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February 2007

February 2007
  • Balcom and Moe Like many young people who grow up on farms, Jared Balcom wanted nothing to do with agriculture when he went away to college at Washington State University.
  • Farm Labor Almost every farmer has had to deal with the farm labor issue. As the labor supply gets tighter and tighter, finding good workers and getting good employees to come back every year will become even more important, whether the workforce is needed for two weeks or 10 months.
  • First Time for Everything
  • High-Tech Farming It's said that the information age started with the military in the 1950s, and the technology we have in the 21st century is a direct result of it. Farmers haven't benefited near as much as other industries, but that may change for the next generation of produce growers.
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Washington grower leads family business of potatoes and fruit

Like many young people who grow up on farms, Jared Balcom wanted nothing to do with agriculture when he went away to college at Washington State University. “I’d had my fill of farming. It kind of gets old after awhile,” he said. “I was 180 degrees from agriculture.” He majored in biology and did three years of pre-med, but one summer had the chance to work on a wheat farm that was owned by a friend’s family. “I realized how much I missed farming, missed agriculture, missed being outdoors,” he said. The Family Business Jared, now 33, went to his father and asked to work for the family-owned company. He wasn’t given a desk in the office, but was given the opportunity to work hard and earn the respect of his father and the employees of Balcom and Moe, based in Pasco, Wash. His dad, Maury, told him “if you…  » Read more

Communication is key to keeping good workers

Almost every farmer has had to deal with the farm labor issue. As the labor supply gets tighter and tighter, finding good workers and getting good employees to come back every year will become even more important, whether the workforce is needed for two weeks or 10 months. The average farm worker makes an average $12,500 annually, and many don’t qualify for public assistance programs, according to the National Council of Agricultural Employers. Federal cutbacks are threatening the few programs named in the 2002 Farm Bill that do benefit farm laborers. The council is working to include programs in the 2007 Farm Bill that would train farm workers and provide housing and transportation. But many growers have already had trouble finding workers to harvest their crops, and the situation could get worse before it gets better. Farmers can take a few simple steps to have a…  » Read more

First Time for Everything

I enjoy “firsts.” My first car was a 1987 Plymouth Sundance – I sold it to buy my first pick-up truck. My first girlfriend was Jamie in junior high – she’s now my wife. And I bought my first house in December – it’s now down to bare studs inside and is slowly beginning to look like a house again. So you can see why I like firsts, and I wanted to take the time and enjoy my first Taking Stock column. The first time for anything can be daunting and a little bit exciting. But that initial enthusiasm can fade a little the second time, and a little more the next until that once fun tasks become dull and routine. But I don’t see that happening here. I’ve been with Spudman for about nine months, and in that time I’ve had the chance to meet many growers and…  » Read more

Technology aids farming and irrigation practices

It’s said that the information age started with the military in the 1950s, and the technology we have in the 21st century is a direct result of it. Farmers haven’t benefited near as much as other industries, but that may change for the next generation of produce growers. It comes down to one word: visualization, said Fran Pierce, director of the Center for Precision Agriculture Systems at Washington State University. “Why do we still have field days in agriculture? Because visualization is so important.” But with large tracts of land on a typical farm, that gets harder and harder to do as the farm gets bigger. Pierce said some growers in eastern Washington use helicopters to survey their crops, but with advancements in technology there will soon be new, interactive ways to visualize the farm. Three trends are shaping the future of farming: faster video graphics cards, smaller…  » Read more
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