Jeff Hall and his family.
Front row: Carter and Chloe. Second row, left to right: Jeff’s parents, Greg and Lavonne; Jeff’s wife, Jessi, and Jeff.
Jeff Hall’s farming roots run deep. His family homesteaded their farm 100 years ago in Steptoe, WA., and he’s now the sixth generation to farm their land. Preserving this legacy is important for Jeff. “I worked in industry for 10 years as a mechanical engineer, but my wife and I decided to return home to the farm to raise our children in rural America, close to our family.”
Jeff and his dad, Greg, grow a variety of garbanzo beans, wheat and barley for PNW Co-op. Protecting the soil and preserving the land are cornerstones of their farming practices.
“We try to grow safe food in a manner that is most efficient for the long-term survival of the farm,” Jeff says. “We try to do it in a profitable manner, to have money to invest back into operational efficiency, growth and our families/communities.”
Some of the biggest lessons Jeff learned during his childhood extend beyond the basics of running his farm. “Sometimes, your work is not as important as helping out the community and those around you,” says Jeff.
Read his interview to learn why Jeff enjoys farming, and how it has changed in the last 15 years.
1. Name: Jeff Hall
2. Name of farm: I farm some under my name and most with my dad Greg Hall, under G & D Farms.
3. Location of your farm: Generally around Steptoe, toward the north and west, but some about 7 miles away toward St. John.
4. Number of acres on your farm: Counting leased ground, dad and I farm around 2,200 acres.
5. Number of years you’ve been a farmer: Six full time, plus about eight full summers of work, from middle school to college sophomore.
6. Why did you become a farmer? To continue a family tradition of more than 100 years. I worked in industry for 10 years as a mechanical engineer, but my wife and I decided to return home to the farm to raise our children in rural America, close to our family.
7. Does your family have a history of farming? Yes, I’m the sixth generation on the family farm land. Homestead was just west of Steptoe, WA.
8. Did your family inspire you to become a farmer? Yes, they showed me a strong work ethic and good values growing up on the farm. Additionally, sometimes your work is not as important as helping out the community and those around you.
9. Do you have children? Are they interested in continuing your tradition of farming? Yes, son is 6 and daughter is 8. They are probably a little young to understand the tradition, but they both enjoy farm life.
10. What are the biggest changes that you’ve seen since you started farming? Crop diversity seems higher in the past 10-15 years. In addition, farming now faces more scrutiny on the GMO and pesticide front than I believe it did 15 years ago. GPS and guidance has also been a major change in the industry in the past 15 years. We now cannot spray unless the computer is going in the tractor, which was a major change we made when I came back to farm.
11. Why do you farm? To provide food for the world. It also allows me to maintain a diversity of skills, including mechanic, biologist, manual laborer, computer expert, and jack-of-all-trades, which I enjoy. I enjoy trying to optimize the system (farm inputs/outputs) and troubleshoot issues in a more effective manner.
12. What makes your farm stand out from others? For the most part, we are a two-man operation, and we work hard to carry out our work in a timely and efficient manner.
13. Please summarize your philosophy about farming. Hmmm, tough one… I guess we try to grow safe food in a manner that is most efficient for the long-term survival of the farm. We try to do it in a profitable manner to have money to invest back into operational efficiency, growth and our families/communities.
14. What crops do you grow? Each year is a little different. This is what we have grown in the past 5 years: wheat (club, Dark Northern Spring and soft), barley (malt and feed), and garbanzo beans (small and large).
15.Do you consider yourself a “sustainable” farmer? On some levels, yes.
16. What does “sustainable” mean to you? Sustainable has lots of definitions. I view one as, are you doing things more efficiently and environmentally-friendly than the last generation? Are you doing things to enable the land to be used for future generations for farming? In those regards, yes, we are sustainable. We observe and scout our fields to keep chemical usage to a minimum. Additionally, we have experimented with no-till farming, but do not currently have the capital investment necessary to make a large-scale change in that regard, but it is in future plans.
17. Do you consider yourself a “low-spray” grower? Lower sprayer than some but not sure of the definition. We don’t apply chemicals which are not needed. (i.e. fungicide flown on to 100% of acreage just because it has been 5 weeks from the last application).
18. How do you reduce the amount of chemical herbicides and pesticides used on your crops? We have zoned our sprayer to reduce overlaps and areas to be double-sprayed. We use GPS speed rate controls as well. Also we have taken out some interfiled boundaries to reduce cornering and narrow areas which may get more double spraying.
19. How are you preserving your land for future generations? Trying to be more considerate of the types and amounts of spray used vs. past generations. Reducing the number of field passes. No downhill plowing used anymore.
20. Do you believe it’s important to grow non-GMO crops? It is clear the non-GMO marketplace is not going away in the next few years, so that is a good reason to grow non-GMO crops.
21. How long have you been a member of PNW Co-op? Personally for three years. Our farm and family belonged to the origination of PNW Co-op, formerly Whitman County Growers, formerly Colfax Grain Growers. I currently serve on the board of directors for PNW Co-op.
22. Why do you grow for PNW Co-op? They offer the convenience of proximity to the farm for seed and grain handling, which is less than 2 miles for most of our farm. They have treated my family fair, carry out business ethically, and support our local communities.
23. What makes PNW Co-op stand out from other cooperatives? Ethical treatment of employees and they treat all farmers, small to large, equally, with no special pricing.
24. What changes do you see impacting the way you farm? Long-term wheat price depression will put added pressure on small farms who lease land. This will likely push more land to large/mega farm operations.
25. Are you hopeful for your future as a farmer? Long-term, yes. The world will need more food with billions of new people on the planet. I hope my time in industry gave me some beneficial business acumen, which will enable me to be personally successful and continue the family tradition.