Another August was almost over. Grain and hay were being cut, and chipping potatoes were already being dug and shipped. Earlier in the month we had a Leadership Meeting and Employee Appreciation Picnic, making this August a touch busier than normal. And as always this time of year, we opened our doors and headed to the fields for Gold Dust & Walker Farms’ 18th Annual Open House Field Day!
This year, the festivities began the night before at Bill and Jan’s house, where Gold Dust and Walker Farms staff mingled with our visitors. Though the past few months in the Klamath Basin were incredibly smokey, the air cleared and everyone was able to enjoy a gorgeous evening outside with cold drinks, great food and good company. A feast of roast, fresh tuna, shrimp and scallops was put together by Jan, Ken Hibbard and Casey Lammers, followed by German chocolate cake and ice cream. Visiting carried on past sunset, and with a touch of smoke still in the air, gave our guests an amazing Klamath Basin sunset. Frankly, we couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful evening.
The next morning, everyone met at Mike & Wanda’s restaurant in Tulelake. After a welcoming speech from Bill, Lexi introduced Klamath County Museums Manager, Todd Kepple. At our Open House Field Day breakfast, we usually have a speaker, and this year Mr. Kepple put together a presentation about the history of Klamath Basin agriculture. From the Reclamation Project to drawing homesteads from pickle jars to the Bucket Brigade of 2001, Todd’s presentation gave us and our guests incredible insights to how farming and ranching not only changed over the years, but how it changed the Klamath Basin itself.
Following breakfast, it was time to head to the potato fields! Like last year, our growers showed off their fields and dug up a few spuds to show our group. If you’ve read past posts about our Open House Field Day, you’ve seen pictures of long trains of cars and pickups parked along the fields. This year, we decided it would be more efficient and effective to rent a bus instead of everyone driving to the fields on their own. With everyone on the bus, on the way to the fields our growers were able to provide their family’s history of farming in the Klamath Basin as well as answer questions about potato varieties, the ins-and-outs of potato farming and anything else that came to mind. Not only was this a more efficient way for us to get everyone on the field tour, it provided a great way for our guests to chat while learning more about us and our growers.
Which growers’ fields did we visit?
We started with Luke Robison’s field of 2137 potatoes located just outside of Tulelake. After that, we headed to the leases where Matt Huffman had some 1867 chipping potatoes dug and ready for inspection. Next, we headed back to Tulelake where we visited Sid Staunton’s field of Waneta potatoes. Though we weren’t able to swing by his field located near Lower Klamath Lake, Kyle Patterson shared a bit about his experiences with growing Dakota Pearls, which was fitting because it was on the way to a sandy field of Dakota Pearl chippers grown by Rob Unruh, just a bit north of Gold Dust’s campus. On the way back the shed, Tricia shared a bit about her and Weston’s Basin farming lineage and what brought her back home to farm.
By the time we made it back to the packing shed, the plant had ended shipping for the day and Matt had samples of the chipping potato varieties Gold Dust and Walker Farms can provide laid out on the production floor. To make this visit even more interesting, Frito Lay reps Sanjay Prasad, Gurvinder Johal and Danny Lopez brought along some fresh potato chips from the Lays plant in Modesto. And yes – these were made with our potatoes we dug this week!
Following the shed tour, our guests made their way to Reames Country Club for a fun golf scramble. Once the ceremonial shots of Crown had been taken, the teams made their way to the golf course for a shotgun start. Around 6:30 pm, the teams began to make their way from the golf course to the club house to enjoy cocktails and a dinner put together by the Reames staff.
The Open House Field Day has presented itself as an opportunity to raise money for our local Make-A-Wish chapter, and this year was no different. Katie Walker, Weston’s wife, took this as an opportunity to recognize some of our guests who have given year after year with a plaque to recognize their company’s generosity. After handing out recognition, it was time to start raising pledges.
Last year, between the generosity of our guests and Gold Dust and Walker Farms’ matching their pledges, we were able to raise $30,490 along with 135,000 airline miles. This year’s goal was to raise $35,000. After a heartfelt thank you from Make-A-Wish Oregon’s Corporate Alliances Manager, Mallory Tyler, and short video about a Wish recipient, our guests gave generously. When it was all said and done, after Gold Dust matched everyone’s pledges, our crowd raised $45,000 for Make-A-Wish! When we say we work with good people, we don’t just mean they’re good at they do. Their pledges for Make-A-Wish is proof of that.
We also went over which teams won the golf scramble and who took home top honors for their skills with the clubs. This year, we had a tie for first and second place – both teams shot a 64. After going over the cards and comparing the performance of the front nine, the back nine and doing some other fancy golf math, the team of Matt Thompson, Sanjay Prasad, Erin Plumb and Ty Hulse came out on top, which left second place honors for Rob Unruh, Steve Parkinson and Drew Huffman. Destiny Huffman had an amazing day as she took home not only the Ladies Longest Drive, but also the Closest to the Pin! Jared Marshall crushed the ball to take home Men’s Long Drive while Jeff Dahl drove his ball Closest to the Pin to take home the other golf club.
Before the night was over, the senior partners passed the mic to thank everyone for coming. Tricia took this opportunity to highlight five folks who have been attending our Open House Field Day since the beginning – Ron Marshall, Jim Boone, Paul Sproule, and Chris Moudry. Weston thanked the crowd for their generosity and Bill thanked everyone who attended for their continued support and attendance to our Open House Field Day. John wrapped it up with a rousing thank you and pep talk that pointed out that what has made our businesses successful isn’t just us – it was everyone in the audience who got up every morning and did what they do best. His mic drop drew loud applause and was a fitting end to the evening.
We always enjoy this opportunity to get together with the growers, suppliers, financiers and customers who have helped us become successful, and this year was no different. Gold Dust and Walker Farms are successful in no small part due to the people we work with. When we say we work with the best – and most giving – we mean it. We hope everyone had a safe trip home and that we’ll see everyone once again next year. Last, but not least – thank you. Thank you for helping us become the amazing businesses we have grown into and thank you for your continued support.