Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Four ways to keep unwanted holiday pests from spreading

Mike Louisell
Communications Office

One of the many ways WSDA supports the agricultural community and consumers becomes more obvious during the holiday season. This is when the staff of our Plant Services Program kick into high gear, inspecting licensed retail and wholesale nurseries at a record pace to keep up with demand while ensuring consumers and exporters get healthy wreaths, Christmas trees, and other holiday plants that are free of pests and disease.

We've wrapped up our inspections of Christmas trees bound for consumers in Mexico, Hawaii, China, Japan and U.S. military bases. Christmas trees sold in the U.S. don't require inspection by WSDA. Although we support export and domestic markets for plants and shrubs year-around, it's especially important this time of year because of the high demand for holiday-themed plants.

Consumers can help keep pests out
Consumers play a major role in keeping damaging pests from damaging plants. Our partners at the U.S. Department of Agriculture offer these tips to protect Washington's communities and environment from harmful pests and plant diseases.
  1. Ordering Online: Poinsettias and amaryllis make festive gifts, but be careful when ordering any plant online. To spread holiday cheer instead of invasive pests, only buy or order plants from reputable vendors that comply with federal quarantine restrictions. To be safe, ask the grower if they are aware of and abide by all USDA regulations for that particular plant.
  2. Trees, Wreaths and Greens: When buying your holiday tree, deck the halls with greens and holly, but be sure to buy them from trusted sources.  Established retailers make sure their suppliers follow federal quarantine restrictions that prevent invasive pests from hitchhiking on trees and decorations.
  3. Don't Move Firewood: For a safe and cozy yuletide fire, buy firewood where you plan to burn it.  If burning your own firewood, don’t move it off your property or you may spread invasive tree killers like the emerald ash borer and Asian longhorned beetle.  Instead, buy or responsibly gather firewood near the place you’ll burn it.  Or take certified, heat-treated firewood with you instead.
  4. International Travel: Traveling abroad for the holidays? Declare all agricultural items to customs officials upon your return or you may bring back more than memories.  In addition to fresh produce, declare all spices, grains and packaged foods, which could carry the destructive Khapra beetle.
Visit www.DontPackaPest.com, a website sponsored by USDA and several partner agencies, to learn what is safe to bring back, along with other valuable travel tips.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Many changes in works for Worker Protection Standard

Brent Barnes
Assistant Director, Pesticide Management Division

Farmworkers can be exposed to specific hazards in their workplace, such as preventable pesticide exposure. 
WSDA and L&I train a
class of farm workers. 

To further protect the health of workers, their families and others in the industry, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has made changes to Agricultural Worker Protection Standard, a set of federal requirements aimed at reducing the risk of pesticide exposure and injury. 

Most changes take effect on Jan. 2, 2017, while some are delayed until January 2018. It’s important that all farm operators and pesticide applicators comply with the new regulations because WSDA will be enforcing them. 

Furthermore, WSDA is coordinating with the state Department of Labor & Industries to update state rules to align with the new federal regulations. While each agencies’ rulemaking process will be separate, ultimately, state rules will be consistent. Our agency began this process by filing proposed new rule language this week and announcing public hearings scheduled for January (watch this page for details)

Washington state already had ag worker standards on the books that, in some areas, have been more protective than federal requirements. Examples of where the fed’s rules have now caught up to Washington include those around medical evaluation, training and respirator fit testing. 

However, some of the new federal standards will be stricter. Those who are affected – growers and pesticide handlers – will need to be ready to comply with these requirements. 

Here are a few examples of what’s new:

  • Training: Workers and handlers must be trained every year, instead of every five years as previously required. Also, a record of that training must be kept for two years. 
  • Information and Posting: The type of information and location for displaying it have been expanded and specified. For example, Safety Data Sheets must be posted along with application and safety info in a spot that’s easily seen by workers and handlers. 
  • Application Exclusion Zone: Agricultural employers must keep all people, except properly trained and equipped pesticide handlers, out of these application zones. 

The changes to the Worker Protection Standard cover a lot of areas. It’s critical that agricultural employers learn and understand what’s being required to comply and protect workers and their communities. 

A good place to start is EPA’s web page, Revision to the Worker Protection Standard where you’ll find an overview and links to a number of helpful resources. 

And WSDA’s Pesticide Management Compliance Program is also here to help. We’ll focus on outreach, resources and technical assistance as these changes take effect. Stay tuned for more information. And in the meantime, if you have questions, contact us at 360-902-2040 or email compliance@agr.wa.gov.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Keeping those who support agriculture safe on the job

Jason Gambill 
WSDA Western Washington Safety Officer

For many WSDA employees, supporting Washington agriculture means spending time out of the office and in the field. So to make sure our employees are safe, WSDA’s safety team has begun a new campaign we call “The day in the life of a WSDA employee.”  

As part of the campaign, agency safety officers are shadowing supervisors and field employees to learn more about their work and safety concerns while offering ways to improve their safety and championing best practices about workplace safety.

Feed inspector Angela Gantuah collecting samples.
Through this new initiative, I recently joined Angela Gantuah, a feed specialist in WSDA’s Food Safety and Consumer Services Division, during a routine inspection of a busy Bellingham chicken feed processing plant.

Traffic collisions are a common factor in workplace injuries, as are tripping hazards like pallets and being struck by objects, like forklifts. Angela and I discussed these hazards, and her strategies for staying safe.

Angela took several samples from peas, fish meal, wheat and other commodities to test for Salmonella and other diseases. Some of her samples were taken from an auger, which was amazing to watch, but can also be a serious workplace hazard. Care has to be taken when working around augers. Again, I discussed this with Angela and offered some tips on keeping safe.

Our agency inspections are essential to the agricultural way of life. Producers require our various inspections in order to export their products to overseas markets. It's my team's job to make sure our inspectors are safe while doing their jobs.

In fact, our team’s motto is “Their Safety Matters.”  I will be shadowing other employees throughout the coming year, playing my part to support WSDA’s staff as they support Washington agriculture.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

10 easy steps to setting up a 35-foot tall tree - indoors

Karla Salp
WSDA Communications

Whether you call it a Christmas tree, holiday tree, yule tree, or something else entirely, nothing says it is time for the holidays like beautiful evergreen trees decorating homes, offices, and even the Capitol. Recently, a truck load of holiday cheer arrived at the Capitol in the form of a 35-foot noble fir, destined to be decorated from top to bottom with lights, ornaments, and toys.

If you dream of your own Capitol-sized tree, it’s easy. Check out our 60 video of how it was done at the Capitol and then check out our instructions below.

  1. Find a 35-foot tall tree. This year’s tree was donated by Weyerhaeuser and was grown at its tree farm in Vail near Rainier. It grew in an open area, so it was nice and full all the way around and top to bottom. If you can’t get a tree big enough for your tastes, try planting one and waiting about 25 years, the age of this tree, or perhaps less time if you would like a mere 25-30 foot tree. Once you have the tree, hire a company to cut it down and haul it to your location.
  2. Prepare tree stand and 4 x 4’s. No store-bought tree stands for this tree! You’ll have to custom make a steel tube braced and attached to a wooden platform to protect the floor. You’ll also need to prepare several 12-foot 4x4 boards for carrying the tree.
  3. Gather together 30 – 40 of your closest friends.  How many people does it take to carry a 35-foot tree? A lot. You can load it off the truck with a crane, but you are going to have to carry it into the building.
  4. Carry tree into the building. After slipping the 4x4 boards under the tree at about 4-5 foot intervals, have friends grab the ends of each board. On the count of three, everyone will lift their board (while using proper form, of course) and walk forward, carrying the tree into the building. Make sure the stump-end of the tree leads the way.
  5. Get it through the door(s.) The door will likely be one of your biggest challenges in carrying the tree. The branches are so large they will try to prevent you from getting through. However, with determination, it will go through, foot by foot. As it goes through the door, you’ll have to stop each time you reach a 4x4. Pull the 4x4 out from under the tree and run inside to slip it back under the portion of the tree that has made it through the door. If you have columns inside the building, you’ll get to do this same dance to get between them as well.
  6. Carry the tree to the stand. Next you need to get the tree to the stand. Have your buddies continue to carry it forward until the base of the tree is at the stand. Rest the base of the tree on the top edge of the steel tube. If available, it is helpful to lay the tree half way up some stairs to prepare for the next step.
  7. Prop the top of the tree off the ground. Have your friends heave the top of the tree up as high as they can. Place two 4x4’s suspended on each end by two ladders (acting like a giant sawhorse) about half way up the tree (higher if you don’t have stairs) to hold the tree off the ground.
  8. Decorate the top half of the tree. Before you can fully stand up the tree, you’ll need to decorate the top half. Remember, this is a big tree, so you’ll need BIG ornaments. You might consider a theme, like the “Under the Sea” stuffed animals donated by the Association of Washington Business, which will be delivered to local hospitals for children at the end of the year. You’ll also need a lot of lights – 5,000 or even more.
  9. Stand the tree up. Using four ropes and about 20 of your friends, pull the tree upright until it falls into the base. Three of the ropes will pull the tree up while one on the backside will ensure that it doesn’t topple over the other direction. Once standing, bolt the tree to the base to secure it.
  10. Decorate the bottom half of the tree. Using ladders, decorate the rest of the tree. Hopefully you’ve been testing the lights as you go…
Ah! Now you can step back, enjoy the tree, and start looking for some new friends to replace the ones who will never speak to you again after this project.

Okay, maybe this isn’t so easy after all. To truly appreciate all of this work, you’ll definitely want to visit the Capitol to enjoy this tree. One great time to go would be this Friday, December 2nd, when they will be having a tree lighting at 6 pm.

For a much easier tree but still a bit of adventure, be sure to visit one of the many Washington family Christmas tree farms.

See the final raising of the tree at normal speed in the video below:


Thursday, November 17, 2016

WSDA veterinarians gear up for bird flu

Mike Louisell

It seems to me as if WSDA’s veterinarians and emergency response team members are like fire fighters – both groups train for the worst but hope for the best. The reality is, fires do happen and so do outbreaks of deadly avian influenza.
A  foam spray operation demonstrated at Lacey training event.

In October, 60 people from Washington’s commercial poultry farms, state and federal agencies and WSDA participated in a training event at the Thurston County Fairgrounds.

They learned about protective gear to wear when responding to an avian influenza event and the proper use of respirators and other safety measures. They also witnessed the operation of a foaming machine used as one of several tools to depopulate flocks during disease emergencies.

 “The trust we have developed with our producers over the years is a critical asset if we need to respond to disease outbreaks,” said Lyndon Badcoe, WSDA avian health veterinarian and epidemiologist. “Our training and the support from the poultry industry is much appreciated.”

2014-2015 outbreak

Highly pathogenic avian influenza is fatal in poultry and spreads quickly. The first outbreak of the disease in our state started in December 2014 and carried over to 2015. Avian influenza remains an on-going risk for poultry here.

In a blog post, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that the 2014/2015 avian influenza outbreak involving several states was the largest animal health emergency in America’s history. The virus contributed to the death of 48 million birds.

Protect your flock

Whether you own a large flock or just a few backyard chickens, there are several practices to keep in mind to protect your chickens from bird flu:
  • Report any signs of illness or increased deaths among your flock to your veterinarian or call WSDA’s Sick Bird Hotline at 1-800-606-3056.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer before and after working with poultry.
  • Designate a pair of boots or shoes for use only in the coop.
  • Prevent wild animals and waterfowl from coming into contact with your chickens. If you have a pond that attracts waterfowl, consider draining it if that’s practical.
  • Isolate new birds for a 30 days before introducing them into your flock.
  • Use reputable sources for birds and store in rodent-proof container.
  • Place footbaths on a concrete pad or pallet.
Poultry institute program at WSU Puyallup

Regulatory officials and veterinarians are also sharing information to help prevent an outbreak of avian flu or minimize its spread if it were to occur. Poultry experts from Washington State University, WSDA, University of California, Davis and industry representatives met Nov. 10 in Puyallup to discuss disease control. And earlier this year, the National Poultry Improvement Program Biannual Conference was held in Bellevue, also covering issues around preventing an outbreak of avian influenza.

Bird owners can visit our Avian Health Program webpage tips on biosecurity to learn more about poultry care and management, as well as disease prevention.

Monday, November 14, 2016

WSDA’s new Strategic Plan guides our navigation of the future

Director Derek Sandison and Deputy Director Kirk Robinson

To keep moving forward, you need to know where you’re going and how you’ll get there, whether with a map or using GPS navigation tools. The “roadmap” analogy is often used for strategic planning – setting a path to the future. WSDA has that now.

We’re pleased to officially announce our agency’s Strategic Plan 2016-2021. You can find our plan posted on our website.

Training farm workers
on pesticide use.
The previous agency strategic plan was dated 2009-2011. For various reasons, WSDA had not done focused planning since then. The current leadership team made planning a priority and made it an agency-wide initiative. The process offered valuable opportunities for conversation between our employees, among teams and programs and across the organization.

Inspecting corn bins.
Our Strategic Plan centers on shared, agency-wide priorities, emphasizing good government, strategic partnerships and constructive working relationships. We identified four priority goals that every WSDA program can share. Each program developed individual action plans that build
on our common ground. This creates a solid organizational foundation and encourages integrated efforts, understanding and efficiencies.

Livestock inspections.
Having an official strategic plan also creates discipline to better plan budget requests and be accountable to the public and our stakeholders. That’s why it’s included as a foundation for our 2015-2017 budget request submitted to the Governor through the Office of Financial Management.

This Strategic Plan sets the department’s direction and path for the next few years. We will periodically re-visit and update our plan as circumstances and the environment change.

I hope you will read it to better understand who we are, what we do and how we’re working to support the future of Washington agriculture and the agricultural community.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Beer lovers benefit from committed WSDA hop inspection team

Mike Louisell

Drivers entering Yakima can’t miss the sign: “Yakima, the Palm Springs of Washington.” A good choice for another welcoming sign might be “Hop City, USA.”

The Washington Hop Commission, the Hop Growers of America and the American Hop Museum are all in Yakima or nearby towns. (However, the Washington Beer Commission is in Kirkland.)

Searching for hop leaves, stems and seeds
Grown on vines and with dozens of commercial varieties, hops are the key ingredient affecting the aroma, flavor and the bitter elements of beer. Forty growers in Yakima and Benton counties produce 75 percent of the hops grown in the U.S. The crop ranks as Washington’s 10th largest ag commodity, valued at $280 million, up 34 percent from 2014.

“Hops with high amounts of bitter acid are worth more,” said Mike Firman, program manager for WSDA's Chemical & Hop Laboratory. “And hops with high amounts of leaf and stem and seed are worth less. The market and the contract between growers and dealers determines by how much.”

WSDA’s lab hopping during hop season

With the growing popularity of craft brews, American pale ales and IPAs, WSDA is busier than ever supporting Washington’s hop industry.

The agency’s hops team—consisting of several permanent lab staff and up to 35 seasonal workers—sample, inspect, grade and certify hops with the growers paying a fee for the service. Even some growers from Oregon and Idaho truck part of their harvest to WSDA’s lab for inspection.

Hop harvest ends in October
Late August to mid-October is a hectic time for the lab team, according to Chris Wiseman, senior chemist and supervisor at the Chemical and Hop Lab. She has worked at the lab for 24 years.

“During harvest, we work seven days a week,” Chris noted. “We realize how important our work is for providing unbiased, neutral hop inspections.”

After putting the hops through a screen to remove fine debris, inspectors pick through to remove leaves and stems and look for unwanted seeds. Some customers also pay for the lab to determine the hops’ brewing value, the concentration of bitter acids in the hops.

Chris Wiseman, Chemical and Hop Lab
WSDA certification is necessary for growers to sell their hops. Growers get their inspection results quickly because lab staff emails them as soon as the process is completed. Use of barcodes links each lot of hops to its original grower.

On peak days, more than 100 lots are collected and sampled.

Chris said the peak was 140 lots in a single day, stretching staff capabilities to the max. Core samples from 350,000 bales this season have been analyzed for leaf, stem and seed content, surpassing last year’s 308,000 bales. Some 2,800 commodity inspection certificates were issued.

Hop workers get media spotlight

The Yakima Herald-Republic recently captured in words and photos the enormous effort it takes WSDA staff to support growers, dealers and brewers. So the next time you see a micro-beer in the store or on tap, or enjoy a cold brew, remember that it’s likely the hops in that product were grown in Washington and inspected by WSDA.

Monday, October 31, 2016

WSDA hits the rodeo circuit to protect animal health

David Bangart
Livestock/Animal Health Inspector

WSDA Animal Services staff working at the Spokane Rodeo. 
During the busy Washington rodeo season over the last few months, staff from the WSDA Animal Services Division attended several of these events. Officials set up inspection points to assure that both participants and stock contractors were complying with animal health and movement laws.  

Agency investigators and inspectors attended check-in at four of the larger livestock events held in Omak, Ellensburg, Spokane, and Lewiston, Idaho. 

This was the third year WSDA officials were invited to attend the Idaho event and work alongside Idaho authorities to make sure animals in transit between the two states complied with animal health and livestock identification rules and regulations. Unfortunately this year’s event in Idaho was hindered by poor weather conditions, canceling many of the planned activities. 

Later that week in September, roles reversed and Idaho authorities were invited to participate in a compliance effort at the Spokane Rodeo. The Spokane rodeo attracted many contestants from across the western states and was an extremely valuable experience for all involved personnel. 
Brand inspection supervisor, Kris Budde (center) and investigator
Bryant Blake (right) talk to a participant at the Spokane Rodeo. 

Throughout the four events, WSDA officials contacted 121 participants, resulting in opportunities to educate about 39 identified violations -- mostly associated with invalid health or proper ownership paperwork. Those found in violation were issued warnings and required to come into compliance before leaving the event. 

Compliance efforts were sensitive to event operations and timelines and were conducted on the grounds with the permission and support of the organizers. This was yet another example of interstate cooperation to protect the health and wellbeing of our state’s livestock industry.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

WSDA official to speak at annual Pacific NW food safety workshop

Susie Bautista
Food Safety & Consumer Services

Federal, state, university and food industry members are gathering to discuss safe food processing and safe on-farm produce operations next month in Portland at the annual Pacific Northwest Food Safety and Sanitation Workshop Nov. 8-9.

Several employees from WSDA’s Food Safety and Consumer Services Division will be joining the conference as part of the agency’s on-going efforts at promoting food safety. Among the WSDA officials attending will be Claudia Coles, the division’s policy and external affairs manager. Claudia is a well-established training specialist and will share her insights on the federal Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Claudia will also discuss ways to support effective food safety and sanitation processes to minimize the risk of foodborne illnesses.
Milk bottle line

Miriam Burbach of the Food and Drug Administration’s Seattle District Office, will discuss implementation of the new FSMA rules.

The conference typically draws people in the food processing and food safety industries, such as food and animal feed processors, service providers to the food industries, food retailers, sanitation suppliers, consultants and regulators.  

The FDA, Northwest university extensions, WSDA, Oregon Department of Agriculture and the Northwest Food Processors Association work together to put on this annual event.

Agenda items for the conference include:
  • The basics of microbiology with a focus on Listeria monocytogenes
  • Choosing effective sanitizers and hand hygiene practices
  • Pest Control
  • Implementation of FSMA
  • Whole Genome Sequencing
  • Good Manufacturing Practices
  • Irrigation Water testing

WSDA will host an informational booth where attendees will be able to find information on multiple food safety topics. If you can’t make it to the conference, but are still seeking food safety information, or updates on courses and workshops, visit the Washington State Food Protection Task Force website.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Change would streamline certifying specialized pest control

Joel Kangiser 
Policy Assistant, Pesticide Management Division

If you’re in the business of controlling pests by applying pesticides, you may be interested in some new rules that WSDA is proposing.  A new limited specialty classification will be created for pest control operations that are so specialized only a small number of individuals across the state would fall into the category. 

In Washington, licensed applicators must pass exams and get endorsements on their license for all the different types (classifications) of pest control they do. For example, someone who treats residential landscapes for insect and disease pests must have an “ornamental insect and disease” classification endorsement. 

Currently, WSDA must go through the rulemaking process to create any new license classification, which takes significant time and resources. To speed and streamline the process of establishing specialized licensing classifications, we propose to create the “limited specialty” classification that can accommodate unique types of pest control that require certification. This rule change will help WSDA to certify applicators more quickly, while providing prospective licensees with exams that are more focused on their particular area of specialization.

Under this proposed change, where 250 or fewer individuals are performing a unique type of pest control, they would move to this limited specialty classification. Those who get moved into the limited-specialty classification will not need to take any new exams. 

Some of the existing classifications that would fall under limited specialty include:

  • Aquatic anti-fouling
  • Interior plantscaping
  • Livestock pest control
  • Potato sprout inhibitor

WSDA also proposes to create two new limited-specialty classifications to address sulfur dioxide fumigations of wine barrels and corks, and post-harvest treatment of fruits and vegetables.

Hearings on this proposal are scheduled for Nov. 9 in Yakima and Nov. 10 in Olympia. 
You can visit our Pesticide License Classifications rulemaking web page to learn more about the proposed changes, which fall under WAC chapter 16-228.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Washington students enjoy Taste Washington Day during National Farm to School month

Chris Iberle
Education and Outreach
Farm to School 

October is National Farm to School Month, and at many Washington state schools, it began with Taste Washington Day.

Salem Woods Elementary
lunch on Taste Washington Day.
This year, the event fell on Oct. 5th, as students and farmers came together to celebrate Washington agriculture. There were 45 school districts participating in this year’s Taste Washington Day, the sixth year of the event. That means at least 280,000 students ate seasonal, Washington-grown lunches and learned more about local food and farms.

Over 50 farmers signed up to be a part of the event, providing everything from apples to beef to cabbage, from watermelon radishes to zucchini. Beyond growing all kinds of tasty ingredients for the menu, farmers were guest speakers, set up displays in the cafeteria, did taste tests of their foods, and even gave interviews.

First lady Trudi Inslee and a
Pierce County Public Works educator
visit students on Taste Washington Day.
The event, officially proclaimed Taste Washington Day by Gov. Inslee, was organized by WSDA and the Washington School Nutrition Association with support from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and many regional Farm to School partner organizations.

The annual event brings schools and farms together so students can learn where our food comes from and how Washington farmers put food on our plates.

It’s also a chance for many farms to strengthen or form new partnerships selling food directly to schools.

First lady Trudi Inslee visited the Eatonville School District, where Washington-grown produce was on the menu and Mrs. Inslee could lunch with the kids. As part of the visit, Mrs. Inslee learned about Columbia Crest A-STEM academy’s green school initiatives and visited the new Kjalsted Valley Ohop Farm, where students will soon be able to learn on the farm each year thanks to the recent gifting of the farm to the Eatonville School District.

Celebrating Taste Washington Day

Nutrition staff at all of the participating schools served menus featuring foods from local farms.
  • At Methow Valley Elementary, students enjoyed a lunch of beef, potatoes, cucumbers, onions, and greens from their own school garden, Red Shed Farm in Twisp, Tomlinson Farms, and homemade buns from Bluebird Grains. 
  • At the Mead School District, students were served pluots, bell peppers, and green garbanzo beans from LINC Foods/Jackson Farms, Tabbers Farm, Delap Orchards, and Fresh Nature Foods. 
  • While in the Wenatchee School District, the menu was sourced almost entirely from within 60 miles of the district, even including tilapia fish raised by a Wenatchee High School Student for school lunches.
At some school districts, Taste Washington Day was celebrated in other ways. Students at Lake Stevens School District brought applesauce from their own apple trees at home to share with classmates. Moses Lake School District invited dairy farmers to speak to students in the cafeteria about farming and healthy dairy foods like milk. The local news covered the activities at Ridgefield School District where Quackenbush Farms and Northwest Organic Produce visited schools to talk with students.

Students at Carnation Elementary 
taste produce from nearby Oxbow Farms.

Many schools like those in the Grandview and Evergreen school districts had big “Washington Apple Crunch” celebrations on Oct. 5. Students across the state “crunched” into their locally grown Washington apples all together at noon. WSDA and other organizations even joined in the fun, to make an apple crunch heard ‘round the country.’

A big thanks to all the school districts, farmers, and students who help make Taste Washington Day a success every year.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Egg hunts - WSDA style

Karla Salp
Pest Program 

Gypsy moth egg masses in CT
Not all egg hunts happen in the spring. In the Washington State Department of Agriculture Pest Program employees hit the road for a unique egg hunt with a higher cause – protecting Washington’s environment from the invasive gypsy moth.

In the shadow of Mount Rainier on a crisp and sunny fall day, about a dozen yellow WSDA vests could be seen wandering around a neighborhood near Graham. Such “egg hunts” occur in areas of interest to the pest program after summer gypsy moth trapping results.

The eggs they were looking for, however, are a lot harder to see than brightly colored eggs in the grass. Gypsy moth egg masses are cream, white, or orange colored. They are usually oblong and fuzzy. The egg masses can be laid on any outdoor surface, but the moths tend to prefer the base of trees.

Having seen so many egg masses on my trip back east this summer, I volunteer to help out. Here are some things I learned on the hunt: 

  1. Needle in the football fields – Looking for gypsy moth egg masses is much like looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack – if that haystack was strewn over an area about the size of 15 football fields.
  2. Egg masses can be anywhere – Gypsy moths will lay their eggs on any surface. In the past, WSDA has found egg masses not only on trees, but also on tires and even on a cup.
  3. Trees are the easy part – We started looking in an almost park-like setting with trees and grass, which was easy enough. When we got to items outside of houses, it became overwhelming: carports, lawnmowers, stacks of wood or junk, garden decorations, fences, vehicles, birdhouses, bushes, tires – the possibilities are endless.
  4. Pushups are optional – I was super impressed by one of the trappers who, rather than get dirty by laying on the ground to look under a trailer, did a slow pushup to lower himself down, look under the trailer, and then push himself back up. The rest of us just got on the ground.
  5. Mirror, mirror – Small telescoping mirrors were a godsend for looking under small areas without having to do #4.
  6. Bragging Rights – When it comes down to it, it takes a lot of time and even more luck to find a gypsy moth egg mass on these hunts. Serious bragging rights can be had by finding an egg mass.

In the end we didn’t find any egg masses that day, but the hunt continues. WSDA staff will be searching again this month, weather permitting. Once the egg mass survey is complete, the program will decide if treatments will be recommended for any areas in 2017. Stay tuned for that announcement, expected later this year.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Washington Grown's new season hits the air

Karla Salp

Host Kristi Gorenson gets up close and personal with cows.
If you’ve ever wondered where your food comes from, who is growing it, and how it gets to your table, Washington Grown is the show for you!

Season four of Washington’s one of a kind, Emmy-winning farm to table television show began airing last weekend with new planned each week through the end of the year. 
Tractor tires are no small potatoes
Washington Grown’s goal is to connect consumers with those who grow and process their food. Each episode features farmers, local restaurants with outstanding recipes, and nutritional information about Washington’s crops. There are also frequently bonus features such as an inside look at food processing facilities. 

Here are the themes for October’s episodes:
Co-host Tomas practices his lassoing skills
  • October 1 & 2 – Party Time
  • October 8 & 9 – Beef
  • October 15 & 16 – Raspberries
  • October 22 & 23 – Women in Agriculture
  • October 29 & 30 – Olympia Peninsula Seafood

Washington Grown can be viewed this fall on Northwest Cable News on Saturdays at 5:30 pm and on Sundays at noon and 8:30 pm. If you don’t get Northwest Cable News or if you miss a show, episodes are posted on Washington Grown’s website after the first airing. Washington Grown can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube