OALP XIX Seminar 11

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

OALP Class XIX enjoyed a great three-day seminar in northeastern Oklahoma!

We began at the Port of Catoosa, learning about their facility, the businesses located at the port, their association with industry in Oklahoma, including production agriculture and how they utilize the port, and the larger McClellan-Kerr Navigation System. We also learned about the history of the navigation system in eastern Oklahoma and the impact that it has on our entire state.

We then headed to Newt Graham Lock and Dam 18 where Brad, Josh and Luis talked more about the lock and dams throughout the McClellan-Kerr Navigation System and how they interact with one another. It was a brisk morning, but we were able to tour the lock and dam, the tunnels underneath, and even see the gates in operation!

From there, we went to the Miller Amish Farm for a fantastic lunch where most ate more than we could handle! Ginger Reimer spoke with us about the soybean checkoff program and Patrick Zeka and Beau Sheffield from Oklahoma AgCredit spoke about their company and the important partnership between producers and financing.

We drove to Pryor to tour the MidAmerica Industrial Park, learning more about the businesses that call the park home (including the secretive Google facility), the impact the park has had on the surrounding communities, and their future plans!

Next on the agenda was the Pensacola Dam in Langley. Construction of the dam was finished in 1940. It is Oklahoma’s first hydroelectric power plant and one of the longest multiple arch dams in the world. We were able to tour inside the power plant and see the operation first hand, including the original art deco design and décor!

After leaving the dam, we headed north to Afton to meet with Scott Johnson and learn about his soybean operation. We were able to watch his team of combines in full harvest mode!

We wrapped up the first day of this seminar at the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa County. We heard presentations from Jay Franklin (State Board of Agriculture) and Jim Shelton (AFR/Holistic Management International), and watched a video titled, “Farmer’s Footprint” where we learned about their different takes on production agriculture. It was a good reminder that even within the production agriculture community, we are going to sometimes have different opinions.

We were treated to a delicious dinner catered by the Vinita FFA Chapter which spends a lot of time catering events across the state. To end the night, we helped the Boys and Girls Club set up for their annual Kidsgiving Dinner Auction that was held the next night!

Thursday, November 14, 2019

We started Thursday morning with a trip to J-M Farms. They had coffee and doughnuts waiting for us when we arrived and gave us a brief rundown of what we would see on the tour. We split up and toured the facility.  We were able to see every aspect of mushroom growing from compost to packaged product. They produce 28 million pounds of mushrooms annually. Mainly button mushrooms are produced here. Wheat straw, chicken litter, cotton seed meal, gypsum and urea are utilized for the compost material.  They are truly innovative in their equipment – if they do not have it, they make it. This was an amazing stop and one that we will not forget soon.

We proceeded to Adair to visit the farm of Clay and Melissa Hibbard, contract growers for Tyson. Their product is eggs. These eggs will be taken to a hatchery, hatched, then the chicks grown for meat. From this facility they produce nearly 20,000 eggs per day during peak times. Pullets arrive at 22 weeks old, weighing around four pounds. Each hen lays about 160 eggs in their lifetime. They started in 2006 and plan to continue for as long as they can. They strive to provide food, water, shelter, and a low stress environment for the hens. Tyson provides the chickens, the feed, and tech support. It is up to Clay and Melissa to provide the rest. Hibbard Farms is a very welcoming farm that welcomed us and anyone else to their farm.  

We then traveled to Park Hill to visit with Greenleaf Nursery. They are a wholesale greenhouse that has 640 acres in one location – 540 acres under hoop houses. They have three other sites around the U.S. that focus on plants for their region. At the Park Hill site, they have 1100 species of plants growing; the whole company grows around 2300 species. During peak summer heat, they pump 1.2 million gallons of water every day out of Ten Killer Lake. After having a driving tour of their facility, we headed farther south.

Arriving near Webbers Falls, we were shuttled into 360 Farms and visited with Brent and Valerie Madding. They are a retired couple who took an interest in elderberries. They are now considered the nation’s largest producer of elderberries. The also propagate elderberry plants for sale. They currently produce 1024 plants every 30 days in a hydroponic water filtration greenhouse. They also utilize live fish as a source of nutrients for the plants.  The market continues to grow in demand for the product and 360 Farms is a highly regarded source for this crop. After a tour of the greenhouses and processing area, we made our way back to the bus and headed for dinner.  

We wrapped up the day full of travels with dinner at June’s in Checotah, consisting of popcorn chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, and a delicious assortment of pies.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Our day started bright and early at Swan Dairy at 7:15 a.m. where we were greeted by Diane Swan Williamson who gave us the history. Swan dairy is a third generation dairy and the town of Claremore has built up around them. They have adapted well and are able to sell their product locally including milk, and cheese (made three times a week on site) and sell through a store front on site. Also, people come and watch the cows being milked and it provides an agricultural tourism venue while promoting the products they produce. They are a great family and have an interesting story.

We ventured next door down the hill to Nabatak Outdoors and Manager Kara Rowe gave us a tour and history of the retail and wholesale sides of their fishing tackle and equipment and bait business. While she indicated the tackle sales were good, the bait business is their “bread and butter” and is a seven day a week job. They also have a store in Paragould, Arkansas.

From there we ventured to Green Eyes Coffee and Café where we enjoyed a beverage and RCB Bank gave us a brief insight into the current banking industry

We then visited Selman Farms where Chad Selman gave us an in-depth look at the pecan farming industry. We had a harvesting demonstration plus a tour of their cold storage and bagging and shipping barns. It is a very labor-intensive business and the family does a great job promoting Oklahoma agriculture and their industry.

Our final visit was to Owasso Christmas Tree and Berry Farm where Bill Jacobs gave us a nice presentation on Christmas trees from raising them to the final product when they leave to become a family Christmas tree. Also, part of their operation includes blackberries – self-pick and selling on a seasonal basis. Other income derived from their operation included photo permits, blueberries, wreathes, and other Christmas items. Mr. Jacobs said their main advertising is social media.  Overall, it was a very good tour. We had reflections at the Tree Farm and then departed for the day.

We thoroughly enjoyed traveling through northeastern Oklahoma. Next seminar will be in Stillwater, Oklahoma as we prepare for our international trip.


Courtney P. Brown, Class XIX