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Training the next generation of farmers

Posted by Bethany Wolters | December 18, 2014

This year CSANR sponsored registration for several WSU students to attend Tilth Producers of WA annual 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.

Bethany Wolters - student guest blogger

Bethany Wolters – student guest blogger

If you want to get me excited about something, mention food, farming, or teaching.  I am studying to be an agriculture professor and am currently a soil science master student at Washington State University, learning everything I can about growing vegetables, healthy soils and teaching.  At the beginning of November I had the opportunity to attend the Washington Tilth Producers Conference in Vancouver, WA. One of the events I participated in was a workshop called “The Next Generation of Farmers and Eaters: Changing the Food System through Education.”  It was presented by Stuart O’Neill, who organizes an on-farm internship program in Oregon called Rogue Farm Corps, and Elizabeth Wheat, who is a Whidbey Island farmer and lecturer at University of Washington in Seattle. Dr. Wheat talked about her experiences introducing agriculture to students at an urban university and their campus farm.  I came away from the presentations and discussion inspired to re-image how agricultural education fits into higher education. Read more »

Filed under Community and Society, Sustainability
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The healing power of soil

Posted by Alison Detjens | December 15, 2014

This year CSANR sponsored registration for several WSU students to attend Tilth Producers of WA annual 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.

Alison Detjens - student guest blogger

Alison Detjens – student guest blogger

Tilth Producers of Washington has been holding yearly gatherings for 40 years. The annual conference brings together farmers, interns, intermediaries, educators and food activists for a three day long celebration of sharing knowledge and ideas.

Some of the workshops are technical, providing best practices or innovative ideas; others focus on community and health. One of the workshops I attended this year spoke of a farm that bridges the social and physical aspects of food and farming in a profound, yet simple way: a farm dedicated to working with veterans of war to help heal and reintegrate men and women into civilian society. Read more »

Filed under Community and Society, Sustainability
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Science’s future: telling the story of your data

Posted by Christopher Gambino | December 11, 2014

This year CSANR sponsored registration for several WSU students to attend Tilth Producers of WA annual 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.

The opportunity

Christopher Gambino - student guest blogger

Christopher Gambino – student guest blogger

A conference focused on sustainable agriculture?!  Yep, and I got to attend.

I am a PhD Candidate at Washington State University where I am among a cohort of National Science Foundation IGERT students. This is a multidisciplinary doctoral training program designed to create a new generation of scientists who seamlessly integrate nitrogen cycle science for effective communication with public policy makers. As such, my training allows for engagement in food, agriculture, and environmental policy dialogue. In those interactions I usually find myself to be one of the few voices with a holistic perspective of sustainability.

Read more »

Filed under Community and Society, Sustainability
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Narrowing the Conventional Versus Organic Farming System Yield Gap

Posted by Chuck Benbrook | December 9, 2014

Nearly everyone agrees that producing ample, nutritious and safe food to feed 9 billion people, with minimal harm to the environment, is one of mankind’s grand challenges. In the May 14, 2014 issue of National Geographic, Jonathan Foley sets out a thoughtful, five-step plan that highlighted these imperatives:

  • “Freeze agriculture’s footprint” (e.g., stop clearing tropical rainforests),
  • “Grow more on the farms we’ve got” (close the yield gap, more multi-cropping),
  • “Use resources more efficiently” (help farmers “get smarter”),
  • “Shift diets” (more fresh fruits and veggies, less grain-fed meat), and
  • “Reduce waste” (25% food calories wasted; 50% of food by weight). Read more »

Analyzing Near Your Own Roots

Posted by Mary Stewart | December 8, 2014

This year CSANR sponsored registration for several WSU students to attend Tilth Producers of WA annual 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.

Mary Stewart - student guest blogger

Mary Stewart – student guest blogger

At the 2014 Tilth Producers of Washington Conference I attended Dr. Susan Kerr’s workshop on parasites in farm animals. Worms especially are a serious problem in ruminants, notably sheep and goats. Slide after slide, Dr. Kerr showed sheep suffering anemia, bottle jaw and diarrhea. Ultimately such conditions can lead to death. Unfortunately, parasites cannot be eliminated, but they can be reduced to an insignificant or inconsequential level in the herd. There are several steps farmers can take to prevent their animals from becoming infected. Some practices are: rotational grazing, kidding or lambing during intensely cold weather, preventing overgrazing (minimum height of grasses at 3.5 inches), letting animals out after morning dew dries and performing fecal egg counts for each animal. Read more »

Filed under Sustainability
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Flexibility and Sustainable Agriculture

Posted by Jesse Wimer | December 1, 2014

This year CSANR sponsored registration for several WSU students to attend Tilth Producers of WA annual 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.

Jesse Wimer, student guest blogger

Jesse Wimer, student guest blogger

My recent participation in the Tilth Producers of Washington annual conference helped me pin down an idea that, for some reason, has taken me awhile to articulate. The idea is a simple one, and may seem like a no brainer – in fact, is a no brainer – once I took some time to think about it.

As a grad student in the Department of Horticulture here at WSU, I sometimes think back and try to reconstruct the steps that led me to where I am. For 10 years now I have been chasing sustainable agriculture. My journey began as a history major, sifting through 19th century Russian literature, trying to make sense of historic struggles over land rights and ownership. I moved on to organic farming in Montana, taking refuge in a turn-of-the-century barn and a mouse-ridden trailer. After scraping in the soil for a few summers I went back to school as an undergrad, hoping that the institution would help me figure something out. Sometime later I moved on to grad school. Read more »

Filed under Sustainability
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Traditional Agroecological Knowledge: Where Does Cultural Wisdom Lie?

Posted by Bertie Weddell | November 6, 2014
Gambian baboon.  Photo: Tim Ellis via Flickr CC.

Gambian baboon. Photo: Tim Ellis via Flickr CC.

Near the beginning of Roots: The Saga of an American Family, Alex Haley mentions dietary taboos among his Gambian ancestors. Eating monkeys, baboons, bullfrogs, wild pigs, and eggs of wild birds was forbidden. When I first read that passage, a good many years ago, I thought those taboos were wasteful superstitions. Much later, I wondered whether the taboos played a role in conservation, or whether they had other functions, such as promoting group cohesion, that were opaque to me. Read more »

Filed under Community and Society
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On why I might be wrong

Posted by Chad Kruger | November 4, 2014

In two prior posts (threats and variability), based on our research, I have argued that climate change is not likely to be a major cause for concern for agricultural production in the Pacific Northwest until at least mid-century. A little bit of warming and a little bit of CO2 elevation is actually positive for most crops in the PNW. In this post, I’m going to tell you why I might be wrong. Read more »

Filed under Climate Change
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Promoting Global Food Security One Crop of Tomatoes at a Time

Posted by Chuck Benbrook | October 23, 2014
Photo: C. Benbrook

Photo: C. Benbrook

In early September I visited a remarkable organic farm on the coast of California.  This farm has been in organic production for about 30 years, and its harvests of mostly organic tomatoes have been marketed through a variety of outlets in Northern California.

I arrived on the day picking had just begun on a sloping tomato field about 6 acres in size.  The crop was exceptionally clean, with virtually no insect damage and few weeds.  Minimal, organically approved control measures had been used, including applications of sulfur and releases of trichogramma (beneficial wasps), along with many hours of hand weeding.

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Precision nitrogen can benefit both farmers and the climate

Posted by Georgine Yorgey | October 21, 2014

In a previous post, I explained that available evidence currently indicates nitrous oxide emissions may be fairly low in the inland Pacific Northwest, compared to other cropland agricultural systems in the U.S. and world. If ongoing research confirms these early results, then I suggested that efforts to reduce nitrous oxide emissions need to focus on strategies that offered strong co-benefits. Read more »

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