Friday, October 29, 2021

Taste Washington Day 2021 – celebrating the farm to school connection

Amber Betts
WSDA Communications

All across the state this month, students tasted fruit and veggies grown right in their backyards by local farms as part of National Farm to School month. Many also participated in annual Taste Washington Day activities as a way to promote both the farm-to-school movement and Washington agriculture by serving local foods in school meals.

Coupeville schools, along with
many others across the state,
celebrated Farm to School Month
and Taste Washington Da
The activities to celebrate the month were as diverse as our schools and our farms.

WSDA Farm to School Purchasing Grant Specialist Annette Slonim saw this firsthand on Oct. 6, when she visited the Coupeville School District for Taste Washington Day.

More students there began eating school lunches when the Coupeville School District implemented the Connected Food program, focusing on scratch cooking and fresh, local ingredients. Student participation in the meal program increased from about 30 to 70 percent.

As part of the activities, Coupeville students enjoyed lamb from Bell’s Farm on Whidbey Island.

“It’s an incredible way to show our commitment to expanding economic opportunities for farmers while educating students about the connections between food, farming, health, and the environment,” Slonim said.

But Coupeville wasn’t the only district participating.

The Bellevue School District celebrated Taste Washington Day by adding kiwiberries, grown in Whatcom County, to the day’s selection of fruit. Kiwiberries look like kiwi fruit without the fuzzy hair on the skin and are the size of grapes.

The Dayton School District featured Honeycrisp apples and Bosc pears from Warren Orchards. And, in Bellingham, students were served a vegan chickpea masala, featuring garbanzo beans from Palouse, Washington. Middle and high school students ate salmon chowder featuring wild salmon from Lummi Island.

Schools across the state joined in on
integrating locally grown produce in their
school meals, including foods grown in their
veryown school garden. 
These are just a few of the many locally grown and raised food students enjoyed across the state.

Another feature of the month-long celebration was the Washington Apple Crunch, also held on Oct. 6. The aim is for participants around the state to crunch into their apples at the same moment as a way to highlight local growers and fresh fruit. Grandview School District in south central Washington gave out fresh apples from MagaƱa Farms to every student and staff member to take a big, crunchy bite! Pullman School District in eastern Washington also participated, crunching into organic Jonagold or Gala apples from Whitestone Mountain Orchard.  

Visit to learn more about how WSDA is incorporating local agriculture in the everyday lives of schoolchildren, one lunch at a time.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

State entomologists call for public help after possible spotted lanternfly detection

Karla Salp

Photo submitted with suspected spotted lanternfly report
UPDATE: After this blog was initially posted, WSDA was alerted that the photo submitted with the report was a previously published online photo. Public reports are critical to detecting invasive species in Washington. However, if you are submitting a report and were unable to obtain your own photo of the specimen, please indicate in the report that you are including an online photo that represents what you saw and that the photo is not yours.

WSDA is asking the public to keep a watch for spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula), a potentially destructive pest that may have been observed in the Omak region.

Spotted lanternfly (SLF), a native to Asia, attacks primarily grapes, but also has been sighted in other crops such as hops, apples, peach, and other fruit trees. Should it become established in Washington, spotted lanternfly could threaten many Washington iconic crops and result in costly quarantines and increased pesticide use to manage the pest.

Last week, the Washington Invasive Species Council (WISC) received a possible sighting of the pest in the Omak area and informed WSDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The possible sighting included a photograph and also mentioned seeing five live specimens. Despite a search of the area, WSDA entomologists could not confirm the report. WSDA is asking the public, especially those in Okanogan County, to examine their trees and other outdoor surfaces for spotted lanternfly adults and egg masses.

“Our search revealed abundant host material in the area,” Sven Spichiger, WSDA managing entomologist said. “For the next several weeks, we ask people to look for both adults and egg masses. If they think they found any suspected life stage of the pest, they should report it.”   

The unconfirmed report comes during a month when WISC, WSDA, and other state agencies have been requesting that the public report tree-of-heaven locations as part of an effort to proactively locate and remove this preferred host of the spotted lanternfly. The outreach also encouraged the public to look for and report possible SLF sightings, although SLF populations are not known to be in the state at this time. SLF poses no threat to human or animal health.

“This is another example of the important role everyone plays in stopping invasive species,” said Justin Bush, the council’s executive coordinator. “If you spot a suspected invasive species, immediately notify the council through our website or phone app called Washington Invasives. You may be reporting a new invasive species and help prevent millions, if not billions, of dollars in damage and loss.”

Although the unconfirmed report does not indicate that an SLF population exists in Washington at this time, WSDA plans to survey the area for the pest in 2022. Because it is too late to survey this year, public aid in looking for and reporting possible sightings now could provide critical information about the pest’s whereabouts. A rapid response is required to successfully eradicate SLF if a population exists.

When reporting possible SLF sightings, include a photograph, date, and location of the sighting and most importantly – collect the specimens. Reports can be made using WISC’s online reporting form or mobile app or by emailing WSDA at or calling 1-800-443-6684. After reporting, suspect specimens and egg masses can be taken to WSU Extension offices. More information about spotted lanternfly can be found on WSDA’s website. Report tree-of-heaven locations to WISC.

Spotted lanternfly first arrived in the U.S. in 2014 in Pennsylvania. Since then, it has been spreading through several eastern states while popping up in other places throughout the country. When established in an area, it can cause potential problems for growers as well as homeowners. 

Additional photos

This blog was updated on November 1, 2020 to provide updated information about the origins of the photograph submitted with the report. 

Monday, October 18, 2021

Own an electric vehicle? WSDA wants to hear from you

Hector Castro
WSDA Communications 

The same team at WSDA that inspects gas stations and fuel pumps for accuracy and quality, is now working on regulations for the charging stations where electric vehicle drivers refuel their batteries - and they want to hear from electric car owners.

In August, WSDA’s Weights and Measures Program began work to develop the new regulations for the charging stations, both Level 2 charging stations, which take about 8 hours to fully charge a vehicle, and the direct current, or DC fast chargers, that can fully charge a vehicle in 90 minutes or less. In most cases, drivers pay a fee for the charging service.

A bill passed in the last legislative session directed WSDA to develop rules that include requiring charging stations to offer multiple payment options. The new rules are meant to allow any driver of an electric vehicle the ability to use a charging station, including drivers who would fall in the low to moderate income bracket and those who don’t have a bank account. 

In initial public meetings this past summer to develop the rules, WSDA heard from representatives of electric vehicle manufacturers and companies that produce the charging equipment, but not much from electric vehicle drivers.

“Not only do we have little input directly from those who use the charging stations, we don’t have any from drivers who don’t have an EV charging membership, or those who fall in the low or moderate income levels,” said Tim Elliott, Motor Fuel Quality and Enforcement Manager for WSDA. 

As electric vehicles become more prevalent, it is expected that they will also become more accessible to a wider range of consumers, including those on a tighter budget, he said. 

“We would like to hear not just from those who drive electric vehicles today, but people who would like to own one in the future,” Elliott said. 

You can visit to learn more about the Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment rulemaking. You can also email to reach the Weights and Measures Program for more information or to provide input on electric vehicle charging stations and the current rulemaking effort. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

WSDA considers taking field work to new heights

Amber Betts
WSDA Communications

WSDA Staff watch as DFW officers
demonstrate how to operate a drone. 
Peeling back the wrapping paper revealing what was inside, my little brother’s eyes lit up as he realized his gift. He wasted little time taking his brand new mini drone outside to give it a try, he launched the inaugural flight, and everyone had a fun time watching has he ran the mini aircraft into trees and onto the roof of my garage.

I felt that same excitement last month and may have done a little dance after flying a giant and much more sophisticated version of my brother’s gift. I met a group of my colleagues in an open field in Prosser, Washington, to watch a demonstration led by officers of the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW). As WSDA considers whether drones would make some field work easier to accomplish, we learned about the various types of Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) drones, what it takes to implement a drone program at a state agency, and what qualifications drone pilots may need.

The Matrice 300, one of
the drones demonstrated,
waits to take flight. 

Every head turned to the sky as the DFW officer launched the Matrice 300, one of the types of drones used by the officers. As we watched what the aircraft could do, WSDA staff discussed the possible ways we could use a drone. From our dairy inspectors, to our safety officers, and our pesticide inspectors all of my coworkers had ideas on how this aircraft could make their job more efficient.  

For dairy nutrient inspectors, a drone’s birds-eye view could give a bigger picture of pasture conditions, potentially cutting inspection time significantly.

A drone could help entomologists follow a pest or invasive species like the Asian giant hornet to its nest with thermal sensors. Drones could also be fitted with chemical sensors that could detect evidence of pesticide drift.

A staff member operating
the drone controls. 

As a professional communicator, I can see countless uses for video footage and photos to better highlight the work we do.

In addition to learning what the drones could offer our agency, we also learned some of the regulations and licenses our staff would have to abide by and obtain in order to operate the drones as part of agency business. Those operating the aircraft must have a pilot’s license, and maintain a number of flight hours each year in order to keep that license. While flying, the aircraft must stay under 400 feet above the ground and all flight plans must be logged.

Some state agencies are already using drones for their work, including the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Department of Labor & Industries, and the Department of Ecology.

At WSDA, the recent demo was a first step in a longer process to consider whether drones are right for our agency. Next, an internal group will consider the policies or training that use of drones would require.

A final decision could still be some months away. Stay tuned to our blog to see what’s next. 

Staff looks to the skies as the first drone takes flight. 

Monday, October 11, 2021

Tree-of-heaven reports safeguard state from another invasive pest

Cassie Cichorz
Pest Program Outreach Coordinator

Adult spotted lanternfly
Photo credit: Pennsylvania Dept. of Agriculture
The reports of tree-of-heaven are rolling in now that the Washington Invasive Species Council has launched a month-long effort to identify where this invasive tree is located. This is the first step in an effort to proactively prepare for the arrival of another dread invasive species that prefers tree-of-heaven: the spotted lanternfly.

Spotted lanternfly (SLF) is an invasive piercing-sucking insect. It feeds on a wide variety of plants including apples, grapes, cherries, hops, plums, walnut and many more species.

Damage incurred by spotted lanternfly includes oozing sap, wilting, leaf curling, and tree dieback. SLF also secretes large amounts of honeydew (feces), which enables the growth of sooty mold on vegetation and fruit.

Currently, it has only become established the northeastern United States, although it has been found dead in Oregon as a hitchhiker on goods shipped from the northeast. More alarmingly, more than fifty spotted lanternflies have been found both alive and dead in California at state border agricultural inspection stations as well as on air cargo flights.

Display showing various
life stages of spotted lanternfly
Most adults are bad fliers and will be found with their wings closed. Adults begin to lay grey-brown egg clusters in September on tree bark and outdoor surfaces. They will cover the egg masses with a wax coating that resembles mud. When performing a survey for spotted lanternfly, check items in the area such as outdoor furniture, stonework, firewood piles, and rusty items.

Adult ID

  • 1’’ long, ½’’ wide at rest
  • Yellow abdomen with black bands
  • Black head and legs
  • Light gray forewings with black spots and a rear speckled band
  • Scarlet hindwings with black spots and rear black and white bars

Spotted lanternfly is likely to infest tree-of-heaven if it arrives. Tree-of-heaven is rapid-growing and its bark is often compared to cantaloupe skin. Mapping known tree-of-heaven populations allows Washington to plan control efforts, keeping our state safe from this invasive pest.

Report spotted lanternfly sightings to the Washington State Department of Agriculture by e-mailing or calling (800) 443-6684. You can also report known tree-of-heaven locations by visiting the Washington Invasive Species Council’s website