Thursday, July 31, 2008

What a difference a year makes

One year ago, I was up in Portland covering an event. I had lined up an intern to do the important work, writing the story and taking the pictures. So, being free of that responsibility, I decided to make my first feeble attempt at shooting video.

I had no clue what I was doing or what I was in for. I had literally zero experience using a video camera. I was once a still news photographer, but had little interest in shooting video. So, this was my chance to do something different.

The video was not good, and knowing even less about video editing than I did about videography, the resolution sucked. But it was my first attempt and I counted it as a success to even get the video posted online.

The video I shot was of last year's watermelon and produce giveaway by Eastern Oregon farmers in Portland. Perhaps it is fitting, or merely ironic, that I've spent part of the last week working on video editing and posting, because it is watermelon giveaway time again.

So, to show how far we've come, here's a look at the first video I did a year ago and the most recent one I edited and posted that was shot by Capital Press reporter Cookson Beecher.



I've still got a lot to learn, as do my colleagues here at the Capital Press. But we are making progress.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Dismal agriculture

Freakonomics, an economics blog on the New York Times, has an interview with University of California-Davis agricultural economist Daniel Sumner. Some of the reader-supplied questions are a little off the wall (one reader wants the government to require every American to garden), but it's still fascinating. To sum up, he says biofuel mandates have significantly increased the cost of food, organic food is great for the rich but not for average consumers, local isn't always good for the environment, and he's no fan of farm subsidies:

This rationale, or rationalization, for farm subsidies makes no sense. Farming is a long-run business and there is no reason to think the government is better at regulating the markets for farm commodities than are the farmers and other who are in the business and have strong incentives to use storage, forward pricing, lines of credit, and the like to deal with commodity markets.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Onward (Eastward?) on the Oregon Trail

Next year, Oregon will celebrate its 150th anniversary as a state — its sesquicentennial.

Celebrations will include people talking about where they came from, a lot of them from the Midwest and other parts of the country, venturing forth along the challenging Oregon Trail as so many people sought to start new homes in the Western frontier.

I’m bucking the trend — I’m moving from the West to Nebraska later this week. I’m actually planning to travel along the Oregon Trail route, although in less time than the covered wagons needed. It depends a bit on how heavy traffic is during the summer tourist season.

To relive the spirit of moving livestock along the trail, I’m taking one of my cats with me: I expect yowling from the cat carrier most of the way. At 14 years old (72 in human years), Mac will be quite cranky about the trip from Oregon to Nebraska. I might be pretty cranky myself about Mac by the time we reach Nebraska, and I expect to age a few years myself.

It’s amazing how many people in the West have ties to Nebraska. As soon as I mentioned I’m moving to Omaha, people began to share they were from there, their grandparents or parents were from there, they went to university there, what they know about college football or the college baseball championships in Nebraska, or even that they have a tie with corn on it from there…

Corn has become the main topic of conversation for people. As in “they grow a lot of corn there, right?” or “I hope you like corn.”

Some people just decided to share corny jokes with me. I’d pop one into the blog if I had a good one, but people might be looking to this blog for kernels of wisdom.

OK, here’s one: What has ears but cannot hear? A field of corn.

Maybe I should stick to my day job… hmm … actually, I am at a point where I am between my day jobs. But before anyone runs off screaming from the corn punishment, I assure you I am much too busy packing boxes for my move and couldn’t possibly think of any more corn humor to puntificate about.

But I digress from the subject of moving.

As I prepare to move, I have found nightly visitors have decided it’s time to bid me farewell. Currently I am juggling a family of raccoons and a skunk. The latter seems most determined to visit the cats’ food dish. The cats seem determined to run after the skunk. I fear that at some point the skunk will run after the cats. I am willing to bet it will be the day I leave for Nebraska, and the cats will be determined to climb into the car as I load it up for the trip. That would be a catastrophe. Especially if the cats decide to hitch a ride with me up until say, Hood River.

So if you see a packed car — with a yowling cat, Oregon license plates, and faint skunk odor trailing it pass through your West/Midwest states later this week — don’t worry.

I’m just reliving the settlers’ journey (with a few changes) on the Oregon Trail in the opposite direction.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

New video player

We are testing out a new video posting tool. Our YouTube channel is available at the bottom of this page. Above is the one we are trying out. If you have a preference, let us know.

Coyotes in a Field of Dreams.

On occasion when my office day lags for my break I will saunter into the Circulation Department at work, by stealth snipe a piece of chocolate from Claudia's desk bowl and a get a laugh or two. Today's diversionary conversations were largely about life's disappointments such as her empty chocolates bowl, various uses of hard licorice, and eventually to what was growning on her farm.

"We have corn, seed and beans," said Claudia.

"You are bona fide Farmer then! I don't imagine the seed tastes very good though." I said joking.

"We grow lawn seed." she said.

"Hmm. Then you must be kind of like dentists with white teeth. You must have a perfect lawn!"

"No," said Claudia. "Our lawn is a nightmare of weeds. Didn't you know the cobbler's children never have shoes?"

"Hmm. What a disappointment. I thought for sure a lawn seed farmer would have an immaculate personal lawn."

"My husband is too busy to keep the lawn perfect, and right now, he would be just mowing the Dandelions."

I grimaced in disappointment that I without a doubt will leave the office today without a helpful hint to keep my lawn more perfect than the neighbor's across the street. We Oregonians are very proud of our lawns. It's like war. An attitude that is healthy for the lawn fertilizer industry.

Time to change the subject in order to get another piece of licorice:

"Claudia, tell me about the your corn. Do you ever see baseball players in it?"

"No. I do go walking in the corn. No baseball players like the movie Field of Dreams. I did see some coyote droppings and a bunny."

I thought to myself, maybe farming isn't all its cracked up to be. Weeds, dandelions and coyote poop. I decided not to ask about the beans.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Shein brought added dimensions to paper and blog

The Capital Press and Blogriculture are about to lose a key member of our team.

If you have been a regular reader of this blog, you know that Elaine Shein, the executive editor of Capital Press, has been the primary contributor here for quite a while. Well, Elaine is soon to be moving on to other pastures. I know not everyone who reads this site also reads the Capital Press, so you may not have heard that news or read the column published Friday by Carl Sampson, the managing editor of Capital Press.

In these, her final days with us, I wanted to make sure you all got a chance to learn about her pending departure before she was gone.

What follows is Carl's column about Elaine's departure.

Shein brought added dimensions to paper
After five years, executive editor moves to DTN in Nebraska

By Carl Sampson
Capital Press

Next week will be Executive Editor Elaine Shein's last with the Capital Press. She has accepted a position with DTN as an associate managing editor at its Omaha, Neb., headquarters. DTN provides market and weather information, as well as news to customers in agriculture and other industries.

During her five years at the Capital Press, Shein has brought added vigor and intelligence to our coverage of Western agriculture. She has traveled around the region learning about the issues facing farmers and ranchers and applied that knowledge to our news reports.

She also helped lead special projects that broadened our coverage. Shein was a key player in our first special report on "Water in the West." That report received a first-place award from the American Agricultural Editors Association, as did the two following special reports.

She shepherded another award-winning series on climate change that involved editors, reporters and photographers from our sister newspapers in the East Oregonian Publishing Co. that received several national and international awards.

Shein's tenure at the Capital Press has been about more than winning awards. Her membership and participation in agricultural organizations such as Oregon Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation and the Agri-Business Council of Oregon have brought those groups fresh ideas to help get the word out about the importance of agriculture to every American.

This year she served as Oregon's AITC president, secretary for ABC's executive board, and also chair of the Keeping Ag Viable committee for ABC.

Last fall, she facilitated a retreat for representatives from agricultural groups around the state that led this spring to a consumer survey on agricultural attitudes.

Shein, 43, is a native of Alticane, Saskatchewan, where her parents run a farm that produces beef cattle, wheat, oats, barley, rye, canola, peas, lentils and forage.

She is a graduate of the University of Saskatchewan. Shein started her career as a reporter for the Leader-Post in Regina, Sask., while working on a second degree, in journalism and communications, from the University of Regina.

She worked for several months at Gemini News Service in London before joining the Western Producer, Canada's largest agricultural newspaper that covers much of western Canada.

During her 14 years there, she worked her way up the ladder to become editor and deputy publisher.

In her new job in Nebraska, Shein will find herself in a place that is in many ways different from the West. In the Midwest, corn, soybeans and wheat are king and cattle and hogs are the mainstay of livestock producers.

In other ways, though, she'll find herself right at home among the farmers and ranchers that she has cared about most during her career here and in Canada.

We all wish Elaine the best in her new job.

Managing Editor Carl Sampson is based in Salem, Ore. E-mail:

Ag in the West social media watch

Capital Press videos on YouTube

Our most popular videos