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Cooking Local, Gift Farm, Genetic Diversity, Water

Posted by | November 30, 2012

Celebrating 20 Years of Science-based Solutions for Sustainability

The WSU Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources celebrates 20 years of science in action Decv. 6. Join us!
The WSU Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources celebrates 20 years of science in action Dec. 6. Join us!

From compost trials in orchards in the early ’90s to recent research on bean varieties and microbial inoculates that sustain agriculture in Africa’s ancient soils, WSU’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources has been on the cutting edge of science in the service of a sustainable future for 20 years. Help celebrate two decades of science in action at a public symposium on Dec. 6 in the Ensminger Pavilion.

Created by the Washington State Legislature with the mission to apply science to the challenges faced by farmers, families and communities, the symposium is focused on past results, current projects and future directions.

Attendees will get an update on the recently dedicated Eggert Family Organic Farm, the largest organic teaching farm on a university campus in the United States, beginning at 2 p.m.

Presentations of posters by faculty members, as well as graduate and undergraduate students, will give attendees an opportunity to learn about WSU research efforts in support of sustainable ag and food systems, as well as to network with scientists, students and community members.

In the spirit of environmentally sound agricultural practices, attendees will be treated to locally sourced refreshments beginning at 4 p.m.

A panel discussion on creating a sustainable future for ag and food systems begins at 4:30. The panel features Miles McEvoy, deputy administrator of the USDA National Organic Program.

The evening will wrap up with a keynote address at 5:20 p.m. by David Montgomery, author of “Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations.”

The event is free and open to the public. For a schedule of events from 2 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. go to

–Rachel Webber

WSU Chef Celebrates Local Foods in Upcoming Cookbook

WSU executive chef Jamie Callison often uses locally grown and produced foods in his culinary classes and will showcase those foods in his cookbook. Photo: Linda Weiford, WSU News.
WSU executive chef Jamie Callison often uses locally grown and produced foods in his culinary classes and will showcase those foods in his cookbook. Photo: Linda Weiford, WSU News.

Not many chefs can boast of having a cattle ranch, orchard, creamery and organic farm all in their own back yard. But Washington State University’s Jamie Callison can. Callison, an executive chef and instructor with WSU’s School of Hospitality Business Management, is so enthralled by his edible backyard that he’s writing a cookbook that illuminates its offerings.

“I want to showcase the foods produced here on campus and on the Palouse in a big way, and a cookbook seems a good way to do that. We have an amazing array of bounty here,” he said.

Whether Callison is teaching students in his 258 Culinary Fundamentals class how to make poached pear salad or preparing braised beef tenderloin for WSU’s Feast of the Arts dinner series, “I use as many ingredients grown and produced in this region as I possibly can,” he said.

Plateful of Palouse

Callison’s cookbook will be published by WSU and released next year. Among the WSU foodstuffs he’ll sing the praises of? Cougar cheese made at the WSU Creamery, tender beef from the Ensminger Beef Center, ice cream churned at Ferdinand’s Ice Cream Shoppe, fruit picked at the Tukey Horticulture Orchard, and vegetables grown at the Eggert Family Organic Farm. As for regional foods? Lentils, of course. Given that the Palouse is one of the largest producers of lentils in the world, and that lentils are protein-laden and easy to prepare, the humble legume should play a bigger role in soups, stews, salads and side dishes, Callison said.

Callison’s professional history with food began as a teenager in 1983 when he worked as a dishwasher at a diner in Carnation. “I remember looking around at the cooks chopping vegetables, frying chicken and pressing hash browns into the griddle and thinking that what they did was meaningful and creative,” he said. “I realized, ‘Hey, that’s what I need to be doing.’”

Chef’s Table, Your Table

Too often, executive chefs’ cookbook recipes are thickly larded with ingredients that we common folks aren’t likely to have. What’s more, elaborate instructions require heaps of concentration, patience, and time. But expect the recipes in Callison’s cookbook to be down to earth, he said. Not only will ingredients be easily accessible, “but I’ll use recipes that readers can relate to. Sometimes chefs talk down to readers in their cookbooks. That’s just not my style.”

–Linda Weiford

Gift of Marrowstone Island Farm Benefits WSU Organic Ag Education and Research

Lisa Painter. Photo by Nella Letizia.
Lisa Painter. Photo by Nella Letizia.

Lisa Painter wore a red baseball cap with an iconic image–Rosie the Riveter flexing her arm and the words “We Can Do It!”–last week when she donated her longtime farm and property to Washington State University.

The hat and words reinforce a lifetime of can-do moxie that helped make the 87-year-old Painter a fixture in this Puget Sound rural community on Marrowstone Island. They also give a glimpse of the kind of legacy the WSU Twin Vista Ranch will mean for future generations of WSU organic agriculture students as a center for educational outreach and agricultural development.

At an Oct. 23 dedication and open house, Painter gave WSU the 26-plus acre Jefferson County farm and property in memory of her partner, the late Jeanne Clendenon, and her parents, Carl and Muriel Painter.

“When Jeanne and I moved here in the early seventies, we were excited to have our own land and to be able to pursue our dream of self-sufficiency by trying out new types of plants, seeing what would grow best and, in general, organically taking care of the land and respectfully raising animals on it,” Painter wrote of her intent in making the gift to WSU. “We both wanted to be sure that this land would always remain as agricultural, organically managed land where the soil and water, all the plants and animals, were treated respectfully and as part of the full, natural cycle of life and death.

“WSU and the Jefferson Land Trust were the answer to my dreams,” Painter added. “Young people can get the training in organic farming through the university. The land trust will ensure that the ranch is preserved in perpetuity and organically managed. I trust that they will do this and wish them well.”

The WSU Twin Vista Ranch will serve as an incubator for FIELD (Farm Innovation, Education and Leadership Development) internship graduates and a research space for germplasm maintenance and breeding for area production systems–in particular fruit and nut tree germplasm as well as dryland production crops. The farm also will be used for classes, workshops, seminars, and educational retreats hosted and sponsored by WSU Extension.

Painter and Clendenon purchased the farm in 1972 and began diversifying management and on-farm operations to include production of beef and small livestock, honey, fruits and vegetables, pasture and hay. They developed the property to be energy efficient by installing solar panels, a windmill and solar water heating systems–all of which are still in use. More recently, the ranch has focused primarily on organic beef cattle production.

–Nella Letizia

Seeding the Future with Genetic Diversity

SeedsConcerned about plant genetic resources and the implications for regional, organic agriculture? The recent WSU Symposium, Seeding the Future: Ensuring Resiliency in Our Plant Genetic Resources, offered diverse perspectives on the topic followed by dynamic discussion among the more than 200 farmers, scientists, and students who attended. Glimpse highlights from this event sponsored by WSU and Tilth Producers and discover more about the “genetic commons,” genetically modified organisms, and some proactive responses to the shifting landscape of our plant genetic resources.

Read the article by WSU sustainable ag reporter Sylvia Kantor at

WSU, UI Faculty Address Topics around Probiotics, Prebiotics

The role of probiotics and prebiotics in promoting better health was the focus of a Washington State University/University of Idaho School of Food Science (SFS) symposium November 2 on the Pullman campus.

Probiotics, or “good” bacteria, can contribute to intestinal health and protect the body from harmful bacteria. Together with prebiotics, probiotics can promote better digestion, strengthen the immune system, and more.

WSU assistant professor Meijun Zhu explored the relationship between probiotics and obesity in her presentation.

WSU assistant professor Giuliana Noratto discussed the health benefits of probiotics and prebiotics—specifically those derived from plants—in protecting the colon against inflammation and preventing obesity.

UI professor Kerry Huber described how resistant starch functions as a prebiotic, while UI associate professor Gulhan Unlu closed the symposium with her presentation on kefir as a complex probiotic.

Read Nella Letizia’s complete article on the symposium on the School of Food Science website.

WSU Receives Grant for Collaborative Water Modeling in Columbia Basin

waterScientists from WSU’s School of the Environment and the WSU Center for Environmental Research, Education, and Outreach have received a USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant to build a collaborative water modeling project in the Columbia River Basin. Assistant professor Cailin Huyck Orr, an expert in inland waters, will lead an interdisciplinary, multi-campus team of social scientists, earth scientists, economists, civil and environmental engineers, agricultural scientists and policy experts in the Watershed Integrated Systems Dynamics Modeling (WISDM) project.

Stephen Bollens, director of the WSU School of the Environment, said, “This is a great example of a pressing, real-world challenge – securing a sustainable water supply – that is simply too large and too complex to be solved by any one investigator, campus, or discipline alone. But as a coordinated, interdisciplinary team, we can make real and meaningful progress.”

Orr said the timing of the project aligns with what is happening with the regional climate. “The intent of this program is to learn how water systems and associated stakeholders will adapt to changes in climate and water availability,” said Orr. Precipitation is already falling more in the form of rain and less in the form of snow than in previous years, releasing water more quickly into the watershed and reducing the more steady availability that snow provides as it gradually melts throughout the spring and summer.

The WISDM project will use collaborative simulations informed by people who live and work in the region. The model will demonstrate how the needs and perspectives of both agricultural and urban users can promote or detract from established and sometimes conflicting goals for water management in the region. Hydrological models will take crop systems into account so producers will be able to see how switching from one crop to another can affect water availability and quality, and stakeholders can plan for future water availability under different scenarios. Additionally, the system will calculate how regional economic changes influence the decision-making of individuals and then forecast the combined effects on water use.

Watch a short video about this project at

–Kathy Barnard

It’s Your Watershed – Water Matters

WSU Jefferson County Extension has now completed a free online resource with accurate and up to date information that helps both professionals and private citizens understand what defines watersheds and how water moves within and through watersheds. Colorful graphics and effective text illustrate and explain the purpose and values of natural systems and processes while showing how people are a part of the system and how we impact the system as we live, work, and play.

The materials on the website have been reviewed by experts and evaluated for use throughout the Pacific Northwest and, in particular, the Puget Sound region. The site is intended for educators and community members to use in their community outreach and education efforts, as well as for residents of the region to use at home. Materials are designed for users to customize with their specific local information.

Visit the Water Matters website at