Monday, September 27, 2021

Taste Washington Day 2021 – celebrating the farm to school connection

WSDA Farm to School 
Purchasing Grant Specialist

 Each year, soon after students return to school, the annual Taste Washington Day is held as a way to promote both the farm to school movement serving local foods in school meals and Washington agriculture.

Yakima School District, Taste Washington Day 2020.
This year, Taste Washington Day 2021 will be held on Oct. 6. Schools from around the state have been encouraged to share their farm to school efforts, whether those activities are year-round, or once-a-year on this special day. Eighteen school districts and more than 20 farms have signed up to celebrate local foods in Washington. Visit to see the growing list of participating schools and farms.

To celebrate Taste Washington Day, schools are planning a range of fun and engaging activities, such as serving a Washington-grown food as part of breakfast or lunch, highlighting farm sources on menus, doing a “Washington Apple Crunch” at noon, sending students home with a “Taste Washington Day Recipe,” teaching lessons in school gardens, hosting a pop-up Farmers Market, and more!

Still time to join

Valley School District, local lettuce and tomatoes, 
Taste Washington Day 2020
School districts and farmers can still sign up online to be part of the event and share their plans with WSDA by the Taste Washington Day page on our website.

Local Washington-grown foods are a part of school meals in many school districts across the state as farmers support schools with products ranging from apples and pears to local cheese and yogurt, Washington-raised beef, seasonal veggies, grains, and legumes.

Washington is a major farming state with farms in every county, so Taste Washington Day is also an opportunity to teach students about agriculture by learning about what is being grown and produced in their own communities. 

Everett School District, 
Taste Washington Day 2020

WSDA partners with the Washington School Nutrition Association to organize Taste Washington Day, with support from Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction Child Nutrition. Local nonprofits, parents, volunteers, and community partners also work to support Taste Washington Day.

Where to learn more

If you are a farmer or work at a school and would like more information about participating in Taste Washington Day, contact WSDA Farm to School Purchasing Grant Specialist, Annette Slonim at or 206-593-6953. You can also visit to learn more about WSDA’s Farm to School program.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Business accelerator for women in ag begins this November

Applications are being accepted now through October 15 for the second round of a training and networking program for women in Washington and Oregon who are in the food and agriculture business.

Hard apples at Stratton Farm in La Center. 
The Women’s Farm2Food Accelerator is set to launch in November and is a partnership with WSDA, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) Foundation and the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA). Participants in this 15-week program receive training on a host of business-related skills, from marketing and product development, to food safety and packaging. There is also opportunity for networking with others in the food and ag industry.

Virtual information sessions
For those who want to learn more about the Farm2Food Accelerator, how it works, and whether it can help them develop their business, organizers are hosting two virtual information sessions for potential applicants. Both sessions are one hour long and will be held on:
  • Sept. 29, 2021
  • Oct. 6, 2021
Each information session begins at 4 p.m. PDT with the first 30 minutes providing an overview of the Farm2Food Accelerator followed by a question and answer session.
Diane Fish and a vanload of donated produce
for the Kitsap Farm to Freezer operation. 

Past participant feedback
Participants from the first Farm2Food Accelerator said the experience gave them valuable tools to grow their business operations.

“The Farm2Food Business Accelerator Program has been a game changer for me,” said Rose Smith, whose Stratton Brothers Cider Co. produces hard cider from apples grown on Stratton Farm in La Center, one of the oldest farms in Washington’s southwest region. “Having knowledgeable consultants to answer my questions, keeping me on the right track, has been instrumental to me and my product.”

Another participant, Diane Fish, runs the Kitsap Farm to Freezer operation in Kitsap County, turning food donated from restaurants or gleaned from fields into ready-to-eat meals for hunger relief organizations. The tools she gained from the Farm2Food Accelerator helped her grow her work from pilot project to a socially beneficial program, she said.

Growing greens at Kitsap Farms.
Angela Cordiano operates Kitsap Farms in Hansville producing salad mix. The business accelerator program not only provided her with constructive feedback on her business ideas, she said, but also equipped her with practical tools.

“One of the things I struggled with the most with was what to charge for the different types of buyers,” Angela said. “The spreadsheet provided in the pricing module is a great tool that I will keep handy for a long time.”

Visit to learn more about the Women's Farm2Food Accelerator or to register for one of the coming information sessions. 

Monday, September 13, 2021

Suicide rates high among farmers, ranchers

Amber Betts
WSDA Communications

Agricultural work can be a high-stress occupation.
With the COVID-19 pandemic in full swing, many people are struggling financially, mentally, and physically. Depression and other mental illnesses are of concern worldwide. On top of all the current event stressors, agriculture work is also a high-stress occupation.

When your livelihood is dependent on weather temperature, precipitation, feed prices, market demand for your product, and many other facets that effect the price of your product, it can be tough.

Farmers and ranchers have to almost predict the weather and the market, ward off pests, keep their workers safe, and still try to make a living, all while planning for contingencies. That’s likely why the suicide rate among ranchers and farmers are higher than the national average, according to the CDC.

Signs of suicide risk

September is National Suicide Prevention Month. September 5-11 was Suicide Prevention Week. During these observances, mental health advocates, prevention organizations, survivors, allies, and community members unite to promote suicide prevention awareness.

The Washington State Department of Health says there are a few signs that may indicate your loved one is having suicidal thoughts: if one starts talking or writing about suicide or death, feels hopeless, or like a burden, or begins giving away their prized possessions. There may also be cause for concern if your loved one is saying goodbyes, or stockpiling pills, isolating from others, acting recklessly, or a loss of interest in favorite activities.  Read about more signs of stress and warning signs your loved one may be at risk for suicide, and what you can do to help.


Given the seriousness of this issue, WSDA recently applied for and received a $500,000 grant to support the Farming Stress and Suicide Prevention Project. WSDA will administer the funds and work in partnership with the Washington State Department of Health and Washington State University Extension. The project’s intended purpose is to expand rural community-based education via trainings, resiliency workshops, and public awareness campaigns to combat the stigma around behavioral health, and connect specific stressors with behavioral health risks.

What can I do?

The National  Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention says there are several things you can do and say to be there for your loved one, friend, family, neighbor, even a client or an acquaintance you suspect might be struggling.

Checking in on a friend by phone or text message to see how they are doing can have significant impact to someone considering suicide. Inviting your friend to meet for coffee, or to share a meal, or sending a handwritten card are all ways to let someone know they are cared for, and bring them beyond their feeling of hopelessness. If your friend or loved one is struggling, share with them the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Number (800-273-8255), which provides 24/7, free, and confidential support. For specialized care, military veterans may press ‘1.’ In addition, anyone can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

Being involved is simple, a short call, text, or even a note can help refocus someone to what is good in their lives, help them realize they can get through their struggles.


Friday, September 3, 2021

Japanese beetle count passes 20,000

Amber Betts
WSDA Communications

There have been more than 20,000 Japanese beetles caught in Grandview this summer. Sound the alarm, ring the bell, this is not good news. If established in our state, we could see dire results to our crops, our gardens, and even our grass.

These invasive beetles almost double the human population in Grandview, and it keeps climbing. Our Pest Program staff are working to determine just how widespread the beetle has become.

So far, the beetles are being detected in the highest numbers in the residential area of Grandview. A few, however, have crossed the road into rural areas where the crops many people rely on for our living are found. Adult Japanese beetles love to feast on more than 300 plants, including roses, grapes, apples, hops, and grass. They are highly destructive, difficult and expensive to eradicate or control.

Japanese beetle (Popillia japonica).
What is a Japanese beetle?

The Japanese beetle (Popillia japonica) is a garden pest native to northern Japan. The adults eat the leaves, buds, and flowers of plants while the larvae attack the roots, particularly the roots of grasses.

How did they get here?

We’ve been trapping for Japanese beetle since the 1980s and occasionally find that they’ve caught a ride to our state, normally on a plane from an infested area in the Eastern U.S. But it has been more than a decade since even a single beetle has been detected beyond the vicinity of an airport. The larvae are found in soil associated with the roots of host plants, they are common under turf or sod and can be moved in potted plants.

What are we doing?

If you’ve been in Grandview at all in the recent months, you have likely seen traps hanging all over the city. That’s us, trying to determine the extent of the infestation. At the end of the season, we will look at the data we’ve collected and begin formulating a plan on how to eradicate these pests.

What can Grandview citizens do?

If you live in Grandview and have hung Japanese beetle traps, please report your trapping results. If you have seen the beetles on your property, consider treating your lawn following WSU’s treatment guidelines. Not all products labeled to treat your property for Japanese beetles are effective; WSU’s guidelines let you know which ones can work and how to properly apply

What happens next?  

Trapping for Japanese beetles will continue at least through September, after which our staff will begin removing the hundreds of traps currently in the area. The trapping results will inform both the eradication plans which are anticipated for next spring as well as a quarantine which is being considered to prevent the unintentional movement of the beetles into beetle-free areas of the state.

Get email updates on our progress and join our Japanese Beetle Watch Facebook group for the latest information and to connect with others working on responding to this introduction.

Monday, August 9, 2021

West Nile Virus is waking up again, a reminder to keep your horse up-to-date on vaccinations

Amber Betts
WSDA Communications

West Nile virus in Washington is back. Already this year several mosquito pools are testing positive for West Nile virus as well as confirmed human and equine cases.  

Mosquito pools around Washington
state have tested positive for West Nile Virus. 
Mosquito pools in Grant, Franklin, Walla Walla, and Yakima counties have been showing up with positive results for West Nile virus according to the Washington State Department of Health. Due to limited resources, DOH only monitors for West Nile virus in a few counties. This means the virus is likely widespread in our state beyond the above-mentioned counties.

In addition to the mosquito pools detected, there has been a human, two horses in the Yakima County, and one horse in Benton/Franklin County diagnosed with the disease. The status of the person diagnosed with the virus is unknown at this time.

One of the diagnosed horses was euthanized due to ataxia (the loss of full control of bodily movements) and becoming recumbent (the inability to get up without assistance). The vaccine history of the horse is unknown, however, the vaccine is very effective at prevention, and experts believe this horse was most likely unvaccinated or under-vaccinated.

Signs of West Nile virus in horses include: fever, a lack of coordination, urine dribbling, an inability to rise, muscle twitching, and staggering. Other symptoms can include: a fever of 102.5 degrees F or higher, discharge from eyes or nose, limb edema or swelling, spontaneous abortions, or neurologic signs such as an unsteady gait, weakness, and lack of tail tone.

Horses are diagnosed by symptoms and blood testing. There is no treatment except supportive anti-inflammatories.

Don’t wait, please vaccinate

WSDA field veterinarian Dr. Ben Smith said the disease is not always fatal to the infected horse, but most cases that do prove deadly occur in unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated animals.

“Some animals recover in full, while others have neurological deficits for life or will be unable to get up and must be euthanized,” Dr. Smith said. “About 33 percent of those cases will not survive.”

If your horse is not vaccinated, it will take two injections three weeks apart and a yearly booster. It is never too late.  One vaccination usually will help decrease the severity of disease, but full protection needs a booster at the correct time.

“Please don’t wait,” Smith added. “This infection is very devastating and can be easily prevented with proper vaccination.”

West Nile virus is spread by mosquitoes that have fed on infected birds and while it can sicken people, horses, birds and other animals, it does not directly spread from horses to humans or other animals.

Veterinarians who diagnose potential West Nile virus cases should contact the State Veterinarian’s Office at (360) 902-1878.

Visit WSDA’s West Nile virus webpage or the state Department of Health for more information.