Gaining good ground at OSU Vegetable Farm

By Emily Wittkop, November 2018

IAE currently manages 66 restoration sites in Oregon and partners with agencies such as the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for plug and seed production. In order to produce seed for restoration, IAE has expanded our farm program to the Oregon State University Vegetable Research Farm, known as the "Veg Farm," just east of the Willamette River in Corvallis, Oregon. The seed that will be harvested from this land will be direct-seeded on to current restoration sites, and used to improve ecosystem functions, restore habitat, and to provide resources for pollinators and wildlife. With much-needed support from IAE staff members across all programs, our 15-strong crew planted thousands of plugs of Oregon iris, barestem biscuitroot, shaggy horkelia, and Western goldenrod in one day this fall.

Restoration successes are greatly improved by the availability of native plant materials.  Quality native seed can be rare and expensive due to limited resources, accessibility, and labor needs. With this new expansion to the Veg Farm, IAE is continuing to work towards making these valued resources more accessible and thus increasing our ability to actively restore native habitats.

The author and IAE Restoration Biologist Ian Silvernail  instruct IAE staff on planting needs for the new farm

Almost all of IAE's staff came out to help plant natives for a day!

The establishment of these new production fields was no easy task. With over 13,000 plugs to get in the ground, more than 2.5 miles of weed suppression fabric to install, and several species to seed, at times it seemed like there was no end in sight to what was needed. There is always more work to be done, but the IAE staff has hit the ground running with an all-staff work day, and put a significant dent in what needs to be done.

Randy Hopson and Kendal Johnson at the Veg Farm made this new farm site a possibility. Along with their valued expertise and support, they also provide tractor work and irrigation, which will allow the IAE farm program to efficiently utilize the space to grow as much seed as they can. Randy, the retiring Farm Manager at the Veg Farm commented that “I am happy to bring IAE here as one of my last actions as farm manager. Soil won't be tilled every year like much of the rest of the Farm, and can remain intact. Also, native pollinators need their favored resources to sustain them. These plants will provide a respite for pollinators here on the farm.” We are sad to be parting ways with Randy so soon, but are very excited to continue working with Kendal Johnson, the new farm manager. We look forward to continuing to grow our Farm program with the help of the OSU Veg Farm team, and are eager to see these new native seed plots in full bloom this spring.

IAE Executive Director Tom Kaye, digging with the rest of the staff

The hoary hoary knife from Japan is a versatile planting tool