Spring Season Extension Efficiency in Cool, Short Season Climates

Final report for RGR20-011

Project Type: Research to Grass Roots
Funds awarded in 2020: $68,486.00
Projected End Date: 12/15/2023
Host Institution Award ID: G253-21-W7906
Grant Recipients: Oregon State University; High Desert Food and Farm Alliance; Modoc Harvest ; USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service- Alturas Office
Region: Western
State: Oregon
Principal Investigator:
Nicole Sanchez
Oregon State University
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Project Information


In cool, short-season growing climates, Season Extension (SE) is a necessity for produce growers supplying local foods. In Klamath Falls, a generation of newer produce growers seek to meet increasing demand using SE. While the growers possess a general understanding of SE and its functions, lack of growing experience in the harsh and unique climate and lack of actionable, region specific best practices make SE production “trial and error”.

Meanwhile, demand for local produce in the area is increasing: numerous local food development projects are in progress in the community, including multiple participants and approaches that greatly increase opportunities and potential for these producers. These include grant funded Farm to School projects, development of a food hub (KFOM), local food policy councils and collaborative teams under the umbrella of the Blue Zones Project, and South Central Oregon Economic Development District. Food access and food hub feasibility studies have been done within the community in the last two years. Unusually, a significant number of stars are aligned to provide markets to small scale produce growers in addition to the thriving, but seasonal, Farmers’ Market.

Our project builds on SE research in similar climates, focusing on collection of environmental data to inform decision making re planting dates, choice of SE treatment, predicting maturity, and increasing yield. Participating growers see increased efficiency in their use of SE as key to meeting developing demand in our community. Through coordinated tracking of key temperature and weather points, collaborating on three key crops, networking with growers in similar environments, and visiting their operations, we will enable these producers to better meet the demand we are simultaneously building. Abundant relevant SARE- funded previous research, momentum of growth in both supply and demand, and demonstrated cross-profession and cross-organization teamwork in the community position us uniquely for success.

Extreme drought in the Klamath Basin has resulted in tremendous turnover amongst produce growers. In 2023, two of the three farms included in this study no longer exist in the same location as when the study began. One producer left the area entirely. In addition, several of the cooperators included on the project team have moved to other jobs. The project coordinator experienced significant illness in 2022, resulting in several stretches of long absence. These factors combined made it necessary to modify the project in its final year. Rather than focus on the three farms, in 2023 data loggers will be distributed to multiple local farms, and there will not be specific crops evaluated for harvest differences. Producers participated in an educational event in fall 2023 to evaluate what's learned from use of the data loggers. These events, titled "Produce Growers' Resource Days", led to additional networking and opportunities for the growers in Eastern OR. As a result, OSU is in process of applying for two RARE members to assist growers in this area with furthering local foods work. A high tunnel networking group has been revived. More growers than ever are participating in Extension-led list-serv and social media groups that share information and ideas.

Project Objectives:
  1. A). Track key environmental data in different SE applications (high tunnel, low tunnel, multiple) on one produce farm for three years. . B). Compile data for better understanding of how SE is functioning on farms. C) Track key environmental data on multiple farms, using varying types of season extension practices, for the final year.
  2. A). Track harvest dates, number of harvest, yield, and DTM for three specific crops, one farm, for three spring seasons. Compare direct seed to transplant, SE vs. not using SE. One crop will be leafy greens: the others to be determined by farmer consensus in planning meeting. B). Compile this data to inform best practices for these crops using SE in our region.
  3. A) Refresh the opportunity for grower networking established in project FW 15-029 by hosting bi-annual, web- based grower networking meetings including grower communities in the Bend, OR, Modoc County, CA, and Klamath Falls areas.
  4. Produce a day-long educational event for produce growers, sharing information and lessons learned from this project and other research relevant to interior PNW growers. An on-site farm visit experience will be provided for Klamath growers in the Bend, OR area.

Ongoing local foods work in Klamath Falls produced a recent food access assessment and food hub feasibility study (to which PI was a contributor), providing relevant insight and direction from both consumer and producer prospectives. There is established demand for more local produce, further increased by recent Farm to School grants. The Food hub Feasibility study identified increasing capacity of existing producers and their hub platform, KFOM, as key.

Three previous SARE grant projects inform the design and scope of this project: ONC 15-0018, LNC15-373, and FW 15-029. All involve concerns of growers using SE in cold, short season climates.

Our project design is similar to ONC 15-0018, for a different climate, and focuses on spring SE rather than fall. Growers in LNC 15-373 had no motivation for advancing spring harvest before Farmers’ Market season; our growers have a variety of market options early in the year. We will closely track only three crops rather than a wide variety. ONC- 15-008 was designed to include multiple SE techniques across farms; we’ll use a similar setup, capitalizing on their experiences with tracking equipment and data collection.

Crucial to project success are regular monitoring of tracking equipment and accurate accounting of crop progress and yield. While ONC 15-0018 had moderate success with farmer reporting, LNC 15-373 noted significant data gaps due to farmer challenges, matching this projects team’s previous experience with farmer-collected data. Our participants are one-person operations. To avoid overburdening our partners in an already compressed growing season, we include funds covering Extension staff time (i.e., program assistant) for on-farm presence to collect data, ensure trackers/ monitors are working properly, and maintain constant contact between participants.

Also critical is acknowledging growers’ time sacrifice and opportunity cost in a multi-year project. These one-person operations, willing to contribute to the body of SE knowledge for the regional agricultural community, should be compensated. The grower partner stipend in our budget represents a contribution toward costs of meeting time, seed and inputs for the tracked crops, and the educational event at project end.

We request funding sufficient for multiple years of spring SE data collection. Moisture, temperature, and effects from previous snow events vary widely in our range from one spring to the next: in environmental monitoring work in Oregon, year is often the most statistically significant factor. We seek to take best advantage of this opportunity to develop best practices by having as many seasons as reasonable to collect information.

A specific example of how our project is directly applicable to local producers: county wide “tastings” of locally produced items are delivered at schools by Extension nutrition staff through Farm to School. The local producer providing this product must be confident of their ability to deliver in a specific, pre- scheduled week- difficult with the wildly variable weather common to our area. A single, but substantial bulk order like Farm to School tastings represent a unique opportunity for a grower to step into a wholesale market on a manageable scale.


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Rachel Bentley - Producer
  • Lauren Gwin (Educator)
  • Bryon Hadwick (Educator)
  • Leah Larson (Educator)
  • Kent Simons - Producer
  • Katie Swanson

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Farmers Market Recruitment Meeting 2022

The purpose of this meeting is to make aspiring market farmers aware of the resources, opportunities, and challenges associated with growing for market in the Klamath Climate. The Research to Grass roots Season Extension project is mentioned as an example of ongoing work to support farmers' planting and transplanting timing decisions. Early spring planting decisions impact what products are available at our local market when it opens in June.


This in-person meeting is is a gathering of a wide range of resources relevant to new and aspiring produce farmers. The purpose is to introduce prospective growers to resources like : USDA (both data and programs), SARE, ATTRA, Cooperative Extension, Grower and Farmers Market Associations, water and irrigation resources, local Farmers support organizations, and local Extension staff, including overviews of relevant Extension projects (i.e. Season Extension research, Farm to School program)

Outcomes and impacts:

This event is scheduled for May 2, 2022. 

Farmers Market Recruitment Meeting 2023

Inform produce growers of the opportunity to receive data loggers for their own farms in exchange for sharing information regarding their use at the end of the season. Distribute loggers and share suggestions for their use.


March 18, 2023- All produce growers associated with the Klamath Falls Farmers' Market will be invited to use data loggers to track soil and air temperatures on their farms. Two of the three original farms included in this study changed locations and/ or ceased operations- so it's no longer possible to have three years of soil and air temperature data from the dame three farms.

One farm remains constant, and we'll have data from that farm for all three years. This last year, we'll include as many farms as possible for a single year of data.

The lack of water has caused tremendous turnover in our produce growers. We have several new growers in the Farmers' Market. This is an opportunity to connect with new growers, help them better understand the benefits of any season extension they are using, and introduce them to Extension resources.

Outcomes and impacts:
  1.  A new cadre of growers will be introduced to the project and its objectives
  2. Growers will learn to use the data loggers and how to place them on their property, how to download the information from the loggers, and how the resultant information might help them make future planting/ timing decisions
  3. Growers will place the data loggers on their farms and allow Extension access to the loggers
  4. Growers will reconvene in Fall 2023 to discuss what was learned / next steps

Educational & Outreach Activities

25 Consultations
4 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
10 On-farm demonstrations
3 Online trainings
3 Webinars / talks / presentations
3 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

9 Extension
3 Researchers
4 Nonprofit
25 Farmers/ranchers
12 Others
Education/outreach description:

 The Produce Growers’ Resource Days were held in three towns in eastern Oregon in November 2023.  The first was delivered in Klamath Falls on November 6th, then in Bruns on November 8, and finally in Baker City, OR November 10.

Each day, the event started with Nicole Sanchez from OSU Klamath Basin Research and Extension Center discussing Season Extension Research in the Klamath Basin that was funded by a Western SARE grant. The presentation included information on high and low tunnels and their benefits drawn from other research, and explored how sensors can help producers make proactive decisions over time, as opposed to only reacting to changes in temperature.


Other presenters each day included:

Heather Stoven, OSU, discussing the Small Farms Program.

Lauren Gwin, OSU,  on Oregon Food Hub Network.

Sarah Akbari and Delaney Ryde from Klamath Grown  presented information regarding the Ins and Outs of Food Hubs, and the history and development of at Klamath Grown as an example of a successful food hub in a rural area.

Finally, Laurie Wayne UCA Extension , came from Alturas to discuss resources for produce growers.


The Burns event was held in a newly renovated location intended to serve as a local food hub, at 307 N. Broadway St. There were 13 in attendance for the event.

Local high tunnel owner Kellie Frank from Food Systems and Biz-Harney was a guest speaker in attendance to discuss local food programs and farmer's markets in the area. She shared her experience of getting a high tunnel through a NRCS grant.

Jenn Eatwell from NRCS Redmond wrapped up the event with information on how to obtain grants through the high tunnel Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). She answered many questions from local producers and was also able to get many of them started on the grant application process.


The last stop for the week was held in Baker City on November 10th. There were 9 people in attendance. The event was hosted in person by Nicole and zoom and recordings from guest speakers.

Kristy Athens from GWC Provisions- a food hub operating in Wallowa and Union Counties was a guest speaker and spoke about her operations. She touched on the benefits of being a for profit hub as well as how necessary it is for her to offer delivery to her rural customers.

These convenings led to continued networking and learning from each other. As a result of this work, OSU Extension is applying for two RARE members, one in Burns and one in Baker City, to build upon the local foods work already underway in these communities and fortified by the opportunities provided via this SARE funding. OSU Extension staff are creating a tool for producers to use to analyze the data from sensors themselves, rather than waiting for a study to rely on information useful to their farms.


Learning Outcomes

25 Service providers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of project outreach
3 Ag professionals intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned

Project Outcomes

28 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

The Produce Growers' Resource Days opened several doors and opportunities. Because PI also supervises an Americorps RARE member focused on Local Foods work, PI was able to connect the producer groups, Extension Small Farms Program, and RARE staff, leading to additional opportunities for RARE members in Eastern OR, using the activities of the Klamath RARE as a model.

The high tunnel users' group in northern CA (hosted by Laurie Wayne, now of UCA Extension) has been revitalized, and expanded to include those with similar growing conditions in eastern OR. A variety of virtual and in person meetings and high tunnel tours are scheduled for 2024 and 2025, in part as a result of the work conducted in this grant.



The numerous challenges encountered in this study (drought/ water restrictions and PI undergoing multiple surgeries and health complications) has led to thinking about ways to mitigate similar problems in future. I won't be taking on additional multi-year projects without considerable thought to contingency plans or alternative procedures, etc.

Future studies that build upon this work will be focused on finding ways to teach producers to be able to use the data and info from sensors themselves, rather than leaning on other entities to analyze data. The producers need info in real time to be able to use it for decision making.



Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.