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Oregon Board of Forestry punts on no-logging buffers

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

SALEM — The Oregon Board of Forestry has punted its decision whether to expand no-logging buffers around streams to prevent water temperatures from rising after harvest.

After hearing testimony from timber and conservation groups on July 23, the board formed a subcommittee that will narrow the range of possible options for consideration during a future meeting in September or October.

Supporters and opponents of expanding Oregon’s no-cut buffers, currently set at 20 feet from either side of a stream, didn’t seem to have appetite for compromise during the recent hearing.

Representatives of environmental and fishing groups claimed that buffers of 90-100 feet would not always be adequate for protecting fish, while small woodland owners and commercial timber operators said that increasing buffers to 70 feet would be economically devastating.

The legal implications of increasing forestry regulations were also discussed.

Under Measure 49, a ballot initiative passed by Oregon voters in 2007, state and local governments must either waive new regulations or compensate landowners for lost land value in many circumstances.

That would not apply to expanding no-cut buffers because the rule change pertains to meeting federal water quality standards, said Richard Whitman, natural resource advisor to Gov. Kate Brown.

State regulations that are required by federal law are exempt from Measure 49, he said.

Dave Hunnicutt, executive director of the Oregonians in Action property rights group, disagreed with this assessment.

Measure 49 only exempts state regulations that are mandated by the federal government, but not those that would merely cause the state to lose some federal funding, he said.

In this case, the buffers aren’t required by federal statute and they clearly reduce property values, said Hunnicutt.

“Those are the triggers for a Measure 49 claim,” he said.

Hunnicutt said that enacting the buffers virtually guarantees the state will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars litigating the issue.

Sybil Ackerman, a board member and advisor to philanthropic groups, said that any regulations the board does impose must adhere as closely as possible to achieving federal water quality standards rather than meeting other objectives.

Bulb onion prices have risen rapidly since winter

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

BOISE — Domestic bulb onion prices have risen rapidly since falling below break-even levels this winter.

“The market’s really strong right now,” said Nyssa, Ore., farmer Paul Skeen, president of the Malheur County Onion Growers Association.

The mood at last week’s National Onion Association meeting in Boise was markedly better than it was at last year’s event, Skeen said.

“Things are definitely better now than they were this time last year,” he said. “Everybody’s more upbeat nationwide.”

Bulb onion prices were at depressed levels last fall and got worse through the winter, falling as low as $4 for a 50-pound bag of jumbos, said Kay Riley, manager of Snake River Produce, an onion shipper in Nyssa.

“That’s below break-even and doesn’t really cover production on the farm,” he said.

But prices have increased rapidly since March and are now at $16 a bag.

“For a mid-summer market, that’s exceptionally high,” Riley said.

NOA Executive Vice President Wayne Mininger said the rise in onion prices was largely a result of heavy rains that significantly reduced the onion crop in Mexico and Texas.

“There was a big reduction in supply and the markets improved dramatically in the spring and they continue at a very profitable level through the summer to this point,” he said.

Onion growers in Southwestern Idaho and Eastern Oregon, the nation’s largest onion producing region, are hopeful prices will still be robust when they start shipping this year’s crop in the fall.

“Once we get started shipping, the pipeline should be somewhat empty and we should have a good market to begin with,” Skeen said.

An improving transportation situation has also helped the industry, Mininger said.

During the NOA’s Boise meeting, national experts said truck transportation rates and availability are both better this year and the West Coast port situation has improved significantly.

But the industry still faces some significant challenges, Mininger said, including a persistent labor shortage and how the Affordable Health Care Act will affect employers going forward.

“At the moment, there’s less pressure on the industry but there are certainly challenges, too,” Mininger said.

Riley said onion growers are also anxiously awaiting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s final produce safety rule, which is due in October.

The rule limits how much bacteria can be present in irrigation water. That’s a major concern for onion growers in this region because most of their water wouldn’t meet the FDA’s standards.

However, FDA included a bacteria die-off provision in its revised rule that allows a farm commodity to comply with the rule if scientific evidence shows that bacteria dies off the product quickly after harvest.

The onion industry in this region believes fields trials conducted by Oregon State University researchers the last two years have proven that.

“We’re optimistic the FDA’s final rule will be something that is manageable for us,” Riley said. “But until we actually see it, it’s still a cause of apprehension.”

Oregon county approves tax break for International Paper mill

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — The Lane County Board of Commissioners approved a five-year tax break totaling $8.56 million for the International Paper linerboard mill in Springfield.

The company requested the break as it considers a $101.6 million upgrade to its 66-year-old mill, mainly to replace two “functionally obsolete” pieces of heavy equipment.

Under the deal, the company isn’t promising to add any new jobs to its Springfield workforce of around 280. The agreement allows the company to reduce its workforce by 20 percent at any point during the five years, though company officials say they don’t plan to do so.

The commissioners said Tuesday they supported the tax break because of the size of International Paper’s investment, because the break won’t reduce the amount of property taxes the company currently pays, and because the company pays employees, on average, above the county’s median wage.

“The concern that I have is for ongoing employment” at the plant, Commissioner Pat Farr said. “By investing this amount, it’s insurance that the mill will not close down.”

Added Commissioner Sid Leiken: “It’s impressive that IP is willing to make this kind of investment” in Springfield.

Commissioner Faye Stewart said he toured the plant a few years ago and was impressed with how highly automated it already is. He said he believed it was “unlikely” that International Plant would be unable to keep it running with fewer employees than it now has.

“It’s absolutely incredible what they’re doing there with the number of employees they have,” he said.

Only one member of the public showed up to testify. Sandi Mann said she was concerned about the plant’s impact on air and water quality in the area. The plant operates under government permits to emit air pollution and to discharge process water into the McKenzie River. Before approving the tax break, local elected officials should require a new study of those impacts, she said.

“Nobody seems to care” about the hefty tax break, Mann added, referring to the lack of public comment on the proposal.

Commissioners downplayed Mann’s concerns about air and water quality.

Stewart said the plant, under its emissions permits, has to meet “some very stringent requirements” to prevent pollution.

Under state law, property tax breaks awarded in an enterprise zone typically are reserved for projects that increase jobs by at least 10 percent. But the zone’s sponsors can waive that requirement if an eligible company spends more than $25 million on a project.

International Paper is eligible for an extended five-year deal because it agreed to additional terms, including that all new hires during that time would receive, on average, total compensation of more than 150 percent of Lane County’s average annual wage of $38,353 — or $58,530.

The company’s current average employee annual compensation, a figure that includes wages and most benefits, is $95,882.

The company, headquartered in Tennessee, will decide in coming weeks which of its mills will receive capital funding. If selected, construction on the Springfield linerboard mill would begin in September and end in 2016.

Governor declares drought in 3 more Oregon counties

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — Gov. Kate Brown has declared drought emergencies in three more Oregon counties.

With Tuesday’s declaration, 23 out of 36 counties are under drought emergencies. The new ones are Curry, Hood River and Union counties.

Brown says this year’s extreme drought reflects a new reality for Oregon and dealing with it is part of the “continuing challenges of climate change.”

The governor’s drought declaration does not bring any help in the form of aid or loans, but does allow increased flexibility in how water is managed.

Last winter saw a record-low snowpack, leading to low streamflows this summer that have affected irrigators as well as fish.

Ranch transformed from cult compound to Christian camp

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

ANTELOPE, Ore. — Hannah Boozer inched her way along a narrow cable, her eyes worried, her jaw set.

The Pendleton teenager wore a harness and a lanyard that slid along an upper wire, so she knew she wouldn’t fall far. Still, a dizzying 50 feet stood between the 18-year-old and terra firma.

Boozer, a camper at the world’s largest Young Life facility near Antelope, Ore., was tackling the ropes course — a web of cables and ropes attached to utility poles set into a hilltop. The final station required a six-foot horizontal leap to a trapeze bar before she would be gently lowered to the ground.

Had Boozer felt more relaxed, she might have taken a few moments to gaze at the scenery from her lofty position.

The view encompassed Young Life’s Washington Family Ranch, a 64,000-acre Christian youth camp with a manmade lake, Olympic-size pool, three zip lines, go-kart track and an 88,000-square-foot sports center. About a mile away, in the middle school section, younger kids slid down tube slides at the camp’s water park. Every week, about 1,100 new campers arrive at the ranch.

The oasis is surrounded by high desert flora and fauna. A gravel road leading to the camp slices through country rich with sage, juniper, greasewood and rimrock. The locals, many of them cattle ranchers, are rugged individuals who have weathered baking temperatures, middle-of-the-night calvings and the biggest irritant of all — the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.

The Bhagwan, a spiritual leader from India, in 1981 established a commune on the land now occupied by the Young Life camp and what earlier was a large sheep and cattle concern called the Big Muddy Ranch. In the 1800s, a farmhouse still standing on the property served as a stagecoach stop.

The Bhagwan bought the remote property for $5.75 million and invested millions more to build Rajneeshpuram as a spiritual retreat for thousands of his red-frocked followers. In news clips from the 1980s, Rajneeshees line the road for the Bhagwan’s daily drive-by in a vehicle from his fleet of more than 90 Rolls Royce automobiles. Rancho Rajneesh, as some called it, had its own newspaper, fire department, night club and mall.

The Rajneeshees clashed with locals over land use. The utopian desert commune collapsed after Rajneeshees were convicted of infecting four salad bars with salmonella in The Dalles, the Wasco County seat, in order to hamper voter turnout and swing an election. Other crimes included attempted murder, arson, election fraud and wiretapping. About 10 followers were imprisoned. The Bhagwan was deported for immigration violations.

Montana billionaire Dennis Washington bought the seized property for a cool $3.65 million as a destination resort, but ran into zoning problems. The Washington family donated the property to Young Life in 1996 and has continued support with additional donations.

Patty Read, administrative systems assistant at the Washington Family Ranch, said the camp is a mixture of new construction and remodeled Rajneeshpuram buildings. The hotels were repurposed into dorms. The nightclub and mall are now a residence for workers.

The transformation to a Christian camp is nothing short of ironic, said Pendleton, Ore., Young Life leader Chris Thatcher. He and three other leaders shepherded a contingent of 28 Pendleton teens all last week. Thatcher stood in the sports center where kids scrambled up climbing walls and thudded basketballs off the hardwood. Once a place where thousands of Rajneeshees worshiped the Bhagwan, the center is a hub of recreational activity.

He described the camp as a place where the gospel is presented, but not pushed. Seeds are planted during nightly meetings as kids sing and fellowship in a mosh pit-esque setting inside a building a short hop from the swimming pool. A pastor zings a short but pithy message.

Thatcher said much of the faith building happens one on one.

“We believe something real happens when you journey with a kid,” he said.

If the camper isn’t interested in faith?

“We meet people where they are — we don’t force God on people,” Thatcher said. “We provide space for every camper to respond to the good news. We don’t stop journeying with kids if they don’t choose him.”

Camper Andrew Thomas, a recent Pendleton High School graduate, described the camp as engaging, non-threatening and “insane fun.”

“The brochures say this will be the best week of your life and they’re not lying,” Thomas said.

“It is kind of like an escape from reality,” said Makya Theis, of Pendleton, “It’s a place where you know you are loved.”

Read is one of 40 year-round employees at the ranch. She serves as camp tour guide along with her other duties. The camp’s recent history includes some fascinating wrinkles. God, some say, sanded down some of the rough edges in the planning process.

Early on, Read said, planners discussed creating a manmade lake, but ran into a big problem.

“Consultants said the pond would evaporate about 10,000 gallons a day,” she said. “They needed some kind of natural water source.”

The lake went on hold until a crew digging the swimming pool hit a natural spring with a flow of — you guessed it — 10,000 gallons per day.

When planners couldn’t decide what to do with the Bhagwan’s house, a 1997 range fire decided matters. A finger of the fire raced down the ridge and torched the residence, the only one of 300 Rajneeshpuram buildings to burn.

The camp’s huge grassy field, a place for soccer, volleyball and other activities, required several inches of sand to mitigate for muddiness. Someone on a four wheeler exploring the property discovered a huge sand deposit that provided the exact amount of sand needed.

“This place is a gift,” Thatcher said.

Hannah Boozer, once she conquered the ropes course, said she thinks the setting is a perfect place for getting close to God.

“Young Life is a week full of eye-opening moments,” she said. “God’s grace definitely changes lives at Washington Family Ranch.”

Delcurto serves as Oregon’s Beef Ambassador

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

The Oregon CattleWomen have named Molly Jo Delcurto as the state’s official Beef Ambassador.

The 19-year-old Linn-Benton Community College sophomore will serve as the public face of the industry, interacting with a consumer base that is increasingly concerned with everything from humane slaughter methods to the myriad uses of animal byproducts.

“A lot of people don’t know how the process works,” Delcurto said. “The biggest (misconception) is thinking that beef is grown on factory farms, when in reality it’s grown on family farms.”

Appointed to the position in late March, Delcurto has already promoted the interests of ranchers at Salem’s Ag Fest, at Oregon State University’s Summer Agricultural Institute and through presentations to elementary school children in her hometown of Cove.

She’ll also appear at the Oregon State Fair and the East-West Shrine All-Star Football Game, a fundraiser for the Shriners Hospital for Children, in Baker City.

Delcurto was awarded a $500 scholarship for the ambassadorship after emerging from a crowded field of applicants, according to Oregon CattleWomen President Katharine Jackson.

“I think that Molly is ready to go,” Jackson said. “She has a very calm presence and will be able to say what needs to be said”

Growing up on a hobby ranch where her parents raised registered Angus cattle, Delcurto started her own mini-herd when she was 9-years-old.

All it took was a little grit, gumption — and a loan from Mom and Dad — and soon the junior rancher had three flowery-named heifers: Rosy, Daisy and Lily.

“My cattle tend to be a little more ornery than normal. They definitely have a mind of her own” Delcurto said. “We spoiled them too much. They got extra feed all the time.”

Delcurto moved up the ranks in Cove High School’s 70-member FFA contingent. She served as chapter historian and secretary before becoming president in her senior year. She also participated in livestock judging competition in high school and now plays on a collegiate level.

Delcurto is pursuing a major in agricultural business management and a minor in animal science. She hopes to continue to work as an industry spokesperson after she graduates.

During her educational presentations, she said explaining the beef cultivation process left the young children “amazed.”

“They see the animals in the field, and they see what’s on their dinner plate, but they have no idea how it got to that spot,” she said.

Delcurto will vie for one of five spots on the national beef ambassador team in September. If she wins, she’ll be in good company. In 2013, Oregon Beef Ambassador Jacquelyn Brown won a spot on the traveling team.

OSU to recruit slug researcher, other experts

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

Farmers in Oregon will soon get some much-needed assistance with battling the slugs that are devouring their crops.

Oregon State University plans to recruit an entomologist who specializes in slug research as part of a broader hiring spree made possible with added money from state lawmakers.

Earlier this year, the university held a “Slug Summit” with farmers who complained that the pests have grown more problematic in recent years.

Theories abound as to why slugs are more prevalent — increased restrictions on field burning and reduced tillage were among the reasons proposed — but concrete proof is scant.

Methods of controlling the mollusks, such as bait containing the pesticide metaldehyde, aren’t reliably effective, growers reported.

The new research position will focus on the best ways to kill slugs or otherwise disrupt their life cycle, said Dan Arp, dean of OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

The Oregon legislature recently approved $14 million in additional funding for OSU’s agricultural experiment stations, extension service and forest laboratory over the next two years.

Agricultural experiment stations will receive more than $6 million of that amount, which will fund 16 new assistant professor positions and six support positions, said Arp.

OSU will begin trying to fill the positions as soon as possible, but the recruiting process usually takes about eight months, he said.

“We’re really grateful to the legislature for making this possible,” Arp said.

Following is a summary of the other research positions that OSU’s agricultural experiment stations will be looking to fill:

• Rangeland ecology with a focus on conserving the sage grouse, a bird species that’s a candidate for federal protection. Ranchers fear that threatened or endangered status for the species could result in grazing restrictions.

• Integrated management of cropping systems, focusing on managing nutrients, water and pests for crops with intensive rotations.

• Weed and pest management primarily for horticultural crops like vegetables and berries.

• Water management and efficient use, such as examining innovative tools for irrigation.

• Fertilizer rate and transport, which involves the study of how much fertilizer is consumed by crops and where surpluses end up.

• Near-shore fishery and oceanography, looking at sustainable practices.

• Food processing and safety, researching new technology and food safety concepts such as improving shelf life.

• Food microbiology, studying ways to prevent contamination with pathogens.

• Pesticide management, including the best management of rates and timing.

• Integrated pest management response to climate and weather, with a focus on modeling how changes will affect pest control.

• Consumer demands and marketing, which involves the study of how people make buying decisions and how to influence them. The main focus will be on products of fermentation like alcohol and cheese.

• Brewing microbiology, which will examine how to use microbiology to improve flavor.

• Quantitative plant genetics, which requires the use of modern molecular tools to improve breeding.

• Vegetable and specialty seed breeding and management.

• Seafood processing and innovation, which will include new methods and safety components.

• Two pollinator biology technicians, one focused on lab work and the other on field work.

• An experiential learning coordinator who lines up internships for students.

• Supplemental funding for three positions in fermentation science.

OSU’s Forest Research Laboratory will receive $3.5 million of the additional funding, which will be spent on a two-year study of the marbled murrelet, a threatened bird species that nests in coastal forests.

The birds will be banded with radio transmitters so researchers can find out more about where they travel and how far inland they lay eggs.

“We really don’t understand much about their behavior. They spend most of their lives out at sea,” said Thomas Maness, the laboratory’s director.

OSU’s extension service will receive nearly $4.5 million of the added funding but is still in the process of prioritizing which positions will be filled, said Scott Reed, the service’s director at the university.

Bushue runs for American Farm Bureau Federation presidency

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

SALEM — The leader of the Oregon Farm Bureau has announced his bid for the presidency of the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Barry Bushue, president of Oregon Farm Bureau for the past nine years and vice president of American Farm Bureau for seven years, will seek the national organization’s top office at its January convention, according to an OFB press release.

“In recent years, Oregon has been on the front line of numerous challenges facing American agriculture. We continue to engage in public policy debates around genetically modified organisms, immigration, animal welfare, pesticides, water use, endangered species, and other environmental issues,” Bushue said in the press release. “I’ve been blessed as a leader to work for farmers in my community, county, state, and across the country. To serve as AFBF president would be an unrivaled opportunity to use these experiences for the benefit all American farmers and ranchers on the national stage.”

Bob Stallman, AFBF president for 16 years, announced last week that he would not seek re-election.

Bushue, who has long been active in the Farm Bureau, has served as president of Multnomah County Farm Bureau, a regional director on the Oregon Farm Bureau Board of Directors, and as OFB’s first vice president.

In 2008, Bushue was elected vice president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. His leadership at the national level includes service on the AFBF Nursery & Greenhouse Committee, AFBF Trade Advisory Committee, a national labor taskforce, and a National Food Quality Protection Act workgroup.

Bushue continues to serve on the USDA Advisory Committee on Biotechnology & 21st Century Agriculture, the Executive Committee of the United States Biotech Crop Alliance, and the Board of Directors of the Generic Event Marketability & Access Agreement Biotech Accord.

In Oregon, he serves on the Executive Committee of Oregonians for Food & Shelter, a coalition that protects and advocates for access and safe use of pesticide, fertilizers, and biotech tools for the agriculture and natural resource communities.

Named Agriculturalist of the Year in 2014 by the Oregon Agri-Business Council, Bushue has worked on numerous task forces at the request of the governor, the state legislature, and with natural resource agencies on critical issues, including water quality and quantity, pesticide use, biotech, labor, navigability, public land grazing, and wildlife depredation.

Bushue is the third member of his family to run the farm in Multnomah County, Ore. He and his wife raise vegetables, berries, flowers and pumpkins at the nearly century-old farm near Portland. They sell directly to the public and host events for the local community.

After attending college, Bushue taught high school in South Australia. It was during those years “down under” that he met his wife Helen. The Bushues returned to Oregon in the late 1980s to take over the family farm. They have three grown children.

“At the county, state, and national level, Farm Bureau is a true grassroots, democratic organization,” Bushue said. “Farms and ranches of all sizes, commodities, and production types have an opportunity to bring their issues forward and have their voices heard. Our unity is our strength, and there is no more effective way for family agriculture to be heard in the legislative arena than Farm Bureau. It would be an honor to serve our members at the national level.”

Farmtastic event brings agriculture to Hermiston kids

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

HERMISTON, Ore. — When Lauren Smith pulled out a collection of spiders at the Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center July 17 she had an eager audience.

The children participating in the station’s first-ever Farmtastic event crowded closer to the Oregon State University graduate student, passing around the vials of specimens preserved in alcohol and commenting on the size of what was inside.

“Why are spiders beneficial?” she asked the group.

“Because they eat bugs!” a student piped up.

The lesson was part of a free day-long activity at HAREC for children interested in science and agriculture. Annette Teraberry, administrative assistant for the center, said the event was conceived and designed by the center’s graduate students as a way to introduce science to local youth.

The program was advertised through Hermiston’s Parks and Recreation department, and 20 spots were available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Sarah Light, a graduate student working on a dual master’s degree in soil science and plant pathology, said the group tried to come up with a curriculum that was a mixture of hands-on activities, games and informational lessons.

“The idea is to get kids excited about science in the context of agriculture,” Light said.

She said each of the program’s five graduate students have a different area of expertise, so the children were getting exposure to a wide range of elements of farming.

Before Smith’s lesson on beneficial bugs — which also included a demonstration on pollination using an armful of flowers and a collection of preserved bees — Light had been teaching the group about plant pathology.

“Plants can get sick, too,” she told the group, noting that plant diseases cost the United States about $8 billion annually.

Later in the day the group would learn about soil and creek ecosystems, take a tour of the experiment station and visit the pathology lab. The center’s staff hopes to make Farmtastic an annual event.

“It’s been going great,” Light said. “The kids seem really into it and we’re having a lot of fun.”

Arboretum exhibit shows benefits of turfgrass

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

Oregon grass seed farmers can feel right at home in Washington, D.C., this summer with the National Arboretum highlighting turfgrasses in a display titled The Grass Roots Exhibit.

Oregon growers, in fact, have a stake in the exhibit: The Oregon Seed Council donated $50,000 to help construct and maintain it.

Coming at a time when home lawns are under fire in California and other states, Roger Beyer, executive director of the council, said the council felt it was important to show the positive side of grass.

“We felt it was important that our story be told,” he said.

In the exhibit, signage identifies which grass species are planted in the different sections and provides glimpses into some of their environmental, aesthetic and recreational benefits. Signage also directs visitors to a website where they can obtain more information on the displays.

Now nearing one year old, the exhibit has been a popular draw among arboretum visitors, said Geoff Rinehart, the exhibit’s coordinator and a former turfgrass research technician at Washington State University.

Among the exhibit’s more popular elements, one displays an artificial grass sports field next to a sports field of Bermuda grass. “There is a lot of appeal there to compare and contrast when they are side by side,” Rinehart said. “People are pretty engaged with that.

“And of course everybody likes the golf exhibit,” he said. The golf exhibit includes bentgrass grown from seed produced in Oregon. “A lot of folks who have never been on a golf course are able to get an idea of what a golf putting green feels like.”

The exhibit also features a display of perennial ryegrass grown for seed. “We’ve let it grow to where we have the seed heads and we’ve got a sign out there that talks about the importance of growing grass for seed for turfgrass,” Rinehart said.

“The grass plants aren’t as big as they would be in the Willamette Valley,” Rinehart said. “But we have signage that says, ‘This is what a grass plant looks like when it is grown for grass seed.’

“We also have perennial ryegrass in our cool season lawn display, which we keep at typical lawn-grass height,” he said.

Other grass species displayed include tall fescue, fine fescue and Kentucky bluegrass.

The exhibit also provides glimpses into agronomic benefits of grass plants in a display highlighting the use of cereal rye, wheat, oats and barley as cover crops.

“Our message is these crops are grasses, too, which is news to most people,” Rinehart said. “Especially in D.C., many people have never seen a wheat crop.”

The exhibit, located in an 8,000-square-foot field adjacent to the arboretum’s main entrance, is scheduled to run through 2017.

45th annual Great Oregon Steam-Up chugs into town

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

BROOKS, Ore. — The 45th Annual Great Oregon Steam-Up will take over Antique Powerland for the next two weekends, putting a spotlight on yesteryear’s finest mechanical marvels.

“You walk in, and pretty much the first thing you see is a tractor. And then the second thing you see is a tractor as well.”

That’s Pamela Vorachek speaking, the executive director of the Steam-Up.

She said the two-weekend festival is an amalgamation of three Ts: Trains, trolleys and, you guessed it, tractors.

At the Steam-Up, you can stroll past the ticket counter of a restored 1920s-era Southern Pacific depot and take a ride on a vintage trolley; watch chaff and wood chips fly as professionals operate a steam-powered sawmill and thresher; or even duck for cover as a World War II tank fires (blanks) to start each day’s tractor parade.

This year’s featured tractor — and there are about 40 of them — is the Minneapolis Moline.

Marketed as a “comfort tractor,” the Moline was the first of its kind to offer operators a fully-enclosed cab. Advertisements from the period promised farmers they could plow their fields, then drive it to church, according to Vorachek.

Before that, “by the time you got done plowing a field, well you took a bath, and you left as much mud in that bathtub as dirt was out in the field,” show manager Evan Burroughs said.

Back then, a thresher was an infernal, steam-powered contraption that sat in one place and cost a small fortune to own — maybe $5,000. Instead of a single combine practically flying over fields, 20 or 30 men might share the work, piling their crops to a single mound in front of the roving contractor’s thresher.

When you were ready to move the thresher, you needed a team of mules.

The job was dirty, hot, messy and loud, according to Burroughs.

“Take a modern combine, strip out the mobility components, and the guts of the thing are virtually the same as the 1880 to 1920s threshing machine,” Burroughs explained. “The technology changes, but it’s nice to know if everything goes gunny bag with the computer, we can back up a step and do it mechanically.”

The Steam-Up is hosted on the grounds of Antique Powerland, a 62-acre park in Brooks, Ore., that features 12 permanent mechanical and agricultural museums.

The event offers plenty of food. The Knights of Columbus will sell sesame garlic chicken and mashed potatoes, while the Kiwanis will serve burgers. Other fare includes German sausage, pie, Reuben sandwiches, root beer floats and biscuits and gravy.

Fan-favorite featured artist Wayne Richards and Southern Nights will also return for another year.

45th Annual Great Oregon Steam-Up

When: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. July 25 and 26, and Aug. 1 and 2

Tickets: Adult tickets are $12, $20 for a weekend pass or $30 for a one-day family pass. All children under 12 are admitted free; Oregon National Guard members and their families are admitted free with valid military ID on the second weekend.

Website: http://www.antiquepowerland.com/html/steam-up.html

Diamond Foods opens its new innovation center

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

SALEM — The science of snacking was the subject as Diamond Foods Inc. dedicated its new corporate innovation center at the company’s Kettle potato chip plant in Salem.

The 7,000-square-foot product-testing and research-and-development laboratory is the company’s first formal brand development facility. The center, which employs 18 people, will also work on new products for the company’s other lines of snacks, nuts and popcorn.

In addition to food scientists and sensory specialists, marketing, packaging and regulatory experts will work there.

Innovation was the buzzword as Oregon Gov. Kate Brown delivered a brief speech at a July 15 ceremony, praising Diamond’s commitment to the state.

“...In this state, we make things. Innovative, useful, marketable — and in this case, delicious — things,” she said.

In the consumer polling area of the innovation center, the governor issued a ringing endorsement of the company’s Emerald Nuts brand raspberry-glazed almonds — “Can we eat the rest of them?” she asked — before donning a hair net and touring the center’s prototype kitchen.

In the “nosh pitch,” a creatively named conference room, employees exhibited the peppers and kimchi that became the inspiration for Kettle’s new pepperoncini-favored chips.

“We don’t adulterate the base (potato chip). Everything you taste is from the seasoning that we put on after,” food scientist Rebecca Andersen said.

Andersen said the company tests about 10 different flavors — including such candidates as churro and strawberry cream — for every successful flavor that makes it to market.

Closing out the tour, the governor pondered the regional differences in tastes.

“My family members tend to like — I will describe it as blander things. Midwest foods,” she said.

Diamond Foods, which acquired microwave popcorn brand Pop Secret in 2008, became a publicly traded company in 2005. Its other lines include Emerald brand snack nuts and Diamond of California culinary nuts.


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