Family farming: Five years
H&N photos by Lee Beach
The Kliewer men, left to right, Larry and
sons, Ry and Ty, are still farming and
raising cattle, each on their own farm.
July 7, 2006 by Lee Beach,
The Kliewer family Christmas card in 2001 was a
picture of the striking contrast between their land
the previous year and the aborted growing season
which had just ended.
brown. It looked quite deceased,” said Larry Kliewer,
husband of Debbie and father of Ry and Ty. Both sons
were still at home, and the family was trying to
make sense of the water cutoff to farmers and
ranchers on the Klamath Project.
This summer is the five-year
anniversary of that year. It was a summer of
struggle for farmers and ranchers in the Klamath and
“Wherever there was clover, that was dead,” Larry
Kliewer said. “It took two years for it to come
back. When the water started back up (near the end
of the growing season), that little shot really
helped. The alfalfa recovered really good.”
“That first winter,” Debbie Kliewer said, “we still
had no doubts about farming. We don't go back to the
articles or look at the pictures (of the water
crisis.) It's a chapter I prefer to leave closed.”
That determination, married to a deep-seated faith
in God, themselves and family, has helped the
Kliewers cope and begin to prosper again. And many
changes have taken place in five years.
The family now
gathered around Larry and Debbie's table for dinner
and to talk about those years.
Ty and Ry came in from working on
their own farms. Ry and his wife Laurinda bought a
home at Falcon Heights. Ty and his wife Brooke now
live in the house in which Ty grew up.
Larry and Debbie moved into a nearby home on acreage
they bought in 2003, after leasing the land to farm
in 2002. Her father, Marvin Newell had joined them
for dinner. He lives about two miles away, and
Debbie says it is a blessing to have them all close.
The newest member of the family is a smiling,
fair-haired 2-year old, Grace, Ry and Laurinda's
girl, the first grandchild in the family. Grace will
be joined later this year by a baby expected by Ty
The land on
one side of the home grows alfalfa which has already
had its first cutting. On the other side barley is
Ty started to
build a herd of cattle at the time of the water
cutoff. Today, Ty and Brooke have about 50 head.
They raise Gelbvieh and Angus, and some cross
between the two. Their choice of breed is based on
marketability and ease of calving with a
“As for bulls, we had a really good year,” he said.
“We sold a lot more a lot quicker than we expected.
In February I was laying in bed thinking, ‘How am I
going to get rid of them?' A week later, they were
gone, and I was very, very thankful.”
He has been
asked to judge a number of cattle shows, including a
jackpot show in Corvallis in the spring. He hopes
someday to have an opportunity to judge at a show
like the Western National Futurity in Reno, which he
says is the third largest in the nation.
“Me and my wife bought a bull whose mother sold for
$40,000 last year,” he said as he singled the bull,
Fred, from a group of cows in the corral outside his
parents' home later that evening. Fred is on loan
there to breed with his parents' herd.
“I share Fred
and I mooch off their equipment resources,” he
joked, but it is indicative of what the family does
- they help each other.
Ty taught agriculture at Henley High School for 2
1/2 years beginning in 2003, and was still farming
as well. Now he devotes all his time to his farm,
and Brooke works at the experimental station in
Tulelake, where she was busy planting potatoes,
strawberries and mint and cutting seed in the
Ry thought back to the end of that difficult season
in 2001 and said, “I didn't even have a clue what
was going to happen in 2002. We couldn't foresee
what would happen. Things began to look better when
George Bush got re-elected. He knows this nation
relies on its resources.”
His wife, Laurinda, teaches English as a second
language at Lost River Junior-Senior High School.
She grew up in Etna, familiar with farm life. Their
daughter, Grace, is still something of a miracle to
them, and Ry said, “I still have a time fathoming
that I'm a father now.”
Part of that miracle is that Grace is a healthy,
happy 2-year-old. She became ill with e-coli a year
ago and was rushed to Doernbecher Hospital in
Portland for treatment. Laurinda said Grace's blood
was attacking itself and she required dialysis
several times. But she recovered.
“God was with you again,” Debbie said to Ry, “He
reveals himself regularly.”
Ry and Laurinda are farming about 240 acres of
organic alfalfa and grain, because it fits well with
their operation. They are expanding an experiment in
growing sweet corn from four to eight acres this
year. Last year's corn was sold locally to Sherm's
Thoughts about the future
“It's always still in the back of my mind (the
possibility of water being cut off again,)” Larry
Kliewer said. “I wish we had more resolved about
this issue. When the judge in the Ninth Circuit
Court said a few months ago, ‘Fish come first,' it
still gives me a knot in my stomach.”
His greatest hope is both the water and the power
rate increase problem will be resolved, and “that
the farm economy stays as strong as it's been.”
“It'll be interesting to see what PPL does,” son Ry
Kliewer added. “It depends on what Oregon Public
Utilities Commission does. We'll find out next year.
We might have to convert to diesel.”
With that in mind, he has been carefully following
the Oregon Tilth Publication's reports on Oregon
State University's experiments with soybeans, flax
and canola, which are all high in oil content, as
possible biodiesel sources.
“Here's how I see it,” he said. “In rural areas in
political races, we're outnumbered. People in cities
have a different idea about the environment. Every
business has its woes and setbacks, but the fact is
that ours were man-made by people with different
Debbie echoed Larry's comments about resolving the
water issues, and then asked, “How long is it before
something is our culture?”
The question was spurred by recent comments by
people about removing the bucket, the symbol of the
2001 Bucket Brigade. “How about farmers in the Basin
- aren't they disrupting our culture?”
The family shares common hopes for the future -
health and happiness, family staying close together,
healthy babies, good friends like Gerrie Wells, who
follows the family and calls often - and work to do.
“In 2001,” Debbie said, “it seemed like all I did
was write letters and go to meetings. It's better to
have a job than be a protestor.”
“Before 2001,” Larry continued, “I'd say, ‘I don't
like sprinklers and I don't like moving sprinklers.'
Now I hardly ever say that. Green is prettier than
green ever was and sprinklers don't bother me.”
Debbie added, “I have a new sense of gratitude. 2001
is what really made me look at what is important.”