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 www.womeninag.wsu.edu 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 wtsmeasures@agr.wa.gov  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 www.doh.wa.gov/wnv 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 ahealth@agr.wa.gov 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 www.wagrown.com 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 jjohnson@agr.wa.gov or 360-902-1940.

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

Friday, August 18, 2017

International trade visit puts Washington fruit front and center


Among its many trade support services, WSDA’s International Marketing Program facilitates trips for international buyers and Washington state producers. These trips, referred to as trade missions, put representatives from both sides of the trade relationship together so one can learn more about the crops and markets of the other. 

A recent “inbound” trade mission welcomed representatives from Southeast Asia, Mexico and Central America. WSDA trade specialists Rebecca Weber and Julie Johnson organized this large group that represented international markets interested in the fresh produce Washington offers. 

Apples and boxes travel on conveyor belts through the Stemilt packaging facility.
The delegates, representing import, retail, distribution and wholesale industries, expressed interest in looking for fruit suppliers, which made the Washington state portion of their trip an ideal opportunity.

In Yakima, the Washington State Fruit Commission delivered a briefing before the buyers participated in one-on-one meetings with 15 different Washington-based companies. Connecting buyers to suppliers is one of the primary functions of the international marketing program.

"These meetings created an opportunity for buyers to meet with known suppliers or build relationships with new ones," trade specialist Julie Johnson said.

In Wenatchee, the Washington Apple Commission also provided a market briefing to buyers, setting the tone for the day's tours of fruit packaging facilities and an orchard.

A day of Washington fruit

At Stemilt Growers, the large group of delegates was split into smaller tour groups organized by language. Two new international marketing team members, Zachary Garza and Elisa Daun, were a valuable addition to the trip. Both trade experts, they have additional multilingual skills; Zachary is a fluent Spanish speaker, and Elisa is fluent in Mandarin. 

The tour guide gathered attendees around him and discussed current and future apple trends, with an emphasis on Cosmic Crisp. Group members asked about the new variety’s color and size, and whether and when they’d be packaged and sold. 

The guide described Cosmic Crisp’s bright color and lustre, adding that it was an ideal size for packing and shipping.

Workers sort through cherries at the Domex Superfruit Growers packaging facility.
The group then made its way to Domex Superfresh Growers, where general manager Ron Gonsalves led the group into a hallway where the packaging process could be seen. “See all this? This is new,” he said, gesturing toward the room of machines and workers. Half of the facility was lost in a fire two years ago. 

But that day, in the middle of an industry-wide cherry processing peak, an unknowing observer couldn’t have guessed at the facility’s loss. Stainless steel machines hummed and workers combed through piles of cherries, separating leaves from fruit. 

Domex Superfresh Growers is one of the largest cherry lines in the state. At the peak of cherry season, it packs up to 2,000 bins per day, and workers pack in shifts 7 days per week to keep up.

A worker at Domex Superfruit Growers separates leaves from the cherries.

At the next stop, McDougall and Sons’ Legacy Orchard presented visitors with rows of ambrosia apple trees. Scott McDougall talked with the group about varieties and orchard operations. Learning about the goals and challenges fruit growers have gave visitors more context for how fresh fruit gets from the tree in Washington to their shelves and tables abroad. 

Washington was not the buyers' only destination; before turning in for the evening, the group would trek to Seattle before an early flight to California. 

An ambrosia apple at McDougall & Sons' Legacy Orchard.
“We hope that by the time they return home,” said Julie, “they have more knowledge about Washington agriculture and are eager for trade opportunities in the future.”

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Swine health recommendations for pig exhibitors

Dr. Minden Buswell and Dr. Dana Dobbs
WSDA Veterinarians

Showing pigs at fairs is a time-honored farming tradition, but it puts pigs in close contact with each other and people. They’re also in a new environment with unfamiliar animals and around potentially disease spreading equipment, like brushes and boots. These factors can increase the risk of disease for the pigs.

Some diseases can transmit between humans and pigs, not just from animal to animal. One example is Influenza A, or “Swine Flu,” which has been a problem at fairs in recent years.

Pigs shown at the 2015 Washington State Fair.
Another illness, Seneca Valley Virus (SVV) has recently been on the rise. Also called Senecavirus A, it’s an unfamiliar disease that presents symptoms similar to foot-and-mouth-disease (FMD). The only way to tell the difference is through veterinary diagnostic tests, so alert your veterinarian if you find blisters around the snout, mouth or hooves, or notice general symptoms of illness like fever, lethargy and loss of appetite.

Before the exhibition or show

To keep your pigs healthy and limit the spread of disease, make sure you are meeting exhibition health requirements. In addition, it is a good idea take some swine health precautions.
  • Make a biosecurity plan well before you head to an exhibition.
    • A biosecurity plan involves preparing for shows, understanding disease risk factors and signs of illness, managing pig health and cleanliness while at an exhibition, and caring for your pig afterward.
  • Have your paperwork with you at the fair. 
    • Files should include up-to-date health certificates, including your name, contact information, farm address and premise identification number (PIN). 
    • The health certificate should also provide updated information about each pig, such as individual identification in the form of a unique number on the PIN tag, and a physical description.
  • Keep your veterinarian’s phone number in your barn with your pig’s papers and in your cell phone. 
  • Use an individual, readable identification method for each pig.
    • Individual identification is a helpful way to identify a pig in the event of a health issue or validation of ownership. 
At the exhibition or show

At a fair, exhibition, or sale, be sure to assess your pigs’ health on a daily basis. Here are some other recommendations:
  • Look for common signs of illness - fever (a rectal temperature higher than 102.5), loss of appetite, lethargy, coughing, nasal discharge, diarrhea, and difficulty breathing (also called “thumping”) are all signs something may be amiss.
  • Keep the area clean by washing, disinfecting and drying equipment.
    • Do not share equipment (such as buckets, brushes, restraint devices, etc.) with other exhibitors.
  • Wash your hands or at least use hand sanitizer after handling animals and before going to other animal exhibits.
  • Change barn clothes after handling animals, especially before going to other animal exhibits.
  • Report any health issues to the exhibit manager and show veterinarian immediately.
After the exhibition/show

When pigs are brought home after the fair, disease risk can be high. Pigs from different farms are brought together and comingled with each other. Just like people can spread illness by comingling with others in a public space, pigs from varying locations and health statuses can spread illness to each other. It’s a good idea to isolate returning pigs.
  • Upon returning home, establish an isolation plan with your veterinarian. An isolation period should last between seven and 30 days.
    • The isolation area should be clearly designated and far away from other pigs which have not been to an exhibit.
  • Perform chores for isolated pigs at the end of the day, after you’ve worked with other pigs.
  • Keep clothes, tools and equipment separate for each location.
    • You can also use disposable coveralls and boots.
  • Clean and wash your trailer before using it to haul other animals.
Signage at the 2015 Washington State Fair.
Healthy, happy pigs are an important part of the showing experience, and create a valuable learning experience for those unfamiliar with agriculture and animal husbandry. Keep your pig’s area clean, watch for disease symptoms, and know who to contact if you suspect a health issue.

For more information, visit www.swinehealth.org/fact-sheets, or view www.pork.org/showpigs for additional biosecurity resources.

To learn more about Seneca Valley Virus, please refer to this fact sheet

Thursday, July 27, 2017

WSDA accepting proposals for specialty crop grants

Leisa Schumaker
Specialty Crop Block Grant Program

Skagit Valley field of spinach, considered a specialty crop.
A couple years ago, LINC Foods of Spokane teamed up with specialty crop partners in Idaho and Montana to compete for funds available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Multi-State Program.

As the lead for partners from Washington, Idaho and Montana, LINC Foods received a $300,000 grant focusing on food safety. LINC is a worker and farmer-owned cooperative business that calls itself “a one-stop shop for local, sustainable food.”

The competition was tough. Out of 11 proposals that WSDA reviewed and forwarded on to the USDA, LINC’s was the only one awarded a grant. USDA only awarded funds to four multi-state projects across the U.S.

This year, WSDA is one of some 20 states that will again act as the “administrator” of selected multi-state projects under current USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) competition for new projects.

States competing for $7 million 

Specialty crop programs are funded through the 2014 Farm Bill. This round, some $7 million in federal funds are available to boost the specialty crop industry.  Specialty crops include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts and nursery crops. Washington ranks second nationally for producing specialty crops.

We hope to have one or more of Washington’s applications be selected in this current round. Projects can address regional or national-level specialty crop issues, and deal with food safety, plant pests and disease, research, or projects addressing common issues specific to specialty crops, such as marketing and promotion.

Sept. 25 proposal deadline to WSDA

Proposals are due by 2 p.m., Sept. 25, and should be emailed to WSDA at SCMP@agr.wa.gov.

We’d be glad to discuss the grant process. Contact me via email or by calling 360-902-2091.

A few details 
  • Review USDA’s 2017 Request for Applications to be aware of requirements.
  • Grant amounts range from $250,000 to $1 million.
  • Proposals must have at least two partners with substantive involvement in the project. Partners must be located in different states.
  • Submit applications to a participating state department of agriculture such as WSDA.
  • Specialty crop producer groups, associations, organizations, tribal governments, universities, nonprofits, and other stakeholder groups are encouraged to apply.
  • Projects can take up to three years for completion, but must start in 2017.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Washington Grown films local mushroom farm process

Hannah Street

On a sunny Monday morning, a white van pulled into the driveway of Sno-Valley Mushrooms, a family-owned farm nestled in the countryside of Duvall, Washington. Tomas Guzman, Kara Rowe and Kristi Gorenson emerged, taking in the picturesque surroundings and making introductions as they set up their camera equipment.

(From left to right) Kara Rowe, Kristi Gorenson, a Sno-Valley
employee,and Tomas Guzman prepare to film a
scene packing mushrooms.
The three Washington Grown crew members were at the farm to film an installment for its fifth season. The show, which tours various agricultural sites and provides recipe how-to’s, is part of an agricultural promotion initiative supported by the Washington Farmers and Ranchers (WFR).

Washington Grown has been airing since 2013, but already boasts several accolades. Kristi received a Northwest Chapter Emmy nomination in 2015, and the show received both a Silver and Bronze Telly Award. In addition, Washington Grown received an Emmy for its episode on sweet corn.

The team first completed a walk-through, coordinating their shooting plan and familiarizing themselves with the farm’s workflow.

“This is where the ‘shroom magic happens,” owner Will Lockmiller joked.

The crew met the workers bagging the nutrient-infused sawdust compound for Shiitake, Tree Oyster, and Lion’s Mane varieties, to name a few.

Sno-Valley depicts a classic shooting venue for Washington Grown. The program highlights Washington-based agriculture operations. In the past, it has aired episodes featuring Taylor Shellfish, Grace Harbor Farms, Mountain View Berries, and more. Operated by friends and co-owners Rowan Ledbetter and Will, Sno-Valley Mushrooms sells at local farmers markets and counts local retailers, food producers, restaurants, and independent chefs as clientele. They offer their mushrooms year-round and sell grow-your-own mushroom kits in addition to carefully-packed boxes of fungi ready to prepare.

Left: mushrooms are ready for the farmer's market. Right: mushrooms grow in bags in the farm's lab facility.

After head camera operator Tomas readied his equipment, producer Kara put a mic on host Kristi. Will and Rowan were also mic’d during the shoot, both of them guiding Kristi through different parts of their facility.

The Washington Grown crew had a lot of ground to cover and not much time to do so; the call sheet only allowed two hours for filming at this location. The Sno-Valley Mushroom shoot was one of two video shoots that day, not to mention one of many that would take place during the week.

But the day’s tightly-packed itinerary was not overestimated; the crew was on-schedule throughout the morning, and moved through scenes at a steady clip. Tomas zoomed around the farm with his camera, directing the owners as needed. Kristi guided the interviews, asking questions and letting the owners talk excitedly about their business model and mushroom-growing expertise.

Tomas directs Will and Kristi as they discuss the mushroom
growth process.
Kara mic’d interviewees as necessary and had a list of points to cover. She referred to it once, but between the owner’s engaged descriptions and Kristi’s questions, everything was covered. “She’s really a pro at this,” Kara said, tucking the list back into her pocket.

Shortly after noon and right on schedule, Tomas got one last shot of Kristi, Rowan, Will, and two of Will’s children, who piled onto a tractor and said goodbye to the audience. The camera and sound equipment was loaded back into the van, and the crew was off to their next location.

Will's son, Rowan, helped supervise the Washington Grown
crew during their shoot.
Visit Washington Grown’s website for more information, including recipes and the station schedules when you  can and how to watch the show.