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Agriculture


The climate here is mild and damp, with a respectable growing season and wonderful soil. Crops include:

grass seed
That's right. All the seed to grow those lawns has to come from somewhere, right? Well, most of it is grown here.
green beans
Lots and lots of green beans. Blue Lake is the variety that most farmers grow. Almost all plantings are now the bush variety rather than the pole variety. It used to be the other way around, but pole beans are very labor-intensive, whereas bush beans can be planted and picked by machine.
hops
Portland is famous for its micro-breweries (as well as Blitz-Weinhard Brewing Co. - the folks who bring you those great Henry Weinhard's beer commercials on television). I can't remember what it is about Oregon hops that makes them special, but I know that most breweries around here blend them with hops grown elsewhere.
corn
This isn't Iowa, but there is still a lot of corn grown around here for both animal and human consumption.
potatoes
My personal favorite is Yukon Gold, a variety grown in the northern part of the valley.
strawberries
Fresh, in-season strawberries are nothing like the pale, woody California strawberries that cost $1.99 a basket in January. In June a drive through the country smells heavenly thanks to all of the ripe strawberries.
alfalfa
Hey, need I say more? (groan)
blueberries
These are much more delicately flavored than strawberries, and they have a longer harvest time. Try eating a bowl-full with some sweet cream poured over the top. Horrible for your arteries (the cream, not the berries), but, man, do they taste good.
blackberries
It's hard for me to imagine growing these commercially since they are considered weeds here, but people do it. Country drives in August are filled with the smell of ripe blueberries growing wild by the side of the road. Don't pick the ones that grow right next to the road, though -- too great a chance of ingesting lead and other junk. Instead, pick from the bushes that grow on vacant lots or riversides. Go as a family or group, but wear old clothes that you don't mind shredding and turning black with berry stains, because someone in the group will surely start a berry fight.
marionberries
These aren't grown much elsewhere. I haven't tried them, but am told that they are similar to gooseberries.
cabbage
The cool, moist springs and summers (and sometimes winters) here are great for cabbage.
peaches
A shock for city slickers is to drive past a peach orchard at harvest time and see all the branches of the peach trees propped up with 2x4's to keep them from breaking. Yes, the fruit really does get that heavy. To properly eat a tree-ripened peach, you must assume the PPEP (Proper Peach-Eating Position). I'll try to scan in a picture of someone in PPEP.
pears
Not too much to say about pears, except that they taste really good and seem to be grown mostly along the banks of the Willamette River. Like apples, the really good ones come from the Hood River Valley.
hazelnuts (filberts)
Almost all of the world's hazelnuts are grown in the Willamette Valley, mostly just south and west of Portland. Hazelnuts are good, but I think they are overrated, especially in their overuse in the so-called Northwest cuisine which seems to be redolent with salmon and hazelnuts.
walnuts
Tasty, but not very exciting....
apples
The best apples come from the Hood River Valley, but there are a few growers in the Willamette Valley as well.
broccoli
George Bush (and legions of small children) hate the stuff.
squash
Zucchini, crookneck, acorn, scallopini, and butternut are a few of the varieties grown.
Christmas trees
Christmas trees for major East Coast celebrations (e.g. the White House and Rockefeller Center) are routinely cut here in Oregon, as are a sizable portion of the rest of the United States' trees (both Christmas and otherwise).
nursery stock
The scarcity of below-freezing weather makes the Willamette Valley a natural for nursery stock. That flowering plum tree that your neighbor just planted probably came from here.
wine grapes
The Oregon wine industry has exploded recently and is now producing some very nice wines. Our Congress-critter, Elizabeth Furse (D), is a local vineyard owner. I just wish the wineries were a little less snobbish, although I did find a lovely unpretentious winery: Honeywood Winery in Salem, makers of excellent fruit wines.
wheat
Most of Oregon's wheat is grown east of the Cascade Mountains, but a fair bit is also grown west of Salem.
oats
This is a minority crop (like wheat) grown mostly in the northwestern part of the valley.

These crops are what I remember seeing on country drives. I know I have left some things out, so e-mail me any additions. Eventually I would like to include pictures of each of the crops growing, but that will have to wait for a while.


Page created 11/15/95 by Michael Heggen.
Last updated 03/17/03 at 14:36.
1995 by Michael Heggen. All rights reserved.

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