MORO, Ore. – On the fields of Sherman County in the Columbia River basin, fewer than 11 inches of rain fall annually. When those few drops do come they fall in the off seasons – October to April. Rarely does it rain in summer. Yet, for more than 100 years, farmers in the area have been coaxing crops out of the dry, rolling hills.
On June 16, the Oregon State University Sherman Experiment Station will show the public just how they've been doing it.
"There have been substantial and extensive changes in farming practices in the last century," said Steve Petrie, the superintendent of the Columbia Basin Agricultural Research Center. "While winter wheat has been the dominant crop for the last 100 years, we have seen dramatic changes in the way we grow the crop and changes in the markets where the crop is sold. Today, the plants grown here are specifically tailored to the dryland environment."
The predominant crop grown in the region is soft white winter wheat, said Petrie. The wheat, which is most often used in Asian noodles, cakes, pastries, and other confection products, is the number one value export from the Port of Portland. Most of the wheat grown in Sherman County is shipped from the Port of Portland to Asia and Europe, and the volume is high enough that it places the port as the leading grain exporter in North America and the third largest in the world, said Petrie.
"It's not the sexiest, nor the most glamorous export, but it is the largest and the most valuable," said Petrie.
The Sherman Station 100th Anniversary Celebration will showcase the different varieties of winter wheat grown in the last 100 years, and will also feature a free tasting of bread baked with hard red winter wheat – a wheat that is often used in commercial bread flour production.
OSU's Andrew Ross, who runs the College of Agricultural Sciences Cereal Quality Lab, will bake a variety of breads using both historic wheat varieties and modern varieties. He will also bake several loaves of bread that use a barley flour grown at the station.
"It will be a chance for people to try breads that were being made 100 years ago," said Petrie. "These heritage varieties give a taste of what our great grandparents may have been eating when they sat down for their lunch."
The anniversary celebration will run from 8 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. Additional activities will include nursery visits where a few dozen of the hundreds of alternate crops that have been grown at the station such as safflower, corn, kale, lentils, vetch, and camelina will be on display. There will also be demonstration of farming with horses, and stationary equipment used 100 years ago.
OSU President Ed Ray and Sonny Ramaswamy, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences, will speak during the lunch. Representatives from the United States Department of Agriculture and the Oregon Department of Agriculture will also be in attendance.
For a full schedule of the event, and additional information, visit http://cbarc.aes.oregonstate.edu, or call the Columbia Basin Agricultural Research Center at 541-278-4415.