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Class XII Curriculum

Oklahoma Ag Leadership Program

Seminar X

SE Oklahoma
October 12-14, 2005

Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2005
Scribe: Nikki Snider

 

Longview Fish Farm

OALP Class XII started their trip to Southeast Oklahoma early on Wednesday morning. Most class members met in Stillwater or Oklahoma City. Others joined us along the way. Our first stop was at Longview Fish Farm (LFF) near Wetumka. Kraig Ruebush, the farm manager, explained to the class how he was recently hired and was making many improvements to the operation. The farm is owned by Dr. Wise, a prominent eye doctor.

Longview Fish Farm sits on 100 acres of land. 85 of those acres are ponds. The ponds are deeper than most fish farms at 7-8 foot versus the normal 4-5 foot depth. Catfish is the main species raised on the farm. They are also doing some trials with fresh water shrimp.

The farm’s largest customer is a man in Kansas who uses the fish to stock state lakes. Mr. Ruebush also markets some large fish to an Asian market in Tulsa.

LFF has the capacity to hatch 1 million eggs per week. The eggs are laid in barrels and the egg mass is brought out of the barrels and taken to the hatchery. Because they use city water, a CO2 filter is used for hatching. The hatching process requires water flow and additional oxygen flow in the water. The fry stay in the water up until they are one inch long.

Mr. Ruebush uses a fish grader recently designed by the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. The grader enables a much quicker sorting of the fish. The floating grader is a series of boxes with a slotted bottom. The slats in the bottom can be angled at varying degrees to allow 1 to 5 pound fish to stay in the boxes. The smaller fish are released back into the water or sorted to another box.

80 percent is a high survival rate for any fish farm. The normal survival rate is around 50 percent. Mr. Ruebush has a goal to produce 250,000 pounds of fish each year. The fish have a feed conversion rate of 2:1.

After the tour of the fish farm, we headed south toward McCurtian. We stopped in Eufaula for a fast-food lunch.

 

Treadway Ranch

The next stop for the day was Treadway Ranch near McCurtain. Clifford and Glenda Treadway have owned the farm for almost 30 years. The land was given to a local farmer from a coal mining company. When the Treadways bought it, the land needed much improvement. They began clearing brush and rocks so they could establish pastures for grazing. After a great deal of clearing and heavy spring rains, they realized the reclamation needed to be done at a slower pace and in the fall season, when the risk of heavy rain is low, to prevent erosion of the cleared areas.

The Treadways established a rock quarry early on in their operation. They mine dug rock (sandstone) and moss rock. The rock from their land is cut into flag stone, patio rock, slabs, granny stackers (a very descriptive name for small landscaping rock) and builders. They sell their rock through a broker. Most of the rock goes to Texas and Georgia. The rocks are dug and placed on palates so the truck can move them to market.

Rock prices range from $30/ton for small stackers and moss rock, $65/ton for patio rock, and to $100/ton for flagstone.

Managing a rock quarry requires inspection by state and federal agencies for safety. The state inspection happens each quarter. The federal inspection is yearly and will take an entire day to ensure the Treadways meet EMSHA requirements.

In 1995 the Treadways decided to further diversify their operation and added a 500 sow farrow-to-wean operation. They contract with Cargill Pork. They work hard to take care of the environment. They expanded their lagoon system from the initial one lagoon to three lagoons so they would have more storage capacity in times of heavy rain. This also helps reduce the odor. They have also established riparian areas around local streams and creeks and are heavily involved in wildlife management. They are part of Oklahoma’s D-Map program to monitor the local deer population. They count deer each evening in August and September and turn that number into the Wildlife Department before the hunting season begins. They host two special deer hunts each year. One hunt benefits underprivileged children in the area and the other, with the Wheelin’ Sportsmen, to help disabled persons have an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors.

The effluent from the lagoons has accelerated the land reclamation. The Treadways have established wildlife feeding areas and wildflower plots and have more forage for their cattle. Their commitment to environmental protection has earned them awards from Cargill, the Oklahoma Pork Council and Oklahoma Department of Ag and most recently the National Pork Board.

The Treadways employ six people full-time. The employees work each morning at the hog farm and work in the rock quarry each afternoon. Having the two operations allows them to provide full time employment for these local residents.

We were then on our way to Poteau for a visit to the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture.

 

Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture

Dr. Jim Horne, President of the Kerr Center, began by giving us a brief overview of the Center’s operation. The Kerr Center was formed in 1965 by a grant from the Robert S. Kerr family. This private funding gives Kerr Center staff the freedom to express their beliefs freely and tackle controversial issues. The Center has a grant program for farmers to implement best management practices. The farms must then hold a field day to show other farmers what they have accomplished. These field days usually draw 100-150 people. They also have a 4,000 acre ranch at Poteau to demonstrate more of the best management practices.

Next, Dr. Horne talked to our class about Agriculture land preservation. Our class was first exposed to the concept of agriculture land preservation during our stay in Pennsylvania. I was surprised to learn this practice was being used in Oklahoma.

From 1992-97, 6 million acres of agriculture land was paved. The population is growing at the edge of many cities and the size of single family housing acres have increased. For these reasons, several trusts have been established to help farmers protect their land from development for years to come.

Ag land preservation, or conservation easements, are voluntary, compensatory tools to preserve land for agriculture use, wildlife habitat, green zones, etc. The conservation easement is written into the land deed and can be as restrictive or permissive as the farmer would like. The land preservation trust or conservation organization has the task of enforcing the agreement whenever the land is sold.

The conservation easement keeps the land available for farm or ranch use. It limits non-farm development and non-agriculture uses. It does permit development related to the farm or ranch operation including building construction.

The value of the easement is determined by a qualified appraiser. The easement value = the fair market value – the restricted value. This value is realized by the farmer when he or she “donates” the land to the land trust as a charitable gift tax credit or by using the easement value for determining property taxes.

We then began a discussion on environmental issues in the Poteau Valley. Mr. Don Goforth with the Poteau Valley Improvement Authority, the local water treatment facility, talked about the challenges from local agriculture production and municipalities sending run-off into Lake Wister.

Mr. Goforth explained the PVIA is looking for local solutions to the problem and did not want to engage in litigation. However, he did not dismiss this prospect because of the increasing concerns.

Mr. Goforth noted that municipalities and agriculture were the two point-sources of pollution into Lake Wister. The excess phosphorous creates a blue/green algae bloom in the lake which creates a bad taste and odor to the water.

The PVIA is also under increasing pressure from EPA to monitor water for pathogen levels. The pathogens EPA is beginning to look at are carried in the digestive tract of humans and farm animal in low levels. Mr. Goforth is concerned that completely removing these pathogens will reduce human immunities to disease through low-level exposure.

The EPA is also gearing up to make PVIA test at the lake, not just test the treated water.

Next we heard from Mr. Ken Reisenhuber from the Natural Resource Conservation Service. Mr. Reisenhuber talked to the class about local efforts to improve the water quality in Lake Wister.

Mr. Reisenhuber feels the PVIA and local producers can work well together because it is a very rural area and the owners of poultry operations drink the water of Lake Wister. In fact, poultry farms are the largest buyer of water from PVIA so they have a great interested in keeping that water at good quality.

Mr. Reisenhuber further defined the problem saying in the beginning the poultry producers were not required to have a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan. When CNMPs were put in place water quality improved. However, NRCS didn’t feel the improvement was fast enough and applied for an EPA 319 grant to move poultry litter from the watershed. Taking the litter ‘across the mountain’ so other farmers can benefit from the nutrients has helped water quality and conservation efforts continue.

To end our stay at the Kerr Center, we received a wonderful meal of pork chops, potatoes, vegetables and dessert prepared by David Shaw (an OALP alum) and his wife Darleen.

After dinner the driving continued as we traveled from Poteau across the Ouichata Forest and Mountains into Idabel. As we left Poteau, we enjoyed a beautiful sunset over Lake Wister.

 

Thursday, October 13, 2005
Scribe: Justin Rogers

 

Tyson Foods

The OALP Class XII enjoyed another great day in Southeastern Oklahoma on October 13. The class had an early start at the Tyson plant which is located between Idabel and Broken Bow. The Tyson plant is a great example of how animal Agriculture is creating jobs for citizens of Oklahoma. We were welcomed by Tyson Foods to tour their production facility and ask questions about the poultry industry. Some statistics that were fascinating to hear are as follows. The plant slaughters 1.3 million chickens per week, which comes out to about 265,000 birds per day. The plant uses about 6.5 gallons per bird during the processing stage. The production numbers are staggering.

The Tyson plant is a perfect example of how popular and what demand there is for chicken products by the American consumer. Tyson runs three worker shifts through the plant. The plant processes 600,000 lbs. of chicken breast a week, along with 300,000 lbs. of processed meat. The optimum size for a chicken to be processed is 3.65 lb. live weight, which will yield between 2 to 2.8 lb. of edible meat. Tyson exports to Russia, Africa, Angola, and Taiwan. The plant contracts with 240 growers in an 80 mile radius. The birds are weighed three times upon arrival at the plant. First on the trailer, then a second and third time to determine shrink.

The Broken Bow/Idabel Tyson plant features a fully cooked, deboned breast meat product as well as an individually wrapped product that is packaged in a pouch of four breast strips. The plant employees about 1,000 people. The company has a great employee salary and benefit package that includes stock options, retirement, a credit union, paid vacations and holidays. Throughout the U.S. Tyson has 44 production facilities, with the National Marketing Headquarters being located in Springdale, Arkansas.

The OALP class XII is very appreciative to Tyson Foods for welcoming our class to tour their production operations. Special thanks go to Assistant Plant Manager Gary Bacorn, and Human Resources Manager Beth Blocker.

 

Huber Engineered Woods

Our second stop of the day was at Huber Engineered Woods LLC. in Broken Bow. We were welcomed by plant manager Ricky Franklin and Wood Procurement Forester Chuck Battles. Huber is the newest Oriented Strand Board producer in the U.S. The OSB wood product is a direct competitor of traditional plywood. The OSB process takes small pieces of wood that comes out in strands. OSB lays flatter than plywood, and also features tongue and groove technology. Huber has 35% of the U.S. housing market in flooring, as well as 85% of the Atlanta market. They employee 18 shift managers. The company is very automated and has the world’s largest single pass dryer. OSB is water resistant, thus it doesn’t swell like traditional plywood. OSB at the Huber plant can be processed at 180 ft per minute. The plant is owned by the Broken Bow Economic Development Corporation, but will be put into Huber’s ownership at a later date.

The plant uses southern yellow pine, Loblolly, and Short Leaf Pine to make the OSB product. Huber reported that 16 million tons of lumber were damaged by the recent hurricane activity. Huber is also involved in the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. SFI is a conservation type program that has a goal of providing 1 million trees to the general public. Huber works with 130-140 contract tree growers.

 

Weyerhaeuser Corporation

The last stop of the day, and the host for our lunch and evening meal, was with the Wayerhaeuser Corporation. This corporation has 500,000 acres of land for timber production. The Corporation was started in 1969. We discussed issues facing the logging industry and the cattle leasing issues that the corporation is facing. We saw lumber production at its finest during the tour. Our class saw a tree cutter that cut the tree at the base of the trunk, clamped onto the tree and stacked the tree in a pile. We also saw a skidder that moved the tree after it had been stacked to prep for de-limbing. Lastly we saw the de-limber. It was an awesome sight to see this machine grab the log, scrape and cut the limbs, and then measure the log to a certain size to be cut, and then piled up. We later had the opportunity to see the Bruce Angel lumber cutting business. Bruce is an independent contractor that works with Weyerhaeuser to help supply lumber needs. Bruce has the American entrepreneurial spirit that has made this country the best place in the world to live. Our last stop was a great fish feast at Beavers Bend State Park. We were treated like royalty by the Weyerhaeuser staff. The staff also had a presentation of what different projects Weyerhaeuser is involved in. Projects included lumber production, educational and environmental activities.

 

Friday, October 14, 2005
Scribe notes pending