Archive for the ‘sustainable farming’ Category

Is It The Running Y Ranch Or Running Y Lake?

March 5th, 2014
A chipping potato field looks like a lake from early February moisture on the Running Y Ranch near Klamath Falls, Oregon.

Lake front property or the entrance to a chipping potato field?

Last fall doesn’t seem very far away. The fields at the Running Y Ranch were busy, full of equipment cutting hay and grain and getting the fields ready to dig potatoes.  Before long bulkers were filling spud trucks, which headed to Malin to store the potatoes for shipping season.  Occasionally, the ground would seem to open up to swallow a truck.  When that happened, you remembered these fields were once part of Klamath Lake.

We were recently reminded of that again.  On February 16th, Tricia called to say the fields were so full of water from much needed rain and snow that you couldn’t see where one field ended and another began.  Not only that, swans, snow geese and Canada geese had flocked to the fields, and in some places there were so many of the white birds it looked like the snow had returned.

By the time we made it to the Running Y Ranch the next day, some of the flooding had subsided and the massive flocks had moved on.  But what was left was still amazing.  If it weren’t for the built up roads that ran along the edges, the fields would have appeared to be one contiguous lake.  With swans and a few Canada geese swimming through the wheat and potato fields of last year, you could almost see how this area was once a seasonal part of Klamath Lake.  And you could also see how these fields became so fertile.

Moments like these remind us how lucky we are to live in the Klamath Basin.  Yes, there’s still a drought and we’re all praying for more snow to fall in the mountains and rain to fill our lakes and reservoirs.  But watching geese swim in these flooded fields and swans pick through the leavings of last year’s grain harvest help give us a moment’s respite of today’s worries and remind us of the power and majesty of Mother Nature.

We hope you enjoy the photos below, and if you’d like to see any of them enlarged, just click on the picture and a gallery will appear.

And let’s all hope for more water!

environmental stewardship, farm, gold dust, Klamath Basin wildlife, Running Y Ranch, sustainable farming, walker brothers, wheat

Organic Potatoes? Yeah, We Grow ‘Em

July 31st, 2013


A field of organic potatoes growing on the Running Y Ranch near Klamath Falls, OR.

Check out the purple blossoms on our organic potatoes!

If you’ve been to the grocery store lately, you’ve probably noticed the organic produce section has steadily been increasing its territory.  Consumers are becoming more concerned about what they eat, and more and more they’re dropping organic items in their grocery carts.  As farmers, we’ve noticed this trend for years, hence adding organic hay and grain fields to our crop portfolios.  However, we’ve never tried our hand at organic potatoes.

Until now.

This year we planted our first organic potato fields.  If you’ve checked out our site or read our blog, you know that we’ve been growing organic grain and alfalfa for some time now.  It takes years of planning to get fields ready for organic crops, making it an investment in time as much as it is money.  While we’ve had success with our organic crops, we’ve never tried our hand at organic potatoes.  But this year, down on the Running Y, we’ve planted two different organic potato crops – one red (Modoc) and one yellow (Yukon Gold).  You may have noticed something; neither of those varieties are chipping potatoes.

Why not organic chipping potatoes?  One reason is the current marketplace isn’t asking for them.  Most organic potato chips use non-chipping varieties, such as Russets.  With little want for organic chipping potatoes, and chipping potatoes being rather delicate, at this time we’re not growing any.  But you can bet if we have successful organic potato crops this year, you may find more of our potatoes in the organic section of grocery stores and in your favorite restaurants in coming years!


farm, gold dust, Organic Potatoes, Running Y Ranch, sustainable farming, walker brothers

We’re Wattsmart!

May 16th, 2013
Photograph of a certificate Pacific Power gave to Walker Bros. farm for being a "wattsmart" company.

Look at that – we’re Wattsmart!

It’s official – Pacific Power says Walker Brothers is a wattsmart business!

What does that mean and how did we become “wattsmart” certified?  To begin with, the wattsmart Program is group of programs and incentives offered by Pacific Power and Light to businesses to help them become more energy efficient.  Programs range from updating old HVAC systems in existing buildings to updating pumps and water distribution systems for agriculture.  As you can see, they’re trying to make it easy for businesses of all shapes and sizes to curtail some of their power usage, which in the end benefits us all.

Walker Brothers participated in an energy efficiency program for commercial and industrial customers.  Through Pacific Power’s Energy FinAnswer Program, we installed variable frequency drives on two of our potato storage cellars.  As you may be aware, potato cellars can use a lot of energy, and with variable frequency drives (VFD) installed we will be able to cut down a little on our electricity bill.  Along with energy savings, hopefully the VFDs will cut down on the where and tear of the heating and cooling equipment in those cellars!

If you’ve looked at our Sustainable Farming Pages, you know and understand our commitment to sustainable ag and doing things that will not only help the environment when possible, but also help us continue farming in the long run.  Cutting down on our energy consumption partnered with the savings from it is just another way we’ll be able to remain profitable while leaving less of an impact on our local environment.  We recommend checking out Pacific Power’s wattsmart Program to see how you can save energy – and money.

awards & recognition, gold dust, sustainable farming, walker brothers

Gold Dust Hits The Road For The Food Bank and SOOF

December 18th, 2012
A truck and trailer operated by Gold Dust Potato Processors delivers potatoes to the Klamath Lake Counties Food Bank.

Last stop – The Klamath Lake Counties Food Bank!

On our way from our cars and pickups through the front doors of the stores in town, we hear the familiar ringing of the kettle-minders’ bells encouraging us to give whatever small amount we can afford.  The newspaper headlines proclaim the economy is eating into charitable giving and the newsreaders back up the claim in their nightly newscasts.  Yep, it’s tough out there.

With that in mind, this year Gold Dust decided to help two organizations help families in need by not just opening our check book, but by offering some logistics.  Rich Wright, our dispatcher, organized a food run over the weekend to help out not only the Klamath Lake Counties Food Bank, but also Southern Oregon Outreach Foundation (SOOF), an organization that we’ve been working with to bring food and supplies back to the Klamath Basin. But not only did we donate the time and fuel of one of our semis, we also threw in some pallets of potatoes to help fill their pantries.  How many potatoes, you ask?  40,000 pounds.  And yes, they were potatoes we grew and processed right in Malin as well as some we purchased from another local grower.

After heading over the hill to Grants Pass to SOOF’s warehouse, Gold Dust’s truck swung by the Klamath Lake Counties Food Bank to drop off two pallets of potatoes and three pallets of groceries from SOOF.  Though Mother Nature covered our mountains (and the roads as well) with much needed snow, James Anderson, the driver, made the 300 mile round trip safely and with no incidents.  The groceries and potatoes will help families in Klamath and Lake Counties over the Christmas holiday and into the new year.

While we’re proud of that accomplishment and being able to help both of those organizations during a time of year they need it most, we’re also proud of what our employees are doing around the packing shed.  If you go into the office, there’s a jar that our office and floor employees have been filling.  It’s hard to say what the current tally is, but when the period of giving is over, the funds will be matched by Gold Dust and then split between the Klamath Lake Counties Food Bank and Toys For Tots.  If you’ve read this blog much at all, you’ll see we constantly say we have a high caliber of people working for us.  The giving these folks are doing is yet another example of why we’re proud of the people that are in our offices, out on the processing plant floor and out in the fields.  And we can’t wait to see how much is raised!

We hope everyone is having a happy Christmas season, and if you want to help, we highly recommend visiting the Web sites of the Klamath Lake Counties Food Bank and Southern Oregon Outreach Foundation.  On the Klamath Lake Counties Food Bank site, they have a page showing how you can help the food bank.  And if you’d like to get in touch with Southern Oregon Outreach Foundation to see how you can help, visit SOOF’s contact page.  And be sure to read our press release!

chipping potatoes, community, gold dust, gold dust office, potato shed, sustainable farming

Grain Harvest At The Running Y

September 28th, 2012
Claas Lexion 750 cutting a field of conventional wheat on the Running Y Ranch.

No finer site than a big Lexion 750 cutting heavy grain

As we mentioned in our last post about chipping potato harvest getting underway, grain harvest is still going on.  Though we started grain harvest around Malin and have worked through a gigantic organic barley field on the Lower Klamath refuge, we’ve moved our combines down to the Running Y Ranch to harvest the wheat we planted there.

Though we’re proud of our chipping potatoes, raising grain is a major factor of our farming operation.  When Bill and John got together all those years ago, they focused on raising wheat, which is evident when you see the grain fields we’ve planted around the Klamath Basin.  To get some perspective on the impact of raising grain on our farm, and since our harvesters and focus is on the Running Y, let’s take a quick look at how much grain we planted there.  Out of the total acres we’re farming there, almost 67% of the ground is under wheat.  Now compare that to the other crops, we have 12% of the ground in chipping potatoes and almost 10% of it in alfalfa.  And in case you’re curious, we’ve dedicated almost 6% of the farm ground on the Running Y to the Walking Wetlands.  What is the percentage of acres in production that are organically farmed?  16.81%.

Why so much grain?  For starters, grain is a good market to be in, and John and Bill have been raising grain in the Klamath Basin since 1975.  Grain farming is also a part of our sustainable farming plan.  Potatoes take a lot of “power” out of the soil.  By rotating grain and alfalfa crops into fields that have either just been in spuds are or going into potatoes, we’re able to add organic material, nitrogen and other essential elements back into the ground.  This makes it so we rely less on fertilizer, which is better for the environment, for the soil itself and for our operating line.

With that in mind, while we’re excited about potato harvest, we have to remember how important grain harvest is to our farm as well. Let’s hope the skies stay blue, the grain continues to ripen nicely and we get the crop into storage safely.  Here’s to heavy yields!

farm, gold dust, grain, Running Y Ranch, sustainable farming, walker brothers, wheat

Grain Harvest Begins!

August 16th, 2012
Class Lexion combine cutting grain in a wheat field in Malin, OR.

Here comes the Claas, making short work of this field

Driving around the Basin, fields of ripening wheat, barley and oats are turning from green to gold.  Combines are appearing almost from thin air, lining roads and sitting in front of shops and sheds being prepped for cutting.  In some fields, you can see where farmers took test passes.  As summer ends, grain harvest begins.

At our potato processing plant, we cut the wheat field directly south of the packing shed and solar panels.  Our big Claas with its 40 foot wide head made short work of the field, starting just before lunch and finishing the same evening.  To truly appreciate the efficiency of the combine, you have to be in the field and watch it work.  Modern combines with their floating heads and GPS units are able to cut grain just inches above the ground and maximize the amount of crop cut on each pass.  This machine not only allows us to harvest our grain in a more efficient manner, but we also are able to collect more of the grain cut.

While this is our first field harvested, it is certainly not our only field.  After this one, two other fields are ripe and ready to cut – and those are just the ones ready in the immediate future!  As August rolls on, you’ll see our grain trucks running from the fields to storage and our grain carts toted out to help collect the crop.  Though we spend a lot of time discussing chipping potatoes and writing about our packing shed, grain and hay are a part of the crops we rotate though in our sustainable farming plan.  So wherever you see a grain field, a potato field was there once!


farm, gold dust, grain, sustainable farming, walker brothers, wheat

Gold Dust Featured In PepsiCo Sustainable Farming Report

April 9th, 2012
A field planted in peas to help fight soil erosion while providing green manure

This pea field helped with soil erosion while providing green manure for next season

If you’ve been a visitor to our Web site and blog, you’re very aware of how proud we are of our sustainable farming program.  Over the years, Gold Dust and Walker Brothers have been striving to lessen our impact on our local environment while leaving a positive impact on our community.  On the environmental sustainability front, we’ve been a part of the Walking Wetlands program, implemented our own green manure program and just last year finished our Solar Power Initiative.  And now, PepsiCo, parent company of Frito-Lay, has given us recognition for our efforts.

On their Web site, PepsiCo has a page dedicated to environmentally sustainable practices farmers and other partners they work with have been implementing.  What makes this even more prestigious in our minds is this isn’t a focus on just the West Coast or even the United States alone, but of all their partners and farmers who grow for them around the world.

In the Sustainable Farming section under Soil Conservation and Preservation, the page reads, “Also, in 2010, Gold Dust Potatoes planted 1,240 hectares of wheat during spring/summer to protect soils from wind erosion.”  As you know, the quality of our chipping potatoes is directly tied into the quality of the soil we grow them in.  Maintaining the quality of our soil also lessens the amount of fertilizer we need and helps keep weeds and pest under control, which in turn lessens the amount of pesticides we have to use, if we have to use them.

Sometimes the message in the popular media and the press is that farmers don’t care about the environment or the ground they make their living from.  The reality of agriculture is just the opposite of that – we love what we do, and in order to keep farming we have to take care of our environment.  And while we’re proud for the recognition we received from this PepsiCo page, we’re just as thankful to be working with a company that is spreading the word about how agriculture is helping make a positive impact on the environment while encouraging others to do the same.


awards & recognition, environmental stewardship, gold dust, sustainable farming

Gold Dust Helping SOOF Help The Basin

March 1st, 2012
Richard Wright with Rick with a delivery of supplies from South Oregon Outreach Foundation

Rich Wright, our dispatcher, and Rick Hollenbeak, our driver, with a delivery from SOOF for the Klamath Lake County Food Bank

One of the beautiful aspects of the holiday season is how charitable people become.  Little red kettles are filled, soup kitchens have a ton of help, kids of all ages get a Christmas wish fulfilled by a stranger and food banks find their pantries fuller than at any other time of year.  But for some charities, the rest of the year can be pretty lean, especially for food banks and rescue missions.

On February 10th, with assistance from our dispatcher Rich Wright, Gold Dust helped get five pallets worth of groceries to the Klamath Food Bank and our local Gospel Rescue Mission.  An organization known as Southern Oregon Outreach Foundation (SOOF) supplies different food banks and outreach programs in Southern Oregon.  Through a mutual contact at a Cave Junction area church where Rich was an assistant pastor, SOOF asked if there was a need for this kind of help in the Klamath Basin. Rich told him yes.  As a result, on Friday, February 10th, the first load of donated groceries made it to the Basin.

What exactly is Gold Dust doing, you might ask?  Currently, we’re hauling loads for SOOF from the Portland and Seattle area to Southern Oregon.  Whenever there is extra, we’ll bring it over to Klamath Falls and the Klamath Food Bank and our local Gospel Rescue Mission will get the groceries to folks who need them.  While Gold Dust is not donating cash, we are providing the transportation to get the food delivered.  “. . . by providing the trucks, we are able to bring food here to the Basin that would normally be donated elsewhere,” says Rich.  “Just doing a little to help keep supplies coming this way.”

We are proud to help the South Oregon Outreach Foundation, and we are very happy we are able to be a part of helping get donations to the Klamath Basin.  Even more, we’re happy there are organizations like the SOOF that help those who may get forgotten throughout the rest of the year.  Keep up the great work!


community, gold dust, sustainable farming

We’re Farming The Running Y!

February 22nd, 2012
Sign at the Running Y Ranch.

Welcome to the Running Y Ranch!

If it’s been a secret, it isn’t one any longer.  After evaluations, negotiations and many meetings, we’ve struck an agreement and will now be farming the Running Y Ranch!  It’s a move that we’re very excited about and feel that for the long-term success of our farming operations, it is right in line with remaining sustainable for many, many years to come.

You’ve seen us mention the Running Y before in blog posts and press releases about our annual Open House Field Day.  The Running Y Resort is where we treat our attendees to an afternoon of golf followed by dinner after spending the morning checking out our fields and packing shed.  So, are we farming the golf course?  Of course not; that would be silly.  The fields we’ll be working are located just across from the resort on the Running Y Ranch.  And while it may seem like it’s a long ways from our storage and packing facilities in Merrill and Malin, it turns out it’s not any further than some of the ground we farm near the Lava Beds in California.

The rich, peat dirt is some of the best farmland in the Klamath Basin, and while large portions of the ranch have been in pasture for a while, in no time those grounds will be producing hay, wheat and chipping potatoes.  Add in the wells located on  the premises and it only looks better from where we’re sitting.  However, securing the ground doesn’t mean we’re guaranteed success.

As you’re reading this, the Walker Brothers crews are at the Running Y Ranch getting it ready for spring farming.  Over the constant, raucous calling of migrating snow geese, you can hear the din of equipment running.  Irrigation canals and ditches are being dredged and readied, faulty head gates are being replaced and old, crushed culverts are being removed.  Though the general perception of farming is that farmers and crews have pretty relaxing winters, at Gold Dust and Walker Brothers winter is just the season you’re busy with getting ready for spring planting.

While we want to farm the Running Y because of the rich farm ground and the availability of water, it’s hard to ignore the natural beauty of the place.  The little valley is surrounded by tall stands of pine and fir trees where it’s easy to find deer and elk tracks.  In the fields themselves, snow geese, bald eagles, herons and cranes abound while on the perimeter songbirds and hawks watch the action. All in all, it’s a picturesque place that makes us thankful we get to work and live in a place as beautiful as the Klamath Basin.

chipping potatoes, farm, gold dust, grain, sustainable farming, walker brothers, wheat

Solar Power Initiative Complete!

September 23rd, 2011
The McVay Potato Cellar Solar Station from above

The recently approved McVay Cellar solar station, just south of our packing shed

After beginning the process of  installing solar panels back in January, we are very proud to announce that we have completed installing all six of the solar stations that make up the Solar Power Initiative!

Just yesterday, September 22nd, Lexi received word from RS Energy that the final solar station had been approved and hooked up to the grid by Pacific Power and Light (PP&L).  This station and one other have been completed for some time; however Klamath County needed to give us the thumbs-up on the final installations for both.  We received their blessing for one of them back in August, which PP&L activated. But now with the final solar station being approved, we have one more spud cellar being powered in part with green energy.  For those keeping count, that makes four of our potato storage cellars that are using solar energy, one irrigation pump and our potato processing plant.

The final two solar stations are located just outside of Merrill and on Drazil Road near our packing shed in Malin.  The Merrill station, or the Home Cellar solar station as we’ve come to calling it, has panels located on its roof and was approved back in August.  The McVay cellar, which was approved this week, also has a bank of solar panels installed on its roof.  The Home Cellar solar power station is estimated to produce 13,860 KWH of electricity annually while the McVay Cellar station is expected to generate 124,702 KWH every year.  That brings the total amount of power estimated to be produced by all station in the Gold Dust Solar Initiative to a whopping 326,855 KWH annually.  To put that in perspective, our packing shed alone uses 351,240 KWH of power every year. So, all of our solar stations together are producing almost as much sustainable, green energy as our processing plant uses. That’s pretty impressive!

To celebrate this momentous occasion, we’re not only posting pics of the latest solar stations that have been approved and green-tagged, we have updated aerial photos of all the solar power generating sites.  But before we wrap up this post and get to the pictures, we would like to send out a big thank-you to Lexi for all of her hard work.  She helped Bill’s idea of the solar stations come true and dealt with the various governmental agencies and other related headaches.  Well done, Ms. Crawford!

And now, time for pictures!


environmental stewardship, gold dust, potato shed, solar power, sustainable farming, walker brothers