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Cattle, Straw, Farm Walks

Posted by | June 27, 2007

It’s a Fact

Washington state’s 13,000 ranchers and cattlemen raise more than 1 million head of cattle, with Yakima County alone hosting 200,000 head. There were 786,000 head of cattle harvested in 2005, resulting in over 6 billion pounds of product. In Washington state this adds approximately $543 million to the state’s economy. However, this does not reflect the multiplier effect that businesses supporting the beef industry contribute to the state’s economy.

Mexico jumped to the top spot for U.S. beef exports after Japan closed its borders following the 2003 Mad Cow Disease incident. However, year-to-date information indicate there has been an 18 percent increase in U.S. beef exports. (Source: IMPACT Center E-Newsletter,

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.

Turning Straw into Gold

The four million tons of wheat straw produced annually in the Pacific Northwest may have a new market thanks to a researcher with WSU’s International Marketing Program for Agricultural Commodities & Trade (IMPACT) Center.

Dr. Marie-Pierre Laborie has designed a process to turn otherwise wasted wheat straw into a cost-effective fiberboard product. Laborie found that by altering the components of commonly used adhesive resins, she could produce a result that meets the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) requirements and reduce the cost of the current resins by three times.

“Many strawboard plants are expensive to run because of the cost of the resins, so I began looking for the most effective, low-cost adhesive resin,” said Laborie, an assistant professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering. “I looked at agricultural products in the area that were wastes and started there,” she added.

The success of Laborie’s study could have far reaching economic impacts. She estimates that for each mid-sized strawboard plant in operation, revenue for farmers could increase by $5 million and provide approximately 100 jobs to boost the economy of the community. Washington state has sufficient resources to feed 40 strawboard plants and bolster the state economy by $200 million, said Laborie.

For a more detailed version of this article, plus other research stories in the latest issue the IMPACT Center’s E-Newsletter, please visit

Gold in them hills: straw, a byproduct of wheat farming, may add value to ag operations in eastern Washington. Bottom: Marie-Pierre Laborie with a student in her laboratory.

Walk the Walk

Organized by WSU’s Small Farms Team and Tilth Producers of Washington, Farm Walks are an opportunity for farmers and other community members to learn more about various aspects of farming from local specialists in their field.

“We want people to learn about the best management practices in a hands-on environment, question present methods and discover new and, possibly, better methods through dialogue,” said Marcy Ostrom, director of WSU’s Small Farms Program.

At the most recent Farm Walk, thirty people learned efficient ways to keep tractors and other equipment running smoothly during the growing season, how to winterize farm machinery, and diagnostic troubleshooting techniques.

Upcoming Farm Walks include July 30 at Full Circle Farm in Carnation, August 13 at Sunshine Farm Market in Chelan and September 24, The Children’s Garden in Carnation. For a complete listing of 2007 Farm Walks, more information, or to register, contact Nancy Allen at (206) 442-7620 or or visit WSU Agriculture,

Top: Yakima farmer Sergio Marquez explains a problem with his farm equipment to Grant Gibbs, owner of Gibbs Organic Farm in Leavenworth. Gibbs, a master farmer and mechanical expert, led a hands-on machinery maintenance workshop during the June 17 Farm Walk. Bottom: Gibbs cleans the tubes and openings in a tractor on his farm.