Friday, June 29, 2007

One restaurant for every 664 people ...

The Wall Street Journal has reported that according to the National Restaurant Association, “as of 2003, there was one restaurant for every 664 people in the U.S” compared to “one for every 1,029” only 30 years before.

I’ll think about that next time I’m standing in line for a long period of time in front of my favorite restaurants.

Unfortunately, some of my favorites had no line ups — and they’re now out of business.

Why should farmers and ranchers care about what’s happening with restaurants?

Whether it’s fancy restaurants or fast food places, some of the restaurants that might have been successful a decade ago might be struggling now.

With all the competition, there will continue to be more research into consumer trends and tastes. Ultimately this will affect what food ingredients are used, what methods are used to cook the food, and what size will be offered in these food establishments.

In the past, farmers and ranchers thought their job was to produce the crops and animals needed, and let the marketplace figure out how to get the customer to buy and eat the product.

Now the consumer has a bigger choice but is more selective: The customer has become the controller of the fates of restaurants as well as back to the farmgate, and anyone who doesn’t stay tuned to the trends may find the business exists no more.

Technorati tags:

Celebrity machinery: a new line of income?

Any farmer with some old machinery around the fields or yard may be considering what’s the best thing to do when it’s time to get rid of it.

There’s always the auction route, but you never what that final bid will look like. There’s a possibility to trade in that machine at a dealership, depending on how well it works. A newspaper classified ad is another option, since one farmer’s junk might be another one’s treasure when it comes to filling a need for parts. More farmers lately have also decided higher scrap metal prices are a nice incentive to clean up some of that broken down machinery piled up around the yard.

And now there’s another option that perhaps has some potential: why not market it a celebrity piece of equipment?

A press release from New Holland explained how a small tractor helped raise $7,100: “The one-of-a-kind New Holland compact tractor autographed by more than two dozen celebrities who competed in the popular “Michael Peterson/New Holland Celebrity Tractor Race” during the 2006 CMA Music Festival Fan Fair in Nashville is now owned by Kyle Wilson, Agro Equipment Co., Uvalde, TX. Wilson was the online auction winner for this first celebrity tractor.”

The money went for a valuable cause. “Proceeds from the auction will benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Habitat for Humanity, the charity selected by 2006 Celebrity Tractor Race winner, country music artist Wade Hayes, who also autographed the tractor….

“The winner of the 2007 “Michael Peterson/New Holland Celebrity Tractor Race” which was held on June 10 at this year’s CMA Music Festival in Nashville is Todd Fritsch, country music star. Fritsch beat out 40 other celebrities to win this year’s race and chose Saddle Up!, a therapeutic recreational horseback riding program for children with mental and physical disabilities, for his charity. When this year’s celebrity-autographed tractor is auctioned off, the proceeds will be split between the National FFA and Saddle Up!” said the release.

The tractor that was auctioned off was a blue New Holland TZ22DA Boomer sub-compact tractor with a 60” mower deck.

True, it looks a bit smaller, newer and cleaner than some of the machinery around farms, but don’t give up. Remember, the autographs on the machine will be worth more than the nice paint job and whether the machinery actually works.

Why, who knows, someone might think a few layers of rust and dust add authenticity and show this is a longtime, hard-working machine that deserves respect.

So gather up those who tractors, plows, seeders, and anything else you can find, and start writing celebrities and their agents. It’s time to start a campaign to encourage celebrities to autograph farm machinery; even better, warmly invite the celebrities to work an hour or two on the fields sitting in the seats of those tractors, combines or swathers. That way, it’s easier to market as being actually operated by the star, the celebrity gains a whole new appreciation for the job of a farmer — and some work gets done, too.

When selling the machinery later, explain it’s for a good cause: you can donate funds to FFA, 4-H or another organization that benefits your community.

Or, use the money to help your own bottom line. You deserve a few extra dollars for helping feed the world.

Technorati tags:

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Would you rather live in Happy Valley or Fossil?

The U.S. Census Bureau released statistics today on which communities grew and which went down. It showed that Happy Valley, a suburb of Portland, Ore., was one of the fastest growing communities nationally with a 20 percent increase.

Rural areas in Eastern Oregon were among those that lost the most percentage wise. Places like Fossil, Ore. One can’t help but wonder if the name has something to do with what happens to population trends.

Let’s see, the average age of a citizen in Fossil is … ? Dare we ask?

Meanwhile, Happy Valley just sounds so darn happy. Cheerful. Welcoming. Forget the war, politics, inflation, West Nile Virus, the price of oil or whether Larry King should have painfully interviewed Paris Hilton for a whole hour.

Hide away in Happy Valley and become oblivious to all those things.

However, ask rural people where they want to live and probably most of them would prefer the quieter countryside than being part of a city suburb.

For anyone outside of the West who wonders what has happened to the Wild West, the census indicates that the West continues to get more populated. Phoenix, as of July 1, 2006, reached 1.5 million and beat Philadelphia to become the fifth largest city in the country.

Mind you, that still seems like wide open spaces compared to Los Angeles at second place with 3.8 million people or New York — the biggest city in the country — with 8.2 million people probably mostly fighting for taxis. At least they didn’t have to do it in sweltering temperatures of more than 100 degrees, compared to Phoenix last week.

Remind us all again: why do people want to live in these hot, crowded places compared to a nice, decent rural community where everyone knows your name, the color of your pickup truck and where to drop off your dog after he wanders down the road?

One of the interesting points made in the press release about the new numbers: “Only three of the top 10 from 1910 remained on the list in 2006: New York, Chicago and Philadelphia. Conversely, three of the current top 10 cities (Phoenix; San Jose, Calif.; and San Diego) were not even among the 100 most populous in 1910, while three more (Dallas, Houston and San Antonio) had populations of less than 100,000.”

Next time you visit Texas, just remember the Alamo is getting a bit crowded.

California continues to grow, and it’s not all movie stars. “California had seven cities among the 25 fastest growing, leading all states.” Something to keep in mind as everyone wonders what will happen to precious water supplies and valuable farm land that is needed to support these growing populations.

Of course, it’s not just suburbs that are growing. The stats show that the usual vacation hotspots in the West — like Bend and Sisters in Oregon — have also continued to grow.

Perhaps it’s best if we remember that people don’t always move to seek great retirement communities in the desert, year-around vacation homes in the mountains or to seek fashion and excitement in a ritzy metropolis.

Sometimes circumstances have forced people with little warning to abandon their former homes.

It is not a great surprise that New Orleans has lost more than half the population it had before Hurricane Katrina. One can only guess where — or what — they now call home, and what should happen if another hurricane strikes in the next few months.

The people who lose their homes to disasters such as tornados, hurricanes or other natural disasters should perhaps be the first ones offered a chance to live in Happy Valley and start all over again.

Technorati tags:

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Itching to solve global warming?

Anyone keeping track of the pluses and minuses when it comes to the impact of climate change will find another reason to be concerned about what happens if the climate warms up.

We’ll probably be itchier.

Places in red are where in America poison ivy is most commonly found. Note the West is relatively safe from it. (Graphic from

The Wall Street Journal today ran a story about how research has shown the more carbon dioxide there is in the air, the healthier the poison ivy plants as it creates “ideal conditions for the plant, producing bigger leaves, faster growth, hardier plants and oil that’s even more irritating.”

Just great: the one area of increased oil production that won’t be positive for us.
Instead, urushiol oil — found in poison ivy but also in poison oak, which is more common here in the West — will be more potent in therefore we will be more sensitive and itchier.

One would suspect poison oak would probably thrive just as eagerly on more carbon dioxide.

Researchers tested the plants at 1950s carbon dioxide atmosphere levels and current levels. According to WSJ, the researchers found after eight months of exposure, “leaf size, stem length and weight and oil content of the plants raised at current carbon-dioxide levels were, on average, 50-75 percent higher than plants under the 1950s conditions…”
WSJ added that the research also showed the hardier plants “recovered more quickly from the ravages of grazing animals.”

Obviously hungrier animals are needed. And more of them.

Click here to find out more about poison oak, or its equally awful companion and poison ivy.

The poison ivy website is particularly … interesting, to say the least. It includes pictures in its “Skin Rash Hall of Fame” that it explains as the following: “Viewers have sent in their own rash photos. If you want to see what the rash looks like, click here, but be warned — these rash pix are seriously grody.”

To even get to the pictures, you need to go through more warnings such as “Welcome to the Poison Ivy Rash Hall of Fame slide show. If you really want to see these pictures you may proceed, but I do suggest you not view these right before dinner, particularly if you are an adult. Kids may go right ahead.” Then click on “I want to see REALLY grody pictures of poison ivy the rash.”

After even seeing one picture, you get choices of what you want to do next, such as “Yuck! I want to GO BACK and re-read your warning and then call my lawyer” or “Wow! Great rash! Let's see some more!” There are equally great little sayings throughout the whole slide show. For those who venture through the whole show without turning back, congratulations. And may you sleep well tonight.

Finally, the website does put into perspective how serious is it that climate change will produce healthier, more powerful poison ivy: “It is hardly the most scary aspect of global warming, compared to Florida under water.”

True. But Florida under water would definitely be temporarily more soothing to the people itching from poison ivy.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Beavers serve up tasty win for Oregon's governor

There's some tasty North Carolina barbecue grub coming out West, thanks to the Oregon State Beavers' repeat drubbing of the University of North Carolina Tar Heels for the NCAA baseball championship.

Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski and North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley make a friendly wager on the outcome of the championship series late last week.

But, perhaps Kulongoski ought to send the package he wagered anyway. Those folks in Carolina have seen what Oregon has to offer on the baseball diamond in the College World Series for two consecutive years now. Maybe they should also get a taste of the agriculture and food products we have out West too.

Congratulations to my alma mater OSU!

Here's the press release below Gov. Kulongoski's office issued today congratulating Oregon State.

June 25, 2007

Governor Congratulates Beavers on World Series Repeat, Commends UNC and Governor Easley on a Thrilling Weekend
Governors Kulongoski and Easley had agreed to a gentlemen’s wager on the series

Salem – Today Governor Ted Kulongoski offered his hearty congratulations to the Oregon State Beavers baseball team for their repeat championship in the NCAA College World Series this weekend with a pair of impressive 11-4 and 9-3 victories over the University of North Carolina Tar Heels.

“I think I can safely say that for at least one day, all Oregonians – all Beavers, all Ducks, all Vikings, even all Pilots – stand united in saying that we couldn’t be more proud of you,” said Governor Kulongoski. “Pat Casey and every member of the team have done an amazing job, putting the rest of the nation on notice that Beaver baseball is a force to be reckoned with.”

Last week, Kulongoski made a gentleman’s bet with North Carolina Governor Mike Easley on the outcome of the series. Governor Easley wagered one pound of barbecue, one bottle of barbecue sauce and one pint of slaw from both Wilber’s Barbecue of Goldsboro and the Barbecue Center Inc. of Lexington and a case of Cheerwine if the Beavers won. Governor Kulongoski put up a basket of products made in Oregon including a sampling of Pacific seafood, Oregon artisan cheeses, Oregon Brewers Guild craft beer and hazelnuts – perfect snack foods for an afternoon of baseball.

“The beavers showed up too strong in Omaha,” said Governor Easley. “Governor Kulongoski was their strongest supporter and I congratulate him and Oregon State on a great championship. I hope we will get a chance to play again next year. Go Beavers!”

“I appreciate Governor Easley’s kind words and the tasty North Carolina barbecue – a great way to enjoy this victory,” said Governor Kulongoski. “I look forward to next year and, who knows, perhaps another great rematch next season?”

The Beavers defeated the Tar Heels in the championships of the 2006 NCAA World Series. The Beavers are the first back-to-back champions since Louisiana State University in 1996-1997.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Coleman wins top American cowboy title

As July 4th draws closer, there is more promotion everywhere for rodeos that are taking place here in the West, including the ones in St. Paul and Mollala, Ore.

Last year, organizers of the St. Paul Rodeo explained that July 4 is like Christmas for cowboys: there is a flurry of rodeos and some of the best cash prizes are offered. Cowboys will rush to as many of the rodeos as they can, often by private airplane if they can, to try to earn some of the prize money.

For rodeo lovers, it’s a real treat to see some of the best cowboys competing in small as well as large rodeos. It’s even better when some of their local heroes are taking part.

In Oregon, the Coleman family is among those who have been popular with crowds. In an interview at his ranch a year ago near Mollala, former rodeo champion Steve Coleman showed the rodeo arena he built for his kids to train for rodeo events. When they weren’t training, the arena was used to store bales for his hay business.

Two of Steve’s sons — Ross and Mitch Coleman — have shown themselves to be quite accomplished on the rodeo circuit, although neither of them competed in any events at St. Paul last year.

Steve was still very involved, serving as the chute boss. He decided which cowboy was ready to go out of the chutes, and in matters of seconds the cowboys were victorious or bit the dust of defeat.

Ross Coleman is usually is the center of attention for his success as a bullrider and also for his ATV commercials. In mid-June, an injury on his knee led to a staf infection that required some surgery, and he will need four to six weeks to recover.

Meanwhile, Christmas came early for Ross’ 21-year-old brother Mitch Coleman, who has gained more national recognition in the last few weeks.

Mitch was taking part in the CMT search for “America’s Top Cowboy” described as the “ultimate, great American cowboy.” Besides the title, the winner of the six contestants received $50,000.

The proud older brother Ross posted on his website the results: “Just wanted to announce that my younger brother, Mitch won America’s Next Top Cowboy! He was on a TV show on CMT and kicked their butt! He competed against 6 other cowboys and took the top prize of $50,000 dollars. We are all so proud of him and knew he could do it.”

CMT on its website introduced Mitch to an audience that might not have been familiar with him: “Mitch considers himself an “All Around Cowboy” who can ride bucking horses and bulls, rope calves, team rope, bulldog, win at the rodeo and come home to work on the ranch. He has won numerous All Around titles in Rodeos and Ranch Rodeos, and he competes in the PRCA and the PBR.”

The other five contestants were also played up for what they can do. Scott Whinfrey, from California, was described as the following on the website: “He can ride, rope, move cattle, doctor animals, make tack, cook, sleep on the ground, build and fix fences, pack horses, shoe, sing sad cowboys songs, play guitar, brand, castrate, butcher, and drive a truck; plus he can do it all in Spanish. He has ridden bulls in amateur rodeos in Oregon, Washington, Mexico, Chile, Argentina and Australia.”

Each one of the contestants was impressive in what they have accomplished in the past, as well as what they could do in the competition. To emerge as the winner, Mitch Coleman showed just how much he learned from his father and the local rodeos, and those hours of practice with his family and friends in the big arena on their ranch.

CMT’s list of contestants included:

Bradley Harter — Bronc Riding Champion from Weatherford, TX

Chad Klein — a third generation cowboy from Stephenville, TX

Jason Patrick — expert horse trainer from Steamboat Springs, CO.

Jason Vohs — champion “tie down” roper from Las Vegas, NV

Mitch Coleman — “All around Cowboy” for Oregon state from Molalla, OR

Scott Whinfrey — internationally competitive ranch cowboy from Silt, CO.

The competition included “livestock roundups, horseback shooting contests, bronc busting and a cowboy triathlon event,” and CMT described some of the challenges before it even started: “Some will be physically drained from the riding, roping and calf wrestling, while others will contend with stage fright during the local Honky Tonk talent show. Throughout each event, the guys will be evaluated on their sportsmanship, ability and overall passion for ranching.”

Even though the Colemans have shown themselves successful on the rodeo circuit, anyone who has met the Colemans can see and understand how deep that passion for ranching runs in several generations of the family.

It’s only fitting that it should be a Western cowboy that earned that top American cowboy title.

Technorati tags:

Rodeo rides on big Shoulders

Butch Thurman, a contributing rodeo columnist for the Capital Press and president of the Pendleton Round-Up, wrote a special column this week about the death of rodeo's biggest champion ever, Jim Shoulders.

The legendary cowboy died this week at 79.

Butch's column is not available in this week's print editions of Capital Press, it is only available online.

I never got a chance to see Shoulders ride. His dominance of professional rodeo ended before I was born, but his name and legacy is known to all rodeo fans. But now, even those of us who didn't get a chance to see Shoulders ride live, can watch him now, thanks to the Internet, and the site Rodeo Up from the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, which has been described as a YouTube-type site for cowboys.

I've tried embedding the video here, but if it doesn't work, click here.

Good ride cowboy. Thanks for all you did for the sport of professional rodeo, inspiring generations of champions.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Website remains down

Another day, another ... attack of the bots, spammers, spiders, etc. and the result is our main website of remains down.

Our network provider hopes we'll be able to fix the problem later today, but until then our website may be a bit troublesome to access.

Thanks for your patience and understanding.

And really, it is down. It isn't a case of us overcelebrating the win by the Beavers baseball team in Nebraska.

Technorati tags:

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Attack of the (non-killer) bots

Call it the Attack of the (non-killer) Bots … or Battle of the Bots …
For those of us who post to our company website, it’s been frustrating the last few days as glitches at the network end of our provider have tested our patience.

We could have the most incredible, amazing, dynamic, earth-shattering news story to excitedly share with our Web audience but we couldn’t guarantee we could have it posted as quickly as we would like.

We’ve struggled. We’ve torn out our hair. We’ve cursed. We felt cursed.

We wasted valuable time that could have been spent cheering for our OSU Beavers baseball team at the NCAA baseball championship in Omaha.

We’ve been told that even after the network problem was fixed, “we began being attacked by bots which is overloading the servers.”

I guess bots can be good and bad. Bots (think robots) are computer programs that automatically enter websites searching for new information to add to search engine indexes. For example Google bots enter our website, find our new stories we posted on say, immigration, and next thing you know it sends out automatically to people internationally — through Google Alerts — a note that they can find our immigration stories through a link provided by Google.

The good thing is more people find out about what we have posted on our website. The bad thing is, they can throw off statistics of how many hits a website gets, or — as our latest adventure has shown us — they can attack our sites to the point where it can affect the job we try to do and leave us almost weeping miserably. Or maybe we were weeping over that loss of hair …

For anyone with a good imagination, the images of these attacking bots is right up there with bad horror movies like the Blob, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes and … well, name your favorite bad horror or horribly bad movie here.

We thank people for their patience as we continue to work on getting breaking news and news updates posted as soon as possible on our website.

And by the way, Go Beavers!

Technorati tags:

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Outages affecting Capital Press website

Due to technical problems with our website provider, the Capital Press website has suffered periodic outages in recent days.

Our provider's technical staff is working on this issue and hopes to have the situation corrected shortly. The outages have also affected the websites for the East Oregonian, Daily Astorian, Wallowa County Chieftain, Chinook Observer, Blue Mountain Eagle and affiliated websites.

We appreciated your patience during the outages and thank you for visiting

Monday, June 18, 2007

When would you contact a politician?

What issue would make you upset enough or be of such importance that you would feel the urge to contact your politician and voice your opinion?

A story in today’s Oregonian newspaper about immigration talked about what a hot issue it has been for politicians, in this case Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden and Republican Sen. Gordon Smith. People have been showing up at meetings, protesting outside their offices, as well as writing letters, phoning and emailing them.

The newspaper gave an example of how public reaction has been to the immigration issue. There was a vote held in the Senate on whether or not to continue debate on the proposed immigration bill.

“Smith’s office received about 4,000 calls on immigration in the three weeks before the vote. Iraq, the second most common topic for callers, drew about 120 calls in that same period,” reported the Oregonian. Meanwhile, “Wyden's office has received hundreds of passionate calls a day about immigration.”

The newspaper quoted Wyden: “The strongest sentiments are from people who are against the bill. But in that sense, that is always the way it is. Folks who tend to be in the middle of the debate listening to both sides tend to be fairly quiet in terms of speaking out.”

It’s interesting to see what sparks people to contact their politicians. Is it surprising that the immigration issue is such a big issue for people here? Would people expect there would be more calls about the Iraq war, health costs, fuel prices, the economy, or any other topic?

Is illegal immigrants really the number one issue in this country?

A bigger question is: what would it take to influence YOU to contact your political representative? What do you think is the most important priority, and what do you want your elected politician to do for you?

It comes down to whether you feel you can make a difference, and whether your elected official has the power to make a difference on your behalf and hopefully represent your specific viewpoint.

Sometimes it comes down to track record.

When was the last time you tried to contact your politician? What type of response did you get? Were you satisfied?

If you’re not busy firing off emails to your local politician, we invite you to share with us your answers to some of these questions. We look forward to the discussion.

Technorati tags:

Gardens have many benefits

For those of us who live in the city, but have roots in rural areas, this is the time of year we yearn to garden.

On my parents’ farm, a large garden was not just a hobby but a necessity. We tried to have enough vegetables to supply us for the entire year, if possible. Carrots, cabbages, beets, onions and especially potatoes went on for rows and rows. While corn was a favorite, it was also a luxury: we received often less than a dozen inches of rain per year, so each drop of water was precious in our ponds, dugouts or storage containers. Corn, unfortunately, usually required more water than we had available.

The garden took several days to weed, and as soon as we appeared to have accomplished weeding that last row, it would be time to start all over again in a continuous battle.

But the big garden was worth the work. The potatoes, onions and carrots would last us through the winter, thanks to being stored in a dark, cool separate room. We were careful to ration the potatoes as winter dragged on, and looked forward to when the new crop of potatoes would be available to bake with dill.

After moving away from the farm, I’ve lived in several different places, from apartments to rental basements to owning my own house. Sometimes there was no room for gardens, sometimes a large garden space was available. Occasionally I concentrated on flowers more than vegetables and herbs, partly because of lack of space or good soil.

Since moving to Oregon, another situation arose: what to do about the endless attacks from slugs. They seem determined, even when I used containers. They just worked up an appetite after climbing any potential barriers I put in their way.

I finally have been forced to place any vegetables and herbs in containers on a second floor deck, although flowers remain on containers on the ground around the yard.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve had to adapt to growing my small garden here that I found a newsletter by the National Garden Bureau to be of interest this morning.

The Bureau has a slogan of “A Garden in Every Yard … or Roof” and encourages everyone to be a gardener, every if they live in a city and need to grow on roofs of buildings instead of traditional ground plots in yards.

The Bureau published an article written by Janis Kieft/ The article has some interesting points of why people should becomes gardeners.

The first suggestion was to have a garden for old or new traditions that families can enjoy doing together, or save money by having “the freshest vegetables and flowers right outside your door….”

Another reason to garden: for the environment, offering habitat and food for animals and preserving native plants, as well as “a place for water to drain naturally, helping plants grown and cycling water back into the ground.”

The bureau added a garden can attract desirable wildlife — birds, butterflies, bees, frogs, squirrels, deer, etc. — although it did note that “gardeners may not always welcome larger animals.”

It reminded me that I am have tried for a couple of weeks, unsuccessfully, to trap a family of raccoons that visit my yard each night. A possum has been trapped thus far and was relocated to a nice new area to live, but the raccoons have continued to set off the cage trap without being caught themselves.

The next reason to garden? To live longer, by “keeping active, both mentally and physically,” according to the Bureau. Besides the benefits of exercise, “gardening provides stimulation of all five senses — sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch” so gardening can help reduce stress by being so pleasantly stimulated.

Perhaps that stimulation counters the stress caused by the sight of so many weeds overtaking the produce, the sounds of a slithering garter snake when it was least expected, and the bites of so many mosquitoes devouring the gardeners in the morning or evening hours.

Gardening is also great for solitude and escape, said the Bureau. Ever notice how whenever there are unwanted relatives visiting, how quickly someone will volunteer to do some gardenwork for a few hours? Escape is the perfect word.

The National Garden Bureau also noted that a garden helps to heal, and that is why hospitals and health care facilities often have gardens that can serve as therapy “whether the scars are physical, emotional or spiritual.”

As the Bureau explained in its press release, “Gardens can be a respite from heartache and despair, a place to enjoy the beauty, scents and surprises of nature. Planting and caring for a beautiful flower or productive vegetable garden provides a sense of accomplishment without pressure, demands or expectations.”

And lastly, gardens inspire children and adults, encouraging creativity in such areas as photography, painting, poetry, music or other ways. “They remind us of everything that is good in our lives — the beauty of nature, the abundance of our land, and the time we have to share with others,” said the press release.

How true. No matter where my gardens have been, big or small, I always marvel at what amazing life form has grown from a tiny seed, how exquisite is a flower or intricate a leaf, and I always eagerly want to share with others what I have grown.

There is always a mix of pride in awe when we can tell our guests the food is from our gardens when they remark how fresh or tasty the food item are on their plates at a meal.

Even though we have a lot of nutritional, safe and tasty food produced by other farmers in this country — for which we are deeply grateful — there’s always a place for us to grow a little garden ourselves and share what we grow.

Technorati tags:

You saw it here first

You've seen the first two versions of a new logo style we've been testing for the Capital Press website in our last Blogriculture post.

Now, see the version that got posted to the site this morning here.

Does that say agriculture, or what?

Kudos to Mark Rozin, photo coordinator for the Capital Press, and the blog readers and Capital Press staff members who offered their feedback on the work as it was in progress.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Growing visually into the future

Last month I posted an entry that including a rough draft of an idea for a new logo for the website. Today I want to post a new version of the logo test.

Our photo coordinator, Mark Rozin, has refined and polished the idea and came up with a new interpretation of the idea.

The newest version

As you can see, its much more sophisticated and cleaner than the first attempt to marry the Capital Press name and farm-and-ranch visuals we feature so prominently and proudly in print and online.

A first attempt

The question is what do you think? Do you think the new version would look good at the top of the website?

We are losing a T from our team

Our little blogging team here at Blogriculture is about to get a little smaller. Tara Polinsky, a copy editor/page designer, is currently working her last shift for Capital Press. Today will be her last day on staff before she starts a new job with the Statesman Journal newspaper here in Salem, Ore.

The place just won't be the same without her.

Tara has carved out a unique little niche here on our blog. As a recent transplant to the Pacific Northwest, she took it upon herself to learn more about her new home. She detailed how she went about exploring Oregon's unique attractions in her first post on Blogriculture. Fortunately for us, she has helped take us all along to share the adventure over the last few months via her photographs and words posted on the blog in a series of posts labeled curiosities.

Thanks for sharing your observations and your time with us, Tara. Good luck in your future travels, personally and professionally. Thanks to your sense of humor, your curiosity and your talents for story telling, I know I won't look at Oregon or Blogriculture in quite the same way ever again.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Rural areas want to dig out of the cyber dust

If you’re reading this story online from your farm or ranch, chances are you probably are accessing it from a dial-up connection.

A news release promoting Agristar Global Networks, Ltd. explained that the rural population has been left eating cyber dust while the rest of the country has raced ahead to 81 million households last year — a 75 percent increase since 2000.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development released a report in December last year that showed the U.S. is the 12th most connected when measured by broadband subscribers per 100 inhabitants, by technology.

The report found that America has 19.2 percent connected by broadband, and may be behind such places as Denmark, the Netherlands, Iceland, Korea, Switzerland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Canada, United Kingdom and Belgium … but hey, America beat Luxembourg by at least a couple spots.

The OECD added, “The United States has the largest total number of broadband subscribers in the OECD at 58.1 million. US broadband subscribers now represent 29% of all broadband connections in the OECD.”

According to the press release by Agristar a USDA survey in 2005 showed “only bout 15 percent of all farm operations had broadband capabilities.”

Statistics aside, rural Americans know from experience how little options they have, how expensive the options might be, and how frustrating it can be to wait for their modems to download what they want.

They also recognize that the world is racing ahead and becoming more dependent on the Web. Everything from weather forecasts to market prices to even taking part in government programs now depends heavily on the internet.

What so many of the urban population now takes for granted in the technology that allows city dwellers to do business, surf for pleasure or serve as an educational tool for families is more of a luxury if not an impossibility in some rural areas.

This is costing people in the rural areas opportunities to compete sometimes even with their peers when it comes to buying or selling products, adopting the latest technologies relevant to their businesses, or even developing or participating in a communication network that benefits what they do.

The Agristar press release had some interesting points. It mentioned that farmers and ranchers were among to first to embrace the new technology in the 1990s, but fell behind as broadband technology became so important to urban areas.

“Low population density, one of the greatest benefits of rural living, has severely limited access to the technology,” said the release, pointing out that broadband service comes in four options: DSL, cable modem, wireless towers and satellite.

The press release pointed out the limitations of some of the internet technology out there: towers that might not reach far enough into rural area, and too much expense to have broadband over power or telephone lines.

“Rural population densities are just too low to justify the investment by a private company because of the line upgrades that are required to deliver broadband,” it said.

This is why Agristar is ambitiously promoting itself to rural areas: it promised satellite connection installed within two weeks and a lot more speed than what farmers have now.

Fine, but for rural people counting their pennies, the technology needs to be affordable as well as available.

Hopefully internet providers will keep that in mind as they develop the rural frontier so everyone can be on a more even playing field and have equal opportunities in our changing technology world.

It would be a tragedy if the lack of available, affordable technology caused farms and ranchers to not just eat the dust of competitors, but to bite the dust as businesses.

Technorati tags:

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Del Monte raid: what more does it take to influence change?

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raided the Fresh Del Monte Produce processing facility in Portland on Tuesday, and almost 170 people were taken into custody for illegal immigration, fraudulent documents and identity theft.

The investigation began several months ago. Besides the Del Monte facility, agents also raided two Portland offices of American Staffing Resources, a company that helped provide the employees for Del Monte. The company, according to ICE, hired workers and provided them with fake identification papers.

At a time when the immigration debate is such a contentious issue and politicians grapple with it in Washington, the timing of this raid presents more fodder for both sides of the debate.

Those urging immigration reform for illegal aliens use it as an example of how destructive it can be to families when their parents are suddenly seized at their place of employment. ICE said that 32 of the 167 people who were detained were released for humanitarian reasons, such as being single parents. The rest were to be taken to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement processing center in Tukwila, Wash., and then sent on to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Wash.

Meanwhile, their emotional families gathered Tuesday outside the Del Monte plant and contacted advocacy groups such as the Immigrant Rights Coalition to try to find out might happen to their relatives. There were fears that families will split up and be deported to Mexico, and great uncertainty exists about children or other family members still in the U.S.

All this put a human face to the estimated 12 million people that may be illegally in this country. This was just a drop in the bucket, but it was drastic enough to draw an official statement from Portland’s mayor.

Tom Potter said he was angered by the arrest. “I certainly understand why federal officials executed criminal warrants against three individuals who stole and sold Social Security numbers,” he said.

“But to go after local workers who are here to support their families while filling the demands of local businesses for their labor is bad policy. It also serves as a reminder of the failure of our national leaders to deliver an immigration policy that is both fair and humane to families and acknowledges the economic realities of our country,” Potter said.

He added, “Our nation would be better served if this kind of energy was focused on creating a comprehensive approach to immigration reform that provides a path to citizenship; addresses the immigration backlog that keeps families apart; and provides a safe and legal way for workers to enter our country and be productive workers and taxpayers. Immigrants provide more than mere labor in our community.”

These people were more than just labor. In a press release, ICE said about 90 percent of the workers hired by American Staffing Resources were using fraudulent Social Security numbers. The agents also found that some had criminal records, warrants for deportation, or had been previously deported — not exactly a great track record.

This fuels the other side of the debate for those that demand tougher measures against illegal immigrants and those who employ them, as well as why no amnesty should be given to people who have entered the country illegally. Ultimately, they will also ask for stricter enforcement of current laws.

The case shows what has developed down the food line, between the farm field and the dinner table. Some large companies have become so dependent on cheap labor as part of accepted business practice that they go the extra lengths to illegally hire these employees.

We can never condone fake identification papers given to illegal immigrants, especially to the extent that this investigation appears to have found. We also do not support companies deliberately seeking out or being in the business to arrange illegal immigrants to be employed here.

This isn’t a small struggling business that did this: it is Del Monte, who according to a story in The Oregonian, earns $3.2 billion per year, and is a “politically connected operation controlled by a wealthy Arab family. Incorporated in the Cayman Islands with executive offices in Coral Gables, Fla. … (its) global empire includes plantations in Kenya, Costa Rica and the Philippines.”

Of course, now fear will ripple throughout the food processing industry in the West as other companies and their employees wonder if similar raids may hit them next.

Meanwhile farmers will nervously watch their ripening, vulnerable crops this year and wonder what will be the repercussions of this raid in Portland: will more raids take place by government agents? Will all this scare off the already tight labor supply in the fields as well as the processing plants?

Finally, will the politicians care about this mess enough to seek appropriate solutions to this immigration mess before they leave for summer holidays? If they aren’t moved one way or another from this Portland example, what else will it take?

Technorati tags:

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Spudtacular idea shows mark of pride for three Idaho brothers

Many states — or organizations within them — have worked hard on branding, and have adopted names and logos to help promote their agricultural products. Usually the logos have a lot in common: the shape of the state, a line about being grown, produced or made in that state, and occasionally something about standards, quality or tradition.

Some states guard these brands fiercely and really restrict where and when they can be used. Other states are more open in how they allow the image to be used.

The battle has always been how widely should the logo be used to promote the reputation of the state’s agricultural products, versus maintaining the integrity of the brand.

The Idaho Potato Commission is one of the organizations that sees the potential in have people promote the brand. The Commission sees the value in using big name celebrities as well as encouraging ordinary people to help promote Idaho potatoes.

For example, at the website tied to the commission, a former actress from the comedy show Gilligan’s Island uses humor to share one of her cooking tips — but also encourages people to share their potato tips in a video contest.

As for ordinary people, the Commission couldn’t resist recently using a press release to play up a family who decided to show their support for Idaho another way: tattoos. Not just ordinary ones: they used the certified logo that is placed on all Idaho potato packaging.

“While stationed in Guam, Technical Sergeant Ben David, who is currently stationed at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, had the famous "Grown in Idaho" Seal tattooed on his right shoulder...complete with the registered trademark...of course!” said the press release.

It went on: “A couple years ago I looked at the “Grown in Idaho” Seal and thought to myself... hey I'm grown in Idaho too,” said David. “I am extremely proud of my Idaho roots and am not afraid to show it! To me the Seal not only means great potatoes, it means a great state, a great way of life and something to be proud of.”

Following his example, two of his three brothers — Matthew and Cory David — also tattooed themselves with the brand on their shoulders.

Rather than become upset or cite trademark infringement, the potato commission decided to take a different approach.

“When I learned of Ben's tattoo, I was actually touched,” the press release quoted Frank Muir, President and CEO, of the Idaho Potato Commission. “Here is a young airman, who is so proud of his American heritage, especially his Idaho roots, he has a permanent tattoo to symbolize this drawn on his shoulder.”

However, the Commission did want to make clear how important an image is — and stressed that competitors especially should be careful not to copy the image onto their products.

“Although Idaho is famous worldwide for its premium potatoes, some consumers don’t realize that only potatoes grown in the Gem State can wear the “Grown in Idaho” Seal. Both words Idaho® Potatoes and the “Grown in Idaho®” Seal are federally registered Certification Marks that certify to consumers that they are purchasing genuine Idaho Potatoes that have been grown in the state of Idaho,” said the Commission.

Technorati tags:

Monday, June 11, 2007

Capital Press website down

As of this writing, 11:11 p.m. Pacific time Monday, June 11, our website is down. The outage appears to be with our web service provider, because the websites for our sister papers are also down -- the East Oregonian, Daily Astorian, Wallowa County Chieftain, Blue Mountain Eagle, and Chinook Observer.

The outage appears to have started about 10 p.m.

We are sorry for any inconvenience.

We have been assured our providers are aware of the problem and are working to get it fixed, so that we can again provide access to agriculture news, information and advertising available on our main website.

Update: 11:33 p.m. The sites appear to be coming back online. Hopefully the outage was only temporary and they are back up and will stay up now.

Blogger blames Farm Bureau for land-use mess in Oregon

I found this post on a blog site called NW Republican quite interesting. The post's writer spews venum about the Farm Bureau over they whole land-use controversy that just won't die in Oregon.

From what I can tell, the post writer is pro-development, regardless of whether farmland is lost. I won't spoil it for you. This you just have to read for yourself. I would be curious to hear what farmers and ranchers think about the post.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Milk prices: do they deserve to be as high as oil?

The headline in the Oregonian newspaper was catchy. “Will milk prices become America’s new oil?”

What a way to kick off June as Dairy Month nationally: let’s stir in the fear factor for consumers.

According to the story, by sometime in June, “prices paid to farmers will have increased 50 percent this year.” The story added that retail milk prices have already gone up 3 percent, about a dime a gallon. Around the country, prices range from $2.76 a gallon in Dallas to $4.09 in New Orleans, said the story.

Why the increase? The Oregonian writer said it has been “driven by higher costs of transporting milk to market and increased demand to produce ethanol.” The amount of corn needed for ethanol is projected to rise 52 percent this year, resulting in 3.2 billion bushels for ethanol compared to the year before.

The story went on about how much the higher price for milk and milk products is affecting and hurting customers, consumers, and everyone else down the line from the dairy farm.

What was missing was putting into perspective what this really means to the dairy producers. Even though the cost of milk is going up, and prices paid to farmers may have increased, what is the profit margin on that milk? For a lot of milk producers, profits aren’t great in the milk business.

There are good and bad times, but there isn’t exactly a cow cartel, no bovine billionaires, no OPEC equivalent to set prices to gauge consumers. Although there’s a thought: Imagine OMEC: Organization of Milk Exporting Countries, or make up a new acronym completely: MOO …. Milk’s Omnipotent Organization…

Getting back to reality, the problem is that milk producers have for too long subsidized consumers. The hard working dairy owners in this country have sold milk for a ridiculously low price — because they were forced to accept such prices from others down the retail line — and spoiled consumers who pay for their products.

Should a gallon of milk cost more than a gallon of gas? Absolutely. It’s a food necessity for most people, and has high nutrition. Think about what a gallon of some of the sports drinks costs, or of name-brand pops, and then ask: doesn’t milk deserve to be higher priced for what it contributes to society? Absolutely.

There are a lot of families that dedicate their lives to run their dairy farms, and they care greatly about the cattle that provide them with a business that hopefully can be passed on to the next generation. The majority of dairy farms are smaller operations, not dairies with thousands of cows, and it’s the owners’ kids and grandkids that are helping to or will run these dairies some day.

Dairy farms invest a lot of money in communities, provide additional jobs, and are a market for the crops and hay grown by some of their neighbors.

The list could go on of why dairy farms should be supported, and why milk is worth every cent — and more — and why farmers deserve high prices paid directly into their pockets.

But the main point is, it’s time to get the message out before the all those price increases really hit the consumers this summer on those jugs of milk and packages of cheese.

By then, if the dairy community and others don’t explain and take control of the message going out in the media and counter the criticism on higher milk prices, what might be a small, irritable drop in the milk bucket for now could be a flood of complaints later — or worse.

The market could milk could potentially dry up.

At an Oregon Dairy Farmers annual meeting this past winter in Sunriver, Ore., dairy producers heard such a warning.

Blair Thompson, the Consumer Communications Manager at the Washington Dairy Products Commission, talked about how consumers are already concerned about milk, especially with their negative perceptions about the use of rBST.

Thompson said a survey of consumers in Washington state showed that the number of consumers who reduced or eliminated their dairy consumption is already up 48 percent since 1998.

As prices climb, the dairy industry needs to be prepared for the backlash based on price and continue to help people understand more about the industry.

It needs to go beyond just showing the images in TV ads of California cheese coming from “happy cows,” although these ads are so delightfully humorous.

Oregon Dairy Farmers has the right idea with some of the ads it released in the last few months allowing dairy farmers to describe a bit about their family farm business, why they farm and how they treat their cattle. The Dairy Farmers of Oregon website also does an excellent job, playing up that it’s “350 farm families working together to produce top quality dairy products, so you can enjoy healthy and delicious dairy foods.”

Hopefully, when this summer people need to make choices between buying a gallon of milk for their families or a gallon of gas for their vehicles, the milk will win the battle for the wallet.

Hopefully, when that time comes, the consumers will realize they are helping to support an American dairy farm, appreciate what those farmers have done, and acknowledge they definitely got their money’s worth — and more — of dairy products.

Blair Thompson audio
Dairy Farmers of Oregon
TV ads
Dairy Farmers of Washington
Washington Dairy Products Commission


To the rural community: Thanks for blogging

I think it's great that we have farmers and ranchers who blog, and I hope we continue to encourage more to do it.

Consumers and especially people in urban areas who may no longer have direct connections to farms and rural areas need this: voices (well, words and images, too) from those who grow and produce those agricultural products they need and enjoy.

As we produce an agricultural newspaper and website, unfortunately as reporters and editors we act as a filter. We try our best to communicate to farmers what we think is important to them and valuable to their businesses and families; however, the reality is it's difficult to always know what's on their minds, what are their preferences for information, and why they even do what they do.

As a small company, we don't do the fancy surveys, focus groups, and professional polls that perhaps some of our competitors can do so regularly.

More modestly, we try to meet with the farm community in person: on their farms, at their events, or yes, sometimes online through our blogs or other ways.

We welcome those who write from across the country, to us, but especially on the Web themselves. Share your experiences and your opinions; help teach others to respect and understand better what you do in your lives; create an environment where hopefully more people will understand what it's like to till the land, milk a cow, watch a seed grow, help a cow with its calf, toss a bale, pick a berry, or harvest the crop.

The Web — and blogs — offer everyone an excellent opportunity to connect more than any other generation before us.

For those of us in the agricultural community, at a time when there are so many challenges and misinformation against agriculture, the Web offers some of the best potential we've ever had to get our message out.

Thanks for accepting the challenge and long may all of you write.

Technorati tags:

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

You're making me blush

I feel so spoiled. There have been three comments from three different people on that last post.

What's a country boy to do with all this attention?

In fact commenter Walter Jeffries wrote a whole post about that post on one of his blogs.

Yep, that's right, you can know call me "Big Ag."

Gary "Big Ag" West.

I think I'll have that put on my next set of business cards. It's kinda catchy!

Maybe I can get sponsor patches for all my clothes too like NASCAR drivers, rodeo cowboys, poker players, et al. Usually I'm just a big idiot and pay someone else to buy their logo-emblazoned apparel, then they get my money and I walk around like a mobile billboard.

You have to provide a blog link to someone who leads to a new nickname.

And I'm kidding about the patches. Well, unless the contract is REALLY lucrative.

Ag in the West social media watch

Capital Press videos on YouTube

Our most popular videos