By Anna Scharf
The Willamette Valley in Oregon encompasses a 150-mile long stretch that runs the lengths of Interstate Highway 5 from Portland to Eugene and east to west from the Cascade Range to the Oregon Coast Range. With numerous waterways and highly fertile soil, this valley is the most agriculturally productive and diversified region of the state. It produces everything from fresh market produce and specialty vegetable seeds to grass and tree seedlings, wine grapes and hazelnuts. Oregon produces over 170 crops statewide and the vast majority of them can be found in the Willamette Valley.
Canola, however, has been challenged over the past decade to gain a place in the state’s crop diversity. Since 2011, the Willamette Valley has restricted canola production to 500 acres by permit only due to concern of co-mingling with vegetable crops. Despite these restrictions and lack of access to nearby crush facilities, the canola market has held on and continues to fight for additional acres.
In 2021, the Willamette Valley’s canola harvest was very good as usual. All 500 acres were filled with winter- and spring-planted varieties. Several farmers again reached 4,000-5,000 pounds per acre in yield and with canola prices holding strong, it meant a great harvest.
Next year, harvest acres will also be permitted. However, an additional 220 acres applied for will not be planted due to the 500-acre cap. After a long, very dry summer, Willamette Valley farmers anxiously await moisture in order to get canola seed in the ground in anticipation of another great harvest.
Anna Scharf is a canola grower in Amity, Ore., representative (District 23) in the Oregon State Legislature and board member of the U.S. Canola Association.