Wednesday, November 26, 2008

News doesn't take a holiday

It's fairly quiet today around Capital Press headquarters, which is unusual for a Wednesday. Normally, Wednesday is the day we have all hands on deck because we are finishing up the print editions of the newspaper. But our deadline was pushed up a day this week to try to get the paper out to folks on time around the holiday.

So, some folks on our staff are taking some vacation time today and/or Friday in order to spend time with family for Thanksgiving. We aren't the only folks affected by the holiday of course. Reporter Mitch Lies has said that he's had a tough time reaching people this week to make appointments or conduct interviews.

We can see the difference in the number of visitors to our website too. The number of visitors to are down today too. But rest assured, we are still posting news and updates online and we'll have the full contents of this week's edition posted by tomorrow, even though tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Due to the holiday, our office will be closed and we will not be posting news updates to on Thursday, but we will be back Friday to fill readers in on what's happening in news affecting farmers and ranchers in the West.

As the saying goes, news doesn't take a holiday, but we know people do, or at least try to now and then.

We hope you and your family and friends have a pleasant and safe Thanksgiving holiday. And if you need a break from the holiday hubbub, you can still find lots of new and interesting agriculture news on

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wrong number rings up potentially lucrative idea

I think I have the answer to the current financial crisis. It came to me through a ringing telephone.

Every once in a while the phone on my desk rings with an unusual ring that tells me it is coming in on a direct-dial line, not through the main switchboard. Of course, I get excited, because I think it's someone who wants to reach me specifically. Maybe one of those business cards I've handed out at some ag event is netting a phone call. So I answer the phone with enthusiasm.

"Capital Press newsroom, this is Gary."

There's silence on the other end of the line. So I repeat my greeting, but switch it up a bit, speaking a bit slower.

"Newsroom, this is Gary, may I help you?"

The answer back usually goes something like this:

"Hello, um, is this Bank of America?"

"No, this is the Capital Press newspaper," I say.

"Oh, sorry, I must have a wrong number," they say, followed by the inevitable click.

Obviously, my direct line number must be close to one of Bank of America's phone numbers. Sometimes those calls annoy me. But the one I got today gave me an idea.

Rather than disappoint those folks when they call, I'll just open up a bank branch right here in my office. Of course, due to limited space, staffing and time constraints (there is only me in my office, and I can only work so many hours a day, and I have a another job, so can't devote full time to banking) it will be limited services branch. We won't offer loans or withdrawals, but we will accept loan payments and deposits.

It could certainly help me get through the current economic crisis.

OK, so I won't really start a bank branch in my office. But a guy can daydream can't he? Just don't tell my bosses. I'm supposed to be working.

Disclaimer: The Gary West branch of Bunco America is not FDIC insured. Depositors assume all risks. Deposits are considered non-refundable gifts to the branch owner. Void where prohibited or if any statements herein might result in civil or criminal action against Bunco America or its stockholders or if it might result in the firing of the "bank's" president/CEO/CFO and sole proprietor.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thank you for what you grow

In my grandparents' generation, many Americans had to grow much of their own food in order to eat. All four of my grandparents were born before and lived through the Great Depression. They came from farm families and worked on farms part or most of their lives.

My mother's mother also maintained a large garden, which provided fresh vegetables for the summer with plenty left over to can for winter meals too. There was not money for luxuries — things my generation and my daughter's generation now take for granted — but there was always plenty to eat. And the dinner table was the centerpiece of family gatherings.

A lot of families will be gathering this weekend for feasts of Thanksgiving. Perhaps the economic hardships so many are experiencing will make us remember the more basic things of life for which we should be thankful — things like having food to eat and family and friends with which we can share our meal and our fellowship.

I feel fortunate that members of my family, to present day, still make it possible for so many people to put food on their holiday table by working in agriculture. Most Americans are far removed from the farm and have little idea where their food comes from or what it takes to grow it. I've got to see those things first hand and am proud of my family members who help grow food, not only for their neighbors, but the nation and the world.

My grandparents are all gone now. My mom's mom was the last to go shortly after Thanksgiving last year. My grandparents, and several aunts and uncles, won't be around to share in the feasts of Thanksgiving. But I can't help but think of all of the family gatherings, holidays and special occasions that revolved around a family dinner table and featured food our family has grown with their own hands or had a hand in growing.

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my family and friends, near and far, and all the people who help feed us all. Their work, a labor of love and great sacrifice, is worth far more than they will ever receive in financial compensation. They deserve to be remembered and thanked this holiday as we remember the many blessings we are fortunate to enjoy.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Separating the wheat from the Christmas trees

I learned something new today.

They grow Christmas trees in Kansas.

I never would have guessed that. I was browsing the AP wire and found an item about a Christmas tree being delivered to the official residence of Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

I thought for sure the tree was probably shipped in from Oregon or Washington or maybe even Idaho or California. But no! Kansas has its own Christmas trees. The state even has its own Christmas Tree Growers Association.

That's why I love my job. I learn new things all the time.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Some new faces coming to Capital Press

We've got some new people coming to the Capital Press who will make in imprint on what, and how, we cover West Coast agriculture.

First up, we've got a new executive editor. His name is Joe Beach. He started work this week. You can learn more about him in a column he wrote for this week's edition of Capital Press. There's also a story about his hiring posted online now.

Next week we will be joined by a new California reporter too. Tim Hearden is joining the crew. He's coming aboard from Redding Record Searchlight. You can read his farewell blog on here.

Maybe we can lasso him into contributing to Blogriculture when he gets on board.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Separated at birth, or an alien conspiracy?

Is it just me, or does Washington state Veterinarian Leonard Eldridge look an awful lot like the actor that played the alien jeweler in the movie Men in Black? I was Eldridge's picture with an article on the Capital Press website and immediately thought of a scene in the MIB. I swear Eldridge could be related to actor Mike Nussbaum.

You decide. But if Eldridge tugs on his ear and his face opens up to reveal a tiny alien, someone call the Men in Black.

Leonard Eldridge, Washington state veterinarian

Mike Nussbaum, actor

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Who will tell your story?

Susan Crowell, editor of Farm and Dairy, has a great column today advising farmers and ranchers to do a better job of telling the story of the good things they do to the American public. The column follows a similar theme to one of this week's Capital Press editorials.

It may be difficult for an individual family farm to have its own public relations department, but farmers in general need to get far more PR savvy. The American people don't understand why farm subsidies are needed. They don't understand why egg producers need battery cages. They don't understand why you use water by the acre foot — can't even picture it — when they use water by the cup or gallon.

If you don't show them, some activist somewhere with a decidedly different point of view will.

It's great that you are all so good at talking to the farm press when we call to talk to you. But you need to talk to the mainstream press too. And you would be well served to have some sort of online website presence to take your message straight to consumers too.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Twitter me this

I resisted as long as I could. However, I'm now on Twitter. If want to follow me on there, here's the link. I've also added the rss feed into the right side rail here, so you can get the latest Twitter post here too, right under our list of Blogriculture contributors.

Tweet long and prosper.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A new deal needed for a new century

Perhaps something good can come out of the economic turmoil gripping the country. Maybe in President-elect Barack Obama's administration can make a new "New Deal" to benefit rural Americans in the 21st century. One legacy of the 20th century Depression was the development of infrastructure that brought electricity and phone service to rural residents.

Hopefully, one of the outcomes of addressing job losses and other symptoms of the current economic collapse will be to put people back to work to address the 21st century divide between urban and rural Americans that exists in cyberspace. Rural residents need better, faster, less expensive access to Internet services to provide the same educational and business opportunities for people who live in the country that exist in urban neighborhoods.

Of course, farmers and ranchers will have to embrace and use that technology too in order to get the benefit out of it. Of course, some won't. As in early generations, some folks stubbornly took pride in still having a working outhouse, or the fact that their mail was only delivered 3 days a week. But the fact of the matter is that in order for farmers and ranchers to compete in the global agriculture economy, they need to have access to and utilize the tools of the modern world. Yes, you can still harvest a grain field with a team of horses, but does it make the best business sense to do so?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Just imagine the Cabinet meetings

Country music star Willie Nelson speaks July 6, 2007, in Salem, Ore., during the  groundbreaking ceremony for a SeQuential-Pacific Biodiesel processing plant. Photo by Mitch Lies/Capital Press.Chuck Zimmerman over at AgWired offers up another suggestion as a possible Barack Obama appointment for Agriculture Secretary in a post on his blogWillie Nelson.

I may have to play some tunes from the Red-headed Stranger's library on my ol' iPod and think about that one for a while.

Picture the scene: Secretary Nelson walks up to the podium at a meeting of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association to the refrain of his hit song "Momma Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys". Talk about a show stopper!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Who would fill the West Coast agriculture dream cabinet?

I've gotten caught up in all the election excitement, and disappointment, swirling around this week. I can't help but wonder what impact things like the election of President-elect Barack Obama, the passage of Proposition 2 in California and the defeat of Sen. Gordon Smith in Oregon might have on West Coast agriculture for the next 4 years or more.

Who will Obama pick for key Cabinet posts? Who would farmers and ranchers hope to see as the next heads of Agriculture, Interior, Homeland Security, Energy, Labor, Environmental Protection Agency, Transportation and Commerce?

Mark Nicholas at has a list of possible cabinet appointments that have reportedly been leaked already. There are some names Westerners will recognize in there, like:

• California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as a possible Energy secretary.

• Former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber as a possible head of Health and Human Services.

• Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire as a possible appointee as Interior secretary.

• Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon in Transportation. has some different names in it Cabinet list. The Associated Press has a different version too. But who is on your list?

If you have ideas of who could, or should, be appointed to an Obama Cabinet to best serve Western agriculture and the people of the West, feel free to post a comment of let us know where we can see your suggestions on another blog or website.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Pizza and poll numbers go together

During the last presidential election — actually during the last four (five if you count college) — I was working at a general news, or mainstream, newspaper. This is my first presidential election working for an agriculture weekly. The pace is decidedly different.

Election Day is always a big day at mainstream papers and is generally a long day for staffers, particularly editors. Lots of pizzas will be consumed in newsrooms around the country today as journalists work to report the most up-to-date news and election results from the presidential race right on down to local boards and commissions.

Here at the Capital Press, we are not so wrapped up in political coverage. For one thing, our paper won't come out until Friday, so everyone will know who won what where (except perhaps for the Washington state gubernatorial race). And since we cover four states, the hyper-local races, which may be highly important to some of our readers, will be of absolutely no interest to most of our readers. So our political coverage will be confined to reaction to the results in the presidential race, a couple of U.S. Senate races, some statewide races and a ballot measure or two.

Another contrast between the Capital Press and the mainstream press, is that the mainstreamers will be burning the midnight oil to get results out while our staff will be working a pretty normal schedule today. But if you are an election news junkie and a reader, I'll be posting some of the major election results for you tonight on our website. Maybe I'll order a pizza to make the experience seem a little more like old times.

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