Valley farmers dealing with flooding after Willamette jumps it banks


Many people were happy to finally see some sunshine after a long stretch of wet and dreary days, but farmers in the valley were dealing with warm temperatures and flooding after the Willamette River jumped its banks Friday morning.

The road leading to Rogue Farms near Independence is flooded in at least three places. For any ordinary person, this might be a bit a headache, but the farmers here like Cheryl Gillson say it's a blessing.

“To really witness the power of Mother Nature it is breathtaking," she said. "It's kind of the perfect spot to have hops."

The push of the Willamette River, the tumbling of water, is music to Gillson's ears. The rapids aren't where they should be, though.

The Willamette jumped its banks overnight and sent a torrent of water rushing towards the hop fields.

Gillson says the fields flood each year, but typically not until December. Friday's high water was unexpected, but in a strange twist, she welcomes the water

“The hops are pretty easy, the hazelnuts have a little bit more trouble if they have sitting water on the trees," she said. "This is pretty good timing as well, the hops have just started sprouting."

Gillson explained the high water brought with it vital moisture and nutrients from the river, straight to the hops.

"You learn about it, and you learn that it has been happening for tens of thousands of years, and that is what makes the Willamette Valley such a beautiful kind of terroir for growing ingredients," she said. "It is one of those things that you know when you are working with Mother Nature to grow ingredients like we grow hops out here, you take it all. She knows what she is doing."

The water also forced them to evacuate the farm for safety reasons. But their hope is these flood waters will give the plants a boost and help produce a great tasting beer later this year.

“As much moisture as and as much nutrients as Mother Nature can give us, it is going to be beneficial to the hop plants,” Gillson said.

The flood waters are expected to start receding in the next 24 to 48 hours, and when that happens, the farmers will be able to get back to work.

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