Earlier this month, a judge in Malheur County, Oregon, ordered a year’s probation for a grain farmer from Caldwell, Idaho. Wayne Carlson was convicted of harassing a rival tef grower. Tesfa Drar, the other farmer, is general manager of Teff Farms in Minnesota, and he says that “Carlson approached him and told him to go back to Ethiopia, where he came from.”
Teff is a grain, native to Ethiopia, which is acclimatized to high elevations and low precipitation. Sort of explains why it’s being tried out in Idaho and eastern Oregon, but I’m sure the short news stories aren’t telling us the whole story. Is the teff market really that cutthroat? Is teff cultivation just a niche market, or will it eventually take over some serious acreage? Any chance it will displace the water-sucking alfalfa that dewaters so many of the West’s streams? (Not holding my breath.)
It appears that Carlson, who founded The Teff Co. and has worked with many growers in the region, saw the Ethiopian from Minnesota as a rival poaching on “his” territory.
Carlson had worked in Ethiopia in the 1970s, and “was fascinated by the geological and climatic similarities of the Snake River region and the East African Rift.”
Tesfa Drar was in the area to talk to local farmers about partnerships. The altercation occurred in a restaurant in Vale.
The Teff Co.’s website tells us that “The Teff Company has been supplying the Ethiopian and Eritrean communities for nearly twenty years with American-grown Maskal Teff. With the fertile fields and ecologically sensitive farming methods some of the best quality teff in the world is produced in Idaho.”
I guess to Mr. Carlson, immigrants from east Africa are a good thing, as long as they buy their grain from a Swede from Caldwell, but not such a good thing if they threaten to actually compete with him. Ain’t free enterprise great?