April 09, 2019
A trip to the west coast led me to Oregon and #FarmHer Brenda Frketich. Brenda grew up on the farm, immersed in agriculture. She left for college in LA with dreams of becoming a lawyer but quickly realized what she had left behind. Following college, she came back to the farm as an intern for two years to give it a try. She listened and learned from her dad - from planting to harvesting and everything in between. When her internship was up she stayed on and took on more responsibility. When her dad decided to retire in 2012, Brenda took over as the farm manager and her husband, who she had just married that year also began working full time at the farm. Today they farm together and recently bought the operation from Brenda’s parents. They’ve increased the diversity, growing 10-12 different crops a year ranging a variety of grasses for seed to wheat and hazelnuts. Learn a little about Brenda in this video.
I arrived at the Kirsch Family Farm smack in the middle of hazelnut harvest - luckily Brenda and her husband, Matt were able to take a little break to show me around! We met Brenda at her office where she was handing her two young children off to her dad for the day. From there we drove to a few different fields, seeing the different types of grass that they grow there. Brenda explained that the Willamette Valley, where their farm sits has a temperate climate, wet winters, and dry summers, making it an ideal place to grow grass seed. As a result, Oregon produces more seed than anywhere else in the world. One of the types she showed me is even used on an NFL field!
Diversity is the name of the game on the Frketich’s farm and there is always something growing or being harvested. Just the week before a field of pumpkins had been harvested for the pumpkin seeds, leaving behind just a few telltale orange pieces in the empty field. We stopped back at her parent's house for a delicious lunch, most of which was straight out of her mother’s garden, before heading out to the task at hand, Hazelnut or as they call it, Filbert harvest.
We drove a little way down the road where Brenda’s husband Matt was already back at work. The Filbert trees were lined up in rows all around us. Brenda and her son climbed into the small tractor they use for harvest and set off down a row. She had warned me it would be dusty - I didn’t have any clue HOW dusty it would actually be! The nuts are ready to harvest when they naturally fall from the trees so harvest has to be done in phases. The harvester that the tractor pulled behind it used a series of chains that beat on the ground to pick up the Hazelnuts after they have fallen. When the chains hit the dry ground it stirs up a massive cloud of dust! Brenda went up and down a row until the harvester was full, then pulled around to the waiting boxes that Matt had brought. They transferred the nuts over to the boxes so they could be taken to the processor. As soon as it was done, we said our goodbyes and Brenda was back up in the cab, heading down the next row. There’s always more work to be done! See more about Hazelnut harvest at Brenda's farm here.
Brenda’s was a pretty cool farm to visit for this Midwest girl! From the diversity of the crops, including a look behind the scenes at one that favors my coffee every morning, to the hard work and care from each member of the family; this Oregon farm was a unique place for sure and with Brenda as the FarmHer at the helm, I have no doubt will carry on the tradition for generations to come. See more of Brenda's story here.
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