Monday, December 3, 2018

Romaine returns: what you should know

Karla Salp
Communications

Romaine lettuce will soon be back on supermarket shelves.
Caesar salad lovers everywhere will soon be celebrating romaine lettuce’s return to local produce shelves. But with repeated recalls over the last several months, you may still have lingering concerns about buying romaine and other leafy greens. Here’s some food for thought.

What happened? 

Shortly before Thanksgiving, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a food safety alert about romaine lettuce linked to a multi-state E. coli outbreak. The alert called on stores to remove all romaine lettuce from the shelves and warned the public against buying or eating any romaine.

Investigations subsequently identified the Central Coast growing regions of northern and central California as the likely source of romaine lettuce that sickened 43 people. At this point, no common grower, distributor, or brand has been identified.

This week, CDC lifted its food safety alert for all lettuce, except romaine grown in the Central Coast region of California, where the romaine harvest is already over for the year.

What about Washington lettuce? 

If you are sure you are buying Washington-grown romaine lettuce, you can purchase it knowing our state is not believed to be part of the outbreak.

Can I eat lettuce from other states?

Yes.

Romaine lettuce from the growing areas near Yuma, Arizona or Imperial County and Riverside County in California; the state of Florida; and Mexico is not linked to this outbreak.  Romaine that has been grown indoors has not been associated with the outbreak.

Romaine returning to the shelves should be labeled with a harvest location and date.

If you aren’t sure where the romaine lettuce was harvested, the CDC still recommends against eating it.

Is produce contamination only a problem on big farms? 

No.

Although consumers can become ill from food grown on large or small farms, there are many safeguards in place to help protect consumers. Federal regulations require large farms to adopt practices that prevent the spread of foodborne illness – particularly in foods that are consumed raw, like lettuce. While farms defined as “very small” are not required to comply with these regulations, many take training and employ food safety practices anyway.

What is WSDA doing to keep Washington produce safe to eat?

In 2016, WSDA started a new Produce Safety Program to focus on providing training and education in partnership with Washington State University about how to improve produce safety on farms as well as comply with federal regulations. Here are upcoming trainings in Washington:
Yakima – 12/6 (FULL)
Tacoma – 1/29/19
Anacortes – 2/19/2019
Richland – 3/6/19

WSDA also offers a free, educational farm visits, called On-Farm Readiness Reviews, to help farms prepare for compliance with produce safety inspections that will begin next year.

What can I do improve the safety of the raw vegetables I eat? 

Here are tips from the CDC to reduce your risk from eating raw fruits and vegetables:

Wash your hands, kitchen utensils, and food preparation surfaces, including chopping boards and countertops, before and after preparing fruits and vegetables.
Clean fruits and vegetables before eating, cutting, or cooking, unless the package says the contents have been washed.
Keep fruits and vegetables separate from raw foods from animals, such as meat, poultry, and seafood.
Refrigerate fruits and vegetables you have cut, peeled, or cooked within 2 hours.
It is important to remember that eating produce provides many health benefits. Growers, processors, and the government take food safety seriously. You can help by taking simple steps like properly cooking and washing your produce to further reduce even the minimal risk that fresh produce presents.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Washington Grain Commission receives Director's Citation award

Chris McGann
Communications

Wheat was Washington's third largest crop in 2017 according to the USDA. 
WSDA awarded the Director's Citation to the Washington State Grain Commission this month to honor its 60 years of service to Washington’s agricultural community.

Proactive about meeting the challenges

Wheat farmers work in a challenging environment where issues such as weather, pests, disease, conservation, marketability and politics demand proactive attention.

At a recent awards ceremony in Portland, Oregon, WSDA Director Derek Sandison commended the Grain Commission, wheat farmers and the industry for supporting the research, marketing and education needed to address these challenges.

“I applaud the wheat industry and their partners for their dedication to ensure farming continues to be sustainable in our region,” Sandison said in a letter to the commission. “Through the continuous efforts of the staff, commissioners, growers and partners, I am certain that the wheat industry will have a positive effect on the State of Washington for many years to come.”

Exceptional Service to Agriculture

WSDA awards the Director’s Citation to highlight exceptional supporters of our state's farming, ranching and food producing community.

WSDA Director Derek Sandison presents Washington State
Grain Commission Chairman Gary Bailey the Director's
Citation award. (Photo courtesy Washington Association
Wheat Growers.)
“With nearly 2.2 million acres of wheat stretched across the state, Washington's wheat farms not only offer a crop vital to the effort of feeding the world with nutritious food, but also an important part of our state's economy,” Sandison said.

“Since 1958, the Washington Wheat Commission, now the Washington Grain Commission, has been steadfast in their aim to support the success and profitability of the more than 3,000 wheat farmers in our state,” he said.

For more information about the Washington State Grain Commission visit their website.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Do your horse a favor, give it a flu shot

Dr. Brian Joseph 
Washington State Veterinarian


Donkeys and horses are susceptible to equine influenza virus
but with regular vaccinations the disease is preventable. 
Equine influenza virus (EIV) or “horse flu” is a highly contagious but preventable disease found here in Washington.

Protect your animals with regular vaccinations and proper hygiene.

About horse flu

Equine influenza outbreaks occur annually in Washington and across the United States and are a major cause of economic loss due to lost training days and veterinary costs.

They can be prevented through immunization, but the virus remains persistent because of irregular or inadequate vaccination and asymptomatic disease carriers.

Horses in Washington have been infected

Every year, horses in Washington become infected with EIV. Since mid-November 2018, eight confirmed cases have been reported to the Washington State Veterinarian’s office. However, EIV is a common disease and is managed by private veterinarians, not WSDA.

Signs that your horse may have EIV

High fever
Thick green or yellow nasal discharge
Swollen lymph nodes under the jaw
Harsh, dry cough
Depression, loss of appetite and weakness

Most horses recover in two to three weeks, although complete recovery in severely affected animals may take several months. Any horse showing clinical signs should be isolated for at least 21 days.

Can humans get EIV?

No, but dogs can.

What to do if you think your animal may have the flu

Call your vet if you think your horse may be infected. Veterinarian treatment is vital for proper diagnosis and care. Uncomplicated cases require rest and supportive care. Affected horses should rest for a minimum of three weeks -- one week for each day of fever.

These horses should not attend shows or leave the premises during that time.

Transmission

Equine influenza virus spreads rapidly through barns, race tracks and training facilities through the inhalation or contact with germs shed by infected horses.

Contaminated equipment such as feed buckets, tack and grooming aids can spread the disease.

Practice good hygiene

The virus can be inactivated by commonly used disinfectants and diligent use of hand sanitizer.
Exposure can be reduced through quarantine and observation of newly acquired horses for a two week period; a prudent practice after any horse acquisition or transport.

How to protect your animals

Vaccinate. This is a preventable disease with regular immunizations and biosecurity.

It is recommended that at-risk horses, such as show horses, be immunized at three month intervals while sedentary horses may be vaccinated annually due to a smaller risk of exposure.

Work with your veterinarian to come up with a vaccination program and biosecurity plan tailored to your needs.

For additional information visit WSDA's Animal Health Program page.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Regulating marijuana infused edibles like food

Chris McGann
WSDA Communications


The THC infused caramel center for a
Wave Edibles chocolate turtle.
A marijuana-laced munchable might calm your nerves, help you sleep or ease your pain; it might even get you high, but it shouldn’t make you sick.

That’s the rationale guiding Washington State Department of Agriculture's Food Safety program marijuana infused edible (MIE) facility inspections.

WSDA has conducted MIE facility inspections since 2013 under Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) authority. But this year the agency took charge of food safety regulation for the pot industry, including the power to carry out enforcement and recalls.

WSDA Food Safety Inspectors Keren LaCourse and Jeff Freshly
observe operations at Db3 marijuana processing facility.   
A lot like food

At a recent inspection of Db3, a high tech marijuana extraction and production facility in South Seattle, WSDA NW Regional Food Safety Manager Keren LaCourse explained the criteria with Db3 co-founder Michael Devlin.

“It’s just like a food inspection, but it’s edibles,” said LaCourse. “We look at some of the same criteria that we could look for in a food processing establishment.”

WSDA evaluates things such as proper hygiene, sanitation, pest control, materials storage, and allergenic cross contact to name just a few items listed on a 53-point checklist.

Welcome news to some processors

Devlin said he was pleased to know that WSDA now has its own regulatory authority over marijuana infused edibles and that it will be more involved with the edible companies.

Db3 co-founder Michael Devlin and Operations Manager Lindsay
Short explain their THC extraction process and food handling
 practices during a WSDA facility inspection.  
He said it makes sense to hold marijuana infused edible producers to the same standards as food processors, with the same accountability.

A new view

When voters legalized it in 2012, Washington State’s main goals for marijuana regulation involved tax collection, preventing misuse and product safety. 

As such, tax regulation for marijuana fell to the Washington State Department of Revenue while marijuana production, processing and retail sale regulations became the purview of the WSLCB.

But it wasn’t long before regulators and producers recognized the importance of covering marijuana infused edibles the same as traditional foods where WSDA has full authority over food safety.

If it's edible, food safety matters

A single 10 mg "dose" of cannabis oil. Db3
uses a proprietary process to extract oil used
to infuse goodies like brownies with THC.
There is only a miniscule difference – a 10 mg dose of a difference to be exact – between a brownie and a brownie-shaped marijuana infused edible. Of course, that little dose can really change how that brownie might make you feel. But you could be in for another kind of experience if the rest of the ingredients, the flour, butter and eggs for example, are mishandled, contaminated or mislabeled. Call that feeling salmonella poisoning to name one common pathogen.

Delvin said Db3 was the first licensed edible company in the state. The firm makes Zoots Premium Cannabis Infusions products such as ZootBites Caramel Espresso Brownies. He said he supported the state's efforts to come up with stronger food safety requirements for the industry.

The irony

An engineer by training, Devlin has more than 30 years in the food processing field. He admits his embrace of new regulations is ironic.

“When I was working in food processing, I always believed that we were overregulated,” he said. “But when we started with edibles, it was obvious we needed the same rules as the other food producers.”

Devlin said his opinion changed because of the nature of the new cannabis industry where there may be some incentive to focus on the THC and neglect quality control for the edible in which it is delivered. If edibles producers compete at that level, they may be taking shortcuts that could increase the risk of making consumers sick, he said.

Protecting the public and the industry

Crafting delicious chocolates has always been a vocation for
 Wave Edibles Chocolatier Nola Wyse. But now she's using her
 skill set to create treats that include a perfectly balanced infusion
 of marijuana extract. 
His desire to enhance food safety regulations in the cannabis industry came partly out of what he described as a moral obligation to protect public health, and also economic concerns.

“If someone gets sick from an edible, people aren’t going to say it was salmonella, the story is going to be that someone got sick from a marijuana product,” Delvin said.

A perception that infused products are unsafe would hurt everyone, he said.

“We are founding participants in a new industry, that’s a responsibility and we don’t take that responsibility lightly,” he said. “We want the industry to be more concerned about food safety. We need to do it right.”

Edible endorsement

About 75 firms with WSLCB Marijuana Processor licenses have purchased the WSDA $895 MIE Endorsement required for making marijuana edibles in Washington state. WSDA inspects facilities within the 12 months of the endorsement purchase.

It is not legal to add MIE products under a Food Processor license, process MIE products at a facility that processes non-marijuana food products or process non-marijuana food products at a facility that produces MIE products.

For more information about food safety and marijuana infused edibles, visit WSDA's Marijuana Infused Edible Inspections page.

###

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

What do you think of biological control? Inquiring local scientists want to know!

Karla Salp
WSDA Communications

WSDA entomologist Maggie Freeman releases wasps
to combat invasive lily leaf beetles.
When it comes to fighting pests – whether weeds, diseases, or animals – many tools have been used over the centuries including manual removal, cultural changes, and use of pesticides. One of the lesser-known tools is biological control – or the use of natural enemies to attack pests.

While biological control may seem like a modern phenomenon, according to Wikipedia, biological control has been used for centuries. The first report of the use of an insect species to control an insect pest comes from China around 304 AD. Jiaozhi people sold ants and their nests attached to twigs, which they placed in trees to protect citrus fruits. The ants attacked and killed insect pests of the orange tree.

Despite their longtime use, some people are only familiar with stories of biological control agents in
Parasitic wasps laying egg on lily leaf beetle larva.
the first half of the 1900’s, some of which were released without adequate research and became pests themselves.

In an effort to understand current attitudes and beliefs about the use of biological control, WSDA is collaborating with Washington State University and the University of Alaska to conduct a survey to learn about public perceptions of classical biological control. Click here to take the survey, which should take about 15 to 20 minutes to complete. Feel free to forward to your friends so they can share their opinions, too!

If you have questions about the survey or project, contact WSDA entomologist Chris Looney.

Monday, November 5, 2018

6 things to know about WSDA’s 2018 gypsy moth trapping results

Karla Salp
WSDA Communications

Male gypsy moth stuck in WSDA trap
Although it is November, things are just starting to slow down for WSDA gypsy moth survey coordinator Tiffany Pahs and WSDA’s gypsy moth trapping program. They are only now wrapping up their 44th year of trapping for gypsy moths, part of a decades-long successful effort to keep gypsy moths from establishing in Washington.

While there are no permanent populations of gypsy moths in Washington, each year several European gypsy moths enter the state by hitchhiking with people who move from or visit infested areas. More than 20 states have permanent gypsy moth populations. Asian gypsy moths occasionally slip into our state as well – usually through international ports, though ships are routinely screened for gypsy moths.

Trapping is the cornerstone of the gypsy moth program. It consists of placing thousands of traps throughout the state each summer and fall to monitor for gypsy moth introductions. Almost 30,000 traps went up this year alone, set out by 48 dedicated trappers. You may have seen one in your neighborhood – small, triangular boxes hanging in trees from about June to October.

Gypsy moth traps are checked about every two weeks
Traps help WSDA monitor for gypsy moths and provide three critical pieces of information:
  • Which areas are free of gypsy moths
  • Areas where gypsy moths have been introduced
  • Areas where gypsy moths are reproducing/attempting to establish
In addition to the summer trapping, Pahs’ program also conducts visual surveys in late fall for alternate live stages of gypsy moths, such as egg masses, cocoons, or caterpillar sheddings.

Wrapping up the 2018 gypsy moth trapping season 


Here are the top six things to know about this year’s trapping results:
  1. Trappers nabbed 52 gypsy moths.
  2. Gypsy moths were found in 10 counties (Clark, Cowlitz, Island, Jefferson, King, Kitsap, San Juan, Snohomish, Thurston, and Whatcom counties).
  3. Kitsap County had the most catches: 17.
  4. Trappers found one Asian gypsy moth, which was in Snohomish County.
  5. Trapping results confirmed the successful 2016 eradication of Asian gypsy moth at six sites.
  6. The gypsy moth program is now conducting egg mass surveys in areas of multiple catches.

WSDA’s gypsy moth program will assess the trapping and any egg mass survey data later this year to determine which locations, if any, require eradication treatments to prevent the permanent establishment of gypsy moth populations.  

European gypsy moth is one of the most destructive invasive species ever introduced in the United States. They defoliate millions of acres of trees each year, which can kill the trees. In 2016, the damage was so bad in New England that the swathes of dead trees could be seen on satellite imagery. This year, Rhode Island reported that one-quarter of the state’s hardwood trees have died, in large part due to gypsy moth caterpillar infestations.

Asian gypsy moths pose an even greater threat as they readily attack evergreen trees, which die with only one year of defoliation. Additionally, unlike their European cousins, Asian gypsy moth females can fly, which enables them to spread much more rapidly.

You can see the full trapping results on WSDA’s website and watch the video below to learn more about why gypsy moths are such a threat to Washington’s environment. 



Monday, October 29, 2018

Keeping the door open for ag exports in Asia

Chris McGann
WSDA Media Relations Coordinator 

Taylor Shellfish Co. International Sales Manager Tom Bettinger
explains the finer points of oyster tasting to WSDA Trade
Specialist Elisa Daun and overseas contractor Danny Kim.   
“There are four parts to tasting an oyster,” Tom Bettinger, Taylor Shellfish Co.’s International Sales Manager explained outside a large processing facility in Shelton. “The first is how it looks, the second is the nectar – that’s the seawater where it came from. The oyster is the third, and the aftertaste is the fourth.”

Bettinger was leading a facility tour for a small group of  overseas representatives contracted by WSDA to assist Washington agriculture exporters and promote our state's agricultural products in Asia.

Export assistance in key locations

With these contractors on the ground in key trading nations, WSDA's International Marketing Program helps build Washington's international reputation as a reliable source of wide-ranging, high quality agricultural products delivered at the highest safety and handling standards. By promoting this brand identity, the program puts Washington companies in position to export their products efficiently and profitably. And when producers encounter regulatory, logistic, or other exporting issues, the contractors are well positioned to provide assistance.

WSDA overseas representatives with Director Derek Sandison. From
the left: Scott Hitchman, Li Haidong, Sandison, Francis Lee and Danny Kim. 
The group was in Washington for a week-long visit that included tours where they learned about several of the products they promote to Asian buyers. They also participated in one-on-one  consultations with producers who are interested in expanding into overseas markets. The meetings are opportunities for sellers to get specific advice about logistics, markets and cultural preferences for major export countries.

In Seattle, the group toured a craft brewery and a handmade cheese factory. In Eastern Washington, they visited a hops farm and saw the harvest and processing of a key component of our state's renowned IPA beers. Their Eastside outing also included a trip to a local dairy farm, as well as other educational and seller-support events.

This year, in addition to their typical jam-packed itinerary, the annual visit was documented by a television crew from Seattle’s Q-13 FOX channel. Reporter Nadia Romero and camera crew interviewed the representatives and several of the producers who attended the seller meetings in Seattle.

Fresh is best 
Hale's Ales Sales Manager Bill Preib talks to Q-13
reporter Nadia Romero about how WSDA consultants
 helped him evaluate Asia's beer market.
   

Back in Shelton, as we walked through the seafood plant with Bettinger, we could almost taste the oysters, clams, mussels and geoducks and the Puget Sound waters from which they were plucked that same morning.

Throughout bustling but immaculate facilities, the sweet, fresh smell of seafood infuses the air like the smell of the ocean on a cool coastal breeze – that must be the nectar.

Crews clad in heavy vinyl rain gear hovered along production lines cleaning, sorting, shucking, and packing the briny harvest. They hosed down the floors, swung forklifts in and around rows of crates and shells, and loaded tractor trailer trucks headed straight for the airport every day to deliver the goods to restaurants in Shanghai, Ho Chi Min City, and Tokyo and Seoul.

Oysters pulled from the water on Monday morning will be served on the half shell half a world away by Wednesday night, Bettinger said.

Representative Francis Lee described what he believes is "the biggest selling point for most seafood in Asia" with a single word: “fresh.” He smiled because he knows his buyers well and he knows he is working with a company that can meet that central demand.

Bettinger talks freshness with Francis Lee.
Lee is based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. He has worked as an overseas contractor for WSDA for five years. He is one of four overseas representatives contracted by WSDA who help Washington producers establish and maintain buyer-seller connections, deliver resources and advocate for market access in Vietnam, Japan, China, and Korea.

Q-13 TV interviews Danny Kim.
The other contractors are: Scott Hitchman, who has represented our state's ag products in Tokyo, Japan, for 25 years; Li Haidong is based in Shanghai, China and has been under contract with WSDA for 16 years; and Dong Hwan Kim (Danny Kim), in Seoul, South Korea, with 5 years working for WSDA.

In addition to these four overseas contractors, WSDA's International Marketing Program team includes five program staff based throughout the state.

Export expertise for Washington sellers

As liaisons between in-state sellers and overseas buyers, these reps juggle many tasks to assist producers who are interested or engaged in selling their products outside the U.S. They maintain databases of buyers, distributors and importers, keep up on market trends, industry news and regulatory compliance issues, and meet with businesses and government officials.

Bettinger said the reps can really be lifesavers.

"Recently, when we sent a container of cooked oyster meat to Vietnam, there was an issue with the health certificate. It was going to be parked and have to be returned back to the U.S.," he said. "Francis jumped on it and got it cleared up. That is a good example of sending up an SOS and getting rescued."

And even when operations are running smoothly, Bettinger said having reps helps.

"It's a lot easier to be in-country, with the representative there, and talk about an issue or talk about a potential sale than it is to try to do everything by e-mail."

 Rebecca Weber, Danny Kim, Rianne Perry and Elisa Daun (WSDA's International
 Marketing Program team) experience an icy blast in the Taylor Shellfish freezer.
 "It's about minus 20 in there," Bettinger said. 

Here  are a few links where you can find more information about WSDA’s International Marketing Program, upcoming international marketing events, and the overseas contractors.

Monday, October 15, 2018

National Food Bank Week spotlights needs to fight hunger

Nichole Garden
Food Assistance programs

Bins brimming with fresh produce at Hopelink in Kirkland. 
Food banks and pantries across Washington State aim to alleviate hunger locally, providing food for one in six Washingtonians to nourish themselves and their families. As the holiday season approaches, food pantries tend to see an influx of patrons hoping to fill their holiday tables with nutritious foods. 

National Food Bank Week, observed October 14-20 this year, is an opportune time to remember our neighbors in need. 

While the week was initially designated in May, emergency food providers began observing it in October to coincide with World Food Day on October 16. Established by the United Nations in 1979 and adopted by the United States in 1984, World Food Day aims to raise awareness of hunger around the world.

While the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s Food Assistance programs provide commodity foods and some funding to help support the hunger relief efforts across our state, community donations and contributions are still vital to keeping the lights on and the shelves full.

Below is a list of suggested ways you could help observe this week and celebrate the individuals and organizations that provide hunger relief.

Donate Food

Food banks are always looking to their communities for food donations. Some of the most requested items include:

  • High-protein foods such as canned chili, peanut butter, beans, or canned meat.
  • Pasta, and macaroni and cheese.
  • Canned fruit and vegetables.
  • Soup.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables that store well in a refrigerator.
  • Baby food, baby cereal, and formula.
  • Nutritional drinks and shakes for seniors (Ensure, Boost, etc.).

Consider setting up a food donation box at your work, school, church, or other community group and deliver the collected items to your local food pantries.

Donate Money

While food is always a welcome donation, food pantries can use monetary donations to purchase in bulk at a discount or pay utility bills and other costs of running a food pantry.
Susan Curtis and Mary Downs keep the shelves stocked at the Community
Cupboard in Leavenworth. 


Volunteer

While some food pantries have paid staff, volunteers are the backbone of many food pantries. Food pantries have a variety of volunteer tasks such as food sorting, deliveries, gleaning, office support, facility and equipment maintenance, and food distribution.

Pledge to Grow-a-Row

More and more food pantries are encouraging donations of produce items for their patrons. WSDA is assisting with these efforts with their Farm to Food Pantry initiative, providing funding to food pantries to purchase produce directly from local farmers. 

You can help by growing extra crops in your home gardens. Food pantries are looking for a wide range of produce items from beets and berries to radishes and rutabagas. Check your local food bank website for requested items and how to donate.

Spread Awareness

Consider using social media to let your friends know why you appreciate food banks or why food security is important to you. End your post with #NationalFoodBankWeek. 

Thanks to the commitment of Washington’s emergency food assistance system, as well as the donations and volunteer aid of so many citizens, our robust partnership is working to alleviate hunger and provide healthy food options.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Schools, farms and partners make Taste Washington Day 2018 a success

Chris Iberle
WSDA Farm to School & Value Chains Specialist

Sam Bowhay from Ralph’s Greenhouse talks with students
 about growing golden beets at Taste Washington Day 2018
at Highline Public Schools 
The 8th annual Taste Washington Day took place at 43 school districts statewide on Oct. 3rd and other days throughout October. At least 212,000 students ate seasonal, Washington grown lunches and learned more about local food and farms through their district’s participation in Taste Washington Day. It was a great way celebrate and kick off National Farm to School Month.

More than 70 Washington farmers participated

Farmers provided everything from apples to beef to cabbage to milk for school lunches across the state. Governor Inslee’s Taste Washington Day Proclamation recognized the quality and diversity of Washington’s agricultural products, and how the National School Lunch Program encourages students to eat nutritious foods by providing affordable meals with ingredients grown on Washington farms.


Students pose with staff from WSDA, OSPI, WSU,
Highline Public Schools and local farmers at
 Taste Washington Day 2018
Apples were crunched

Many schools including Enumclaw School District, Grandview School District, Oak Harbor Public Schools, and many other districts held big “Washington Apple Crunch” celebrations on Oct. 3. Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Oakesdale FFA, and other organizations joined students across the state to “crunch” into their locally grown Washington apples all together at noon, making a crunch heard ‘round the state.

Taste Washington Day at Highline Public Schools

WSDA and OSPI Child Nutrition staff visited Highline Public Schools to eat a local lunch with students, farmers, and community partners. At Evergreen High School, students from FEEST talked about how they work with their school food service to support healthy eating options for students. The menu included a salad dressing developed by FEEST students, featuring Washington grown blueberries.

WSDA Director Sandison visits with FEEST students
 at Highline Public Schools at Taste Washington Day 2018
At Seahurst Elementary, students were wowed by giant leeks and beets brought by Sam Bowhay from Ralph’s Greenhouse, whose bunched carrots were served fresh and roasted at lunch with white bean and chicken chili. Shepherd’s Grain provided flour for some tasty whole wheat rosemary rolls, and Dairy Ambassador Abby Zurcher from the Washington State Dairy Council shared photos and stories with students about how fresh milk gets from the cow to the carton. Candida Goza from WSU King County Extension SNAP-Ed talked about how they educate students on food and nutrition, and garden volunteer John Feeney gathered students from the New Start High School Shark Garden to share about how working in the garden and growing produce improves their learning experience.

Local lunches were served

Many thanks of course to every single one of the 43 school districts and cafeterias that participated in Taste Washington Day. Some school districts’ events are happening later in National Farm to School Month in October, and into November.

Click through these links to see just a few of the highlights:
Anacortes School District served roasted delicata squash from The Crow’s Farm
Concrete School District served an all-local menu with produce and beef from Sauk Farm, The Crow’s Farm, Boldly Grown Farm, Ovenell’s Ranch, Forest Farmstead, and Blue Heron Farm
Preschoolers at Puesta Del Sol in Bellevue School District learned about locally grown foods
Edmonds School District served Washington grown cauliflower, cucumbers, nectarines, apples, and fresh milk to celebrate
Enumclaw School District celebrated with lunches featuring Washington grown ingredients
Hood Canal School served corn on the cob from Hunter Farms, and did the Washington Apple Crunch
LaConner School District held a Taste of the Skagit Week, with vegetables, fruit, and beef from farms in Skagit County in lunches all week long: Viva Farms, Swanson Bros., Pioneer Potatoes, Forrest Cattle Co., Gordon Skagit Farms, and Bow Hill Blueberries
Lopez Island School District served lunches throughout September sourced from within 50 miles of the school
Oak Harbor Public Schools, including Crescent Harbor and Olympic View Elementary Schools, highlighted local broccoli and cauliflower at lunch with a Washington Apple Crunch at noon
Monroe School District featured Washington grown foods on all their salad bars: apple crisp, apples, pears, nectarines, peaches, cucumbers, corn, blueberries, autumn squash and fresh milk Pullman Public Schools served lentil sloppy joes and Korean street tacos with local lentils from Spokane Seed
South Whidbey School District served carrots, beets, potatoes, lettuce, cherry tomatoes from their very own South Whidbey School Farms, and students in the culinary class made tortellini arrabbiata
Tommorrow's Hope Child Development at Housing Hope served beef and bean chili with fresh, local salad including ingredients from Caruso Farms, Oxbow Farm & Conservation Center, and Chinook Farms, and did the Washington Apple Crunch
Willow Public School had a lunch with grass-fed meatloaf, kale salad, roasted carrots, summer squash, and more from farms within 30 miles of the school: Upper Dry Creek Ranch, Hayshaker Farm, Welcome Table Farm, Frog Hollow Farm, and Edwards Family Farm.

Taste Washington Day was organized by the Washington State Department of Agriculture, Washington School Nutrition Association, and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, and many regional Farm to School partner organizations.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Managing manure and water in the wet season

Chery Sullivan
WSDA Dairy Nutrient Management Program


This dairy farm lagoon is pumped down and ready for winter storage.
Each season brings another round of annual tasks for farmers. If you are a dairy farm producer, preparing now for winter manure and water storage will help you avoid a manure management disaster and help protect Washington State’s water quality. 

Manure storage 

As the days grow short and feed bunkers fill with the summer crops, it is time to make sure manure storage structures are emptied and ready to store manure and rainwater through the winter and early spring months. 

Farms storing manure in lagoons must have capacity to store four-to-six-month’s worth of manure, while maintaining a foot of freeboard to protect the lagoon embankment from failure – plus, additional space for a severe rainstorm. Upright storage tanks must keep six inches of freeboard to prevent overtopping from waves created by high winds.

Manure application 

October manure nutrient applications come with special risks because fields may be compacted from harvest equipment and because heavy rains are on the way. If manure that is applied does not soak into the soil before the next rain event, it could run off to surface waters or puddle in the low-lying portions of the field. Solid manure should be disked into the soil or only applied to areas that are not at risk of flooding or runoff to surface water. 
Keep a close eye on the weather forecast. Manure applied to a saturated
field can spell trouble. 


Before applying manure, applicators should: 
  • Look at three-day weather forecasts.
  • Check the field’s nutrient needs and ability to absorb the manure applied.
  • Avoid applying to areas prone to runoff.
  • Use large buffers from all waterways. 
Also, consider that weather forecasts may not be entirely accurate, with either more or less rain falling than predicted.

If a farm does not have safe locations to apply nutrients due to crops or weather conditions, they should work with neighbors, custom manure applicators, and the local Conservation District to find the best application sites or extra storage areas.

Feed bunker and yard runoff 

A vegetated treatment area (VTA) can be used to filter and absorb nutrients. The VTA must be designed to treat the volume of runoff expected, and must be healthy enough to trap and absorb the nutrients carried in the runoff. If not designed well, concentrated runoff from the feed area can “burn” the grass and destroy these treatment areas.


Keep gutters and downspouts clear and functional to divert
water away from manured areas. 
If you collect and transfer the runoff from the feed area to storage, make sure drain grates are clear and pumps are operational.

Gutters and clean water diversion 

Fall rains arrive quickly. It pays to double check that gutter downspouts are functional and that water is diverted away from manured areas where possible. Remember, an inch of rain collected from 1,000 square feet of surface equals 600 gallons of water.

If you have questions about winter manure management, please contact your local conservation district or Kyrre Flege with WSDA’s Dairy Nutrient Management Program at kflege@agr.wa.gov, or 360-902-2894.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Pretty pest added to invasive species priority list

Chris McGann
WSDA Communications
An adult spotted lanternfly.
Photo:Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture

The adult spotted lanternfly is a sight to behold; its wings are a tapestry of inky spots and delicate stripes underscored with broad patches of bold crimson. Its plump body is reminiscent of a bumble bee or a cicada.

But WSDA’s Plant Protection entomologists see this colorful bug as a big threat to Washington’s tree fruit and grape industry. They are gearing up to try to block the road for this insidious hitchhiker and prevent fast-spreading infestations like those seen in Pennsylvania and Virginia.

WSDA's Pest Program classifies the spotted lanternfly as a “target pest” in multiple pest surveys and earlier this month, the Washington Invasive Species Council added it to the likes of apple maggots, gypsy moths and brown marmorated stink bugs on its top priority species list.

A native of China, the spotted lanternfly first arrived in Pennsylvania in 2014 and quickly proved it is a pest to be reckoned with.

Entomologist Sven-Erik Spichiger spent a decade as Pennsylvania’s state entomologist before joining the WSDA Plant Protection team this year. He knows how bad the infestations can be from experience.

“When you’ve seen tens of thousands of spotted lanternflies on an apple tree during harvest, it will turn your head around,” Spichiger said.
Infestation
Photo:Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture

He said from an insect scientist’s perspective, the lantern fly is fascinating.

“But for the public, one bug gets their attention. Imagine how they feel when they come out to their toddler’s swing set and find it coated with more than 200,000.”

The lanternfly spreads plant disease, weakens trees and threatens the country’s multi-billion dollar grape, orchard and logging industries.

And it’s just gross.

The spotted lanternfly lays eggs in non-descript gray globs that are difficult to detect on trees, rusty cans or park benches. It multiplies insidiously by the thousands and can overtake trees, and crops -- even playground equipment – overnight.
A glob of spotted lanternfly eggs
Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture

Then there’s the “honey dew.” That’s entomologist talk for lanternfly urine. Lanternflies feed on sap and excrete sticky droplets of sugar-rich urine that rain down from infested trees so hard in some cases, people need rain coats to work in the area. The shellac of honey dew turns rancid over time and attracts swarms of bees, ants, and wasps. Finally, the coated understory becomes black with “sooty mold.”

In Pennsylvania, the infestation continues to spread, despite more than $20 million poured into research and eradication efforts this year alone. Lanternflies have now invaded Virginia, New Jersey, and Delaware.

These prolific bugs suck sap from hardwood trees, grape vines and fruit trees but its favorite food is the Ailanthus tree or “tree of heaven.”  Spichiger says the tree of heaven - another invasive species - grows in disturbed areas such as vacant lots, highway medians and especially along railroad lines.
WSDA Managing Entomologist
Sven-Erik Spichiger

“Train tracks are lined with these trees,” he said, pointing out that one of the big concerns here in Washington is that this pest is an active hitchhiker.

“All it takes is a stiff wind to knock one of these into a rusty box car and the next week it’s on the West Coast,” Spichiger said. “There is a very high likelihood that this will continue spreading.”

Early stage of spotted lanternfly infestation.
Photo:Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture
Although there is plenty of reason for concern, Spichiger said there is also hope.

Treatments that combine host removal with pesticide applications have been shown to be effective on small infestations, he said.  And because of its distinctive appearance, engaging the public to help locate infestations can be effective.

"Control strategies work best when entomologists have ability to rapidly respond to the pest," he said. "You can actually control lanternfly infestation using this strategy if you detect them early,” Spichiger said.

For more information about WSDA's Pest Protection Program.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Celebrate Taste of Washington Day

Chris Iberle
WSDA Farm to School & Value Chains Specialist

Lentil sloppy joes, farmers sitting with school children, and the Washington Apple Crunch are all part of Taste Washington Day on October 3, when schools across the state will showcase locally grown foods in their cafeterias.

A past year's La Conner School District Taste Washington
 Day menu featured broccoli from Hedlin Farm in Mt. Vernon
The annual event highlights how school districts and our state’s agricultural industry can collaborate to provide locally-sourced school meals throughout the school year and celebrate farming across the state.

For the eighth year running, farmers and schools will partner with the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA), the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) Child Nutrition, and the Washington State Nutrition Association to feature Washington-grown foods in school cafeteria meals and celebrate farm to school programs.

So get ready to enjoy some white bean chicken chili, fresh Washington milk and kale Caesar salads, but make sure to save some room for one more big bite, the Washington Apple Crunch!

“The Farm to School initiative is a great reminder of the benefits of collaboration,” WSDA Director Derek Sandison said. “For schools, it is a way to source locally produced foods to serve in their cafeterias, farmers are able to make connections that could provide another revenue source, and children enjoy lunch from crops grown in their home state.”

Riverview School District's Taste Washington Trolley
 filled with dragon tongue beans, lemon cucumbers,
Easter egg radishes, rainbow carrots, and green peppers.
Gov. Jay Inslee has proclaimed Oct. 3 as Taste Washington Day, recognizing the farmers that feed us and put locally grown food in our school cafeterias.

Schools sign up with WSDA to share information about their local menus, ingredients, or other Farm to School activities they have planned for the day. Schools also get free templates and materials from WSDA for their promotions.

Twenty-seven school districts and 20 farms are signed up so far this year. There’s still time for more to sign up, and over 50 districts are expected to participate. Some schools plan special events for Taste Washington Day, such as inviting a farmer to lunch, visits to school gardens, or doing the Washington Apple Crunch - when schools or classes all bite into a Washington apple at the same time, usually at noon.

“School Nutrition Programs all across Washington will spotlight our state's bountiful offerings of locally grown fruits and vegetables as well as locally raised beef, chicken and pork. These events provide opportunities to invite farmers to the classroom, plan a school garden, teach our kids about where our food comes from and encourage them to taste something new and fresh”, said Vickie Ayers, President of the Washington School Nutrition Association.

Putting it all together. School cafeteria cooks deliver
 flavor with locally sourced meat and produce. 
Farmers sign up with WSDA to be a part of Taste Washington Day and sell their products to schools or participate in school activities. WSDA Farm to School sends a list of farms that have signed up to participating schools and helps with local food procurement by matching farms and schools, finding farmers to participate in school events, and other logistics.

This year, schools are planning all kinds of activities.

Sometimes the farm is already at the school. WSDA staff visiting
 the Freedom Farmers at Olympia School District for
 Taste Washington Day 2017
Lopez Island School District has been serving meals made of ingredients from within 25 miles of the school throughout September, including produce from the Lopez Island Farm Education program’s school garden. Pullman Public Schools will serve Washington grown lentil sloppy joes and brownies and feature a visit from Mr. Lentil. Grandview School District will do a large Washington Apple Crunch at noon with teachers and students in classrooms and cafeterias across the district.

This is the first Taste Washington Day put on with support from the Washington State Farm to School Network. Launched in May 2018, with over 160 members, network members include school nutrition staff, farmers, teachers, school gardeners, non-profits and state agencies working together to grow farm to school in the state. Through the network, members are learning from each other, sharing resources, and many are a part of Taste Washington Day celebrations. The Washington State Farm to School Network is also a way to find out what’s happening with farm to school in your community, get involved, and illustrate the impacts of farm to school across the state.

Taste Washington Day is popular with farmers, school administrators, students and parents. Many participating schools use the day to highlight what “farm to school” means to them.  At least 100 districts in Washington State do some form of farm to school throughout the year, such as buying foods from Washington farmers or offering agricultural education. The USDA estimates schools spend over $17 million on Washington grown produce during the school year.

Visit the WSDA Farm to School program’s Taste Washington Day web page for more information or contact Chris Iberle at (206) 256-1874.


Friday, September 21, 2018

$4.6 million awarded for Washington specialty crops

Leisa Schumaker 
WSDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program 

Could extracts from wood decay fungi be used to formulate treatments for honey bee viruses? Could a novel strain of fungus be used as a biological control agent to control bee-killing Varroa mites? Washington State University researchers think so, and with the help of a new, quarter million dollar federal grant, they are continuing research that could improve honey bee health and the long-term vitality of Washington’s tree fruit, berry, vegetable, and horticultural crops.
WSU bee researchers are among 25 Washington recipients
 of 2018 USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant funds.  

WSU bee researchers are among 25 recipients of $4.6 million in 2018 USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant funds awarded by WSDA for innovative projects to support the state’s fruit, vegetable, and nursery industry through the federal Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBG).

The SCBG Program was created to support the competitiveness of the specialty crop industry through the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. In awarding these funds, WSDA selected projects that will directly benefit specialty crop producers, address critical issues to the industry, and contain strong performance measures.

Awards for individual projects range from $25,000 to $250,000 and will go to agricultural commodity commissions, non-profit organizations, Washington State University, USDA-ARS and WSDA.

This year the block grant is funding a variety of projects including some designed to ensure the sustainability of honey bee pollination, grow wholesale prospects for specialty crop producers in Whatcom and Skagit counties, evaluate agriculture water disinfection treatments, and detect potato pathogens. Berries, potatoes, cucurbit crops, tree fruit, asparagus, horticultural seeds, wine grapes, and apples all stand to benefit from these projects.

New application deadline

If you are interested in applying for a grant, please note: the application period for WSDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program has been moved up by several months this year. The Request for Concept Proposals (RFCP) released this month has a 4 p.m., November 2, 2018 deadline. In past years the proposals were due in February. The new RFCP period gives applicants an additional month to complete the concept proposals for projects that would be funded in 2019.

Other grant program changes

In addition to the new deadline, the SCBG program will no longer accept Food Safety Research projects through the competitive process. Food Safety projects for Washington should be submitted through the Center for Produce Safety’s (CPS) competitive process, where they will be reviewed for eligibility, evaluated and scored through their technical review process. Top projects benefiting Washington specialty crops that make it through CPS’s competitive process will be provided to WSDA for possible funding.

The first step in applying for grant funding is to submit a brief concept proposal through our online application system. WSDA staff will review the concept proposals. Successful applicants will be asked to submit full proposals for further review.

Visit the SCBG webpage for application information, forms and schedules. For additional SCBG information, go to the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service webpage or contact WSDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program manager Leisa Schumaker at lschumaker@agr.wa.gov or (360) 902-2091.



Thursday, September 13, 2018

Climbing trees to protect the environment

Karla Salp
WSDA Communications

Tiffany Pahs takes a selfie up in the tree canopy
Last month a team of nine WSDA biologists learned how to do something most hadn’t done since childhood – climb trees.

The tree climbing training was held at USDA’s Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB) eradication facility in Ohio. The five-day course was the start of an effort to build the skills of agency staff and prepare them to respond rapidly to new invasive pest detections.

The week included learning various ways to climb and move about the canopy of trees, learning the characteristics of different species of trees and which are appropriate for climbing, and of course, safety. Each person received one-on-one training with an instructor. One instructor said the course was like trying to cram one year of tree climbing knowledge into a week.

Susan Brush high up in the trees
“It was fun, but exhausting,” Tiffany Pahs, gypsy moth survey coordinator for WSDA’s pest program, said.

In addition to the mechanics of climbing trees, the team also had classroom time when they learned how to identify ALB and the damage they cause to trees.
Gear used to help climb trees

“When it comes to inspecting damage high up in the canopy of a tree, there are really only two options – climb up to inspect the damage or cut the tree down. With this training, we can inspect trees while keeping them standing,” Pahs said.
Merely by being present at the training location brought home the reality of the massive damage that invasive pests can do to the team. When training, they would hear trees crash to the ground – dead and falling ash trees destroyed by Emerald Ash Borer infestations.

The week-long training was the start of a certification process for both climbing trees and inspecting them for insect damage. The team plans to continue their training and become fully certified in the upcoming months.

When it comes to invasive species, early detection and rapid response are critical to contain and eradicate tree pests. These new skills will enable WSDA to respond rapidly to an invasive pest detection in our trees, potentially preventing the establishment of pests that could otherwise destroy the Evergreen State.

WSDA pest program biologists and their tree climbing instructors
To learn more about this USDA program, check out this blog.