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Farmers say field burns during fire season a necessity


Plumes of smoke appeared over Culver on Tuesday, but this time they were not from a wildfire but simply an agricultural burn. For farmers in the area like Wes Hagman, the burns are a necessity.

“To get this crop in, it would be basically impossible,” Hagman said Wednesday.

Farming is all about timing.

“So we’re looking at a carrot field that has just been planted on the 7th of August and will grow through the winter,” Hagman said.

If he was not able to get the crop in at the right time,he said it would not produce the same yield.

Once they harvest and want to plant new crops, they need to get rid of the old crops — and fast. The slow alternative to burning would be baling a field.

“This has been baled, and this is still what’s left,” Hagman said, pointing to a field full of leftover wheat crops.

Baling takes days and is not a very effective method to get an old crop off the fields.

“We burn it, and we’re in the field with the equipment that day,” Hagman said.

Every day they lose on the fields is an expense for the farmers.

Farmers have been burning for many years, but with an increase in population in the area came an increased concern of the smoke.

“We try to burn at the optimal time every day,” said Jack Ickler, a retired farmer who is on the committee of the Jefferson County Smoke Management Program.

The program monitors weather conditions for the 9-week burn period farmers have each year.

“(The key is the) wind direction carrying the smoke the right way,” Ickler said.

They don’t burn when there is no wind, because the smoke would just sit in the region.

They also don’t burn when the wind would push smoke toward high-density population areas like Redmond, Madras or Bend.

Checking wind conditions on the ground is not enough.

“A pilot flies every morning to check the weather above,” Ickler said. “The main reason is to check what’s the air current doing above you.”

Growers spend their money to make sure burning is done properly.

“We work very hard at it, and I just don’t know what else we can do,” Ickler said. “We’re trying to live with the people around us, you know. We’re all on this world here together.”

Farmers have their blood, sweat and life savings invested in their business.

“I mean, without burning, we wouldn’t grow,” Hagman said.

For more information, visit the website of the Jefferson County Smoke Management Program by clicking here.

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