Wednesday, December 15, 2010

We are pleased to annouce the launch of "Oregon Grains Bread," a new loaf from NatureBake featuring grains from A2R Farms.

We are very pleased to announce the launch of Oregon Grains Bread, a new loaf made by the fine folks at NatureBake in Milwaukie Oregon. NatureBake is most well-known for being the bakery behind Dave's Killer Bread, a favorite in Oregon and the Northwest. NatureBake has been looking to do a loaf made from local products for some time, and we are honored to be able to provide them with the wheat, oats, and flax they need to make this bread happen! At present, A2R is the sole source of grains for the bread, but that will change in the very near future as we are working very closely with Stalford Seed Farms and several other growers as members of Willamette Seed & Grain, a collaboration of a handful of like-minded growers and other ag industry folks. The web page that NatureBake has posted sums up the experience so far, so I encourage everyone to go to their site and have a look! You can find this bread on the shelves beginning this week at Fred Meyer, New Seasons, and First Alternative Co-op. This is a HUGE step forward for local farmers growing food for local markets! Thank you to Harry MacCormack for his work leading up to this, and a very special thank you to Willow Coberly of Stalford Seed Farms, without whom this bread would not have been possible. Click the title of this post to go to the Oregon Grains page on NatureBake's website.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Applying compost tea

Over the past 2 weeks I have been making and applying our own compost tea. I am still experimenting with different recipes and seeing what kind of results I can get. The idea is to get the highest quality tea at the lowest price per gallon. I have used several different people's solid compost. Harry MacCormack's leaf, Shepard Smith's compost, and Joe Richard's vermicompost. I have used various things as food: Hendrikus Organic's Organobloom 5-2-4, EarthFort's Solu-Plks and Acadian Kelp, and fish from Bob Wilt. The first batch had zero active fungi so I didn't apply it. It hindsight I wish I had, as the bacterial counts were good and you don't necessarily need high fungal counts all the time. The second batch I used a recipe from Soil Foodweb and pretreated the compost for 3 days with fish and Solu-Plks. The results that came back were very good, but the cost of the ingredients is very high. I am trying to find out if I can get good tea without using the kelp or pretreating the compost. The kelp is extremely expensive, about 167 dollars for 10 pounds, and it takes 5 pounds per 1200 gallon batch. Pretreating helps increase the fungal counts, but it takes an extra 2 or 3 days. Having that much time between batches is difficult this time of year when every patch of good weather has to be taken. I am waiting on the test results from my latest batch which was made with Joe Richard's vermicompost, 40 oz of fish, and 80 oz of Solu-Plks. I have been applying the tea to our higher value ground first. That is to say the wheat, peas, and flax. The grass seed ground is a lower priority but is still important. Due to various hang-ups with getting the brewer up and running and figuring out a recipe that works we are a few weeks behind schedule on spraying. After this fall application we will not spray again until the spring.

Planting winter peas as a cover crop

This fall we planted about 75 acres of golden and green peas as a winter cover crop. Having a legume in the ground over the winter will help increase the nitrogen in the soil for the next crop. It also helps prevent soil erosion. Not only are these peas going to provide nitrogen-fixing and "green manure" benefits, but we are being paid by the NRCS to put them in. The fields with the peas have now been limed and sprayed with compost tea in addition to the planting of the peas. The fields should provide us with much better yields on our next crop of wheat or oats.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Grain mill construction progress

Construction of the large grain mill at our warehouse is progressing well. The building is taking shape and the main equipment has been delivered. Electrical work will proceed soon. We hope to have our 1000 pound per hour mill up and running within 6-8 weeks at the earliest. Thank you to Rick Laymen for the carpentry, and Willow Coberly for keeping us on our toes!

Fill-Your-Pantry Market a HUGE success! Thank you!

Wow what a response! The market here at A2R Farms last Saturday surpasses all expectations with the huge turnout. Between 300-400 people came out looking to stock up on a wide variety of goods. We want to thank everyone who participated, including the planning group, the Bean and Grain Project, and all the farms who brought such wonderful food to sell! A2R had several snags such as lack of availability of processed product, poor visibility of pricing, and no separate line for pre-orders. Rest assured we will address all of the issues we had and be much better prepared next year! We have set a date of November 6th, 2011 for the next event. Here is a list of the product sold by A2R:

Hard Red Wheat Berries - 1139 lbs.
Soft White Wheat Berries - 251 lbs.
Brown Flax - 86 lbs.
Hulless Oats - 95 lbs.
Rolled Oats - 147.5 lbs.
Cayuse Oats - 29 lbs.
Soft White Flour - 99.5 lbs.
Hard Red Flour - 79 lbs.

Again, THANK YOU to all who came out!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Building a compost tea brewer

Over the past few weeks I have been working on putting together a compost tea brewer. Transitioning to organic farming necessitated a shift from conventional fertilizer and amendments to organic, and it made sense to build our own brewer after looking at how much use we would get out of it, not to mention how much money we would save. First, we looked at how much tea we would need for at least 2 yearly applications, one in the fall and one in the spring. All of our acres at the recommended amount of 15 gallons per acre puts our need at around 13,000 gallons per application if we did every acre. After looking at various tank sizes we settled on a 1400 gallon tank. When a batch is brewed in this tank we end up with around 1200-1300 gallons of tea. Our spray buggy holds approximately 450 gallons, so 1 batch of tea will give us nearly enough for 3 full buggy loads. 3 buggy loads will do about 70-75 acres. So one batch of tea a day will allow us to spray every acre in about 10-12 days. There are 3 main parts to the tank: The tank itself, the air pump, and the liquid pump. The air pump agitates and aerates the tea to allow the organisms to multiply. The liquid pump is for filling the buggy after the batch is done. I put a float valve on a fitting and attached a hose to it for filling the tank. It takes several hours to fill the tank to 1200 gallons. It took many, many trips to JTI Supply (the tank and fitting company) to get the correct fittings. We decided to put the air pump above the tank on a bracket to prevent backflow. We had previously tried putting it on the ground and looping a length of hose up over the tank to prevent backflow, but the head pressure in the tank was too great, and water flowed back into the pump. Next we tried a check valve between the air pump and the fitting on the bottom of the tank, but the check valve inhibited the air flow too much. When we put the air pump above the tank and turned it on with the tank full, it worked for about 2 hours until the air pump couldn't sustain enough air pressure to keep the tank agitated. Turns out the air pump can only perform with less than 65 inches of water. The tank, when full, is about 75 inches high. Because of this I tried putting another opening in the side to allow the air in. This worked but we determined that the agitation wasn't sufficient on the other side and the bottom of the tank. Ultimately we decided to put less water in the tank and keep the air coming in through the bottom fitting. This will also help prevent a layer of anaerobic organisms forming on the bottom of the tank, which could degrade the quality of the tea. I purchased a bag for the tea from Earthfort, a local company specializing in compost tea. The bag hangs down from a clasp on the underside of the lid, keeping it suspended in the middle of the tank. I used quick release fittings on all the connections to make cleaning easier, as biofilm on the inside of the tank, hoses, and fittings can harm the beneficial organisms in the tea. I started brewing the first batch of tea yesterday. I used 25 pounds of solid compost. About half is from Harry MacCormack at Sunbow Farm, and half is from Shepard Smith at Soilsmith Services. I also used about 28.4 pounds of 5-2-4 Organobloom as food for the tea. This is a very basic recipe that will probably need significant tweaking to get right. I'll take a sample in to Soil Foodweb for testing today when the tea is done brewing. If the results are acceptable we can start spraying tomorrow, although I'm sure I'll need to make some adjustments to the recipe to get it right. Big thanks to Joe Richard at JTI Supply for all the materials, Kevin at Earthfort for all the advice, Harry MacCormack at Sunbow Farm for the compost and great tips, and also Shepard Smith at Soilsmith Services for the compost.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Fall planting update.

We are close to finishing the fall planting. So far we have planted the following crops: Hard Red Wheat, Soft White Wheat, Brown Flax, Golden Peas, Green Peas, and Annual Ryegrass. We are trying to get more wheat planted in the fall this year, as we anticipate higher yields from the red when it's fall planted. The peas we planted as a cover crop. We will till them under in the spring, then plant wheat or oats or another spring crop on that ground. The peas act as a nitrogen-boosting crop, which cuts down on our fertilizer needs for those fields. We also had our 3 pea fields limed to raise their pH. They should produce a pretty good crop this year.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Product list for Fill-Your-Pantry Market here at A2R Farms on October 23rd.

Here is a link to the Ten Rivers Food Web's recent article on the list of foods available for bulk purchase at the first annual Willamette Valley Fill-Your-Pantry Market here at A2R Farms. More than half a dozen farms will be selling bulk quantities of winter storage foods such as grains, flour, beans, root vegetables, honey, canned fish, and frozen meat at very low prices. Local beer and wine, as well as live music, will be on hand. Support your local farmer! Click the title of this post to navigate to the list. Thank you and we hope to see you there!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Upgrading the seed cleaning warehouse

We have been steadily upgrading the cleaning warehouse to allow us to handle more crops. When it was originally put in back in 2005 it was designed specifically for grass seed. In order to allow us to handle many different seed types we have had to put in a bypass which allows us to pour seed directly into the main cleaner. The two machines being bypassed are a pre-cleaner, which takes out heavy material such as dirt clods and rocks, and a debearder which removes the small beard or "tail" from grass seeds. The blue pipe in the photo has a lever which diverts the seed from the first elevator directly into the main cleaner's feeder hopper. If we put wheat and oats through the pre-cleaner and debearder it would fall into the waste pipe or get crushed in the debearder. Other upgrades we have done are adding new screens for the main cleaner. Specific size screens are needed for each crop. We didn't have screens for flax or hard red wheat initially. We ordered the flax screens last year for the Deck Family Farm flax, and we ordered screens for hard red wheat so we can clean our own wheat crop. Other modifications we have planned are adding another Heid and replacing the discs in the Carters. These 2 machines separate out weed seed using a system of rotating discs and cylinders. Adding and upgrading these machines allows us to get extremely pure test results. We also are looking to install a gravity table in the near future. A gravity table is a precision cleaning machine that separates out seeds and other elements such as tiny bits of chaff and pebbles by their weight. Now that our warehouse is certified organic we expect to get more and more cleaning business for specialty crops, and we want to be able to handle most any crop. Things are looking good!

Planting fall flax

This year we got 1,250 pounds of brown flax from the OSU Foundation Seed Bank. The variety is called Linore and was grown by 2 farmers here in the valley. We planted about 25 acres and seeded at around 42-45 pounds an acre. That is quite a bit heavier than last spring when we planted flax at roughly 30 pounds per acre. We hope the fall planted variety and the heavier seeding rate will result in much higher yields. Thanks to Dan Curry and Russ Karow at OSU for the seed.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A2R visited by a delegation from India accompanied by representatives from the Asia Foundation

Last week we received a visit from a delegation of officials from India. The visit was sponsored by the Asia Foundation, a non-profit organization.

The purpose of the visit was to give the delegates an idea of the challenges facing American farmers transitioning to organic farming practices. We took them on a tour of our cleaning warehouse and a few of our fields. They had many questions about what we've done differently, what costs are associated with transitioning, and what if any government funding is available. The visit went very well and we hope the delegates got a good idea of exactly what kind of problems farmers face transitioning away from conventional farming. Thank you to Harry MacCormack and Cheri Clark for setting up the tour. Here is a list of the representatives names and positions.

Ms. Sayeeda Bano, Member, Zila Parishad, Madhubani, Bihar (State)
Dr. Harendra Prasad, Joint Director - Department of Planning and Development
Government of Bihar (State)
Mr. Avanindra Kumar, Programme Manager - Development Alternatives, New Delhi
Dr. Alok Pandey, Manager (Programme)Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA)
New Delhi
Mr. Amit Sengupta, Executive Editor - Hardnews Magazine, Delhi (South Asian Partner of Le Monde Diplomatique)
Oliver Petzold, Program Officer - Asian American Exchange, The Asia Foundation
Tamara Failor, Junior Associate - Governance, Law & Civil Society, The Asia Foundation

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Harvesting sunflowers

Last week we harvested all of the ripe sunflowers. They were ripening at vastly different rates so we had to walk through and select the fully ripe flowers, then cut the heads off. A BIG thank you to all of the volunteers that came and helped us cut, carry, and spread the flowers! We will have to go back through in a week or so and cut the rest of the ripening flowers. Slightly less than half of the field was not thinned sufficiently, which basically meant that they didn't fully ripen in time and will be plowed under.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Announcing the first annual Willamette Valley Fill-Your-Pantry Market October 23rd @ A2R Farms

I'm pleased to announce the First Annual Willamette Valley Fill-Your-Pantry Market, which will take place Saturday October 23rd from 2-5pm at A2R Farms. Here is the text of the save-the-date notice that went out this week.

What: 1st Annual Willamette Valley Fill-Your-Pantry Market
When: Saturday, October 23, 2010 2-5 p.m.
Where: A2R Farms, 7205 Cutler Lane (2 miles west of Corvallis Municipal Airport off Airport Rd.)
This is your opportunity to purchase staples (grains, flour, beans, seeds and winter storage produce) directly from local farmers. Stock your pantry for the winter at discount prices. A list of foods available, growing method (conventional, natural, certified organic or transitional) and price per pound to follow shortly. Orders for over 100 pounds of a single item (e.g. oats) must be reserved by October 19th. Smaller orders can/should be reserved, as well, or may be purchased at event. All orders must be picked up at the event. Payment by cash or check only, made out to the farmer.
Stay tuned for order list~
Sponsored by the Southern Willamette Bean & Grain Project and Ten Rivers Food Web

This is a collaboration between the SWVBGP and several area farmers. The goal is to create awareness of the availability of local storable foods through a fun, market-like atmosphere. Local beer and wine will be available...for free! We are emphasizing bulk sales to encourage families to save bulk product over the winter, both to increase food security and support the local food system. The prices will be lower than supermarket prices in most cases.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cleaning flax

We have just finished cleaning the flax in the warehouse. This is our second season cleaning flax, and we are getting much better at it. Last year we cleaned about 6000 pounds for a small farm near Junction City. Since our system is designed for large amounts of seed, it was difficult to get the flax as clean as we would have liked. This year we were much better prepared, but we still had issues such as screen placement, machine speeds, air flow speed, etc. We had to tweak and re-tweak the setting many times to finally get it right. We had a lot of help from the Cimbria rep. (Cimbria is the manufacturer of our main cleaner). We were able to minimize our seed loss to the point that we only had about 2-3,000 pounds of screenings out of 16-18,000 pounds of seed. Which isn't bad considering the screenings from flax are worth several hundred dollars a ton to poultry farmers. Flax screenings make valuable feed additions to chickens for the omega-3 content. Although we got the flax very close to retail-ready, it will still have to be re-cleaned on a gravity table as there is a small amount of weed seed remaining. Kudos to Bill our warehouse manager for being so persistent in going after high quality. Nice work Bill!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Harvesting garbanzo beans

Today we started harvesting the garbanzo beans. This entailed walking along with shears and cutting them at the roots, then coming along behind with a wheelbarrow and picking them up. Sounds simple, right? Sure, but one 3-acre field took 9 hours, and we're still not done, and it was raining! We can't use a combine because there aren't enough to justify using it, too many beans would get lost in the machine during threshing. Also, the beans aren't tall enough. The average height is about 10-12 inches. We would probably crush as many as we cut. So, 4 of us trundled out there and stooped, crawled, kneeled, and hacked our way across the field. We are laying the bushes out to dry on a large tarp in the hay shed. We haven't decided how we are going to separate bean from pod yet. We should finish that piece and the other 2 very small pieces tomorrow.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Grain harvest is done!

We have finished with the grain harvest and have moved on to preparing the ground for next season. I don't have accurate yield figures yet, and I won't until we clean and process all the crop. The white wheat yielded higher than expected. The red wheat was about what we expected to get. The flax was lower than expected. The oats yielded slightly higher than expected, with the exception of the hull-less oats which was slightly lower than we hoped. We didn't have expectations of a huge yield from the hull-less oats as the variety was from Manitoba and needs to be acclimatized. We feel that this year we will have better yields as we will plant all the wheat in the fall. Hopefully we will get better red wheat yields if it is fall planted.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Harvest update

We are almost done with all the combine work. We've finished the hard red and soft white wheat, and most of the cayuse oats. We have about 9-11 acres of flax left to do, and all of the naked oats. By the end of this week all the standing grain will have been thrashed. The beans, sunflowers, and walnuts still have a little ways to go before they are ready to harvest. The yelloweye beans looked pretty bad not too long ago, and they still don't look great, but we looked at them closely today and saw lots of pods. There is a photo of a yelloweye with pods, as well as a photo of the yelloweyes next to the pintos. What was interesting about that was the pintos failed completely in that part of the field, while the yelloweyes did not. The pintos were a total failure actually. It seemed that the yelloweyes did better in areas where the pintos just stopped growing. The sunflowers are ripening at vastly different rates. We will have to be harvesting them continually for weeks once the most mature ones are ready. Some flowers have still not opened at all, while others are starting to drop their petals already. In a laughably inept effort at deterring birds, I have placed mylar "scare tape" on tall T-posts around the perimeter of the field. I have also made a scarecrow that I am putting up today. Hopefully that will help some in keeping out the birds. I also included photos of the uncleaned flax and red wheat.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The recent wheat price increase...A case for buying local!

I would like to say a few things about the recent furor over rising wheat prices on the commodity market. As many of you may know, Russia suffered a severe drought this year and is reporting a huge crop loss in their wheat harvest. As the third largest wheat producing country on earth, this has a profound effect on the global wheat market. There has been a huge jump in wheat acreage planted in the Willamette Valley this past year due to very low prices on grass seed. I'm sure there are plenty of happy farmers in the valley who will be making another dollar or two per bushel on their wheat crop. The people who are REALLY making the money in this situation are the speculators. Farmers make slightly more, and the consumer pays slightly more, but the traders make MUCH more. This rise in wheat prices is for conventional wheat only, but it may have something of a trickle-down effect on the local organic grain market. There have been articles written in the past week or two that say consumers will feel the pinch at the grocery store through higher bread and meat prices. (Higher meat prices because higher feed grain prices affect meat prices). One of the goals of our farm and the Southern Willamette Valley Bean and Grain Project is greater food security and stability in the valley. We are capable of producing a huge amount of food for the local market, but the bulk of the grain grown in the valley is exported, and the vast majority of the food consumed in the valley is imported. If you want to insulate yourself from the fluctuations in the world market to a greater degree, then buy food produced by local farmers! Help us build the local food system!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Harvesting soft white winter wheat

This week we started harvesting the soft white winter wheat, yamhill variety. We have approximately 140 acres of it this year. Most of it was planted in October and November, but one field got planted in mid-December, and is looking much weaker as a result. The yield in the fields close to our buildings have been very good so far. It has been a bit stop-and-go while we wait for the moisture content to get down to around 12-12.5 percent. This usually means we can't start combining until about 1-2 pm.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Chef/Baker farm tour a BIG success! Thank you!

The chef/baker farm tour of Stalford's, A2R, and Hunton's farms yesterday was a huge success. We'd like to thank Allison for organizing the event, the Bean and Grain Project for dreaming it up, and all the chefs and bakers who came out with an interest in seeing where some of their ingredients come from! We look forward to the public farm tours later this month. I'm sure there will be a BIG turnout!

Thursday, July 22, 2010


The walnuts are doing nicely. 3 of the 5 trees seem to have thicker foliage and more nuts on them. We should be harvesting them in late September or early October. Then we'll have a shelling party!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sunflower progress

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The sunflowers are growing so fast! They are almost 5 1/2 feet now. Some of them are starting to show flower buds. We abandoned the idea of putting netting up over them. When we sat down and thought about it we realized just how difficult it would be. A friend recommended using reflective streamers on poles to deter birds. We still have a little time before we need anti-bird countermeasures in place!

Pinto bean progress

The pinto beans are doing even worse than the yelloweye beans, unfortunately. They are almost all very tiny, and have slug damage as well. We are not sure we will be able to take a crop of pinto beans off the field at all. Again, the late planting, lack of water, and low pH are all negatively affecting the beans. The weeds are a problem. Yet another case for acquiring a tine cultivator for next season.

Yelloweye bean progress

The yelloweye beans are doing fairly poorly. We would have like to plant them at least 4-6 weeks earlier, but were unable to get on the fields due to muddy conditions. They almost all look small and underdeveloped. The few spots where they look okay are clusters of plants. They seem to do better when planted closer. The planter we used made it very difficult to control planting rates. We would have liked to plant at around double the seeding rate we used, which was 40-50 pounds per acre. This field would also have benefited from tine cultivation. The weeds are pretty bad in much of the field, with annual ryegrass as the main problem.

"Naked" oats progress

The "naked" or hull-less oats are also doing extremely well. We planted them about 2 weeks after the cayuse oats, so they are not quite as far along, but they look great. Weed pressure is almost nonexistent in both fields. We are excited about this crop as there is huge potential for naked oats.