Annette Pershern, along with her husband Dick and their two daughters, Lauren and Meghan, own and manage River Bend Farm, a 50-acre stretch of land located along the Coast Fork of the Willamette River. It is obvious why Annette’s parents, Donald and Elizabeth Miller, originally bought the farm. It is a beautiful piece of land with a stunning view of nearby Mount Pisgah.
Back when Annette’s parents bought the property, it took a lot of vision to see a farm and orchard. The place was overrun with blackberries. The whole family, including Annette’s brother Glenn Miller and his family, transformed the land. Now they grow fruits, vegetables, and hazelnuts.
The Persherns manage most of their land using Integrated Pest Management (IPM), a system that relies on a variety of tools to control pests, weeds, and disease. The Persherns provide habitat for beneficial insects and they also maintain more than 100 bird boxes for swallows that keep pest insects under control. The Persherns monitor for pests using traps to catch problems early, and only when populations get too high do they treat. When they do turn to pesticides, the Persherns work to minimize the impact on the environment – that means they use products that are part of the IPM program, which have a “softer” environmental impact. When possible the Persherns use organic products, but for some pest issues they use conventional pesticide products. They also time their pesticide applications to prevent wind drift.
The Persherns’ pest management choices are all made with an eye toward sustaining a healthy environment. When asked about requiring pesticide spray buffers next to rivers to protect endangered fish, Annette responded, “[Spray buffers] are common sense. We don’t spray pesticides near the river nor near any water sources on our farm.”
Beyond endangered fish, many other forms of wildlife benefit from the Persherns’ farming practices, too. For example the western pond turtle – which is listed as a “species of concern” under the Endangered Species Act – plus several species of hawks and owls have all made River Bend Farm their home. With regard to the imperiled western pond turtle, the stewardship shown by River Bend Farm today will help the pond turtle’s chances of recovery – helping keep that species off the list of threatened wildlife.
The Persherns’ choices are also for their own health as well as the health of their children. As Annette points out, “Most farmers eat what they grow. We don’t want to use a lot of pesticides on our food. And when we do use anything, we do a lot of homework prior to choosing what pesticide to apply, to make wise, educated choices.
Farmers like the Persherns exemplify the ingenuity and long-term vision of many farmers. Wildlife and humans alike benefit from the care they take with their land and the water that flows through it.