Thursday, November 12, 2020

Washington receives $4.65 million in Specialty Crop Block Grant funds

Leisa Schumaker 
WSDA SCBG Program Manager 

The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) has received $4.65 million in federal Specialty Crop Block Grant funds to support projects that increase the competitiveness and demand of the state’s specialty crops.  

Specialty Crops are defined as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, horticulture, and nursery crops, including floriculture. WSDA will fund 21 projects with the money, with awards ranging from $61,000 to $250,000 going to non-profits, government organizations, universities and community colleges, and agricultural commissions.

WSDA selected projects through a competitive two-phase process with Phase I focusing on the concept behind the project and Phase II expanding on the project with much more detail.  

These projects focus on areas of plant health and pest management, small farm operations, domestic and international marketing, food safety, training and education, as well as new innovative technologies.

You can review the 2020 Specialty Crop Block Grant projects on our website. For more information, visit and click on the Specialty Crop Block Grants link. 

For those interested in applying for 2021 SCBG funds, review the 27-page Request for Proposal document for details on the application process and deadlines.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

A nest by the numbers - what WSDA found inside the Asian giant hornet nest

Karla Salp

A new Asian giant hornet ready to emerge
More than 500 Asian giant hornet specimens in various stages of development were collected when entomologists found the first Asian giant hornet nest in the United States.

But finding the nest was just the first step in the eradication. After the discovery of the nest site, WSDA entomologists had to safely remove hornets living in the nest, remove the tree, and finally split the tree open to reveal the nest inside.

After opening the tree containing the Asian giant hornet nest on Oct. 29, WSDA entomologists still had a lot of work to do to collect data about what the nest contained. Much like the election, the tallying took quite a bit of time and, to some extent, continues. 

Pupae in various stages of
development taken from the nest
The nest was just over 8 feet high in the tree and, once opened, was found to be about 14 inches long and 8 to 9 inches wide. Here are the preliminary results of what our entomologists found in the nest.

  • 6 combs – There were six layers of comb in the nest. Combs are the structures that hold the hornet larvae as they develop. Part of the interior of the tree had been chewed away to accommodate the combs.
  • 776* cells – The combs are made up of cells and each individual cell can hold a developing Asian giant hornet. *This number is approximate as there was some damage to the combs.
  • 6 unhatched eggs These eggs were all located in the last and smallest of the combs.
  • 190 total larvae - The larvae are whitish “grubs” in uncapped cells. Many had fallen out of the combs into the tree cavity during the nest removal.
  • 108 capped cells with pupae – Pupae are the next stage after larvae. Based on the size of the cells, most of the pupae found are believed to be pupae of new virgin queens.
  • 112 workers – This total includes 85 workers that were vacuumed out of the nest on Oct. 24. All of the workers survived being vacuumed out of the nest.
  • 9 drones – Drones are male hornets and they generally emerge from the nest before the new queens emerge.
  • 76 queens – Most likely all but one queen would be new virgin queens. New queens emerge from the nest, mate, and then leave to find a place to overwinter and start a new colony the next year.

Despite multiple applications of carbon dioxide, removal of the workers, and storage in a cold facility, most of the specimens were still alive when the nest was opened.

Where we go from here

Nest reassembled in the tree

WSDA will continue trapping through at least Thanksgiving and possibly beyond, but will likely only track worker hornets. Our entomologists will not, for example, track new queens if any are captured as they are unlikely to return to a nest, but instead will attempt to locate a mate. Even if no other hornets were to be found, WSDA will continue to trap for at least three more years to demonstrate the area is free from Asian giant hornets.

WSDA’s Pest Program still hopes to eradicate Asian giant hornets from the Pacific Northwest in cooperation with our neighbors to the north in Canada. The effort will take require international cooperation, research for better detection tools, and the continued work of vigilant observers from the public to prevent Asian giant hornets from gaining a permanent foothold here.

If you may have seen an Asian giant hornet in Washington State, report it with a photo if you can get one at:

If you believe you have seen an Asian giant hornet but live in another area, please report it to your state or province’s invasive species managers.

Additional photos of the nest examination can be found on our Box account. When using the photos, please credit the Washington State Department of Agriculture. You can also watch a recording of the press conference on YouTube. 

Monday, November 9, 2020

Schools and farmers take part in unique 2020 Taste Washington Day

Chris Iberle
WSDA Farm to School Lead

Yakima School District school nutrition staff did a Washington
Apple Crunch during meal distribution.
The 10th annual Taste Washington Day took place on Oct. 7 during an unprecedented, challenging time. Even during school closures and distance learning, farm to school connections between farmers, schools, and students allow communities to respond with resilience.

Schools showed inspiring creativity and flexibility to continue providing locally sourced meals, virtual Washington Apple Crunches, and other food and agriculture education during COVID-19.

At least 43 school districts statewide participated and embraced this year’s theme of  “What’s in the Bag from Washington." Heroic efforts of school nutrition staff and farmers helped make sure thousands of students ate seasonal, Washington-grown lunches and learned more about local food and farms. 

More than 80 Washington farmers participated, providing everything from apples to beef and kohlrabi to milk for school lunches across the state. Some even offered virtual farm tours and education.

Pullman Public Schools featured local apples,
lentil harvest chili, and educational handouts.
 Gov. Jay Inslee’s Taste Washington Day Proclamation recognized school nutrition staff, farmers, and farmworkers for their inspiring efforts, and the diversity they and their products represent. Farm to school increases opportunities for more producers to supply fresh, local foods to schools and students, particularly while so many of farmers’ other markets are closed.

In addition, First Lady Trudi Inslee recorded a video message for Taste Washington Day, expressing appreciation for the essential work of school nutrition staff and local farmers to provide nutritious food to students statewide. 

It was a great way to celebrate and kick off National Farm to School Month.

Here are a few highlights from the many ways Washington school districts celebrated Taste Washington Day 2020.

  • Chief Leschi Schools bagged up local pluots and pears.
  • Chimacum School District served local carrots, tomatoes, flour, eggs, pie pumpkins from Finnriver Farm, Red Dog Farm, SpringRain Farm, and Sunfield Farm.
  • Edmonds School District did a virtual field trip to meet a local dairy farmer.
  • Everett School District shared What’s in the Bag from Washington: cucumbers, apples, milk, yogurt, kohlrabi, and Asian pears.
  • Grandview High School students produced a fun Washington Apple Crunch video to celebrate.
  • Oakesdale FFA gave presentations on growing fruits and vegetables to elementary students.
  • Pullman Public Schools featured local lentil harvest chili and apples from Palouse Brand, Bishops’ Orchard and Whitestone Mountain Orchards, and sent students home with educational fliers about Washington lentils and apples.
  • Riverview School District featured local items and student-grown tomatoes from Cedarcrest FFA, pickling recipes for radishes from Carnation Farms, and Okanogan grown apples.
  • Seattle Public Schools featured a smoked salmon chowder bowl with locally grown fennel and dill, cucumbers for a side salad, Washington grown milk and yogurt with ingredients from Lummi Island Wild, Crow’s Farm, Ralph’s Greenhouse (sourced through Puget Sound Food Hub) and Hayton Farms, Darigold and Yami Yogurt.

Everett Public School lunches and
snacks included Washington-grown
cucumbers, apples, milk, yogurt, kohlrabi,
and Asian pears in bagged meals,
with stickers from the Washington State
Dairy Council.
Go to Taste Washington Day 2020 activities to see more highlights of the day from schools around the state, as well as find links to social media, photos, videos and more!

See the list of participating school districts and farmers and follow the school links to see their Taste Washington Day menus and more on their programs. 

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 Child Nutrition Services, and many regional Farm to School partner organizations.