Klamath County, Ore. - $600 Million is contributed annually to the local economy from Klamath Basin Agriculture. The Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA) understands this well as do members of the Ag industry. However, many outside of this industry understand little about how Basin Agriculture operates and generates revenues into the economy.
To help bridge the gap, the KWUA organizes an annual harvest tour to show just what happens in education, fields, and processors. 2017 marks the 10th anniversary of the Fall Harvest Tour.
Scott White, Executive Director of KWUA and Chelsea Shearer, Executive Assistant organized a tour of the Agriculture Program of Klamath Community College, Hollands Dairy, a potato harvest, potato storage sheds at Walker Farms, the processing facility of Gold Dust Potato Processors and a walking wetlands tour.
The morning started off with the KCC Ag Program and a visit with Keith Duran the Natural Resources Systems Department Chair at KCC. Duran, shown the group chemistry and biology laboratories inside building 6 and outdoor laboratories inside a greenhouse, garden, cattle pen, and fields.
Duran spoke of the program, how it has grown and how a student can even get a 4-year degree from Oregon State University and never have to leave Klamath Falls.
From KCC, the group traveled to Hollands Dairy where met with Bob Hamlin, a 2nd Generation dairy farmer. Hamlin shown how the jersey cattle are raised by the dairy produce a high milk-fat product for Dairygold & Umpqua Dairy. Hamlin explained how the milk is collected at the dairy 24-hours per day, 7-days per week, nonstop.
The milk collected from Holland Dairy is processed in to cheeses and butter among other high fat milk products sold by Dairygold and Umpqua brands.
The group was then honored to watch a potato harvest at a field grown by Luke Robinson. Luke is a multi-generational farmer here in the Klamath Basin, but is worried about the future of farming in the area. Robinson also discussed how free market potatoes work versus contract grown potatoes for Frito-Lay.
"The average age of a farmer in the Basin is 68 years old. Soon these farmers are going to retire and there are not many younger generations left to take their place." states Duran.
Robinson spoke to the group for about 30-minutes about his farming history, the history of the land cultivated and the equipment he uses. Robinson then demonstrated the potato harvester how it is used in the field.
Following the visit to the potato field was a break for lunch at the Malin Community Center. Where White acknowledged several key legislators visiting with the group on the tour. Oregon State Senator, Dennis Linthicum, and Oregon State Representative E. Werner Reschke were in attendance. As well as staff from several California dignitaries.
Following lunch was a visit to Gold Dust Potato Processors where the group learned more about contracts with Frito-Lay, and watched a batch of potatoes from Robinson's farm were cleaned, sorted and prepared for storage and bagging.
The tour continued to with a visit to a walking wetland near the Lava Beds National Monument. Due to a scheduling conflict, KFN was unable to attend this portion of the tour.
The harvest tour is a fun day touring places that the average citizen does not get to witness. Planning for the tour begins in the spring and finalized sometimes minutes before arrival at certain locations. Nonetheless you can take the tour in 2018. White recommends following along with the KWUA through their Facebook page [Klamath Water Users Association] and to join the mailing list at http://www.kwua.org/
Klamath Falls News appreciates the invite from KWUA to attend the fall harvest tour and encourages anyone to attend next year.