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Living Fences and Breaking Barriers – My Tilth Experience

Posted by Jason Jacobson | February 17, 2017

This year CSANR sponsored registration for several WSU students to attend the Tilth Conference.  We will be posting reflections written by the students over the next several weeks. Please feel free to comment and give these students your feedback.

My name is Jason Jacobson, and I am an Organic Agriculture Systems major at Washington State University.  Through the generous sponsorship efforts of WSU’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources (CSANR), I was able to attend the 2016 Seattle Tilth Conference in Wenatchee, Washington.

The farm tour proved to be one of my favorite events of the weekend, specifically the Gibbs Organic Farm, where permaculture and livestock integration played a major role in their operation, and the multiple enterprises on site served as a model and an inspiration to a new farmer like me. Additionally, the farm tour visited a compost operation, run by the Stemilt Fruit Company, which provided amazing insight into large-scale composting and some of the real-world challenges associated with it. Read more »

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Traditional Techniques and the “Hopper Popper”?

Posted by James Gonzalez | February 16, 2017

This year CSANR sponsored registration for several WSU students to attend the Tilth Conference.  We will be posting reflections written by the students over the next several weeks. Please feel free to comment and give these students your feedback.

As Michael Philips so eloquently stated in his opening address for this year’s Tilth Conference, “It’s about finding who you are.” These words resonated with me tremendously throughout the duration of the conference, as this is a concept that had been on my mind throughout the previous year. My name is James Gonzalez and I am a senior at Washington State University in Pullman.

Being as this marks my fourth year of attendance at the Tilth Conference, I may consider myself familiar with the ins-and-outs of the conference goings-on. Previous years have put me in convention centers in Yakima, Vancouver, and Spokane, with this year providing me an opportunity to see Wenatchee for the first time. As with prior conferences, this one presented me with an abundance of knowledge and more questions than I could have answered. Read more »

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Sustainability; Strength from within

Posted by Adekunle Adesanya | February 14, 2017

This year CSANR sponsored registration for several WSU students to attend the Tilth Conference.  We will be posting reflections written by the students over the next several weeks. Please feel free to comment and give these students your feedback.

‘Sustainability’ is one word that is on the lips of numerous people with different and diverse concerns. Environmentalists want sustainable ecosystems with sustainable energy production to sustain our planet. Agriculturalists want sustainable food production systems and methods that do not deplete the earth of its resources. Health practitioners want a sustainable health care system that is affordable and maintainable over generations. One peculiarity that cuts across all these is that regardless of the system of concern, getting the optimal use of its components without reliance or intrusion by external forces is the best way of being sustainable, i.e., ‘strength is from within’. Little wonder, that WSU is renowned for its  Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources (CSANR), which has been investing in students to actively participate in sustainable solutions to complex agricultural problems. Read more »

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Hot, hotter, hottest (so far) – Should I care?

Posted by Sonia A. Hall | February 9, 2017

I must confess that sometimes I like geeking out on data—raw climate data, for example. But most of the time I don’t have enough background knowledge about the complex and detailed data I’m looking at to interpret what it shows me about the big picture. So I really appreciate it when the experts take the time to present and discuss their data in a way that helps me understand the underlying patterns. If you are like me in that way, you might enjoy a recent (January 2017) Beyond the Data blog article by NOAA climate scientist Jessica Blunden, discussing how unusual the 2014-2016 global record-temperature “three-peat” is, relative to the temperature record over the last 100+ years.

Granted, you can argue that Blunden chose this “three-peat” to make a particular point. Yes, choosing a particular way to slice the data can be arbitrary, unless you have the statistical expertise to pull out from the data themselves the most relevant slicing (which I don’t). Nonetheless, Blunden’s article provides some interesting food for thought about long-term trends, and a variety of ways to look at the data to see if we should care about a particular pattern, in this case the 2014-2016 “three-peat.” Read more »

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Tilth Conference 2016: Fertile Ground for Learning

Posted by Emily Barber | January 30, 2017

This year CSANR sponsored registration for several WSU students to attend the Tilth Conference.  We will be posting reflections written by the students over the next several weeks. Please feel free to comment and give these students your feedback.

Emily BarberIt was a pleasure and a privilege to attend the 2016 Tilth Conference in Wenatchee, Washington. As an undergraduate student of Organic Agriculture Systems at Washington State University, this conference offers so much readily applicable information that it can be difficult to choose which workshops to attend! I enjoyed all of the talks I went to, but I found the workshop called “Growing Farm to School: Where Do We Go from Here?” most intriguing. Joan Qazi of the Washington State Sustainable Food and Farming Network and Chris Iberle from the WSDA Small Farm Direct Marketing and Farm to School programs led the discussion about the challenges and future direction of the program. Read more »

Filed under Food Systems, Sustainability, Uncategorized
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Inspired by the mission of Seattle Tilth

Posted by Lederson Ganan | January 25, 2017

This year CSANR sponsored registration for several WSU students to attend the Tilth Conference.  We will be posting reflections written by the students over the next several weeks. Please feel free to comment and give these students your feedback.

Lederson GananDid you know the mission of Seattle Tilth is “to inspire and educate people to safeguard our natural resources while building an equitable and sustainable local food system”? Well, after attending my first Tilth Conference in November 2016 in Wenatchee, I can say that I was encouraged to contribute to this mission. My name is Lederson Ganan, I am a graduate student in Plant Pathology at WSU, and I wrote this blog to share some of the most interesting aspects and topics that I want to highlight from this conference. It was a great experience for me; most of the presentations I attended were so interesting, and being it my first time in Wenatchee it was a good opportunity to meet other students, as well as professionals and farmers. Read more »

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The Original Horsepower

Posted by Crystal Allen | January 23, 2017

This year CSANR sponsored registration for several WSU students to attend the Tilth Conference.  We will be posting reflections written by the students over the next several weeks. Please feel free to comment and give these students your feedback.

Crystal AllenBefore mechanized farm equipment, there were animal-powered implements. Before that there was man-powered farming, and before agricultural crops were domesticated there were hunters and gatherers. All of these methods still exist today in various arrangements; some are utilized more than others. The size and scale of the farm operation are factors that play into what methods are used. Combinations of these methods are common at a typical farm.  As an owner of a family hay farm, my personal experience includes mostly mechanized farm equipment, but I’m intrigued by these other systems.  Here, I examine a small-scale re-energized method of farming, using animals to carry out duties on the farm. Read more »

Filed under Sustainable Practices and Technology
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CAFOs manure use on small farms – from liability to asset

Posted by Tariq Khalil | January 18, 2017

This year CSANR sponsored registration for several WSU students to attend the Tilth Conference.  We will be posting reflections written by the students over the next several weeks. Please feel free to comment and give these students your feedback.

TariqMy research work at Washington State University deals with environmental problems associated with big agricultural enterprises, with a focus on large dairy operations. However, I got an opportunity to hear the concerns of small acreage farmers during the Tilth Conference. A glance at the State of Washington statistics tells us that about 89% of the farms are classified as small farms. Like other small businesses, these farms are valuable community assets, generating both income and employment as well as serving critical environmental, aesthetic, and social functions. These small, family owned and operated farms produce a range of commodities from fresh vegetables and fruits to meats, dairy products, flowers, and grain crops. These small entrepreneurs, particularly those with organic practices, have a variety of challenges and fewer choices. A big challenge for these small organic farms is getting financial support. Many banks are reluctant to approve loans to them, as financial institutions do not consider very small operations to be viable agriculture. In contrast to the perceptions of lenders, however, consumer support is growing for small scale, local agriculture.  Farmers are seeing a rise in community support for small farms and a preference for local and organic produce options, thus farmers are challenged to meet the demand with little financial support. Therefore, the potential for locally available nutrient sources could decrease the input cost. Read more »

Mycelial Connections and Symbiotic Networks at the Tilth Conference

Posted by Brendon Anthony | January 4, 2017

This year CSANR sponsored registration for several WSU students to attend the Tilth Conference.  We will be posting reflections written by the students over the next several weeks. Please feel free to comment and give these students your feedback.

img_9234There is something fascinating and beautiful about gathering like-minded people under the same roof to talk about shared interests. There is a connection that is felt amongst the attendees at Tilth Conference. There is a depth of relationship that fills up the hallways of each convention center across the state as the conference travels from region to region. Conversations take place around tables where friends look forward to seeing other friends and colleagues this one time a year. For most, Tilth Conference is sacred ground.

This connection is further encapsulated in the joining of three organizations into one Tilth Alliance. That formal alliance sufficiently represents the alliances forged and fostered at this conference. Like the keynote speaker, Michael Phillips, constantly showcased through his lectures on fungal symbiosis, there is both strength and mutualistic benefits that come from connections. This breadth of connectivity is what encourages fellow farmers, scientists, researchers, interns, and advocates of the organic and sustainable agriculture community to press forward in the midst of what might feel like daunting opposition at times. Furthermore, it is the depth of these relationships that promote a sense of expectation for attending the conference each year. Read more »

Filed under Community and Society, Sustainability
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Cover crop best bet is monoculture, not mixture

Posted by Andrew McGuire | December 21, 2016
Can you see 17 species in this cover crop mix? Photo: A. McGuire.

Can you see 17 species in this cover crop mix? Photo: A. McGuire.

Cover crops are great. If I thought I could get away with it, I would just grow cover crops in my garden. They protect the soil, feed microbes, build soil structure, add root channels, and support beneficial insects. I think they look cool too. When cover crop mixtures got popular a few years ago, I got excited and grew a 17 species mix. It looked really cool, I mean, diverse, with all sorts of seeds that became all sorts of plants.  I took pictures, showed my kids, and even had a neighborhood open garden event! (Well, maybe not that last one) Then I grew some vegetables after the cover crop. They did OK. Just OK. I wanted it to be the best tomato/squash/cucumber/lettuce crop ever, but I could not tell the difference between these vegetables and those I had grown after many previous un-biodiverse cover crops. Recent research results may explain this. Read more »

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