ONTARIO — Tammy Chamberlain sees practicality in the Malheur Experiment Station’s annual Field Day and Farm Festival.
“It’s important for the general ability to share information,” said Chamberlain, whose Farm Service Agency booth was one of 23 at the field day on Wednesday morning and afternoon. “Why reinvent the wheel?”
While the station has had field days for 30 years, this year marks the fourth year the station has invited agricultural businesses to participate in a trade show.
John Hall, chair of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce Agriculture Committee, said the original idea of the field day was to give non-farmers the opportunity to get together to learn about farming.
“Our economy is based on agriculture,” said Hall, who works for Northwest Farm Credit Services. “If our non-farming people understand the ups and downs of farming, it will help them understand the ups and downs of their own businesses. The farming income stimulates the economy.”
The Malheur Experiment Station is a branch of the Oregon Agricultural Experiment Station, a part of Oregon State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences. Scientists at the station specialize in research important to row crops, small grains, alfalfa and native plants.
Tours of the experiment station’s current projects were offered during the field day, allowing visitors to gain insight into onion and sugar beet weed control, wildflower and native plant seed production and irrigation efficiency and water quality.
An estimated 300 to 400 people attended this year’s field day, said Janet Jones, secretary for the Malheur Experiment Station.
Corby Garret of Aqua Irrigation said the field day is about collaboration.
“If we don’t help each other out, we won’t grow as a society,” Garret said. “Water quality is a hot topic right now. We need to know how to keep drip lines clean of E. Coli and moss growth, so we want to see what other people are doing.”
Water quality was the topic of Norm Semanko’s lunch-time speech, during which he presented negative impacts of the Food Safety Modernization Act.
“If we don’t get this thing changed, it is going to fundamentally alter agriculture, especially onion production in this area,” said Semanko, who is the executive director of the Idaho Water Users Association.
Semanko said the Food and Drug Administration’s proposed new food safety rules relating to allowable bacteria levels in agricultural water are not appropriate for the vastness of the northwestern United States.
“Make sure the food producers have your support on this issue,” Semanko said.
Information about agriculture was simplified for children with crafts and activities.
“I think that they need to know where their food comes from and understand the commodities we have in this area and the process it takes to get the food to the table,” said Melissa Sherman with Oregon State University’s extension office, which offered crafting events for kids, such as planting grass in plastic cups, painting rocks and making bracelets.
“It’s a good experience for them to get out and see it for themselves. We want them to know what Idaho and Oregon are about, and that is farming,” said Rebekah Pariera, youth development professional with the Boys and Girls Club of the Western Treasure Valley, which brought 37 children to the experiment station for the field day.