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Organic Farming Provides Ecosystem Service and Solves Weed Problems

Posted by Andrew McGuire | April 14, 2016

In nearly all surveys of organic farmers their top priority for research is weed control. Weeds are a tough problem to solve, but with creativity and spunk, researchers in Spain have done it! In their 2016 paper, “Arable Weed Decline in Northeast Spain: Does Organic Farming Recover Functional Biodiversity?” Chamorro et al. provide a unique glimpse into the sort of thinking it will take to move agriculture to a different place. In a series of unanticipated turns, the authors lead us down a path to weed-free agriculture.

First, they contend that weeds are misunderstood. Weeds, as the paper admits, are a bane of agriculture, reducing yields as they do, but in a subtle departure, we are then told “The role of weeds in agroecosystems has been largely debated.” From this debate, the authors conclude that “the role of weeds is manifold”; weeds are not just yield-robbing competitors of crops, they also provide an “ecosystem service.” Read more »

The “Sunset Review” Process of the National Organic Standards Board

Posted by David Granatstein | February 11, 2016

This post was written by Harold Austin, NOSB member and David Granatstein, WSU

SL380734

Photo: T. Psych via Flickr CC.

The Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (Public Law 101-624, Nov. 28, 1990) was passed to establish a uniform definition and regulation of organic foods in the U.S. The law provides the framework for development of a system for organic certification (7 USC Ch. 94, Organic Certification) for farms, processors, and handlers. The varied organic certification programs and laws in place prior to the national law typically contained lists of prohibited materials for use in organic crop and livestock production and in organic food handling and manufacturing processes, based on the general principle of natural is acceptable, synthetic is prohibited. The Federal approach called for establishment of a “national list” that would delineate “allowed synthetics” and “prohibited naturals.” If a natural material was not on the list, it was allowed; if a synthetic materials was not on the list, it was prohibited. This was meant to expedite the process of material review by only debating the exceptions, not each specific allowed natural.

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Filed under Community and Society, Organic Farming
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A Passion Sparked and Fostered

Posted by Brendon Anthony | January 5, 2016

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.

Brendon Anthony, student guest-blogger.

Brendon Anthony, student guest-blogger.

My name is Brendon Anthony, and I am currently pursuing a Master of Science in the Horticulture program at Washington State University. I have a passion for sustainable agriculture, and am constantly interested in how we can be developing better organic practices. I also run a non-profit organization called Harvest Craft, and we work with communities in third world countries to develop micro-farm businesses that are based on sustainable food production systems.

All this to say, the Tilth Conference, with all of its network, workshops, and wealth of information is my ideal place to glean insight and learn more about how I can effectively carry out my passion and career. It was such an honor to be able to attend this event, and I am very grateful to those who made this experience possible. Read more »

Filed under Community and Society, Sustainability
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A Reinterpretation of Values

Posted by James Gonzalez | December 17, 2015

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.

James Gonzalez, student guest-blogger.

James Gonzalez, student guest-blogger.

What do I consider “valuable”? How do I determine what has worth and what doesn’t? Am I really in such a position that I can assign value to things? These are questions that I asked myself after attending this year’s Tilth Producers of Washington Conference. My name is James Gonzalez and I am a junior majoring in both organic agriculture systems and viticulture & enology at Washington State University in Pullman.

This year marks the third time I have attended the Tilth Producers conference in Washington. The first time I attended was in Yakima and the second time was in Vancouver. Both of my previous adventures at the conference left me filled with both knowledge and questions; questions that would eventually provide me with insight. This year turned out to be no different. Read more »

Filed under Community and Society, Sustainability
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Extension Evolves: Outreach to Latino farmers in western Washington

Posted by Louisa Winkler | December 14, 2015

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.

Louisa Winkler, student guest-blogger.  Winkler is a PhD student in plant breeding.  She is developing oat varieties and end-user applications for western WA.

Louisa Winkler, student guest-blogger. Winkler is a PhD student in plant breeding. She is developing oat varieties and end-user applications for western WA.

Latino farm workers in western Washington

In western Washington’s Skagit County, many of the people working on farms have immigrated from Latin American countries, primarily Mexico, in the last one or two generations.  In 2014, Skagit County’s population was 17.8% Hispanic or Latino (U.S. Census Bureau).  Indeed, the agricultural sector’s reliance on immigrant labor from Central and South America is nationwide; the most recent data from the National Agricultural Workers Survey reports that 74% of farm workers named Mexico as their country of birth (data available at https://naws.jbsinternational.com/3/3.php). Read more »

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The Power of Being Casual

Posted by Abby Beissinger | December 10, 2015

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.

Abby Beissinger, student guest-blogger.

Abby Beissinger, student guest-blogger.

The day before the Tilth Producers of Washington Conference, I sat staring at my dresser unsure of what clothes to pack. You might be thinking, “Wow Abby, that’s awfully vain of you.” I’d probably think the same if I came across that sentence myself—but let me explain. As a student beginning my second year in pursuit of a MS degree in Plant Pathology, Tilth was my first conference as an academic. I wanted to network, communicate my new research, and just generally be taken seriously. I had no idea what to expect at Tilth, and figured the best way to achieve all these goals was to dress the part—I decided to bring dress pants, sensible heels, and a blazer. Read more »

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We are the 98%. Thanks to farmers and ranchers, from the rest of us.

Posted by Andrew McGuire | November 25, 2015

Just 2% of our population are farmers. Perhaps this should cause us as much concern as the 99-1% divide (highlighting economic inequality in our country), but today my goal is not warning, but thanksgiving. Here are some observations that we, the 98% should consider about the 2% of farmers, ranchers, growers, producers or whatever they would like us to call them.

Thank you to the producers of our feasts. Photo: Lauren M. via Flickr CC.

Thank you to the producers of our feasts. Photo: Lauren M. via Flickr CC.

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Schultz Legacy: Moving meat from farm to table

Posted by Marcy Ostrom | September 14, 2015
Tom Schultz conducting local market research at the San Juan Island Farmers Market

Tom Schultz conducting market research at the San Juan Island Farmers Market

This summer saw the retirement of long-time WSU San Juan County Extension director, Dr. Tom Schultz. Among many notable accomplishments, Tom was a national leader in applying the resources of extension to solving some of the most intractable problems facing local food systems. A plant pathologist by training, along the way Tom also became an expert in participatory community development. Through a process that took years to bear fruit, Tom and determined San Juan Islands citizens worked as part of the Lopez Community Land Trust to identify and break down barriers to local food production and consumption. A concern dating back to the 1990s was the lack of local USDA-inspected meat processing.  Island producers knew they had unique products that their neighbors and others looking for meat raised in a humane, healthy, and clean environment wanted to buy, yet the barriers seemed immense. Read more »

Organic appetite continues to grow

Posted by David Granatstein | September 8, 2015

2015-WOW-LogoNext week, Sept. 12-19, is Washington Organic Week, an annual celebration of organic farms, foods, and businesses in the state. This week we are releasing our 2014 statistical update of the organic sector, a report we have now produced for 10 years running. With continuous data over time, one can start to pick out some trends and patterns, which are discussed below. I had hoped to also be reporting here on the results of the 2014 USDA organic production survey, which was due to be released on August 31st but was delayed. Those results will be discussed in a future post. Globally, the most current data on organic agriculture come from the annual “World of Organic Agriculture” report (Willer and Lernoud, 2015), free online, which gathers data on the organic sector from 170 countries around the world.

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Filed under Community and Society, Organic Farming
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What is Holistic Agriculture?

Posted by Bertie Weddell | April 1, 2015
Carol Schaffer

Photo: C. Schaffer

Recently, I watched a TV program about rehabilitation of sloths illegally taken from the wild for the pet trade in Colombia. According to the narrator, the sloths were treated with holistic medicine. This puzzled me. I thought holistic medicine involved treatment of body, mind, spirit, and emotions. I couldn’t help wondering what we know about the mental, spiritual, and emotional life of sloths. Read more »

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