The wonder of the workplace

Read stories and watch videos celebrating the special people and moments that help make Oregon the safest, healthiest—and most wonderful—place to work.

posted January 02, 2017

A lot of life happens every day in real-life workplaces all over Oregon. Meet the SAIF policyholders featured in our 2017 calendar, from ranchers in eastern Oregon to cranberry farmers at the coast. Check out our latest ad campaign. Then browse our safety and health resources to find out how to put more WOW in your workplace.

The wonder of the workplace

Beef Northwest

Beef Northwest | Boardman and North Powder |

Want fries with that? At Beef Northwest, the answer is yes.

Started in 1991 by cousins Jim and John Wilson, Beef Northwest traces its roots to the 1870s, when the family began ranching in the Baker Valley. (The family also supplied horses for the Pony Express.) The company now runs one of the largest cattle feeding operations in the region, with a capacity of up to 95,000 head.

Beef Northwest has a strong focus on health and safety—both for the animals and their handlers. Caring for the environment is also an important part of their mission, including protecting streams, preserving habitat, and an innovative recycling program that turns by-products from a nearby potato processing plant into high-quality cattle feed.

Food for thought the next time you're at the drive-through.


Starker Forests

Starker Forests | Corvallis |

What do a forest clear-cut and a classroom have in common?

For 80 years, the Starker family has been growing and harvesting trees while helping educate the public about sustainable forestry practices. It started with founder T.J. Starker, a professor at Oregon Agricultural College (now Oregon State University). Starker's son and grandsons later joined him in the business.

Today, Starker Forests manages nearly 90,000 acres in western Oregon for timber production, clean water, and wildlife habitat. The company issues thousands of permits each year for educational and recreational uses, including hunting, hiking, and Christmas tree cutting, and offers field trips for more than 1,000 elementary school children. In the summer, an experienced forester leads free weekly tours that cover every stage of timber management, from seedling to saw mill.

So if you happen to be in the Corvallis area, stop by. Class is in session.


John Irish Performance Horses

John Irish Performance Horses | Eagle Point |

With names like "Diamonds N the Dirt" and "Gunnabelucky," these fillies may sound like a Vegas act. But to trainer John Irish, they're more like future Olympic figure skaters.

John and his wife, Rosie, train and breed reining horses at their 42-acre ranch in the scenic Rogue Valley. Reining is a western-style competition in which the horse and rider execute intricate patterns in an arena, including circles, spins, and sliding stops. While it may not be quite as graceful as figure skating, it takes just as much practice. John spends as much as 12 hours a day in the saddle, when he's not doing other chores like cutting hay or helping deliver a foal.

Someday, these knobby-kneed youngsters will have their turn in the spotlight. (There's even talk that reining could become an Olympic sport.) But for now, they're happy to spend their days chasing each other around the pasture, hanging out with mom, and sneaking kisses from their caretakers.

To see these horses strut their stuff, watch the video at


Dahle Orchards

Dahle Orchards | The Dalles |

When the bees are buzzing and the cherry trees are blooming, Dahle Orchards looks a lot like others in the scenic Columbia Gorge. But if you look closer, you might notice that something is missing: ladders.

And if you thought those cherry trees looked shorter than usual, you're not mistaken. They're grown that way on purpose. Because something else is missing here too: injuries. Specifically, the kind that happen all too often when workers must climb ladders to do their jobs.

Owner Tim Dahle is a former high school ag teacher who helped pioneer pedestrian orchards in Oregon. The idea is that workers are safer—and more efficient—when they can pick and prune with their feet on the ground. Getting the trees to grow so low takes some doing. But it makes for safer and happier workers.

And if you ask us, it also makes for sweeter tasting cherries.


Adelman Peony Gardens

Adelman Peony Gardens | Brooks |

When Jim and Carol Adelman started their apple orchard more than 40 years ago, peonies were just a sideline. But as the flower business blossomed and the apple market crashed, the couple gradually tore out all of their trees.

Today, the Adelmans are among the top peony growers in the world, with as many as 350 varieties on 25 acres just north of Salem. The gardens are open to the public from the first of May through the middle of June.

Prized by floral designers from New York to L.A., the family's cut flowers have been featured in the fairytale wedding of a certain Facebook billionaire. But it's their award-winning potted plants and root stock that really excite collectors from as far away as Russia and the Netherlands. Most varieties range from $20 to $30, though a few prized specimens sell for as much as $350.

So how do you like them apples?


Oregon State University - Hatfield Marine Science Center

Oregon State University-Hatfield Marine Science Center | Newport |

It's got twice the nutritional value of kale, doubles its weight in just two weeks, and when you fry it, it tastes like bacon.

We're talking about dulse, a nutrient-packed seaweed that could become the next superfood. Scientists at Oregon State University's Hatfield Marine Science Center have patented a process for cultivating the red marine algae in saltwater tanks. Thanks to a collaboration with OSU's business school and Food Innovation Center, a dulse-based salad dressing has already hit grocery store shelves. A handful of Oregon chefs have added dulse to their menus. And a Newport brewpub is experimenting with it to make beer.

Some even predict that this fast-growing protein source could someday help solve world hunger. But we confess, it's the idea of a healthy "DLT" that really tickles our taste buds.

To learn more about this saltwater superfood, watch the video at


Egan Gardens

Egan Gardens | Salem |

Growing a business is a lot like gardening. It involves trial and error, hard work, and a whole lot of faith. Nobody knows that better than Ellen Egan.

Ellen's father, Bill, started Egan Gardens in 1951 with two greenhouses and one crop—geraniums. When the wholesale business withered during the ‘80s recession, the Egans opened their doors and started selling directly to the public. As the recession lifted, business bloomed again.

Egan Gardens has continued to evolve since Ellen took over following her father's death in 1994. While they still grow plenty of geraniums—especially as fundraisers for schools, churches, and charitable organizations—they also do a brisk business in hanging baskets, planters, perennials, and poinsettias. Ellen and her staff also offer weekend workshops, online tips, and—mostly importantly—lots of friendly advice to help their customers' gardens thrive.


Goschie Farms

Goschie Farms | Silverton |

They don't call us Beervana for nothing.

With the recent boom in craft beer, Oregon boasts more breweries per capita than almost any other state in the nation. We also rank second (behind Washington) in hops production, an essential bittering agent in most beers.

Gayle Goschie was one of the first major growers to collaborate with craft brewers, offering a reliable source for the specialty hops that give their beers a distinctive flavor and aroma. She also works with scientists at the USDA and Oregon State University to find better ways to grow the fast-climbing vines. Her grandparents began growing hops more than 100 years ago; she and her siblings now produce as many as 12 different varieties on 550 acres—all grown according to Salmon-Safe guidelines.

So whether you prefer a pilsner, pale ale, or porter, here's to Beervana and Oregon hops.


Columbia Empire Farms

Columbia Empire Farms | Sherwood |

When it comes to beautiful workplaces, it's hard to beat the hazelnut orchards at Columbia Empire Farms. Sunlight streams through the branches as a tractor piles clusters of golden nuts dressed in frilly brown skirts into neat windrows. In its wake, the ground is swept clean like a Paris park.

Crack two nuts in your palm and breathe deeply. On a crisp autumn morning, there's possibly no better place to be. Unless it's the nearby candy room, where workers are busy coating roasted hazelnuts in melted milk chocolate and stirring bubbling brown sugar and butter in a copper kettle. Columbia Empire Farms harvests more than 200,000 pounds of hazelnuts each year; many end up in delicious confections like chocolate-covered hazelnut toffee. If you're lucky, someone will sneak you a sample before tucking the cooled candy into crinkly cellophane bags.

Now that's our idea of a toffee break.


A to Z Wineworks

A to Z Wineworks | Newberg |

Getting a B in school—that's not bad. But for A to Z Wineworks, being certified as a "B Corp" is a major cause for celebration. It means the Newberg-based winery is one of more than 1,800 for-profit companies around the world recognized for using the power of business to help solve social and environmental problems.

Specifically, A to Z gets high marks for how it treats its employees, cares for the environment, and gives back to the community. Women make up the majority of managers, workers earn above the local living wage, and the company supports local organizations, including a health clinic that serves migrant and seasonal farmworkers. A to Z also partners with vineyards across the state to grow grapes in sustainable ways that are healthier for people and the planet—all while producing some of the top-selling wines in Oregon.

For that, we think they deserve an A+.


Sea Wind Farms

Sea Wind Farms | Langlois

It's hard to believe, but before craisins and the cranberry cosmopolitan, there was a time when many Americans ate cranberries only once a year at Thanksgiving.

Now we consume nearly 400 million pounds annually, much of it in the form of juice and dried snacks. Oregon ranks fourth in cranberry production, behind Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. Sandy soils and a long growing season make the southern Oregon coast particularly well-suited for cultivating the tart red fruit.

At Sea Wind Farms south of Bandon, the harvest begins in September and lasts through mid-October. A sunken field, or bog, is flooded with fresh water. A mechanical beater separates the fruit from the vine. Workers wearing chest waders corral the berries, which are pumped onto delivery trucks. From there, they are processed into many of the familiar cranberry products that now line grocers' shelves—including that tangy red sauce for our Thanksgiving turkey.

To see a cranberry harvest in action, watch the video at


Oregon Roses

Oregon Roses | Forest Grove |

Long before stores put out their holiday displays, before most people have even carved their Halloween pumpkin, it's beginning to smell a lot like Christmas at Oregon Roses.

As early as Labor Day, tons of fresh-cut greenery begin to arrive, much of it gathered under contract from Northwest national forests. Several weeks later, workers start twisting the fragrant boughs of Noble fir, juniper, cedar, and pine into elegant wreaths and garlands that will grace the doors and mantels of homes across the country.

Oregon Roses first opened for business in the 1940s, selling flowers from five-gallon buckets. The company is now a leading supplier of specialty cut flowers, foliage, and Christmas products to the wholesale floral industry. Which means that every year around the first of October the greenhouses are transformed into Santa's workshop, buzzing with activity and filled with the scents of the season.


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