Fridays at the Mill are "Fiber Fridays" which means fiber folks wander in and out with their projects to sit and socialize. If you walk in on a Friday ready to sit, I'll join you!
This past Friday I was talking about what the lack of rain/late rains mean to the farmers and shepherds around here. As you can imagine, a lack of rain in a farming community has ripple effects. Those in the shop thought it was really interesting and that I should address it in the blog. Then I realized that a lot of people don't really understand what is grown in this part of the state or why. So I thought I'd start there.
Grass seed is the main crop farmed here in Linn County and became an established commodity in this area in the 1950s. In fact if you drive Interstate 5 you will see signs proclaiming this is the Grass Seed Capital of the World. There's a lot of grass around here! The number one reason we grow grass for seed here is rain. Good old fashioned Pacific Northwest rain. You need a lot of rain to grow grass. In addition, the climate is also ideal for grass growth given our mild winters, a smidge of freezing temperatures and nice termperate wet springs.
So what happens to the grass seed? Many of the grasses grow to heights of 4-5 feet, depending on the variety making May one of the most beautiful times to visit this area. The grass is generally cut in late June and left to lie on the ground and dry out in the early weeks of the summer sun. Harvest truly begins in July as the seed is collected off the ground. It is then sent for cleaning and generally goes one of two routes. Some of it is indeed the seed that we buy to plant our lawns, for golf courses and even sports fields. The majority of the seed serves an even larger purpose which is to seed for pastures and to grow feed for livestock. Think of all the cattle, sheep and other livestock. What are they eating? A lot of grass! And the grass has to keep growing all over the world to keep these critters fed.
So there you have it. A short and sweet lesson on farming grass seed! I'll be back soon to let you know about what happens in a year such as this when not only the spring was drier than normal, but our fall rains came about 2 months late. In the meantime, enjoy some photos of some of the most amazing green fields you will ever see.
I am Kim Biegler, the owner and operator of Ewethful Fiber Farm & Mill. I create hand spinning fibers from locally sourced wool and teach others online how to hand spin their own yarn.