In 1990, Washington State University’s College of Agriculture, Human, Natural Resources (CAHNRS) held 16 town hall meetings where more than 1,500 Washington citizens recommended how WSU could better serve them. Afterwards, a citizen task force collaborated with representative faculty members to identify three major areas for immediate increased funding support: sustaining agriculture and natural resources, family well-being, and rural growth and revitalization.

CAHNRS proposed a package to Washington’s legislature addressing these issues. As a result, in 1991 the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources (CSANR) and the Food and Environmental Quality Laboratory (FEQL) were established at WSU through RCW 15.92.  During the 2006 and 2007 Legislative Sessions, the Washington Legislature appropriated funding to CSANR for the Biologically Intensive and Organic Agriculture Program (BIOAg) as part of WSU’s Unified Agriculture Initiative.

The Center has been working for nearly three decades to bring sustainable solutions to the citizens and agricultural industry of Washington State, first under the leadership of part-time Directors David Bezdicek and Phil Crawford and then from 1999 – 2007 under the leadership of the first full-time Director Chris Feise.

The context for our work in sustainable agriculture is clearly different today than it was in 1991. The idea of sustainability has permeated mainstream society, the food system, and agricultural industry, and also the university. Our role as a university center has matured from being the “go-to place” for information on sustainable agriculture production practices to functioning as a catalyst for cutting edge research and education on the critical issues facing agriculture – including climate change, energy and water security, and other emerging areas. Working with many collaborators, we aim to improve technology and management knowledge in ways that will make all of our agricultural production systems more sustainable.

Our faculty and affiliates are working on exciting projects including energy and nutrient recovery from organic wastes, improving the management of alternative marketing systems, use of biologically-based management practices and technologies to reduce pesticide use, technology for managing agricultural inputs and understanding the environmental impact of farming, and the development of new, sustainable farming systems. The demand for innovation and problem-solving has never been greater – as our society faces Grand Challenges including climate change and sustaining health. But this is also the most exciting time and place to be working in sustainable agriculture research and education and CSANR is definitely up to the challenge.

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