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Today's word on journalism

Monday, May 15, 2006

THE FINAL WORD

PETERSBORO, Utah -- Gloom like a Bulwer-Lyttonesque pall hung heavily over the Cache Valley as word came that the WORD had gone.

"As he stared at her ample bosom, he daydreamed of the dual Stromberg carburetors in his vintage Triumph Spitfire. . . ." No, wait. . . . That's actual Bulwer-Lyttonism. Scratch it.

We conclude, with joy and trumpets and a tankard or two, the 10th season of TODAY'S WORD ON JOURNALISM. What began in 1995 as a professor's strategy to get his students to read email (guess that worked!) now has spread, birdflu-like, far beyond that unwilling audience to self-flagellating WORD volunteers on five-and-a-half continents. But the willing and unwilling alike--the halt and addled and addicted and deluded--will have to get a life and smell the roses, for a while anyway.

Today marks the end of the WORD for this academic season. Even ere the rosy dawn that didth bust o'er this glade, this vale, this happy home. . . . ooops. Avert already, Sir Bulwer, you mangy cur!!!!

See you in the fall. . . TP

Farming in Lewiston: Sugar beets to grasses, always an uphill trek

By Megan Sonderegger

April 28, 2006 | LEWISTON -- The lush green farmlands and open grassy fields surrounding this city were not produced naturally. Because of hardworking farmers who spend every day adapting to their difficult agricultural environment and modern day changes, Lewiston has become the paradise they create.

"They've had an uphill battle ever since agriculture began in Lewiston," said Craig Smith, a soil specialist at Utah State University.

 

AHHH: Welcome rain drums on the farm fields of
Lewiston. / Photo by Megan Sonderegger

Gordon Barlow, who has lived and worked on his farm for 55 years, remembers working the fields when he was young. He feels the biggest change made in agriculture was the shift from sugar beets to dairy products and grasses. Sugar beets used to be the economic boom in Lewiston and most farmers spent year-round efforts to produce these crops, he said.

 

"Sugar beets were a very labor intensive crop. We started them first thing in the spring, and they were the last thing harvested in the fall. They took a lot of manual labor," he said.

During flooding seasons Barlow and his brothers would have to wait until late at night when the ground was frozen in order to farm the land. Sugar beets demanded a lot of attention and farmers would have to manually thin the plants in order for them to grow to their proper size.

"We had to go through three times a year and weed them. Imagine weeding your garden for acres and acres," he said with a laugh.

Smith said sugar beet production ended because other areas had more resources and greater economies and because sugar beets grew better in different environments.

"Lewiston had its own sugar factory. It was the big crop of the past and was probably the biggest shift," Smith said.

Although Barlow and Smith agree sugar beets were the greatest agricultural shift, Brent Glover, another local farmer, said he feels the biggest shift in agriculture has been technological advancements in farming. He said although these advancements allow for easier workloads they deplete farmers' incomes and can be wearying financially.

"It makes it a lot easier but we have to own a lot more ground to live on what we used to," Glover said.

He said most farmers have to take second jobs in order to survive because crop prices are low and farming equipment is extremely high. Farming in the valley is also challenging because of the difficult soil, the high water table and the mixed seasons, Glover added.

"It's hard to make it on a farm nowadays," he said.

Smith said the city's water table has always been extremely high and early Lewiston farmers used to dig drains so water would flow from the soil into drains which eventually led to the river. Modern technology has created artificial drainage systems which help the water table go down slightly, but most of the artificial drains were installed 40-50 years ago and may be in fairly bad working condition, Smith added.

"Last year there was a lot of alfalfa that died out because it basically drowned. [Lewiston has] had a lot of flooding and a lot of drought and the two extremes are difficult," Smith said.

Barlow said most farmers have not been able to start planting this year because of flooded soil. He said late seasons have a huge effect on crops such as barley, and many crops die because they can't handle the heat of summer while in growth.

"You work with it as it comes, and you do your best," He said.

Barlow said the ground is made up of clay and sand-based soils which present another problem to farmers. Clay soil floods easily and will become clod-like if not worked in the proper season, whereas sandy soil has to be worked in the opposite season while adding large amounts of water to moisten the soil enough to plant, he said.

"Even in the sandy soils you can dig down and find clay," Barlow said.

Janice Kotuby-Amacher, director of the soil testing lab at USU, said farmers can not afford to replace their topsoil with brought-in organic soils, so most have to work with what they have. She said productive types of soil depend on the crop grown but clay is extremely hard to farm.

"Clay soils are the hardest to work with for farmers," Kotuby-Amacher said.

Despite the enormous amounts of farming challenges Smith said the farmers in Lewiston are extremely capable and are willing to be flexible in their capabilities, and progressive in their willingness to try new ideas.

"They have a lot to balance out there, but they have a knowledge base from experience and they're willing and open to try new things. Maybe the next big shift is on the horizon." Smith said.

The farm fields near Lewiston beckon. / Photo by Megan Sonderegger

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