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100 Years of Success and Still Moving Forward

 

Producer portrait

Siblings Gayle, Gordie and Glenn await the 103rd harvest
of hops on their farm in Silverton, OR.

100 Years of Success and Still Moving Forward

Gayle Goschie sits in an office on her family farm with a variety of hop cones on the table in front of her. The abundance here is a small indication of the success the Goschie farm has had with production, as well as conservation.

Gayle's great-grandfather John Goschie started farming the land over a century ago in 1885. Today, their farm remains a marker of solidity in the Silverton, Oregon community. Gayle, along with her brothers Glenn and Gordon, farms 1,000 acres with 250 acres of hops and an all-natural hog operation. As third generation farmers, the Goschie family looks to conservation programs as a way to continue to improve their already successful farm. According to Gayle, conservation assistance through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has helped make conservation work for the farm, the family, and their bottom line.

It began in 1999, when they developed a conservation plan with NRCS assistance. After identifying conservation measures to enhance their land, they learned that funding was available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to offset associated costs. EQIP is an NRCS program that provides financial and technical assistance for conservation measures on working farms and ranches.

"The most refreshing part of the whole program is we started on our own initiative. That action has dovetailed so we are able to successfully use EQIP funds," she says.

EQIP enabled the Goschies to start using micro-irrigation, becoming the first hop growers in Oregon to do so. It paid off in a big way. Not only did micro-irrigation help control mildew, but it also reduced humidity and led to decreased fungicide applications as well. With the new system, chemical and nutrient applications go directly on the plant. This keeps the plant healthier and reduces excess pesticide use on areas around the plant where it is not needed.

Watering only hop plants, instead of the whole field decreases on-farm water use. To monitor this, five probes in various fields measure the moisture needs of the hops at different levels in the ground. The probes identify the depth where plants use the most water. Factoring in soil type, the Goschies are able to prevent over-watering and use only the amount of water needed.

While these actions have decreased water and chemical use, they also work in conjunction with other practices in their conservation plan to increase productivity and profits. For starters, key labor savings took place. A shift from multiple semi-skilled employees to key managers of technical equipment has decreased employment expenditures. In addition, over a period of three years, the Goschies have noted a 25 percent increase in crop yields.

The Goschies have accomplished their original goal of increasing productivity on the farm through conservation. As an added benefit, however, they found conservation to also be an attractive marketing tool. Gayle points out that having a conservation plan appeals to their customers, including breweries and high end grocery outlets.

"Conservation plans are something that buyers are looking at more and more," says Gayle. "Currently, customers like to see not just where the product comes from, but how it is grown."

In addition to the conservation measures on their hop production, the Goschies also tailored their conservation plan to go "all natural" with their 130-sow hog farm. Because the hogs are raised in a healthy, sustainable manner, they require no antibiotics. This allows the family to market their hogs at a premium to upscale grocers looking for all-natural meat products.

Offering advice to landowners who want to improve their land and operations with conservation, Gayle said, "You need to work with an NRCS planner to know all your options and see how each program will best fit your operation."

With 1,000 acres divided between crops and a livestock operation, the Goschies found ways to meet their conservation goals on the entire operation. Conservation planning has helped them benefit all aspects of the land. Just as important, it also improved the profitability and longevity of the business, something Gayle views as a key to success.

"Our conservation plan is a continuation of what we've been working towards," she says. "We're third generation farmers looking to the future for the next generation -- what we want to leave them -- and conservation will be a key part of that."

If what the Goschie Family has already accomplished is any indication, the future looks bright.

The landowner and a NRCS Conservation Planner discuss conservation options. Hops
NRCS Conservationist Les Bachelor
and Gayle Goschie review the farm's
conservation plan between rows of
hops. The plan helped the Goschies
implement micro-irrigation, reduce
pesticide use, and improve their
marketing strategy.
A handful of healthy hops is what the Goschies have come
to expect every season. Using a micro-irrigation system
has increased their crop yield by 25 percent annually and
led to healthier plants all around.

October 1, 2007

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conserve, maintain, and improve our natural resources and environment.

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