Friday, August 31, 2007

Craig will resign

The Associated Press is reporting that Idaho Sen. Larry Craig will resign tomorrow. Read the story here.

The news broke today as I was working on the podcast for this week. Of course it happened after I recorded the audio, but before I could finish the editing and posting. So rather than post a podcast that is now outdated, I will delay the next episode of the podcast until after the Labor Day holiday.

Like anyone would be listening to our podcast over the weekend anyway.

Lil' dogie thought he was a doggie

By Kevin Duling

Some of the greatest gifts in life are unplanned. Just out of college, I was in the cattle business. Being too much of a softy, my cows were the most spoiled creatures on the planet.

Calving season was supposed to be in early November. Sometimes calves would be born a week or two early, but most liked to wait until it was 5 degrees with a strong east wind.

For some reason, one of my best bovines didn’t get bred back. December went by and she didn’t even look pregnant. Being too soft, I told her she could stay for one more year to try again.

On a warm day in June, I was out driving around the place when I noticed a small black spot in the field. As I approached, I could see a newborn calf standing by his mother, who had just died. Numerous thoughts ran through my head. “What am I going to do with that?” “How did she get pregnant?” “Whose bull got out?” etc, etc.

The important question should have been, “How am I going to get him back to the house?” The tools available were a small rope and a Dodge pickup. As my calf-roping skills were well below par, this turned into an adventure.

With his legs tied and his body resting in the back of the pickup, it was time to drive the 2 miles to home. The first mile went smoothly. Assuming the second mile would too, I was startled to see something black in my driver’s side mirror. The calf got loose, stood up, and was leaning out the left side of the pickup bed.

With home in site, this was no time to stop and fight with a bull calf. After we arrived, I figured the best place for him was in the yard until he was big enough to be in the corral. My two black labs would take great care of him.

With a family vote, the name “Newman” was given to the calf. A couple months had past and Newman and the two dogs grew to like each other. I have no doubt Newman believed he was a black lab. He was the right color anyway. I did find out that head butting a 3 month old calf can be a little bit painful.

During harvest, my yard was the picnic area. As we opened our lunches, Newman smelled something good. I watched as family members gave the two labs bites from their lunches. Newman, who was resting by me, showed interest in the bag of potato chips I was eating. I gave him one. He wanted more and was willing to fight to get them.

Newman eventually had to be placed in the corral. A 2,000 pound steer can wreak havoc on a freshly watered lawn and a satellite dish. Newman could never understand why he couldn’t be with his two lab buddies.

Not only did Newman grow to be a popular conversation piece among friends, he became an attraction to all my nieces and nephews. As word of a 2,250 pound pet circulated, people always had to ask about him.

With the fear of man absent, Newman was not easily moved. In fact, he couldn’t be budged. You could push on him, pull his ears, sit on him, try to scare him, nothing would work. He would much rather be scratched under his chin.

A break-through occurred during lunch one day. As I was crunching on a potato chip, I gained an idea. As it turned out, Newman would move in my direction quickly if I had a potato chip bag. Just one crinkle of the wrapper and he was mine for a half-mile.

Newman’s job was to mow the barnyard and train the yearling steers to stay home, which he did successfully for many years. He passed away at the age of 11.

Newman was not planned, but he was a blessing to many. He was a good stress reliever because he was unexcitable and was a really good listener. He has no doubt found greener pastures and hopefully some potato chips. It is amazing to me the amount of joy that started with a little unexpected black spot in the field.

Kevin Duling is a wheat farmer and freelance writer from Maupin, Ore. His stories will be posted on the Capital Press blog every Friday. Comments are welcomed at

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Craig scandal will cost the West

It's not only Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, and his family, friends and staff who will feel pain from the current scandal threatening his political career.

The state of Idaho and farmers all around the West will share his pain.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

What does Senator Craig arrest scandal have to do with agriculture?

Regular readers to the Capital Press website may have noticed a story that looks like it doesn't belong on an agriculture newspaper website. And maybe it doesn't.

And that's the story about Idaho Sen. Larry Craig's recent arrest and guilty plea on a charge of disorderly conduct. The arrest happened in June when police were investigating reports of lewd behavior in a men's room in a Minnesota airport.

It's become the political scandal of the week in Washington, D.C., and today members of Craig's own Republican Party were lining up to call for his resignation.

It's a political story. It's political gossip. But there is no agriculture angle to the story, is there?

Yes, there is.

Craig is a rancher. He's a senator from the state known for its agriculture and it's "Famous Potatoes" slogan that's everywhere, including the state's license plates. Recently Craig has been critical of federal grazing policy, environmentalist and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and environmental limits which he believes have contributed to large wildfires in Idaho and the West because cattle haven't been allowed to graze reseeded grasslands (click here to see a speech Craig made on this issue.

And he is the co-author of a bill which many in agriculture want to see attached to the 2007 Farm Bill as debate begins on that bill in the U.S. Senate next month. That bill is the AgJOBS bill, or the Agricultural Job Opportunities, Benefits, and Security Act. It's a bill that addresses the undocumented workers already in this country and working in the ag industry. It also modifies the agriculture guestworker program to make it less cumbersome for employers to utilize.

Given the scandal now consuming Craig, he will likely be little or no help getting fellow Republicans to act on AgJOBS, whether as part of the farm bill or as stand alone legislation or immigration reform legislation. Craig is a powerful political voice for agriculture in the Senate. Whatever happens to his political career will have an impact on Idaho, agriculture in the West and nationally. And that's what make Craig's problem of interest to agriculture and worthy of inclusion in agriculture news.

But if you have a different opinion, leave a comment and let us know what you think. Should the Capital Press follow the Craig arrest scandal? Should Craig resign? Should is own party be condemning him? This story -- the Craig scandal, AgJOBS, immigration, all of it -- is packed with strong opinions and extreme views on all sides. Your opinions just may influence how much more of the Craig story we follow online or in print.

Monday, August 27, 2007

A new record

We've reached a milestone here at Blogriculture. This month we have posted more blog entries than ever before.

We have eclipsed our previous total of 37 entries set in a month that was set in September 2006. Elaine Shein, our executive editor, has done the bulk of the heavy lifting with her posts this month, but it was also good to see some entries from other team members. We also have added regular contributions every Friday from Kevin Duling.

If you like the observations our team members are making on a variety of issue, please take a moment to post a comment on their entries. They will be more likely to keep up their posting if they know people are reading them and appreciate the things they have to say.


Speaking of eclipses, there will be an eclipse of the lunar variety overnight tonight. Here in the Pacific time zone, the event will last from 1:51 a.m. Tuesday morning until 5:24 a.m., according to the folks at NASA. So if you are up real early to cut hay, or if you are out late cutting a rug, look up and catch some of the show.


As I mentioned earlier, last September was our previous top month for blog posts. That's in part because of multiple entries made last September related to the Pendleton Round-Up.
In a way, the Capital Press' entrance into blogging is tied to the annual fall rodeo. It was back in September 2005 when I made the first posts for what eventually evolved into the Blogriculture site related to the Capital Press coverage of the rodeo. Last year the blog was the focus of our coverage of that event.

For good or ill, the Capital Press won't be covering the Round-Up for 2007, at least not directly. We are going to rely on our sister paper, the East Oregonian for whatever rodeo coverage we will publish this year. The Round-Up is the signature event for the East Oregonian, and no devotes more time, energy and space to covering the rodeo and its related activities than the EO.

As for me, I'm going to do my part to help out our sister publication by lending them a hand during rodeo week. So, I may try to offer up a few dispatches from the Round-Up City if I can. but mostly I'm there to be just another hand helping out when and where needed to give their staff an opportunity to do what they do best. I suspect the best help I can offer for the week will be manning a computer and working a desk, rather than spending time in and around the arena watching cowboy and cowgirl athletes compete with, and against, some of the best livestock athletes around.

So, we won't be posting live updates from the arena this year, rodeo fans, but look to the East Oregonian for details and information on the Pendleton Round-Up leading up to and during its run Sept. 12-15.

This blog got its start at the rodeo, but it's grown a lot since September 2005. We hope that now that you've found it, you find something that interests you and keeps you coming back.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

AITC executive director does double duty

For Oregon Agriculture in the Classroom executive director Tami Kerr, this weekend was a time of double duty.

Most people probably know her from her involvement with AITC: she has played a key role in the success of the program that helps teach students in Oregon schools about the importance of agriculture. She has helped develop and coordinate resources that teachers can use in the classroom, and along with education program assistant Cathy McClaughry in Corvallis they visit classrooms to teach hands-on learning about agriculture.

They also have been very busy in the last few weeks: each year they coordinate a calendar art contest. They collect entries, arrange to have them judged by AITC board members, and then contact award winners to ensure they attend the Oregon State Fair to be honored for their excellent work.

However, this ends up being an even busier time for Kerr: when she wasn't at the Jackman-Long Building helping with AITC duties and the calendar reception, she could be found in the cow barns. Kerr and her family own and operate the Mistvale Holsteins dairy at Tillamook, and several family members worked together to show Holstein cattle.

While her brother and niece worked in the barn and helped show the cattle, Kerr did most of her work in the barn this year — and had her relatives collect the winning ribbons for all of them to celebrate.

This weekend, their best win was when their four-year-old cow Mistvale Durham Mia won the 2007 Grand Champion Holstein title.

Kerr didn't have much time to celebrate, as she kept busy preparing for the AITC reception Sunday afternoon. After the reception, she hurried back to the barn to help her family get the cows ready to go home. For a few brief moments, she sat down with some of the AITC board members across from the stalls that held the cattle the family so proudly showed at the fair.

As her niece helped sweep straw back into the stall, and her brother finally had a chance to eat a turkey leg before milking time, Kerr pointed out some of the posters and printouts she displayed in the barn stall so people could continue to learn about the cattle they saw during the fair.

There on the wall was the 24x26 Grown in Oregon poster, showing the various counties in the state and some of the commodities they grow — an identical poster had been on stage at the calendar reception.

For Kerr, her love for agriculture — and teaching people about it — never ends.

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Calendar winners honored at State Fair

Today several families gathered from around the state to congratulate the winners of the annual calendar art contest held by the Oregon Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation.

The calendar shows the talented art work from 13 students from grades K-6; the kids, their parents, and their teachers were all invited to the Oregon State Fair to receive some of the new calenders, certificates, and $50 savings bonds. The majority of them came, unless they had other conflicts.

There was also a chance for the students to talk about what inspired them to do the pictures, what they have learned about agriculture from their parents or teachers, and how long it took them to do the pictures. Some of them talked about their loyalty to certain brands (such as John Deere), the important of county fairs in their rural communities, their obsession of cows, their love of horses, and the importance of timber.

Parents had a chance to say how proud they are of their children and their talent, but also explain a bit more about their kids' artistic talent. A couple of mothers laughed and shared how glad they were that the kids now drew on paper — compared to walls or even the back of car seats when they the children were younger. Many of the kids said art was their favorite hobby, and they loved to draw or paint all the time.

Teachers talked about the students but also about how they use AITC resources in their classrooms and how this helps teach students about important commodities in the state. They expressed their thanks to AITC for the support they receive, from lesson plans to resources they can use for the students.

The students who participated in the contest definitely showed great talent but also expressed their interest — and in some cases, passion — for agriculture. Even those who admitted they did the art because it was a class assignment admitted they had fun and learned a lot about agriculture.

For those who live on farms, they revealed what agriculture means to them personally as a way of life but also something they respect deeply.

It's important to have programs like AITC in Oregon and other states to encourage this next generation to learn about agriculture but also to share this message that they care about what happens to farms in the future.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

New toys

The folks at John Deere are releasing some new toys, so we thought we'd share a video from Chuck Zimmerman at ZimmComm New Media, who has posted some video interviews about the new equipment the guys in green are bringing to market.

See more on the new precision agriculture and field equipment at Zimmerman's AgWired site or at John Deere's website.

Hicks on Phonics

By Kevin Duling

I went to college at one of the smaller state schools. The agricultural program at that school was a satellite program from the large land grant college. In my degree, agricultural resource economics, my graduating class had about twenty people in it. Most of us were from very small, rural backgrounds.

My best friend at school, Joe, thought it would be funny to have our class motto as “Hicks on Phonics.” We all joked about wearing old straw hats with bib overalls, no shoes or socks, the pant legs rolled up a little, and a piece of grass hanging from our mouths. We wanted to gather in this attire for a quick commercial where we would all yell, “We are hicks on phonics and we’re learnin how to read!”

I am amazed at where my classmates are today. One is the regional vice president of one of the large agricultural lenders, another a branch manager, a few of us went home to the family farm, a few have purchased their own farms and ranches, and then there is my friend Joe.

One of our agriculture professors phrased Joe and I as the bobsy twins. We tended to see things in life as quite funny, especially in those dry college courses where the clock seemed to travel in reverse. Two people who had similar senses of humor and adult attention deficit disorder was a recipe for disaster.

In college, Joe did not believe in telephones, computers, televisions, or any other form of technology. Having a motorized vehicle was a stretch for him. He would have much preferred his horse. His dormitory only provided “blue milk” to drink and that just wasn’t right in his mind.

“Why is it only 2 percent? It might be good for brushing your teeth with, but it sure ain’t good to drink!”

Some of Joe’s terminology included: britches (all pants and shorts), biscuits (every form of bread), feller (any man he talks about), and lids (hats). Most of our days studying in the library ended with the two of us running for our lives, or me typing up one of his papers because he didn’t like typing.

I just received a phone call from Joe stating he just got a large promotion. He will now be one of the three computer technicians that run one of the Northwest’s largest companies.

“But you don’t even know how to turn a computer on, let alone type on one,” I smarted.

“All I know is a feller came over and said it was time for me to get away from the distribution floor and move up where I belong,” he replied.

“Even after you played the theme from the Lone Ranger over the loudspeaker while the distribution carts were hurrying to catch up?”

“Well, I had to spend a little time in my boss’s office, but he told me, off the record, how that was the funniest thing he ever witnessed.”

“Do you have to dress up for this job?” I asked.

“Yes, I have to wear these tan, smooth britches and I can’t wear my boots. They won’t let me wear a lid either.”

One of my other classmates, Kanishiwa (Ken), was a Japanese exchange student who was fascinated with agriculture. On a three day field trip, he entertained us by doing forward flips the entire length of the rest area’s sidewalk. He was famous for always asking the question no one could answer, let alone understand. I would really like to know where he is today.

With today’s busy lifestyle, the thoughts and memories of my classmates rarely surface. How precious and timeless those days were. As we proceed through life, hopefully we can recognize opportunities to develop more memorable moments.

Despite our sense of humor, promotions still seem to chase us down. Not bad for a bunch of hicks on phonics.

Kevin Duling is a wheat farmer and freelance writer from Maupin, Ore. Kevin’s stories will be posted on the Capital Press blog every Friday. Comments are welcomed at

Copyright, August 2007

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bad weather in E.U. helps U.S. crop

While here in America we’ve been focusing attention on bad weather in North America — drought in the West, floods in the Midwest, and hurricanes pounding Mexico — bad weather across the ocean may benefit American crops.

The U.S. Grains Council in a press release today said bad weather in the European Union countries has led to increased sorghum markets for the U.S., especially in places like Spain and Italy.

It was also noted that three decades after sorghum was introduced there, the Spanish and Italians are rediscovering their taste for it.

“Kurt Shultz, U.S. Grains Council director for the Mediterranean and Africa, reports Spain has imported 588,100 metric tons (23.1 million bushels) of sorghum since Sept. 1, 2006, through Aug. 9, 2007 — nearly 10 times that country’s sorghum imports for the same period a year ago.

“Italy, which did not import sorghum from the United States in 2005/06, has also rediscovered a taste for U.S. sorghum, importing 38,400 tons (1.5 million bushels) from the United States since the marketing year began in September…” said the news release.

“Drought in eastern Europe and heavy rains in France and the United Kingdom have dramatically reduced grain production in the European Union (EU), leaving the bloc with a record low level of grain stocks of about 2 million tons, mostly in Hungary. …”

The grains council explained the Spain has a large livestock industry and can’t find the feed it needs currently because of all the bad weather in the E.U., and expects the sorghum market to continue to grow for the next 6 months.

“The high price of feed ingredients in the E.U. is going to put pressure on those governments as food prices are expected to go up 30 to 40 percent due to the grain shortage,” says Dale Artho, USGC chairman and a sorghum grower from Texas, also said in the press release.

Another reason is also affecting the shortage of feed for livestock overseas.

Artho said E.U. biotechnology restrictions “have largely eliminated U.S. corn and corn products as options for the feed industry there, further exacerbating the situation. The E.U. imported approximately 3.1 million tons of corn co-products in 2005 prior to the E.U.’s embargo on biotech products,” said the release.

One of the reasons the U.S. will capitalize on the need for sorghum overseas is because America is the top producer of sorghum in the world (the sorghum is mainly grown in the Midwest and Texas): grain sorghum is also the third most important cereal crop in the U.S., and fifth most important cereal crop grown in the world, according to the grains council.

“The United States is currently positioned as the number two producer and number one exporter of sorghum on the world market. The United States’ share of world trade in sorghum has not dropped below 70 percent in more than a decade,” explained the grain council’s website.

In the 2005/2006 year, the breakdown of customers for the U.S. was: Mexico, 69 percent; Japan 27 percent; Spain, 2 percent; and other countries making up the rest of the buyers.

Ultimately, weather always plays the final factor on what happens to supply and demand when it comes to crops.

It will be interesting to see the final breakdown on sorghum numbers in the next year.

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Oregon cheese maker earns awards — and customers

As competition increases at national cheese award competitions, an Oregon-based, family run cheese company has earned an impressive slice of kudos from their peers.

The Willamette Valley Cheese Company, run by Rod and Melissa Volbeda near Salem, earned six awards recently, against 1,208 other entries at the American Cheese Society competition in Burlington, Vt. The competition is the largest in the nation for cheeses.

The awards they won were: first places for their Farmstead Gouda and Perrydale cheeses; second places for their Cumin Gouda, Spring Valley Brie and Queso Fresco; and third place for their Smoked Gouda.

This isn’t the first time they have won. Last year they won five national awards for their cheeses, against a field of more than 900 cheeses entered at the American Cheese Society competition.

When they won last year, they had little time to celebrate: a day later, on one of the hottest days of the year, the Volbedas welcomed to their farm a busload of agricultural communicators from across the country.

While the temperature climbed to almost 100 degrees, they kept their cool. The tour stop for the people who attended the Ag Media Summit demonstrated how the Volbedas can comfortably handle pressure but also how well they can market themselves in a competitive environment.

The Volbeda farm served as a good example of what a family has done to make their entire business model be one of the most successful ones around. They’ve made choices about their herd and production practices, while at the same time successfully developing winning ways to make their cheeses. They identified their market, and helped develop effective marketing strategies so their cheeses have become well-known in the Willamette Valley of Oregon and beyond.

They also showed patience in developing their business until they felt the time, their experience and the market was right for them.

Rod Voldeba received his degree in food science from Oregon State University in 1989, then apprenticed with three different cheese masters in Holland. He worked on quality assurance work for a national cheese company, and continued to plan on how to make and sell cheese.

In 1993, he and Melissa bought a Holstein dairy farm near Salem. Two years later they bought used equipment to begin making cheese in their basement. The next year they took cheesemaking courses in California and Washington. In 1997, they decided to increase butterfat and protein in their herd, so they bought Jersey cows. Two years later they built a cheese room on their farm, and in 2002 began making Gouda and Havarti cheese.

Their patience shows how they wanted to ensure they create not just a business, but strived to be one of the best. In 2003, 10 years after they first bought milk cows, the Voldebas began to market their cheese, and three years later added a packaging room to their business.

By 2005, they won two blue ribbons and a second place one for their cheeses from the American Cheese Society competition — the only Oregon cheese maker to place that year.

In 2006 they made more changes, adding sheep’s milk cheese to their line of more than 20 varieties of cow’s milk cheese. They also earned organic certification for their farm and Jersey cows.

The cheese company now has its products in more than 40 stories and also sells at farmers’ markets in Salem, McMinnville, Lake Oswego, Beaverton and Portland. To help avoid shipping costs, especially as the price of fuel rose, 90 percent of their cheese is sold in Washington and Oregon, and along the I-5 corridor.

One of the ways the family has earned respect for its products is by winning awards at prestigious competitions when they compete against some of the best cheese makers in the world. How important is it to win awards?

Asked about it last year in an interview, Rod Volbeda replied, “For us, the importance of entering a contest like this one is two-fold. First, we really like to hear what the judges have to say about all of our entries. They provide incredible remarks and feedback, which is invaluable when we return to our cheesemaking room at home. And, secondly, it helps in our marketing efforts, no doubt. Awards definitely influence retailers and consumers' purchasing decisions.”

When asked last year what helped him make these award-winning cheeses, he explained: “Milk is the main ingredient in cheese and we know exactly where ours comes from — right from the cows on our farm. It is composed of high butterfat and high protein; it never sees a third person and we’re responsible for gently handling it every step along the way. It truly is farm fresh in every way.”

On their website, they play up the freshness of the milk, but also how well-treated their cows are, and the healthiness of their production methods. Their website creates a sensory connection with consumers as it begins with “It’s sunrise at Volbeda Farms. The creek runs cold and clear in the countryside surrounding Salem, Oregon. Rod & Melissa Volbeda’s jersey cows are enjoying a breakfast of home-grown, fresh forage.”

The Volbedas added on the site that their “philosophical approach to farming includes the practice of environmental sustainability.” They explained they fertilize pastures and crops “with nutrient-rich compost and never use herbicides or pesticides” and that “cows are not treated with hormones or antibiotics. The surrounding pastures and production plant at Willamette Valley Cheese Company are certified organic.”

And if that didn’t get the customers, the website adds: “Their cheese making operation focuses on quality, not quantity. That may be old-fashioned, but the Volbedas care about their customers and never rush to market with products that don’t meet their stringent standards for freshness and flavor.”

For the Voldebas, the investment of time, changes to their dairy herd and production practices, increase in cheese making skills, and smart marketing to consumers have paid off.

While ribbons are nice, it has been their connection to the consumers at the regional level in farmers’ markets, stores and restaurants that has made them the real winner in the cheese business.

(See the full list of winners from the American Cheese Society's 2007 competition at this link to a pdf file, including other West Coast cheesemakers.)

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Forest fire coverage in Capital Press

Past forest fires in the Santiam Pass of Oregon have led to wide swaths of trees gone that are especially evident in winter, as demonstrated by this photo take last winter in the Cascade range.

Idaho’s Gov. C. L. “Butch” Otter declared yesterday a statewide emergency declaration authorizing state government resources to respond to wildfire threats anywhere in Idaho.

On the same day, Capital Press reporter Pat McCoy toured some of the burned areas in Idaho. She left her home in Boise to travel north and talk to some of the people who are affected by the fires: The people who are fighting the fires, but also those who are frustrated by the fires affecting their homes, businesses, property and livestock. She continues to do interviews for the next few days.

People get their news about fires in different ways. They can read a press release with a statement by a governor, or hear on the news the statistics of how many square acres of land has been burned, people evacuated, or value of property destroyed.

For example, as of today, the National Interagency Fire Center reported that the most fires in the country are in Idaho and Montana: “31 large fires burning a total of 1,137,717 acres.” Sixteen of those fires are in Idaho.

Other parts of the West also continue to burn. California has one large fire; Oregon, 4; and Washington, 2.

Meeting face–to-face with the people affected, McCoy has already heard some of the grim stories and frustrations people face.

Finding burned calves and then needing to show mercy by killing them is one of the realities that ranchers face when wildfires attack. It really brings home the impact of fires, and leaves lasting images beyond what any statistics can do.

McCoy is spending a few days visiting these areas and talking to people affected by the fires. She is writing her notes, taking pictures and also taping audio so Capital Press can share what she saw and heard during this trip. We plan to have a package of stories in the Aug. 31 issue, but also carry multimedia coverage online.

We also invite people to email to us fire pictures from their areas (300 dpi would be fine): we would like to show them online or perhaps even in the newspaper. Show us what you see and experience this summer: tell us how these fires have affected you. You can email me at

Best wishes to all those who are fighting fires, but also to those who farms and rural livelihoods are being affected by these challenging events.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

All peachy at our place

It seemed like a good idea at the time: Instead of spending a lot of money at a grocery store, or even shopping at the farmers’ markets, why not go direct to an orchard to pick our own fruit?

On Saturday, we visited Daum’s Produce Farm on Wallace Road, north of Salem. We visit the area often but had never visited their orchard although we had bought often from the family at their farmer’s market stand in the past.

Merrily we ventured forth, cloth bags in hand, ready to pick sweet, juicy peaches for ourselves.

We learned several valuable lessons that day.

First, we should have asked what varieties of peaches grew in the different rows in the orchard. That would have been handy later to know which ones would mature the quickest, which are better for freezing or eating soon, etc.

Secondly, visiting an orchard is a bit like visiting a candy shop. There are so many to peaches to pick, you just don’t want to stop. Cost becomes irrelevant. All logic escapes of what can humanly be consumed by two people. All you know is that you want to pick more, more, more!

Thirdly, we should have asked for a lesson on “how to pick the fruit at its best.” What seemed ripe to us was apparently too overripe when we examined the fruit later at home. And we also had a few cases of some peaches being far from ripe. Maybe we should have trusted the experts.

Fourth, when picking a large amount of fruit, have a game plan. What should be done with the fruit later? We came back with our three bags’ of fruit with — oh, I don’t know, say 50 peaches or so — and then awkwardly realized we had no canning skills, didn’t really want to freeze them all, and there was no way we could eat all those peaches even if we had peaches every couple of hours day and night.

The peaches were picked on Saturday. As of this morning, the kitchen table was still filled with a large number of peaches, even after we had devoured several in the last couple of days and made peach sauce from an applesauce recipe. We will begin to offer fruit to our neighbors this afternoon. We will refuse to accept zucchini in return. Peach cobbler recipes are being hunted in recipe books. We might let the cats play with a peach or two to keep them amused.

Well, okay, to keep us amused as we continue to ponder what to do with so many peaches.

I wonder where we can go next to find our own nectarines to pick…

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Pay by the pound?

If you’re the mayor of a town and want to get people to lose weight, what would be the best way to do it?

Lecture people at public meetings? Install extra patrols in local restaurants to give out tickets for overeating? Tax junk food?

Gianluca Buonanno, an overweight mayor of a town in Italy that has 7,500 people, realized there was another way to encourage his citizens to lose weight.

The town of Varallo budged $13,000 and is also seeking sponsors to help provide financial incentives to people who lose weight and keep it off, according to an Associated Press story.

“Participants in the week-old Varallo initiative will be given $67 when they reach their ideal weight. If they don’t gain any weight back after five months, they will receive $268,” said the AP story. “If they maintain their ideal weight for a year, they will get $670 more. So far, 30 people have signed up…. Participants must present a medical certificate that they are overweight. They can choose to get help from a dietitian, who helps determine their ideal weight, and a personal trainer.”

Great idea. Not only will the community, businesses and families benefit from the health benefits of employees and family members losing weight, but as people get out more to exercise they probably build up a better sense of community.

If we applied the Italian idea here, the bigger questions are how much money would Americans want as incentive to lose weight? And who would pay the money?

Maybe health insurance companies could offer the incentive.

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Pick gently and carry a big bowl

The blackberry is tasty, nutritious — and causes great pain to those brave enough to try to tangle with the vine. (Picture: Oregon Raspberry and Blackberry Commission)

If you walk along fields, visit parks, or have an untended part of your garden in many places here in Oregon, chances are you probably have come across a prickly problem that can be a source of great aggravation.


The fast-growing, stubborn, persistent, and downright dangerous vine can overcome the best efforts or eradication. Many a sobbing gardener has abandoned a brave battle against blackberries and turned to easier challenges instead. Such as learning to play chess. Or figuring out how long does it take an Amtrak train to get from point A to point B if it stopped for three days for maintenance in Seattle along the way. Or calculate how much money Barry Bonds made for each pitch he missed hitting a home run.

All this would be much easier than fighting blackberries.

However, not everyone loathes blackberries. Admittedly, the berries are tasty — particularly so if a person is relaxed and bought them from someone else that picked them.

The Oregon Raspberry and Blackberry Commission plays up the nutritional value of the berries. In a scientific study, the berry was found to be the number one antioxidant food per saving. In another study, according to the Oregon Department of Agriculture, the extract from fresh blackberries was found to reduce cancerous tumors prevent the spread of cancer cells.

ODA, in a press release recently, said almost all the blackberries in the country are grown in Oregon, and the production value is $35 million.

Probably most people — while pulling, tugging, fighting, cutting, and screaming at the vines on their land — don’t think that this could be a valuable source of income.

They’re too busy attempting to find Band-Aids and worrying about how long scars will last.

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So, who invented fire?

By Kevin Duling

Thirty years ago, the end of the county where I reside decided to put together a fire department. The river rafters and the railroad had started enough fires to make the locals tired of putting them out with pickup sprayers. A board of directors was arranged and a fire chief appointed.

In the late 70’s the department acquired four trucks to call their own. Two of them were 1958 military surplus jeeps, one was a 1955 double deuce military rig, and the other was a 1948 tractor tanker. Thirty years later, we have acquired over $1.5 million in assets, but we still use three of the first four trucks.

A neighboring fire district had a large blaze last year. They called for our help. I had the luxury of taking the 1955 double deuce. There is something about seeing smoke from a distance that makes you accelerate to very high speeds. My spirit turned pale when I realized how fast I was traveling when I entered a five mile downhill grade. (I assume my flesh turned pale too, but I couldn’t see myself)

The reason I turned pale was I remembered helping the chief figure out why the brakes didn’t work the previous fall. If I died, at least I died volunteering for something and would be remembered with a legacy. A legacy of being willing to help, but still not mechanical enough to fix the brakes on a 1955 machine.

At the bottom of the grade was the turnoff to the fire. I remember remarking about the number of people helping (getting in the way, mostly) direct traffic as I idled by the turnoff at a mere 55 mph. That doesn’t sound fast to you, but in a fully loaded double deuce with 95 percent of its brakes missing, that is a brain shaking speed, literally.

As I was coming back to the turnoff, one of the helpers stopped me with a clenched fist stating I was going too fast and was going to kill someone. I humbly agreed and did my best to hide what I really wanted to say.

With the fire burning through some grass and brush, I cranked my pump up, charged my nozzles hooked to my enormous bumper, and proceeded to put the fire out. My brother was lucky enough to grab one of the newer 1958 rigs and he met me somewhere in the middle.

It was time to head for home. Now the issue at hand was seeing if my 1955 deuce could pull itself back up the hill I screamed down. The automatic transmission had a tendency to kick out of gear when you least expect it.

Small volunteer districts gain equipment by using old rejects from larger departments. For about ten years, our department used hardhats that looked like they were rented from the Battlestar Galactica exhibit at Universal Studios. Combine that with our bright yellow jumpsuits and 1950’s trucks and we were quite a sight.

Unfortunately, our old radios that were the size of a regulation football had to be let go, due to technological advances. Fire communication is now the buzzword in the fire service. During a fire incident, our communication is usually as follows:
“Kevin, get that truck over to the east side and take that flank out!”
“What? Could you repeat that?”
“I said; take that truck to the other side and take that flank out!”
“That’s what I thought you said. So, I will take my truck down the sidewalk and order some takeout. Roger. Food would be good, but why do I have to drive on the sidewalk, over?”

Our department was founded from necessity. A group of farmers got together to meet a need. It’s easy to miss the days when communities could get together with common visions, ideals, and a sense of service. Perhaps those days don’t have to be gone forever.

Kevin Duling is a wheat farmer and freelance writer from Maupin, Ore. Kevin’s short stories can be found on the Capital Press blog every Friday. Comments are welcomed at

Copyright, July 2007

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Computer and Internet use high in the West

When a survey came out about the habits of farmers using the Internet, it was encouraging to see that Western states lead the way in using the computer more for business.

The Farm Computer Usage and Ownership report has found U.S. farmers using computers for business has increased from 20 percent in 1997 to 35 percent this year.

In the Western states — Oregon, Washington, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming — saw the percentage increase from 30 to 44 percent during that time.

As for using the Internet, while nationally it from 13 to 55 percent during that same time period, in the West it grow from 19 to 63 percent: Oregon has 70 percent Internet access, Washington 71 percent, Idaho has 68 percent and California 54 percent.

The Western states also showed how they used the Internet to purchase agricultural inputs or to conduct other agricultural marketing activities over the Internet.

Here are the stats for the West:

Purchasing ag inputs by Internet:
CA: 15 percent
ID: 12
OR: 21
WA: 26
(Note: WA and OR were second and third highest in the country for doing this. U.S. average was only 11 percent.)

Conducting ag marketing activities over Internet:
CA: 11 percent
ID: 10
OR: 12
WA: 14
(Note: U.S. average was 10 percent)

While there was a lot of statistics in the survey, another one that is interesting is how people access the Internet. In the last two years, the number of people in the West who relied on dial-up Internet service fell from 69 percent to 47 percent, while DSL grew from 13 percent to 27 percent.

If you are a farmer or rancher, let us know how you use the Internet for your business. We’d be curious to know more about the people behind the statistics so we can serve you better. How do you buy those ag inputs over the Internet? Do you go directly to a seller or company’s Website? Do you search for the inputs on the Internet? Or do you use newspaper and magazine classifieds online to get what you need? How do you do your marketing activities, and what kind of things do you do?

You can use our comment forms to answer these questions, or e-mail me directly at — I look forward to hearing from you.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Lincoln City sand sculptures show creative side

Planning a vacation to the beach for the family, even for a day?

Looking for new ways to build sand castles, or perhaps try your hand at sand sculptures?

Lincoln City, Ore. held a sand sculpture contest on August 11, and encouraged families to build traditional sand castles or be even more creative. Several mermaids appeared, but bears, sea lions, dogs and even a beaver emerged out of the sand, sticks, stones and shells.

I visited the beach to share images of some of the sand sculptures that attracted visitors to the historic Taft district of Lincoln City.

To see a slide show of the pictures, go to and click on multimedia on the left hand side ... or go directly there by clicking here.

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Capital Press covers new no-match rules

Since the Bush Administration and the Department of Homeland Security gave its new rules last week on what employers must do with immigrant employees in regards to ensuring they have legal social security numbers, our staff have been busy.

Several of our staff have worked long hours to provide up-to-date posts for our Capital Press website covering what the officials are saying — but also how farmers and others are reacting.

Cookson Beecher, our reporter in Sedro-Woolley, Wash., does an excellent job of covering overall what the new rules mean and how the agricultural community is reacting to what the government says employers must do to check and then act quickly if an employee’s name doesn’t match a Social Security number.

Reporter Cecilia Parsons, of Ducor, Calif., attended a meeting in Fresno that was rather heated as farmers told what will be the impact of all this: from dairy cows now being milked, to various crops not being picked and harvested. Meanwhile, the farmers are angry — and deservedly so — for the timing of all this and the fact that as employers they could be the ones punished for not doing what ultimately should have been the government’s responsibility in dealing with illegal laborers.

One of the things that is helpful is when people read our stories online and send along any additional questions they have: our staff tries to find the answers, if possible.

This week’s main newspaper editorial (it will appear August 17 online and in our newspaper) also tackles the subject, and points out that the federal government is making individual employers become immigration agents. As the editorial bluntly states, “The business community is being punished for Congress’ inaction and political bickering.” It goes on to say “Employers who don’t do the government’s distasteful bidding face possible prosecution and increasing fines.”

To see more of the editorial, check back on Friday; to keep up to date on what is happening on this issue, keep checking our website each day for our news updates.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

What did you want to be at 8 years old?

Last week I saw Kathi Jaworski, executive director of Rural Development Initiatives, as her board held a meeting in our building here in Salem.

Last time I had seen her was in the high desert of Eastern Oregon near Madras last fall, as she helped run the annual conference held by her organization. It draws the leaders and potential leaders from around the state to share some of the challenges and opportunities they have, and is one of the most inspirational events that can influence the leaders of tomorrow.

The meetings help people to reach their career goals by giving them the tools and increasing their skills for the jobs they do in rural communities, and helps them network with and support each other.

Jaworksi is busy planning the next meeting, and for most people attending the event, they usually catch a glimpse of her as she efficiently helps guide her staff and volunteers to ensure that all goes smooth at these meetings that grow larger each year.

Often when we meet people who run organizations, we don’t always get a chance to see another side of them beyond what they do in their job.

That is why RDI’s website is such an asset in how it describes some of the people who are involved with the organization.

Jaworski shared on the website that what she wanted to be when she was 8 years old was “an artist or a nun, but also for sure a mom. Some internal paradoxes there!”

She also added that one of her personal goals that she planned to write a poem every week for 2007.

I wish I would have known that before I saw her last week. I would have asked about how the poetry was coming along.

This made me wonder what other people have set as their personal goals for this past year. It’s well after New Year’s Day, so anyone who set personal goals — and has stuck to them — should be congratulated.

And anyone who set a goal at 8 years old for a career and stuck to it should be given some sort of award.

Anyone care to share what goals they had planned for a career — or even for the past year?

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Meteor shower shows few meteors

So did anyone see much of the meteor shower promised for last night?

The Perseid meteor shower usually treats us around this time of year, and this year the media had played up it could be as many as 60 meteors per hour at its peak time, and would be better than last year because no moon would compete with the wonderful sky show.

We were told in this part of the country that between midnight and 3 a.m. last night would be the best viewing times.

Unfortunately, yesterday evening was quite cloudy here. I finally decided to go to bed and get up in the wee hours to see if the skies had cleared up.

At 1:45 a.m., I stumbled out of bed, shook off heavy eyelids, and grabbed a blanket to wrap myself up in as I went out to the deck to sit in a lawn chair and gaze high in the sky. Frogs merrily croaked all around.

During the first 10 minutes, it was impressive, with probably about a dozen very bright falling stars and a few fainter ones overhead streaking in all directions.

Perhaps I should have given up after that.

I continued to eagerly sit outside and wait for more meteors. And waited. And waited. My neck got sore from twisting and turning it in all directions attempting to spy another meteor. I was outside until almost 3 a.m. and in that time I saw … one more meteor. That was it. I was disappointed that I didn’t even spot any planes during that time. The frogs even stopped croaking and fell asleep themselves.

I thought back to several years ago, during one of the best meteor showers I had ever witnessed with my family. My father had awakened us in the middle of the night and my parents assigned my brothers and me to different windows at different sides of the house for a couple of hours. The night seemed magical as so many meteors rained down through the skies. Every so often one of us would shout as a super brilliant meteor was spotted, its long tail trailing.

We occasionally switched windows, and pointed out stars to each other. Our favorite word that night was “WOW!”

I recall that night, long after everyone had gone back to bed, I stayed with my face pressed against the cool glass still watching and waiting. When finally I couldn’t see any more for an extended period of time, I gave up and went to bed myself.

Now, years later, I still wait for a similar replay. I still yearn to see so many meteors that it is hard to count them all.

Last night was not one of them, unfortunately. But I knew next time there was a meteor shower, I’d again be checking the skies.

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Guthrie Park - the Oregon's Bluegrass Field of Dreams

Where in Oregon can you go to play bluegrass music and come back years later only to remembered?

It's Guthrie Park. Fourteen years ago it was suggested by several friends, including my mother, that I attend the weekly jam session. It seemed a mystery from the start. Everybody, when asked about its location, said the same thing; "From Salem, go to Dallas and take a right." With such a short direction it had to be easy to find. Six miles outside of Dallas towards Fall City lies the one-room school house where, for 20 years now, folks from surrounding counties meet every Friday at 6 p.m. to play their favorite songs.

Pull up a chair, everybody gets a chance to play their song. People dance to waltzes, polkas, and bring their tambourines. The variety of musicians vary quite a bit. This last time I attended there were the standard fiddlers, mandolin and banjo players. But to the color is added washtub bass players, spoons, bones, bodran and even a saw player.

The sole owner of the former one-room school house is Sally Clark. A mandolin player like myself, I have known her to be earnest in her commitment to Polk and Marion counties' acoustic musicians: a place to play your instrument every Friday. Both youths and seniors often come in droves to see the best-valued entertainment in the area. It doesn't cost a dime, (donations are, however, taken next to the free cookies and punch offered to help defray facility operation costs.)

So if you live in Oregon... you owe it to yourself to go back to the country. A place where old-timey tunes, Irish and folk tunes can be heard from the lone school house on the hill, Guthrie Park.

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Beware of snake heads — even after cutting them off

If you don’t like snakes, read no further.
If you have a morbid curiosity about snakes, keep reading.

According to an Associated Press story, about 50 miles southeast of Yakima, Wash. came Danny Anderson and his son Benjamin came across a 5-foot long rattler snake on Monday on his property while he was feeding his horses.

They “pinned the snake with an irrigation pipe and cut off its head with a shovel.” They continued to strike the head, which rolled under the pickup truck.

Then Danny Anderson told AP, “When I reached down to pick up the head, it raised around and did a backflip almost and bit my finger. I had the shake my hand real hard to get it to let loose.”

By the time he got to a nearby hospital 10 minutes later, the venom was already affecting his body and his tongue was swollen. He was taken to another hospital, got more shots, and was there until Wednesday.

According to information posted by the American International Rattlesnake Museum (, about 8,000 Americans each year are bitten by rattlesnakes and an average of 1 percent, or 12 people per year, die from the venom. The museum stressed “more people die each year from bee stings, lightning strikes or almost any other reason.”

The museum’s website also offered advice on what to do to avoid snakebites:

Wear appropriate footwear such as boots, chaps or high-top hiking shoes.
Step up onto logs or rocks rather than over them.
Don’t place your hands on unseen ledges or into animal holes.
Don’t turn rocks or boards over with bare hands. Use a tool.
Don’t try to kill, catch or molest a venomous snake. Leave them alone.
Don’t hike by yourself.
Learn what dangerous snakes in your area look like. Get a book.
Watch where you are walking.

The museum also offered advice what to do in case you receive a snakebite:

Remain calm and inactive.
Don’t make incisions over the snakebite.
Don’t constrict the flow of blood.
Don’t immerse a limb in ice water.
Use suction device or mouth to extract some venom. If performed within the first couple of minutes, this may help reduce the effects of the bite. This procedure should not be performed by someone with ulcers of the mouth or stomach.
Have another individual drive to medical care for treatment.
If you spend a lot of time in “snake country”, locate a physician with snakebite treatment before hand, just in case.

TREATMENT — Steps taken at a hospital or other medical facility to counter the effects of snake venom is called treatment. The most common treatment includes the injection of an antivenin (or antivenom). Injecting small amounts of venom into a horse makes antivenin. The horse’s immune system provides a defense against the venom. The horse’s blood serum is then used in antivenin and given to human bite victims to counteract the effects of the bite. Only qualified medical personnel should administer antivenin. There are often side effects to be considered.
Treatment may also involve care given to relieve swelling, tetanus or local tissue damage. North American pit viper venom (rattlesnake, water moccasin, copperhead) is primarily hemotoxic, acting to destroy blood and muscle tissue.

Fortunately, even though Anderson had broken the rule about “don’t try to kill a rattlensnake”, he did do some of the right steps to ensure he lived to tell about it.

Hopefully other people will learn from his painful lesson and take steps to prevent snake harm to themselves.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Best assignment ever

I gave Capital Press intern-for-the-day Suzanna Schuck an assignment to write a blog post about her experience covering a story for a newspaper and being published online on a newspaper’s website. After some thought, I decided to give myself the same assignment. So here is my post about my impressions of working with our intern for the day.

When the day started – Friday, Aug. 3, 2007 – I was excited about heading to Portland to cover an event where produce grown by farmers in Hermiston, Ore., was being handed out -- including world famous Hermiston watermelons -- to folks in downtown.

It was exciting for many reasons. One is that I normally fly a desk in my job and don't get out of the office to cover stories very often. Normally that's just fine by me. Although I started out as a photographer and became a writer/reporter, I hung up my camera and notepad long ago to do the behind-the-scenes work. It was hard at first, but I grew to enjoy it. But every now and then it's nice to see if I can still think on my feet when out in the field.

As for coverage of Friday's event, I decided I was going to try something that is new for me, which is shooting video. So I played the role of multimedia reporter, shooting moving pictures and recording sounds.

But I knew my little experiment could be a complete bust if I messed up with the video camera or the digital audio recorder. Fortunately, I was able to find someone to help me out -- the Capital Press intern for the day, Suzanna Schuck.

That's what made the day especially exciting for me, because Suzanna is also my daughter. And this was our first opportunity to work together in an area where we have shared interests -- writing and media.

On this day I turned the notebook and still digital camera over to Suzanna.

We arrived on-scene for our assignment at 11 a.m., about an hour before the scheduled start. The watermelons, potatoes and cantaloupes were all gone by 1 p.m. And after a return to our "field office" and brief pause for lunch, Suzanna set to work writing her story. She and I reviewed some of the audio I had recorded to choose quotes to include in her story. And after a final edit, the story it was posted shortly before 4:30.

Most people who know Capital Press know it as a printed newspaper, which comes out on Fridays. So, ordinarily, covering an event on a Friday would mean that story can't get out to readers until the following Friday. But Suzanna was able to get a story covered and written before some of our print readers probably even had a chance to read the story previewing the event in the newspaper that was waiting for them in their mailbox -- if the U.S. Postal Service managed to get it to them Friday.

Suzanna has also been assigned to write a blog post about her experience and I admit I will be anxious to read what she has to say. I know she’s been working on it, but it isn’t quite a done deal yet. But speaking only for myself and my experience, it was a particularly poignant day. It was a day that gave me a glimpse at the past. Several of the people Suzanna and I talked to Friday were people I used to cover back in the early 1990s as a reporter for the East Oregonian and editor of the Hermiston Herald. The one and only other time I ever covered the Hermiston watermelon giveaway in Portland was back in those days.

Back then in 1992, Frank Harkenrider, who was there in the square Friday, was mayor of Hermiston, and DuWayne White, who hauled a pickup load of produce for this year’s event and helped with the distribution, was on the city council all those years ago. I believe, and my memory may be a bit faulty on the timing for this, but I believe the current mayor, Bob Severson, who served as master of ceremonies Friday, and current councilman Rod Hardin, who was also there, were on the city's planning commission back them.

And Suzanna was barely a year old.

I got to see some of the future as well. I met three young farmers who are fourth-generation watermelon growers -- Brianna, Christie and Chandi Walker who farm near Stanfield -- who are proudly carrying on their family's tradition.

And I saw some of the future of media as well, as journalists, regardless of their primary medium, were covering the event, like Suzanna and I were, with a variety of tools to capture words, photographs, sound and video.

A lot has changed since Frank Harkenrider and some folks from Hermiston starting what is now a tradition of hauling produce to Portland every summer. People have changed hats and changed roles. New people have come onto the scene and new generations have taken more active roles. Children have grown. Time has marched on.

I was glad to see first-hand that the tradition of giving away Hermiston produce has continued and grown over the years. But mostly I feel fortunate to be able to have shared some of my chosen profession with Suzanna.

For many years, our time together was limited because my chosen vocation took me far from home and family. That's one "tradition" I am happy to say has been put to rest. On Friday, what I do for a living and the Eastern Oregon roots Suzanna and I share, gave us a chance to work together and collaborate on a story about people giving to others. We saw lots of smiling faces as hundreds of people, perhaps more than a thousand, got a gift from the good farmers and folks of Umatilla County.

But I feel like I got the biggest give of all. A day sharing what I love with the person I love most in this world.

And Suzanna, thanks for your help. You did a great job. Of course my opinion is biased. As much as I worked with Suzanna on her story as an editor, the part of me that is a proud father far overwhelmed any journalistic objectivity I tried to maintain about her final work. In the end, I turned over her story and photographs to the other editors on the Capital Press staff to decide what, if anything, to do with them for any of our print editions.

Suzanna’s story and photographs appeared in two of the four editions of Capital Press for Aug. 10, 2007 – the two that circulate in Oregon. I also got a call from the publisher of our sister paper, the East Oregonian in Pendleton, who saw the photos we posted online. He wanted to know if he could use a Capital Press photo in a column he is planning for the weekend – one of Suzanna’s photos.

Knowing that Suzanna’s work was about to be published in a print newspaper reminded me of the first time I had my work published, which happened when I was in high school in Eastern Oregon. I got to know the sports editor of the local weekly paper, the Hermiston Herald, when we were both taking photographs at sports events – he for his paper and me for my high school’s yearbook. The sports editor, Bill Bighaus, was planning to do a story on two tennis players from my school, but he didn’t have a photo of them playing. He asked if I had any pictures of them, which I did. He published my first photograph several days later. It was the spring of my senior year in high school and I was 18.

Now Suzanna will experience that same rush of pride at seeing her name in print in a “real” newspaper for the first time. But it will not just be one photo, it will be several. And a story. And her work will appear in three editions of two newspapers and on at least two different websites. All that at age 16 in the summer before her junior year in high school. She bested the old man by a mile and by nearly two years. And I couldn’t be more proud to be shown up by my daughter.

That’s not to say I hope she will, nor would necessarily want her to, pursue what has been my career and turn this news thing into a family tradition. There are better paying fields out there for someone with the talents she has and is developing. But I am very happy that we got a chance to work together and be brought together by interests that at one time, when they were only my interests, contributed to keeping us apart. Fortunately a couple of years ago I was able to find a job that will allow me to do what I do a lot closer to where she lives that gives us the opportunity to spend more time together and see each other more often. And on Friday, Aug. 3, it also gave me the opportunity to work with her, try to teach her a few things and in return learn so much more about her and her interests and talents.

It all made for one of the best days I’ve ever had working and one of the proudest days I’ve ever had as a parent. Through my chosen vocation I have met a former president, covered presidential candidates, interviewed and photographed politicians, captains of industry and celebrities. I've covered Pac-10 athletics, professional rodeo and NBA basketball. But no assignment means more to me than the one I covered with my daughter and for which she got the byline and photo credits. Thanks for working with me, Suzanna. I had a great time.

That’s Not My Phone

By Kevin Duling

Somewhere behind all the fine print of a cell phone contract is what is referred to as “The Farmer Clause.” This clause is activated for someone whose appearance is that of a farmer or rancher. A pair of wrangler jeans and boots will activate the farmer clause. A straw hat, a farm implement hat, or a button up short sleeve shirt with small stripes will activate the farmer clause.

The farmer clause is simply a marked check-box which lets the company know you will be subjecting your phone to extreme conditions. In the event you damage or lose your phone, you will not be treated as the common city person.

While experiencing trouble with my phone, I was instructed to call the warranty number. The first question they asked was, “Did you drop your phone and damage it?”

My response, “No.” I did manage to leave it on the hood of my pickup during a snowstorm, have it slip into the sifter of my seed cleaner, and run over it with a small tractor, but I didn’t drop it. I cannot tell a lie. That would be dishonest.

They told me to send the faulty phone back and they would issue me a new one. If damage was noticed, a $75 surcharge would be added. Other than the grooves the seed cleaner auger left, I didn’t think they would notice.

With the farmer clause discreetly at work, I was issued a substandard cheap replacement. I had to complain. “I sent in a Cadillac and was issued an old, beat up, Volkswagen bug in return!”

“Mr. Duling, perhaps I can remind you about the water damage inside the phone, or the quarter inch gouges along the outside of the frame. You don’t clean your own seed wheat do you? If you would like, I could charge you the $75 surcharge for damaging the phone, or you could be happy with your new VW.”

I blurted back, “On second thought, maybe this VW will work just fine, thanks for your time sir.”

As you can see, I was unfairly discriminated against, due to my occupation. At the cell phone retailer, there are two pictures on the wall. One of a farmer talking on his cell phone, next to a piece of broken down equipment. The other, a rancher, mounted on his beautiful quarter horse with vast snow-capped peaks behind him, talking on his cell phone.

Both of these are false advertisements. I have broken pieces of equipment many times, and never have I been in a spot where there is actually cell service. Also, the farmer in the advertisement was smiling. Why would you be smiling when your equipment just broke down?

As far as the rancher on his horse, everyone knows you can’t use a cell phone with gloves on. Besides, who’s brave enough to ride his horse up a mountain in the winter time? All these things are tricks, hoping to suck you into the jaws of the farmer clause.

One word of advice: Never let anyone between the ages of 12 and 20 borrow your phone; not even for a split second. These youngsters understand electrical devices better than we understand our age.

My 15-year-old nephew’s favorite trick is to take my phone when I’m not looking, and change absolutely everything in it. He also enjoys doing this to his grandpa. At the present time, Grandpa’s phone will loudly say, “Wooow” every time he opens it. This brings great joy to my nephew, knowing none of us are smart enough to make it quit.

While attending a wheat meeting last week, we were interrupted by numerous cell phones going off. Every 10 minutes there was a blaring ring of some kind from a corner of the room. An urban friend of mine asked me, “Why can’t these guys put their phones on vibrate during meetings?”

I whispered, “Because we are farmers, that’s why.”


“Dad, will you quit checking the time on your phone, we’ll be out of this meeting soon!” I snapped.

Kevin Duling is a wheat farmer and freelance writer from Maupin, Ore. His stories will be posted on the Capital Press blog every Friday. Comments are welcomed at

Copyright, August 2007

Rural Calif. town has most polluted air in America

Often we hear people say they want to move to the countryside for the clean air and because they believe it’s healthier for their kids.

However, there’s one place where parents think twice about where they live and consider moving away from the rural area for the sake of the their kids.

“If you love your child, move,” Irma Garza said in a recent Associated Press story as she discussed the air pollution in her community.

Explaining why her town of Arvin, Calif. isn’t the healthiest, she related the experiences of her own family. “Sometimes you go outside and can hardly breathe. The worst part is in the summertime you can’t send your kids outside to play.”

There are lots of anecdotes by people in Arvin, a community of 15,000 people in Kern County that is about 20 miles southeast of Bakersfield, Calif., and nearly 90 miles northwest of Los Angeles. The rural community that is scenic with a lot of fruit trees and grape vines has a fairly high level of poverty, and a large number of Hispanic farmworkers.

But this week smog regulators are concentrating more attention on this community and emphasizing why this area is unhealthy.

San Joaquin Valley’s Air Pollution Control District is attempting to find a way to deal with the community being identified as having the most polluted air in the nation.

Pollution from as far away as San Francisco settles around Arvin. Far away from factories, freeways or other sources of pollution, “the pollutants that blow in from elsewhere get trapped by the mountains, causing airborne particles to coat homes and streets and blot out views of the nearby Tehachapi range on hot summer days,” reported AP.

“People complain of watery eyes, dry throats and inexplicable coughs, particularly in the summer, when temperatures can climb over 100 degrees and stay there for days,” said AP. “Arvin’s level of ozone, the primary component in smog, exceeded the amount considered acceptable by the EPA on an average of 73 days per year between 2004 and 2006. Second on the EPA’s list was the Southern California town of Crestline, at 65 days. The San Francisco Bay Area averaged just four days over the same period.”

One of the results is a higher asthma rate in the area, affecting 17.5 percent of children under 18 years old, compared to an average of 14.8 percent for California and 12.2 percent for the country.

Struggles continue by air quality boards and politicians on how and when can air pollution realistically be lowered or eliminated, but it appears this probably won’t happen within the next five years.

Meanwhile other California rural communities are probably wondering what will be the future for them as population — and air pollution — continues to grow and impacts them.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger can demand changes be made, but what is realistic in terms of time, resources and the rural communities receiving as much attention for their health problems caused by pollution beyond their geographical boundaries — and control.

The next generation in Arvin, which will be affected the most, awaits the answers.

Whether it can hold its breath — literally — until decisions are made and actions take place is another story.

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Reaching out to customers in different ways

When it comes to companies trying to sell a product, it can be tough.

There’s a lot of competition as companies try to figure out the best way to reach their target. They might try radio, television, newspapers, magazines, the internet or direct mail campaigns.

While newspapers depend on advertising to help customers reach their target audience, the question always is how many people are seeing the ad — or better yet — reading the ad and responding to it?

Classifieds are often the most popular, and customers let newspapers know they are pleased with the results they get. But what about the larger ads, especially if it’s the same ad displayed over and over?

According to Ted Haller of The Jordan Group who was a speaker at the Ag Media Summit in Kentucky recently, that is the big question. Is an ad reread? If the same ad is seen in more than one magazine, people probably won’t read it again, he said.

So the question becomes how many ads does a company need to run, in how many publications, to reach the target audience? And how often does that ad need to change so it captures the eye of the consumer? Haller said agencies often tell companies they should have continuity in their ads to get customers, but he stressed a new ad will attract more people to read the ads.

When farmers receive so many publications in their mailboxes these days, it’s even more important to catch their eye to read an ad rather than skip the same ad in several publications over a period of time.

Using one of the workshop attendees as a test target, Haller handed a farm magazine ad to the guy to read. It took 10 seconds to finish the ad. Haller said on average, an ad takes about 15 seconds. So how many ads need to be run in how many magazines before they’re seen?

Haller recommended people buy a media mix: use the different advertising methods out there to try to reach a target audience, and don’t rely on the same ads for extended periods and especially not in one type of media. He provided the positive and negative aspects of all type of media, as well as stressed how pricey it can be, especially using broadcast media to run the ads.

Ultimately, companies don’t want just exposure to customers, they want target customers to react positively to the ads.

As for newspapers who wait to talk to agencies that represent companies and pitch their advertising packages available, Haller was blunt: he said 50 to 75 percent of the media mix is predetermined by the agencies before they even talk to the media representative. The decisions are already made by bias, budget concerns, personal preferences, etc.

For this reason, it’s more important for media companies to be more prepared and have their mix of options ready: show how the target audience will be effectively reached.

With all the competition, perhaps it is even more notable that an Oregon business has earned itself a prestigious award from the American Advertising Federation recently for a direct marketing campaign.

Truitt Bros., Inc., a manufacturer in the shelf-stable foods industry since 1973, received recognition for the work it did with an agency. The agency NOBLE received a Gold ADDY Award for national creative excellence for a promotion it did for Truitt that was simple but effective.

NOBLE created “a unique 3-D mailer introducing customers to Truitt Bros. Pembrook Southern-style Green Beans. The attention-grabbing piece promotes the fresher taste, firmer texture, and brighter color of the product, while incorporating the company’s corporate sustainability message,” said an article on Truitt’s website about the award.

Most fascinating was the simplicity of what NOBLE and Truitt joined up to do: the 3-D mailer was simply a box with two cans inside, connected with a piece of string like kids used to do to create a simple communication tool. The accompanying letter in the mailer encouraged potential buyers to give Truitt a call about their green beans.

The win was remarkable for several reasons: there are 60,000 entries annually in this contest, making it the world’s largest advertising competition; secondly it has several levels of judging, including local, regional and national; thirdly, it is administered by the advertising industry; and fourthly, it’s rare that a foodservice agency and manufacturer would win this award “in a contest dominated by consumer companies and campaigns,” as executive vice-president Tim Blade explained in a press release.

Would the mailer have worked with anyone who saw it? No.

But in this case it accomplished catching the attention of its target audience for probably more than 10 seconds.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

National Night Out attracts neighbors

Last night was National Night Out Against Crime, and our neighborhood in Salem was one of the ones that participated by holding a block party.

Actually, a several-block party. The neighborhood association invited people from several blocks around to participate.

We all gathered at the end of a dead-end street, threw down a few lawn chairs and plastic tables, and shared a few dishes among our neighbors. Kids ran after each other in the street, adults introduced themselves to each other, and representatives from the local police department gave tips on how to protect us against crime.

We were assured that our street was one of the safer areas in town. Not all of us felt that safe, knowing of a few thefts on our block within the last three years. These ranging from a house break-in where a large number of tools were stolen, to someone stealing a few solar lanterns from someone’s driveway, to cars being stolen.

This morning, we woke up in time to see the neighbor across the street had his yard toilet-papered by possible vandals or friends: streams of paper all over a tree, ripped up chunks all over the lawn. We were a bit unsettled to know that we had calmly slept through it all.

We’ve had our share of suspicious activity, but when compared to other neighborhoods, this seems to be one of the luckier areas to live.

Advice from police

The police officer advised us all to keep an eye on our streets, lock our doors, register our bikes with the city, be careful with our valuables, and never leave unlocked vehicles idling in our driveways.

It’s sad, really, that we need such lessons. I think of how life is different from when I grew up on a farm where we encouraged to keep doors unlocked in case a neighbor visited us for something and we weren’t there to help. The neighbor could find that cup of sugar in the kitchen, tools in the garage or even borrow that vehicle for an emergency trip. All we asked in return was a quickly jotted note left on our kitchen table explaining where and why something had happened — and often there were such notes.

Vehicles were left unlocked with keys in the ignition. Part of it was because we were constantly on the go, and you never knew who would need which old pickup or grain truck at what time and for what purpose. Rather than wasting time scrambling for hidden keys, we just jumped in the vehicle we needed and headed for our destination.

Changing times

But as I listened last night to the list of what to do to protect property, I thought about how crime has begun to hit our farm and so many others. We have had various things stolen. We don’t trust strangers as much when they come to the yard. We lock our doors. We’re suspicious of why people ask us certain questions.

Back to life in the city: how was the event last night?

It served its purpose. We discussed crime and its prevention, but we also admired or sympathized with people’s projects in their yards and homes. We borrowed ideas from each other. We shared recipes and tips on raising kids and pets. And we plotted how as a community we could catch the raccoons, skunks and squirrels that seem to enjoy our areas as much as we do.

We heard how three big raccoons have terrorized cats and dogs, chewed on sprinkler heads, enjoyed snails and fish from ponds, and generally made a nuisance of themselves yet successfully avoided all our efforts to trap them.

Time to leave

As the evening ended and people began to fold up their chairs and wander down the street to their homes, someone mused how it would be great to have these events more often and not just once a year.

In rural areas, there are fowl suppers, dances, weddings, funerals, local school graduations, bingo nights or local drama events that tie a community together. Everyone gets to know their neighbors for miles around.

In a city, sadly, we often don’t even know our next door neighbors.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A Steven Spielberg production it's not...

... but it is a short film premiering today. This one is a Capital Press production, available on YouTube and and on a page attached to our podcast site.

Our web guru here at the Capital Press, Debbie Evans, is not in the office this week, but I managed to figure out her secret and added a link to the video to the multimedia section on our website too, where you can find links to other multimedia items, like photo slide shows and audio recordings.

My apologies for the production values of this video. This was, literally, the first time I have ever used a video camera in my life. Hey, cut me some slack, I started out as a still photographer. I still like the power of a still image, but don't let it be said I'm afraid to try new things. OK, I was afraid, but I figured no one would actually ever watch this video even if I could managed to record it and edit it, so the risk was low for total humiliation.

So for what it's worth, here is what I believe is only the second Capital Press video we've ever posted online and the first one I've every tried. We do have some other videos listed on the multimedia page, but they are videos made from still images and supplemental audio.

This video goes with the story about the Hermiston watermelon giveaway that was held Friday, Aug. 3, in Portland. See the story and this post for more details.

Small Midwest Towns Need Young Adults

West Point, NE - Executive Director Patti Knobbe said last week that many Seniors that moved out west are moving back to small farm towns such as West Point, Nebraska because of terrific property values.

Demographically small Midwest towns however are facing the challenge of getting younger persons to live in such smaller communities, which in the future may create service issues for the older population cross section.

[Patti Knobbe is Executive Director of the West Point Chamber of Commerce in Nebraska.]

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Monday, August 06, 2007

Meandering through Indiana

Last week I meandered through Indiana on a sales trip to agricultural accounts. The agriculture was pretty typical of the Midwest. Corn, corn, corn, soybeans, corn, corn, soybeans, etc. The tiny towns I went through were cute as could be with Amish clotheslines with rows of brown overalls and white shirts. At one of those towns my appointment fell through, so I thought, “what the heck, I’ll just go over to that realtor over there and tell him about Farmseller.”

Turns out he didn’t have any farm properties for sale. He was obviously upset about that. I asked why there were not properties for sale, expecting to hear something about stability. He threw a stack of papers at me and told me to look at the numbers. It was a list of farms around his area and how much money each of them got from government subsidies. Each one was between $200,000 and $500,000. So he doesn’t think people are hanging on to their properties because of the good corn prices. No, he says farmers are getting rich off of subsidies. There is still more and more consolidation of farms, so they are getting bigger and bigger. And so are the subsidies. The only farms being sold at all are small 20-acre parcels, and many of those are 1031 exchanges.

So the middle-sized farm is becoming obsolete. I heard this again from an implement manufacturer. His product was best for the middle-sized farmer. It is a good quality product and lasts a long time. The giant corporate farm doesn’t use this implement (too small) and the small lifestyle farmer buys a cheap one because they will only need to use it once.

He had other woes having to do with what’s happening to corporations as well as farms. Some of his best distributors are being bought by a Chinese company. They will surely kick out his product from the line, since they have their own. Big fish keep gobbling up the little fish. In a healthy ecosystem that situation is offset by the little fish multiplying at a faster rate – more little fish. In this case, the little fish are going extinct. No point in making more little fish if there is no incentive to exist.

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