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Ag in Washington, Mt. Vernon, Christmas Tree, Raisins

Posted by | December 6, 2006

It’s a Fact

Washington’s agriculture and food industry employs 173,000 people, making it the state’s largest employer. Over 230 different crops are grown in Washington which, combined, contribute more than $5 billion per year to the state’s economy.

On Solid Ground is a weekly, electronic newsletter for the friends and stakeholders of the Washington State University College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS), WSU Extension and the WSU Agricultural Research Center.

New Agricultural Research and Technology Building in Mt. Vernon

Dec. 6 is the date for the opening celebration for Washington State University’s Agricultural Research and Technology Building. The new facility is the centerpiece in the $8 million revitalization of the WSU Mount Vernon Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center. Completion of the building represents a critical achievement in revitalizing the 59-year old research unit as a modern full service research and extension center to serve the state’s agriculture industry and the needs of northwestern Washington growers.

The agricultural community of northwestern Washington crafted the vision for the renovated and expanded center, which was embraced and supported by WSU. The new, state-of-the-art 18,758 square foot facility replaces 15,364 square feet of obsolete or substandard spaces that have now been demolished to provide parking for the new facility. Modern, well-equipped laboratory facilities will enable research faculty, staff and graduate students to significantly expand their research capabilities.

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WSU Helps Choose, Care for and Report National Christmas Tree

For 35 years, the Capitol Christmas tree has been harvested from one of the 50 states and transported to Washington D.C. This year, Washington State is providing a majestic, picture-perfect, 45-year-old tree that will stand in front of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington D.C. during the holidays. WSU Professor Gary Chastagner played a role in its selection and care. WSU Extension’s 4-H Network News crew is chronicling the 65.5-foot-tall tree’s journey. Chastagner and technician Kathy Riley attached a device on the flatbed truck that will transport the tree to monitor the tree’s foliage moisture and the environmental conditions it’s exposed to during its trip. “I’ve done a number of these types of studies with smaller Christmas trees,” Chastagner said. “It will be interesting to see how those results compare to this very large Christmas tree.”

4-H Network News, a youth-run multimedia club based at the WSU Extension office in Jefferson County, is video blogging the 2006 Capitol Christmas Tree. The news crew has covered the cutting of the Pacific Sliver Fir in the Olympic National Forest, several dedication ceremonies, an interview with Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire at the state capitol and discussions with key individuals associated with the project.

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To watch the 4-H news reports, visit:

Raisins Could Bring New Wrinkle to Washington Agriculture

Washington farmers already grow some of the finest wine grapes in the world. Could they also grow some of the finest raisins? That is not out of the realm of possibility, according to Carter Clary, an assistant professor in the Washington State University department of horticulture and landscape architecture. Clary is a leading expert on dried fruit and vegetables, who works primarily on improving the drying and processing of potatoes, strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. “I’m not saying raisins could be the next star crop of Washington state,” Clary said, “But we could grow raisins here.”

He already has two small plots of raisin grapes planted outside Walla Walla. Water and soil conditions are perfectly suited for raisin grape production, but the researcher said cold winter temperatures are an issue. “The traditional Thompson seedless grapes grown for raisins in California do not winter well here,” he said. “A heartier variety, like the Black Monukka, winters well, produces a very sweet, rich fruit and would do just fine.” Clary said Washington probably never would produce more raisins than California growers, but they might be able to grow better ones. “The Washington wine industry is based on producing very high quality, high end wines aimed at niche markets,” he said. “A grower could concentrate on producing a high quality, gourmet raisin and have the same kind of success.”