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. 

Hiking Boots and Cowboy Boots – Owyhee Canyon hearing

Something was different Monday morning at the Oregon State Capitol. Cowboy boots and hiking boots outnumbered heels and dress shoes. I’ve always thought: “I may wear cowboy boots and you may wear heels, but we’re both moms” when I talk about wanting similar things in life – we want to be good moms. I noticed the same idea here – whether you were wearing hiking boots or cowboy boots, we all agreed on one thing: the Owyhee Canyonlands are beautiful.

Spoiler alert, the entire theme to this blog post is this: the Owyhee Canyonlands are beautiful because of the residents and the ranchers and the farmers who live there. Why change this? Why disrupt the ecosystem that is working? Why?

Owyhee 2

Existing layers of protection

If you’re answer is “it needs to be protected”, then please look at this slide from Representative Cliff Bentz showing existing layers of “protection”.

Some points to take away from our state legislators that oppose the monument designation:

“If we’re going to protect this land, let’s do this right.” – Representative Cliff Bentz

“This proposal for an executive order is a great public relations ploy, it is guaranteed to polarize Oregonians, it pits urban against rural, it’s a cheap environmental vote. Our challenge today as legislators for the state is to figure out how rural communities can become more sustainable, and if you think creating destinations by making a circle on a map will help, I would ask you to look at all the timber-dependent communities that were told that tourism and recreation would completely replace the forest products and manufacturing jobs that used to be prevalent. It never happened.” – Senator Ted Ferrioli

“What are we protecting that is not protected and why do we want it protected? And protect it from what? I’m not seeing a spot on the map that is either not protected or is not governed by an agency with protections? What are we protecting against?” – Representative Sherrie Sprenger

Many traveled hundreds of miles from Malheur County to speak. Some points to note:

“We have an online petition on our website: Our Land Our Voice, urging Governor Brown and Senators Wyden and Merkley to urge the White House to not designate this area as a national monument.” – Jordan Valley Rancher Elias Eiguren

“This is bad for Oregon, this is bad for the land, this is bad for the people who live there.” – Jordan Valley Rancher Elias Eiguren

“What’s wrong with the status quo? Let’s not fix what’s not broken.” – Steve Boren, Steve Boren Rafting

“Don’t mess with an economy that works. Don’t mess with an ecosystem that works.” – Steve Boren, Steve Boren Rafting

“Maybe if you’re a footwear company in Portland or an activist in Bend, this sounds quite trivial. Maybe you shrug it off, but for an entire region of this state, it has been all too real and all too painful… If a monument is declared in Malheur County, I am concerned about public safety. I am concerned about the people from outside the area who will come to our county with their own agendas. We will not be successful in dealing with these folks. I fear they will not be reasonable. What we need now are not actions that divide or pit one group against another… What we need now is healing. That’s why I ask you, our state elected officials, to stand with us in sending a clear message to President Obama that the time and place for the nation’s next national monument is not Malheur County and certainly not now. As a sheriff from Malheur County, my job is to restore and maintain peace. That is what we need now, more than ever, is peace.” – Malheur County Sheriff Brian Wolfe

“You may have heard this designation is not about grazing rights and that no existing grazing rights will be affected. Even if it’s not the legal effect to start, it has been the practical effect over the long term in other areas. Costing families the ability to feed and raise cattle and make a living.” – Jerome Rosa, Oregon Cattlemen’s Association

“This whole conversation frankly is fascinating… One of the things that come to mind is this is a beautiful area… I say to you the reason that is, is the people that live there – the ranchers, the farmers, the local communities and the businesses… have made it what it is.”- Barry Bushue, President Oregon Farm Bureau

“You got another group that talks about wanting to sell tents and shoes and sporting goods. Awesome! I buy those things. But at what expense? Are we going to support their economy? Are we going to support their business model at the expense of ranchers like Elias who have 4 generations in to developing a livelihood for not only him, but a core of the economy and the state and that region. I’m sorry… I find it incredulous that people would put the value of their business selling products at the expense of the people who made the property what it is today. I’m floundering here to understand why people would not want to engage in a congressional discussion; would not want to engage on an opportunity to look at what this is, how it got there, and give the people that got it there the credit they so richly deserve.” – Barry Bushue, President Oregon Farm Bureau

I was honored to speak at the press conference following the committee hearing. You might ask why I would considering I’ve never been to the Owyhee Canyonlands? Because this affects ALL Oregonians. It’s not rural vs. urban Oregonians. It’s not Eastern Oregon and Willamette Valley Oregon. It’s Oregon, and I’m an Oregonian. And that’s why I joined the coalition – you should to. I’d like to share what I said at the press conference.

My family is deeply rooted in this state. We have been farming in the Willamette Valley since the 1950s. We grow grass seed, wheat and hazelnuts in the Mid-Willamette Valley. I have joined the Owyhee Basin Stewardship Coalition because I believe all Oregonians deserve a voice in our public lands, not just the special interests and outdoor companies with slick marketing campaigns. The true Oregonians have spoken. We don’t want and don’t need more government regulation in the Owyhee Canyonlands. More than 70 percent of Oregon voters oppose the monument without a vote of Congress. Most importantly, 90 percent of those who voted locally in Malheur County voted against the monument. To Gov. Brown and Senators Wyden and Merkley, please join us in opposing this monument without a vote of Congress. We need your support. I came here today to represent the voices of so many Malheur County residents who strongly oppose the monument but can’t make the 14-hour round trip to the Capitol to voice their opposition in person. I’d like to share the words of Adrian High School student Sundee Speelmon. As an FFA student, Sundee studied the Owyhee proposal with her classmates and shared her opposition in a letter to Governor Brown. She closed with this: “All I ask is that our opinion on this proposal is highly valued and taken note of. We want to be heard! Please ponder the matter with the residents of Malheur County opinions in mind.” I care deeply about this state, and as a mom and a farmer, I truly hope we listen to all people – not just adults, but those just learning to find their voices. Not just those from the west side of the state, not just Salem and Portland, but all of the state. I thank Sundee and her classmates for speaking up and let’s show her that Salem and Washington DC is listening.

Owyhee 3

All Oregonians should be proud of the Owyhee Canyonlands in Malheur County and thankful to the residents and ranchers that have made it that way. There is absolutely no reason for it to be designated a monument by President Obama. Go to www.OurLandOurVoice.com to join the coalition to tell Governor Brown we don’t need another layer of government in our state!

For more information, please see the below links:

Our Land, Our Voice – press conference

House Interim Committee on Rural Communities hearing

Seek Consensus on Owhyee – Register Guard

Oregonians want Secretary Jewell to oppose national monument in Owyhee Canyonlands

 

My response to the Portland Tribune article: “Business quiet on minimum wage rules.”

The Portland Tribune published an article yesterday:

Business quiet on minimum wage rules.

There was a Public Hearing on the rules proposal for the minimum wage law on April 25th at 2pm at the Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) in Portland. The opening line to this article: “The business community was nearly absent from a public hearing Monday on draft rules for how itinerant employees will be paid under Oregon’s new regional minimum wage law.”

Here’s another quote: “I was actually hoping there would be more business owners here so I could hear their concerns,” said Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, who was active in developing the new minimum wage law.

It’s a very simple reason as to why the “business community” didn’t show up: we were working. But, there’s another reason… we – the small business and farming community – collectively showed up at every available hearing for this minimum wage bill and many other bills that would affect us over the past few legislative sessions in Salem and we weren’t heard. We weren’t heard then, and there’s no reason to drive to Portland in the middle of a work day to not be heard now.

That sounds like I’ve given up, I assure you I haven’t. I will be writing comments and submitting them by the due date. I just honestly couldn’t believe that the ONE public hearing would be during the workday and in Portland… And then for the Portland Tribune to start off the article that way, well, frustrating doesn’t begin to explain it. In the possibility that Senator Dembrow takes to account what actual Oregonians think, you can write out your thoughts: Written comments are due to paloma.sparks@state.or.us by May 23 at 5:00 PM

For more information and the back ground of how the new minimum wage laws will affect small business and the rural communities, see these blogs:

Conversation About Minimum Wage Continues in Salem

Minimum Wage Hearing

No to Raising Oregon’s Minimum Wage

Why Raising Oregon’s Minimum Wage is a Bad Idea

Minimum Wage, Rural Oregon and Agriculture

The Portland Legislature

The Dream-makers

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

 

Earth Day thoughts from a “modern” farmer

So, what is Earth Day anyway? And why do farmers care? I thought Earth Day was some sort of environmentalist’s day? Right and wrong – the farmer is the original environmentalist. Yes – this is our day. And we care.

Farmers, simply put, make their living off the land. The land is our most precious resource and we take care of it. My family has been farming the same 150 acres since 1972. My grandpa made farming decisions with me in mind 44 years ago. Farmers are forward-thinkers, because they have to be. It’s in their job description. Yesterday’s and today’s forward-thinking farmers adopt modern technology is order to produce more with less. All in effort to take care of the dirt that takes care of them.

Modern technology in every other industry is celebrated. Do you want to have heart surgery with 1920 technology? How about your kids… would you like them to go to a school where the administration doesn’t believe in using computers? Do you watch TV on a black and white television where you have to walk across the room to turn the knob? And where did you get your news lately? Was it at the touch of a button? The modern farmer embraces technology that helps them to be sustainable for future generations and to ensure their neighbors have food, clothes and a roof over their head. Let’s celebrate this Earth Day with this in mind.

Farmers use the tools at their disposal in order to maximize yields and minimize inputs.

 

Combine_Then and Now_meme

Farmers use bigger, faster combines. For example, with a larger header they can make less rounds in the field. With less rounds, we use less fuel, and produce less emissions.

Haystack_old

Stacking hay in Nebraska, circa 1950’s

 

 

Stacks in field_meme

Stacking straw in Oregon, circa 2013

Farmers use more efficient pieces of equipment. That old “stacker” was the most efficient piece of equipment at the time. The new stacker is the best we’ve got right now. To put into perspective, the mound of hay in the picture above is probably 12 ton. Compare that to the grass straw stack below it is about 60 ton. It took probably 2-3 men to hand stack that, and most likely took all day. My brother stacked the 2 truckloads of grass straw in about 45 minutes. Simply put, we can do more with less. That’s what we as modern farmers strive for.

Let’s talk water. Hazelnuts 5

Do you see the black “hose” running through the orchard? That’s called “drip irrigation”. Drip lines are an efficient method for delivering water to specific areas. A drip irrigation system delivers water directly to the soil around the roots of the trees. Drip irrigation lines deliver water to the trees slowly, so that very little water is lost from evaporation or runoff. And that’s my youngest daughter, Sam, helping move the irrigation lines closer to the trees as they sometimes slip down. See, my dad and I are making decisions with her and my other two daughters and nieces and nephews in mind.

This Earth Day, I’m thankful for modern farming.

For another farmer’s story on Earth Day, check out my friend Brenda’s blog here.

Unfortunately: “I told you so.”

I started this blog in November 2014 because I needed an outlet and a platform to explain to the general public the possibility of economic tragedy on the west coast if the status quo was allowed to continue. I’ll be extremely brief: the west coast port slowdown was the result of a failure to collectively bargain between the ILWU (International Longshore and Warehouse Union) and the PMA (Pacific Maritime Association). Collective bargaining absolutely and categorically FAILED the United States. It failed the import/export business on the west coast especially. It failed American agriculture that relies on an efficient transportation system to get its superior goods to market. And in essence it failed the American economy. It’s failure is my reality.

One of the main theme’s of my advocacy on this issue is this, and stated in this blog post:

Oregon’s Agriculture is NECESSARY for the continued strength of the state. But if we can’t get it to market, then what good is any of it?

I would suggest the same for American agriculture. According to a Joint Economic Committee of the United States Congress report:

“The agricultural sector makes an important contribution to the U.S. economy, from promoting food and energy security to supporting jobs in communities across the country. Exports are critical to the success of U.S. agriculture, and population and income growth in developing countries ensures that this will continue to be the case in the decades to come. U.S. agricultural exporters are well positioned to capture a significant share of the growing world market for agricultural products, but some challenges remain. Taking actions to facilitate exports would help to strengthen the agricultural sector and promote overall economic growth.”

The AgTC (Agriculture Transportation Coalition) has been stating this for years:

“There is nothing that we produce in this country in agriculture, that cannot be sourced somewhere else in the world. We can grow the best in the world, but if we can’t deliver affordably and dependably, the customer will go somewhere else…                                        and may never come back”.

The theme here is obvious and overwhelmingly simple: for the sake of America’s economy, our ports need to work efficiently and productively.

And then this article drops today: Chinese Goods Bypass California.

 

Ports 1

Wall Street Journal: Chinese Goods Bypass California

Let me explain this in simple terms. Let’s say Fred Meyer’s is your favorite grocery store, but for some reason the traffic is horrible specifically in front of that store. One mile down the road, there is a Safeway with no traffic and has easy access. It’s a little harder to get there, but you start going to Safeway because it is efficient to do so. If Fred Meyer’s fixes the traffic problem, do you go back? Maybe. But also maybe do you stay with Safeway because you like the store and you’re now used to it? Possibly.

This is what the Wall Street Journal article speaks to. The west coast ports has a traffic problem. The east coast ports do not. China is choosing to spend a little more time and effort to ship into the east coast ports. And they might just find they are easier to work with. Will they make the move? Maybe. Will they ever come back? Maybe.

Anyone want to take this risk? I don’t. But it’s not up to me.

I’m going to be frank. The only person or entity that can take on the ILWU and the PMA is the President of the United States and the United States Government. I tend to be an optimist, but the fact that my hope is in the U.S. Government isn’t appealing and leaves me with a sense of hopelessness. I’m a believer in the Free Market. But, collective bargaining isn’t typically conducive to the free market. It’s ugly out there folks.

I could blather on for another couple hours about global trade routes and manufacturing in Asia moving east, ultimately making it easier to move product into the east coast ports of the U.S. Considering 2/3 of the population lives in the eastern U.S., this sounds like a good idea. What happens to our empty containers that we need to load for export on the west coast if all the containers are on the east coast? Even those not familiar with agriculture knows we can’t move our 250 different crops from Oregon to Kentucky. Also, I would suggest the southeastern states are more conducive to this little word: business. That is all for another discussion on another day.

My point: Let’s not give ship lines any more reason to bypass the west coast ports. I feel like I’ve said this too much lately, but: Wake Up America.


 

For more background information, visit my previous blogs on the West Coast Port Slowdown.

Why this affects you.

Day 29… and counting.

AgTC: Statement of the Agriculture Transportation Coalition

Port Crisis 101: history of, where we stand, and a little of my own opinion…

The battle continues… West Coast port crisis not over.

Port Crisis? Still. Not. Over.

1-Year Recap of the West Coast Port Crisis – the ship that sailed

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 first

I’ve always been passionate. Some call it stubborn, maybe strong-willed… But, I’m going to stick with passionate. I’m also a tad non-confrontational. And have always been scared to stand up too tall for any cause – just in case I don’t know all the facts, or can’t back up my position – but most of all, I hate offending people. These days I’m learning a balance – being passionate, while being respectful of other’s positions. Maybe listening a little more. And, I’m also noticing… I’m talking a little more, too.

So I started a blog. Daughter of a Trucker. It doesn’t begin to explain the many hats I wear these days, but it’s one of my favorites – always has been. My dad farmed from when he was a kid, and started a trucking business with his brother Gene when I was 3 years old. So, Agriculture – and all aspects of it – was my life since I was young. I love it, and it’s still my life today. I will pass on this love to my daughters – 3 of them!

I know I’ll have lots to write about, to talk about: Oregon’s agriculture, trucking issues, family business, FAMILY, daughters, marriage, farming, international business, volunteerism, straw baling, my AMAZING husband, travels, the importance of community, coaching volleyball, my friend Jesus, hard-work, politics, being a mom!!, and maybe a little bit about coffee. 😉

But, for now, I’ll end with: Hi, my name’s Shelly, and I’m a daughter of a trucker. Dad and I