Monday, October 15, 2018

National Food Bank Week spotlights needs to fight hunger

Nichole Garden
Food Assistance programs

Bins brimming with fresh produce at Hopelink in Kirkland. 
Food banks and pantries across Washington State aim to alleviate hunger locally, providing food for one in six Washingtonians to nourish themselves and their families. As the holiday season approaches, food pantries tend to see an influx of patrons hoping to fill their holiday tables with nutritious foods. 

National Food Bank Week, observed October 14-20 this year, is an opportune time to remember our neighbors in need. 

While the week was initially designated in May, emergency food providers began observing it in October to coincide with World Food Day on October 16. Established by the United Nations in 1979 and adopted by the United States in 1984, World Food Day aims to raise awareness of hunger around the world.

While the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s Food Assistance programs provide commodity foods and some funding to help support the hunger relief efforts across our state, community donations and contributions are still vital to keeping the lights on and the shelves full.

Below is a list of suggested ways you could help observe this week and celebrate the individuals and organizations that provide hunger relief.

Donate Food

Food banks are always looking to their communities for food donations. Some of the most requested items include:

  • High-protein foods such as canned chili, peanut butter, beans, or canned meat.
  • Pasta, and macaroni and cheese.
  • Canned fruit and vegetables.
  • Soup.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables that store well in a refrigerator.
  • Baby food, baby cereal, and formula.
  • Nutritional drinks and shakes for seniors (Ensure, Boost, etc.).

Consider setting up a food donation box at your work, school, church, or other community group and deliver the collected items to your local food pantries.

Donate Money

While food is always a welcome donation, food pantries can use monetary donations to purchase in bulk at a discount or pay utility bills and other costs of running a food pantry.
Susan Curtis and Mary Downs keep the shelves stocked at the Community
Cupboard in Leavenworth. 


While some food pantries have paid staff, volunteers are the backbone of many food pantries. Food pantries have a variety of volunteer tasks such as food sorting, deliveries, gleaning, office support, facility and equipment maintenance, and food distribution.

Pledge to Grow-a-Row

More and more food pantries are encouraging donations of produce items for their patrons. WSDA is assisting with these efforts with their Farm to Food Pantry initiative, providing funding to food pantries to purchase produce directly from local farmers. 

You can help by growing extra crops in your home gardens. Food pantries are looking for a wide range of produce items from beets and berries to radishes and rutabagas. Check your local food bank website for requested items and how to donate.

Spread Awareness

Consider using social media to let your friends know why you appreciate food banks or why food security is important to you. End your post with #NationalFoodBankWeek. 

Thanks to the commitment of Washington’s emergency food assistance system, as well as the donations and volunteer aid of so many citizens, our robust partnership is working to alleviate hunger and provide healthy food options.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Schools, farms and partners make Taste Washington Day 2018 a success

Chris Iberle
WSDA Farm to School & Value Chains Specialist

Sam Bowhay from Ralph’s Greenhouse talks with students
 about growing golden beets at Taste Washington Day 2018
at Highline Public Schools 
The 8th annual Taste Washington Day took place at 43 school districts statewide on Oct. 3rd and other days throughout October. At least 212,000 students ate seasonal, Washington grown lunches and learned more about local food and farms through their district’s participation in Taste Washington Day. It was a great way celebrate and kick off National Farm to School Month.

More than 70 Washington farmers participated

Farmers provided everything from apples to beef to cabbage to milk for school lunches across the state. Governor Inslee’s Taste Washington Day Proclamation recognized the quality and diversity of Washington’s agricultural products, and how the National School Lunch Program encourages students to eat nutritious foods by providing affordable meals with ingredients grown on Washington farms.

Students pose with staff from WSDA, OSPI, WSU,
Highline Public Schools and local farmers at
 Taste Washington Day 2018
Apples were crunched

Many schools including Enumclaw School District, Grandview School District, Oak Harbor Public Schools, and many other districts held big “Washington Apple Crunch” celebrations on Oct. 3. Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Oakesdale FFA, and other organizations joined students across the state to “crunch” into their locally grown Washington apples all together at noon, making a crunch heard ‘round the state.

Taste Washington Day at Highline Public Schools

WSDA and OSPI Child Nutrition staff visited Highline Public Schools to eat a local lunch with students, farmers, and community partners. At Evergreen High School, students from FEEST talked about how they work with their school food service to support healthy eating options for students. The menu included a salad dressing developed by FEEST students, featuring Washington grown blueberries.

WSDA Director Sandison visits with FEEST students
 at Highline Public Schools at Taste Washington Day 2018
At Seahurst Elementary, students were wowed by giant leeks and beets brought by Sam Bowhay from Ralph’s Greenhouse, whose bunched carrots were served fresh and roasted at lunch with white bean and chicken chili. Shepherd’s Grain provided flour for some tasty whole wheat rosemary rolls, and Dairy Ambassador Abby Zurcher from the Washington State Dairy Council shared photos and stories with students about how fresh milk gets from the cow to the carton. Candida Goza from WSU King County Extension SNAP-Ed talked about how they educate students on food and nutrition, and garden volunteer John Feeney gathered students from the New Start High School Shark Garden to share about how working in the garden and growing produce improves their learning experience.

Local lunches were served

Many thanks of course to every single one of the 43 school districts and cafeterias that participated in Taste Washington Day. Some school districts’ events are happening later in National Farm to School Month in October, and into November.

Click through these links to see just a few of the highlights:
Anacortes School District served roasted delicata squash from The Crow’s Farm
Concrete School District served an all-local menu with produce and beef from Sauk Farm, The Crow’s Farm, Boldly Grown Farm, Ovenell’s Ranch, Forest Farmstead, and Blue Heron Farm
Preschoolers at Puesta Del Sol in Bellevue School District learned about locally grown foods
Edmonds School District served Washington grown cauliflower, cucumbers, nectarines, apples, and fresh milk to celebrate
Enumclaw School District celebrated with lunches featuring Washington grown ingredients
Hood Canal School served corn on the cob from Hunter Farms, and did the Washington Apple Crunch
LaConner School District held a Taste of the Skagit Week, with vegetables, fruit, and beef from farms in Skagit County in lunches all week long: Viva Farms, Swanson Bros., Pioneer Potatoes, Forrest Cattle Co., Gordon Skagit Farms, and Bow Hill Blueberries
Lopez Island School District served lunches throughout September sourced from within 50 miles of the school
Oak Harbor Public Schools, including Crescent Harbor and Olympic View Elementary Schools, highlighted local broccoli and cauliflower at lunch with a Washington Apple Crunch at noon
Monroe School District featured Washington grown foods on all their salad bars: apple crisp, apples, pears, nectarines, peaches, cucumbers, corn, blueberries, autumn squash and fresh milk Pullman Public Schools served lentil sloppy joes and Korean street tacos with local lentils from Spokane Seed
South Whidbey School District served carrots, beets, potatoes, lettuce, cherry tomatoes from their very own South Whidbey School Farms, and students in the culinary class made tortellini arrabbiata
Tommorrow's Hope Child Development at Housing Hope served beef and bean chili with fresh, local salad including ingredients from Caruso Farms, Oxbow Farm & Conservation Center, and Chinook Farms, and did the Washington Apple Crunch
Willow Public School had a lunch with grass-fed meatloaf, kale salad, roasted carrots, summer squash, and more from farms within 30 miles of the school: Upper Dry Creek Ranch, Hayshaker Farm, Welcome Table Farm, Frog Hollow Farm, and Edwards Family Farm.

Taste Washington Day was organized by the Washington State Department of Agriculture, Washington School Nutrition Association, and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, and many regional Farm to School partner organizations.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Managing manure and water in the wet season

Chery Sullivan
WSDA Dairy Nutrient Management Program

This dairy farm lagoon is pumped down and ready for winter storage.
Each season brings another round of annual tasks for farmers. If you are a dairy farm producer, preparing now for winter manure and water storage will help you avoid a manure management disaster and help protect Washington State’s water quality. 

Manure storage 

As the days grow short and feed bunkers fill with the summer crops, it is time to make sure manure storage structures are emptied and ready to store manure and rainwater through the winter and early spring months. 

Farms storing manure in lagoons must have capacity to store four-to-six-month’s worth of manure, while maintaining a foot of freeboard to protect the lagoon embankment from failure – plus, additional space for a severe rainstorm. Upright storage tanks must keep six inches of freeboard to prevent overtopping from waves created by high winds.

Manure application 

October manure nutrient applications come with special risks because fields may be compacted from harvest equipment and because heavy rains are on the way. If manure that is applied does not soak into the soil before the next rain event, it could run off to surface waters or puddle in the low-lying portions of the field. Solid manure should be disked into the soil or only applied to areas that are not at risk of flooding or runoff to surface water. 
Keep a close eye on the weather forecast. Manure applied to a saturated
field can spell trouble. 

Before applying manure, applicators should: 
  • Look at three-day weather forecasts.
  • Check the field’s nutrient needs and ability to absorb the manure applied.
  • Avoid applying to areas prone to runoff.
  • Use large buffers from all waterways. 
Also, consider that weather forecasts may not be entirely accurate, with either more or less rain falling than predicted.

If a farm does not have safe locations to apply nutrients due to crops or weather conditions, they should work with neighbors, custom manure applicators, and the local Conservation District to find the best application sites or extra storage areas.

Feed bunker and yard runoff 

A vegetated treatment area (VTA) can be used to filter and absorb nutrients. The VTA must be designed to treat the volume of runoff expected, and must be healthy enough to trap and absorb the nutrients carried in the runoff. If not designed well, concentrated runoff from the feed area can “burn” the grass and destroy these treatment areas.

Keep gutters and downspouts clear and functional to divert
water away from manured areas. 
If you collect and transfer the runoff from the feed area to storage, make sure drain grates are clear and pumps are operational.

Gutters and clean water diversion 

Fall rains arrive quickly. It pays to double check that gutter downspouts are functional and that water is diverted away from manured areas where possible. Remember, an inch of rain collected from 1,000 square feet of surface equals 600 gallons of water.

If you have questions about winter manure management, please contact your local conservation district or Kyrre Flege with WSDA’s Dairy Nutrient Management Program at, or 360-902-2894.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Pretty pest added to invasive species priority list

Chris McGann
WSDA Communications
An adult spotted lanternfly.
Photo:Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture

The adult spotted lanternfly is a sight to behold; its wings are a tapestry of inky spots and delicate stripes underscored with broad patches of bold crimson. Its plump body is reminiscent of a bumble bee or a cicada.

But WSDA’s Plant Protection entomologists see this colorful bug as a big threat to Washington’s tree fruit and grape industry. They are gearing up to try to block the road for this insidious hitchhiker and prevent fast-spreading infestations like those seen in Pennsylvania and Virginia.

WSDA's Pest Program classifies the spotted lanternfly as a “target pest” in multiple pest surveys and earlier this month, the Washington Invasive Species Council added it to the likes of apple maggots, gypsy moths and brown marmorated stink bugs on its top priority species list.

A native of China, the spotted lanternfly first arrived in Pennsylvania in 2014 and quickly proved it is a pest to be reckoned with.

Entomologist Sven-Erik Spichiger spent a decade as Pennsylvania’s state entomologist before joining the WSDA Plant Protection team this year. He knows how bad the infestations can be from experience.

“When you’ve seen tens of thousands of spotted lanternflies on an apple tree during harvest, it will turn your head around,” Spichiger said.
Photo:Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture

He said from an insect scientist’s perspective, the lantern fly is fascinating.

“But for the public, one bug gets their attention. Imagine how they feel when they come out to their toddler’s swing set and find it coated with more than 200,000.”

The lanternfly spreads plant disease, weakens trees and threatens the country’s multi-billion dollar grape, orchard and logging industries.

And it’s just gross.

The spotted lanternfly lays eggs in non-descript gray globs that are difficult to detect on trees, rusty cans or park benches. It multiplies insidiously by the thousands and can overtake trees, and crops -- even playground equipment – overnight.
A glob of spotted lanternfly eggs
Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture

Then there’s the “honey dew.” That’s entomologist talk for lanternfly urine. Lanternflies feed on sap and excrete sticky droplets of sugar-rich urine that rain down from infested trees so hard in some cases, people need rain coats to work in the area. The shellac of honey dew turns rancid over time and attracts swarms of bees, ants, and wasps. Finally, the coated understory becomes black with “sooty mold.”

In Pennsylvania, the infestation continues to spread, despite more than $20 million poured into research and eradication efforts this year alone. Lanternflies have now invaded Virginia, New Jersey, and Delaware.

These prolific bugs suck sap from hardwood trees, grape vines and fruit trees but its favorite food is the Ailanthus tree or “tree of heaven.”  Spichiger says the tree of heaven - another invasive species - grows in disturbed areas such as vacant lots, highway medians and especially along railroad lines.
WSDA Managing Entomologist
Sven-Erik Spichiger

“Train tracks are lined with these trees,” he said, pointing out that one of the big concerns here in Washington is that this pest is an active hitchhiker.

“All it takes is a stiff wind to knock one of these into a rusty box car and the next week it’s on the West Coast,” Spichiger said. “There is a very high likelihood that this will continue spreading.”

Early stage of spotted lanternfly infestation.
Photo:Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture
Although there is plenty of reason for concern, Spichiger said there is also hope.

Treatments that combine host removal with pesticide applications have been shown to be effective on small infestations, he said.  And because of its distinctive appearance, engaging the public to help locate infestations can be effective.

"Control strategies work best when entomologists have ability to rapidly respond to the pest," he said. "You can actually control lanternfly infestation using this strategy if you detect them early,” Spichiger said.

For more information about WSDA's Pest Protection Program.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Celebrate Taste of Washington Day

Chris Iberle
WSDA Farm to School & Value Chains Specialist

Lentil sloppy joes, farmers sitting with school children, and the Washington Apple Crunch are all part of Taste Washington Day on October 3, when schools across the state will showcase locally grown foods in their cafeterias.

A past year's La Conner School District Taste Washington
 Day menu featured broccoli from Hedlin Farm in Mt. Vernon
The annual event highlights how school districts and our state’s agricultural industry can collaborate to provide locally-sourced school meals throughout the school year and celebrate farming across the state.

For the eighth year running, farmers and schools will partner with the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA), the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) Child Nutrition, and the Washington State Nutrition Association to feature Washington-grown foods in school cafeteria meals and celebrate farm to school programs.

So get ready to enjoy some white bean chicken chili, fresh Washington milk and kale Caesar salads, but make sure to save some room for one more big bite, the Washington Apple Crunch!

“The Farm to School initiative is a great reminder of the benefits of collaboration,” WSDA Director Derek Sandison said. “For schools, it is a way to source locally produced foods to serve in their cafeterias, farmers are able to make connections that could provide another revenue source, and children enjoy lunch from crops grown in their home state.”

Riverview School District's Taste Washington Trolley
 filled with dragon tongue beans, lemon cucumbers,
Easter egg radishes, rainbow carrots, and green peppers.
Gov. Jay Inslee has proclaimed Oct. 3 as Taste Washington Day, recognizing the farmers that feed us and put locally grown food in our school cafeterias.

Schools sign up with WSDA to share information about their local menus, ingredients, or other Farm to School activities they have planned for the day. Schools also get free templates and materials from WSDA for their promotions.

Twenty-seven school districts and 20 farms are signed up so far this year. There’s still time for more to sign up, and over 50 districts are expected to participate. Some schools plan special events for Taste Washington Day, such as inviting a farmer to lunch, visits to school gardens, or doing the Washington Apple Crunch - when schools or classes all bite into a Washington apple at the same time, usually at noon.

“School Nutrition Programs all across Washington will spotlight our state's bountiful offerings of locally grown fruits and vegetables as well as locally raised beef, chicken and pork. These events provide opportunities to invite farmers to the classroom, plan a school garden, teach our kids about where our food comes from and encourage them to taste something new and fresh”, said Vickie Ayers, President of the Washington School Nutrition Association.

Putting it all together. School cafeteria cooks deliver
 flavor with locally sourced meat and produce. 
Farmers sign up with WSDA to be a part of Taste Washington Day and sell their products to schools or participate in school activities. WSDA Farm to School sends a list of farms that have signed up to participating schools and helps with local food procurement by matching farms and schools, finding farmers to participate in school events, and other logistics.

This year, schools are planning all kinds of activities.

Sometimes the farm is already at the school. WSDA staff visiting
 the Freedom Farmers at Olympia School District for
 Taste Washington Day 2017
Lopez Island School District has been serving meals made of ingredients from within 25 miles of the school throughout September, including produce from the Lopez Island Farm Education program’s school garden. Pullman Public Schools will serve Washington grown lentil sloppy joes and brownies and feature a visit from Mr. Lentil. Grandview School District will do a large Washington Apple Crunch at noon with teachers and students in classrooms and cafeterias across the district.

This is the first Taste Washington Day put on with support from the Washington State Farm to School Network. Launched in May 2018, with over 160 members, network members include school nutrition staff, farmers, teachers, school gardeners, non-profits and state agencies working together to grow farm to school in the state. Through the network, members are learning from each other, sharing resources, and many are a part of Taste Washington Day celebrations. The Washington State Farm to School Network is also a way to find out what’s happening with farm to school in your community, get involved, and illustrate the impacts of farm to school across the state.

Taste Washington Day is popular with farmers, school administrators, students and parents. Many participating schools use the day to highlight what “farm to school” means to them.  At least 100 districts in Washington State do some form of farm to school throughout the year, such as buying foods from Washington farmers or offering agricultural education. The USDA estimates schools spend over $17 million on Washington grown produce during the school year.

Visit the WSDA Farm to School program’s Taste Washington Day web page for more information or contact Chris Iberle at (206) 256-1874.