. I would also suggest that being a woman in Ag is similar to being a woman in any traditionally male-dominated industry, namely trucking, military, construction and others. Our story isn’t that different than theirs. I’ve been known to say I’m always excited to see women in Ag do great things, but I look forward to the day it’s not a headline.
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I read a blog called The Dirt this week and the author wrote about this topic, she says: “The conversation should no longer be about being a woman in ag. It’s about being in agriculture PERIOD.” Kudos to Oregon, but I think we’ve been at this point for a while now, and I’m incredibly grateful for that. I’m grateful for the hard working women that came before us and recognize that everyone has a different story. Mine is different than Brenda’s and our roles are different on our farms. But don’t you think Brenda, there are a many of us that have similar stories, and it typically starts with “my dad treated me like any other boy on the farm.” I can say that is true for me and my 3 sisters, and I have girlfriends that will say the same. Our former First Lady Michelle Obama has said: “Change happens when a father realizes the potential of his daughter.” I applaud the ag community for that. I also think that women have some natural traits that make us very valuable in the natural resource community – many of those are the same reason Farmer Brenda has been the face of campaigns, simply put, she’s a mom.

And Brenda, maybe you should point out the obvious?

Brenda: What? That there are two women up here right now?  

It’s true, being a woman is different in many respects but many of our challenges aren’t because we’re women, they are because we are working in a state that continues to be so unfriendly to businesses.  

Personally yes, I’m a mom, but I’m also a business owner. Not only am I the HR department, I’m the secretary, I’m the safety trainer, I am the tractor driver, sprayer operator.  I’m who my employees come to when if they get hurt on the job, it’s my name on the operating line, but I’m also the one they come to when they need more toilet paper in the bathroom or pop in the pop machine.  One of the biggest challenges I face to be honest, is wearing all those hats.

Legislators and agencies think it’s just one more form to fill out, one more thing to track such as unpaid sick time, or they say to me, “well there’s only three different ways we count employees in this state so that shouldn’t be so hard.  Right?!”  And maybe it’s not hard for that one thing, but it’s the one thing on top of a million things that is asked of us as employers here in Oregon.  Not to mention that at times it also lacks the common sense that we have built our businesses on for generations.  Which makes it an even tougher pill to swallow.

But then there is always the hat of being a mom that we have hit on already, and that just adds a whole other layer to the balancing act that Shelly and I sometimes struggle with, but have found that by working together, some days we can hit it out of the park!

Shelly: Remember the time you needed to speak to the legislature on behalf of Farm Bureau regarding pesticide usage a few years back? You were pregnant and Hoot was 1. You had no childcare that day, but knew how important it was to testify. I’m pretty sure Kathy Hadley and I took care of Hoot while you testified. You were tired, you were busy, and you needed help. But you did it because we all needed you to. And one of the reasons you were able to do it is because you had people supporting you and friends to help you out. The point is, advocating on behalf of the entire agriculture industry can be exhausting and take up too much time. You do it, I do it, we do it, because it benefits us, our farm, and even more importantly our future farm.


Brenda: Thank you Shelly for saying that – and as a woman, as a mom, as an advocate I would like to thank you all for your support.  It’s truly an honor to be up here in front of an audience of farmers, those who are working in our industry, and those of you who support us day in and day out.  Farming is not just a job but a way of life.  It’s a way of life that is hard to explain, exhausting in its ability to encompass your whole outlook, and also rewarding as hell at the end of the day.   I wish I could come up here after all of these speakers today and have Shelly and I list off the reasons why it’s going to be so easy to farm in Oregon moving forward, but business wise, I don’t think that is our reality.  I think our fight is always just beginning, always changing, and always being challenged.  

My story started with coming back to the farm after living in Los Angeles and getting a much different look at a life away from St. Paul, town of 322.  It continued with my passion for an industry that seemed to the public to have a lack of transparency.  And has continued to evolve as I became a mom, as I grew as a farmer and as a business woman.

So what is your story?  To the farmers in the room today, as only 2% of the population, your life is a story within itself!  Every day that you head out into your fields is an opportunity that you can use to do something as simple as taking a photo and sharing it.  I can promise you, that photo of your everyday will look like heaven on earth to those folks stuck behind a desk browsing their facebook page.  And for all of you who aren’t farmers, but I know work hard for our industry, you’re not off the hook.  We need you to share our story, we need you to help us get our message across.  We need your reach.

The challenges that we face sometimes seem to be incredibly daunting.  But I also know that my grandpa, the first generation on our farm had challenges ahead of him every day that his feet hit the soil, as did my dad, and they were both resilient.  My only hope, is for a future here, where my two boys as the fourth generation will have the opportunity to be just as dirty with the dust from our fields as I did.  But we need an industry that is willing to work, not just for their own farm, but for their industry.  

Shelly: I’m glad Brenda mentions her grandpa, because my story almost always includes my grandpa too on so many levels. My dad has said to me many times: “Shelly, Grandpa Merrill worked hard, I worked hard, and we just kept our heads down and kept to ourselves. We thought working hard was enough and that our elected officials and the community around us were grateful for our work and were like minded.” I’m standing here today to say that is not the case any longer. If my past generations had been more outspoken, would we be where we are today? I can’t say. But I do know this is where we are and I have a simple, yet great ask: Please – will you get involved? We need you. Every person out there – each and every one of you – has a passion for agriculture in some form, otherwise you wouldn’t be here.

You are smart, you are passionate, and we need you.

You might not want to speak in front of people, I get that. But maybe you can write a letter, maybe you can make a phone call, maybe you can join a local commission, a county farm bureau. Brenda and I know a lot about what we do, but Oregon Agriculture is so much bigger than that.

I have an action item for you: I want each and every one of you to do at least one thing that you didn’t do last year. Go to a county farm bureau meeting, go to the capitol and watch a public hearing with someone you know, submit testimony during the upcoming legislative session, read about the Adopt A Farmer program and maybe sign up for it!, join your local Oregon Women for Ag chapter, start a Twitter account and show your farm story – the opportunities are endless.        

We both appreciate you listening to our story today, and our great hope is that it inspires you to tell yours.

Communication and farming – one family’s story 

How often do you hear of “fifth generation farm” or “family business since 1935”? They are out there, in fact I know a few personally, but it doesn’t happen very often. This statement has haunted me since I first read it years ago: 


It’s been said that more than 30% of all family-owned businesses survive into the second generation. 12% will still be viable into the third generation, with only 3 percent of all family businesses operating at the fourth-generation level and beyond.

Why is this? I’d say that everyone might have a differing opinion on this — taxes, regulation, lack of interest, markets change, the next generation just doesn’t have what it takes, and the ideas go on. My opinion: a lack of communication. It might not be the main reason, but I would suggest it to be a contributing factor in any family business problem. 

I don’t have the answers, and anyone that knows me and my family all know that we are not masters of communication. But we have one thing for sure going for us: we are aware of it, and we try to work on it. 

How does this family work at bettering communication? 

  • Family meals – every Monday. If you can make it, great. If you can’t, no worries. My mom can be thanked for this. She is an excellent cook and we all are ever so grateful for a prepared meal every Monday. 
  • Group text. Oh boy, the in-laws might not always love this (in fact my husband is just grateful for the mute option on his phone), but every family member is included, and we are all up to date on the latest shenanigans. We talk farming, we talk kids, we talk business, and we share in each others successes and share in each other’s failures. Every day, every week it’s different. But we communicate about it – and we’re better for it. 
  • The kids and grandkids are ALWAYS welcome on the farm or in the office. I have never heard my parents shoo any of us or our kids away – if they are busy, they let the grandkids be a part of it. I try to mimic that. My kids and nieces and nephews are always welcome. I want them to know they are a part of this family farm and business. It happens regularly that a salesman will walk into my office and my nephew Jude is sitting on my lap. When my daughter Samantha was 4, she was the one that welcomed our future Operations Manager in the door when he was checking to see if we were hiring. That day she just happened to be watching cartoons on a computer while I was finishing up some work before leaving for the day.  We were hiring, and he was hired soon after. I’m pretty sure he knew exactly what kind of business he was walking into: a family oriented one. 
  • Like my dad says in the article I reference below: “you have to get over yourself.” We all have faults and we all have failures. But we also all have successes and things we are great at. If you asked my siblings, they could write a list of things I’m not good at. But they’d also give you a few things I am good at, too. 


Like I said, we work on it. When Progressive Forage called and wanted to interview us about communication, I jumped at the chance. I’ve learned so much from others around me, maybe someone can learn from our failures and successes as well. 

I’d also encourage everyone to share their failures and successes with others. We’re not perfect, none of us are! But I certainly hope more family businesses and farms succeed. I have a group of friends that share with each other – and I am better because of it. I’d encourage you to find your group as well. 

And please read our interview and article here – thank you for reading and I wish you success in whatever you do.

Progressive Forage – Farming’s Communication Conundrum

A big thank you to the author: Cassidy Woolsey. She took what I didn’t think to be coherent ideas and made them a fantastic story. My hat is off to you Cassidy, thank you. 

Happy National Ag Week!

National Ag Day was Tuesday, March 15 this year (2016). For those of you unfamiliar with National Ag Day, it is a day to recognize and celebrate the abundance provided by agriculture. Every year, producers, agricultural associations, corporations, universities, government agencies and countless others across America join together to recognize the contributions of agriculture. It started in 1973.

Agriculture’s contribution to Oregon’s economy, environment, and social well-being is worth celebrating. In observing National Agriculture Week March 13-19, Americans are encouraged to say thank you to the more than 2 million farmers and ranchers who produce food and fiber for a living. Statewide, there are more than 35,000 agricultural operators for Oregonians to salute.

Here is a numerical snapshot of agriculture’s importance to the state’s economy:

  • Oregon agriculture supports more than 326,000 full or part-time jobs, making up almost 14% of total jobs in the state.
  • Oregon agriculture is responsible for $22.9 billion or 10.6% of the net state product.
  • More than 98% of Oregon’s farms are family operations – dispelling the notion that agriculture in the state is made up of big corporate farm factories.

Go out and enjoy Oregon agricultural products! Whether it’s food, nursery items, grass seed or a farmer’s market; whether it’s slowing down behind a tractor or combine on the roads; or whether it’s thanking a farmer for working to provide food and fiber for us all… As we look for ways to continue to improve the economic, environmental, and social contributions that agriculture makes to Oregon, your support of Oregon agriculture is critical to achievement.

And just for fun – here are some fun facts and great pictures. Enjoy!

(Thank you to Oregon Department of Agriculture and American Agri-Women for the great ag facts and information in this post.)

The Dream-makers

Flashback to last Thursday, February 11th and I’m on an airplane flying home from Washington DC. I had been there working with members of the US Congress to work through trade barriers for forage exports, as well as pushing to improve our west coast ports. But, while I’m waiting for the flight, and even while I’m walking onto the plane, I’m streaming live the minimum wage debate on the Senate Floor of the Oregon Legislature. I had to turn it off when the plane took off, and then received updates via wifi (thank goodness for modern technology!) on the flight from my friends that were watching back home. There were many who fought hard to explain why this bill should not be voted through. Ultimately, after a 6 hour debate, the minimum wage bill, SB1532-A, was voted through 16-12. On to the House now.

I’m now crying on a plane. I’m the window seat, and I have no where to go, and can’t stop crying. I know I’m tired from meetings in DC from sun up to sun down, and the daily fight to get the Oregon Legislature and beyond to understand business principles, and the importance of Oregon Agriculture and Oregon Small Business. But I’m just so damn sad. I’m sad for Oregon’s future. I’m sad for Oregon’s blind and mute “leaders”. I’m sad for all Oregonians. I’m sad for those poverty-stricken and the unemployed as I truly believe this will raise poverty and increase unemployment. I’m sad because the word “business” is looked upon with such disgust and it seems we are bad people – that we want to increase poverty for more profits. Are you kidding me? Look at me, my family and my life and what I represent – agriculture, small business, community service, family and faith. I want business to thrive – because then I can offer more jobs, higher wages, and increase the local economy. At what point did Oregonians stop believing this? I’m mostly sad at the huge disparity and lack of empathy for each side of the aisle.

So, here I am crying. And this is why… Representative Carl Wilson, District 3, on the House Floor yesterday sums it up perfectly on his floor speech. He reads:

An Ode to the Small Business Owner

There’s two types of business dreamers in this world: Entrepreneurs and Want-repreneurs. Anyone can come up with a great business idea, but it takes a special type of crazy to drop everything and will that idea into reality. As any entrepreneur will tell you, there’s a long and difficult journey between the moment inspiration strikes and the day the doors open. Even the smallest businesses take long hours, incredible sacrifice, and endless desire to make it happen. Here’s to the courageous ones, the crazy ones, the wild-eyed visionaries who never took no for an answer. Here’s to the self-starters, the bootstrappers, the credit card maxers who trade living for today for dreaming of tomorrow.  Here’s to the brave few who make the world run. Here’s to the Small Business Owner.

Representative Wilson finishes with:

“I trust that you will remember these dream-makers; these people who sacrifice everything to provide needed services for their communities. I still maintain and will always maintain that what we are apparently about to do in this chamber on minimum wage is going to be a death blow to the dreams of hundreds of these folks in the state of Oregon.”

For Salem Democrats, on the behest of Governor Kate Brown, to push an extremely dividing and possibly catastrophic decision in a few short weeks because of fear of special interests is in one word: irresponsible.

I have many ideas, and many complaints, and many reasons as to why this shouldn’t pass. To read more on the minimum debate from my perspective, read here. But I’m going to go with three big ones.

  1. It’s too fast. The fiscal impact and unintended consequences are unknown and there is no way to have properly vetted this.
  2. The wage is too high! It doesn’t account for unique needs of industries such as agriculture and food processing, among others. Again – not enough time to look into and research, and listen to those of us that know!
  3. Separating the state into three tiers based on county lines is not economically or geographically sound. Farms cross county lines, economies are significantly different in different areas of a county. For example, Linn County where I live has a larger urban area – Albany – but has much of the county in rural and timber land. Benton County has Corvallis, but also a large rural area. You could say the same for Lane County, Polk County, Marion County, Yamhill County, and others. ALSO another reason this has NOT been properly vetted and researched.

In the slim chance a legislator is reading this, I’m imploring you on behalf of small business, hard work, employment of youth, exports, transportation, rural Oregon, seniors living on a fixed income, agriculture, the strong dollar for toughness in exports, Oregon’s economy, poverty and unemployment: Vote NO on SB-1532-A. The future of OUR state depends on your sense of responsibility. I pledge I will fight beside you to give everyone a fighting chance to earn a raise, to land a job, to decrease unemployment and poverty, and to live a life they’ve earned – not one they’ve been given. I will do my part to work hard every day to keep our employees employed, and will continue to boost my local community. Don’t take that opportunity away from me. Please.

I am Oregon Business – a follow up to the Minimum Wage hearing

It’s amazing to me the disparity of opinions depending on which camp you identify with. Last night at the Oregon State Capitol, these two camps identified on whether you were “for” the minimum wage increasing or “against” the minimum wage increasing. Here’s the irony in the great divide: We all want the same thing. We all hate poverty. We all want living wages for all. We all want healthy individuals. We all want to have and be contributing members of society. The only difference between us is the ideas on how to accomplish that.

My friend Macey and I arrived at the capitol at 4:45pm and got into a line over 100 people long. This line was just for people to sign up to testify. Testimony was to start at 6pm. My greatest disappointment is the view people have for the other side. In actuality, most likely the opinion you’ve formed is wrong. And I’m talking to both sides.

Back story… One woman angrily began her testimony with this statement: “I want to point out the three men on the panel before me…”

I don’t recall the three men that sat before her, but I can imagine they looked a lot like my dad. He’s 57, white, and wears plaid a lot. Maybe a jacket or a wool vest. My guess is those three men looked like that.

Let me tell you about my dad. He’s a second generation grass seed farmer, growing up with three brothers and two sisters. They didn’t want for much, but they also didn’t have a lot. My dad worked for the family farm since he was a kid, missing weeks of high school to work on his dad’s custom spraying business for other farmers in the Willamette Valley. Realizing the family farm wouldn’t support all the brothers, him and his brother Gene started a trucking business with two trucks. They hauled potatoes, Christmas trees, watermelon, onions, lumber and anything else they could get paid for. He was gone on a “long-haul” more time than he was home. He’s mortgaged everything he owns to take risks on ideas, where some have panned out, others have failed. He farms today, along with that trucking business, and this year we are surviving. The money is coming in, but going right out in the form of equipment payments, fuel and labor. That’s okay because we get to contribute to the local community! That is what is so exciting about local, small business. We have good years and we have bad years – it’s farming. It’s life. To this day he feels guilty for missing part of my and my sister growing up years. My sister Ola and I? We’re proud of him – he did what he had to do, making sacrifices, for his family. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. Ever.

There was another sterotype mentioned multiple times from one camp: the single mom. I mentioned my friend Macey. Her story is too long to write here, but deserves to be heard. She lost her husband to cancer within a year of giving birth to their daughter and has been a single mom for now 10 years. She struggled with tens of thousands of dollars of medical debt she took it upon herself to slowly pay off over the years. She has struggled and still does. And she has had to make hard choices because it is extremely difficult to be a single mom these days – and let’s be honest at any time would it be hard to be a single mom or dad.

My advice: Don’t judge a book by its cover. Please don’t stereotype those human beings by the color of their skin, their gender, the age he/she is, whether they are single or not raising children, or the plaid he chooses to wear. Nor assume that if they fit this stereotype they automatically have to sit in one camp or the other.

Time for my FAVORITE part of the night. Two words. Malheur County. A great reporting by the Capital Press in this article: East Oregon ag interests lobby against wage hike plans. I met a woman named Sharla. Her family agri-business includes growing and a packaging facility for onions and asparagus, among other things. I was surprised to hear her farm and agri-business employs 150 people. Wow! They are located 400 yards from the Idaho border. Idaho’s minimum wage is $7.25. I asked her why she didn’t originally locate in Idaho. She said they thought about it but the community they lived in was more important. With a wage hike, though, they will be forced to re-locate and have already found a place to do so. What a travesty that would be. Their theme to the legislature was this: #CarveUsOut. I get it – can I jump on that bandwagon?

Counties

I wasn’t able to testify as the Chairs of the Committees stopped testimony at 9:00pm. Because Eastern Oregon had so many people there to testify, they were able to go first. I am glad they were all able to do so. I’m also disappointed I wasn’t able to speak about our farm and the affect an increase would have. But on the flip side, I was home in my warm bed within 30 minutes of leaving Salem. The Oregonians from the east side of the state didn’t get home until early this morning after riding in a bus all night long. Eastern Oregon: Your testimony was inspiring. Thank you.

Finally, this is directed at the Oregon Legislature. If a doctor tells me I have high blood pressure, I do. I might get a second opinion, but I’m going to believe the doctor. You know why? Because he’s a doctor, and went to medical school. I am not a doctor and I did not study the human body and medicine. If the business community is telling you we can’t do this, we can’t. You know why? Not because we want to be richer. We want to continue to employ our employees that have been with us loyally for decades. We want to continue to pay our taxes, support the local counties and state, and we want to continue promoting Oregon to the communities, states, and the world. If the agriculture community is telling you we can’t do this, we can’t. You know why? Because we farm, you don’t. We know the cost inputs, and the money we get paid for our crops. It’s not an opinion, it’s fact. And last night you heard it over, and over, and over again. Why don’t you believe us?

As for the few businesses owners that testified in support of the minimum wage hike, no one is stopping you! That’s great you give raises! We do too. An Adorable Old Guy testified last night: “If Portland wants to pay their employees more, go ahead and do so. No need to wait for this to pass.”

Twitter Min Wage

Brings me to my testimony. I’m posting my testimony here, along with Macey Wessels and Anna Scharf as we weren’t able to testify and we would like to share our story. Thank you for listening. Also – one last thing – I might wear cowboy boots and you might wear rubber boots, tennis shoes, flip-flops, or heels, but in general we all want the same thing. Oregon, let’s try to remember that.

Testimony on minimum wage_Shelly Boshart Davis

Testimony on minimum wage_Anna Scharf

Testimony on minimum wage_Macey Wessels

Macey Wessels_attachment_Holland facility

Macey Wessels_attachment_Tangent facility

Finishing the year #AgProud

2015 was a great year. A whirlwind year. A year of learning. A year of struggle. A year of trials, a year of triumph. I’m better today than I was one year ago. I can finish this year content, knowing I did what I could. And I’m looking forward to what WE can accomplish in the years to come.

“No matter what accomplishments you make, somebody helps you.”*

The above pictures are my tribe, my support structure, the people that keep me sane and keep me motivated. I’m proud to be part of Linn County, the city of Albany, Willamette Valley, state of Oregon, Pacific Northwest, West Coast, and the grand ol’ USA. I’m proud to be deeply rooted in the great world of agriculture. And as always, proud to be the daughter of a trucker.

I finish with this…

A New Year’s Prayer. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Anonymous

Dear Lord, please give me…
A few friends who understand me and remain my friends;
A work to do which has real value,
without which the world would be the poorer;
A mind unafraid to travel, even though the trail be not blazed;
An understanding heart;
A sense of humor;
Time for quiet, silent meditation;
A feeling of the presence of God;
The patience to wait for the coming of these things,
With the wisdom to recognize them when they come. Amen.

 

*From all I can find, this quote can be attributed to both Wilma Rudolph and Althea Gibson.

Happy Nut Day America!

To celebrate National Nut Day, here’s a few pictures from our new Hazelnut orchard. Did you know that 99% of the U.S. hazelnuts come from the Willamette Valley in Oregon?

Ashlynn and Sammie Jo "de-budding"

Ashlynn and Sammie Jo are “de-budding” our brand new trees 2 years ago.  “De-budding” trees is used to pull off the lower “buds” before they become limbs. Hazelnut “trees” are actually bushes. When we take off the lower “buds” or “limbs”, the tree uses it’s energy on the remaining higher limbs to grow as trees and therefore will produce more nuts for production.

Hazelnuts 7

You can see the difference a year makes! The orchard on the top half of the picture is one year older than the bottom half of the picture. The drip irrigation that you see (the black hose running along the treeline) waters the trees and reduces water waste.

Hazelnuts 6

Kyndall and Ashlynn are moving the drip irrigation lines closer to the trees. See on the right side of the picture – in front of Kyndall how the line has moved away from the trees?

George Dettwyler_Hazelnuts

This smiling future farmer is George Dettwyler. He’s helping his dad, Karl, pick up pots from the planted trees before they blow away. The Dettwyler’s of Blue Line Farms, are a local farm in the Silverton, Oregon area.

These next three photos are from my Farm Mom photo shoot – hence the fixed hair and cute kids! I’m showing 2 of my daughters – Kyndall and Sammie – and niece Claire, the growing hazelnuts.

Hazelnuts 9 Hazelnuts 10 Hazelnuts 11

Finally it was just announced – timely I may add – that Hershey’s is adding another candy to it’s Hershey Kiss line-up – with the hazelnut! See article here. YUMMY!

hersheys hazelnut

As you can see, we love hazelnuts!

Sweet Sammie Jo.

Sweet Sammie Jo.

Happy Friday everyone!

Edit: Apparently National Nut Day was October 22, yesterday. Oops!