Beef Farming: Japanese Wagyu

I’m no expert in beef farming, or dairy farming for that matter. I’m almost embarrassed to say I visited dairy farms in China, Japan, Vietnam, South Korea, and camel dairies in United Arab Emirates before I toured my first American dairy farm (compliments of Van Beek Dairy with my then second grader). It’s funny really – when one farms, non-farmers kind of expect us to know all about ALL farming. When I was on a radio interview once the year I was Farm Mom, the host kept asking me about chickens. I didn’t know the answers and he couldn’t figure out why I didn’t know! I said we farmed grass seed, not chickens, and he just shook his head. So while I don’t know a lot about how beef is raised, I sure am thankful for those ranchers and farmers who do. 

Ever heard of Kobe Beef? You probably have, and you probably know it’s also very expensive in America. Kobe is a “brand” of Wagyu beef from the Kobe area of Japan. Wagyu cattle is the breed of beef cow – like Angus or Hereford. 


I was able to visit a 3rd generation beef farmer, which was exciting because I’m a 3rd generation grass seed farmer. His grandpa started the farm, his dad didn’t want it, so now he is the 34-year-old CEO of the 1000-head Wagyu beef operation. 


You might be asking why we are selling them grass straw from Oregon. The short answer is Japan is an island with a large population where there isn’t a lot of land for pasture for their animals. What isn’t cities in Japan, is mainly mountains. In fact, the farm that I visited was on multiple levels – basically built on the side of a mountain, because the flat ground is needed for rice fields or houses. Because the cattle can’t graze on pasture land, they have to import their feed. Because Oregon’s grass seed farmers can’t burn their fields anymore, many choose to have the straw baled. So, basically we are able to export an un-needed product out of Oregon to Japan where it is needed. And, one of my dad’s favorite lines: We turn Japanese Yen into American Dollars. Boom! 

They also use their domestic rice straw, pictured below, as a fiber source in their diets. It’s so interesting to see different ways farmers bale their feed. The “bale type” is totally based on what it’s being used for, the transportation needed to get to its final location, and the equipment that is available. As you can see here with this bale, it’s loosely baled, which means it came from a local farm with a cost-effective piece of equipment. The weight packed into the bale doesn’t really matter if it’s close by and you don’t have to worry about transportation cost, and warehousing space doesn’t need to be maximized. A lot to think about when talking about food and how it’s produced. 

Japanese rice straw in small, round bales


And if anyone is interested, here is a rice straw field that is ready for harvest. They are waiting for the field to dry out so they can harvest the crop. Sounds like Oregon this summer!

Japanese rice field

  Farming around the world is pretty amazing. And while there will always be similarities among the way different farmers in different countries farm, we all make decisions based on the resources or constraints we deal with. So basically, whether I’m in America or in Japan, whether it’s Angus or Wagyu… BEEF, its what’s for dinner.

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! 

 

 

Tick tock, tick tock… Harvest is around the corner!

Baler_Word Swag

Where did the time go? I don’t know if you realize this, but it’s May 14th. And to us in Oregon and in the grass seed industry, that means harvest is right around the corner. So how did I get to middle of May and not realize it? Hmmmmm… let’s see…..

The WC Port Crisis began in November, and many think it is over and have moved on. For those of us truckers and exporters, we are very aware it is not over. (See my previous blogs on the subject if interested). The contract will be ratified on May 22nd we believe, but the congestion at Ports of Tacoma and Seattle as well as the remote container yard at Northwest Container Services is very real. Daily we still struggle with repercussions from the long-term slowdown. The cost to trucking companies, farmers, and exporters have been huge. Our “new normal” is right around the corner, and I wonder what that will look like for us Oregon farmers, trucking companies, and exporters.

Trucks Seattle 3

Trucks waiting in extreme congestion at Port of Seattle

The Oregon legislative session has been a nightmare. The anti-business, anti-rural, anti-agriculture consistent themes have been one that demands the average farmer, businessperson and Oregonian to speak out like never before. Read a friend’s perspective on this here at www.oregongreenblog.com. I personally have been to the state capitol 3 times to testify against the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, diesel emission regulations, and minimum wage public hearings. Here is another friend’s perspective on the Minimum Wage bills here at www.nuttygrass.com. Many, many more bills that are important to us farmers and small businesses: legislated pesticide usage, mandatory PTO, mandatory flexible scheduling, BOLI “cease and desist” bills, and more. Countless letters, phone calls, and emails have been sent speaking out about these and making sure my local representation knows my thoughts on these matters. If you are reading this outside Oregon and are shocked that we’re dealing with all of this at one time, I agree – it’s almost unbelievable. Lastly, a local measure, Measure 2-89 in Benton County wants to ban all usage of GMO in the county. If this passes, a terrible precedent will be set for remaining counties.

NoOn2-89logo@2x

I coached a local club volleyball team through BOSS Volleyball. Yes, I coach volleyball. And love it! The courts are actually laid in one of our straw barns. As soon as we get the straw out of this particular barn, the club comes in and lays “sport court”. 6 different teams practiced 2x/week every week. Throw in 1-2 tournaments on the weekends every month, and well suffice to say I was quite busy. My daughter Kyndall was on my team, and it was a great opportunity to spend extra time with her and watch her and her friends grow as athletes. If you want my opinion on athletics and coaching – it’s a dying breed of coaches that feel we are teaching kids how to become better adults through sports. So many people have lost site of this – parents and coaches alike, and competition sometimes gets in the way. I saw this at every tournament. If you can ever find the time to volunteer as a local coach, I urge you to do so. It is one way to help our kids become contributing members of society, instilling teamwork, attitude and hard work into their core. Pretty soon, it becomes natural to use this hard work and positive attitude into every avenue of their life. A win for all!

At the BOSS Barn

At the BOSS Barn

Community Outreach – near and dear to my family’s heart. We’re part of Adopt A Farmer program through the AgriBusiness Council. We bring 180 6th-graders from Memorial Middle School in Albany, Oregon, to our farm. We had 5 stations to show them different aspects of our farm and businesses: 1) My brother, Farmer Amos, showed the kids about straw storage and even let them run the hay squeeze! 2) A local farmer, Farmer Ryan Glaser of Mid-Valley Farms, showed the kids our hazelnut orchards and taught them all about Oregon’s Hazelnuts. 3) My dad, Farmer Stan, showed the kids all of our equipment – from windrowers and combines to tractors, spray buggies and balers. But, I think Coach the Dog stole the show on this station! 4) Our Operations Manager, Farmer Eric, took the kids through the mechanic shop – starting with the truck scales where they weighed themselves as a group all at once, and finished talking about tires – some of them twice the height of the kids! – with the help of Terry, our local Les Schwab guy! 5) The final station was mine – and I showed the kids how we press the bales, containerize them and ship them overseas to customers. I explained the opportunities and challenges of working in an international marketplace, but they were more concerned about the money from around the world laid out on the table! In case you didn’t know, kids LOVE money. 🙂

Farmer Amos talking about straw bales

Farmer Amos talking about straw bales

Farmer Eric weighing kids on the truck scale

Farmer Eric weighing kids on the truck scale

Farmer Ryan talking about Oregon Hazelnuts

Farmer Ryan talking about Oregon Hazelnuts

In addition to Adopt A Farmer, we are involved with the local Albany Chamber of Commerce, bringing out their Youth Leadership and Trades Academy programs for tours on our farm. Lastly, we are involved with the Oregon Women for Agriculture and work on many projects including this great advertisement rolling down our highways and biways! Our Boshart Trucking trucks proudly haul this trailer all over Oregon – the response to it has been awesome! We love promoting “almost everything starts on a farm or ranch!”

OWA wrap_Word Swag

Then there was this little thing called Farm Mom. I laugh at that, because truly it was a huge deal! I found out on April 16th that I was the NW division winner of America’s Farmers Farm Mom of the Year! I flew to St. Louis April 22-24, at that time a national online vote was started. I found out last Thursday, May 7th, that I had the most votes and became the National Farm Mom of the Year. I know it’s a funny title, but I honestly couldn’t have picked a better one – Farm Mom, my favorite two titles for my life. I wrote a little about this in my last blog: The Most Important Crop I Grow… My Children. Along the way, I met 4 incredibly impressive women: Amy Kelsay, a dairy farmer from Indiana; Megan Seibel, a wine-grape grower and cattle farmer from Virginia; Shelley Heinrich, a cotton farmer from Texas; and Sara Ross, a corn farmer and member of Common Ground. Sara also blogs – you should check out here: Sara’s House – farm to table to you. Meeting these women in person, along with past Farm Mom’s through phone and email, I’m very grateful to be part of one incredible group.

Farm Mom_Word Swag

So, that’s where my last 6 months went! And now we’re gearing up for 2015 harvest – my favorite time of year! Gearing up for it takes a coordinated effort, and we’re in the thick of it now! Ready or not, here we go! Bring it on!