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WSU Consumer food safety specialist wins multiple food safety awards

Stephanie Smith’s research looks at how consumer food handling trends impact the general public.

For her work, WSU’s Consumer Food Safety Specialist and assistant professor won first place from the Program Excellence Through Research Award from the Washington Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (WEAFCS).

“It’s always a thrill for your research to be recognized,” said Smith, whose project also received the first-place prize from the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences in the western region, and placed second nationally.

Over the past few years, Smith and her students traveled to Washington county fairs and farmers’ markets, asking consumers to fill out a paper survey. Her team compiled the responses to look at how consumer food handling trends impact the general public.

Counter with fresh vegetables and a sign of local products.
Data for Stephanie’s study was gathered by survey at local fairs and farmers’ markets.

“The big part of it was to determine what the state needs to do for consumer food safety education,” Smith said.

One of the key takeaways from the surveys was how heavily people rely on information from the internet.

“Traditionally, WSU Extension has offered in person classes through the county extension office,” she said. “But if people are going to the internet to get information about food preservation or food handling, then we’re not really reaching those people.”

When asked where consumers were getting their food safety information, WSU Extension was at the bottom of consumer choice. “Over half of respondents said internet search or social media. Extension was only one percent higher than text books,” she said.

The survey data shows WSU Extension education needs to shift to a more tech friendly, internet based model.

“Whether it’s through social media or YouTube, we need to identify how to better reach consumers,” Smith said. “We need to do a better job about reaching people with technology.”

A portrait of a brunette woman in a black cardigan.
Stephanie Smith

When looking at foods that concerned consumers, 80 percent of respondents were concerned about poultry. However, less than 30 percent were concerned with fruits and vegetables, despite multiple recalls in the past year involving produce, and frozen fruit and vegetables.

According to the data, consumers had the idea to wash produce to get rid of pesticides, but weren’t as concerned with the microbiological contaminations present on food.

Smith said the biggest surprise was seeing that respondents were more concerned about pesticide residue than anything else, “including general sanitation and proper food handling.”

“A lot of people think food grown in their garden doesn’t need to be washed, because it’s cleaner,” said Smith. “With regard to microbiological quality, it doesn’t matter where the food is grown – it’s still at risk for contamination.”

Smith used the example of a neighborhood cat using the garden as a litterbox, or birds flying overhead, as examples of why produce should always be washed before consumption.

“We saw that with their food handling behaviors,” she said. “There’s a lot of work that needs to be done in food safety.”

With more information about consumer food habits and her award-winning research, Smith hopes to help WSU Extension bolster efforts to be more visible where people get their information on food handling and sanitation best practices.

“There’s a lot of room for Extension to become a go-to source for food safety information.”

Observing thousands of wild species, Wildlife Society student chapter tops ‘BioBlitz’ challenge

Mule deer dashing through a pond, kicking up spray
WSU chapter member Mason Maron was able to photograph hundreds of species for the BioBlitz challenge, including mule deer, coyotes, and many other animals and plants.

Members of Washington State University’s student chapter of the Wildlife Society are gaining recognition for their efforts to observe thousands of North American plant and animal species during an ongoing citizen science competition.

The seven chapter members took part in the Society’s Student Chapter BioBlitz, held from June through September 2020.

In a BioBlitz, student teams compete to observe and record as many species as possible in a given area and time. Hosted by the Wildlife Society Student Development Working Group, the challenge has engaged nearly 50 chapters at universities in the U.S. and Canada.

Since June, WSU chapter members have made more than 5,000 observations of 1,150 species of plants, insects, birds, mammals, and other organisms. The chapter took first place in July 2020 for most observations, and also won group challenges in August for most research-grade observations and most species observed.

Chapter member Mason Maron is ranked third in individual categories for most observations and species.

“I took part in this BioBlitz to support our chapter,” Maron said. He was already an avid user of the iNaturalist citizen science website used in the competition.

Scientists around the world can access data collected in BioBlitz competitions, and use it to study populations, track migration and habitat ranges, and more, said Maron.

“It’s done some incredible things,” he added. “New species have been discovered and species thought to be extinct have been rediscovered and photographed.”

The group’s efforts will be featured in a future edition of “The Wildlife Professional,” the national society’s magazine.

View their project, including photos and a map of observed species, at iNaturalist.

Coyote standing in a brown, grassy fieldWSU chapter officers include Devon Barbour, president; Eli Loftis, vice president; Jeffrey Lebo, treasurer; and Madysen McCarthy, secretary. Other participating members include Katie Gipson, Lea Crisostomo, and Rosemary D’Andrea. The chapter is advised by Lisa Shipley, professor in WSU’s School of the Environment.

Founded in 1937, the Wildlife Society is a national organization of wildlife and conservation professionals, scientists, and students. The society supports professional and career development, and addresses national and international issues that affect the current and future status of wildlife.

To learn more about the Wildlife Society, visit https://wildlife.org.

Find the Wildlife Society WSU student chapter on Facebook.

To contact the student chapter, send an email to wsuwildlife@gmail.com, or contact Eli Loftis at elijah.loftis@wsu.edu or Madysen McCarthy at madysen.mccarthy@wsu.edu.

Latest from Extension: Guides on giant hornet, cheatgrass controls, cover crops, fruit canning

In the latest free guides from WSU Extension, Northwest scientists share new information about the invasive Asian giant hornet, feedstock crops, cheatgrass controls, financial tools to manage forest lands, and more.

New and revised publications from WSU Extension include:

A large Asian giant hornet biting a honey bee.The Asian Giant Hornet — What the Public and Beekeepers Need to Know (FS347E). The invasive Asian giant hornet poses a significant threat to honey bees, public health, and the environment: Beekeepers and the public can learn about the hornet’s life cycle, avoidance, first aid, and more; by Sue Cobey, Tim Lawrence, and Mike Jensen.

Utilizing Buckwheat and Sudangrass Cover Crops as Feedstock in Aerated, Static Compost Piles (B71E). Learn about a new technique to grow and use buckwheat and sudangrass as composting feedstock; by Stephen Bramwell, Douglas Collins, and Andy Bary.

Integrated Management of Downy Brome in Winter Wheat (PNW668). Learn about integrated weed management strategies to control downy brome, also known as cheatgrass—a major weed management problem in winter wheat; by Drew Lyon, Andy Hulting, Judit Barroso, and Joan Campbell.

Financial Analysis Principles and Applications for Private Forest Lands (EM030E). Determining the value of timbered property, as well as the best ways to manage it can be complicated. This manual provides examples, explanations, and tools to make the process understandable and successful; by Kevin Zobrist.

Composite image of different canning fruitsGuardado de frutas en conserva (Canning Fruits) (PNW199S). Esta publicación explica cómo garantizar tanto la seguridad como la calidad de las frutas frescas guardadas en conserva. Spanish language version of the Extension publication on ensuring safety and quality when canning fresh fruits. Covers selecting and preparing equipment; preparing apples, apricots, berries, cherries; and more. By Lizann Powers-Hammond and Val Hillers.

Wesley Blundell, Jeffrey Luckstead join School of Economic Sciences

The School of Economic Sciences welcomed two new faculty members for fall semester 2020: applied econometrician Wesley Blundell and agricultural economist Jeffrey Luckstead.

Both will teach courses and conduct research this fall on issues of trade, health, and policy.

Wes head shot
Wesley Blundell

Wesley Blundell

Specializing in applied econometrics and environmental economics, Assistant Professor Blundell comes to WSU from California State University, East Bay, where he was an assistant professor since 2017. His research interests also include industrial organization and applied microeconomics. Blundell holds a 2017 doctorate in economics from the University of Arizona.

Blundell is conducting research on the health impacts of natural gas flaring. His past research on the topic was noted in an NBC News video on the flaring issue.

He will also be teaching econometrics to both undergraduate students and doctoral students in the School of Economic Sciences.

This August, Blundell published research in the American Economic Review on gains from dynamic enforcement of environmental regulations.

Luckstead head shot
Jeffrey Luckstead

Jeffrey Luckstead

Assistant Professor Luckstead‘s research interests are in international economics and industrial organization, with an emphasis on agriculture, policy, immigration, and farm labor. A WSU alumnus, Luckstead received his 2013 economics doctorate from the School, and won the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association’s best dissertation award the same year. He holds undergraduate and master’s degrees from the nearby University of Idaho, where he participated as a student athlete. Following his studies, he joined the faculty at the University of Arkansas, and was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 2018.

At WSU, Luckstead is currently researching the economic impact of COVID-19 and recent trade agreements on the processed food trade, as well as the political economy of immigration policies in agricultural labor.

He will teach the economics capstone class this year, and is planning a future doctoral course on international trade.

Margaret Viebrock’s 50 years with WSU Extension parallels evolving roles of women in agriculture

After 50 years with Washington State University, award-winning Family & Consumer Scientist Margaret Viebrock remains fueled by a passion to help families.

“The legacy of WSU Extension is helping people right where they are,” Viebrock said. As the director of WSU Chelan and Douglas County Extension, she leads continuing education programs in local communities tackling nutrition, food safety, diabetes prevention, and helping children cope with divorce.

Raised in snowy North Dakota, Viebrock had just finished student teaching when she applied to WSU.

“I didn’t think it would snow there,” she said of WSU’s Eastern Washington location.

Viebrock was hired as an Extension educator over the telephone in the summer of 1970. She packed up her Volkswagen Beetle to make her move west.

“I have watched the whole process of Extension education change,” said Viebrock of her five-decades-long career.

A woman sits at a booth surrounded by colorful posters about food preservation.
Photo: Margaret Viebrock at the Washington State Fair in Puyallup in 2015 teaching food preservation.

Tracing its roots to the Smith-Lever Act of 1914, cooperative extension was created to bring useful, practical information on subjects in agriculture and home economics to people all across the U.S.

Today, WSU Extension engages families, organizations, and communities across Washington, through programs that run the gamut from 4-H to parenting education to forestry classes and agricultural field days. and reservations, using the latest technology and methods to address current issues and needs.

When she began, in the 1970s, Extension focused on working with groups of homemakers, teaching classes for the public, food preservation and cooking skills. As countertop microwaves became popular, for example, Viebrock was tasked with holding multiple Extension workshops on how to use one.

“Hundreds of people came to learn,” she said.

Decades ago, the prevailing stereotype was that a woman’s primary job was to cook meals and take them to men working in the field.

“Women weren’t owning the farm like they are today,” Viebrock said “They were always called the ‘farmer’s wife’ – now they are the farmers.” According to the USDA 2017 census of agriculture, 42 percent of Washington farmers are women.

Despite the statistics, Viebrock said women farmers continue to be underserved.

“There are very few support networks to offer women an opportunity to work together, share concerns, and strengthen their farm-family role.”

Women farmers are often tasked with not only caring for themselves, but often caring for extended family members, all while balancing the responsibilities that come with a major agriculture operation.

Viebrock has worked hard to assist women growers with the unique challenges they face. Her flagship educational program for women in agriculture, Women, Farms & Food, now spans six states.

Amid COVID-19, Viebrock has been hosting her Women, Farms & Food program via Zoom. Viebrock said she is reaching between 600 and 700 women from Washington, Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Hawaii, and Oregon on a Saturday for her virtual meetings.

“The biggest thing about women farmers, is they want to learn from each other.”

As time went on, Viebrock evolved from a home economist to a family and consumer scientist. She has earned multiple grants and awards for her programs in economic development, helping entrepreneurs develop specialty food products, and training Extension volunteers to teach food preservation. She has assisted tribes with educating tribal members about food safety, works in diabetes prevention, nutrition education, and assists farm families with risk management.

“All along, my philosophy has been that families are important,” Viebrock said. “They are the backbone of what we do.”

In 1992, Viebrock was awarded a USDA Food and Nutrition Service grant to bring nutrition education programs to limited income families. Now in its 26th year, the program reaches students in three counties and 206 classrooms, featuring a six-week curriculum focused on healthy eating and exercise, and English as a second language.

Her most satisfying accomplishment is knowing that she’s made a difference in doing what is important for families and communities.

“It’s not the farm, it’s the family that holds everything together,” she said.

American Meat Science Association honors leadership of CAHNRS alumnus Gordon Davis

Washington State University alumnus Gordon Davis (’69, Agricultural Science, Agricultural Education) was recognized this summer by the American Meat Science Association for leadership and contributions to the science of meat.

The Association honored Davis with its 2020 Industry & Organizational Leadership Award, Aug. 6, at the virtual 66th International Congress of Meat Science and Technology and AMSA’s 73rd Reciprocal Meat Conference. The award is sponsored by Smithfield Foods, Inc.

Portrait photo of Davis, in suit with red tie.
Gordon Davis, WSU alumnus and 2020 AMSA Industry & Organizational Leadership Award recipient.

An animal sciences teacher, coach, and successful business leader, Davis is known for his passion for student learning, involvement in intercollegiate meat judging programs, and for his philanthropic support of animal science and education.

Davis grew up on an eastern Washington dairy farm, helping his family earn state Dairy Family of the Year honors in 1964. Drawn to WSU in part by his interest in meats judging, Davis became an avid competitor and coach who helped many students hone scientific and practical knowledge, skills, and determination through judging teams.

As founder and chairman of an educational resource company, CEV Multimedia, Davis has reached millions of students, allowing them to learn, compete, and ultimately become involved in the meats industry, agriculture, and many other fields. More than four million students have learned about meat science through Davis’ educational programs. Many of these have gone on to university meat science classrooms and careers in science and industry.

Davis’s success has allowed him to shape the future of science and education through multiple educational endowments in agriculture, including six meat science endowment funds. A member of AMSA for 48 years, he has been recognized with some of the association’s top awards, as well as honors from WSU, Texas Tech University, Texas A&M University, USDA, Sigma Chi International Fraternity, for his service, philanthropy, and leadership.

At WSU, Davis has been deeply involved in supporting student and faculty excellence, creating the Cashup Davis Family Endowed Dean of CAHNRS, named for his ancestor, Palouse pioneer and entrepreneur James S. “Cashup” Davis, and serving on the CAHNRS Campaign council.

He earned master’s and doctoral degrees in meat science from Texas A&M University, and served as an academic meat scientist at the University of Tennessee and Texas Tech University. He has published hundreds of journal and technical articles, produced more than 120 videos, and recruited 45 meat science collaborators for his company.

Davis also co-founded the Cargill High Plains Meat Judging contest, providing competition opportunities for more than 4,500 collegiate meat judging students from more than 40 colleges and universities over the past 39 years.

Learn more about the American Meat Science Association here.

New from Extension: Community gleaning, irrigation management

Each month, experts with WSU Extension publish new guides aimed at helping Washington farmers and families succeed.

The latest free guides from the WSU Extension Online Bookstore help communities launch gleaning programs to boost food access, and inform farmers on irrigation methods that boost savings and productivity.

Pair of hands picking small fruit in a row of crops.Starting a Community Gleaning Program (FS346E). Gleaning is the act of collecting excess fresh fruits and vegetables from farms, gardens, and orchards. Communities across the U.S. use gleaning to address food insecurity and food waste. This guide helps groups and volunteers learn how to start a gleaning program. Authors include Clallam Extension Director Clea Rome, Consumer Food Safety Specialist Stephanie Smith, Kitsap Extension Director Laura Ryser, Community Health and Food Access Coordinator Karlena Brailey, and Gleaning Coordinator Sharah Truett.

Irrigation system sprays water over earthen field.Management of Traveler Gun Irrigation Systems in the Pacific Northwest (FS348E). The traveling or reel big gun irrigation system is one of the most popular forms of irrigation in Washington, watering more than 38,760 acres. This free guide shows how growers can properly manage traveling gun irrigation systems to save water and energy and increase crop productivity and profitability. Written by Skagit County Extension Irrigation Engineer Abdelmoneim Mohamed, Professor and Extension Irrigation Specialist Troy Peters, and Skagit County Extension Director Don McMoran.

Find the latest guides here.

WSU graduate students receive scholarships for advancing Washington wine industry

Four graduate students at Washington State University’s Viticulture and Enology Program have been awarded scholarships from the American Society for Enology and Viticulture.

Award recipients Bernadette Gagnier, Margaret McCoy, Alexa McDaniel, and Arunabha Mitra, who study at WSU’s Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center (IAREC) in Prosser, Wash., will be able to use their scholarship awards for the 2020-2021 academic year.

“These awards showcase that our graduate students are highly competitive at the national level,” said Naidu Rayapati, Director of IAREC.

A woman drives a tractor through a vineyard at sunset.
Margaret McCoy drives a tractor on the WSU Prosser campus.

As a professor in WSU’s Department of Plant Pathology, Rayapati works with students conducting lab and field research on viral diseases in vineyards.

“The work of these students will generate new knowledge to combat challenges affecting growers,” he said.

The American Society for Enology and Viticulture (ASEV) awards scholarships to students pursuing degrees in enology, viticulture, or science relating to the wine and grape industry. Enology is the study of winemaking.

A young man wears a lab coat and gloves and he conducts a science experiment.
Arunabha Mitra at work in the IAREC lab.

Michelle Moyer, Associate Professor in the Department of Horticulture who works on fungal and nematode problems in vineyards, said the student recipients exemplify what it means to be a graduate student at a land grant university.

“When graduate students are awarded scholarships from organizations such as ASEV, it really highlights how their passion for science and learning translates into their academic endeavors,” Moyer said.

Rayapati said the ASEV scholarships highlight the quality of training and mentoring students receive while studying wine science at WSU.

“We are preparing the next generation of scientists and industry leaders for advancing the grape and wine industry in Washington,” he said.

 

Research competition award for Economic Sciences’ Modhurima Dey Amin

Amin, dressed in graduation robes with ceremonial cap.
Modhurima Dey Amin, WSU alumnus, earned first place in a 2020 association research competition.

Modhurima Dey Amin, a spring 2020 doctoral graduate from the School of Economic Sciences, won first place this summer in the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (AAEA) graduate student research competition.

Amin studies applied economics, statistics, and data science with a focus on agriculture, industrial organization, energy, and resources.

In her paper, Amin used machine learning with national census data to predict food deserts, which have no grocery stores with healthful options, as well as ‘food swamps,’ which have an excess of less healthful foods, such as fast food restaurants, in relation to grocery stores. She found that education, income, population density, and race are strong predictors of the retail food environment;  Black population is an important predictor of both food deserts and swamps. Food swamps suffer more from poverty, inequality, and transportation problems, while food deserts are more likely to be rural areas.

Her model helps shed light on the different nutritional challenges that diverse U.S. communities face and shows that they require different approaches to solve.

“My research shows that it’s possible to make more informed decisions on existing social problems, when approached with machine learning and artificial intelligence,” Amin said.

The competition was created by the Committee on the Opportunities and Status of Blacks in Agricultural Economics (COSBAE) and the Committee on Women in Agricultural Economics (CWAE) to help link students, post-doctoral associates, and early-career faculty with mentors at land-grant institutions, agencies, and industry.

The competition committee unanimously recommended Amin’s research report for the first-place award.

“The committee’s recognition encourages me and many other scientists in the field to investigate the issues from a modern, data-driven angle,” she said. “It inspires me to do more exciting research in the future, and helps to expand my network for interdisciplinary collaboration.”

Amin graduated in May, and is now a tenure-track assistant professor at Texas Tech University. She was advised at WSU by Regents Professor Jill McCluskey.

Learn more about Amin’s academic journey in this 2020 graduate profile.

Recent grad gives back with first career paycheck

By Julia Layland and Sarah Appel, CAHNRS Academic Programs

Recent CAHNRS Coug Neftali Garcia is making life a little easier for current students. The May 2020 WSU graduate donated his entire first paycheck back to the Washington Apple Education Foundation (WAEF), which supported him through his college career.

Garcia holds a pennant saying "2020 Graduate" while wearing formal graduation robes.
Neftali Garcia

Neftali received the WAEF Scholarship his junior and senior year of college and talked about how he almost didn’t apply for it.

“I never applied, I never thought scholarships were for me,” he said. “I had applied to other scholarships and never got them before. I didn’t want to waste my time. But my roommates told me to just go for it.”

The Basin City, Wash. native is the first in his family to graduate from college. He double majored in the Fruit and Vegetable Management degree program (Landscape Nursery as well as Greenhouse Management) with a minor in Horticulture and with an organic agriculture certification.

The scholarship lifted a financial burden because Neftali had been working through the summers to afford living expenses during the school year. That work time was restricted when Neftali took summer courses. Neftali wishes he tried for scholarships earlier to help.

“Apply to a lot of scholarships, that was the one thing I regret not doing,” he said. “There are a lot of scholarships out there just waiting. I would say the best thing I would have done is apply, apply, apply, instead of doubting myself. The worst-case scenario is you apply for a lot and only get a few.”

College forces students to meet and talk to new people almost daily. Neftali explained how this impacted him in his pursuit of a degree, or multiple in his case, and how CAHNRS has opportunities for all who choose to get involved.

“Growing up I was never one of the people to really speak up, or anything,” he said. “But I met more people along the way at WSU and I felt more comfortable. I was stepping out of my comfort zone.”

Neftali advises prospective and current students to try everything once and decide from your experiences what you want to do.

“Go at it. Try to join all the groups they have, step out of your comfort zone,” he said. “You meet a lot of great people at CAHNRS and at WSU. I know I have. There is plenty of knowledge to learn from faculty and the people there.”

As a founding member of the Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resource and Related Sciences (MANRRS), Neftali said the club is a great resource for students from all backgrounds.

“I was there with all of my friends and my roommates, and just a bunch of people who were like, ‘yeah this is a great organization to begin here at WSU,’” he said. “It will benefit a lot of people who want to get into the industry.”

Neftali is currently employed with Zirkel Fruit after interning with the company since his sophomore year at WSU. This year is his first full-time position, and he hopes to work there for years to come.

Neftali is one of many people that inspired the CAHNRS Academic Programs unit to start a young alumni group called CAHNRS Legends. While this group is in the beginning stages of development, CAHNRS hopes it will allow recent graduates to unite and advocate for both themselves and the college where they received their education. The team will strive to connect with other alumni across the nation. They will represent CAHNRS at multiple events throughout local communities and will recruit prospective students and industry partners. Finally, they will celebrate their accomplishments together as CAHNRS Legends. Anyone interested in CAHNRS Legends, please contact Josh Davis at josh.davis@wsu.edu.

Thank you, Neftali, for reflecting what it means to be a CAHNRS Legends through your generosity and commitment to future generations of CAHNRS Cougs. Congratulations on graduating from WSU and CAHNRS and all of your success.