Let’s picture ourselves in a hot air balloon, floating over a valley. Below us is a patchwork of agricultural fields, encompassed by straight lines and precise angles, crisscrossed by ribbons of asphalt and gravel; a landscape of human geometry continuous except for the wends and bends of rivers and streams. The hundreds of fenced polygons vary in hue over the season as different crops bloom: yellow Canola, Camelina or Mustard; white Meadowfoam; blue Flax; crimson or pink Clover.
Every crop is planted with the goal of maximum density: Wheat is drill–seeded in crowded blocks. Wine grapes hang on trellises hundreds of feet long. Hops climb wires held 15-20’ high by tall pols. Peppermint, purple-stemmed and glossy-leafed, is packed into wide files. Sunflowers stand shoulder to shoulder. Hazelnut orchards are as precisely laid out as military cemeteries. Close rows of Christmas tree march up the slopes where the soil is rockier. Nurseries raise hundreds of species of landscaping plants in thousands of plastic pots set out in the sun, under shade cloth, or in hoop-houses. Animal agriculture is also here, and a few pastures hold cows, goats or sheep, being raised for meat, milk or fiber, and some long sheds cruelly confine chickens and pigs. The feed grain for these unhappy creatures is imported from other regions.
Only here and there do we see plots of vegetables bound for farmers markets and grocery stores, such as Kale, Cilantro, Summer Squash, Beets, Radishes, Sweet Corn, and Pumpkins.
The biggest crop by far in this valley is grass seed, as in grass for lawns and golf courses. Virtually the entire US production of Annual Ryegrass, Perennial Ryegrass, Bentgrass, and Fine Fescue comes from here.i Over 50% of the total farmland is planted in grass seed.
This is the Willamette Valley in the US state of Oregon, one of the most ideal locations for agriculture in the lower 48 due to its fertile soils, abundant water, mild winters and reasonable summers.