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Two weeks fighting to solve global food security

When it comes to complex problems, solving global food security ranks high on any list. With a changing global climate, shifting politics, warfare, and economic problems, there is no silver bullet to make safe, healthy food available to everyone on Earth.

Kunle Adesanya stands in front of a podium wearing an orange shirt, while a group of 5 other people stand to the side, all wearing native Nigerian shirts.
WSU graduate student Kunle Adesanya, left, and his group talk about food security in his native Nigeria at the 2018 Borlaug Summer Institute on Global Food Security.

But at the Borlaug Summer Institute on Global Food Security, they’re asking graduate students from around the country to take on the challenge. And Washington State University has had great success in sending graduate students to this well-respected and prestigious gathering, with nine attendees since 2012.

That number includes three students who attended the 2018 institute: Adekunle Adesanya, a Ph.D. student in Entomology; Aichatou Waziri, a master’s student in Crop Sciences; and Stephanie Sjoberg, a Ph.D. student in Crop Sciences.

“We need people from every country to help solve the global food security challenge,” said Adesanya, a native of Nigeria. “Attending Borlaug is like the ultimate test that what we’re learning in school is applicable in the real world, and can help make the world better.”

The institute, hosted by Purdue University, brings 40 graduate students from a variety of countries together to work on difficult food problems. The program is intense, with a series of lectures from leading international scientists and each student participating in a small group project.

Waziri and Sjoberg were grouped together on a project to solve a real-world problem in Niger, Waziri’s homeland. They were asked to rescue a crop called fonio, a type of millet, and improve another staple crop in Africa called cowpea.

“We talked about how to get farmers and women involved in improving these staple crops,” said Sjoberg, a native of Snohomish, Wash. who wants to be a plant breeder. “Women need to be included because they’re the ones who feed the families.”

The group project was personal for Waziri, but the institute showed her the broad scale of food security around the world.

“I started thinking about how I can help my country,” Waziri said. “But the institute opened my eyes to the fact there are places in wealthy countries like the U.S. where people don’t have adequate access to food.”

Three people hold up certificates in a posed photo.
Aichatou Waziri, left, Kunle Adesanya, and Stephanie Sjoberg hold their completion certificates at the end of their time at the Borlaug Summer Institute on Global Food Security.

The students came from a variety of academic backgrounds, so they could come together for a multidisciplinary look at the problems. A plant breeder, for example, may not have come up with a solution like double bagging seeds to keep insects away during the winter months.

“I have a tendency to focus on what I’m doing in my bubble,” Sjoberg said. “Those two weeks reminded me that even one person can make a difference. My work could have a ripple effect that helps people somewhere else.”

Adesanya worked on a project involving farming in his native Nigeria, which he was especially interested in given his entomology studies.

“With climate change, the pest problems in Nigeria and other parts of Africa are becoming more frequent and a bigger issue, a good example is the on-going fall armyworm crisis in Africa,” he said. “Having the opportunity to work with students from different schools with different skill sets gave us a wider view of the problem. It was great to work together to solve this very complex problem.”

The next Borlaug Institute will be in June, 2019 at Purdue. It is open to graduate students from across U.S. universities.

CAHNRS Talk Tuesday: Alyssa McGee

Each week, we showcase one of our CAHNRS Ambassadors, a student leadership organization that encourages students to pursue higher education and serves as a liaison between the college and the greater community. This week, we’re featuring Alyssa McGee, a junior from Sumner, Wash.

What are you studying?

I’m majoring in Animal Sciences, in the animal management specialization.

Favorite Show/Movie:

The Blind Side

Favorite Cougar Tradition:

I have always been passionate about recognizing excellence within those who have committed to something they’re excited about, and have in turn found success. Every year, CAHNRS Honors is a spectacular event that gives students the opportunity to be recognized for their outstanding efforts in making Washington State University the reputable institution that it is today. Last year, I had the opportunity to attend and witness the accomplishments of those around me. I was truly inspired.

Favorite CAHNRS Commodity:

Nothing beats Ferdinand’s. Nothing beats Chocolate Cookie Dough ice cream.

Why be a CAHNRS Coug?

Throughout middle and high school, I was heavily involved in my FFA chapter. One of my Supervised Agricultural Experiences was conducting agriscience research. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to travel to WSU to meet with and learn from world-renowned researchers in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Not only were they my mentors then, but now that I’m here at WSU, I am currently employed by the USDA/WSU and work for one of them. It’s incredible to see things come full circle, and I feel this is something you can expect to find when you come home to CAHNRS.

Best Student Experience:

Although I’m a junior, this is only my third semester here in Pullman. As a running start student, I found myself mostly going through the motions and getting lost in subjects that didn’t pique my interest whatsoever. My first semester at WSU was a rude awakening in the most pleasant way. I’ve never had professors who were truly passionate about what they were teaching like they are here. Dr. Maquivar has had a large impact on my commitment to the animal science program here at WSU. His enthusiasm for his profession and burning passion for seeing his students succeed is contagious. Even if you aren’t an animal science major, taking his 101 class is an experience I would recommend to anyone!

CAHNRS Taught Me:

Last fall, I would say that my college experience was pretty lame. My daily schedule consisted of waking up, going to class, going back to my dorm, studying, and going to sleep (plus getting my fair share of gourmet food from the dining hall). And while I wouldn’t say that I am necessarily the most social person now, being a student in CAHNRS has opened my eyes to several different opportunities to get involved, including my current job that is exclusively for CAHNRS/Animal Science majors. I am also now more aware of the importance of stepping out of my comfort zone, dwelling in my growth zone, and ultimately, growing as a person.

Extension Outreach award winner helps Northwest’s Latino community thrive

Dr. García-Pabón, seated outdoors, holding his award.
Honored for outreach to the Latino and Latina community, Dr. García-Pabón holds his recent Excellence in Extension and Public Outreach award from the Rural Sociological Society.

For more than a decade, WSU Extension educator José García-Pabón has helped Washington’s growing Latino community find success as entrepreneurs, learners and leaders.

Dr. García-Pabón — an associate professor with the WSU Extension Community and Economic Development Program and a Latino Community Studies and Outreach specialist — is the latest winner of the 2018 Excellence in Extension and Public Outreach Award from the Rural Sociological Society.

“The Latino and Hispanic community is an increasingly important part of Washington’s business and food system,” he said. “Reaching out to this community with training and outreach through WSU Extension brings us together, giving all Washingtonians a role in community leadership, stewardship, and a better chance at success.”

With WSU Extension, García-Pabón works to help underserved communities in their agricultural, community and professional lives, while becoming stronger, more connected parts of the Northwest economy and culture.

Supporting small business and economic development, he provides training sessions on sustainable farming practices for small farmers and immigrant growers, and shares leadership training with Latino and Latina college students, women of color and Latino entrepreneurs.

García-Pabón also gives culturally appropriate training to colleagues, agencies and professional organizations on working with Latino communities, helping build Extension connections statewide.

This fall, he will help launch Extension’s sixth Latino/Latina Leadership Initiative, or LLI, academy in partnership with the Latino Educational Training Institute and three community colleges in Snohomish and Skagit Counties.

The Excellence Award shows that his efforts to serve populations with limited access and awareness to education resources aren’t going unnoticed.

“It reinforces the importance of continued, expanded Extension programs to reach our underserved communities,” he said. “I’m proud of the work my Community and Economic Development colleagues and I are doing, with the Metropolitan Center and other partners, to change lives for so many Northwest students, women, farmers and families.”

  • Learn more about García-Pabón’s work here.


Save the date: Extension Food Safety Workshop shares latest defenses against foodborne illness

Ganjyal, standing left, links hands with Garces, right, standing and holding a trophy.
WSU Extension co-hosts the annual Food Safety and Sanitation Workshop, set for Nov. 6-8 in Portland, Ore. Above, Girish Ganjyal, WSU Food Science Associate Professor, left, stands with Rosalinda Garces, 2017 Line Worker Award winner.

Food industry professionals can learn about the latest risks, rules and cutting-edge defenses for foodborne illness at the 38th Annual Food Safety and Sanitation Workshop, Nov. 6-8 in Portland, Ore., co-hosted by Washington State University Extension.

Held in partnership with University of Idaho Extension, Food Northwest, and Oregon State University Extension, this annual conference helps food manufacturers, Extension educators and health officials share discoveries and best practices to keep our food supply healthy.

Girish Ganjyal, associate professor in the WSU Department of Food Science, chairs this event in concert with a steering committee of 17 professionals representing the food industry, academia and the regulatory agencies in the region.

The two-day workshop includes four general session talks, 16 breakout session talks and 17 speakers. Topics include food fraud, hygiene, cleaning and hand-washing, embedding defense in your food safety culture, as well as Spanish-language workshops, among others. An industry panel discussion will explore best practices for implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act. A full agenda is available at on the WSU Extension website.

The event is held at the Sheraton Portland Airport Hotel in Portland. Seating is limited, and early registration is advised at the workshop website.

Early registration is $250 by Oct. 22. Late registration is $290 after Oct. 22.

During this year’s event, a deserving nominee will be awarded with the third annual Line Worker Award.

Room block information is available here.


CAHNRS Talk Tuesday: Lucy Eggleston

Each week, we showcase one of our CAHNRS Ambassadors, a student leadership organization that encourages students to pursue higher education and serves as a liaison between the college and the greater community. This week, we’re featuring Lucy Eggleston, a senior from Asotin, Wash.

What are you studying?

I’m majoring in Viticulture & Enology.

Favorite Show/Movie:

Collateral Beauty

Favorite Cougar Tradition:

Every Friday night before a home football game, the marching band hits the road performing their repertoire to get the Cougs ready for Cougar Football Saturday! The blasting brass section and beating drum line can be heard from across campus, and Coug spirit is amplified! This is the perfect way to get pumped up before cheering on my favorite team!

Favorite CAHNRS Commodity:

The Tin Lizzy Grabber has a place in my heart as the traditional celebratory treat after each big chemistry test freshman year. My group of friends would wait for each other outside the testing room and then victoriously head to the dining hall and pick up our favorite Grabber from the market. Every student that gets through a chemistry test deserves one of these delicious treats!

Why be a CAHNRS Coug?

Many of my favorite experiences as a student have come about through great conversations I have had with CAHNRS faculty members outside my major. Throughout my undergraduate career, I have worked in an entomology laboratory simply because the Teaching Assistant for one of my classes was enthusiastic about her work and I wanted to work in an intriguing lab like hers. A professor for an elective course encouraged me to travel, and that little push set me on a journey to complete an internship in France. After meeting with yet another faculty researcher and learning more about her profession, I now look forward to graduate school in Plant Pathology.

Best Student Experience:

While many have heard of the Coug family, there is truly nothing like one’s own journey into his or her niche. I found my family upon entering CAHNRS Ambassadors. I know this team has my back, personally and professionally. Whatever I am going through, I am confident that my teammates will always be there for me, supporting and encouraging me through even the toughest times. For those who struggle to get “immersed” in the family immediately, don’t worry! It wasn’t until my junior year that I joined this team and found my family here.

CAHNRS Taught Me:

Beginning as a general employee of an entomology laboratory, I was given insight into graduate students’ lives by working with PhD candidates in the lab. As I became more proficient in my work, I gathered and synthesized data for my own research project within the lab and complied a poster and presentation for SURCA (the Showcase for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities). At SURCA, I presented my findings and competed with other WSU undergraduates for scholarships. Through these interactions and the practical skills I obtained, I am well prepared for a future in research!

Student Highlight: Brenda Madrid

By Sarah Appel, CAHNRS Academic Programs

EVERETT, Wash. – Having traded in the hills of the Palouse and the large Washington State University Pullman campus for the incredible cultural amenities of the Puget Sound and small urban campus of WSU Everett, Brenda Madrid is chasing her dreams. One dream: pursuing a major in Organic and Sustainable Agriculture while staying close to her roots on the west side of Washington state.

Brenda Madrid holds a bouquet of sunflowers in a garden.
Brenda Madrid

Madrid had no idea she was going to study agriculture when she first came to WSU Pullman her freshman year. It wasn’t until she found the Organic and Sustainable Agriculture program at WSU Everett that she was inspired to pursue such a degree.

“I wanted to make sure that when I work with our natural resources I am making health and environmental conscious decisions,” Madrid said.

Her interest in Organic and Sustainable Agriculture has only grown since venturing to WSU Everett.

While Madrid enjoyed her time on the Pullman campus, her heart pulled her back to Everett where she combines her love of sustainable agriculture and her love of home. At school, Madrid enjoys the Everett campus more than she had expected. The smaller classes, attentive professors, and four-acre organic farm are continually inspiring her to keep working hard for her education to best serve the people in her community.

“I want to start my career on the west side. It was important for me to stay close and look for ways in which I can pursue a career in this area,’’ Madrid said. “I want my work to have a positive impact on the community.”

For other students interested in Organic and Sustainable Agriculture, Madrid firmly believes they should just go for it. And WSU is just the place to do that.

“I don’t believe that there is any other institution that will provide the student with such a high-quality education,” Madrid said of her school and home.

To learn more about CAHNRS please visit our homepage. More information about the Organic and Sustainable Agriculture degree available here.

Extension agent honored for soil health support for Washington farmers

Head shot of Carter
Dr. Paul Carter

In southeast Washington’s Columbia County, WSU Extension Agent Paul Carter has earned national recognition for his efforts helping farmers preserve the health of their soil.

Carter, Director of Columbia County Extension and an Agriculture and Natural Resources agent, received the 2018 Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of County Agricultural Agents (NACAA). This award honors members who have served at least 10 years in cooperative extension, led outstanding Extension programs, and earned the esteem of their colleagues.

Based at Dayton, Wash., Carter works with farmers to balance nutrients in their crop systems, improving soil health and reducing soil acidity. He conducts soil health workshops for farmers and decision makers to prevent soil degradation, leads on-farm demonstrations, organizes seminars, and speaks at local and regional grower meetings.

“Our soils are the basis of life, and soil health determines the quality and health benefits of the foods we grow and eat,” said Carter. “Whether it’s crops for feed, grain or for our own table, by working with producers to improve the soil, we ultimately improve the nutritional value of our diet.”

A productive member of the WSU Wheat and Small Grains Extension Team in Pullman, and affiliate faculty with the Center for Precision and Automated Agricultural Systems in Prosser, Carter has authored several book chapters, curriculum materials, and educational publications on soil health.

“It was a great honor, and a humbling experience, to be selected by my peers here in Washington, and then be recognized at the national annual meeting with many other recipients,” Carter said. “As an Extension agent, I help in any capacity that I can for the benefit of my stakeholders and the community.”

CAHNRS Talk Tuesday: Colm Allan

Each week, we showcase one of our CAHNRS Ambassadors, a student leadership organization that encourages students to pursue higher education and serves as a liaison between the college and the greater community. This week, we’re featuring Colm Allan, a senior from Sonora, Calif.

What are you studying?

I’m majoring in Agricultural Technology & Production Management.

Favorite Show/Movie:

The Office

Favorite Cougar Tradition:

Not so much of a tradition, but rather a statement. A statement that is known and said with such pride around the world: “GO COUGS.” It has become not only a statement to me, but a part of who I am that won’t change regardless of how far I go from Pullman and the WSU campus. No matter where I am, from Pullman to North Carolina, if I am wearing any kind of Coug gear, I am bound to get a “GO COUGS”, to which I give a resounding “GO COUGS” back. More than a statement; a way of life and a commitment to excellence.

Favorite CAHNRS Commodity:

My favorite CAHNRS Commodity would have to be the Cosmic Crisp® apple. The Cosmic Crisp represents something much more than a delicious apple; it is a commitment to excellence that WSU has. The development of this incredible commodity not only demonstrates all our scientific and technological accomplishments thus far, but also provides a milestone to where we are heading in the future. Others may see this apple and see just a good snack. I see the Cosmic Crisp and feel a sense of pride in being a CAHNRS Coug.

Why be a CAHNRS Coug?

Being a CAHNRS Coug encompasses a multitude of qualities that cannot be found anywhere else. Legacy, opportunity, and family are only a few characteristics that CAHNRS provides as we continue to prepare students to be ‘Job Ready Day 1.’ The future can be a very intimidating thing to many students. CAHNRS works tirelessly to alleviate some of that fear to prepare students to the best of their abilities. CAHNRS Cougs exit college with the necessary skills to be successful and are backed by a network that spans across the industry.

Best Student Experience:

My student experience being a CAHNRS Coug has been shaped by the friendships that I have made along the way. Being an out of state student, I came to college knowing no one. Washington was just another state full of people that I didn’t know and that didn’t know anything about me. Now, through my involvement in CAHNRS, I have friends not only across the state, but across the nation as well. Thanks to CAHNRS, I have been able to create meaningful connections that will last for the rest of my life; truly finding a family within the college.

CAHNRS Taught Me:

They tell us that the world after college is a competition for careers; for this we must be fully prepared and educated to succeed. From the hands-on learning that I have received in my AgTM and Crop Science courses, to the professional development opportunities such as Agriculture Future of America, I am now equipped with the essential tools and network to be successful in the industry. The competition may be tough, but CAHNRS has fully prepared me to compete and succeed.

Ostrom supports research for equitable food systems as new Society president

Head shot of Ostrom
Marcia Ostrom, WSU School of the Environment.

Helping create a more equitable and sustainable food system, Dr. Marcia Ostrom, associate professor in the School of the Environment and CAHNRS faculty member, is the newest President of the Agricultural, Food, and Human Values Society.

Installed at the society’s annual meeting this summer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Ostrom will help lead the organization for the next two years.

“I’m honored to give back to an organization that has shaped my work since I was a graduate student,” Ostrom said. “I hope to inspire incoming scholars to achieve engaged, critical scholarship on our most pressing environmental and social problems in food and agriculture.”

Founded in 1987, the Agricultural, Food, and Human Values Society promotes the interdisciplinary study of the environmental, social, and economic values associated with the production, consumption, and distribution of food, fiber, and natural resources. Publishing the journal “Agriculture and Human Values,” the professional society advances an ethical, social, and ecological understanding of agriculture and food systems.

As president, Ostrom’s goals are to grow society membership, strengthen its finances, and develop membership benefits that go beyond the annual conference and journal.

Ostrom, with hand on chin, listening at a table with group of people.
Dr. Ostrom listens during announcement of election results at last year’s AFHVS annual meeting

“Involvement in the Society offers an invigorating platform for gaining new knowledge, exchanging and forming new ideas, and learning from mentors,” she said. “I continue to learn from my colleagues about the critical roles that academic faculty can play in building a deeper understanding of how issues like racism and social injustice impact food and agricultural systems.”

In the School of the Environment, Ostrom teaches courses on sustainable food and farming systems, agroecology, environmental and natural resource sociology, agricultural policy, and social movements in agriculture. She leads interdisciplinary research and extension teams focused on understanding and improving the sustainability, equitability, and resilience of farming and regionally-based food systems.

The 2019 annual meeting will be held in Anchorage, Alaska, and will feature sessions and a keynote on tribal food sovereignty.

  • Learn more about the society here.

CAHNRS Talk Tuesday: Elizabeth Warren

Each week, we showcase one of our CAHNRS Ambassadors, a student leadership organization that encourages students to pursue higher education and serves as a liaison between the college and the greater community. This week, we’re featuring Elizabeth Warren, a senior from Rochester, Wash.

What are you studying?

I’m majoring in Agriculture and Food Security.

Favorite Show/Movie:

The Office

Favorite Cougar Tradition:

The All-Campus Picnic is a great way to begin the year! Aside from coming together with my clubs and organizations to recruit and educate others, I enjoy walking around and talking to others. The picnic is a great way to see what other groups on campus are doing and to hear people talk about what they are passionate about. Not to mention, seeing new and returning students alike come together to enjoy free food and all that WSU has to offer is a great way to bring joy to any Coug’s heart!

Favorite CAHNRS Commodity:

As a Student Swine Cooperative member, I am partial to the delicious bacon we produce each year. There’s nothing like waking up, grabbing a cup of coffee and cooking up some amazing bacon to start off a Saturday. As an added bonus, after going through the many courses, I have a new appreciation for the incredible animal products that CAHNRS produces. Whether its bacon or bacon ends, it is all delicious and only possible because of CAHNRS!

Why be a CAHNRS Coug?

One of my favorite things about CAHNRS is how many opportunities, events, connections, and much more that are available for students. I always pushed myself to be the best version of myself in high school, which meant being as involved as possible. This only strengthened as I came to WSU and joined CAHNRS. As someone who is constantly striving for personal and professional development, ways to be involved, and challenges that put me outside my comfort zone, I love that CAHNRS always puts me in the position of growth and change!

Best Student Experience:

In the time I have been at WSU, I have done a lot, and plan to do more! When my boss offered me the opportunity to step into a peer advising opportunity, I was beyond excited. Not only did I help my office develop what the mentoring program should look like, I worked as a Project Assistant and am currently a Peer Advisor as well! Giving back to a program on campus that has been a huge help in my college success provides me with countless connections, leadership opportunities, and the ability to better understand my peers by learning about them and their diverse backgrounds and interests.

CAHNRS Taught Me:

Between clubs, immersive learning opportunities, studying abroad, getting to know faculty, and more, CAHNRS has become a place where I feel comfortable exploring my interests, skills, and options for the future. The future can be a very scary aspect of life, especially as a senior. Having these incredible opportunities to explore has helped to lessen those “future” worries. No matter what I want to do, there is always a faculty member, industry partner, or peer willing and ready to make things happen or to participate alongside me!