Thursday, January 20, 2011

Winter 2011: Thoughts for the coming year and beyond.

Well it's the middle of winter here in the valley. Not much to do in the fields so my day revolves around phone calls and paperwork. Organic certification paperwork is due this month. Oregon Tilth is going to a web-based system for record-keeping. Good news for those of us who don't relish the idea of a large renewal application to fill out each year. We have also applied for certification from Food Alliance. Food Alliance certifies a farm based on its use of sustainable farming practices. You can read about their criteria here. This will help us market our transitional crop until we are certified organic. Marketing transitional crops for a premium is challenging. I saw that Grand Central Baking in Portland had started getting all their wheat from Shepherd's Grain in Washington. SG is a co-op of growers who are all Food Alliance certified. I researched Food Alliance after I read that article and decided to apply. We have also spoken to Oregon Kosher about getting certified. NatureBake has asked us to look into kosher certification. This year we have several big challenges facing us. We still have a lot of processing equipment that we will need if we want to grow crops such as sunflowers. We have no drying and de-hulling equipment right now. We also need a reliable bean sheller to handle garbanzo beans. This is big because growing garbanzos will provide us with the all-important legume for our rotation. I can't overstate the importance of a legume in the crop rotation. We need something that won't just fix nitrogen, but will yield and pay well in its own right. We also need oat processing equipment. Without a good roller that will handle a few hundred pounds an hour we won't be able to fill large orders for rolled oats. Rolled oats are very much in demand so this is important. Trucking pallets of oats around the valley to be processed does not appeal to us, and it eats heavily into our margin. One of the most important pieces of equipment for our cleaning operation is a gravity table. We have recently acquired one, but are still waiting for its auxiliary equipment such as feeder hopper and piping to be fabricated. Having all the equipment to handle these processes is vital to our operation. Without them it is very difficult to provide the finished product in large amounts that the valley demands. We have some very big news coming shortly. I can't spill the beans yet, but it will be huge!

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