Monday, December 18, 2017

Listening to the agriculture community


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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