By Victoria Binning, OSU Extension Service
Marion, Polk, and Yamhill county small farmers, as well as Latino farmers across the state, have a new resource! Started in 2016, the OSU Extension Mid-Willamette Valley Small Farms Team is available to answer farming questions, providing agricultural resources, hosting on-farm hands-on workshops and conducting research to benefit small farmers. To date, they have hosted workshops on soil fertility management for annual and perennial crops, organic strawberry plug production, integrated pest management, manure management, harvest and post-harvest practices and safety, cherry and blueberry pruning, and more. The Mid-Valley Small Farms Team has specific expertise in berry and small fruit production, organic production and certification, and vegetable growing, in both English and Spanish.
This bilingual capacity is unique within OSU Extension. Javier Fernandez-Salvador, Professor of Practice and resident berry expert, is leading the development of a Latino small farmers program to serve the needs of Spanish-speaking farmers across the state. The Mid-Valley Small Farms team is collaborating with Latino organizations across the state to host educational workshops. The team has just concluded an eight-week series of classes designed to train Spanish-speaking beginner farmers in collaboration with Huerto de la Familia in Springfield. The farmers are participating in the Cambios farm and small business incubator program and have covered a comprehensive range of topics, including: small business management, introductory plant physiology and propagation, soil fertility management, plant nutrition, irrigation, food safety, and marketing. By the end of the course, the beginning farmers develop farm management plans that they will then utilize to start and develop their own farm businesses at the Huertos de la Familia incubator farm.
Also new and exciting, the Mid-Valley Small Farms Team is collaborating with the Olive Growers of Oregon to study best practices for olive production in the state. A cold hardiness evaluation of this kind has never yet been conducted in this latitude. Olive growers in Oregon are a pioneering group, looking both to find the next high-quality, distinctive product for Oregon - and seeking to find a crop suitable for changing weather summers and winters predicted for Oregon.
This summer, the Mid-Valley Small Farms Team is conducting a needs assessment of small farmers in Marion, Polk, and Yamhill counties to determine our next areas of focus. What are our farmer's educational needs? What can small farms extension do for them? The Small Farms team will be designing their coming three-to five-year plan on the results of this needs assessment.