Native Grass Seed Summit set for Wednesday, Nov. 13

Mark Porter

Wallowa County growers will be afforded the opportunity to learn about the possibility of growing native grass seed as a production crop when a Grass Seed Summit is held Nov. 13 at the Hurricane Creek Grange. To date no Wallowa County farmers fit into the niche market where the state and federal governments are primary buyers of Oregon grown grass seed.

The summit is being co-sponsored by Wallowa Resources and The Nature Conservancy and will feature a number of qualified speakers throughout the 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. program.

Mark Porter of Wallowa Resources hopes to attract 30-40 interested growers to the program, but admits he would settle for 10 if they are ones who can use the information being presented.

Among speakers slated on the agenda are Jerry Benson, a native grass seed grower from Moses Lake, Wash.; Vicki Erickson of the Umatilla National Forest who will talk about markets for the native seed; native grass seed grower and EOU crop science professor Andy Huber of La Grande; seed certification specialist Barry Schrumph of OSU in Corvallis; and JoLyn Hollingsworth of Clarkston, Wash. who will speak of the history and prognosis of the native grass seed industry.

Porter says the three major kinds of native grasses in Wallowa County, all varieties of bunch grass, are bluebunch wheat grass, Idaho fescue and Sandberg's blue grass. He hopes to offer local growers "a functional economic opportunity" ro raise a new crop. Covered in the presentations, says Porter, will be tips on how to get hay out of a grass seed crop.

Neighboring Union County grows grass seed, but very little native grass seed, says Porter.

Because the cost of native grass seed is normally higher than other grass seed, it is usually sold by contract to state and federal buyers.

The Wednesday forum for potential buyers and growers of native grass seed is provided free of charge. For a fee of $5 a hot lunch will be provided. For more information contact event coordinator Cathy Sterbentz at 426-6115.

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