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Oregon’s Willamette Valley comprises some of the most fertile and lush farmland in the Pacific Northwest.
As host to nearly half of the Oregon’s population, the valley is best known for its agricultural accomplishments, which include a flourishing wine industry and robust production of fruits, vegetables and Christmas trees.
It’s against this backdrop that 4th generation farmer Garth Mulkey, and his wife Susan, have been no-tilling grass and vegetable seeds for the past 23 years.
Together, Garth and Susan farm just under 1,000 acres outside of Monmouth, Ore., half of which is irrigated. They typically grow 10-12 different crops a year, most of them for seed production. About ¼ of that production is marketed through their seed company, GS3 Quality Seed.
The majority of acres are planted in grasses for seed, including perennial ryegrass, annual ryegrass and tall fescue. Other seed crops consist of chard, Indian mustard spinach, NitroRadish, hybrid sunflowers, TNT hairy vetch and phacelia. Cash crops include hazelnuts, soft white wheat and meadowfoam as an oilseed.
“We have been utilizing no-till practices on our farm for over 20 years, but prior to this year we were tilling a limited number of acres in preparation for transplanting,” Garth Mulkey says.
Transplanting occurs in March and early April. At that time of year, the Pacific Ocean’s cool, moist winds generally keep Mulkey’s ground wet to very wet. “With the tillage we were doing, I felt we were beating the life out of our soils,” he says.