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Harvest goes on even when disaster rages across Lake Roosevelt on the Colville Reservation. This was taken in 2019 with S.P. Jensen harvesting.
Photo by Daleen Jensen

WestBred


FMC

FARMER'S TOOLBOX

Rounding up the gains of conservation tillage

No-till, direct seeding have many benefits, but one important tool is causing conflict

May 2020
By Trista Crossley


There’s very little disagreement that no-till and direct seed cropping systems are responsible for dramatic improvements in soil health and a reduction in erosion in Eastern Washington. There is, however, lots of disagreement over one of the main tools that makes those cropping systems viable—herbicides, especially glyphosate (also known commercially as Roundup).

Both no-till and direct seeding are considered low-disturbance systems where farmers don’t plow their fields but instead fertilize and seed through the previous year’s crop residue. According to Ty Meyer, executive director of the Pacific Northwest Direct Seed Association (PNDSA), direct seeding usually involves up to two passes over a field and causes a little more disturbance than does no-till, which generally only involves a single pass. That’s compared to three or more passes in a conventional tillage operation. See more


A quick trip through QuickBooks

April 2020
By Trista Crossley

The last Agricultural Marketing and Management session of the 2020 winter series was an accounting of the popular financial software program, QuickBooks.

Presenter Cassi Johnson, a financial consultant and QuickBooks super user, gave growers tips and tricks to increase their productivity when using the software and answered growers’ questions. Everyone, no matter their level of experience with QuickBooks, walked away with something useful. Johnson has practical experience using QuickBooks in an agricultural setting—she is part of a multigeneration ranching family in Oregon.

“In all my classes and sessions, people will see I share a lot of family stories and struggles and real life experiences because I find people generally don’t want to talk about private things, and I want my participants to know that their struggles aren’t unique, and they are not alone,” she said after the session. “Not everybody is experienced in bookkeeping and QuickBooks, and nobody loves to do bookkeeping. We didn’t get in this business to do that. We got in it to raise crops and livestock and be outdoors. I hope growers get out of my session that somebody like me who may know a little more about QuickBooks still isn’t perfect and still has the same struggles they have. It’s all a work in progress.” See more


Creating a conversation around mental well-being

March 2020
By Trista Crossley


The first regular Agricultural Marketing and Management Organization (AMMO) workshop of 2020 didn’t cover the usual weather/marketing/financial topics. Instead, it aimed to break down barriers surrounding mental health in agriculture.

“No one knows what a farmer is going through better than another farmer,” explained workshop presenter Lesley Kelly. “Your words matter. Your conversations matter. What you have to say can have an immense impact on somebody around you.” See more


Narrowing down the options

Data indicates PLC will likely be the better option for crop years 2019, 2020

February 2020
By Trista Crossley


The take away from last month’s farm bill education workshops was that the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program looks to be the most attractive option for the next two years, but that growers should run the numbers for themselves to make sure.

Sponsored by the Agricultural Marketing and Management Organization in conjunction with Washington State University (WSU) Extension, three workshops were held in Davenport, Walla Walla and Colfax. More than 155 growers and landlords braved snowy weather to attend the sessions.

Copies of the workshop presentations can be found here, here and here. A livestream of the Colfax session can be found online.

This article reviews the Colfax session. See more.


UNHARVESTED

Fall's wet, cool weather threatened to leave crops in the field

November 2019
By Trista Crossley


In “normal” years, by mid-October, most of Eastern Washington’s wheat has been harvested, and growers are wrapping up winter wheat seeding. Unfortunately, this year is anything but normal.

As October rolled around, there were reports of thousands of acres of spring wheat and chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans or garbs) still to be harvested across Eastern Washington, especially in the Palouse region. The culprit is moisture. Thanks to a cooler summer and regular rain showers that began in August and extended through October—not to mention an early October snow storm that set snowfall records at the Spokane, Wash., airport—the opportunities for wheat, especially spring wheat, and garbanzo beans (garbs) to reach the required level of dryness to be harvested were scattered and unpredictable.

At the beginning of October, Clint Myers, a grower from south Spokane County, was sitting on nearly 500 acres of spring wheat that was still too wet to harvest. See more


HARVEST 2019

In most parts of Eastern Washington, the combines and bank-out wagons have been put away for the year, and hot August days have been replaced by frosty October mornings. Here's some more photos from this year's harvest in case you are already missing it. See more


Ninety years and counting

October 2019
By Trista Crossley


Although there have been a lot of changes in the way wheat is harvested, many traditions surrounding the annual event haven’t.

For the past 90 years, the Mead family has provided three meals a day for their harvest crew. In the beginning, the kitchen came to the field via a horse-drawn cookwagon. Eventually, meal prep moved to the farm’s 1920s bunkhouse near Starbuck, Wash. These days, Skip and Julia Mead are in charge of the farm, which was settled by Skip’s grandparents more than 90 years ago, and have continued the harvest meal tradition.

“In the beginning, it (providing harvest meals) was essential. Everybody did it. You just didn’t go to town. Most folks lived on the ranch, and your seasonal workers didn’t have anywhere to go,” Skip explained, sitting at the table at the cookhouse in July while his current cook, Penny Hazelbaker, bustled around the small kitchen, putting the final touches on lunch. “It’s not only tradition, but we like it for team building, the camaraderie. We have fun in here. We give our workers a break from sandwich lunches. That’s important—a change of pace for them, but also it gives our wives a break.” See more


Wheat College

Growers learn about soil fertility, farm bill programs, digital farming, marketing

July 2019
By Trista Crossley


One of the highlights of the Agricultural Marketing and Management Organization’s schedule is the annual Wheat College, a one-day workshop that strives to bring the latest in research and technology to Eastern Washington wheat growers. This year’s Wheat College was held June 6 in Dayton, Wash. More than 90 growers attended the event to hear about soil fertility and soil sampling, 2018 Farm Bill program options, precision agriculture, marketing and grass identification. See more


TARGET ACQUIRED

Benton County farmers, conservation district team up on precision application project

June 2019
By Trista Crossley


In the ongoing fight against weeds, one Benton County wheat farming family feels like they’ve hit the spot by employing a precision technology that saves them 80 to 90 percent on their chemical costs.

“To me, this is the next best thing after autosteer for a return on investment,” said Devin Moon.

Moon and his brother, Garrett, saw a demonstration of the WEEDit technology last year and were impressed enough that they approached the Benton Conservation District (BCD) with a proposal for a pilot project to test the system in a no-till fallow rotation. The WEEDit system works by detecting small amounts of chlorophyll and precisely applying chemical to just that spot. According to their website, the WEEDit technology was invented in Holland in 2001 as a way to avoid applying a “blanket” of chemicals over roads and footpaths to kill weeds. In 2009, the technology was modified for use in agriculture with the first system sold in Australia that same year. The Moons purchased the system, which mounts on their existing sprayer, and the conservation district provided some financial assistance for the actual work, i.e. labor, fuel and chemicals. The project began in July 2018 and wrapped up in April. See more


Overcoming production challenges

Workshop focuses on using variety selection, proper chemicals for pests

April 2019
By Trista Crossley


Production challenges and options to overcoming them was the topic of the final session of the Agricultural Marketing and Management Organization’s 2019 winter schedule in February. Ryan Higginbotham from HighLine Grain Growers talked about disease pressure and how choosing the right variety can help address those issues, while James Zahand of James Zahand Consulting talked about herbicides and weed resistance. See more