Log bark turned into ‘Wallowa County Gold’

By Katy Nesbitt, The Observer September 18, 2013 08:50 am

JOSEPH — Approximately 100 truckloads of dirt are on their way from Joseph to Milton-Freewater, turning what was once a waste product into organic soil for orchards and vineyards.

The hauling started 10 days ago, said S&V Properties spokesperson Steve Krieger, and will continue until an order for 2,500 yards is filled to Sustainable Soils.

Krieger said in compliance with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the site of the former Joseph Timber was cleaned up of its log yard debris. “In order to use the land, we processed 25 years of log bark.”

It took almost three years and $850,000 to process what is now separated into rocks and inert, organic soil, Krieger said. And its benefit to farms in Umatilla County? A product that holds four to five times its weight in water.

Rick Trumbull of Sustainable Soils said the mulch is high in calcium and phosphorus and adds a layer of moisture retention around the bases of fruit trees and grapevines. “When you think about water, our aquifers are being drawn down. A lot of entities are vying for water.”

This timber industry byproduct is short on nitrogen, Krieger said, and needs to be mixed with compost per the prescription of each crop. “Soil tests are conducted and additives are blended in. The goal is to have a diversity of material.”

Krieger said on the 60-acre parcel of land next to the Joseph Airport there are 100,000 yards available. S&V has broken into the local market, selling soil to farmers and for landscaping.

“I call it Wallowa County Gold,” Krieger said.