Over orchards and vineyards across the Northwest, European starlings are eating fruit to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. And when the traditional methods of keeping the birds away -- like scarecrows, pyrotechnics and netting -- don’t work, it’s time to call Falcon Force.

A drive across the Northwest quickly reveals things look really dry everywhere.

Matthew Hamm /

So you love your coffee, but do you know your beans? To help you get started on your way to becoming a coffee aficionado, here are some coffee basics.

Where The Beans Come From

Danny Didricksen / Earthfix

Flash floods this August swept mud, debris, and ash through north central Washington. All that gunk has created an unusual problem for farmers and migratory fish.

Farmers usually install screens on the end of irrigation pipes to prevent clogs. Those screens also keep fish from being sucked out of the water and into farmers’ fields. But fish screens do little good when they get inundated with debris and mud.

Danny Didricksen is with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. He said crews have been working non-stop to help unclog fish screens.

Hot Weather A Mixed Blessing For Farmers

Jul 31, 2014
Oregon Department of Agriculture

This summer's hot, dry weather has been a mixed blessing for Northwest farmers.

Perched on a farm along the Hudson River is Dan Barber's award-winning restaurant, Blue Hill at Stone Barns. The food that's harvested on the farm year-round is what is served to diners daily.

But this champion of the farm-to-table movement noticed that farming and consuming foods locally still wasn't all that sustainable.

Rae Ellen Bichell / KPLU

When you think organic you probably visualize crisp, sweet-smelling veggies and fruit. But it turns out that fresh food is often grown in some pretty foul fertilizer. In fact it’s so bad it’s been known to make farmworkers gag. Now, as correspondent Anna King found out, there’s one new sweeter-smelling organic option developed right here in the Northwest.

Anna King / Northwest News Network

Northwest sweet cherry growers say this season they'll likely pick their third-largest haul ever. That's 20 million boxes full. But there’s plenty that can happen to cherries even the day of harvest.

Peggy Greb / USDA

The number of farms in the Northwest is dropping. That's according to newly released federal farm data. But there's more to the story. The average size and value of Northwest farms are going up.

Anna King

Many Northwest alfalfa growers had a rough year with bad weather last summer. Rain can leach nutrients out of drying hay and rot away any profits. But this year, hay markets are primed if growers can duck the storm clouds.

Anna King

Northwest asparagus growers are just starting to harvest spears in the warmer sites around Pasco. The green points are the first crop harvested in spring. But this year farmers say they might not get the best prices.  That’s because Mexican and Californian spears have flooded the market.

Women farmers met this weekend in Vancouver, WA, Idaho Falls, ID and Corvallis, OR to share strategies for managing their land. Amelia Templeton reports Washington State University organized a video conference in a dozen cities across the Northwest to help women farmers connect.

According to the latest census data, women make up about 20 percent of farm operators in Oregon and Washington and just 12 percent in Idaho. Their numbers have fallen since the 2007 census.

Lorrie Conway grew up on a farm. Now she runs a small goat dairy in Camas, WA.

Idaho Bill Banning Secret Video Of Farms Moves Ahead

Feb 21, 2014
Martin Pilát/Flickr

A measure that seeks to bar animal rights activists from making undercover video in Idaho dairies is moving ahead in the state House. What critics call the “ag gag” bill is a reaction to a 2012 video that showed workers abusing cows at a farm near Twin Falls. Farmers say they need protection from what they call “vigilante” tactics.

Census Of Agriculture Shows Fewer Oregon Farms

Feb 21, 2014

New statistics from the US Department of Agriculture show the number of working farms in Oregon shrank by more than 8 percent between 2007 and 2012. The figures were included in preliminary data from the agency's 2012 Census of Agriculture.

Oregon farmers are hoping the state Legislature makes it worth their while to donate crops that would otherwise go to waste.

Tedder / Wikimedia Commons

A once-stalled plan to support Christmas tree growers nationwide looks to go forward as part of Congress’ new Farm Bill. This could affect many growers in Oregon, which leads the country in Christmas tree production.

Scott Butner/Flickr

Farmers across the country are hoping that Congress will soon pass a new Farm Bill. The bill helps guide agricultural policy. One version of the bill would limit the public’s access to information about agricultural pollution. And that is drawing interest -- and concern, from groups that don’t normally get involved with farm policy.

Labor-Starved Pear Farmers Buckle Under Bumper Crop

Oct 7, 2013

It's always a bit sad to say goodbye to summer corn and tomatoes, and settle into fall.

There are consolations, though — like the new crop of pears. Over 80 percent of America's fresh pears are grown in the Pacific Northwest, and this year's harvest is slated to be one of the biggest on record.

But some of the fruit is rotting in the orchards because there aren't enough workers to pick them.


When you think of farming in America, you may think of golden fields, red barns and abundant orchards.        You may imagine a  farmer in overalls, sitting on a tractor. But what about a farmer sitting in class -- at a university? Cragg Gilbert and his cousin Charlie de la Chapelle discuss how education and research are today's tools in farming.

Copyright 2013 StoryCorps and  Northwest Public Radio 

Southern Oregon Farmers Suing To Prevent Water Release

Aug 9, 2013

Farmers in southern Oregon are suing to block the release of additional water from the Trinity River to the Klamath River. The discharge next week by the federal Bureau of Reclamation is meant to prevent a fish kill of Klamath River salmon. The agency finalized its plans Wednesday and that’s what prompted the lawsuit from farmers.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

The White Bluffs bladderpod is a small flower facing some big issues.  It’s a short plant with bright yellow flowers and small inflated pods – hence its name.  At first glance, there’s nothing special about it.  It isn’t edible and doesn’t have any herbal use that we know of.   But the bladderpod is rare.  It appears to grow only in a 17 mile long strip of federal lands in the Columbia Basin.  Right now, U.S. Fish and Wildlife lists the bladderpod as “threatened.”  They would like to list it as “endangered.” 

Anna King

North America’s blueberry crop is so substantial this year that farmers say prices are dropping. That’s after about a decade of rapid expansion of new plantings. Correspondent Anna King has our story from the blueberry fields of southeast Washington.

Anna King

There’s been a lot of speculation but few answers so far about how genetically modified wheat ended up in an Oregon field.

Northwest Asparagus Comes A Tad Early

Apr 4, 2013

PASCO, Wash. – Northwest farmers are beginning to harvest the first asparagus of the year this week in southeast Washington. That’s a tad earlier than usual. And after last year's farm-labor shortage, growers across the region are keeping an eye on how many asparagus workers show up for the harvest.

At the Middleton farm stand near Pasco, Washington asparagus – both purple and green – is selling by the pound to passersby. Bins of fresh asparagus are brought here right off the fields. Workers come and go. At the helm is Laura Middleton.

Early Economic Recovery Leaves Rural Idaho Behind

Feb 25, 2013

New numbers out Monday show Idaho's rural areas experienced the post-recession years very differently from the state's cities. While places like Boise and Pocatello were on the mend, economic output in rural communities in Idaho declined.

At first glance, Idaho's rural counties appeared to be making an economic recovery with the rest of the state. But Idaho’s Department of Labor says when you take inflation into account, the output of goods and services from rural Idaho actually declined by $90 million in 2011.

RICHLAND, Wash. – A group of Northwest farmers plans to bring in thousands of legal Mexican guest workers to their fields and orchards this year. Last season many farmers were scrambling to pick their crops because of a worker shortage.

The federal H-2A guest worker program is so cumbersome and expensive, that most farmers haven’t wanted to use it. Employers have to pay for transportation, approved housing and usually more money than the going wage for workers already in the U.S.


Many Northwest growers are left out of the partial extension of the U.S. Farm Bill included in this week’s fiscal cliff legislation. The new law largely covers conventional agriculture and not the organics, specialty crops and conservation programs that our region’s farmers are known for.

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a long history of discriminating against farmers who are women, Hispanic, Native and African American. Numerous lawsuits have cost the government several billion dollars. The latest legal settlement is for women and Hispanic farmers who can prove they were discriminated against in the 1980s and ‘90s. But some of these farmers say the deal to make amends for discrimination is itself discriminatory.

Most of us may be enjoying the fall sunshine, but Northwest wheat farmers are instead wishing for a little rain. Correspondent Anna King caught up with one Northwest wheat grower in the vast Horse Heaven Hills near Prosser, Washington.


Farmers of genetically engineered crops are dramatically increasing their use of herbicides. That’s according to a new study out of Washington State University. Researchers say farmers are spraying more in response to the rise of so-called “superweeds.”