Friday, December 29, 2017

WSDA’s 2017 year in review

Mike Louisell

This past year, Washington escaped the devastating wildfires, flooding and droughts affecting other states. But 2017 was still a busy year for WSDA. Here are a few highlights from our year.

New ways of serving the ag industry 
The agency’s primary purpose is to serve the agriculture industry, and sometimes that means we need to upgrade our gear.
This past year, one major upgrade was the completion of a 4,800 square-foot greenhouse, replacing an older, smaller greenhouse that had been in use for years. Located at Washington State University’s Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center at Prosser, the new WSDA greenhouse features improved temperature and irrigation controls and allows nurseries to offer virus-tested, disease-free stock to orchardists and fruit producers across the U.S. and for export markets.

Bug history made in August
In August, we made an astonishing discovery – an active gypsy moth nest hidden among some shrubbery in a Pierce County community. It is the first instance ever of anyone detecting live female gypsy moths actively laying eggs.
Altogether, about 100 live females and 95 males gypsy moths were caught in this one location. While that was not a record for total seasonal catches, finding an active nest made for an historic discovery for our gypsy moth program.

Travelling for agriculture 
WSDA Director Derek Sandison is a great believer in getting out and meeting with those involved in agriculture. Some meetings were close to home, such as his participation in the South King County Agriculture Town Hall. There, Director Sandison joined 4-H coordinators, WSU researchers and local government leaders to discuss ways to support farming near an urban community.

But some trips took the director out of state, such as the trade mission to Mexico led by Governor Jay Inslee. The delegates visited both Guadalajara and Mexico City, touring markets, meeting with government officials and generally demonstrating the importance of Mexico to Washington agricultural exports.

New programs 
This year two new programs at the agency got under way – the Produce Safety Program and the Industrial Hemp Pilot program.
The Produce Safety Program was created in partnership with the Food and Drug Administration, which provided a 5-year grant to fund the program. Its primary mission is to help producers in our state comply with the new requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act.

Also gearing up in 2017 was the new Industrial Hemp Pilot, created after the legislature allocated $145,000 for WSDA to launch the new program. The first hemp growing licenses were issued this past spring. However, funding for the program only covered the first year and the seven licenses issued do not cover operational costs. The program faces an uncertain future for 2018.

Consumer protection 
WSDA’s Weights and Measures inspectors did more than the usual, but critical, monitoring of gas pumps and scales for accuracy. The team also collaborated with financial institutions to combat fraud by inspecting fuel dispensers for credit card skimmers, which can steal credit and debit card information from unsuspecting consumers.

Also this year, the inspectors began placing fuel rate stickers on gas pumps during their routine inspections, following a legislative mandate to inform consumers of taxes on fuel. The current total taxes drivers pay when filling up includes 67.8 cents per gallon for state and federal taxes on gasoline and 73.8 cents for gallon for diesel.

Fair time 
WSDA typically staffs a public outreach booth at one county fair most summers, but this past year, the agency set up booths at three fairs across the state, including the Washington State Fair in Pierce County, the Central Washington Fair in Yakima County, and the Evergreen State Fair in Snohomish County.
Director Sandison visited all three locations, as did state veterinarian Dr. Brian Joseph and numerous agency employees. Director Sandison also attended the Grant County Fair, where he was interviewed for the television show Washington Grown.

Looking ahead to 2018
Much anticipated by both staff and stakeholders, WSDA is just starting the process of updating its website, which hasn’t been revised in at least a decade.

In Eastern Washington, keep an eye out for newly designed apple maggot signs, which WSDOT will install this spring.

WSDA will be monitoring the all-important 2018 Farm Bill, working with members of Washington’s congressional delegation and our partners at the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture.

Stay connected with WSDA
These highlights barely scratch the surface of the work that the agency has done in 2017. To stay up with the latest news, follow us in 2018 through this blog, on Facebook or Twitter, and now on Instagram.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Update on current equine herpes quarantine

Dr. Brian Joseph
Washington State Veterinarian

Interest has been high in a case of EHV-1, neuropathogenic strain, detected earlier this month in King County. This particular strain of equine herpes virus is highly contagious and, while it won’t infect people, it can be fatal to horses.

Since being notified of the infected horse on Dec. 13, WSDA has had a quarantine in place at the stable where it was housed. So far, 32 horses housed at the stable have been tested. The virus has been detected in 9 of these horses. Seven horses have been euthanized, while several others are being monitored.

The virus spreads between horses only at certain stages of the disease, so not all horses have currently been tested. Even though we may not detect the virus when testing, the horse may still be infected. At the same time, even if we detect the presence of the virus in the horse or if the horse develops neurological symptoms, it does not mean the horse will be euthanized. Most horses recover.

Given the highly infectious nature of the virus, we continue to urge horse owners to watch for signs of possible infection, such as:

  • Fever of 102.5F or higher.
  • Discharge from the eyes or nose.
  • Respiratory symptoms.
  • Swelling of the limbs.
  • Spontaneous abortions.
  • Neurological signs such as unsteady gait, weakness, urine dripping, lack of tail tone and recumbency.

We recommend that horse owners:

  • Check your horse’s temperature twice daily, ideally first thing in the morning, and last thing at night. Also, check before administering medications as some can lower body temperature.
  • Notify your veterinarian immediately if you detect any of the symptoms above.

In addition to working with the horses, WSDA and local veterinarians have been working closely with the local community to ensure excellent biosecurity is practiced whenever someone must leave the stable. For more tips on keeping your own horses safe through good biosecurity practices, please see our previous blog post on this incident.

The time between exposure and illness from EHV-1 varies from two to 14 days. By self-quarantining animals with possible symptoms, practicing good biosecurity and contacting your veterinarian as soon as you suspect possible symptoms, you can help prevent the spread of this virus.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Tips for horse owners – protecting your horse from equine herpes virus

Dr. Brian Joseph
Washington State Veterinarian 

Last week, WSDA was notified of a laboratory-verified case of equine herpes virus myeloencephalopathy or EHV-1, neuropathogenic strain, in King County.  EHV-1, in its neurotropic form, is a highly contagious virus that can be fatal to horses but will not infect people.
WSDA immediately put a quarantine in place and has been testing horses that were housed near the first infected horse and horses showing clinical signs of infection. Work has also begun to trace animals that may have come into contact with the first infected horse. So far, five additional horses at the stable have been found to be infected and are being closely monitored.

Given the highly infectious nature of the virus, WSDA is urging horse owners to follow these recommendations:
  • Watch your horse for signs of possible infection, such as:
    • Fever of 102.5F or higher
    • Discharge from the eyes or nose
    • Respiratory symptoms
    • Swelling of the limbs
    • Spontaneous abortions
    • Neurological signs such as unsteady gait, weakness, urine dripping, lack of tail tone and recumbency.
  • Check your horse’s temperature twice daily, ideally first thing in the morning, and last thing at night. Also, check before administering medications as some can lower body temperature.
  • Notify your veterinarian immediately if you detect any of the symptoms above. Your veterinarian may want to take nasal swabs for virus detection or blood samples for evidence of exposure to EHV-1.

Testing and vaccines

Suspected cases should be checked for EHV-1 by a veterinarian. The Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in Pullman provides EHV-1 testing, including differentiating the EHV-1 neuropathogenic strain. Veterinarians can contact WADDL at (509) 335-9696 to submit a red top (serum) blood tube, and a lavender top (whole blood) tube and nasal swabs.

Although there are several EHV-1 vaccines available that control respiratory disease or abortion in horses, none of the vaccines provide immunity against EHV-1, neurotropic form.

Keep it clean and protect your horse

The disease is spread from horse to horse through direct contact, on feed, tack and equipment. While people cannot be infected by the virus, they can carry it on their clothes or hands. Here are some biosecurity steps horse owners should follow to protect their animals from becoming infected or spreading this virus:
  1. Wash hands, clothing and equipment and avoid using the same equipment on different horses.
  2. Monitor all horses on your premises for symptoms.
  3. Limit direct horse-to-horse contact.
  4. Limit stress to horses.
  5. Clean barn areas, stables, trailers or other equine contact surfaces thoroughly, removing all organic matter (dirt, nasal secretions, uneaten feed, manure, etc.), then apply a disinfectant. Organic material decreases the effectiveness of disinfectants. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations when mixing disinfectants and for contact time.
  6. Use footwear disinfectant and hand sanitizer when moving between areas.
  7. If you have a potentially exposed horse, restrict human, pet and vehicle traffic from the area where the exposed horse is stabled.
  8. Clean all shared equipment and shared areas, again removing dirt and manure before application of a disinfectant.
  9. Self-quarantine any horses with possible symptoms away from other horses and contact your veterinarian immediately.
The time between exposure and illness from EHV-1 varies from two to 14 days. By self-quarantining animals with possible symptoms, practicing good biosecurity on your property and during travel, and contacting your veterinarian as soon as you suspect possible symptoms, horse owners can do a lot to prevent further spread of the virus.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Listening to the agriculture community


On a late Friday afternoon, the Hal Holmes Community Room in Ellensburg held nearly two dozen people, all representing different sectors of Washington’s agriculture industry, from tree fruit and potatoes to wine and cattle.

Meeting in Ellensburg, Dec. 8, 2017. At the table
(L-R) Colleen Kerr, Ron Mittelhammer, Phil Weiler,
Kirk Schulz, and (standing) Derek Sandison.
The Dec. 8 meeting was organized by WSDA and Washington State University leadership as an opportunity to engage with leaders in the state’s ag community. The agenda included time for Director Derek Sandison and Washington State University President Kirk Schulz to discuss WSU’s College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS) and a search for its next dean.

The agenda also provided time for those gathered to share their priorities regarding ag communications, discuss support for a 2018 farm bill and other issues of concern to them.

“The best thing we can do is listen if we’re going to do our part to support Washington’s vibrant agriculture community,” Director Sandison said.

WSDA Director Derek Sandison
addressing the room.
Joining President Schulz at the meeting were members of his leadership team, including Colleen Kerr, vice president for external affairs and government relations, Ron Mittelhammer, current CAHNRS dean, and Phil Weiler, vice president for marketing and
communications. The meeting began with an update on the search for a new dean for CAHNRS. The process began in late 2016, but is down to four finalists currently being considered for the position. President Schulz also shared his vision for CAHNRS and its role supporting Washington agriculture.

For one thing, he said, he wants to ensure the research that is done produces results that help agriculture succeed in the marketplace. Additionally, he would like to see the school get a broad range of students interested in agriculture, including those studying engineering, accounting, and communications. Finally, he is hoping the new dean will be externally focused, out and about talking to people.

The ag representatives also shared their priorities, including more research on soil health and strategies for retaining good instructors at CAHNRS.

WSU President Kirk Schulz speaking. 
Meeting with industry representatives is a hallmark of Director Sandison’s administration. He regularly attends industry conferences, confers with state and federal representatives, and joins agriculture representatives at meetings in Washington D.C. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

7 Tips for Getting the Best Christmas Tree

Karla Salp
WSDA Communications

Grand fir Christmas trees

Whether it’s a long-held tradition or your first tree hunt, the trip to find the perfect tree can be an exciting experience.

We recently visited Sprouffske Tree Farm in Rainier to talk with owner Shelley Sprouffske about growing Christmas trees.

She shared her top tips for selecting the best tree if you’re purchasing one and how to prepare for a visit to an actual tree farm or lot.

7 Tips for Getting the Best Tree

  1. Get a realistic expectation of tree height – Trees look much smaller in the field than they will in your house. Take some sort of measurement so you know how tall and wide your tree can be.
  2. Dress for a farm – Remember you’ll be on a farm. It’s likely to be dirty and wet, so dress in layers and wear appropriate footwear. 
  3. Call ahead – Make sure the tree farm allows you to cut your own tree. Find out exactly when they are open, whether they have saws to lend or you need to bring one, etc. Ask if the farm bales the trees to make them smaller to transport home.
  4. Bring a broom – Yes! Bring a broom or pole to hold up the bottom branches to make it easier to cut down your tree.
    Example of a good cut, close to the ground
  5. Cut the tree close to the ground – When cutting the trunk, cut close to the ground so you have as much trunk to work with as possible when you get home. You can always cut off more of the trunk if it is too tall, but you can’t add it. 
  6. Bring twine or rope – If you are hauling your tree home on top of the car, bring twine or rope to tie the tree to the roof of your car. 
  7. Cut and water – Whether putting your tree up immediately or in several days, when you get home, give it a fresh cut and put it in water to make sure your tree stays green all season long. 

Meet a Christmas tree farmer

Shelley Sprouffske and her son
Want more tips about keeping your tree green, what to do with it after Christmas or how to pick out a great tree from a tree lot? Check out the full Facebook live interview with Shelley below.

If you are interested in visiting a tree farm in your area, click here to download a statewide list of licensed Christmas tree growers.

Photo of Shelley Sprouffske - Washington State Christmas Tree Farmer

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Women in ag conference inspires current, future leaders

Kathy Davis

Washington farmer Susan Ujcic 
bunches kale at Helsing 
Junction Farms in Rochester. 
A room full of women, all involved in some aspect of agriculture, can create a powerful sense of support and encouragement. A regional network of hundreds of such women connected simultaneously by technology generates mighty momentum. 

Participants across five states and three time zones gathered in 40 different locations to take part in this year’s Women in Agriculture Conference on Saturday, Nov. 18. This annual event connects women in ag throughout the Northwest with on-site networking and activities, as well as streamed speaker presentations. 

WSDA hosted the Olympia site in our headquarters, the Natural Resources Building. Occupations and interests of the 28 attendees ranged from small farms, farm/forest operations, and gardening to a seed company. Staff from WSDA Organics Program, Thurston County Conservation District, Olympia Farmers Market, Employment Security Department, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Washington’s Dairy Ambassador were also in attendance. 

This was the sixth annual Women in Agriculture Conference, sponsored by Washington State University (WSU) Extension. As with previous events, it was a day packed with learning, connecting and empowerment. 

The 2017 conference theme was “We Can Do It” and focused on building leadership among women in the industry. Topics echoed by the featured speakers, the local panelists and those in the room hit upon:

  • How to support each other.
  • Being a mentor and being mentored.
  • Getting involved in your broader community; volunteering.
  • Being an advocate.
  • Understanding your natural strengths and where to improve.

Speakers inspire
Alexis Taylor, director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture, talked about her upbringing on an Iowa farm that had been in her family for 180 years. From doing chores as a kid, she went on to serve in the Army and work at USDA in Washington D.C. She was promoted to lead a USDA program with 14,000 employees, and offices across the U.S. and the world. 
Conference attendees at the Olympia site, engaged with event activities. 

“I knew I didn’t want to be a farmer, but didn’t know then I could have such an incredible career in agriculture,” she said, adding that her career has taken her to more than 30 countries. 

Anne Schwartz, the other keynote speaker, owns and runs Blue Heron Farm in Skagit County and has also long been involved in agricultural advocacy. 

Schwartz encouraged conference attendees to learn about their local community groups, joining, volunteering, becoming a board member, or engaging in any way that feels right to them. 

“Leave your farm a little more than you may be comfortable with,” she said.

Olympia site
In Olympia, we had the benefit of a diverse and powerful panel of local leaders in agriculture:

  • Ava Arvest, founder of MycoUprrhizal, an Olympia-based mushroom business
  • Mary Dimatteo, executive director of the Olympia Farmer’s Market
  • Rachael Taylor-Tuller, farmer/owner of Lost Peacock Creamery

The panel members answered questions posed by the site facilitator, Christina Harlow from the USDA regional National Agricultural Statistics Service office. 

Among their many insights, all three panelists agreed that it’s often difficult for women to demand their worth. “If you don’t put a price tag on what you do, others don’t value what you do,” Arvest said. 
The Olympia site attendees pose for a group photo. 

If you missed this year’s conference but are interested in future conferences, you can visit to sign up for notifications before next year.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

WSDA, financial institutions, law enforcement out to put the brakes on skimmers

Jerry Buendel 
Weights and Measures

WSDA has been teaming up with banks and credit unions, law enforcement agencies, and gas station owners to put the brakes on the growing crime of credit and debit card theft through “skimmers.” 

A skimmer is an electronic device, sometimes placed at gas pumps, that can steal your debit and credit card information. Thieves can then sell the information to other criminals to buy gift cards or purchase merchandise for quick resale. Some consumers have even had their accounts emptied when their debit card information was stolen. 

Growing awareness of skimmer fraud
Illegal card skimmer (circled)
During 2016, when I served as chairman of the National Conference on Weights and Measures, the Secret Service and FBI conducted training about skimmers for state officials at our meeting in San Diego.  This past September, skimmer training was again on the agenda, this time at our regional meeting in Arizona. 

I have had a VISA fraud investigator speak to my team at our annual meeting in Olympia. Staff from Seattle’s Weights and Measures attended as well. Our inspectors receive updates on skimmer activities from other states, including Arizona, Michigan and Florida.  The networking is valuable. When we have doubts about what we’ve discovered, we text photos to these other investigators for an immediate second opinion. 

In short, everyone is working on addressing this national problem.

Partnering to combat skimmers
Earlier this year, I began attending a monthly fraud roundtable hosted by the Washington State Employees Credit Union. This informal group of law enforcement officers, state regulatory officials, and bank and credit union investigators exchange information and share tips. 

The group agreed to advise each other when they spot suspicious equipment or potentially fraudulent activity. The sharing goes both ways. 

This past summer, Boeing Employee Credit Union (BECU) let WSDA’s staff know that they tracked fraudulent activity back to a gas station in Moses Lake. We sent inspectors to the location, where they found two skimmers. The inspectors then notified police, who took a report on the d.jiscovery.

Our inspectors regularly check for these devices during their routine gas pump inspections and have discovered additional skimmers in many areas. 

Advice for station owners on skimmers
Fuel station owners and employees can help prevent skimmer theft by following these tips:

  • Install high-quality locks or use tamper-resistant seals on fuel dispensers.
  • Install alarms or automatic shutoff devices that activate when a dispenser is opened.
  • Inspect the fuel pumps frequently – both outside and inside.
  • Upgrade your fuel dispensers to accept chip-enabled debit and credit cards.

Consumers can protect themselves by paying in cash, using a credit card instead of a debit card and reviewing their billing statements to see if there have been any suspect purchases.  Contact your bank or credit union immediately if you find any fraudulent use of your cards.

By working together we can prevent crime and consumers and station owners can be more proactive in protecting themselves. For more information or to report a possible skimmer, contact WSDA’s Weights and Measures in Olympia at  or at (360) 902-2035.

Monday, October 23, 2017

West Nile virus season waning; Nine horses test positive

Mike Louisell

Washington state had far fewer cases in 2017 of horses infected with West Nile virus than last year.

This year, the West Nile virus was confirmed in nine horses statewide. If the number holds firm, that is far less than the 27 West Nile equine cases recorded in 2016. Most of the horses struck with the disease were not vaccinated. While some of the horses recovered from the illness, others had to be euthanized. 

The nine cases reported this year were confined to four counties. Spokane County had six. Benton, Lincoln and Kittitas counties each had a single horse case confirmed by laboratory testing. Last year, cases of West Nile virus in horses were recorded in 10 counties, all located in Eastern Washington, with Spokane County reporting eight of the illnesses.

The disease can be fatal to horses especially if they show advanced neurological signs. The best way to prevent West Nile virus in horses is by vaccination—a message you’ll be hearing again from WSDA veterinary staff next spring.

The disease is spread by mosquitoes that have fed on infected birds. It does not spread directly from horses to people or other animals. Cold weather, particularly a good freeze or two, will take care of mosquito threats until next spring.

Visit WSDA’s Animal Health webpage for tips on minimizing the risk of West Nile virus for your horses, or go to for more information about West Nile virus activity in our state, including human cases. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Learn the Ropes of Organic Certification with New Videos

Heidi Peroni
Organic Program

The Organic Program, working with North by Northwest Productions, has created two additional videos to share information with the public about organic certification and the certification process:

Preventative Practices for Organic Handlers     

Organic Livestock Feed Requirements 

These videos add to the series begun in 2015, when the Organic Program applied for and received a contract with USDA to promote Sound and Sensible Certification outreach, a USDA project with the goal of identifying and removing barriers to certification in order to make certification more accessible, attainable and affordable.

As a part of this project, the Organic Program produced three videos:

Steps to Certification: Organic Certification doesn’t have to be daunting. Explore the five key steps in the organic certification process.

Preventative Practices for Crop Producers: Managing weed, insect, and disease pests on an organic farm requires addressing potential problems before they arise. Learn more about preventative practices and how they are required for organic certification.

Recordkeeping: Keeping accurate records is crucial for any business. Find out what types of records are required for organic certification and how they will be evaluated during the certification process.

For a complete list of videos created by the Organic Program, see our organic videos page. Videos are also offered with Spanish voiceover.

For an introduction to what organic certification is all about, and additional resources offered by the Organic Program, see our Interested in Organic certification page.

Feel free to contact us with any questions, and direct clients with questions about organic certification our way. We’re here to help!

WSDA Organic Program
(360) 902-1805

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Beyond Wheat: Dry Farming in the Pacific Northwest

Karla Salp

While growing wheat without irrigation is common on expansive farms in Eastern Washington, growing vegetables without supplemental water is rare.

Tomatoes, zucchini and even pumpkins – one of the most water-dependent crops – are being grown without irrigation and it's being done right here in the Pacific Northwest.

What is dry farming?


Dry farming consists of raising crops in areas with wet winters and dry summers. Most dry farmers agree that you need at least 15-20 inches of rain annually to dry farm. Certain areas of California, Oregon and Washington have the required weather pattern to dry farm successfully.


The right soil is also needed to dry farm. The soil depth should be a minimum of 60 inches and should have good water-holding capacity. Maintaining soil moisture during long dry periods is critical and requires tillage, soil protection and the use of drought-resistant varieties.

Seed varieties 

The final factor to consider is crop variety. As dry farmers are learning, there is a wide variance in yield from one crop variety to the next. For example, one type of watermelon may have a productive yield on a dry farm, while other varieties lag far behind. Finding these drought-tolerant varieties is key to dry farming success.

Photos courtesy of Oregon State University

Should you dry farm?

The most obvious benefit of dry farming is that the farmer does not have to irrigate the crop. This can be very appealing in areas where there are water right issues or a risk of drought. Overall, dry farmers say that not irrigating means less work and fewer weeds.

In addition to the sustainability factor, many dry farmers claim the produce tastes better with flavors more concentrated in the dry farmed produce. Blind taste-testers have tended to agree.

Why doesn’t everyone dry farm?

While dry farming may appear to be the future in areas with the right weather and soil, there are challenges.


Interestingly, with the right variety, the yield per plant of a given crop can be as high as, and sometimes higher than, irrigated plants. However, dry farmed plants must be spaced much farther apart so as to reduce competition for water. Fewer plants per acre means a lower overall yield.

This may be the Achilles heel of dry farming. In a world where farmland is being swallowed up by urban areas every day, the future challenge for farming is to produce more food – not less– on shrinking farmland.

Currently, farmers are primarily paid on yield. Dry farming yields for vegetables will likely be too low to financially sustain a farmer unless the produce itself demands a much higher price, for example by having superior flavor compared to irrigated crops.

There are also very few areas in the world with the proper weather and soil to make dry farming feasible. So while there are opportunities for dry farming, it isn’t applicable to much of the world.
Another challenge is that very little research has been done to determine what varieties perform best with dry farming. Most seeds today have been developed with the advantage of irrigation, resulting in few varieties that are adapted for drought tolerance.

Opportunities and Adventure

In the areas where dry farming is feasible, it is an exciting time to be involved.

Through work at Oregon State University, a Dry Farming Collaborative group has formed on Facebook for those interested in learning about and supporting the development of dry farming. For example, members work on trials of various crop varieties and share their success and failures with the group. They also influence and even participate in field research.

Dry farming will never work on many farms, but it does present an interesting opportunity for those with the right climate and soil.

And agriculture as a whole may benefit from dry farming research as well. From the development of dry farming practices and drought-resistance plant breeds may come better tools, methods and plant varieties that may enable many farmers to decrease their reliance on water.

In the end, dry farming may lead to more sustainable agriculture for everyone.

Visit Oregon State University's website for more info.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Schools and farms come together on Taste Washington Day

Hannah Street

Olympia High School teacher Jason “Blue” Peetz lets his students do the talking. After a brief introduction, one student after another stood up to talk about the Freedom Farm’s classes, summer job training program, and the impact of this nontraditional learning opportunity.

Derek Sandison and Trudi Inslee listen to a student at
the Freedom Farm in Olympia.
The farm presentation and tour was part of this year’s Taste Washington Day activities, held across the state during National Farm to School month on Oct. 4. The event raises awareness of Farm to School efforts and promotes the use of locally grown foods in school cafeterias.

This year, 60 school districts, representing 471,208 enrolled students, and 73 farmers participated in the event. At the schools, beyond serving a Washington-grown menu, 50 percent highlighted farmers on their menus and 44 percent bought ingredients directly from a farm.

In addition to Taste Washington Day, WSDA's Farm to School program allows the agency to provide year-round support to farms and schools, ensuring consistent local produce sourcing and agricultural education.

The Washington School Nutrition Association (WSNA) and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) partnered with WSDA to coordinate Taste Washington Day, now in its seventh year.

WSDA Director Derek Sandison and First Lady Trudi Inslee were among those who toured the farm, owned by the Olympia School District.

Freedom Farm is a collaboration between the nonprofit organization Garden-Raised Bounty (GRuB), Olympia High School, and the Olympia School District’s career and technical education department. Their programs are prioritized for low-income and credit deficient students, and seek to alleviate some of the issues that come with having those backgrounds while attending conventional school. During the year, students earn school credit, and in the summer, the farm functions as an opportunity for students to earn money and job experience.
Produce growing at the Freedom Farm.
“Even though we’re in high school most jobs expect you to already have experience,” one student said. “We have amazing people who give us references for jobs.”

Under student management since 2013, the farm has produced over 37,000 pounds of fresh produce. Much of that produce ends up in the kitchen at Olympia High School, where the group headed next for lunch.

Farm to School
At Olympia High School, meals are prepared in the large, stainless steel kitchen. The appliances included one machine that resembles a large juicer. As the tour group watched, a carrot was placed into the top, and even slices shot out the bottom. The tool, provided by a grant, helps kitchen workers prepare farm-fresh produce and meet the large school district's needs faster. After being cut, the carrots can be quickly bagged and sent out to 19 feeding sites.

Derek Sandison and Nik Pitharoulis talk in
the cafeteria at Olympia High School.
Some local farmers attended the Taste Washington Day event at Olympia High, including some from Chrisman Farms, Johnson Berry Farm, and Black River Blues Blueberry Farm. Nik Pitharoulis of Black River Blues said Olympia is the first school district to use his farm.

“It’s a great source of extra income for me,” Pitharoulis said. The school district also buys his frozen berries in the offseason.

The Freedom Farmers were also recognized.

Paul Flock, supervisor of the school district’s Child Nutrition Services, held an uncommonly large tomato aloft. “When I get this kind of produce,” he said, “I get a lot of ‘O-M-G’s. These kids are students, but they really know what they’re doing.”
Students with their lunches on Taste Washington Day at Olympia High School.

Monday, October 9, 2017

WSDA monitoring flock after waterfowl test positive for low pathogenic avian flu

Dr. Brian Joseph
Washington State Veterinarian

Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) veterinarians detected a low pathogenic strain of avian influenza (LPAI H5) in a flock of waterfowl last weekend during a routine test of open class exhibition poultry at the Central Washington Fair in Yakima County.

Recent reports of these positive test results should not be cause for alarm. Although it’s always important to monitor flocks which have tested positive for an avian influenza strain, this low pathogenic strain is not the same as the HPAI H5N1 strain that makes people sick in other parts of the world. It is the strain of LPAI known to commonly circulate in North American waterfowl which does not readily infect chickens, although it can.

WSDA animal health specialists said this strain of
avian influenza is low risk for poultry and no risk to humans.
While it can potentially spread to domestic poultry or mutate into high pathogenic avian flu, we closely monitor any flocks that test positive for LPAI H5 or H7 to make sure we can respond quickly if circumstances change.

On Friday evening, Sept. 29, our veterinarians were notified that the duck flock from Lewis County tested positive for low pathogenic avian influenza. The owners were advised to remove their birds from the fair and return them to the home farm. They cooperated and removed the flock the next morning. WSDA also issued “stop movement” orders to prevent the birds from being moved and to reduce chances that the disease would spread.

Moving forward
WSDA has partnered with the U.S.Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop a continued health plan for the flock. There will be no depopulation in this case, and state officials will conduct further testing on the flock 21 days after the first test.

To improve biosecurity and help prevent infection, we urge you to keep any domestic ducks in your flock, and their water sources, separate from your chickens and wild ducks.

If you have any questions, email to reach our avian health specialists.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Washington Grown Season 5 premieres this weekend

Hannah Street

Washington Grown fans will be excited to learn its fifth season begins this weekend.

Anyone unfamiliar with the show is in for a pleasant surprise and a new world of award-winning, educational programming which this season will feature legumes, green beans, cabbage, carrots, and other specialty crops.

Washington apples, one of this
season's specialty crops, are harvested.

The first episode of the new season plays for Western Washington residents at 2:30 p.m., Oct. 1 on KOMO. While Eastern Washington residents normally have to wait until January or February to watch the latest season, the show will air on KIMA/KEPR/KLEW in the Yakima and Pasco regions at 5 p.m. on Saturdays beginning September 30.

Washington Grown connects consumers with the people who grow and process their food. Episodes often showcase local restaurants and businesses, tour farms large and small, interview growers, and walk viewers through recipes with the foods featured in the episode.

Sno-Valley Mushroom co-owners show off
their produce during a Washington Grown shoot.

A crew of adept camera operators and friendly hosts travel to every corner of Washington State, creating viewer-friendly narratives that explain how food gets from the farm to your table. It’s a chance for the state’s farmers to tell their story, explain their process, and be part of a conversation that includes all components of agriculture, including nutrition, food safety, best practices, and marketing.

If you miss an airing, all episodes of Washington Grown are uploaded to their YouTube channel, website and Facebook page the Monday after the program airs.

You can also visit for recipes, videos and more on Washington agriculture.

Washington Grown Season 5 Schedule*

Legumes - Sept. 30 and Oct. 1
Green beans - Oct. 7 and 8
Apples - Oct. 14 and 15
Who knew? - Oct. 21 and 22
Dessert - Oct. 28 and 29
Fingerling potatoes - Nov. 4 and 5
Grapes - Nov. 11 and 12
Cabbage - Nov. 18 and 19
Fresh greens - Nov. 25 and 26
Carrots - Dec. 2 and 3
Potatoes (french fries) - Dec. 9 and 10
Farmers market - Dec. 16 and 17
Beverages - Dec. 23 and 24

*This schedule is tentative and subject to change.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Looking to adopt a rescue dog or cat? Check the paperwork

Dr. Brian Joseph
State Veterinarian

Many people, moved by the magnitude of dogs and cats made homeless by hurricanes Harvey and Irma, may be considering adopting a rescue pet impacted by the storms.

As a veterinarian and dog and cat owner, I can appreciate and support this. Washington has the reputation of welcoming pets facing hardships.

I also know that animals need medical attention such as health exams and vaccinations for rabies, heartworm and other maladies that can spread to other dogs and cats they mingle with and even put human health in jeopardy.

It is important that this veterinary attention take place before the animals enter our state. No one wants to see a dog or cat they’ve adopted become sick, and put other pets or people at risk from a preventable disease. The health of your family is important and needs to be protected.

Tips for dog adopters
So what should a prospective pet owner do to protect themselves, other pets in Washington and their own potential pet? Key tips include:
Photo: Courtesy of Regional Animal Services of King County

  • If you’re adopting an animal from out of state, ask to see travel and vaccination documents. These are required for dogs and cats entering Washington.
  • If you suspect forged documents, call WSDA at (360) 902-1878 or the veterinarian who signed the certificate. If there is no signature, call the listed clinic. The health certificate may not be genuine.
  • Learn as much as possible about the animal’s prior ownership and history. 
  • Research the pet rescue group you’re adopting from and talk to others who have adopted from them.
  • If possible, keep your newly adopted pet separated from other animals in your house for two weeks.
  • If your new pet appears ill, seek veterinary assistance from your local veterinary practitioner.
  • Some local health authorities, such as Public Health – Seattle & King County, recommend checking if the pet rescue group has a permit to operate. Public Health inspects pet businesses like shelters and pet stores to make sure animals are kept in conditions that limit the spread of disease. This helps ensure your new pet is as healthy as possible, and that workers and customers are also protected. 
Documentation is vital 
Washington has rules for importing animals that cover many different animals, including dogs, cats, horses, cattle, and zoo animals. The list is extensive but the goal is to safeguard animals in our state. Here are a few of the rules we enforce for consumer protection and health reasons, rules that rescue groups must also follow:
  • Dogs entering Washington need a certificate of veterinary inspection certifying it is current on rabies vaccination. State law also prohibits dogs from entry if they come from areas under quarantine for rabies. Dogs less than three months old do not need a rabies vaccination.
  • Dogs six months or older must test negative for heartworm.
  • Cats entering Washington also need a certificate of veterinary inspection. They do not require heartworm testing and cats less than three months old do not need a rabies immunization. 
  • Penalties up to $1,000 can be assessed if a person transports animals into Washington without valid health certificates, permits or other documents required by law. 
What to look for in official documents 
Whether the document or official health record is called a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection or an Official Small Animal Health Certificate--or similar names--the information is vital for disease control and investigations if necessary. The document should include:
  • Where the animal is coming from - the "Animal traveling or shipped from" section should include a name, street address, city, state and zip code.
  • Where the animal is going - the "Animal traveling or shipped to" section should also include name, street address, city, state and zip code.
  • The species, breed, sex, and age of the animal.
  • Color of the pet or markings to help identify the animal.
  • Rabies immunization information including vaccine type, manufacturer, tag number and date of vaccination. (Washington exempts this requirement for cats and dogs that are under three months old).
  • Name of accredited veterinarian and the veterinarian's signature.
  • Business address of the accredited veterinarian and phone number.
  • The date the form was filled out.
  • The veterinarian's National Accreditation Number (NAN).
Any other important information should be included in the remarks section of the form.

Working together to protect animal health
Like other states, we’ve had some problems with imported companion animals entering Washington in the past, such as some coming in with fraudulent or inaccurate documentation.

We appreciate the efforts of animal control agencies, health departments, the Centers for Disease Control, and the animal rescue groups we have worked with to ensure animal health is protected.

Taking in a pet is a significant decision. At WSDA, we want to help ensure that the animal you adopt is healthy and the health of other pets in our state is protected for everyone else.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Sharing wheat country with the media

Hector Castro

Wheat farming, like much of agriculture, is a tough business. Pests and weather can damage crops, prices fluctuate, and equipment must be constantly maintained. On top of all this, at a time when more and more people want to know where their food comes from, fewer members of the public, including reporters, have ever worked a farm.
Reporters and others gather at Green View Farm for
a tour of farms and farm equipment.

So the Washington Association of Wheat Growers hosted amedia day this past summer, taking a few reporters for a tour of some Spokane area wheat fields on a warm, sunny day in late August.

A reporter gets an inside view of a combine at
Green View Farm.
The goal was to strengthen relationships with agriculture industry reporters and help those new to the field. For everyone on the tour, it was a day to learn what it takes to cultivate wheat and get it to market, WAWG president Ben Adams said.

“We want to showcase the full process,” he said before the start of the media tour.

Reporters with the Capital Press, the Spokesman Review, the Washington State Wire website and a local weekly newspaper participated. I joined Jason Ferrante, assistant director for WSDA’s Commodity Inspection Division, and Philip Garcia, manager of the Grain Inspection Program, as part of the WSDA group attending the tour.

Planting, harvest and storage
Piling into a waiting bus, the group of a dozen people first travelled to the wheat farm of WAWG Vice President Marci Green, a sixth-generation wheat farmer.

Lonnie Green explains wheat, with wife, Marci Green,
vice-president of Washington Asoociation of Wheat Growers. 
In a cavernous barn and on a wide open field, reporters got up close to the planting and harvesting equipment used to grow wheat. In the barn, Lonnie Green, Marci’s husband, explained the workings of a massive vehicle that can dig a furrow, fertilize it and deliver seed – all at the same time, employing technology unheard of when Marci’s family first began to farm.

On the tailgate of a pickup truck, Lonnie had several dry stalks of wheat. He threshed the stalks of soft white wheat and winter wheat between his hands so the grain would fall loose onto the tailgate of a pickup, showing in their size and quantity the differences between the two.
Barley harvest at Rattlers Run Farm. 

But the field at the Green View Farm wasn’t prime for harvest, so the group travelled to nearby Rattlers Run Farm, where barley harvest was underway. The reporters on the tour each had a chance to climb aboard the towering combine for a harvest-time ride.

In between, they snapped photos of the machine in action as it churned its way through acres of golden barely.

After planting and harvest, the grain has to get to market. For growers who don’t store their grain on site, their grain is hauled to a storage facility, like the McCoy Grain Terminal near Rosalia. The facility can hold 11 million bushels of grain in piles like small hills and inside towering grain bins. Trucks and rail cars both deliver grain to the terminal, where their loads are weighed and sampled for grading.

Viewing grain pile at McCoy Grain Terminal.
In Washington, wheat consistently ranks among the state’s top commodities, with 90 percent of it bound for markets in Japan, South Korea and the Philippines. So grading the grain is critical and has a direct impact on the price wheat growers can get for their crops. WSDA’s own Grain Inspection Program grades and processes grain from an annual average of 25 to 30 million metric tons bound for export. The program also processes an average of 32,000 samples each year at its three domestic inspection offices.

WAWG’s media tour this past summer mirrored other similar outreach efforts farmers and ranchers in Washington and across the country have made in recent years, as they continue seeking ways to reach out and tell the story of agriculture.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Making gypsy moth history in Washington

by Karla Salp

For WSDA entomologists, August has been an exciting month.

Trap with 14 male gypsy moths
On July 31, record numbers of gypsy moths started showing up in traps in the Graham/Puyallup area. From two traps with two moths each to a trap with 6 moths, then 8, then 14. In all, 37 male gypsy moths were caught in that area on a single day.

By comparison, we found 25 moths total during three months of trapping last year across the whole state.

But for the entomologists and trappers in our Pest Program, the high point was still to come.

An extraordinary find 

Female gypsy moths laying egg masses hidden by a shrub
Given the unusually high number of catches, our gypsy moth team went to inspect the area Aug. 1 to find the source of the moths. Ground zero turned out to be a tree and some bushes in a residential neighborhood, where, for the first time in the program’s 40-year existence, entomologists found live female gypsy moths, actively laying eggs.

The first two team members to arrive had only an empty food carton from Taco Bell, but they quickly put it to use collecting live females. Because European gypsy moth females don’t fly, they were relatively easy to pick up and contain. Male moths tried to fly off, but they were caught mid-air and didn’t get far.

Eventually, more team members arrived with better collection equipment. By the end of the day, 71 female moths were found, several male moths, numerous egg masses, viable pupae, empty pupal casings, shed caterpillar skins and lots of caterpillar frass (poop.)

On follow up visits, about 30 additional females were found, until the bushes were removed on Aug. 4. In total, approximately 100 female gypsy moths were collected.

Processing the material

Part of the collected specimens after being sorted by WSDA entomologists 
But the work wasn’t done. All the moths, pupae and other materials collected had to be brought back to WSDA’s labs to be frozen and sorted, with entomologists sifting through the materials to tally the number of moths. Potentially useful specimens will be used for displays taken to public education and outreach events. The rest will be destroyed to ensure no gypsy moths survive or escape.

An invasive species scavenger hunt

WSDA entomologist collects two more female gypsy moths
While finding live females in infested areas like New England is relatively easy because of their high numbers, that is not the case in Washington where the pest is not established. Because the females don’t fly, finding the one tree or bush where a new infestation is starting is extremely difficult. There are very few clues to point you to where a female gypsy moth may be hiding. So how did WSDA find the infestation this year?

High numbers of male gypsy moth catches alerted WSDA to the problem. The team was able to focus their search in the area of the highest catches. The team also looked for vegetation that showed damage from caterpillar feeding earlier this spring. But adding to the challenge, females aren’t always located on vegetation. They can lay their eggs anywhere – such as outdoor patio furniture, the underside of a brick on a house or inside an old tire, for example – so other surfaces had to be examined as well.

This just-emerged female's abdomen is full of eggs
In the end, it was skill and luck that resulted in the discovery of the live moths.

A trapper hung a trap on the tree that morning. By noon, three male moths were already trapped in it. Inspection of the tree showed it had extensive caterpillar feeding on the leaves. When the team member pulled back the bushes at the base of the tree, the infestation was discovered on the concealed base of the tree and within the bushes themselves.

It was a truly exceptional find.

The program works

WSDA inspects tree and removes infested bushes
One of the takeaways from this experience is confirmation that WSDA’s gypsy moth program is working.

Last year, two male moths were caught less than a mile from the Graham/Puyallup site where the females were found this month. Because of that catch, a high-density grid of 64 traps per square mile was established in the area. The grid enabled the team to target their search more effectively, which led to finding the actively reproducing population.

Trapping continues this year through September, by which time moths will no longer be flying. Because of the work that our gypsy moth program has been doing for decades, WSDA has prevented gypsy moths from becoming established in Washington for more than 40 years.

This discovery is another example of the great work the pest program does to protect our neighborhoods, farms and environment from potentially devastating invasive pests.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Explore export opportunities with WSDA's International Marketing Program

Hannah Street

WSDA's International Marketing Program often helps Washington-based businesses explore their export options. In September, the program will host a series of company consultations with international representatives from China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam.

From Sept. 18-22, representatives gathered in Spokane, the Tri-Cities, and Seattle will provide one-on-one meeting opportunities.

"These meetings will help exporters and potential exporters learn about opportunities and requirements for exporting to Asia, Washington's largest export market," International Marketing Program manager Rianne Perry said.

Washington State apples

Navigating foreign markets can be a challenge, but expertise from knowledgeable representatives can help companies that are interested in expanding into foreign trade.

The representatives at these consultations can help a business operator understand distribution chains and import requirements, identify product opportunities and buyers, and develop export or marketing plans.

Although there is no charge to attend a consultation, space is limited. Anyone interested in joining a meeting should complete an application. Additional details are provided on the International Marketing Program's event flyer. You can also contact WSDA trade specialist Julie Johnson at or 360-902-1940.

International Marketing Program staff and international
representatives tour a fruit packing facility in 2016.