The source and reflection of vitality
The buds are on the trees.
This is a simple, yet vital, statement about life in Hood River.
Currently the size of peas and looking like dusty pink sequins, the buds on the pear, apple and cherry trees remind us of the cycle of life and the importance of agriculture to the Gorge economy and to our environment.
Agricultural producers in Oregon's mid-Columbia region (Hood River and Wasco counties) earned a total of $177.3 million in gross sales of farm commodities in 2010, a welcome jump up from the $149.4 million the two counties earned the prior year.
In Hood River County, farm gate sales of all crops and livestock totaled $87.6 million, up from $83.4 million in 2009 - a 5 percent increase.
Winter pears, Bartlett pears, sweet cherries and apples accounted for 95 percent of the 2010 agricultural commodity sales in Hood River County. Winter pears are a major crop in the county, generating $54 million in sales last year.
Oregon agriculture has generally been a constant and stable economic engine, increasing in production value 21 of the past 24 years, with more than a thousand Oregon farms having been operated by the same families for at least a century.
American society is seeing a rising interest in "locally grown," and individuals and families are starting small with gardens, or turning things they grow into value-added products that provide income and jobs.
Often those goods are available at farmers markets, of which there are many throughout the mid-Columbia. One good way for consumers to learn about agriculture is to support those markets and visit face-to-face with the local people who grow the food. Supporting local agriculture can also happen at the neighborhood grocery store, or a favorite restaurant.
Local agriculture is not confined to fresh seasonal produce. Locally grown foods are often processed or used as ingredients for other products. With more than 220 different commodities produced in Oregon, the state's agricultural diversity is far greater than most states.
Now, with the buds emerging on the fruit trees, is a good time to consider the role of the more than 38,000 Oregon producers and two million agricultural operators in the U.S.
As U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack put it, "We owe a debt of gratitude to the hard working men and women who provide us - and much of the world - with a safe, reliable, affordable, and abundant food supply."
E-mail from Japan
'Please pray from the
United States by all means'
Many people in Hood River enjoy long and loving connections to the people of Japan. These include Althea Hukari, who sent along this message Thursday:
My family has been in contact with Jun Homma in Tokyo, who has many friends here in the valley. He and his family are safe. I hope you will reprint his entire e-mail. Jun's English is certainly better then my Japanese, and while the language may not read fluently, the heart does.
(The Rob he mentions is my father, Rob Hukari, with whom he was very close.) Please join me in continuing to send loving thoughts for all those suffering in Japan.
"Thank you for an immediate visit. Toshiko and my brothers family are safe in the favor and relieve, please. There was no big trouble though the company and the house shook widely. The Pacific Ocean side of Japan is really a decaying state due to the severe earthquake.
We also (travel) a lot also to a friend in the place visited many times, and are worried. It thinks what kind of support is possible in the future. There is no story easily, and it is very cold, and is worried of victims. This year's Japan that thinks give support big with the visit from the president in the United States.
It is only prayed that damage not extend. Please pray from the United States by all means. It thinks the United States to be want a visit this year. Your family also ripens and thinks that it paves it of the appearance of vigor. In the future, let's do happily by the mind of sympathy as a child who lives in the United States and Japan of our Rob parents whom we loved most. Thank you for a heart-warming letter. Please tell sisters and Hukari families that Jun is energetic.
Love, Jun and Toshiko Homma"