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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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Carkner of Terry’s Berries awarded “Farmer of the Year”

Posted by Marcy Ostrom | November 23, 2015
Tilth 2015 (14)

Terry Carkner (left) as she is presented with the “Farmer of the Year” award at the annual Tilth Producers of Washington conference earlier this month. Photo: C. Donovan.

After 31 years, Terry Carkner has retired from her namesake farm, Terry’s Berries, in the Puyallup River Valley. She and her husband Dick converted a 25-acre conventional raspberry farm into a diversified organic vegetable farm and started one of the first CSA farms in the state. At their recent conference, the Tilth Producers of Washington honored Terry with their “Farmer of the Year Award,” an award that recognizes innovations in organic farming, excellence in enhancing natural resources and biodiversity, soil stewardship, and inspiration to other farmers and community members. Read more »

Filed under Food Systems, Organic Farming
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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 »

Can We Save Nature by Improving Agriculture?

Posted by Andrew McGuire | September 16, 2014
An example of land sharing in Tanzania.  Photo: Rod Waddlington

An example of land sharing in Tanzania. Photo: Rod Waddlington

There is an ongoing debate about how to produce food for a growing population without losing more of our wild lands. Two options are being promoted; “land sparing” where production on current agricultural lands is intensified to produce more food thereby sparing the conversion of wild lands, and “land sharing” where agriculture and wild lands are integrated and small producing parcels are intermixed with wild lands. The former strategy is championed in a paper by Phalan et al. (2011) where the authors report that more bird and tree species were negatively affected by agriculture than benefitted from it. A contrary view from Tscharntke et al. (2012) argues that the land sparing view ignores the complexity of the real world, and that the land sharing strategy would produce more ecosystem services. From these two views, a range of options expand, all of which are being researched and debated.  Read more »

The biggest threat to food security?

Posted by Chad Kruger | September 9, 2014

In a recent interview that covered the gamut of oft-cited threats to agricultural sustainability and food security (drought, food safety, energy disruption, economics, terrorism, chemical pollution, genetic pollution, impacts on pollinators, soil erosion, climate change, etc.), I was asked which threat I thought was the biggest. I was completely stumped. For every threat that came to mind as “the big one” I could come up with at least two arguments why a different threat was bigger. Read more »

Washington Agriculture by the Numbers

Posted by David Granatstein | May 28, 2014
Rainier cherries grown in WA (photo: Thomas Hawk)

Rainier cherries grown in WA (photo: Thomas Hawk)

The results of the 2012 Census of Agriculture were recently released by USDA.  Every 5 years, the National Agricultural Statistics Service fields a nationwide census to all identifiable farms in the country.  The census reports contain a wealth of information and new questions are added as agriculture changes, such as questions on direct marketing, organic production, use of rotational or management-intensive grazing, and harvest of biomass crops for energy. Read more »

Filed under Food Systems, Organic Farming, Sustainability

The disconnect between the production and consumption of food

Posted by Chad Kruger | May 5, 2014
photo: Kabsik Park

Photo: Kabsik Park

Over the past several months we’ve seen: a freak early-season snow storm in the Dakotas that killed tens of thousands of cattle that could take affected ranchers more than a decade to recover from, continued and expanding drought conditions in the corn belt of the Upper Midwest, extended drought cutting off irrigation water in the “produce basket” of the Central Valley of California, massively destructive storms and flooding in the Gulf Coast, and a deadly virus killing piglets in more than half the country. In spite of this, we’re just finally seeing reports that the price of food is creeping higher – a whopping 0.4% two months in a row! – with the increasing price of bacon the one most people are complaining about. Read more »

Considering the vulnerability of our food system to climatic disruptions

Posted by Chad Kruger | September 17, 2013

While the nationally televised Seahawks game was delayed for lightning Sunday night, much of the inland Pacific Northwest braced for the fourth major storm event this summer, with warnings for high winds and severe dust storms, massive electrical storms, heavy rainfall with localized flash flooding, mudslides and extensive power outages. Fortunately, my family did NOT get struck by lightning during this storm as we did in the August 10th storm and this storm also doesn’t seem to have sparked any new wild fires! In light of the on-going flood events in Colorado this week, it looks like we probably had it easy this time with only some inconveniences that should be corrected in the next 24-48 hours. However, given that September is National Preparedness Month, this seems like a good opportunity to highlight a recent commentary paper that I co-authored with some colleagues around the country evaluating research needs regarding the vulnerability of the food system to climatic disruptions. As with most commentary articles, this activity included a review of published literature coupled with expert assessment of where there are gaps in our understanding of vulnerabilities. Read more »

Filed under Climate Change, Food Systems
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No, I won’t stop eating meat to feed the planet

Posted by Chad Kruger | September 6, 2013

Full disclosure: I come from a livestock-producing family tradition and I eat meat. And I like it. A lot.

In his latest provocative post, my colleague Andy McGuire reflects on a new paper that assesses the potential to feed a growing global population by shifting from meat consumption to a vegetarian diet. The paper presents a very compelling scientific rationale for the shift and has Andy contemplating his future dietary choices. Go read Andy’s post – it’s worth your time. In the conclusion of his post, Andy asks readers whether they would quit meat to feed the planet.

My answer to Andy is an unequivocal “No.” Read more »

A Sobering Reminder of the Importance of Dietary Choice

Posted by Chuck Benbrook | July 16, 2013

A growing number of Americans are learning that doctors don’t have miracle cures for all that ails us.  The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington has just released chilling data on the burden of disease in America, the driving forces behind disease and ill health, and modifiable risk factors for contemporary health problems.

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Filed under Community and Society, Food Systems, Nutrition

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