Summer is a busy time for agricultural communities. As crops ripen over the summer and into the fall, farm workers are putting in long, hard, (and often hot!) days to move those crops from the fields to market. The Willamette Valley is one of the most diverse agricultural regions on Earth due to its rich, fertile soils and ample rainfall. Washington County is among the top-producing agricultural counties in the state with agricultural land making up about 25% of the county’s land area. Our farmers produce almost 100 types of crops with grass seed, greenhouse plants, wheat, dairy products, and berries accounting for the highest crop revenues.
Increased summer traffic means it’s time for extra road safety on rural roads.
During harvest seasons, you may encounter farm equipment, like a combine or tractor, on rural roads. These vehicles can be wider than the road lanes and travel at speeds under 25 mph. To safely share rural roads with slow-moving vehicles, follow these tips:
- Watch for signs: You may see a “CAUTION” sign or a bright orange triangle on the farm equipment. These are indications that you should slow down and watch for slow-moving vehicles.
- Be patient: Farm equipment can be loud to operate, and the driver may not be aware that you are behind them. If it is safe, they may pull over to let you pass, but this isn’t always possible. Make sure to keep a safe distance.
- Pass with caution: Only pass slow-moving vehicles in designated passing zones and not within 100 feet of any intersection, railroad grade crossing, bridge, or tunnel.
Read more about the ROADS Act (Rural Oregon Achieving Driving Safety Act) and rural road safety here.
Many crops will be harvested throughout Washington County in the coming months.
- Blueberries – Blueberries are ready for harvest late June through September. Farms will harvest blueberries by hand or machines, depending on if the berries will be sold fresh or frozen. Machine harvesters are tall and drive over the bushes where paddles shake and knock the berries off the bushes and onto a conveyer belt. Oregon grows the second most blueberries in the country with over 1,000 farms growing blueberries. Annually, Oregon grows around 154 million pounds and exports the fruit to countries like Argentina, France, Italy, and Japan.
- Blackberries – Blackberries are harvested from July to September. Like blueberries, blackberries are picked by hand if sold fresh and machine harvested if they will be processed or frozen. Oregon is the number one producer of frozen blackberries! More than 90% of the frozen blackberries found in American grocery stores come from Oregon. Blackberries are harvested at night when the berries are at their freshest and firmest.
- Strawberries – Strawberry harvest varies by the variety of berry, but is usually done June through mid-July. Strawberries are harvested by hand. Oregon is ranked third in the United States for strawberry production with over 11 million pounds of berries grown each year.
- Grass Seed – Harvest time for grass seed crops begins in late June or early July. A windrower machine or swather cuts the grass and lays it in rows where it dries for 5-10 days. A combine machine then separates the seed from the straw and spreads the straw back onto the field. Oregon is the world’s number one producer of forage and turf grass seeds. Turf grass seed is planted for home lawns, athletic fields, and golf courses. Forage grass seed is planted for pastures, roadsides, and erosion prevention.
- Corn – Corn matures in early fall and harvested when the husks start to turn brown and fall off. Combines (machine that cuts and separates grains) are used to harvest the ears of corn. The combine has row dividers that pick up corn stalks and separates the stalks from the ears. The ears are kept on a conveyor belt and the stalks are returned to the ground. There are two types of corn grown in Oregon – field corn, used as grain for livestock feed, and sweet corn, which you see in grocery stores.
- Hazelnuts – Hazelnuts are harvested in September and October. Ripe nuts fall to the orchard floor where farmers drive a sweeper through the orchard. The machine sweeps the nuts into rows between the trees where a harvester drives down the rows and picks up the nuts. The hazelnuts are then dried, cleaned, shelled, and roasted. Hazelnuts are the official state nut of Oregon. These nuts are grown by more than 1,300 farms in Oregon, and those farms grow 100% of the hazelnuts in the United States.
Learn more about Oregon grown commodities from Oregon Agriculture in the Classroom.