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The State of Organic Seed and How it Changed Me

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.

Samantha Beck, student guest-blogger.

Samantha Beck, student guest-blogger.

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 »

Anaerobic digestion can be an excellent tool to convert waste into renewable energy; so why isn’t everyone using it?

Posted by Shannon Mitchell | December 2, 2015
See the linked WSU fact sheet above, "Anaerobic digestion effluents and processes: the basics" for more detailed information.

See the linked WSU fact sheet above, “Anaerobic digestion effluents and processes: the basics” for more detailed information.

Anaerobic digestion

For those of you less familiar with the terminology anaerobic digestion, let me first introduce this process. Anaerobic digestion (AD) is one option to treat concentrated organic waste streams, such as sewage sludge, manure, and food processing waste. The process is driven by anaerobic microorganisms, which means that microbes decompose the waste material while growing and reproducing in an environment void of oxygen. These organisms will die if oxygen is present. Anaerobic digestion is like composting, but instead of maintaining a good aerobic (with oxygen) compost pile, the organic waste is put in a completely sealed container void of oxygen (for more detail see the new WSU Fact Sheet: Mitchell et al., 2015). Read more »

Filed under Energy, Sustainability
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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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Being prepared: what we got can help us understand what to expect

Posted by Sonia A. Hall | October 12, 2015

As I shared in my last post, “Climate is what you expect, and weather is what you get.” But if the climate is changing, and part of what experts predict is that we’ll see more extreme weather and weather-related events—think floods, droughts, big storms—what should we expect?

Chelan, WA vineyard. Photo: A. Simonds

Wine grapes; a crop of growing importance in eastern Washington that tolerates drought better than other important crops. Photo: A. Simonds

More than one research group is working hard to develop models that can help answer this and other questions. They are also working to collect real-world data against which to compare the model projections, to improve our confidence in what these models tell us. It is this combination of data and good models—models that do a good job at representing what actually happens in the real world—that would allow us to say to what extent a particular event is due to a changing climate, and how much is just the natural, year-to-year variability that we are all used to experiencing. Read more »

Filed under Climate Change
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Being prepared: what you get is not necessarily what you expect

Posted by Sonia A. Hall | October 8, 2015
The Grizzly Bear Complex Fires located southeast of Dayton, WA began on Aug. 13, 2015.   Photo: USFS.

The Grizzly Bear Complex Fires located southeast of Dayton, WA began on Aug. 13, 2015. Photo: USFS.

A concerned citizen wrote a letter to the editor of my local paper recently, complaining about how weather, climate, and climate change had been used almost interchangeably. Reading that letter got me thinking about the active scientific discussion on whether extreme weather or weather-driven events like floods and wildfires—the latter very much on our radar in eastern Washington this year—are due to climate change. And more importantly, it got me thinking about how to best take advantage of what we know, even when there are some complex issues we still don’t fully understand. Here I tackle the difference between weather and climate, and in a future post I will discuss what we know—and don’t—about climate change impacts and how what we do know can be useful. Read more »

Filed under Climate Change
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Early preparation for water transfers could reduce drought impacts for agriculture and fish

Posted by Georgine Yorgey | September 29, 2015

As this hot, dry summer winds down across Washington State, many areas are continuing to struggle with the impacts of drought.  (Those who would like a recap of August weather and drought conditions can see the WSU Drought Report here.)

Unfortunately, while the weather has become more fall-like, with welcome rain in some areas, all climate indicators point towards increased chance of warmer and somewhat drier than normal conditions through mid-2016 – as shown in the three month forecast from the Climate Prediction Center (see the maps below). Indicators consistent with this forecast include recent observations of a strong El Niño, forecasts of an 85% or greater likelihood of El Niño persisting through next spring, and a positive Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) signal[1]. Together, this all points to a likelihood of reduced snowpack this winter – and limited water availability again next summer and fall. Read more »

Filed under Climate Change, Sustainability
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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.

Read more »

Filed under Community and Society, Organic Farming
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Climate Impacts Modeling 101: Interpreting What Models Say About the Future of Our Region Under Climate Change

Posted by Liz Allen | August 4, 2015

modeling 101As a PhD student with CSANR interested in improving communication about climate and agriculture between the academic and decision-making spheres, I’ve had a lot of conversations about climate models with agricultural producers, industry representatives, policy makers and regulatory officials (as well as with modelers themselves!).  In the course of those conversations it has become clear that accessible explanations of how climate models are developed and how the results from climate change projections ought to be interpreted are lacking. Read more »

Filed under Climate Change
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