Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Get the dirt on soil health; SoilCon 2023 registration opens

Danielle Gelardi
WSDA Soil Health Scientist 

soil probe taking soil sample in young potato plants
Taking soil sample with a soil probe
in young potato field
If soil microbiomes, water conservation, and plant health are your jam, you’ll want to register for SoilCon, a conference covering the latest research in soil health. SoilCon is next February during Washington Soil Health Week, though registration is already open for this virtual opportunity.  

The annual conference is organized by the Washington Soil Health Initiative, a joint effort of WSDA, Washington State University, and the Washington State Conservation Commission to improve soil health in our state. Soil health focuses on how well soils support plants, animals, and people. It also recognizes the living nature of soils and the importance of soil microorganisms. 

Soil sampling in grain stubble
SoilCon is a free, virtual event and will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 14, and Wednesday, Feb. 15. But don’t worry, it shouldn’t interrupt your Valentine’s Day plans; the conference is only held from 8 a.m. to noon each day from the comfort of your home, office, barn, or tractor seat. The theme this year is “Soil Health: Taking Principles to Practice.” Topics will be relevant to agriculture or natural resource professionals, producers, consultants, university faculty and students, gardeners, and anyone interested in soil health.   

Register on the SoilCon website and view the complete agenda, which is being updated as plans develop. Speakers include professors from WSU and universities around the country as well as graduate students and postdocs providing short, lightning talks. 

Join us at the conference to learn more about Washington state soil health and visit WSDA’s soil health page to learn more about our work.


Friday, October 28, 2022

Taste Washington Day 2022 – celebrating the farm-to-school connection

Sedro-Woolley School District served
yogurt parfaits with Grace Harbor Farms
vanilla yogurt, Viva Farms blueberries, and
homemade granola at breakfast.

Annette Slonim
Farm to School Lead
Local yogurt and berry parfaits, two-ton tomato sauce over whole grain penne pasta, and baked cinnamon-spiced apples with raisins and are just a few of the dishes featuring local foods and farms served in schools across the state in celebration of Taste Washington Day and National Farm to School Month.

More than 40 schools and childcare centers participated in Taste Washington Day earlier this month, sourcing Washington-grown foods from greater than 50 farmers and food producers. Throughout October, schools and childcare centers featured seasonal foods in school meals, highlighted partnerships with local growers, celebrated the harvest from school gardens and farms, and educated students on the richness of Washington agriculture and local food systems.

2022 Taste Washington Day highlights:

Quilcene school garden.

WDSA staff celebrated with a visit to Quilcene School District to spotlight their fantastic farm to school connections. School lunch, served by high school culinary program students, included a local beef stew featuring meat and vegetables from nearby Short’s Farm, Midori Farm, Graysmarsh Farm, and Dharma Ridge Farm. The youngest students experienced the harvest season by crunching apples in the school garden.

Dieringer School District served Baked Cinnamon-Spiced Apples with Raisins and proudly serves Washington-grown applies, carrots, and strawberries.

Bellingham Public Schools served a local Two-Ton Tomato Sauce over whole grain penne pasta. With support from the WSDA Farm to School Purchasing Grant, the school district purchased tomatoes from Common Threads Farm, The Crows Farm, Cedarville Farm, Cooperativa Tierra y Libertad, and Hedlin Family Farms, sourced through the Puget Sound Food Hub.

The Children’s Center at Burke Gilman Gardens celebrated Taste Washington Day with Spooky Squash Bake Kits, a great way to engage the whole family in celebrating and tasting local foods. 
Spooky Squash Bake Kits.


West Valley School District in Yakima celebrated Taste Washington Day with local roasted rosemary fingerling potatoes and Sweetie apples! Fingerling potatoes are a great option because they do not require any slicing or dicing, just roast and serve.

Charlotte Green and Roland Dagdagan
sorting fruit in
Ellensburg.
Charlotte Green, dietitian for Ellensburg School District, and Roland of Dagdagan Farm and Produce sorted melons and peaches for the salad bar on Taste Washington Day. Ellensburg School District visited the Ellensburg Farmers Market to meet local producers and establish new farm-to-school connections. Schools can be a great customer for local farmers, especially at the end of the season when farms may have surplus produce.

Sedro-Woolley School District offered organic Honeycrisp apples from Sauk Farm and served yogurt parfaits with Grace Harbor Farms vanilla yogurt, Viva Farms blueberries, and homemade granola at breakfast.

Melissa Holmes from Pe Ell School District cannot say enough about her staff. 
Pe Ell’s Administration staff served the local fruit. Kyle
MacDonald/Superintendent, Brandon Pontius/K-8 Principal
and Keith Shepherd/HS Dean of Students/AD.
Melissa and her team serve Washington-grown foods on a daily basis whenever possible. Students enjoy all the fresh fruits, vegetables, and dairy foods from many Pacific Northwest local area farms, Eastern Washington farms, and the Olympic Mountain Ice Cream and Sorbet made in Shelton, WA. This year’s Taste Washington Day lunch included a cheeseburger with farm fresh tomatoes, lettuce, onions, and local fruit.  
Carrots at WallaWalla daycare.

Children at the Little Angels Biodome Daycare and Pre-school in Walla Walla harvest and wash carrots from the garden. Little Angels Biodome also partners with Hayshaker Farm to source local foods for the center’s meals.

The Olympia School District’s Child Nutrition Services Department featured foods from area farms and ranches, including their very own Olympia High School Freedom Farm.

The Olympia High School Freedom Farmers is an alternative, experiential block-class program for 
Olympia High School freedom farmer
students were busy harvesting and preparing
crops in preparation for the big day.
Olympia High School students. The farm offers a hands-on, outdoor and community-based educational model is for students who thrive when they can apply academic learning to relevant community and environmental issues. Students were busy harvesting and preparing crops in preparation for the big day (pictured here).

Taste Washington Day meals featured items ranging from chili made with grass fed beef, muffin bread made from zucchini, salad bar items including carrots, celery, and cantaloupe, and crisps made from blackberries and blueberries.

Washington-grown foods on the
lunch trays at Pe Ell School
District is a regular occurrence.
 
The Olympia Child Nutrition Services Department is using funds from their WSDA Farm to School Purchasing Grant to buy foods produced by local farms, ranches, school gardens, and food producers to strengthen local agriculture, improve student health, and promote regional food systems awareness.

Thank you to all the schools, farms, and community partners who celebrated Taste Washington Day and National Farm to School Month this year! Farm to school connections continue throughout the year in Washington, follow or tag #wafarmtoschool on your preferred social media platform to find out or share what’s happening.

Want to connect with others involved in farm to school or early learning? Join the Washington State Farm to School Network! Learn more and sign up at www.wafarmtoschoolnetwork.org
Chief Leschi Schools celebrates the Washington
Apple Crunch with apples from Sterino Farms.
.

For more information about WSDA’s Farm to School Program, visit www.agr.wa.gov/farmtoschool or contact Annette Slonim, Farm to School Lead, at 206-714-2757 (calls/texts welcome) or aslonim@agr.wa.gov.






More photos from Taste Washington Day 2022

Pe Ell School District staff serve up locally grown food. Pictured: Kendra Arrington / Assistant Cook, Ryan Holmes / Dishwasher, Thomas Justice / Life Skills Student, Taylor Toepelt / Life Skills Student and two lifetime assistants, Tory Duncan / Librarian and Angela Holmes / Substitute Cook / Custodian.

Students in Yakima enjoyed roasted rosemary fingerling potatoes
and Sweetie apples.
 

Organic Honeycrisp apples from Sauk Farm.


Bellingham Public Schools served a local Two-Ton Tomato Sauce over whole grain penne pasta. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

WSDA awards $8 million to improve fairgrounds across the state

Brand new animal pens awaiting
assembly at the Evergreen State Fair.
Amber Betts
WSDA Communications

Prize-winning hog, best-in-show apple pie, blue-ribbon stuffed chicken, and the area’s largest squash are some of the awards seen at your local fair. You know the one? Yes, you do.

The moment you think of the local fair you begin to smell the scones, elephant ears, the animal barns, and the unique atmosphere of fun, comradery, and family. However, you might also remember the aging facilities, the concrete block bathrooms that have seen better days, and the bleachers that are somehow, still standing.

Capital improvement grants to the rescue

Washington State Department of Agriculture and the Washington State Legislature recognize the importance of Washington’s fairgrounds. During the pandemic, county fairs were used as vaccination centers; during wildfires, fairs are used to shelter people and livestock; and during the summer months, fairs educate the public about the importance of agriculture in our lives and to our state’s economy.

Arena at the Ferry County fairgrounds. 
 Since 2003, the legislature has helped fairs in their mission by awarding around $2 million each biennium for health and safety improvements to fairgrounds and facilities. In 2021, they emphasized the importance by awarding a whopping $8 million, enabling us to fund 78 projects across the state.

Fair organizers were able to submit applications for projects equal to or less than $250,000, for capital improvements.

What is a capital improvement?

A capital improvement is addition of a structural change or restoration of some part of the property that will improve the health and safety of fair goers.

Pierce County fairgrounds project.
What were the projects?

WSDA is funding 78 projects at fairs across the state.  Some projects are large and are part of even larger projects on their grounds. The smallest grant awarded was $5,500 for the installation of new sheep pens and barricades at the Pierce County Fair. To date, 15 projects are complete. Most of the rest are on track to be complete by May 31, 2023.

Projects include upgrades to electrical systems, upgrades to ventilation and filtration systems, replacing drain fields for restrooms, remodeling or constructing restrooms, repairing asphalt on fairgrounds, upgrades to livestock barns and ag buildings, reroofing, adding heating and air conditioning, and many others.

 If the legislature chooses to include funding to the fairs program in the next capital budget, the program will distribute grant applications for fairs next July. Check our website for future grants and for the full list of 2021-23 grant recipients.












 

Thursday, October 20, 2022

WSDA launches bilingual resource to help farmers reduce risk of foodborne illness

Amber Betts
WSDA Communications

An image from the video resource tool teaching
about cleaning and sanitizing our team created. 
From farm to plate is an idea we love to think about in agriculture. Imagine your food growing at the hard-working hands of a neighbor; their careful attention to every detail to make that carrot, or apple, or other produce grow perfectly.

The path that food takes before it arrives on your plate is long and has many steps. Along the way there are microorganisms everywhere. These little guys (the microorganisms I mean), can contaminate our food and cause widespread illness in our communities.

That is why cleaning and sanitizing every surface and tool that touches produce is vital to public health.

Not only is it important, but it’s also required of most farmers by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule.

WSDA, along with our partners at the University of Georgia and New Mexico State University, developed an online-animated tool with three learning modules to help educators and farm managers reinforce fundamental cleaning and sanitizing concepts. It emphasizes how to select a sanitizer and monitor its concentration using test strips and titration kits. The interactive tool simulates how to follow proper monitoring procedures, evaluate results, and record findings. 

The modules are visually engaging and interactive, requiring users to apply critical thinking and realistic decision-making. All content is available in English and Spanish.

Asking for your help

Please take our 5-minute survey by October 30th. We want feedback from anyone implementing or educating on produce safety practices including:

¾    Farmers

¾    Packers and distributors

¾    Extension educators

¾    Government and non-profit employees

¾    Other agricultural professionals

 

To access the tool, visit https://farmsanitizing.nmsu.edu/


Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) Produce Safety Program developed this educational resource in partnership with University of Georgia and thanks to New Mexico State University’s Innovative Media Research and Extension Department for all design production.

Financial support for this educational resource was provided by the WSDA Food Safety Program, the WSDA Regional Markets Program, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The Test Strip Lab and the Titration Lab were supported by the FDA as part of a financial assistance award #U18FD005913 totaling $6,106,186 with 100 percent funded by FDA/HHS. The Introductory Animation and the How to Clean and Sanitize module, totaling $43,830, were 100 percent funded by the WSDA Food Safety and WSDA Regional Markets Programs. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by FDA/HHS, or the U.S. Government.

 

  




Monday, October 17, 2022

Don’t “fall” victim to avian influenza as seasonal rains return

Amber Betts
WSDA Communications

It’s true, 30 days have passed since the latest detection of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in a domestic flock in our state this year. The first case in 2022 was announced in May, since then, we’ve had a steady string of positive cases, until about 30 days ago.

Hold for applause.

That is incredible news, considering we’ve seen a steady climb in HPAI detection rates across the country. Our State Veterinarian says a big factor is the diligence and next-level biosecurity of our flock owners. Take a moment and pat yourself on the back.

Dr. Amber Itle, Washington State Veterinarian, says that another contributing factor to the decline in detections is that standing water has dried up, eliminating reservoirs for wild birds to congregate. 

However, the virus is still very prevalent in our environment; as we continue to see positive cases in wild birds right here in Washington.

The takeaway? You are doing great! Keep it up. Although this is an important milestone, flock owners should be cautious about relaxing biosecurity efforts. We are seeing surges across the Nation and even closer to home; including Idaho, Oregon, and California as the fall migration continues.

We must remain vigilant. Above all, avoid contact between your domestic flocks and wild waterfowl. If you do that, your flocks are less likely to contract the disease. 

Two important ways you can protect your flock from wild waterfowl is to protect their water supply and make sure spilled feed is picked up.

Wild birds are always looking for a free lunch. Our vets recommend to clean up spilled or uneaten feed right away, and make sure feed storage units are secure and free of holes.

Protect your flock’s water supply by keeping in clean, and in an area that wild birds cannot access it.

For additional information on the state’s bird flu status, visit agr.wa.gov/birdflu.