While I am not generally inclined toward self-promotion, I can say without hesitation that WSU truly is World Class when it comes to sustainable and organic agriculture. We know this because of the amazing run of success WSU scientists have had in recent years in various competitive science programs like USDA’s Organic Research and Extension Initiative. While many of our peer institutions are envious of our success and growing reputation, the most important outcome of this success is that we have far more research, teaching and extension programming supporting sustainable and organic agriculture in the field, in the lab, and in Washington communities than ever before. And, like with any success, we can point to a legacy of advocacy and strategic investment that created a strong foundation for our current and future successes.
One of the key elements of this strong foundation for organic and sustainable ag at WSU was the establishment of a Center for Sustaining Agriculture & Natural Resources by the Washington Legislature in 1991 (RCW 15.92). There was a lot of blood, sweat and tears invested by leaders of Washington’s sustainable and organic ag community as well as WSU faculty and administrators to both establish and build CSANR, on the principle that such a Center was an important institutional commitment to supporting a future direction for agriculture in the state. While the idea of a Center was controversial in the beginning, two decades later that commitment and investment looks clearly brilliant as CSANR has become a key part of a very successful package of sustainable and organic ag at WSU and in the State of Washington.
In many ways, I feel very fortunate to have personally joined the Center right at the time that this solid foundation really began reaping major benefits. The great Modern scientist Isaac Newton popularized the metaphor “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants” – and I can say without reservation that I know what he meant. Leading the Center for the past five years, engaging a broad array of WSU scientists and community members in the challenge of making the Washington agriculture and food system more sustainable has only been possible because of the work others had already done. A Center really is an intensive collaboration of scientists and community members working together to create a better future.
So, with two decades in the books, and a very bright future ahead, it’s an appropriate time to reflect on the past efforts of numerous leaders and celebrate 20 years of CSANR!
Please join us on December 6th in the Ensminger Pavilion on the Pullman Campus as we celebrate 20 years of CSANR working to coordinate scientific research and extension programming in support of sustainable and organic agricultural systems. The celebration event will run from 2:00 – 6:30 pm including a poster session on sustainable agriculture research at WSU, a panel discussion with past and present leaders in Washington’s sustainable agriculture community, a reception with local and sustainable food, and a keynote lecture by Professor David Montgomery, author of Dirt: The Erosion of Civilization. It should be a fantastic event and I would love to see you there! More information is available here.