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. It was a 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," said WSDA trade specialist Julie Johnson.

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, or view 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

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 provide's 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 Awards. 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.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Seattle waste pesticide event safely disposes of hazardous chemicals

Hannah Street
WSDA Communications intern

Carts were prepared, tarp was laid down, and a safety meeting was in full swing by 8 a.m. Customers weren't scheduled to arrive for another two hours, but WSDA's waste pesticide collection event crew had been at the Seattle location since before 7:30 a.m.

A worker handles a container of DDT
before safely packing it in a disposal receptacle. 
A lot of preparation is involved before a waste pesticide collection takes place. Chemists and contracted laborers have the process down to an exact science.

Every chemical expected during the event is charted beforehand. Avoiding spills is always important, but the stakes are higher when the materials involve toxic chemicals like acids or long-banned pesticides like DDT.

Those who handle the chemicals suit up in bright yellow safety suits, taping sleeves around their wrists and pants around their ankles. Rubber boots, protective gloves and respirators add additional protection for the workers.

Others working at the event wear bright safety vests and must attend a pre-event safety meeting. Eventually, vehicles will be guided, one by one, to the unloading zone, which is taped off and covered with plastic tarp.


WSDA’s first waste pesticide collection event was held in 1988, collecting 48,000 pounds of unwanted pesticide products from 138 customers. Since then, WSDA has collected 3.3 million pounds of waste pesticide at collection events held around the state.

Waste Pesticide Program Coordinator Joe Hoffman
is interviewed by KOMO 4 News.
The Waste Pesticide Program provides a free public service collecting unusable pesticides from residents, farmers, businesses, and public agencies.

The program works to properly dispose unused or unusable pesticides, prevent the use of cancelled pesticides and provide education and technical assistance as needed. If unwanted pesticides aren’t collected properly, containers can age, potentially leaking hazardous chemicals into the environment.

Waste Pesticide Collection event

Waste pesticide event workers adjust their hazmat suits
and check materials prior to unloading pesticides.
At the June 20 collection event in Seattle, 32 customers were scheduled to bring up to 8,000 pounds of pesticides for disposal. Preparing for their arrival began early with WSDA staff and employees from Clean Harbors Environmental Services, the disposal contractor, placing the sheets of plastic on the ground and duct taping them to prevent slippage.

The first vehicles began to arrive about 9:30 a.m., carrying a wide variety of pesticide products.

Unloading and packing these pesticides is meticulous work. Each can, bottle or box of chemicals was cross-referenced with the previously prepared chart. Customers had to provide the names of pesticides being unloaded and, if they couldn't, the contents were recorded as “unknown.”

“It’s a very highly technical process,” WSDA Waste Pesticide Program Coordinator Joe Hoffman said.

Containers used to hold and
transport waste pesticides.
Waste pesticide workers then wrote down the chemical’s code number and re-packed it into one of many large drums. The drums were placed in a Clean Harbors truck for transport to Utah, where they will be safely incinerated.

WSDA's waste pesticide collection events are held around the state at various times of the year. Visit for more information about the Waste Pesticide Program and how to sign up for future collection events.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Bringing together women of the seafood industry to connect producers and buyers

Hannah Street

A trade mission organized by WSDA’s International Marketing Program and the USDA Agricultural Trade Office in Shanghai brought together women leaders in the seafood industry from both China and the U.S. to discuss the logistics of potential business relationships.

The trade mission group poses at the National Oyster Company on June 23, 2017.
The group of a dozen mostly women met Friday at the agency’s main office in Olympia for a round-table discussion that included representatives from Washington shellfish operations and potential buyers from China. Afterwards, the group paid visits to local shellfish farms and operations. The previous day, WSDA staff had partnered with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) to bring the group of buyers to meet with women in other seafood industry sectors in the Seattle area.

China is one of Washington state’s top agriculture trading partners. In 2016, China imported $683 million worth of Washington food and agriculture products, with seafood, wheat and french fries topping their buying list.

Interest between the two groups at the Friday’s meeting was mutual. Producers are eager to expand their reach, and there’s a fresh food market in China with room for the unique flavors of Pacific Coast shellfish.

“Chinese consumers want high-quality shellfish and more of it,” said Ren Chen, Director of Strategic Sourcing at Shanghai Yiguo E-commerce Company.

Challenges include cultural differences and variances of shellfish knowledge that will test marketing and distribution skills. For example, one attendee explained testing practices differ between American and Chinese regulatory groups because consumers in both countries eat seafood differently.

Dungeness crabs, for example, have encountered testing holdup because Americans eat crab meat but Chinese eat the entire crab.

The group discusses trade and challenges women face in the shellfish industry
during a roundtable meeting on June 23, 2017.
The Chinese businesses included consumer grocery platforms and large-scale, regulatory entities with mainstream e-commerce and retail clients. Washington companies included local shellfish giants, like Taylor Shellfish, and niche companies like Set & Drift Shellfish which markets Fjordlux oysters.

Regardless of business model, the Chinese representatives emphasized hyper-fresh and hyper-available products. Smooth importing is crucial; getting seafood from the docks to stores is one battle. Familiarizing consumers with Pacific Northwest seafood products is another.

“Chinese are not very sophisticated about oysters, and there isn’t as much knowledge about Washington oysters,” said Helen Gao of Shanghai Gfresh.

To increase demand of Washington oysters in an overseas market dominated by the economy and familiarity of French oysters, education, like taste cards with flavor profiles and taste testing, is key.

In addition to product acclimation, marketing and selling the imported seafood must fit seamlessly with the Chinese consumer’s way of life. Americans do most grocery shopping once per week, whereas Chinese do their grocery shopping daily, at most going three days between trips, said Gao.

Another difference is that American markets can handle large shipments of shellfish because Americans buy large quantities, especially frozen products. Chinese representatives agreed, however, that their consumers would want smaller, consumer-friendly packaging within large shipments.

“It was amazing to see so many women in leadership positions come together to discuss these issues,” said Rianne Perry, manager of the International Marketing Program.

Representative from USDA, WSDA and ASMI pose in Seattle on June 22, 2017.

Monday, June 26, 2017

A toast to our dairies: Last week of June Dairy Month

Kirk Robinson
Deputy Director

Dairy farmers across the U.S. are in the final week of June Dairy Month, a time to publicize the important role the industry brings to our economy and food supply. It’s a time to recognize hard-working dairy farmers and busy cows bringing us a bevy of foods ranging from milk and cheese to butter, ice cream and yogurt.

I was raised in Grays Harbor County and worked alongside family members operating a dairy and crop farm. I now represent WSDA on our state’s Dairy Products Commission. And when I joined WSDA in 2003, I was an inspector with our Dairy Nutrient Management Program. I personally know about the long hours dairy families and their employees endure.

According to a June Dairy Month proclamation issued by Gov. Jay Inslee, 27 of Washington’s 39 counties have operating dairies, providing jobs and supporting other businesses in their communities.

On an average day, 12 million gallons of milk are consumed in the United States. In our state, 300,000 dairy cows produce enough milk for Washingtonians, as well as serving export markets in 21 countries.

WSDA support and regulation

WSDA plays a key role in supporting Washington’s dairy community – the state’s second largest commodity valued at more than $1 billion a year. Washington is always among the top 10 states for milk production. The industry estimates the economic impact of dairying in Washington at more than $3.2 billion. Dairy exports alone represent $317 million in economic impact to our state.

Our Food Safety Program inspectors ensure the sanitation of dairy farms and milk processors, and the Animal Health team strives to protect the health of herds. Our Dairy Nutrient Management Program works with dairy operators on the proper use of farm nutrients and our International Marketing team, in cooperation with the dairy community, promotes dairy exports across the globe. It also was a topic during our recent trade mission to Mexico.

So here’s a toast—with a glass of milk, of course—to more than 400 Washington dairy families and farms who contribute to the success of our agricultural communities and our state’s economy. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Mexico mission confirms value of trading partners

Hector Castro
Communications Director

At Guadalajara’s Mercado de Abastos (supply market), the third largest wholesale market in Mexico, countless boxes of Washington apples were stacked neatly in cool, clean stalls.

Many of the boxes containing crisp, plump apples sport labels created by the importers, but also place names familiar to any Washingtonian like Chelan,  Wenatchee, Toppenish, and Yakima.

El Mercado de Abastos, Guadalajara.
“It makes me a little homesick to see all these growing regions I know so well,” WSDA Director Derek Sandison said after touring the bustling market during a recent trade mission to Mexico last month.

At a national level, Mexico is the third largest market for U.S. agriculture products. For Washington, it is our 7th largest ag export market. Washington exported $313 million worth of food and ag products there last year. Mexico is also a primary market for our dairy products and apples, just one reason WSDA joined the weeklong trade mission in mid May with Gov. Jay Inslee and the Trade Development Alliance of Greater Seattle.

Our participation in the trade mission showed how much our state’s ag industry values the important partnerships we have in Mexico. It also let us see first-hand the successes some of our state’s commodity commissions have had in connecting with local businesses as they meet the appetites of local consumers.

Sister state similarities
Director Sandison meeting with officials of the
Jalisco Department of Rural Development. 
In Guadalajara, our delegation met officials with the Jalisco Department of Rural Development, the counterpart to WSDA. Jalisco is Mexico’s most agriculturally productive state and, like Washington, derives a large percentage of its revenue from farming, ranching and food production.

Jalisco state officials expressed great interest in Washington dairy operations and the advanced technology used on many of our dairies. The groups also discussed potential opportunities to exchange ideas that would further strengthen ties between Washington and Jalisco, which has had a Sister-State relationship since 1996.

Robust ag trade
Director Sandison at Mercado de Abastos,
Guadalajara, Jalisco. 
During the tour of the Mercado de Abastos, delegates met several importers who ship large volumes of Washington produce, including apples, pears and cherries in season, for sale to local restaurants, markets and consumers.

The presence of Washington apples, in particular, has grown tremendously since they were first permitted to be sold in Mexico following the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which took effect in 1994.

Washington currently ships more apples to Mexico than any other country.
Scott Kinney, CEO, Dairy Farmers of WA
inspects cheese at a market in Mexico.
The bulk of the trip was spent in Mexico City for tours of local businesses carrying Washington agricultural products and meetings with both U.S. and Mexican government officials. Director Sandison also joined Gov. Inslee in some of his meetings with Mexican government officials.

Insights gained from all these meetings provided useful information regarding market demands in Mexico, and both the challenges and opportunities that could come from exporting there.

Our dairy industry partners also toured a milk processing plant in Mexico City that demonstrated an attention to quality control rivalling facilities here in the U.S.

Questions about NAFTA
It was during the trade mission that the White House announced its intent to initiate discussions on updating the 23-year-old agreement. The news prompted several questions from local media and Mexican officials. On the whole, there was broad agreement that NAFTA could use updating.
Director Sandison, Gov. Jay Inslee and
Commerce Director Brian Bonlender.

“NAFTA has been good to Washington agriculture, but an update could provide additional benefits,” Sandison said. “Particularly if we stay focused on broad principles around trade.”

The trip would not have been as fruitful if not for the participation of the Washington Apple Commission, the Dairy Farmers of Washington, and the U.S. Dairy Export Council for allowing WSDA to use their representatives in Mexico to coordinate meetings and market tours.

 “Washington currently enjoys good relations with America’s neighbor to the south,” Director Sandison said. “This trade mission confirmed for me that our ties are strong and even more opportunities exist to benefit farmers both in Washington and Mexico.”

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Want to prevent salmonella illness? Don’t snuggle the poultry

Hannah Street

Recent cases of salmonella illnesses in Washington state serve as a reminder of the importance of practicing good hygiene when handling or working around poultry.

Earlier this month, the state Department of Health reported 16 confirmed cases of salmonella originating from live poultry in a dozen counties on both sides of the state. Though no deaths have been reported, five people were hospitalized.

Our local cases are part of a larger, multistate outbreak of human salmonella linked to live poultry. As with the Washington state cases, those who became sick reported obtaining poultry from feed supply stores, hatcheries, relatives or from the web.

Salmonella is a bacteria that can be found on live poultry dropping, feathers, feet and beaks. People become infected when those germs make contact with the mouth area.
Certain factors can speed the spread of salmonella, such as the inclination of young children to handle ducklings and chicks, which are in turn more likely to shed salmonella bacteria in their droppings. Since children are less likely than adults to wash their hands after handling these animals, it is vital that adults supervise children to ensure they practice good hygiene when handling poultry.

Medical attention
Symptoms of salmonella in humans include fever, diarrhea, and stomach pain. These symptoms tend to show up within three days of infection, and while symptoms can go away on their own, severe cases can require medical attention.
Healthy poultry can carry salmonella, so it’s important to maintain proper care of and hygiene around poultry.

Although outbreaks are becoming more common as more people are getting backyard flocks, salmonella isn’t inevitable if you live or work around poultry. Diligent hygienic practices decrease the chances of contracting poultry-related illnesses.
The best defense is washing hands with soap and water after handling. And while poultry, and baby chicks in particular, can invite affectionate handling, never nuzzle or kiss live poultry.
Other prevention methods recommended by the Centers for Disease Control include:
Keeping pens outdoors, as well as any equipment used around poultry.
Thoroughly cooking and handling eggs from hens.
Refraining from eating or drinking around poultry.
Supervision of young children around live poultry.

Visit the Centers for Disease Control webpage, Keeping Backyard Chickens, for more information salmonella and poultry.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Connecting farmers and buyers in the Methow Valley

Katie Lynd 
WSDA Regional Markets 

Recently, more than 30 farmers, chefs, school nutrition workers and others gathered together in the Methow Valley to connect, tour local farms and discuss the challenges they all face in the local agriculture region.

The gathering was the Methow Valley Farm-to-Chef & Shelf Farm Tour and Business Networking Event, held on May 8. The project was a partnership between WSDA’s Food Assistance and Regional Markets program, or FARM, and the Methow Conservancy’s Agricultural Program. The group included small to mid-sized diversified farmers, buyers from restaurants, schools and resorts as well as retailers.

Stina Book explains the grafting process for fruit trees at Booth Canyon Orchard.

The WSDA FARM Team’s Local Buying Mission Project aim is to connect Washington specialty crop farmers with interested buyers, and educate both sides on the components of a successful buying and selling relationship.

Participants visited two farms to learn about their unique marketing outlets within the Methow region and the Seattle area. One was Booth Canyon Orchards, which has more than 55 varieties of organic tree-ripened pears and apples that they sell into the Seattle area market. The other was Willowbrook Organic Farm, a diversified row crop operation specializing in serving the Methow Valley market with produce ranging from micro-greens and root crop vegetables to value-added sauerkraut varieties. These farm stops highlighted the diversity of farming opportunities in the Methow and got buyers out on the farm to see the grit and hard work that goes into daily farming operations.

The afternoon wrapped up with a group discussion on the opportunities and challenges in sourcing and selling in the Methow Valley.

During the discussion, the group explored reasons why farmers in the Methow choose to sell outside of the region, with some farmers explaining that it is harder to make multiple small deliveries in a fairly large region like the Methow Valley than selling in the Seattle area, where they can get a higher price and sell larger volumes.

Buyers expressed interest in sourcing from Methow producers and their commitment to finding innovative ideas to make it work.
Participants sample kraut at Willowbrook Organic Farm’s commercial kitchen.

The farmers attending the event were happily surprised by the support they have in the region and expressed gratitude towards having shared values of local food in their community.

The day concluded with additional time for participants to network, establish new relationships and explore potential sales. You can visit for more information about the diversity of farmers and the products they offer in the Methow Valley.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Farmers market season and food security

Jasmine Sanborn
WSDA Food Assistance & Regional Markets

As the sun stays out longer and the days get warmer, it can only mean one thing – farmers market season is once again upon us.

Washington state is known for growing a wide variety of products – from apples (generating nearly 64 percent of the nation’s supply) to potatoes and hops. Wherever you go in Washington, you can always find a diverse variety of fresh and delicious produce grown right here at home.

Washington State Department of Agriculture’s (WSDA) Food Assistance programs are also supporting efforts for low-income families to receive fresh and nutritious foods at food pantries and farmers markets in collaboration with the state Department of Health’s USDA Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives (FINI) grant.

Through this program, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) shoppers are able to stretch their benefits by using their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards at various farmers markets throughout the state. Each farmers market offers different benefits, so it is best to check your specific market before visiting. Some markets offer a dollar-for-dollar program where for every $5 spent with EBT, you receive another $5 in “bonus tokens” to be used on fresh produce.

One in six residents in Washington relies on food pantries that are supported by WSDA resources to put food on the table each month. In 2016, a total of 1,223,244 people received an average of 16.9 pounds of food per visit to their local food pantry. This level of use shows the value of the FINI grant in expanding options for low-income residents to obtain fresh produce.

The farmers markets listed below are participating in the FINI program. Be sure to visit for a complete list of markets offering bonus tokens this summer.

Historic Downtown Kennewick Farmers Market
Prosser Farmers Market

Wenatchee Valley Farmers Market

Port Angeles Farmers Market

Camas Farmers Market
Salmon Creek Farmers Market
Vancouver Farmers Market

Pasco Farmers Market

Port Townsend Wednesday Farmers Market
Port Townsend Saturday Farmers Market
Chimacum Farmers Market

Auburn Farmers Market
Ballard Farmers Market
Bellevue Farmers Market
Burien Farmers Market
Capitol Hill Broadway Farmers Market
Carnation Farmers Market
Central Area Farm Stand
Columbia City Farmers Market
Des Moines Waterfront Farmers Market
Duvall Farmers Market
Federal Way Farmers Market
Harborview Farm Stand
High Point Farm Stand
Lake City Farmers Market
Lake Forest Park Farmers Market
Madrona Farmers Market
Magnolia Farmers Market
New Holly Farm Stand
Phinney Farmers Market
Pike Place Market
Pike Place Market Express- City Hall
Pike Place Market Express - Denny Regrade
Pike Place Market Express – First Hill
Pike Place Market Express - South Lake Union
Queen Anne Farmers Market
Rainier Beach Farm Stand
Renton Farmers Market
Shoreline Farmers Market
University District Farmers Market
Vashon Farmers Market
Wallingford Farmers Market
West Seattle Farmers Market

Bainbridge Island Farmers Market
Bremerton Farmers Market
Port Orchard Farmers Market
Poulsbo Farmers Market
Suquamish Famers Market

Belfair Farmers Market
Shelton Farmers Market

Okanogan Valley Farmers Market
Okanogan Valley Farmers Market - Omak
Tonasket Farmers Market

Broadway Farmers Market
Eastside Farmers Market
Fife Farmers Market
Orting Farmers Market
Proctor Farmers Market
Puyallup Farmers Market
South Tacoma Farmers Market
Steilacoom Farmers Market
Waterfront Farmers Market of Gig Harbor

Anacortes Farmers Market
Bow Farmers Market
Mount Vernon Farmers Market
Sedro-Woolley Farmers Market

Emerson-Garfield Farmers Market
Fairwood Farmers Market
Hillyard Farmers Market
Kendall Yards Night Market
Millwood Farmers Market
South Perry Thursday Market
Spokane Farmers Market

Chewelah Farmers Market
N.E.W. (Northeast Washington) Farmers Market

Walla Walla 
Downtown Farmers Market (Walla Walla)

Pullman Farmers Market

Yakima Farmers Market

Monday, May 22, 2017

Exotic moth trapping gets underway

Susan Brush
Pest Program

We are quickly approaching the time of year when insect pests begin to emerge from their cozy winter state to enjoy the beautiful summers here in the Pacific Northwest.

Our exotic moth surveillance team is gearing up to begin installation of traps specifically targeted to detect three moth species of great concern: the Siberian moth, Nun moth and the Rosy moth.

WSDA trapper hanging delta trap
Unlike the European and Asian Gypsy moth, Washington State has never detected any of these three moth species. But established populations in Asia and Russia have devastated large swaths of evergreen forests. Since we have vast evergreen forests here in the Pacific Northwest these pests could devastate our environment should they make an international voyage to Washington’s shores.

The main way these pests arrive is through commercial shipping from infested areas. In order to intercept any moths that may have hitched a ride, the exotics team will be monitoring for the presence of these species at all 11 marine freight ports in our state.

Each species of moth surveyed uses a different type of moth trap coupled with a species-specific female pheromone to lure reproductive males to the moth trap.

Traps start to appear in the port areas at the end of May. The traps will be monitored throughout the summer and will be removed at the end of September.

If you see a trap in your area, please don’t disturb it while it’s performing the important task of protecting the beautiful forests here in Washington State. If you see one on the ground, we would love for you to let us know. Please contact us at or call our hotline at 1–800-443-6684 if your find a trap on the ground or have any questions about the program.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Director Sandison recognizes FFA for fostering next generation

Kathy Davis

WSDA Director Derek Sandison greets
FFA State President Alyssa McGee 
For nearly 90 years, FFA has supported the rich tradition of agriculture. By promoting leadership, personal growth and career success, the organization prepares young people to work in the agriculture sector and related industries. 

That’s why WSDA Director Derek Sandison presented a Director’s Citation Award to the Washington State FFA at the organization’s 87th annual conference at the WSU campus in Pullman.

Sandison said that in determining who to recognize with this award, it seemed like a “no-brainer” to honor an organization that is “providing the skilled leadership training that gives young people the tools to take the reins of Washington state agriculture.” 
The FFA was once known as Future Farmers of America but changed to simply the FFA to better reflect the great diversity of careers in the agriculture industry that include everything from scientists and researchers to communication specialists and educators. 

Washington FFA has more than 10,000 members in chapters throughout the state.

Watch the presentation below!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

WSDA fruit tree certification gets state-of-the-art greenhouse

Karla Salp

Director Sandison cuts greenhouse ribbon with project partners
WSDA Director Derek Sandison had the rare opportunity to dedicate a new greenhouse for the agency’s Fruit Tree Certification program on May 11.

For decades, WSDA has been renting space from Washington State University at their Prosser research station. There, WSDA conducted tests on new nursery stock to ensure that the plant materials entering our state’s nurseries were free of disease.

However, the increasing demand for disease-free plant materials for Washington’s booming fruit tree industry and the limitations of the existing greenhouse meant that it was time for WSDA to have a greenhouse of its own.

Building the greenhouse has taken several years and was the result of a remarkable partnership between WSDA, WSU, and the tree fruit industry. About 35 people attended the dedication ceremony – an indication both of the strong partnerships involved in building the greenhouse as well as the importance of the certification program to Washington’s fruit tree industry.

Dedication attendees get a greenhouse tour
Attendees at the dedication were treated to a tour, which included the three separate greenhouse bays. The newly dedicated 5,000 square foot state-of-the-art greenhouse is fully automated, featuring improved temperature and irrigation controls. Each growing bay is computer-controlled to maintain temperature ranges at which different fruit tree pathogens thrive.

The increased space and advances in the greenhouse technology enable WSDA fruit tree certification specialists to test trees at a greater rate than they have been able to in the past.

By screening for these fruit tree diseases, WSDA can ensure that Washington fruit tree nursery stock remains disease-free. This promotes not only the health of Washington orchards but ensures that Washington fruit trees can also be exported anywhere in the world.

Wish you could have been there? If you missed the dedication ceremony, you can still watch it on Facebook!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Farm to Kids

Ele Watts
WSDA Regional Markets

What if you could improve a person’s health for their lifetime through early education and positive experiences with healthy eating? At WSDA, our Regional Markets Team is promoting Farm to Early Care and Education (ECE) to make that vision a reality.

Attendees making salad with Washington grown produce.
Farm to ECE has three main components:

  • Education
  • Experiential learning
  • Local food procurement

Farm to ECE enhances life-long health and wellness of children, their families and caregivers by exposing them to positive food experiences and improving access to local, healthy foods.

During the last week in March, WSDA hosted a series of workshops for childcare and early education providers across the state. The workshops provided in-depth, hands-on training on Harvest for Healthy Kids, an innovative free curriculum for young children focused on fruits and vegetables which includes:
Harvest to Healthy Kids trainer conducts interactive workshop.

  • lesson plans
  • activities
  • recipes
  • vocabulary lists
  • family newsletters
  • art projects 

Attendees learned songs about berries; learned to prepare a simple cabbage, apple, and carrot salad and discussed age-appropriate food exploration activities for children from birth to five years old. The workshop also included training on how to purchase and use Washington grown fruits and vegetables from local food outlets (i.e. farmers markets and food hubs) in early learning facilities.

The workshops were a collaboration between WSDA, the Washington State Department of Early Learning, and trainers from the Mount Hood Community College Head Start and Early Head Start Programs and was funded through a Specialty Crop Block Grant. For more information about Farm to ECE, contact Ele Watts.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Wanted: Bugs

Karla Salp
Pest Program Outreach Coordinator

wanted poster for lily leaf beetle
Believe it or not, the Department of Agriculture is ready to take live bugs off of your hands…or yard.

Of course, it’s not just any bug that WSDA is looking for. They are in need of live specimens of the Lily Leaf Beetle, will be found for the next few weeks, primarily on lilies.

Gathering these bright red insects is part of a biological control project that WSDA’s pest program hopes to launch this spring. WSDA held public meetings in Bellevue last week to tell community members about the new pest and their plans to respond to the introduction.

The lily leaf beetle consumes both the leaves and blossoms of lilies and fritillaries. It is a threat to both home gardens and commercial lily growers. The bug was first found by an alert gardener in Bellevue and sightings of the beetle have now been confirmed throughout the greater Seattle area.

Unfortunately, eradicating this particular pest is not possible.

The good news, however, is that a biological control has proven effective in other areas where the Lily Leaf Beetle has become established, such as the East Coast. WSDA’s project involves the release of tiny wasps that predate only on the Lily Leaf Beetle; there are no other insects in the Pacific Northwest which the wasp targets.

To improve the likelihood of establishing the wasp in Washington, WSDA needs to ensure there are sufficient Lily Leaf Beetles in areas where the wasps will be released.

WSDA asks gardeners who see the beetle in their yards to report them. WSDA will collect the beetles from gardeners upon request.

You can take pictures of and report Lily Leaf Beetle sightings on WSDA’s website. When reporting your sighting, leave a note in the comments section of the form if you would like WSDA to collect the beetles.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Credit card skimmers on the prowl as you pump your gas

Mike Louisell

Gas prices and a line at the pump aren’t the only concerns for motorists these days. Crooks are at work stealing credit and debit card information as unsuspecting consumers fill their tanks.

Inspectors with WSDA’s Weights and Measures Program, who visit service stations throughout the state regularly, are discovering card skimmers placed inside the gas pumps. These skilled thieves install devices in less than a minute and prefer to target older dispensers located out of the view of store clerks. The thieves return later to steal the credit and debit card information.

“The newer skimmers are capable of sending the stolen information
to a smart phone using Bluetooth technology,” program manager Jerry
Skimmer device (circled) captures credit/debit card data
Buendel said. “In those cases, the thieves can park nearby, download the info and return later for another download.”

One victim of this theft was a Puyallup customer who discovered he
had been ripped off when he tried to make a purchase later with the same card and the card was declined. Funds in his account had already been stolen.

WSDA inspectors also have recently discovered skimming devices at gas stations in Olympia, Yakima and the Tri-Cities. Seattle has seen cases as well.

There are more than 11,000 fuel dispensers in Washington. WSDA inspectors check for skimmers during routine inspections and follow up on tips received from fraud investigators at financial institutions. At times, station owners remove skimmers they find and don’t report the problem.

“Our staff has received training on skimmers and we’re working hard with industry and law enforcement to protect the public,” Buendel said.

Consumers can protect themselves

 WSDA offers these tips for consumers to protect themselves:
  • Consider paying cash or using your card inside the business. 
  • If you pay by credit card, check your card activities regularly.
  • Avoid paying by debit card – they don’t offer the same protection as credit cards.
  • Look for tamper-proof seals on the fuel dispenser and make sure they are not broken.
  • If you see something unusual about the door or the device where you swipe your card, don’t use it. Report it to the station attendant, law enforcement or WSDA’s Weights and Measures Program.
  • Choose a pump near the door to the store or nearest the cashier. Higher visibility may keep the crooks away.
  • If you suspect your credit or debit card has been compromised, report it immediately to your bank or credit card company.
Steps station owners can take

WSDA urges service station owners to install higher security locks, use security seals, check their pumps and locks frequently or install equipment that will disable the pump when the access doors are opened.

Friday, March 24, 2017

King County – home of the Seahawks, Microsoft, and farmers

Hector Castro

Director Sandison joins panelists at
South King County Ag Town Hall.
When people think of King County, their first thoughts may be of Seattle, Microsoft, or Boeing - not necessarily cows and tractors. But King County FFA and 4-H members, small farm operators, and local elected leaders spent part of National Ag Day this year discussing farming in the shadow of Seattle.

Though held in the suburban community of Auburn, the South King County Agriculture Town Hall drew several dozen people. The panel included WSDA Director Derek Sandison, dairy farmer Leann Krainick, King County 4-H club coordinator Nancy Baskett, WSU Research and Extension director John Stark, and Auburn City Councilman Bill Peloza, who also sits on the board of the local farmers market.

“These are the kinds of events needed to raise awareness of the importance of agriculture in the Puget Sound Basin,” Derek said.

One of the challenges of farming is land disappearing to urban sprawl and the subsequent increase in the price of the remaining land. Finding people to farm the land that does remain is another problem which is why more education is needed to interest a new generation of farmers and ranchers to pick up the proverbial ball, or hoe in this case.

This is where programs like FFA and 4-H can help.

“All kids and adults have access to agriculture, even in the cities,” said Nancy Baskett, who in addition to coordinating 4-H clubs in King County also raises rabbits.

High school students Cierra Zak and Tyler Pitre, both juniors at Decatur High in nearby Federal Way, agreed that anyone can learn more about agriculture, even city kids. These two FFA members said most of their classmates have never raised animals or been on a farm, but are eager to work with animals given the chance. The chicks (referring to baby chickens and not their classmates) are particularly popular, they said.

Despite the challenges, many opportunities exist for agriculture, especially for closing the farmer-consumer gap.
Booth at the South King
County Ag Town Hall.

The proximity of these many farms to the Seattle metro area is a key opportunity. Farming remains widespread in King County, with more than 1,800 farms averaging 30 acres each. An acre is roughly the size of a football field, so if you imagine 1,800 farms each the size of 30 Seahawks football fields,that is a substantial amount of land where agriculture continues to thrive in a metropolitan county.

King County farmers, because of their proximity to Seattle’s booming population, have the opportunity to connect with consumers in person to deepen their understanding of agriculture. Whether it’s at a farmers market, an on-farm produce stand, or even farm tours, they have chances for a personal connection with consumers that can be more challenging for farmers on more remote farms in Eastern Washington.

Leann Krainick, dairy farmer and a King County Agriculture Commission member, said it’s up to those in agriculture to help educate those who are not.

“People want to learn,” she said, so she starts each day by asking herself, “What am I going to do to promote farming today?”

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

During National Ag Week, the numbers count

Mike Louisell

How many times have you heard that the public will understand and support agriculture more if farmers would just tell their story better? One key part of telling that story is the numbers that help quantify the amazing work that farmers do.

Washington’s farmers and ranchers will soon have the opportunity to help tell that story by taking part in the 2017 Census of Agriculture. Held every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the census provides a count of U.S. farms, ranches, those who operate them and much more.

“All types and sizes of farms and ranches have a story to be told through the census,” said Chris Mertz, Northwest regional director for NASS’ office in Olympia.

Information gained through the census helps USDA shape programs that help agriculture, by sharing information such as:

  • How many farms there are in each state and the average acres per farm?
  • Land use, ownership, and production practices.
  • Income and expenditures.
  • Operator characteristics and demographics, including the number of farms operated by women and military service veterans.

Census of Ag mailout

As we continue to share current statistics during National Ag Week, the next highly anticipated survey is still a year away.

“We’ll continue to talk about the importance of the census, particularly as we move closer to mailing out census forms in December,” Mertz said.

NASS also hopes to increase the number of farmers who respond online. The online census form allows producers to skip over questions that don’t apply to them, calculates totals automatically and provides drop-down menus for common answers.

“Since our 2012 Census, NASS has put great efforts in improving the online reporting experience,” Mertz said. “I’ve seen demonstrations and it’s impressive.”

Washington response above average

Although NASS statisticians and support staff produce many surveys each year, the Census of Agriculture is the only source of uniform and comprehensive agricultural data for every county in the U.S. Washington had a response rate of 78.4% in the 2012 Census of Agriculture, slightly higher than other states.

“This is the ag community’s opportunity to help shape American agriculture – its policies, services, and assistance programs,” Mertz said.

The results are relied upon heavily by those who serve farmers and rural communities, including federal, state and local governments, agribusinesses, trade associations, extension educators, researchers, and farmers and ranchers themselves.

Producers who are new to farming or did not receive a Census of Agriculture in 2012 can sign up to receive the 2017 Census of Agriculture report form by visiting and clicking on the ‘Make Sure You Are Counted’ button.

The NASS defines a farm as any place from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the census year, in this case 2017.