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.
My 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 »
Posted by Marcy Ostrom | November 22, 2016
As shown in this logo designed by Quincy resident Oscar Romero, the theme of last Tuesday’s bilingual community summit held at the Quincy Junior High as “Seeding Success, Growing ONE Community.” A team of bilingual junior high students and faculty, along with local volunteers hosted over 160 community members in a discussion about how to protect our region’s land and water resources and build community health and prosperity. “Fostering cross-generational relationships, a sense of belonging, and knowledge and resource sharing” were among the subjects highlighted in a collection of over 60 short stories submitted by local citizens. These essays, chronicling recent “successes” both large and small were used to inspire deliberation, celebration, and action in small work groups. Read more »
Posted by David Granatstein | August 29, 2016
It is apple harvest time again in Washington State, albeit about two weeks earlier than normal in most places. This will be a large crop overall, and probably a record crop for organic apples. The projection is for a harvest of just over 11 million 40-pound boxes of organic apples. At 88 apples per box (a typical size), that’s over 950 million organic apples. And while this sounds like a lot, if everyone in the US (say, 300 million people) ate one apple a day, that supply would be gone in less than four days. Still, demand is growing by around 10-12% per year, according to the annual surveys done by the Organic Trade Association. Based on data from grocery store sales, apples are the number two fresh fruit sold by value (behind berries) for both conventional and organic. A major food retailer reported that their sales of organic apples increased nearly 50% in 2015 over the previous year, a huge jump. And average organic apple prices received by growers hit record highs last season. The total value of the packed organic apples was just under $400 million, with 70% or more going directly to growers. This is a substantial contribution to the state’s economy. Read more »
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 »
Posted by David Granatstein | February 11, 2016
This post was written by Harold Austin, NOSB member and David Granatstein, WSU
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.
Posted by Samantha Beck | December 7, 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.
When I entered the “State of Organic Seed” workshop Sunday afternoon of the 2015 Tilth conference I was a total skeptic. My previous learning had focused on the advantages of conventional farming and I had little education in the ways of organic or sustainable farming practices.
That is why when I had the opportunity to attend this conference in Spokane November 15th through the 17th I was both extremely excited but also very nervous. Not only was this my first conference, but it was also a conference with which my views didn’t totally align. As an Agricultural Biotechnology major here at Washington State University I’ve learned a lot about advances in agricultural sciences that have allowed for the use of genetic engineering in plants, otherwise known as GMOs. Up until the conference, I had come to appreciate this technology and believed it was the future of agriculture. Read more »
Posted by Marcy Ostrom | November 23, 2015
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 »
Posted by David Granatstein | September 8, 2015
Next 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.
Posted by David Granatstein | April 29, 2015
Consumer interest in blueberries as part of a healthy diet has exploded in recent years. Blueberries are considered one of the “superfruits”, full of antioxidants and other beneficial compounds. They are also easy to use, especially in breakfasts, where the breakfast smoothie has become a standard way to start the day for many. This new morning pattern continues to create demand for ready to use ingredients such as blueberries. Washington State growers have produced blueberries commercially for many years, but our output has typically been less than our neighbors in Oregon and British Columbia. With the recent demand increases, new blueberry plantings in the state have followed. And the biggest shift is new plantings under irrigation in the Columbia Basin region, managed organically. A new publication on “Trends and Economics of Washington State Organic Blueberry Production” was just published by WSU faculty to help growers and others in the industry understand the current situation and evaluate opportunities for further expansion. Read more »
Posted by Chad Kruger | April 14, 2015
Each year CSANR administers an internal competitive grant program called BIOAg to fund new research and education projects focused on improving the sustainability of agriculture in Washington State. To date, through BIOAg and precursor internal grant programs, CSANR has funded 150 projects – many of which have led to significant new investments of extramural funding to further advance these ideas. Over the course of the program [and within each year] we have funded projects ranging from basic science to applied research to extension and educational products and we’ve always been able to maintain a good blend across this continuum. Read more »