Exhibit designers Craig Kerger and David Carlson of Portland joined Diane Wolfe of the Boardman Chamber of Commerce and Mark Patton of the Port of Morrow at Cascade Specialties Inc. dehydration plant, where manager Carl Hearn described the spinning knives that slice onions to .125 of an inch thin.

BOARDMAN — Craig Kerger and Dave Carlson of Portland want agriculture and food processing to come alive for visitors to Boardman’s proposed agricultural information center.

With that in mind, they toured Cascade Specialties Inc., the Tidewater Barge Lines terminal and Threemile Canyon Farms last week. It was the second tour in a month for Kerger, design principal at Formations, and Carlson, an independent writer who is working with the Formations team to design exhibits for the visitor center.

Excavation for the 20,000 square foot building is under way just north of Interstate 84 east of Boardman. Port of Morrow officials hope to have it open late next year.


Cascade Specialties

The smell of onions permeated the Cascade Specialties warehouse at the port, where Joe Patrick, the warehouse manager, described how workers ship up to 2 million pounds of onions — dehydrated, flakes, granulated and powder — every month. The products spread out all over the United States and throughout the world via barge, truck and rail. Most customers are reprocessors who use the dried onions and garlic, which the company also processes and ships, in breading mixes, soups and sauces.

The company’s dehydration plant along Bombing Range Road uses 4 to 4.5 pounds of onions for every pound of dried product. Last year it processed 20 million pounds of raw onions and this year 16 million, Patrick said. Next year’s projection is 20 to 23 million pounds.

The warehouse contains 14 million pounds of product and usually employs seven to eight workers. Temperature and humidity are controlled carefully.

“It doesn’t take much to rehydrate these onions,” Patrick said.

Mark Patton, the port’s project manager, directed the bus next to Cascade Specialties dehydration plant, where manager Carl Hearn described the drying process and led a plant tour. Although the plant was shut down for equipment installation, Hearn showed the group the equipment that removes the tops from the raw onions and slices the bulbs to .125 of an inch thick before introducing the sliced onions to the dryers.

The slices, the thickness of a thin rubber band, take about five hours to be reduced from 80 percent moisture to 5 percent, he said.

The de-hy plant employs 34 full-time workers and 10 temporary workers on four shifts. It operates from mid-August through April.

“There’s virtually no waste,” Carlson said afterward. “The level of efficiency was very impressive.”

He said the sustainability and recycling story will be a part of the message the ag center delivers to visitors.



Back at the Port of Morrow, the bus stopped briefly at the Tidewater terminal, where journeyman leadman Roy “Junior” Drago described the barge-loading and unloading operation.

The terminal receives three barges of solid waste weekly from Vancouver, Wash. 

“When the housing market went down, we dropped 25 percent in garbage,” he said, noting that a lot of the 48,000-pound containers were filled with construction waste. Truckers haul the waste-filled containers to the Finley Buttes Landfill along Bombing Range Road southeast of Boardman, and return with empties.

In addition to empty garbage containers, the terminal ships out one barge of agricultural products such as compressed hay and frozen potatoes, one barge of wood chips and one of ethanol each week.

Workers also receive limestone from Vancouver Island, B.C., for burying wind farm cables. Drago estimated total container volume at 195-200 per week.

Asked if the garbage containers stink, Drago replied, “Oh yeah. Smells like money.”


Threemile Canyon Farms

Later, at Threemile Canyon Farms, General Manager Marty Myers described the 322 irrigated circles and the 22,000 milk cows on the 37,000-acres farm in northwestern Morrow County.

He started the tour in the farm’s control room, a modular office containing multiple computer screens that allow workers to control irrigation throughout the property.

Kerger was excited. He said the control room was an exhibit in the making.

“You can get a group interactive (exhibit) out of that,” he said.

The company’s principal products are 1.2 million pounds of milk daily, sold to the Boardman cheese plant; potatoes, corn and other cattle feed.

The farm also leases 4,000 acres to an onion grower and 3,000 acres for mint. Most of the potatoes go to Lamb Weston and RDO-Calbee Foods. The farm employs 300, including 180 on its two dairies, 100 on the farming operation and 20 in the office.

Kerger said he liked the “elegance” of the cows “doing all this on their own” after he watched them load themselves one after another onto a milking carousel for a 45-minute circular ride twice a day.

“There are lots of moments that are just right for people,” he said as he envisioned designing exhibits for the ag information center.

Writer Carlson was impressed with how the farm reuses wastewater and turns solid waste into compost for bedding.

“The level of integration, the level of recycling,” he said. “That was just amazing to me.”

Kerger agreed.

“This is an absolutely waste-not kind of environment that they’re constantly tweaking for perfection.”


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