Every August for the last 16 years we have opened our doors and our fields to guests from not only all over the United States, but as with this year, all over the world. While things were a bit different this year from last, some things didn’t change – gratitude for our customers and partners for helping Gold Dust and Walker Brothers become the outstanding businesses they are.
On August 16th, the busy day started at 7:30 in the morning with a hearty breakfast at Mike and Wanda’s restaurant in Tulelake, California (just over the border from Gold Dust’s Malin-area campus). While our guests sipped coffee and enjoyed eggs, bacon and sausage, biscuits and gravy, and french toast, CEO Bill Walker welcomed the guests and introduced Lexi Crawford, who organized the day’s events. After reminding everyone about Gold Dust’s support of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Lexi introduced some of the folks who had traveled from far – Hyosang Park from Nong Shim (South Korea), Sunny Kang from IREH (South Korea), and Rob van Zadelhoff of RaboBank (the Netherlands via St. Louis, MO) as well as other important guests from much closer, such as Paul Sproule from North Dakota.
Following the introductions, Lexi then welcomed Rob van Zadelhoff to the front of the room. Mr. van Zadelhoff, CEO and President of RaboBank Agrifinance in St. Louis. With his roots in the Netherlands, Mr. van Zadelhoff talked to our audience about Brexit, the European markets and their effects on the States as well as the strength of the American agricultural market. After he spoke, Tricia Hill introduced Dan Keppen from the Family Farm Alliance. Mr. Keppen has been involved in Klamath Basin water issues since 2001, and he updated the crowd with information on what’s happening on Capitol Hill as well as issues more specific to our locale.
After breakfast, everyone jumped in their rigs and headed to the fields. Instead of focusing solely on Walker Brothers’ fields, this year the field portion of the Open House Field Day included visits to two chipping potato fields just outside of Tulelake farmed by MD Huffman Farms and another farmed by the Staunton family. Both fields featured Lamoka potatoes, a variety, as Bill explained, is great for shipping and storage as well as for frying. The samples brought in from both fields showcased beautiful chippers, and, if the weather holds, will be dug in 30 days.
Following the fields visits, the group went to Gold Dust’s packing shed to see sample digs of all varieties, take a shed tour and see the latest piece of equipment from Mayo Mfg. As is tradition, in the shed each potato variety grown by Walker Brothers was laid on the floor in a triangle to show how each progressed throughout the growing season. On a table were samples of potatoes as well as how they fried up – including the famed Lamoka variety. Once the shed tour was complete and everyone was done checking out the Harriston Dirt Eliminator and Sizer, our guests hopped back into their cars and pickups to swing by a new farm Walker Brothers started farming on the way to Running Y.
At the Running Y, Bill and John along with agronomist Sachin Rawat showed off an organic chipping potato field. John discussed some of the differences in growing organic potatoes – including accepting weeds as a part of life – and remedies for other pests. Bill also fielded questions about the long-term market prospects of organic potatoes, which, looking at the current focus on organic crops in the marketplace, appears to be something people will be looking for many years to come.
After checking out an organic corn field being grown for silage for a local dairy, our guests enjoyed sandwiches in the shade of the trees at the Running Y Headquarters while a reporter from the Herald and News, Kevin Hume, interviewed Gold Dust’s partners and knowledgeable guests such as Duane “Sarge” Preston and Paul Sproule about the finer points of potato farming for his article “New potato variety highlight of field tour“.
It wouldn’t be an Open House Field Day without the golf scramble, and this year was no different. However, instead of hosting it the Running Y Resort as in the past, this year the golf tournament was held at Reame’s Golf & Country Club just outside of Klamath Falls. With a group photo and shots of Crown, our guests made their way to the course for a shotgun start to the tournament. Thirteen teams made up the field this year, and judging from the stories and the scores, it appeared everyone had a wonderful time.
As our guests made their way from the golf course to Reames’ ballroom, dinner was served. With the option of steak and chicken as well as an open bar, the conversation was lively. And of course, this was when we had to give out the awards for the golf tournament!
First Place Team: John Walker, Mike Henard, Duane “Sarge” Preston and Jared Marshall
Second Place Team: Weston Walker, Aaron Karp, Greg Addington and Charles McElligott
Last Place Team: Tricia Hill, Dianne Spires, Tammie Staunton and Suzi Frederickson
Women’s Longest Drive: Sunny Kang
Men’s Longest Drive: Matt Thompsom
Women’s KP: Dianne Spires
Men’s KP: Matt Huffman
Another tradition that has been taking place since 2013 was the fundraising held for Make-A-Wish. If you’ve visited this blog before, then you’re likely aware of Jan Walker and Katie Walker’s involvement in the local Make-A-Wish. For the last few years, there’s been a “Fireball Hole” dedicated to donations for Make-A-Wish, and at dinner Katie gives a presentation about some of the wishes that had been granted. Over the years our guests have generously opened their wallets and helped local kids get their wishes granted.
Back in 2013, we were thrilled that our guests along with Gold Dust raised $3,800. 2014 was even more exciting with $10,060 raised for area kids. And we thought last year was even more incredible – $18,381 was raised between the Fireball Hole and the dinner presentation. However, this year we broke another fundraising record for Make-A-Wish. Between our guests and Gold Dust, $21,814 was pledged along with 150,000 airline miles! We cannot thank our guests enough for their generosity in helping an organization that has become very important to Gold Dust.
While the evening was filled with laughter and happy conversation, one chapter came to a close. Duane “Sarge” Preston, mentor to the farm on all things potato, announced this was his last trip for the Open House Field Day. For nearly 20 years, Sarge has helped John, Weston and the farm crews get a better understanding of what it takes to grow a great potato. From looking at plants to getting rid of pests, Sarge and John spent a lot of time out in the fields, and through those years he developed friendships with the Walker family. We will all miss his visits, advice and warm personality at our annual event. We do hope he makes it west again for a few more rounds of Crown and laughs!
And as Sarge says, “Enjoy a potato product every day!”
We’d like to thank everyone who was able to make it to our annual Open House Field Day. It’s a long ways to travel for field tours and golf, but to all who make it out, thank you not only for coming, but for helping Walker Brothers and Gold Dust continue to grow and thrive.