Farming

Julie Falk / Flickr Creative Commons

It’s been a frustrating spring for southwest Idaho farmers. Abnormal weather has been causing problems and delaying planting for many of those who grow sugar beets, onions and other crops.

Canyon County Extension agent Jerry Neufeld says the constant spring rain has really slowed the process down. Farmers who normally have all their spring planting done by now are seeing their workload start to backup.

Darin Oswald / Idaho Statesman

Boise State University professor Jodi Brandt learned quickly after she moved to Boise a little more than a year ago that Treasure Valley residents are concerned about recent shifts in land use, as more farms are sold and turned into housing developments. Along with a team at Boise State, Brandt is building a map to chart and project these changes.

Purple Sage Farms

If you visit the Boise Farmers Market in the summer, you’ve probably seen Tim Sommer and his family selling greens. They’ve owned Purple Sage Farms in Middleton since 1988, and sell to local restaurants in the Treasure and Wood River Valleys.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

There’s a legal fight going on over control of water in the Treasure Valley. The rhetoric in the fight has been intense. One side even has an ad campaign. 

Imagine a movie-theater preview voice comes up over cheery music reminiscent of a babbling brook. 

“Irrigation water, it makes the Treasure Valley a lush green miracle instead of a desert landscape. Imagine a typical 105 degree summer day. Now imagine your irrigation water is completely shut off to your lawn, garden, farm or favorite park.” The music stops.

Idaho Department of Environmental Quality

"Nitrate" may as well be a four-letter word in the small town of Ashton, Idaho.

The eastern Idaho town of 1,200 people is about 20 miles from the border of Wyoming. Settlers in the area in the 1890s quickly took advantage the fertile volcanic soil beneath their feet, and began diverting water to irrigate the land. Seed potatoes are the big cash crop, though wheat, barley and hay also contribute to the local economy.

Idaho Department of Water Resources

It’s no secret that Eastern Idaho has a water problem. There is too much demand and too little water in the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer to go around. But how did we get to this point? That’s what this chart is all about.

About 100 years ago, there was roughly 4,000 cubic feet per second of water coming out of the aquifer at Thousand Springs. It’s important to note that’s not how much water was in the aquifer, just how much was flowing out.

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

It’s 60 miles across, mostly hidden from view and vital to the economy of Idaho. Much of the time, the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer gets little attention, even from people who rely on it every day. Without it, farmland would disappear and cities from Twin Falls to Rexburg would dry up. As we begin our series on water in Idaho, we take a closer look at the state’s largest “body” of water, hidden underneath the Snake River Plain.

Northwest Nazarene University

There may soon come a day where the vineyards in Canyon County are tended to by a robot.

Northwest Nazarene University engineering professor Josh Griffin is helping to lead a team of researchers and students building a prototype. They received an $81,000 grant from the Idaho Department of Agriculture to create the aptly named “IdaBot.”

Chris vT / Flickr Creative Commons

Update, Friday - 12:09 p.m.: The Humane Society of the United States, the largest animal welfare organization in the nation, is offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the identification, arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for lethally poisoning Casey Echevarria's 12 dogs.

Anna King / Northwest News Network

The new crop of bing cherries has been beset with growing problems this year that are reducing the size of the crop.

The Northwest's most popular cherry variety could be in short supply in 2016, after the five-state Cherry Commission on Wednesday lowered its outlook for the season to 18.3 million 20-pound boxes.

The Tri-City Herald reported that some farmers are warning that if conditions worsen, some bing orchards could go unpicked.

Kara Stenberg / Flickr

Southern Idaho gardeners and farmers are seeing an increase in voles, and the destruction they can cause, this year.

Voles are four-to-five inch long mammals, often mistaken for mice, that like to eat green vegetation.

“It’s a big problem in southern Idaho,” says Ronda Hirnyck. She’s the University of Idaho Extension pesticide specialist in Boise.

USDA

If you're a woman in agriculture, you're more likely to farm in Oregon than in Idaho.

Tristan Buckner / Flickr Creative Commons

The drought is killing wheat crops in a northern Idaho county where commissioners declared a state of emergency.

The Lewiston Tribune reports some Clearwater County farmers have seen drought conditions eliminate almost two-thirds of this year's crops.

Commission Chairman Don Ebert says recent rains were too late to save wheat crops, and that harvests are down 40 percent.

The National Weather Service forecasts more rain this week, but not enough to end drought conditions.

ironpoison / Flickr

Farmers and ranchers in the West's worst-hit drought regions will receive an additional $21 million to help them save water and soil despite the long dry spell.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the aid Monday. The assistance will go to areas of the West that are rated in the highest categories of drought. That includes parts of California, Kansas, Idaho, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas and Utah.

The aid is meant to help farms and grazing pastures cope with drought through better irrigation, cover crops and other measures.

Sara Creech has grown dependent on farming. She started out planting an orchard of fruit trees: apples, peaches, cherries and pears. She added berry bushes and rows of vegetables.

And then she bought her first chickens.

"A lot of people call chickens the gateway animal," says Creech, who lives in rural North Salem, Ind. "Like once you have a chicken on the farm, then you end up getting sheep on the farm, and then you end up getting horses, and cows. And then it just explodes from there."

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