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This spring has been strange in Oregon’s Lane County.
“It rained every day. I’m exaggerating, but only by two days,” says farmer Jason Hunton.
When Mother Nature rears her ugly head, Hunton watches his fields. He farms both organic and conventional land in Junction City, Ore.
“We’re struggling. We’ve got a couple of [organic] fields that have some real thistle problems. I want to get some tarps and solarize it — cover it up and see if we can get that to cook itself in some of the thicker areas,” Hunton says.
Several fields down the road, a tine weeder runs through one of Hunton’s organic wheat crops. It’s like a giant comb, scraping up weeds and bits of wheat along with it.
This is the third time this year that Hunton has tine-weeded this field. It’s an all-day job. In his conventional wheat fields, he can spray once and be done with it.
“We use a lot of steel and diesel to control weeds,” Hunton says. “It’s not easy being a farmer, but it’s easier being a conventional farmer.”
Hunton’s got few options in his toolbox. He can use diesel and steel, walk away from a field or spray it with herbicides, which will wipe out the weeds fastest. But then he’s got to wait up to three years to re-certify that field as organic.