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. 


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, or 360-902-2894.