OrganicFarmer_December January V9

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December 2019 /January 2020

Industrial Hemp—Growing, Planting, Harvesting

Growing Vegetables for a Specialty Market

Growing Practices at the Oldest US

Organic Hazelnut Orchard

Inspiring Stories of Organic Marketing

Success

PUBLICATION

Volume 2 : Issue 6


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Organic

FARMER

4

12

IN THIS ISSUE

Industrial Hemp—Growing,

Planting, Harvesting

Growing Vegetables for

a Specialty Market

4

PUBLISHER: Jason Scott

Email: jason@jcsmarketinginc.com

EDITOR: Kathy Coatney

ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Cecilia Parsons

Email: article@jcsmarketinginc.com

PRODUCTION: design@jcsmarketinginc.com

Phone: 559.352.4456

Fax: 559.472.3113

Web: www.organicfarmermag.com

20

Growing Practices at

the Oldest US Organic

Hazelnut Orchard

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS

& INDUSTRY SUPPORT

Danita Cahill

Contributing Writer

Steve Elliott

Communication

Coordinator for the

Western IPM Center

22

Is an Electrostatic

Sprayer the Right

Choice for Your

Operation?

UC COOPERATIVE EXTENSION

ADVISORY BOARD

26

Inspiring Stories of Organic

Marketing Success

12

Kevin Day

County Director and

UCCE Pomology

Farm Advisor,

Tulare/Kings

County

Emily J. Symmes

UCCE IPM Advisor,

Sacramento Valley

30

Soil Solarization

in the Pacific Northwest

Steven Koike

Director, TriCal

Diagnostics

Kris Tollerup

UCCE Integrated Pest

Management Advisor,

Parlier, CA

34

More Biologically Based

Options Needed to Protect

Crops from Pests and

Reduce Impacts on Health

and Environment

30

The articles, research, industry

updates, company profiles, and

advertisements in this publication are

the professional opinions of writers

and advertisers. Organic Farmer does

not assume any responsibility for the

opinions given in the publication.

December 2019/January 2020

www.organicfarmermag.com

3


INDUSTRIAL HEMP—GROWING,

PLANTING, HARVESTING

By KATHY COATNEY | Editor

MARC STAUNTON, ONE OF

the owners of MBS Farms in

Malin, Oregon, spoke at the

Klamath Water Users Fall Harvest Tour.

Staunton said, he and his partners aren’t

experts on growing industrial hemp,

and no one is, because it is such a new

crop.

“This is very young, budding, no pun

intended, industry that is moving in

the direction of modern agriculture

and industrial agriculture, and we’ll say

regulated agriculture,” Staunton said.

There are currently 55,000 registered

acres in Oregon, Staunton said, with

Jackson County having the largest

acreage at 13,000 and Klamath County

at about 3,000 registered acres.

After passage of the farm bill in

November 2018, it became legal to grow

industrial hemp nationwide.

Some states were more prepared to

take on the task of regulating industrial

hemp than others, Staunton said.

“The State of Oregon and Klamath

County were prepared and allowed

industrial hemp in their counties,”

Staunton said.

Some of the benefits of CBD include:

• Anxiety and stress relief

• Energy

• Pain relief

• Neurological treatments

“Hemp can’t be patented like the pharmaceutical

drugs and controlled by a

group of people,” according to Dane

Marshall, a partner in MBS Farms, and

what that means is, it can be farmed by

everyone.

Industrial hemp production also promotes

the local economy. Hardware

stores have seen a surge in sales from

scissors to rubber gloves, Dane said.

Industrial hemp was a diversification

for the farm, but it’s also a money crop,

Dane continued.

Staunton said that a hemp plant, generally

speaking, is a very good plant for

soil. “It’s a diverse root mass that kind of

seeks out different nutrients that could

be very beneficial in our crop rotations.”

“What we’re hoping for is another cash

crop for this basin, another crop that we

don’t have to rely as heavily on volume

of acreage to produce the same dollars,

or better dollars,” Staunton said.

“If we can support our community, and

by community we mean the people that

we’re employing, the restaurants that

are feeding those people, the hardware

stores like Dane mentioned, the irrigation

stores, the fertilizer companies—if

we can do that, and we’re doing that by

less acres, then there’s a definite appeal,”

Staunton said.

Licensing, Banking and

Insurance

Oregon Department of Agriculture

(ODA) is licensing industrial hemp,

according to Lela Marshall, also a

partner in MBS Farms.

The process is: pay a $1,300 fee, provide

Marc Staunton, part owner of MBS Farms in

Malin, Oregon, talks about farming organic

industrial hemp.

All photos courtesy of Kathy Coatney

ODA with information about the

entity and actually map out the field or

greenhouse.

“They want to know exactly where you

are, how much you’re growing and what

your plan is, and then with that you

have to be under .03 percent THC, and

they take that very seriously,” Lela said,

adding testing must be done through

ODA labs.

Besides the ODA testing preharvest,

MBS Farms has also done their own

testing to ensure they weren’t above .03

percent because if the crop tests too

high in THC, it has to be destroyed.

Banking remains an issue for hemp

growers. Currently, there are very few

banks that will accept money from

hemp growers.

Because hemp looks like marijuana,

smells like it, sometimes even tastes like

it, it makes it really difficult to regulate

4

Organic Farmer December 2019/January 2020


ecause it closely parallels a drug,

Lela said.

Banks, along with everyone

else are trying to figure out

how to distinguish that line, Lela said.

The problem is, even though it’s legal to

grow industrial hemp, there hasn’t been

any federal legislation on the regulatory

side of banking. This means a lot of

banks are taking the approach that they

won’t accept any money being used to

support cash coming from a crop that

could result in a fine, Lela said.

“There’s really only one (bank) that I’ve

heard of, and they have a three month

wait list. So it’s pretty complicated when

you get to that point, but hopefully next

year, for the next growing season, we’ll

be able to bank properly,” Lela said.

Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE)

Banking Act, is currently in congress

and passage of this bill would allow

banks lending or receiving money into

their depository accounts from production

of industrial hemp or marijuana

from legal repercussions.

Next year there will be multi-crop

insurance for hemp, but this type of

insurance is based on crop history when

making a claim, which is problematic

with a new crop, since there is no crop

history.

Liability insurance is another issue with

industrial hemp, Staunton said.

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“Insurance companies are very conservative and would

like to steer away from anything related to industrial hemp

until they see more consistent regulation, so that’s another

problem,” Staunton said.

Planting

MBS Farms has roughly 50 acres planted of organic hemp.

MBS Farms planted their hemp about the 21st of May and

planting went into the first week of June. There are about

2,000 plants to the acre and a six-foot spacing between

the plants.

MBS Farms organic industrial hemp crop.

“Most of the field here was done by transplanting. So transplanting

is probably the most common approach right now,”

Staunton said.

The seed is planted in the greenhouse and grows there for

about 30 days, then it’s transferred to the field and planted

using a spade planter—a very slow time-consuming process,

Staunton said.

The benefits to transplanting are it is accurate, the plant is

set in the ground, it’s covered and there is full soil penetration

to the rootstock, Staunton said.

Another method used for planting was direct seeding.

Direct seeding has potential because it is faster and skips the

greenhouse process that is very costly and time-consuming.

The difficulty right now is most seed is extremely expensive,

Staunton said.

Harvested organic industrial hemp from MBS Farms.

Grain drills have also been used, but they are very uncontrolled

and spacing can be inaccurate compared to

transplanting, Staunton said.

Growers need to get the most bang for their buck, and

currently transplanting is the safest, but it’s the first year,

and Staunton thinks next year there could be changes in

planting.

Seed

Different companies are trying to develop genetics which is

basically how the plant grows, and how it produces by crossing

different strains, Staunton said.

“That’s how they’re producing their genetics, and you’ll

get to this point where the seesaw effect will weed out the

highest, best producing,” Staunton said.

Someone in the audience said Oregon CBD went online and

sold 11 million seeds, at a dollar a seed, in nine minutes.

Continued on Page 8

MBS Farms organic industrial hemp crop.

6

Organic Farmer December 2019/January 2020


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Oregon CBD had a couple of genetic

strains they developed early on—four

to five years ago—and they were able

to ramp up inventory and meet supply

better than anybody else, Staunton said.

“They had supply as this thing was

taking off, which was really unique,”

Staunton said.

Irrigation

MBS Farms used drip tape for irrigation.

Drip tape isn’t used in the Klamath

Basin because they don’t the have

the high value crops like the Central

Valley of California. This has made it

difficult to justify using it in the past,

Staunton said.

Drip tape is very expensive compared

to overhead or wheel line irrigation that

can irrigate larger areas at one time,

but it’s not as accurate or as efficient in

water use as drip, Staunton said.

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“I was excited to try it because now

we potentially had a crop that could

justify that value,” Staunton said, and he

was impressed with it, particularly the

accuracy.

With drip irrigation, it is right next

to the root zone, no more, no less,

Staunton said, and it retained the moisture

on the berm under the plastic.

With overhead irrigation there would

be evaporation, but with drip tape

Staunton didn’t have that evaporation,

so they were irrigating less, and in turn,

using less water.

Staunton is excited that there could be

opportunities in other Basin crops for

drip irrigation.

There were challenges to drip irrigation.

Poor water quality in the Basin requires

an expensive filtration system, Staunton

said, but compared to other crops

grown here, hemp uses much less water.

Harvesting

A full spectrum of harvesting is being

attempted on hemp, Staunton said. “We

8

Organic Farmer December 2019/January 2020


Harvested organic industrial hemp from MBS Farms.

have guys still out here hand clipping

the tops (we call it top flower), and

they’re doing that by hand.”

MBS Farms also has workers walking

through the field picking the biggest

flowers, clipping them off, transporting

them to the shed, and hanging

them to dry.

There are local hemp growers who have

mechanized this process somewhat,

Staunton said, but the most common

way is still to hand clip the flower.

Flowers could be clipped all day

every day, and never remove all the

flowers from the plant, so the next

step is harvesting the entire plant to

extract as much of the oil as possible,

Staunton said.

Several approaches have been attempted

that include:

• Chainsaws

• Machetes

• Mechanized—sickle bars used in other

crops like alfalfa, mounted saw blades

and silage choppers that grind the

whole plant

Staunton said, John Deere is also advertising

a hemp cutter.

Staunton sees the future of harvest with

a combine, and in the future, the field

could look totally different than it does

currently.

“I’m very positive that down the road

this process will look a lot different

because our focus of being just all oil

will be a lot different,” Staunton said.

Hemp Uses

“Everyone that is growing industrial

hemp in this area (Klamath County) is

growing it for the oil,” Staunton said.

There are other uses for industrial

hemp, but there aren’t outlets currently

available for it in the Klamath Basin.

The highest content for oil is in the top

of the flowers. “When you’re trying to

look at harvesting that plant everyone

is trying to figure out how to take that

mass of green and get the most content

of oil you can while still making harvest

somewhat easy,” Staunton said.

Past approaches have been to remove

the whole plant, hang it, dry it down,

then strip off the leaves and sell them to

an oil extractor, Staunton said.

Most growers are searching for ways to

remove the leaves in the field and dry

it down in the field, or by some other

drying process to have a marketable

product in biomass that would be sold

to an extractor.

There are numerous uses for industrial

hemp besides oil, Staunton said. The

industry has been limited to an extent

in developing other uses because they

need a reliable supply of product, but he

sees that coming.

People in the audience mentioned that

Nike is growing hemp to make shoes

and a company in Kentucky is using

hemp to make flooring.

Continued on Page 10

December 2019/January 2020

www.organicfarmermag.com

9


Organic industrial hemp being dried.

Continued from Page 9

Learning Curve

Part of the learning curve this year for

Staunton is the size of the plants. Large

plants may not be the best idea when it

comes to harvest, so tighter spacing is

being considered in the future to limit

growth and make the plant more manageable

at harvest.

Variety is another consideration and

each variety has a very different character

trait. One might be really tall, and

the next short and wide.

Hand Drying

Hand drying entails hanging the flowers

clipped from the field for a minimum of

three days in good drying the weather,

to extended periods of time—so long

as they are in a stable environment,

Staunton said.

Moisture content needs to be monitored

constantly through the entire process,

starting from the field to the point they

are placed in containers and sent to the

processor, Staunton said.

Freedom to Farm

Industrial hemp does have a distinctive

odor. “Other than smell and pollen,

there is probably very little risk to

this crop versus other crops grown,”

Staunton said.

According to ODA, “Legislation

adopted in 1993 and updated in 1995

and 2001, declares farm and forest

practices as critical to the welfare of

the Oregon economy, and establishes

a right to farm law. This law protects

growers from court decisions based on

customary noises, smells, dust, or other

nuisances associated with farming.

It also limits local governments, and

special districts from administratively

declaring certain farm and forest products

to be nuisances or trespasses (ORS

30.930).”

Is There Money to be

Made on Hemp?

Staunton said, there are those that view

industrial hemp as a really big bubble

that will eventually crash.

“I think there’s some definite potential

that that could happen. Like I mentioned,

there’s 55,000 (registered) acres

planted in the State of Oregon. The year

before, I believe, there was less than

8,000 registered (acres), so that’s a huge

increase in acres,” Staunton said.

The development of other markets is an

unknown. There could be a shift toward

more textile based product and less oil.

CBD based products could eliminate

opioids in hospitals for pain management,

Staunton said.

“Those things are all unknown,”

Staunton said, but he isn’t ready to say

that industrial hemp will be a one and

done.

Comments about this article? We want

to hear from you. Feel free to email us at

article@jcsmarketinginc.com

10

Organic Farmer December 2019/January 2020


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All photos courtesy of Danita Cahill.

GROWING

VEGETABLES FOR A

SPECIALTY MARKET

By DANITA CAHILL | Contributing Writer

GEORGE WEPPLER IS 80

now, but he still keeps a hand

in Weppler Farms—a business

he started in the late 1970s. The farm

is situated on a 28-acre chunk of land

tucked into the Cascade foothills of

Brownsville, Oregon. The Calapooia

River skirts the property. The land was

once a walnut orchard. It’s also been a

hops farm and a potato patch. And for

a while before Weppler and his wife

Fran bought the property in 1976, it

was pasture for a Jersey milk cow. “I

know the history of this land,” Weppler

said. “No poison, no chemicals of any

kind has ever been put on this piece of

land, ever.”

Weppler got into the business of

growing produce for upscale restaurants

almost by accident. With degrees

in accounting, business administration

and biology, he was predisposed to

just such a business, even before he

realized it. “I started it to have good

things to eat for myself and my family,”

Weppler said. Locals started coming

out to the farm to buy produce. Then

Weppler helped his neighbors market

wild mushrooms. Their mushroom

customers asked if they had anything

else for sale. The neighbors mentioned

Weppler’s vegetables, and a chef asked

to see some of his produce. “It grew

from there,” Weppler said. “It just

happened.”

Weppler began shipping tender young

greens, lettuces and other vegetables

to restaurants around the country.

He points to three things as a guide

to his success—soil health, providing

a quality product, and building

relationships. A solid work routine

also enters into the recipe.

Soil

Weppler started out with a rich layer

of natural river loam. He’s added to it

and improved the soil over the course

of many years. His soil is rich, dark,

and crumbly. He demonstrates the

tilth by plunging both hands forearm

deep into a planting bed.

Weppler uses two-inches of dried,

screened cow manure from an organic

dairy as top soil. It goes under and

over seeds. After the crop is harvested,

the manure top layer is tilled into the

bed. When he starts a new bed, he

first adds chicken manure from an

organic, free-range chicken farm. The

chicken manure gives the plants a

quick dose of nitrogen. In the fall and

winter, Weppler makes use of the big

leaf maple trees on his property. He

collects the leaves and tills them into

the soil. He doesn’t use the walnut

leaves—too much acidity from the

tannic acid.

Routine

Crop harvest and shipping comes the

first part of each week. Mid-week is

the time to clean and prep new beds.

Replanting comes at the end of the

week. Of course routine can change—

it’s often dependent on weather.

Weppler Farms plants year round.

“We grow a certain amount of product

all year,” Weppler said. On a recent

invoice, Weppler listed arugula, bok

choy, carrots, celeriac, cress, fennel,

Continued on Page 14

George Weppler peers inside a hoop row cover.

George Weppler holds a purple kohlrabi.

French breakfast radishes grow inside a

greenhouse.

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Organic Farmer December 2019/January 2020


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Baby spinach and Asian greens grow under a hoop row cover.

Continued from Page 12

chanterelles, romaine, kale, mustard,

cauliflower, leeks, lettuce, peppers, potatoes,

radishes, spinach, shallots, squash,

Treviso, radicchio. He also supplies

restaurants with wild mushrooms, such

as chanterelles and morels, from Oregon

forests.

Relationships and Product

Quality

Relationships with his buyers developed

over the years. Weppler has learned

which chefs prefer which vegetables and

how much they use in any given week.

He rarely gets phone calls or orders. “I

know their usage and know what they

want. I know times of year when they’re

busy and when they’re not.”

Weppler doesn’t want restaurants to

have produce leftover at the end of the

week, so he even knows when to cut

back on the shipment. For example, he

knows when a particular chef closes his

or her restaurant for a long Fourth of

July weekend.

Weppler ships to established clientele

weekly. Some of the accounts he’s held

onto for 25 years or more. One restaurant

in St. Paul, Minnesota, has bought

Weppler Farms’ produce since 1982.

“They are willing to pay the price for a

better product,” Weppler said. People

who eat at high-end restaurants, he

said, want to see something different

that they can’t buy at their local

grocery store.

His business has all been created by

word of mouth. “I’ve never had to spend

anything on advertising,” Weppler said.

“I’m willing to produce what these

people need.” That way, he says, he

knows he’s able to move the crops he

produces.

Weppler sells to two restaurants in

Brownsville. Most everything else ships

by air. He makes a run weekly to the

airport. It’s picked fresh, usually that

same morning, flown in, and then

driven by courier to the restaurants. “I

guarantee it will get there in top absolute

condition.”

At the height of his production,

Weppler sold to 20-30 restaurants

in Alaska, Hawaii, Washington DC,

Wisconsin, Florida and other states.

He’s semi-retired now and has scaled

back by half. He does enough to keep

three people working. “We just grow

enough to satisfy what it takes three

people to do,” Weppler said. He first

turned over farm production to his son,

Ted, then later to his and Fran’s nephew,

Jeff Timpone, who’s been at the farm

now for 10 years.

Growing Practices

Most of the crops are grown under

cover, either under plastic row covers

or under crop cover cloth. A limited

amount of crops are grown in raised

beds inside a greenhouse. For the row

Continued on Page 16

14 Organic Farmer December 2019/January 2020


December 2019/January 2020

www.organicfarmermag.com

15


®

Continued from Page 14

covers, Weppler uses concrete reinforcing

wire. He cuts it to size—it’s already

shaped in half rounds from being in a

roll. He and Timpone cover the wire

hoops with plastic and hold the plastic

down along the sides and at both ends

with shovels full of soil.

Production slows from mid-December

to mid-February when the weather gets

too cold for many of the crops. Young

greens, baby spinach and mustards

continue to grow under the low

hoop houses and under the cover

cloth—which can protect crops

down to three degrees F.

Weppler doesn’t cut and grow again.

After harvesting, he reworks the bed,

adds fertilizer, tops it off with dried

cow manure and replants everything.

He looks at it like this: after a crop

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Lettuce seedlings ready for transplanting.

has grown, it’s taken nutrients out of

the soil. So, better to start fresh, with

fertilizer, tilled soil and a top dressing of

cow manure. This time of year it takes

about five weeks from transplanting to

harvesting lettuces. He starts some of

the plants inside the greenhouse.

Weppler sells a lot of salad packs. He

tries to pack eight different things in

a salad mix—not only assorted young

lettuces, but Asian greens, baby spinach,

mustards and radicchio.

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Organic Farmer December 2019/January 2020


Spotted cucumber beetle was once a problem on the farm.

Weppler nipped back the population years ago by paying

people to hand pick the insects and drop them into a can

of water and detergent.

Weppler says there are a few small actions that can

keep insect populations under control. In the spring, he

explains, the plants don’t have as many nutrients. Spotted

cucumber beetles are looking for plants rich in nutrient

value, so they are drawn to dandelion flowers. Weppler

goes along and hand picks beetles out of the dandelions,

which knocks back the breeding population. “I don’t have

many on the farm anymore,” he said.

When moles become a problem, Weppler hires a trapper to

keep them under control.

Varieties

Many of Weppler’s favorite vegetable varieties are

European—a ringed beet from Italy, a red and green

splotchy-leafed lettuce from Austria, and a pointy tomato

from France. “I’ve grown about 400 varieties of tomatoes,”

Weppler said. "Russia and Siberia have the best tomatoes.

They grow in short seasons." He’s whittled his favorites

down to about a dozen that he grows consistently, including

several colorful heirloom varieties.

French breakfast radish is Weppler’s favorite plant.

Weppler Farms grow radishes year round. They are a good

cash crop for him, and take up little growing space. He or

Timpone plant radish seed every two weeks. There is ¾ of

a pound in each of their bagged radish packs. In a roughly

six-by-six section of a raised bed, they will get 20 packs a

week, or roughly 960 packs per year. Weppler Farms radishes

are small, with a tender texture and mild heat.

Weppler is particularly proud of his carrots. They are

small, straight and sweet. He points to the soil tilth as the

biggest factor. When carrots don’t have to fight for growing

space they are able to grow straight, instead of forking, and

they produce more sugars. Also, carrots don’t want a lot of

fertilizer, he said.

Weppler has learned a lot about various crops throughout

the years. “Different plants have different requirements” he

said, noting that he’s gotten a lot of good advice by talking

to other growers and asking questions.

Comments about this article? We want to hear from you.

Feel free to email us at article@jcsmarketinginc.com

December 2019/January 2020

www.organicfarmermag.com

17


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Organic Farmer December 2019/January 2020


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Dr. Themis Michailides, Professor and Plant Pathologist, UC Davis

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Dr. Pat Brown, UC Davis

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What's New in Navel Orangeworm

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Dr. Emily Symmes, UCCE Area IPM Advisor, Sacramento Valley

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Testing Remedies for Pre- and Post-Plant

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Lunch

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Dr. Ali McClean, Crops Pathology and Genetics Research,

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Waiting for the Tree to Tell You When to

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Dr. Ken Shackel, Professor, UC Davis

Applications of Unmanned Systems Technology for

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Dr. Gregory Kriehn, Fresno State University

SGMA – What it Means for Walnut Growers

David Guy, President, Northern California Water Association

Plant Nutrition Update: Lessons Learned From Other

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Dr. Patrick Brown, UC Davis

www.organicfarmermag.com

19


Growing Practices at the

Oldest US Organic

Hazelnut Orchard

By DANITA CAHILL | Contributing Writer

Mary Birkemeier-Stehman and husband David

Stehman in front of one of their hazelnut trees at

Meridian Orchards. All photos courtesy of

Danita Cahill.

IN 1965, RICHARD BIRKEMEIER

and his family planted 40 acres of

Barcelona hazelnuts—known then

as filberts. In 1966, the Birkemeier

family planted another 40 acres, creating

Meridian Orchards in Aurora, Oregon.

In 1970, the Birkemeiers bought another

40 acres. Richard managed his orchards

with conventional farming methods.

Richard’s son, Jim Birkemeier studied

biology in college. He found it fascinating.

“All the organisms are helping each

other. Symbiotic relationship. It’s pretty

amazing,” Jim said.

When Jim took over management of

the family orchards in 1995, he transitioned

the operation to organic growing

methods. In the mid-1990s, he went to a

sustainability seminar and talked about

different things he’d tried: Composttea

fertilizer; playing high-pitched bird

sounds in the orchards to chase away

pests; flailing limbs into the soil; grinding

down stumps and planting new trees

right on top of the stumps. “It was a

nightmare,” Jim said. But gradually, he

struck a balance with nature. In 1997,

Meridian Orchards was certified organic.

Developing organic hazelnuts.

Taking the organic leap was difficult, but

worth it—not only for Jim’s conscience

and the good of the earth, but also monetarily.

He was able to mark up his organic

nuts about 25 percent over conventional-farmed

nuts.

He’s since turned management of the

orchards over to his daughter, Mary

Birkemeier-Stehman and her husband,

David Stehman. “I’m getting older and

lazier,” Jim quipped, “so I think it’s a good

thing the new generation took over.”

When Mary was a young girl, she

thought she’d never leave the family

orchards. But as she grew up, she

wandered in a different direction. She

and David met at Hesston College in

Kansas—David is from Kansas. “I came

back to it,” Mary said about the orchards.

She brought David back with her.

Old Barcelona Orchard

A group of more than 75 people in the

hazelnut industry attended the 2019

Summer Farm Tour. The tour was

presented by Oregon Organic Hazelnut

Cooperative. The group first toured

Gas-heated nut dryer.

a young organic hazelnut orchard at

Skydance Farm in Sherwood. They then

traveled to Aurora for a tour of Meridian

Orchards—the oldest organic hazelnut

orchard in the USA. After hearing a

panel of business owners speak during a

lunch break, the group followed David

and Mary out into the mature orchard.

About the floor in the old Barcelona

orchard, David said, “We’ve been scraping

and mowing. It’s looking pretty good

out here, but we’ll keep working.” This

was in mid-August. “We’ve got another

month and a half before we’ve got nuts

on the ground. So we keep scraping and

mowing.” The orchard floor must be as

smooth as possible before harvest in

order for the sweeper and nut harvester

to work properly.

Mary remembers the day when her

dad grew cover crops of winter rye and

common vetch in the old orchard. “It

would get six feet tall,” she said.

David talked about the filbert moth

traps that they used in their orchards.

He pulled down a trap on a rope-pulley

system from the upper third of a tree

canopy. Mary peered inside. She tilted

the trap this way and that to catch the

glimmer of gold scales of the filbert

moths’ wings. “There are several little

moths in here,” she said, “but I don’t

see…wait, there’s one.”

David and Mary have used mating disruption

for the past four years to control

filbertworm—the nut-eating offspring of

filbert moths. They check their pheromone

traps regularly. If there are four or

five moths in a trap, no problem, David

20

Organic Farmer December 2019/January 2020


said. “If there are twenty-five to thirty

in a trap, we’ll spray with Entrust.”

They’ve also been spraying with PyGanic

plus Entrust, David said, to “throw the

book at the filbert moth.” He’s also tried

Grandevo Bioinsecticide. “It smells like

chocolate,” he said, “but we didn’t see a

good effect with it.”

Replanting

In 1995, the same year that Jim took

over orchard management from his dad,

Eastern Filbert Blight began working

its way down the Willamette Valley.

It hit their Barcelona trees. David and

Mary are gradually replacing the old

blighted Barcelonas with Oregon State

University-bred, blight-resistant varieties

such as Jefferson and Yamhill. So far,

they’ve replanted around 30 acres.

After damage from gophers and borer

beetles in some of the young trees, David

said they planted more Yamhill and York

trees last winter. They planted the new

orchards single density, because they like

to use equipment, such as flail mowers,

in three directions. They also put in

irrigation.

For weed control they tried Supress and

then Homeplate, “which is easier to

work with,” said David about the latter.

“We’ve also been around all these trees

with a weed eater and hoes.”

Another Young Orchard

The last orchard the group toured was

a three-year-old Yamhill, which David

said had been sprayed three times, scuffle-hoed

twice, and gone over twice with

a weed eater.

“We used chicken manure for nitrogen,”

he said. Aged chicken manure has

been used in the orchards for 50 years.

“Phosphorous was through the roof in

our soil samples,” David said. “We’ll

probably try feather meal.” He said the

first couple of years they used compost

around the young trees.

David and Mary planted a cover crop of

peas, vetch and winter ryegrass down

the aisles. “If I can get it tilled again

between harvest and weather, we’ll try to

plant it again.”

In managing the suckers, David said it’s

easiest to hit them with an organic herbicide

when they’re less than eight inches

tall. Another grower in the crowd said he

uses a side cutter on his mower. A side

cutter doesn’t get every single sucker, so

some hand cutting is still required, but it

helps alleviate some of the hand labor.

For irrigation, David uses a water gun

on a reel. It stretches and retracts back,

he said. It’s not a typical irrigation

method for hazelnuts, but he plans to

continue irrigating with the gun until

it starts hitting the trees. “Then we’ll go

from there.”

Pests

Three years ago, they had a real gopher

problem. “We didn’t stay on top of it,”

David said. When they started planting

young trees the gophers became a real

issue. They paid a guy a ten-dollar bounty

for each gopher, mole and squirrel. David

estimated they’ve eliminated around

two-thousand gophers in the orchards

over the past three years.

David made raptor poles and put up owl

boxes, to encourage birds of prey to help

keep down populations of voles and field

mice. He said growers can use an organic

rat poison, but Mary is against using the

poison in their orchards.

“I won’t let him,” Mary said. “We’ve been

organic from the start, versus conventional

for the first three years, then

get certified after six years.” She sees

importance in maintaining air and water

quality. “I have young kids. I want to do

something I believe in,” she said through

tears, and then chided herself for the

show of emotion.

Their hazelnuts are certified organic by

Oregon Tilth. “It’s so much more than

‘natural,’” Mary said, noting the word

“natural” in food production doesn’t

really mean anything. She admits that

being certified is costly and a lot of

work—including a roughly 39-page

application and yearly continuation—but

she believes it’s worth it.

Her dad agrees. “So much better than

fighting nature, because we wind up

fighting ourselves if we do that,” Jim said.

“Some growers using conventional

farming methods think it’s impossible to

grow hazelnuts organically,” Mary said.

Wash and Dry Lines

With their own wash and dry lines,

Meridian Orchards is able to grow,

harvest, wash, dry and size their nuts all

onsite. They took applications this year to

process nuts for other growers, too.

The wash and dry line was built in 2011.

“It’s pretty standard equipment in the

valley for washing and drying nuts,”

David said. “We use SaniDate at the end

to rid any bacteria.” The nuts are first

washed and de-rocked. The sticks and

dirt are removed. “We can blow as hard

as needed to blow out the lighter, wormy

nuts,” David said.

“We lose some good nuts,” Mary said,

“but it’s worth it.” Dirt and debris from

the washing process is returned to the

orchards.

Then into the dryer the nuts go. Different

varieties and differing weather affects

drying methods and times.

“Yamhill comes out of the field too dry,”

David said. “We actually add moisture

at processing.” For a dry year, four to six

hours is the typical drying time. Big nuts

take longer. Rain-soaked nuts from a wet

year can take up to 72 hours. The nuts are

dried on gas-heated wooden dryers.

Meridian grades nuts to size in the shell.

“Most processors will size again,” David

said. They get their nuts shelled elsewhere,

bring them back to the farm and

store them in a cooler. From there they

are mostly sold wholesale in lots of 800

pounds or more.

Comments about this article? We want

to hear from you. Feel free to email us at

article@jcsmarketinginc.com

December 2019/January 2020

www.organicfarmermag.com

21


Is an Electrostatic

Sprayer the Right

Choice for Your

Operation?

By DANITA CAHILL | Contributing Writer

Farm tour attendants watch an electrostatic sprayer demonstration.

All photos courtesy of Danita Cahill.

Is using an electrostatic air sprayer

better for the environment than

using a conventional airblast

sprayer?

“It’s more controlled,” which reduces

drift and runoff, said Willie Hartman.

Hartman is the president of On Target

Spray Systems, out of Mt. Angel, Oregon.

Electrostatic sprayers are also less

wasteful, according to Hartman. They

use less horsepower (hp)—only half as

much, which cuts diesel fuel usage by

half. Less spray is wasted, and it takes

less tank fills, which saves labor.

How does an electrostatic sprayer compare

to a conventional airblast sprayer?

“It uses less water. Has electrostatic

wrap around. It’s still the newest next

generation. Others electrostatic sprayers

are from the 50s,” Hartman said.

The Concept

The concept is simple. Think in terms of

metal bits drawn to a magnet, dog hair

to clothes or dust to venetian blinds. It’s

the same concept that draws the spray

and water droplets to surround and

cling to all the parts of a plant.

The basic idea has been around for a

while, and is widely used by cleaning

businesses. The electrostatic technology

works well with antiseptic cleaners

to sterilize hard-to-reach corners and

crevasses.

Electrostatic sprayers are a three-part

system: air, liquid and electrical. “We

use compressed air and atomize the

drops,” Hartman said. The drops break

down into 58-billion droplets per gallon

of water.

“Trees are grounded” said Don Hatai,

On Target customer service support

engineer. Hatai gave an electrostatic

sprayer demonstration during an organic

hazelnut farm tour at Skydance Farm

in Sherwood, Oregon. “Charged droplets

repel each other and are attracted

to the grounded tree,” Hatai explained

from the orchard. So, the electrostatic

sprayer can get full, uniform coverage—

around an apple, for example, or around

a strawberry or a hazelnut. It will also

coat the underside of leaves, which is

often where insect pests hang out.

Can you use all fertilizer, pesticide

and herbicide sprays through the

unit? “Wetable powder and oils can go

through the sprayer,” said Hatai.

Someone attending the farm tour asked

about sulphur. “Sulphurs are harder,”

Hatai said. “Have to water it way down.”

After Hatai’s demonstration with plain

water, several of the orchard tour goers

checked the top and bottom of leaves

on both sides of the trees to see if the

electrostatic sprayer had, indeed, wet

the entire surface on both sides of the

aisle. It had.

The Science

In science, when “like” electrical charges

repel and opposite charges attract, it’s

known as Coulomb’s Law. (a coulomb is

a unit of electric charge). It’s also known

as the law of attraction, or powder

coating.

A spray droplet from a conventional

airblast sprayer is around 250 microns.

With an electrostatic sprayer, the spray

droplets are atomized down to 50 to 80

microns. Right before the mist exits the

nozzle, it’s given a positive charge.

The electrically-charged droplets are

attracted to the plant, which is grounded.

The droplets of mist—in theory,

anyway—stick to the plant and don’t

runoff onto the ground the way a bigger,

250-micron droplet would be more

prone to do.

Cost Savings for the Farm and

Orchard

Sprays: The average spray use needed

with an electrostatic sprayer is 50 gallons

to an acre in mature orchards, and

5-25 gallons an acre on young orchards,

which adds up to approximately a 25

percent savings in spray costs.

Because of the lower horsepower needed

for an electrostatic sprayer, compared

to a conventional airblast sprayer, diesel

usage is cut in half. Growers can utilize

less expensive tractors.

22

Organic Farmer December 2019/January 2020


A 400-gallon electrostatic spray unit. Left is Don Hatai, On Target Customer Service Support Engineer.

Cost per Unit

The cost per spray unit is $15,000 to

$65,000, depending on the size of the

sprayer from On Target Spray Systems.

A 400-gallon rig will spray 13 acres per

tank, and costs approximately $40,000.

If you have a large operation then

naturally you’ll see more cost-savings

benefits. Several things to factor in to

cost versus savings: How many acres are

you spraying? What do you spray? Do

you have to pay for farm labor, or does

labor come mostly from you and family

members? That latter question begs to

ask this one: What value do you put on

your time, and on your family’s time?

Small farm operations would, of course,

take longer to realize financial benefits

from an electrostatic spray unit.

▶ 10-15 pounds of liquid pressure.

▶ The units are PTO operated and

need only 45 PTO hp.

▶ A 400-gallon sprayer will cover

around 13 acres per tank. A 600-

gallon sprayer will cover approximately

20 acres per tank.

▶ Rate Controller

There’s a rate controller on all models.

It gives an exact, precise application

for growers, and makes it easy for the

operator and manager. “It’s kind of

expensive,” Hartman said, “but we put it

Continued on Page 24

On Target electrostatic sprayers with Wrap Around Technology have a reputation for bulletproof

reliability, ease of maintenance and the ability to cover almond trees of any size or shape in

ways traditional air blast sprayers simply can't.

The Features

▶ Electrostatic spray manifolds

▶ Articulating boom.

▶ Adjustable for all tree sizes. The

adjustable towers are low profile.

Taller towers are available for fruit

trees.

▶ Can adjust to spray from ground

level to horizontal up to 30 feet.

▶ 12-15 pounds of air pressure.

SAVE TIME SAVE WATER SAVE LABOR SAVE DIESEL

Spend less time filling your spray

tank and cover more acres per day.

Spray 3 times the

acres per day.

Cover more acres per day than

with a conventional sprayer.

Photos, videos and

specifications at:

Uses 1/2 the horse power of

typical air-blast fan sprayers.

ontargetspray.com

December 2019/January 2020

www.organicfarmermag.com

23


Continued from Page 23

on every single sprayer.”

For example, if the operator sets the rate controller at 50

gallons per acre, whether the driver goes fast, goes slow, or

pauses, the rate controller will adjust accordingly.

“And that’s a big deal,” Hartman said. Conventional sprayers

might cover three to four acres per tank. “Spray for twenty

minutes and run back and fill again.” With an electrostatic

sprayer, an operator might fill the tank in the morning and

not have to go back to fill again until lunch.

Maintenance

Maintenance is simple, according to Hatai. Flush the system

when you’re done, then run the air system to get rid of any

moisture.

Don Hatai, On Target customer service

support engineer explains how an

electrostatic sprayer adjusts.

There’s a switch on the control panel to go from chemical

spray to rinse water, Hartman said. “Don’t even have to leave

your tractor.”

Farmers might say: Okay, all this is great news. What’s the

part I need to pay attention to?

Hartman’s answer in three words: “Keep it clean.” If you do

that you will be very happy.

Trials

On Target started out doing a lot of work with wine grapes,

blueberries and strawberries. Electrostatic sprayers were

especially useful with strawberries. The plants are so low, and

with the leaves touching the ground it’s hard to get spray to

the underside of the leaves.

An electrostatic sprayer demonstration.

The company is branching out into fruits and nuts.

On Target has been working in conjunction with Washington

State University (WSU), according to Hartman. They’ve been

doing some trials in cherry orchards with liquid pollination.

A research scientist at WSU has discovered a way to

keep cherry pollen alive in liquid. Electrostatic liquid pollen

application is replacing dry pollen application due to better

results.

Now On Target is doing work with almonds and pistachios in

California. Last year they started their first initial trials with

hazelnut pollination in Oregon.

“What I see is airblast sprayers have served the industry

well for fifty or sixty years,” Hartman said. Since there are

environmental concerns with spray drift and runoff, “The

industry is looking for a solution to these concerns.”

Farm tour attendees check hazelnut

leaves for uniform spray coverage.

Comments about this article? We want to hear from you.

Feel free to email us at article@jcsmarketinginc.com

24

Organic Farmer December 2019/January 2020


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Inspiring Stories of

Organic Marketing Success

By DANITA CAHILL | Contributing Writer

All photos courtesy of Danita Cahill.

MERIDIAN ORCHARDS, IN

Aurora, Oregon is the longest-running

certified organic

hazelnut orchard in the USA. It was

there that a panel of experts shared their

inspiring business stories of marketing

success during the lunch break of the

2019 Summer Farm Tour. The common

threads binding the tales together were

organic produce, organic product lines,

and hazelnuts.

A group of around 75 people—mostly

hazelnut growers—first toured a new

organic hazelnut orchard at Skydance

Farm in Sherwood, Oregon. Everyone

then traveled from Washington County

to Marion County. A catered lunch

awaited the group at Jim Birkemeier,

his daughter Mary Birkemeier-Stehman

and son-in-law David Stehman’s

Meridian Orchards.

Organic Produce Distribution

Tom Lively, a founding member of the

Organically Grown Company, was the

keynote speaker. Organically Grown

is a distributor of certified organic

produce based out of Eugene, Oregon.

They deliver to restaurants and retailers

throughout the Pacific Northwest. The

lunch-hour program was the mid-point

of the farm tour in August, organized

by the Oregon Organic Hazelnut

Cooperative, and sponsored in part by

West Coast Nut magazine.

Tom shared his experiences of starting

out in the late 1970s with “A few

gardeners, small-scale farmers, hippies,

environmental activists and dreamers

living near Eugene.” He also shared how

the co-op has grown and evolved over

the decades.

In 1978, the group of farmers formed

a nonprofit organic produce co-operative.

In 1980, some of the members

wanted to coordinate which farmers

would grow which crop. That way they’d

be able to market a more diversified

product line as a unified group, instead

of everyone growing the same few

crops—tomatoes, corn and lettuce, for

example. Divvying up the crop-growing

assignments was not always smooth

sailing. There were many arguments,

some quite heated. But the coordinating

paid off. In 1982, the group formed a

growers’ marketing cooperative.

They opened their first distribution

facility in Eugene in 1983. It had a

truck-loading dock, which opened

up bigger possibilities for loading,

unloading and shipping. In 1994,

the co-op opened their first Portland

facility. The company in 2008 became

an employee stock ownership program

(ESOP). They expanded their delivery

route into Idaho and Montana in

2015. “We’re shipping out of the Pacific

Northwest anything that grows especially

well here,” Tom said. Among

many other produce items, such as

blueberries, tomatoes, potatoes, squash,

and purple sprouting broccoli, his

company now also distributes 30,000

pounds of hazelnuts a year. In 2018, the

Organically Grown Company transitioned

ownership to the Sustainable

Food & Agriculture Perpetual

Purpose Trust.

Tom talked about the power behind

cooperatives. He encouraged the

hazelnut growers to collaborate, so

they can set a pre-determined price

point for their organic nuts. Organic

growers face the challenge of competing

with Turkish hazelnuts, which sell

for around $4 a pound. Ideally, organic

US growers would like to have a base

price of $5.50 per pound for organic

hazelnuts, around $5.85 a pound for

organic walnuts and $6-$6.50 a pound

for organic almonds.

After Tom spoke, a panel of business

owners who sell, and/or incorporate

hazelnuts into their product lines,

shared their experiences with marketing,

as well as their current and

projected future hazelnut needs.

Vegan Ice Cream

Kate Campbell, of Coconut Bliss, based

out of Eugene, talked about a hazelnut

fudge ice cream flavor that her company

offers, which they recently renamed

Chocolate Hazelnut Decadence. They

use roasted and diced organic hazelnuts.

She said they buy 12,000-14,000 pounds

of hazelnuts a year. “Double that poundage

in shell,” she said.

Coconut Bliss is growing their brand

26

Organic Farmer December 2019/January 2020


A vintage peanut grinder is used to make hazelnut butter.

Mary Birkemeier-Stehman speaks

about her added-value business.

Hazelnuts shelled, roasted, bagged and ready for sale.

by expanding to sales in more countries.

It’s getting harder for her to find a

good, steady supply of coconuts, so she’s

mulling over the idea of phasing into

using hazelnut milk in place of coconut

milk in her vegan ice cream.

Of the hazelnut industry, Kate said, “I

think the future’s bright and we’re happy

to be a part of it and support that.”

Trail Mix and Granola

Patricia Wiskow, of Wildtime Foods,

uses whole-kernel hazelnuts in her

Grizzlies brand of handmade organic

cereal, trail mix, granola and other

products. Her company buys 10,000-

12,000 pounds of hazelnuts a year. “We

use anywhere from fifty to fifteen-hundred

pounds in a day,” she said.

Wildtime Foods, also of Eugene, started

out in 1981, delivering locally on

bicycles. They’ve since outgrown the

bikes and now deliver by motorized

vehicles to local, natural food stores.

You’re likely to find their products in

the bulk-food section. They also have an

online store.

Vegan and Gluten-Free

Bulk Sales

Herman Bojwani, of Earthly Gourmet

Distribution, is looking for bulk, foodservice-friendly

items. Ninety percent

of his sales are to restaurants, 10 percent

is sold retail. Hazelnuts are one of the

ingredients in the company’s Ethiopian

sauces. Herman said a small part of his

business is hazelnut butter and hazelnut

cookies.

Earthly Gourmet is based out of

Portland. They deliver vegan and gluten-free

foods to restaurants, bakeries,

A panel of business owners speak at the 2019

Summer Farm Tour.

food processors and natural food stores

along the I-5 corridor in Oregon and

Washington State. Herman would like

to use local and organic hazelnuts, but

the bottom line price is important to

him, so he tends to buy Turkish nuts

for less cost. He did admit that he

Continued on Page 28

December 2019/January 2020

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27


Continued from Page 27

wants local businesses to support him,

so he knows he needs to support local

markets in return.

Wholesale Seeds, Nuts,

Legumes and Honey

Hummingbird Wholesale, based in

Eugene, is a family-owned business.

They sell pumpkin seeds, legumes, dried

fruit, honey and hazelnuts. Charlie Tilt

wants to expand the company’s marketing

outreach. “We have to think outside

our micro circle,” he said.

The Tilts have great respect for organic

growers. “Organic farming is an art

form,” Julie Tilt said. “It’s experimentation

and research and creativity.

Organic farming is a lifestyle. You’re

choosing to live your life with certain

values.”

The Tilts appreciate the Birkemeier

and Stehman’s dedication to producing

hazelnuts organically. “Ninety-nine

percent of (USA) hazelnuts are grown

in Oregon,” Tilt said, “but only one-percent

are certified organic.” For the past

20 years, the Tilts have bought their

hazelnuts from Meridian Orchards.

As far as pricing, Charlie said he doesn’t

mind paying $0.25-$0.50 more per

pound for organic, “but two to four

dollars per pound more is harder for

retail in-store consumers,” he said.

Value-added Marketing

“Value added” are buzz words among

some farmers and growers. In the case

of Meridian Orchard, Mary Birkemeier-

Stehman takes some of their hazelnuts

and adds her special touches—different

roasts and various nut butters, all

with attractive labels—to add value.

The consumer is willing to pay more

for these nicely presented, specialized

products. Birkemeier-Stehman also sells

organic fruit.

tables and signs to sell her products

at Portland-area farmers markets. She

sells one and two pound bags of nuts—

lightly salted, roasted and raw. She offers

two types of roast. “Some people like

the dark roast and some like the light

roast,” she said. The smallest kernels

are turned into hazelnut butter, which

she grinds in an antique peanut

grinder in her certified kitchen on

the family farm. She makes chocolate,

lightly salted, and straight

hazelnut butter.

Birkemeier-Stehman enjoys

getting the nut products ready

for the public, and educating and

interacting with customers.

“It’s my jam,” Birkemeier-

Stehman said about the

value-added piece of the

business. “I like it. And that’s

important.”

Overseas Interest

Linda Perrine of Honor Earth Farm,

in Eugene, was the moderator of the

lunch-hour program. Perrine said she

got calls this year from Korean and

Chinese buyers for organic hazelnuts. In

past years, she’s had calls from Japanese

buyers as well.

Perrine takes her nuts to Miller

Dehydrator Company to be washed and

dried. Miller is located in Eugene. It’s

an organic handler certified through

Oregon Tilth. She uses Denali Nut

Company, of Salem for shelling.

Perrine is a founding member of

Oregon Organic Hazelnut Cooperative

(OOHC), which got its start in 2017.

Currently, she is a Member Director. In

2018, she leased her 32-acre orchard of

Casina and Willamette hazelnuts to My

Brothers Farm, another co-op member,

so she can spend a year focusing on

growing OOHC and assisting other

members.

Farm tour attendees check out the Squirrely

Jane's market stand.

“Looking at the whole eco-system globally

and how Oregon fits into that, there

are lots of opportunities for people to

make a really good living,” Larson said

about organic hazelnut growers.

“What we need are more members.” He

echoed what Tom Lively had said at the

beginning of the program: “We need to

find a way to steer all of our ships in the

same direction and collaborate.” Those

interested in joining OOHC can find a

membership form on their website.

Larson offered a special than you to

West Coast Nut magazine for their

sponsorship, which was greeted with a

warm round of applause.

Birkemeier-Stehman calls her value-added

side business Squirrely Jane’s.

She set up her marketing display for the

hazelnut growers to peruse during the

farm tour. She uses the canopy, banners,

Organic Opportunities

OOHC Vice President Taylor Larson

thanked everyone for attending, saying

it was wonderful to have so many

people attend the event.

Comments about this article? We want

to hear from you. Feel free to email us at

article@jcsmarketinginc.com

28

Organic Farmer December 2019/January 2020


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SOIL SOLARIZATION

IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST

By STEVE ELLIOTT | Communication Coordinator for the Western IPM Center

IMAGINE TAKING A MATH TEST,

solving a really difficult problem,

then discovering that your solution

answered the next two questions as well.

That’s essentially what happened to

Oregon State University (OSU) plant

pathologist, Jennifer Parke. She set out

to solve one problem—treating a specific

disease in container nurseries.

When that research was successful,

Parke then received a Western

Sustainable Agriculture Research and

Education (SARE) program grant to

expand her research to new systems and

solve other problems for other growers.


Parke’s solution is soil

solarization—trapping the

sun’s energy under a layer

of plastic to heat the soil

enough to kill pathogens

and weeds.”


Now, if her research keeps bearing fruit,

organic vegetable growers may finally

have an economical way to manage

weeds other than slow and costly hand

weeding.

Parke’s solution is soil solarization—

trapping the sun’s energy under a layer

of plastic to heat the soil enough to kill

pathogens and weeds. It’s a technique

proven effective in hotter climates like

California and Israel, but one that didn’t

work in the cooler Pacific Northwest.

“But a few years ago, for the greenhouse

industry, manufacturers introduced

horticultural films with anti-condensation

properties,” Parke explained. “They

reduced the constant drip-drip-drip

inside greenhouses.”

She envisioned a different application.

“Condensed water droplets reduce the

amount of solar radiation able to pass

through the plastic, and reduces soil

heating,” she said. “So we wondered

The weed-suppression ability of the technique

is clear. Row on the left was untreated and

is filled with weeds. Row on the right was

solarized. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Parke.

if these new films would work for soil

solarization.”

With funding from Western SARE

and the Western IPM Center, Parke

tested the idea and got the answer. Yes,

the new plastic works. In 42 different

nursery sites from Southern California

to Northern Washington, the non-condensing

film heated the ground about

10 degrees Celsius higher compared to

non-solarized plots.

Continued on Page 32

30

Organic Farmer December 2019/January 2020


December 2019/January 2020

www.organicfarmermag.com

31


Continued from Page 30

Problem One: Sudden Oak

Death

Parke’s initial idea for using the technique

was to combat Phytophthora

ramorum, the plant pathogen that

causes sudden oak death and ramorum

blight. A couple of dozen container

nurseries in the West had become

infested by the pathogen. They couldn’t

ship plants to non-infested areas, and

had no way to kill the pathogen’s soilborne

phase.

“They couldn’t use fumigants in most

cases because of their proximity to

buildings and roads and homes,” she

explained.

But solarization did work. Parke and her

team showed the technique heated up

the soil enough to kill the pathogen, but

not the beneficial microorganisms that

help make soil fertile.

“It’s not sterilizing the soil,” she said.

“The pathogen has a lower heat tolerance

threshold than other types of

microorganisms.”

Parke’s team then leveraged the

resources of the uspest.org website,

a weather-based decision-support

tool that the Western Integrated Pest

Management Center has funded for

several years. Oregon State University

postdoctoral scientist Fumiaki

Funahashi and professor Leonard Coop

of the university’s Integrated Plant

Protection Center built an online model

that shows any nursery grower how

long they need to solarize their ground

to know it’s disease free. Problem one

was solved.

Problem Two: Field Nurseries

Oregon’s greenhouse and nursery

industry is the state’s top agricultural

moneymaker, bringing in more than

$900 million in 2016. So that’s where

Parke turned her attention next.

“We thought, ‘Why limit it to container

nurseries? Why not try it in field production

nurseries?’” she said.

Those nurseries are a sight to see.

They grow hundreds of different

species of trees and shrubs, often from

seed on raised beds. Parke’s target

in those nurseries wasn’t necessarily

Phytophthora species, but other soilborne

diseases.

“And then lo and behold,” she said, “it

was very effective at suppressing weeds.”

The J. Frank Schmidt and Son, Co.

nursery in Boring, Oregon was one

of the first field nurseries to test the

technique.

“We started working with solarization

in about 2014 after a few really wet

springs and an abundant crop of weeds

and problems with diseases,” explained

Production Horticulturalist Sam Doane.

The results of the first trials were

dramatic.

“There was basically a line in the field

between solarized and non-solarized,”

Doane said. “We had weeds and

no weeds.”

Not only did the solarized blocks have

far fewer weeds, the plants were taller

and healthier and the stands were

thicker. That was a surprise.

“It’s pretty clear we were reducing the

amount of fungal and bacterial pathogens

as well,” Doane said. “Before, when

we had bad years and smaller-than-desired

crops, we assumed it was due to

weather. We can see now there’s more

than just weather happening here.”

After seeing the results of just a few

trials, J. Frank Schmidt and Son went

straight to full scale implementation.

The company is able to solarize about

70 percent of its production land

each season.

“We knew things were going right when

our field foreman said to the manager,

‘What are we going to do all summer?

There’s no more weeds,’” Doane said.

Jennifer Parke, of Oregon State University, monitors a solarization trial. Photo courtesy of Steve Elliott.

The weed suppression continues for

months after treatment, and Oregon

State University weed scientist Carol

Mallory-Smith found a dramatic

32

Organic Farmer December 2019/January 2020


eduction in weeds in solarized areas

well into the following year. Problem

two was solved.

Problem Three: Organic

Vegetables

For many organic growers, weed control

is their most difficult challenge.

Without chemical herbicides to suppress

weeds, growers are forced to use

a lot of labor to hand weed their crops,

which is expensive, or till their ground

frequently, which is hard on the soil.

Solarization offers an alternative—if it

can be shown to work in that production

system.

Parke’s team is now testing solarization

with and without a cover crop, and

testing the minimum amount of time

needed to successfully solarize fields in

the Pacific Northwest. They’ve tested

three, six and nine weeks, and are doing

more trials to see if two weeks of solarization

is enough.

“At two weeks, a lot more people will

be able to solarize because it won’t cut

into the growing season as much,” she

said. “I think it could work after an early

spring crop, like peas. Then you solarize

in mid-summer before fall planting.

Because we see weed suppression carry

over into the next year, presumably you

could even solarize one year and plant

the next spring and still see reduced

weed emergence.”

The team is expanding the online tool

it built for nursery growers so that

anyone who wants to solarize can use it.

The model would link to local weather

stations and tell growers how long

to solarize to kill specific weeds and

pathogens. Soil physicists Maria Dragila

and Maziar Kandelous are providing

input, and extension specialist Lloyd

Nackley and Coop are incorporating

grower feedback to make the website

easier to use.

While solarizing a field in the summer

takes that land out of production temporarily,

Parke is hopeful that it can be

successfully incorporated into organic

growers’ rotations.

“The film is approved for organic use,

and it can really reduce the labor costs

of weeding,” she said. “We’re very

excited about this and think it has a

lot of potential, particularly if we can

reduce the amount of time required for

solarization.”

Problem three, then, gets partial credit

as a work very much in progress.

More information: projects.sare.org/

sare_project/sw16-070/

Comments about this article? We want

to hear from you. Feel free to email us at

article@jcsmarketinginc.com


We knew things were

going right when our field

foreman said to the manager,

“What are we going

to do all summer? There’s

no more weeds,”

—Sam Doane


Non-condensing plastic installed over planting

rows in an Oregon field nursery. Photo courtesy

of Jennifer Parke.

December 2019/January 2020

www.organicfarmermag.com

33


More Biologically Based

Options Needed to

Protect Crops from Pests

and Reduce Impacts on

Health and Environment

MADISON, WISCONSIN

September 30, 2019— In a

new article published in the

international journal Biological Control,

three authors call for increasing investment

in biologically based approaches

to control pests in agriculture. Despite

many benefits, in 2017 biopesticides

represented less than 4.5 percent of

the overall $75 billion in global pesticide

sales.

Biological options are well aligned with

consumer, food company and farmer

goals. Advantages over conventional

pesticides can include fewer residues,

less persistence in the environment,

and ability for farmers and workers

to get into fields for harvest and other

operations immediately after application.

According to Dr. Brian Baker, a

co-author and affiliate faculty, Oregon

State University, “Consumers increasingly

view any pesticide residues on

food products as unacceptable, even

when below levels considered safe by

regulators. This sentiment is

reflected in sales of organic products

which exceeded $50 billion in the US

alone last year, with organic produce

representing more than 15 percent of all

produce sold in the US.”

Additional investment is needed to

overcome obstacles including lack of

biocontrol options for many key pests,

and insufficient awareness and training

on effective use of existing, proven

biological options. The authors argue

that public policy as well as private

sector strategies must be improved to

overcome these barriers and increase

incentives for research, education, and

adoption—including factoring the full

cost of conventional pesticide use into

decision-making by government agencies,

food companies and farmers.

Pesticides are invaluable tools for

reducing pest-related crops losses in

conventional and organic agriculture. In

many cases however, the costs of using

pesticides can include more than

the price paid by farmers. These costs

include unintended impacts on the

health of humans and beneficial organisms,

environmental contamination,

and development of resistance whereby

a pesticide becomes no longer effective

due to overuse.

For example, more than 40 weed

species are now resistant to glyphosate,

the active ingredient in Roundup®.

Resistance is of particular concern

to organic growers, who have a very

limited number of allowable pesticide

options. Loss of any of those key

pesticide options to resistance are

likely to have costly consequences for

organic farmers, food companies and

consumers.

Biologicals include “natural enemies”

of pests, such as parasites and predators

that feed on pests, and biopesticides—

pesticides made with living organisms

found in nature, or the products of

living organisms.

“Biologically based strategies include

pheromones designed to prevent

pests from finding mates,” reports Dr.

Thomas Green, co-author and director

of the Sustainable Food Group, a

project of IPM Institute of North

America. “Pheromone mating disruption

has been a very successful strategy

in a number of crops, including apples

to control codling moth. Release of

sterile codling moths is another biocontrol

success, supported financially

by tax and apple grower dollars in

British Columbia, creating a sustainable

program that has reduced reliance on

conventional pesticides.”

The authors, members of a national

Organic and IPM Working Group,

contend that greater collaboration

between practitioners and researchers

who work with organic and Integrated

Pest Management (IPM) can advance

biological control as part of the solution

to address the many challenges facing

agriculture today including low crop

prices, climate change and increasing

market demand for low impact production

practices. The article includes a

review of the history and current state

of organic and IPM in relation to adoption

of biological control.

“This is an excellent, comprehensive

paper calling out the need for more biologically

based solutions in agriculture

production. There is a growing movement

to regenerative ag systems;

biological approaches to pest management

and plant health can meet

all of today’s consumers requirements

for transparency and sustainability

while also improving growers’ bottom

line,” Pam Marrone, CEO/Founder of

biopesticide producer Marrone Bio

Innovations.

To view the article, Biological Control

and Integrated Pest Management in

Organic and Conventional Systems, visit

https://www.sciencedirect.com/journal/

biologicalcontrol/vol/140/suppl/C

This work is supported by the USDA National

Institute of Food and Agriculture, North Central

IPM Center projects AG 2012-51120-20252 and

AG 2014-70006-22486

Comments about this article? We want

to hear from you. Feel free to email us at

article@jcsmarketinginc.com

34

Organic Farmer December 2019/January 2020


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