New CAHNRS Dean gets another taste of Washington

CAHNRS research has a sweeping impact on Washington state. On July 12 and 13, dean André Wright experienced some of that expanse first-hand with field days, tours, and meetings with WSU researchers and stakeholders from all around western Washington.

Vertical photo with three people facing the same direction standing in a grass field.
André Wright, left, watches a presentation by a graduate student at the Mount Vernon Field Day. WSU professor Lisa DeVetter, center, listens, while WSU Mount Vernon Director Chad Kruger, right, live-tweets about the Dean’s visit.

First, Wright met with raspberry growers and toured a raspberry farm, then stopped at two dairy farms, near the town of Lynden, Wash. Joining Wright on his tours were CAHNRS interim associate dean for research Scot Hulbert and Chad Kruger, director of the Mount Vernon and Puyallup centers, as well as the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Wright’s research background involves the microbiology of cattle digestion, so he felt right at home walking around the dairy cows. And he got a special treat at Twin Brook Creamery, when owner Larry Stap, a fourth-generation farmer from Lynden, gave him and his family some samples of their fresh chocolate milk in glass bottles.

From there, Wright stopped by the annual Raspberry Field Day at Honcoop Berry Farm in Lynden, put on by WSU Extension and the Washington Raspberry Commission. Dozens of raspberry varieties were available for tasting, as WSU and USDA researchers work to breed a better berry for Washington farmers.

The final stop on day one was the Mount Vernon Field Day, held at WSU’s Mount Vernon Northwest Washington Research and Extension Center. On a walking tour of the farm, Wright and local growers heard short presentations from graduate students, WSU faculty, and center scientists about the work they’re doing to help grow better crops.

These talks included discussion about biodegradable plastic mulch, cider education programs, composting and biochar, and the battle against verticillium wilt. All told, researchers talked about research on over 15 different crops ongoing right now. Wright attended every presentation.

Four men talk in front of building with a green combine in the background.
WSU’s Chad Kruger, Scot Hulbert, and André Wright talk with a representative of Edaleen Dairy about their anaerobic digester that makes biogas.

“These field days are so important,” Wright said. “Obviously mostly for farmers to see how WSU is working to help them and their farms. But also for me. I learn so much about the impact WSU scientists are having, and the vital work their doing.”

The next day, Wright learned even more about the scale of CAHNRS research when he toured the Puyallup Research and Extension Center. Faculty and graduate students told Wright about programs involving SNAP-ED, pest management, organic farming systems, the Extension Gardening Program, the Washington Stormwater Center, and much more.

It’s a lot to take in, especially in just two days. Luckily, this was just the first of many trips Dean Wright plans to make to the westside and across the state.