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News from the Coalition for the Deschutes

Sustainable Farming Practices at Fox Hollow Ranch in Central Oregon

Fox Hollow Ranch – a family farm

Sustainable agriculture is more than a buzzword at Fox Hollow Ranch….it’s a family lifestyle. Martin and Nancy Richards operate Fox Hollow Ranch in North Unit Irrigation District raising carrot, parsley, and spinach seed, peppermint oil, Kentucky Bluegrass seed, hay and grain on 640 irrigated acres. People, planet, and profits are all important parts of the continued viability of this operation.

Son Kevin and his wife Natalie joined the farm partnership in 2013 and are raising their growing family (3 boys and twins on the way) on the farm. Son Gary earns his livelihood off the farm but has chosen to raise his 3 girls on the farm. These family members and their employees count on a profitable operation to provide economic security for their families. They in turn contribute both economically and socially to the Madras community and beyond.

A willingness to react quickly to changing weather, technology, and societal values is vital to maintaining a viable operation. The Richards family is willing to invest in water conservation, soil health, and innovative new technology in the short term knowing they will payoff both financially and environmentally in the future. Fox Hollow Ranch may have a small role in feeding and clothing the world in a sustainable manner but they take this responsibility seriously. Martin enjoys sharing his love of farming with his sons and grandchildren and is looking forward to turning a sustainable operation over to them someday.

Nancy is on the Coalition for the Deschutes board, and Fox Hollow Ranch is a Shared Vision partner. Nancy and Marty recently hosted the Shared Vision “Picnic at the Pond,” where this information about their sustainability practices was presented.


Fox Hollow Ranch – Sustainability Practices

Weed/Pest Control

  • Manage crop rotation to optimize weed control, reduce chemical needs
  • Diversify chemicals with multiple modes of action
  • Biological pest management:
  • Use predator mites in place of insecticides
  • Use mustard cover crop for natural insecticidal properties
  • Mechanical and manual weed removal when appropriate and feasible
  • Band spray and drip irrigation/chemigation to reduce and target chemical use

 Soil Health

  • Manage crop rotation for diversity and soil health
  • Routine soil nutrient testing
  • Integrated nutrient program (Biotic, manure, compost and synthetic fertilizers)
  • Grid sampling and variable rate application
  • Plant cover crops to enhance soil microbes and build organic levels
  • Incorporate plant residue as frequently as possible (minimal burning)
  • Band spraying and drip application of fertilizers
  • Minimal-till practices when appropriate and feasible

Water Conservation & Efficiency

  • Manage crop rotation to balance water demand
  • Spring plant crops to respond to water supply and increase flexibility
  • Buried pipe for all on-farm water transmission
  • Expanded on-farm water storage
  • Drip irrigation
  • Flow control sprinkler nozzles
  • VFD (Variable Frequency Drive) pumps
  • Wireless/cellular pump monitors
  • Increase water holding capacity of soil with cover crops, crop residue and manures
  • Capture of excess and run-off irrigation water

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May Newsletter


In this newsletter:

Director’s Message
Why We Care – A Place to Call Home: Beavers
Call to Action – Care About the Deschutes River? Connect the Dots

Partner spotlights:
Poland Dairy – Got Milk?
Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe – Got Kayaks?
Deschutes River Conservancy – Got Ron?

Events Not to Miss (lots of them)!
Tim Palmer in the house! America’s Great Rivers Journeys
Kayak Trips with Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe

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Speaker Series Winter 2018! by Tumalo Kayak & Canoe and Coalition for the Deschutes

We are very proud to be partnering with Tumalo Kayak & Canoe to sponsor a Winter 2018 Speaker Series.

A summary is shown below, and you can sign up by visiting our Events Calendar

Click here for FULLSCREEN mode
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Shared Vision for the Deschutes – what it’s about, including press coverage

The “Shared Vision for the Deschutes” is a Coalition for the Deschutes-led initiative to bring river advocacy organizations, local irrigation districts, businesses, nonprofits, and individuals together in support of:

  • A healthy restored Deschutes River
  • Thriving farms and sustainable agriculture
  • Robust and vibrant communities

Read more on the Shared Vision page, including partners and individuals that have committed supporting the vision.  Show your individual support by signing the pledge card here.

Here are a few links of press coverage:
US Today Around the Nation
AP News and Bend Bulletin Collaboration, not litigation, for environmental groups, irrigation districts
PR Newswire A Shared Vision for the Deschutes River
Deschutes River Conservancy (key SV partner) and Capital Press Irrigation Districts Partner on Strategic Vision for the Deschutes Basin

Click here for FULLSCREEN mode


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2018 Springs to Sprouts – Followup information (and photos)

Thank you for joining on Saturday’s 2nd annual “Springs to Sprouts”!  We hope you enjoyed the day.

 I would also like to send a huge thank you to our co-organizers:

  • Mike Weber with Central Oregon Seed, Inc.
  • Irrigation districts of Central Oregon
  • High Desert Food and Farm Alliance and High Desert EATs

Enormous thanks to all of our presenters who took time out of their weekend to join us:

  • Scott Robinson and Mathias Perle (Dillon Falls and Ryan Ranch)
  • Craig Horrell (Brookswood)
  • Mike Britton and Mike Taylor (bus)
  • Natasha Bellis and Marisa Hossick (bus)

And a special thanks to Rob Rastovich for hosting lunch at his farm and regaling us with stories.

 Please send feedback! Here are some questions to consider:

  • What did you like? What didn’t you like?
  • How could we improve the things that are under our control (which doesn’t include the weather or the bus, unfortunately)?
  • What other topics would you be interested in?
  • Would you participate in Springs to Sprouts again and/or recommend it to your friends?
  • Anything else? 

As I mentioned on the bus, Springs to Sprouts is very much a metaphor for the broader work our partner organizations are doing together. Through organizing this event, we’ve gotten to know and understand each other better, we’ve worked together as trusted partners, and most importantly, we’ve become friends.

 However, this is not an exclusive group. We need and invite your participation and support. Our community will be stronger, and we can meet the challenges of providing water for our rivers, agriculture, and communities (aka: fish, farms, families), if we work together.

Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or would like to get involved with the Coalition or one of our partners.

Here now are links for more information:

Lastly, to see posted photos, click here.

If you have some great photos from the day, please share them with us by emailing directly to  If you have too many to email, just drop us a note and we’ll send you a link to directly upload to the album.

Thanks again to one and all!

Gail Snyder, Co-Founder and Executive Director

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Restoring the Deschutes River: Beyond the Blame Game (by our Executive Director/Founder, Gail Snyder)


Restoring the Deschutes River: Getting Beyond Blame***

Gail Snyder, Executive Director/Founder, Coalition For The Deschutes

“Who hears the fishes when they cry?” Those haunting words were penned by Henry David Thoreau more than 200 years ago, a reaction to the declining salmon runs he witnessed on the East Coast. Those fish, now long lost, are referred to today as ghost fish.

We do not intuitively know what used to be. We suffer from ecological amnesia, accepting what we see today as normal. A hundred years after the Deschutes River was dammed and diverted in order to irrigate arid lands, how do we know what we’ve lost?  Thoreau’s piercing question echoes through time.

Four years ago, the reality of my own front-yard river hit home for me. The Deschutes, our beautiful Deschutes, once teemed with fish and other wildlife. In little more than a century, it has been transformed from a flourishing ecosystem to a highly altered, managed system with greatly diminished habitat for native fish and wildlife.

In the winter months, the Upper Deschutes is deprived of water when Wickiup Reservoir is filled for the next year’s irrigation season. In the summer, the river has too much water—with too much power—that courses through and overwhelms the natural ecology and riverbanks. Author and angler Bruce Bischof wrote, “Although during peak summer flows, the river is beautiful by visual standards, it is virtually sterile by healthy stream standards.”

The Middle Deschutes, from Bend’s northern end to Lake Billy Chinook, has the opposite problem in the summer. Most of the water we see flowing through Mirror Pond is diverted into canals, leaving the Middle Deschutes with too little water that heats quickly and can reach temperatures that are lethal to native fish.

And yet, if I am to lament ecological loss and advocate for change, I must also acknowledge that I, we, have benefited from the actions of our predecessors. I must own the past that has allowed us to thrive here.  Agriculture and urbanization have gone hand in hand, and I must reconcile the intertwined histories of agriculture, urbanization, and the river that sustains us all.

Two years ago, I founded the Coalition for the Deschutes with the intention of speaking for the river.  But I quickly learned that the river’s story couldn’t be told without also telling the story of irrigated agriculture and the communities that grew up around it. The stories and the issues are complex. They are cultural, economic, historic, legal, societal, political, ecological, hydrological, and geological. They are inextricably entwined. The adage of the western U.S.—that whiskey is for drinkin’ and water is for fightin’—has a basis in reality.

Plenty of blame has been cast for the problems that beset the river, and there is an abundance of blame to go around. But unless we sit at the table and engage in authentic dialogue, unless we listen carefully, unless we are prepared to let go of preconceptions and move beyond blame, we run the risk of perpetuating the very status quo that we seek to change.

Today the  Coalition for the Deschutes is working with farmers so that we can restore the Deschutes River. We’re taking to heart another of Thoreau’s musings: “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

We have a shared vision of restoring our river and having secure, sustainable agriculture in Central Oregon.  Achieving that vision means modernizing the irrigation system that was built a hundred years ago. Open canals might be pretty, but they are not quality habitat, and they are inefficient, obsolete and wasteful. Water now lost to evaporation and seepage can and must be conserved in order for our rivers to be restored.

“Who hears the fishes when they cry?” Many of us, from many different walks of life. It took time to get into this situation; it will take time to get out of it. But by working together and staying focused on the big picture, we can restore our river while maintaining farmland and supporting farmers.

What can you do? Join the Coalition for the Deschutes and help us speak for the river. Buy produce from local farmers. Tell your elected officials that you support irrigation modernization so that conserved water can stay in the river. Foster a conservation ethic and don’t waste water in your home or yard; although our household use might seem insignificant, our personal actions matter.  And perhaps most important of all, keep an open mind and heart.  Because our river needs you.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field.  I’ll meet you there.








* Historical B&W photo by permission from Bend Historical Museum 
** Deschutes River photo by permission from David A. Rein
***An article edited and published May 15, 2018 by Bend Health Guide was based on this original essay.  Restoring the Deschutes River: Getting Beyond the Blame, 2018 Spring Ed., pp 26-27



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Our Wild and Scenic Deschutes River; An Evening w/ Tim Palmer

Photo by Dave Rein

Whaaat! This year marks THIRTY years since the Upper Deschutes River was designated WILD and SCENIC!  Aw yup. Stretches of the Deschutes River, along with other rivers in Oregon, were designated as Wild and Scenic in October 1988.

Of the approximately 3.6 million miles of streams in the US, 12,734 miles (about 0.35%) are protected by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Oregon has approximately 110,994 miles of river. Of these, 1,916.7 miles (almost 2%) are Wild and Scenic.

Please join us on Monday, April 23rd, to hear Tim Palmer talk about the amazing Wild and Scenic River program, and the rivers that have this esteemed status. Here are some fun facts about the Deschutes River from Tim’s new book.

  • The Deschutes River is the 4th longest in the nation in terms of total miles designated Wild and Scenic. In all, 170 miles of the Deschutes River are designated Wild and Scenic.
  • The Deschutes watershed is 8th in the nation in terms of total miles designated in a single watershed as Wild and Scenic (354 miles total).
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A River and its Ranchers; A Joke (help us!); More March events

A rancher and a river advocate walked into a bar. The bartender said, “______.”
Please send us your punchline to this joke!  More information below.

If you’re wondering if we really can solve river issues collaboratively, then please join us for a real-life example of this work being done in eastern Oregon.

Details of this, and more March events below.
The confluence of Lostine and Wallowa Rivers, by Rob Kirschner
Lessons from Lostine River:  A Story about Ranchers and a River
Prior to 2005, the Lostine River in northeast Oregon frequently ran dry in late summer, leaving threatened Chinook salmon without passage to critical spawning grounds. Since then
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“Flow with Elephants”, by Jenner Fox


Wondering how to measure river flows? Try using elephants. This vignette was shared with us by the river-raftin’ musician, Jenner Fox. It will appear in the sequel to Halfway to Halfway, a book of river tales by our very own board member, Dick Linford.

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Taking the River’s Temperature, Muddy Trails, and Upcoming Events

Taking the River’s Temperature: It’s Not Just Another Number

Please join us on Sunday, February 25th, for a presentation by Dr. E. Ashley Steel.  Dr. Steel will give us a glimpse into her world as an ecologist with the Pacific NW Research Station. She’ll explain her work exploring the thermal regimes of rivers and why they matter.

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