Living on a Few Acres: A Success

Author: Dana Martin

Publish Date: Spring 2010

Spring arrived in Central Oregon in glorious fashion on March 20. Blue skies and 70 degree weather provided a great contrast to snow covered mountains popping in the horizon. It was a perfect day for farming -- or for many, a wonderful opportunity to attend the annual Living on a Few Acres (LOAFA) Conference in Redmond, Oregon.

More than 130 people spent their day inside learning from experts and practitioners about poultry, pasture and irrigation management, marketing farm products, livestock first aid, wildlife habitat, horse feed, hay quality and selecting berry cultivars appropriate for Central Oregon. Participants in the tractor driving and maintenance, repair and safety classes were fortunate to soak up some sun in the process.

Since these warm early-spring days can be misleading to those who grow crops in Central Oregon, Jim Fields of Fields Farm, shared information about tunnels, greenhouses and other structures necessary to extend the growing season in this region.

Sean and Jerre Dodson of Dancing Cow Farm shared their expertise of selling farm products through direct markets as well as planning for financial success. Sean stressed the importance of setting goals and keeping good records in a successful farm business so expenses are perfectly clear.

In developing strategies for success, Sean said some basic rules apply. “Small farms need to have a ‘this is what it is worth’ instead of a ‘how much will you give me?’ attitude,” he said. “The more value added the product, the more profit the farmer sees. Cut out the middle man.” As a final word of advice Sean added that farmers need to give the consumers what they want, not necessarily what the farmer wants to produce.”

As the featured speaker for LOAFA, Sean provided inspiration with his presentation, “Now is the Time” extolling the benefits of local small farms. Sean and Jerre own and operate a small diversified farm east of Prineville where they raise Heritage grass fed and finished beef, lamb, poultry and pastured eggs. They also grow market garden and sell their produce through a small CSA and farmers’ markets.

Other speakers for the day included OSU Extension faculty: Jim Hermes, poultry specialist; Bernadine Strik, berry crops research leader; Dr. Dawn Sherwood, equine specialist; and Mylen Bohle, area agronomist. Other guest instructors included Jeff Amaral, wildlife biologist with USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Jeff talked about managing rodents, deer and other mammals through various management strategies. Larry Pecenka, habitat biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, shared hints on how to accommodate wildlife on your property.

Participants in the class offered by OSU Extension livestock agent Barbi Riggs and Dr. Jacob Crawford of Powell Butte Veterinary Service, learned how to monitor vital signs and practiced bandaging techniques on goats and a pony. OSU Extension crops agent Rich Affeldt worked with Reed Grote and Colin Ohgren of Deschutes Valley Equipment to teach simple maintenance and repairs that will keep equipment operating smoothly. Safety was also emphasized. “My job was to instill fear,” said Rich, emphasizing that tragic farm accidents can be avoided if basic safety rules are followed. Tony and Kim Sarao of Superior Tractor and Equipment provided tractors for the tractor driving and obstacle course session.

Sixteen classes were offered at this year’s conference and participants could attend four in addition to gleaning information from trade show exhibitors. LOAFA has been a tradition in Central Oregon for nearly two decades. It continues to gain popularity as people seek information on how to be better stewards of their land and successfully raise livestock and grow crops in a challenging environment.