Thursday, August 31, 2006

Speaking of beer...

I read this item in today's Salem Statesman Journal. If you don't want to follow the link, it is a brief that was on the Business section about how much money the beer industry contributes to the Oregon economy.

The source is a study done for the National Beer Wholesalers Association and Beer Institute, which reports that beer supports more than 26,000 jobs in the state. It also says that beer generates $732 million in annual wages and benefits for workers and contributes more than $2.2 billion for the state economy.

The full report is available from If you dig a little deeper into the report, the study indicates the direct "supplier impact" on agriculture is 661 jobs, with $7.1 million in wages and an economic contribution of $33 million. The "induced impact" on ag is listed as 272 jobs, $4.4 million in wages and an economic contribution of $15.7 million.

The value of Oregon's hop crop alone in 2005 was $20.7 million, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. NASS reports that 5,153 acres of hops were harvested, producing 8 million pounds.

According to the study done for the bear folks, the overall economic impact in Washington state is smaller, only $1.2 billion, but the impact on agriculture is greater. The report lists a supplier impact on ag of 896 jobs, $11.2 million in wages and $46.3 million in economic contributions. The induced impact on agriculture in Washington is 91 jobs with $7.1 million in wages and $26 million in economic contributions.

However, Washington's hop crop was valued at $73.8 million in 2005, according to NASS. Nearly 39.5 million pounds of hops where harvested in Washington, from 21,094 acres.

Idaho reportedly receives a supplier impact on agriculture of 210 jobs, a little less than $3.7 million in wages and almost $12.8 million in economic contributions. Induced impact on ag is listed as 79 jobs, about $1.9 million in wages and $6.23 million in economic contribution.

Washington state's Yakima Valley grows about 75 of all hops grown in the United States, according to an alternative field crops manual from the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension and the University of Minnesota's Center for Alternative Plant and Animal Products and that university's Cooperative Extension Service. Washington, Oregon and Idaho are the major producing states for hops and grow more than 50 million pounds of the crop each year.

So, I'm not sure how valuable, or accurate, the beer study is, because it seem to focus more on the brewery and retail angle, without looking at the ag impacts. In Oregon and Washington the hop crop alone was valued higher than the so-called economic impact on agriculture.

Maybe someone drank too much beer and couldn't do the math.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Technology brings back an extinct Northwest species

Sooner or later, everything makes it online.

A few weeks back I met a couple of old friends after work. Both are professional photographers and we were photo colleagues back in college at Oregon State. We were doing our own version of VH1's "I love the '80s," reminiscing about people, places and things we once knew.

Perhaps since we were in a bar, the subject of beer came up. Now, beer is often a favorite topic in the Northwest, which has long been reknowned as a hop growing region. Of course Portland and the Northwest led the microbrew revolution, which introduced so many people to beer that actually had flavor -- not that American-style pilsner that mass market breweries spit out by the oceanful.

But before the microbrew revolution hit, the Northwest had several regional breweries known mostly for making inexpensive versions of an American pilsner. These were the original Northwest microbreweries before the macrobreweries swallowed them up and in most cased killed them off. Names like Henry Weinhard's, Blitz and Olympia were some of the more popular brands.

One of the cheapest -- in price as well as taste -- was Rainier. But their advertising campaign was pure quirky gold. Everyone in the region knew the RainBeers, large Rainier bottles with legs that were chased all over the Northwest by men equipped with oversized bottle openers.

And, of course, there was the one with the motorcycle.

My friends and I, somehow got on the topic of Nothwest beers from back then and someone says: Remember Rainier. One of my old friends and I break into the tagline in unison, doing our best talking-motorcycle impersonations, winding up through the gears.


It was worth a smile and a laugh and one of those "those were the days"-type coments.

Well, tonight, while cruising around the Internet, what did I find, but that very commercial, posted on Thanks to The Brew Site and Beervana for showing the way.

Fun commercials, but bad, bad beer.

Yep, sooner or later everything ends up posted online.

The big day

It's D-Day here at Capital Press. Deadline Day. Our editors will soon be gathering to share information about what's going where in the four regional editions we produce this week.

Sometimes we find out something in one of the other regions is a big story and needs to run in more than one editions. Some times we hear about late breaking developments on stories we had been anticipating.

By the end of day today production work will be wrapped up on the Sept. 1 editions of Capital Press and their fates will be turned over to the press crew and the U.S. Postal Service, to get those editions to readers all over the West, and beyond.

Oops, Managing Editor Carl Sampson is calling the troops together. Got to run for now.

Monday, August 28, 2006

No place like an adopted home

I got back home a bit ago from the Sara Evans concert at the Oregon State Fair.

At the risk of sounding like a groupie, or worse yet a stalker, I've seen Evans in concert three times in the past two years. The first show was in Las Vegas in December 2004 during the National Finals Rodeo when Phil Vassar opened for her at one of the showrooms there. Then last year, I saw Sugarland, Evans and Brad Paisley kick off Paisley's Time Well Wasted tour in Portland in September 2005. I'd seen Paisley once before in Vegas a few years earlier, and enjoy his live performance, but I bought the Portland tickets mostly to see Evans perform again.

So, perhaps it's unnecessary to say, I'm a bit of a Sara Evans fan.

And Evans put on a good show for the crowd just down the road from her adopted home of Aumsville, where she lives with her husband Craig Schelske and their children, when not in Nashville or touring.

Evans may have been born a Missouri farm girl, and as the reigning Academy of Country Music female vocalist of the year she has reached the top echelon of Nashville stardom, but she's called Oregon home, at least part of the time, for more than a decade. And the hometown crowd showed their appreciation in the sold out show.

However, I would be remiss if I didn't point out that The Pavilion on the Oregon State Fairgrounds is not a great concert venue. The acoustics were poor, wish sound crashing off the concrete floor and metal beams and exposed sheetmetal vent pipes. And the ventilation system was also inadequate to cool the indoor venue, either that or the system was turned on too late to do any good.

But Evans, like her fellow songstress Martina McBride, boasts one of the most powerful voices in country music. You'd swear she could fill the venue with pitch-perfect sound even without benefit of a microphone and speakers to amplify her voice.

Unfortunately, like most fair shows, the performance only lasted an hour and a half. I didn't take a notebook along to keep track of the playlist, but several of her hits weren't included in the set. If memory serve (and if any other concert goers want to correct me, please do so in the comments), I don't think she sang "Crying Game," "Fool I'm a Woman," "Momma's Night Out," or "Backseat of a Greyhound Bus." And there was only one encore, a cover of Lionel Ritchie's "Dancing On the Ceiling."

Given Evans' library of hits and selections from her current album, "Real Fine Place," she is certainly capable of filling a two-hour show with songs well known to a country crowd. Considering some of the songs she left out of her set, "Dancing On the Ceiling" may seem like a strange choice for a final song. But perhaps it fit, given the fact that Evans will make an appearance on ABC TV's "Dancing With the Stars" next month. She played that fact up to the audience, going so far as introducing her dance instructor/partner and asking the fans' votes during the show's run. The show debuts Sept. 12.

As the Salem Statesman Journal reported last week, Evans has been training here in Salem with with instructor Tony Dovolani. Evans told the crowd that Dovalani would be going on the road for her to keep up their practice schedule. Evans will play six shows at various venues in California before returning to the Northwest for an appearance at the Eastern Idaho State Fair in Blackfoot, Idaho, on Sept. 8 and then playing to open the Pendleton Round-Up festivities Sept. 9.

The venue did not showcase Evans at her best. She can also be a bit chatty during her shows, as she was in Salem, but her charm gives the audience the feeling that this superstar is still the small town farm girl from Missouri who would gladly stop to chat with you in the produce aisle of the grocery store.

Yes, I'm a fan, but in spite of the fact that I practically begged to get the tickets I had for this show, I almost didn't go. But I kept remembering all those times commuting back and forth to college and seeing the Oregon State Fair billboards advertising the big-name concerts playing the fair. I swore back then that someday, when I had the means, I would go see some of those acts. Well, now, here I am, living just down the road from the fairgrounds with tickets and I was going to pass up the chance to see one of my favorite country singers? I would kick myself for sure.

So, in spite of my malaise, I went to the fairgrounds and had a great time. And I would do it again. (Even though it took almost as long to get out of the parking lot as it took Evans to put on her show.)

Hey, I just realized, my brother said he might have an extra ticket for the Sara Evans concert in Pendleton in less than 2 weeks. Heck, I took him to see Sara Evans in Vegas, so he owes me one. I hope he doesn't hold a grudge that I only got him a card for his birthday last week.

Oh, and I've got friends in my old stomping grounds of Palm Springs, which is just down the road from Sara's Sept. 2 show in Coachella, Calif. And I have some friends and a couple of coworkers in Sacramento, where she's performing Sept. 3.

Do you think six Sara Evans concerts in less than two years would be over the top? If it is, don't tell Sara. I may never be allowed through Aumsville when Evans is in town.

OK, so there's not much about agriculture in this post, but Sara Evans did grow up on a farm. Isn't that close enough?

Spanning the blogosphere to bring you the constant variety of agriculture

Not everyone in the mainstream ag media are convinced that this whole use of websites and things like blogs and podcasts will catch on. At least not anytime soon.

I think it will. There's growing evidence that it has already.

In doing some searching over the weekend I found several more agriculture blogs and added some of them to the blogroll here. I have been tempted over the last year to add everything I find that's ag related, but thus far I'm resisting that urge. For the most part I'm looking out for Western U.S.-based blogs, or at the very least blogs that seem to focus on topics that I think Western farmers, ranchers and others would find interesting or useful.

For anyone who has spent anytime exploring blogs, you've probably discovered that other blogs are often better sources of information that search engines. It has certainly been the case in trying to find agriculture blogs.

I've also found that the people who grow things and blog also tend to lean toward topics like organic and sustainable agriculture or other niches of the ag niche. And you'll find some of those in the blogroll, in part because that's what's out there.

I've also added a little chart from Technorati that will track how often agriculture is mentioned in blog posts daily looking back over the previous 30 days.

Another area that has captivated my attention in recent month is podcasts. And there are some podcasts out there about a variety of ag topics, but for the most part they tend to lean heavily toward ag in the Midwest or South/Southeast. I have no doubt there are nuggets of information in there some would find useful, but a heavy reliance on audio reports on corn, soybeans or weather conditions and crop reports in Texas don't seem to fit the bill for valuable information for West Coast agriculture. If I'm wrong on that, let me know. But for now, I've added links to a couple of podcasts from the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service, including one that is a Washington state report. I hope to expand that listing over time. We've also been talking here at Capital Press about potentially launching a podcast here as well.

So stay tuned for possible developments.

In the meantime, if you are interested in tracking some of the national and Washington state crop report data, you might try the following two links, where you can find links to the podcasts. The direct links to the podcasts' RSS feeds is on the right if you want to plug that into iTunes or some other RSS aggregator.

And, if you find a podcast or blog site that you think would be valuable to West Coast agriculture folks, let me know via e-mail.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Polk County success reflects dedication of volunteers

By Elaine Shein

RICKREALL, Ore. — As the Polk County Soil and Water Conservation District celebrated its 40th anniversary last night in Rickreall, Ore., some of the things that really stood out was the enthusiasm, dedication and closeness of a lot of people who work in the district office either as paid staff, elected board members or volunteers.

It’s always great to have people passionate about what they do as they work towards common goals. In this case, the goals (according to the SWCD’s annual report) include offering technical and financial assistance towards conservation or wise use of soil and water resources in Polk County, supporting watershed management, having educational and outreach efforts related to soil, water and other natural resources, and making sure the operations are “effective, economical, efficient and responsive to legal requirements, funding sources and public needs.”

Perhaps one of the most energetic people at the meeting was the district manager Jackie Hastings, who handles everything from supervising staff, volunteers and interns to prioritizing projects and developing new programs.

Along with the other people in her office, Hastings proudly pointed out how much work and dedication she sees from everyone involved in soil and water conservation projects in her district. The 40th anniversary celebration dedicated the majority of the time recognizing some of the work done by the volunteers, explaining some of their accomplishments, the amount of hours they’ve given, and why their efforts have made a difference.

It was a nice touch that a lot of the awards were plaques with pictures on them of the people as they were involved with different activities and projects through the year. Clearly a lot of the award winners were delighted with these images, but also felt honored to be recognized by their peers.

The efforts of the district have also been receiving national recognition. Last night the district received three out of a possible seven national category awards that are given out by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Appropriately, one of them was the Chief Knight award, given to the district that has the most effective volunteer program in the nation.

After seeing how everyone interacts in the community, it was understandable why the award was given to this district, but also encouraged other people to want to be part of this successful soil and water conservation district in the future.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Farwest show helps grow PNW horticulture

By Elaine Shein

With the ringing of his cell phone and beeping of his two way radio, Geoff Horning was busy a day before the Farwest Show (www.farwest show) officially opened in Portland.

Horning was wearing two hats yesterday: he’s the new executive director of the Oregon Agri-Business Council and helped run its quarterly Board of Directors Meeting at the Oregon Convention Center, but he was finishing the last of his duties for Oregon Association of Nurseries ( as the Trade Show Manager in the same building.

Wearing shorts and a golf shirt, he apologized for dressing so casual, but explained that this was most comfortable running around in the huge convention center — especially when there was so many plants making the building extra humid.

More than 850 exhibitors are taking part this year at the event that is expecting to attract more than 14,000 people from across the country. The Farwest show offers wholesale nursery stock, and serves a valuable role to introduce those who develop and grow the products to those who want to buy it for their businesses.

Ultimately, everyone is thinking what will consumers want: this year a new competition is judging the best of the new varieties, a tough market as the horticultural market continues to grow especially in the Pacific Northwest.

The show is an important one for the horticulture industry. Farmers such as Mark and Darlene Wilmes of Aurora, Ore. have diversified from some of their traditional crops such as hops, grass seed and vegetables to developing greenhouses for certain types of horticulture crops.

In their case, they specialized in vines and climbing plants, and found it to be one of the more profitable parts of their overall business.

However, with the increased important of horticulture in the Pacific Northwest, there also is increased competition to come up with new, more popular varieties of plants with consumers. Consumers want something colorful, has a nice texture and a wonderful scent, but they also want something easy to grow, according to one of the judges this year, Allan Armitage from University of Georgia. Armitage is a professor at the department of horticulture there.

And, as he pointed out, the amount and types of promotion often influences how the consumers will perceive the plant and whether they buy them.

(Stay tuned to Capital Press’ website for print and audio coverage on some of the exhibitors such as the Wilmes, an interview with Horning, and discussing with Armitage what he looks for and thinks consumers want).

The show, which runs August 24-26, kicked off on Wednesday with seminars geared towards greenhouse, nursery, retail and landscapers. These will continue during the next few days.

While Horning and everyone else put the finishing touches on the show yesterday, amidst forklifts, bags, boxes, crates and flowers and shrubbery still waiting to be put in place, there was a sense of urgency but also a sense of excitement.

Pacific Northwest horticultural growers are proud of what they produce. The Farwest show is a perfect place to exhibit what these companies have to offer, no matter how big or small they are and the amount of money they can invest in promotion, on a more equal footing with their competitors.

Links: Capital Press Oregon Association of Nurseries Farwest show

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Watermelon worth the price

The billboard has been taunting me for weeks. "Look for the sticker" the large sign implores along my daily route home from work.

But it's not the words they got to me. Not those words anyway. It was the image of a ripe, juicy piece of fruit that has been as much a part of summer in my family as the Fourth of July and long, hot sunny days.


And not just any watermelon. Hermiston watermelon.
My mouth waters every time I drive past the billboard. But I can't just blame the clever marketing campaign for being possessed by the imagery on the sign. No the real blame goes to my grandfather and my father.

My grandfather, my mom's father, introduced me to watermelon when I was very young. Every summer, for as long as the succulent fruit lasted each season, Grandpa Leis had watermelon for lunch and dinner. Or maybe I should say dinner and supper as the midday and evening meals were known by those names respectively in the Nebraska panhandle community where I was born.

Fresh fruit and vegetable, usually from my grandmother's garden, but sometimes from neighboring farms, were part of every summer meal. The canned versions, home-canned mind you, were part of every winter meal too. But you can't can watermelon. It just wound't be right to each watermelon out of a pressure-cooled Bell or Mason jar. You have to sink a knife right into the melon's heart and let the red blood spill out on the counter, your plate and your chin.

Grandpa would cut off a big slice of watermelon and eat it down to the rind, with an occasional shake of salty to add a little zip to the sweet fruit flavor. Then the rind itself was fed to the chickens. Nothing went to waste from a watermelon, well, except maybe those pesky black seeds. But even those could be a source of amusement for a young grandchild enjoying a slice of melon with his granddad.

One year after a summer of meals featuring watermelon, sweet corn, cucumbers and countless other harvest treasures, my dad packed me up, along with my mom, young brother Ron, newborn brother Dean and moved us to Oregon -- smack dab in the middle of a watermelon country. Hermiston watermelon country that is, in Umatilla County in Eastern Oregon.

Every summer, when watermelons turned ripe, there were always plenty of melons at our house. my dad, being an ag pilot, or what folks often refer to as a "crop duster," did work for many of the farmers in and around our area. No one from our family, or anyone on my dad's work crew, could drive a pickup (or any rig for that matter) past one of the farms dad did business with without getting loaded down with food at harvest time. Onions, potatoes, asparagus, sweet corn and of course watermelon. Hermiston watermelon.

A few years after I graduated from college I was back in Hermiston working as the editor for a small weekly paper when then-mayor Frank Harkenrider guilted me in to making a trip to Portland one summer. Harkie -- everyone who know Mayor Harkenrider called him Harkie -- was leading a contingents of local dignitaries delivering a ceremonial first load of melons for the season to Portland. It was 1992 and only the second year of what has now become an annual pilgrimage of produce to Portland that celebrated its 16th anniversary this year. Harkie may have been a small town mayor, but he was a bit flamboyant and knew a publicity opportunity when he saw one.

He was taking the melons straight to Portland City Hall and dropping them, figuratively at least, into the lap of the even more flamboyant Portland mayor, J.E. "Bud" Clark.
Clark and his trademark "Whoop, whoop" became nationally, even globally, known as the tavern keeper who upset an incumbent mayor and took over leadership of Oregon's largest city. Clark was also known for posing for a famous poster in the 1980s with the slogan "expose yourself to art" while wearing a trench coat and seemingly flashing a sculpture of a woman in downtown Portland. Clark, who sold autographed copies of the poster to help pay off his campaign debt, signed several copies of his poster for the Hermiston delegation on that summer day back in 1992. It was his last year in office. He even signed one for a certain young journalist, who still has it hanging on a wall in his home.

But perhaps I digress. Needless to say, watermelons, and Hermiston watermelons in particular have long been a summer favorite. But during 10 years I spent in California, they were impossible to find. And California melons, though most of them were seedless and tasted fine, just didn't taste the same. Anyone who has had a Hermiston watermelon will tell you they are special. And if they people are from the Hermiston area, they'll tell you Hermiston melons are the best.

So over the weekend I had the opportunity to take my daughter back to visit family in Eastern Oregon and we stopped to visit Grandma Leis, who is now living in my parents' home. Grandpa Leis, who would have celebated his 92nd birthday Aug. 21, has been gone 23 years now. But Grandma is still here, and celebrates her 92nd birthday on Wednesday, Aug 23. And that baby brother, just a newborn on that trek West by air over the Oregon Trail, turns 33 on Friday, Aug. 25.

And in the fridge during that visit there was a big, ripe Hermiston watermelon in the fridge, and two more in the utility room by the back door. The one in the fridge tasted great, I can assure you, and one of the ones in the utility room was liberated. It made the trip back to Salem with me. Complete with its "A Product of Oregon" sticker, attesting to the fact that it is indeed a Hermiston watermelon, "Grown & Distributed by Walchli Farms."
And all it cost me was $60 worth of gas and seven hours on the road to get it.

I hope everyone is enjoying some fresh "locally grown" produce this summer and making some lifelong memories with their family and friends too. Thanks for going along on the ride with me Suzanna. And thanks from teaching me how to eat watermelon, Grandpa. Oh, and happy birthday Grandma. And yea, you too Dean. Thanks for the melon, Mom and Dad. And thank the Walchli's for me too.

That billboard isn't haunting or taunting me any more.

(Read a related post about the 2007 watermelon giveaway: Blogriculture: Former melon thief now gives 'em away

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Farm Bill is a burning issue … literally

By Elaine Shein

Time is ticking — anyone who wishes to submit formal input, as long as they want, into what they believe should be in the Farm Bill for 2007, from a Western point of view — has until this Sunday to do so. Other brief comments can be given beyond that date, following instructions found at

This week the Senator Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry held a Farm Bill Field Hearing in Redmond, Ore. (See for stories and audio clips).

One of the topics discussed was forestry, how it was affected by the 2002 Farm Bill and what changes should be made in future farm bills.

Some people in the audience noted that the speaker from the department of forestry had a longer speaking opportunity than the closely monitored maximum three minutes that other speakers had for their opening comments. There were 12 speakers in total that morning.

The chairman of the committee, Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said in a later interview that one of the reasons he was so interested and had so many questions on forestry was that a day earlier he saw forest fires first-hand. Senator Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) had flown in a helicopter with Chambliss and they covered a lot of ground, examining some of the fires as well as efforts to fight them.

It seemed appropriate that during the hearing at the South Sisters hall on the Deschutes Fair and Expo grounds, the roar of planes could be occasionally heard from the nearby airport as they took off to fight fires at nearby Lake George.

While the smoke could be detected at Redmond, it was much worse at Sisters, where it was noticeably hazy in the streets and was stinging the eyes. The longest lineups in town were at an outside bulletin board with fire information, and at the local homemade ice cream shop along the main road through town. It was obvious a lot of tourists, as well as local residents, wanted to know which areas were dangerous or no longer open to them.

Why should people care about what’s in the next Farm Bill? There are so many parts to it, not just supporting certain commodities. Part of it includes food stamps, school lunches, conservation programs, and yes, fighting fires. If people want to have a say on what should or shouldn’t be done on forestry lands to help prevent — or to salvage logs after — fires, they should also take the time to write in their opinions to the committee.

As for the parts of Oregon and other parts of the nation that are burning, good luck to the firefighters on the ground and also by air. May they be successful at the dangerous work they do, but also may they return safely to their homes later.

Links: Capital Press Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutritious and Forestry


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Bloggers beware?

By Elaine Shein

Can people write whatever they want in a blog?
What happens to a newspaper if one of its reporters or editors writes a blog and someone decides to sue?
Does it make a difference if this was a work blog or written as a personal blog?
In the August edition of Editor & Publisher there is a great story that encourages discussion and stirs debate on the world of blogs.
According to the story, it states that Technorati “estimates that some 75,000 blogs are created every day, nearly one per second, joining the more than 40 million blogs already populating cyberspace. That’s twice as many blogs as there were just six months ago.”
And then comes the questions: who is legally responsible for the material that appears in these blogs?
While blogs were created to encourage freedom to publish a diversity of opinions and subjects on the world wide web and become the bulletin board, diary or soapbox of anyone who wishes, legal experts are warning people to be careful.
In the case of bloggers tied to the traditional media, the print or broadcast owners may be responsible for libelous material that occurs on a blog by someone on their staff — even if the material was published as a personal blog.
Some of the issues that appear in the E&P article to think about:
Publishers need to think about “the balance between editing for liability and preserving the spontaneity of a blog.”
What kind of crosschecking on content was done on blogs before they were posted?
Newspapers need to check if their libel insurance will cover freelancers who blog on the company’s website.
If a staff person writes a personal blog from home, it may still be subject to defamation suits because of who the staff person is and the weight that that person’s job carries for the company.
If some of the comments or blogs from outsiders are edited by a company before they are posted online (even if it was to take out profane or offensive language), the company may bear some legal responsibility because they have been active in editing and decision making.
Newspapers may want to post on their websites that comments will be monitored and that “viewers should notify a newspaper’s online site about reputed errors, omissions or potentially libelous third-party postings.”
A disclaimer should also be added that the views expressed don’t reflect the “newspaper or its staff or its advertisers.”
Codes of ethics or guidelines for staff at media outlets should also add something about blogging.
The E&P article also suggested buying more insurance against libel, to cover blogging activity — and be prepared to answer how content is edited to protect against libel.
So what do fellow bloggers think of all this?
I invite you to respond to

Friday, August 04, 2006

Spit and polish hat makes fashion statement

Photo by Jenny Sullivan, Oregon Agri-Business Council.

By Elaine Shein

If you’re looking for the ol’ spit-and-polish look for special occasions, there is a spitty (er, spiffy) top hot that will make anyone look ready for such occasions.

It’s the watermelon top hat. And they are rolling into cities in the Northwest.

Bob Severson, the mayor of Hermiston, wore the dashing hat at Portland’s Pioneer Square today as he helped inspire Portland’s mayor Tom Potter to try his skill at a watermelon seed spitting contest.

Not to be confused with some of the cherry pit or pumpkin seed spitting contests that take place in the northwest at other times, this was a great promotion for Hermiston’s watermelons which are some of the best tasting ones you can find this time of year in stores and farmers’ markets.

This event definitely attracted the media attention. One can see the daring reporters leaning in close enough to catch the spitting sound on their microphones but keeping enough distance away to avoid being spit upon.


My thanks and hats off to Jenny Sullivan, from Oregon’s Agri-Business Council, who witnessed this event and kindly sent in the picture — as well as where people can buy these hats if they lack skills to create the hats themselves. (Remember, farmers are not responsible for any unfortunate incidents that involve people cutting up fresh fruit and smucking the half-carved fruits on top of their heads. And never use power tools to try this at home.)

These hats also make great gifts for the family members you adore and feel are in dire need of making a fashion statement, whatever that statement might be.


Three minutes to save the Farm Bill?

By Elaine Shein

Three minutes.

That’s all the time that will be given to people who want to influence the Senate when it holds hearings on the Farm Bill in different parts of the nation.

On August 15, Deschutes County Fairgrounds in Redmond, Ore. will be one of the few places to host a hearing. While the list of presenters has not yet been made public, some of the people who are invited to speak have said that it was very clear that they only had three minutes to make their case on what they think should be done with the Farm Bill.
They can also offer written documents to support their viewpoints — they can write 50 pages or more, if they want — but the truth is that probably these short face-to-face exchanges that have the most impact on the influential politicians who will visit the state.

The Farm Bill is huge, costly and complicated but has a lot of areas in it that are critical to farmers across the country, particularly in some commodity and geographical areas.

While some farmers may feel they receive little benefit from the bill, there are probably parts of it affecting their businesses that they may not even be aware of unless all the programs suddenly ended.

For many, the Farm Bill was a way to offer domestic support for farmers at least until a level trading field could be guaranteed internationally. With the demise of the recent Doha World Trade Organization talks, farmers are more anxious to continue some form of stability in their markets and programs.

One of the messages that the Senate hearings will receive is that a large number of agricultural groups will want an extension of the Farm Bill for at least another year past its expiry date. This allows more details to be worked out for domestically helping farmers, but also leaves some wiggle room for perhaps international talks to be revived.

With only three minutes to make a case, that might be the only message that can get to the Senators during their summer tour.

If they seriously want to learn the best advice on how to have a better Farm Bill, they better consider longer trips next time and give more time to speakers to make their case.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Neighborhood Watch helps prevent crimes

By Elaine Shein

When you live in a rural community, you often know your neighbors for a few miles around. You meet them at local events, you call them when the cattle have escaped through a broken fence and you share local gossip.

City life is different. You can live across the street or down the block from neighbors and not know even what their faces look like.

The only time you might see them is when you’re collecting your mail at the same time, dealing with some weather related incident, being approached by them for fundraising events for their kids or they’re attempting to get you signed up for a political party during an election year.

Sometimes it might be a crime in the area that stirs neighbors to finally unite in an effort to share information and prevent further crimes from taking place.

The Neighborhood Watch program is a good one that is built on the latter reason to unite neighbors, but also gives an opportunity for neighbors to meet each other socially.

This week across the country there was an event called National Night Out, encouraging people to get together with events such as potluck dinners so they can get to know each other better but also learn tips on how to fight crime.

In Salem, Ore. alone there were a record 132 block parties held on August 1. Police representatives received more than a hundred requests to attend these parties, and really attempted to get to as many as possible. Some officers attended several in one evening, with helpers to keep them on track.

Attending the local potluck event in my area, I realized just how many people I didn’t know from down the street or even within a 4-block area. There were the familiar greetings of “which street do you live on? Which house is yours?” but also questions like “What vehicle do you drive? Do you have any kids? Pets?”

Depending on your answers, it could open up a great conversation or lead to some awkward moments. “Oh, that’s YOUR dog that barks all the time? That car that speeds all the time belongs to YOUR husband? You mean those loud teenagers that hang out at 2 a.m. on our street with the blaring stereos are YOUR horrible, undisciplined offspring?”

And of course there is the realization that those ignored healthy dandelions hidden in your yard might be the ones happily replanting themselves in the yards of these nice neighbors.

Awkward moments aside, the meeting was a success. Contact sheets were handed out so people know who their neighbors are and how to contact them at work and home in case of emergency. The police officer gave details on programs to prevent car thefts, mark possessions better in case they are stolen, and encouraged people to know more about each other — such as when are people away on vacation, or on prolonged business trips — so they can contact the police department if something suspicious happens in the area.
Among the suggestion was that people write or engrave OR (for Oregon) and their drivers’ license number on possessions so if they’re stolen, police can quickly return the possessions if they are found later.

Another suggestion was that people buy $2 stickers from the police department to put on vehicles. If that vehicle with its sticker is spotted on the streets between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., the police will stop it to ensure the car has not been stolen.

While some people thought this was a great idea, other people admitted being paranoid of having stickers that invite police to follow and stop them. After all, what if that person was occasionally out driving during those times? Or maybe was not wearing a seatbelt or had a few too many social drinks earlier?

The police officer gave a lot of statistics at the block party, but perhaps the most convincing one was that 98 percent of the crimes done in this city are in neighborhoods that don’t have Neighborhood Watch programs.

On that reason alone people should consider bonding together under Neighborhood Watch programs more to help prevent crimes in their areas, whether in urban or rural areas.

In rural areas, distances between neighbors leads to crime problems since they can’t see each other’s houses or fields. It has been terrible that rural areas have been hit for theft for everything from fuel to cattle to irrigation equipment parts that are resold as scrap metal by meth addicts.

But hopefully warning signs and vigilance by neighbors will help protect areas in the future while also encouraging people to feel more like a protective community, rather than a group of single vulnerable dwellings.

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