Verne Gingerich is the current Gingerich in charge of the day-to-day operations at the farm. This is his area to talk about . . . Well, whatever he wants to. Enjoy!
Happenings around the farm
May 2006. Part of our mission statement at Gingerich Farms Products, is to foster an environmental consciousness and shrink our environmental footprint. With that in mind, we have started to implement a series of environmentally friendly programs. These range from taking steps to build up the soil biology in our blueberries to trying falconry as an environmentally friendly bird control technique during harvest.
Our biggest project to date, however, has been the habitat restoration work taking place along Wheeler Creek, which runs through the property. Our property includes approximately 1,600 ft. (500 m.) of creek. In the past, this land was grazed by sheep, which kept grasses and blackberry down. In recent years, however, no management has taken place, allowing the blackberry to grow unchecked, choking out other vegetation along the creek. Its density varied from only a few scattered plants to large thickets, which could be approx. 12 ft. (3.6 m.) high and approx. 80 ft. (25 m.) at the widest point.
Starting in mid-March, a crew began removal of the blackberry using hand tools. In a few spots, it was possible to use a tractor with rope as well to pull bundles of blackberry out of the creek. This removed the above ground growth to allow access to the site, while leaving the roots untouched, curbing erosion. The blackberry was then piled and when the site grew dry enough, it was collected and burned. Blackberry is an aggressive plant though, and this did nothing to reduce its density. In the future, as it regrows, it'll have to be spot sprayed in dry uphill areas and hand removed in wet areas and along the creek edge.
After a removal like this, the riparian corridor is left fairly bare and open to colonization by other weedy invasive's. Instead of just letting anything grow back, we instead purchased a native riparian grass seed mix and seeded the removal area with it. We also purchased and out-planted 420 native tree and 80 Oregon grape seedlings.
This was not only unsightly, but also smothered valuable riparian edge. Therefore, we are in the process of removing the piled debris. Since it is organic material, it is being hauled away by dump truck, and dumped on a grass field, where it will be worked into the soil and boost that fields organic matter percentage. In the future, the debris will be dumped in a different onsite spot, and then spread each spring when the fields dry out. The old dump site will be sloped as much as possible to match the original grade, then seeded with native grass seed and later on, planted with trees.
The riparian zone along the edge of streams is very important. It helps act as a buffer for the stream by slowing water runoff, enhancing water infiltration into the soil, trapping sediment, and capturing any leeching materials, organic or other. It also greatly influences the conditions of the stream by providing shade, which lowers the water temperature, increases the dissolved oxygen level and improves conditions for fish and aquatic invertebrates. A large portion of Oregon wildlife spends at least part of their life in the riparian zone, making it a high value habitat.
The benefits aren't just natural though. The farm itself gains an aesthetic appeal that comes with any natural space along with a functional benefit. Last year, the bird pressure in the blueberry fields was extremely high. When the flocks of starlings would be chased from the fields, they would immediately retreat into the largest thickets of blackberry, where they'd wait until the threat was gone and then emerge and continue eating fruit. By removing this haven, we hope to decrease our bird pressure this year. Already, there has been a large drop in bird populations, but especially in regards to unwanted species. As the vegetation grows and fills the void, birds will return, but they will hopefully be more desirable species. Even if the blueberry bird pressure changes little, the myriad of benefits stemming from the creek restoration make the effort more than worthwhile.
Well, that is it from Gingerich Farms Products. Until next time.
If you have comments or want to contact Verne, send him an email directly, he would love to hear from you.
The final step in finishing the initial creek restoration stage is the clean up of a hazelnut debris dump site along the edge of the stream. Gingerich Farms Products washes and dries hazelnuts in the fall, and this process creates a lot of organic byproducts that are mostly husks, sticks, and dirt. In the past, this was dumped along the side of an on-farm road near the stream.
However, as the amount of debris built up over the years, the edge of the pile slowly crept towards the stream until it was too close to the edge to dump anymore. And as piles tend to do, it then started to spread along the creek.