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Grapes, Cancer-fighting Foods, Sustainability Blog, Events

Posted by | September 20, 2012

Washington State Juice Grape Producers to Rate Sustainability through WSU Report Card

A cluster of Concord grapes.
A cluster of Concord grapes.

WSU researchers are developing an assessment tool to help juice grape growers determine the sustainability of their operations. The “Washington State Juice Grape Sustainability Report Card” is the first step toward statewide efforts to define and support sustainable growing practices on more than 26,000 acres of Washington’s Concord and Niagara vineyards.

“Sustainability, by definition, is long-term business survival. Farming, especially in perennial crops, is not a short-term process,” said Michelle Moyer, WSU viticulture extension specialist. “Knowing where growers can improve, economically and environmentally, as well as in terms of employee health and safety, will ultimately lead to more successful businesses.”

In this context, sustainability is good environmental stewardship is compatible with being economically profitable over the long term and enhances the quality of life of producers and their communities.

Retailers, including Walmart, are putting increasing pressure on juice and food processors to document the sustainability of their production practices, Moyer said. “Sustainability sells products and shows customers that producers care about the long-term impact of their businesses on the environment, economics and social equity, although most tend to focus on the environmental aspect,” Moyer said.

Juice grape growers using the Sustainability Report Card will be able to evaluate their operations around a number of vineyard management areas, including nutrients, irrigation, and pest management, as well as vineyard establishment practices and continuing education on emerging issues.

WSU scientists and Extension personnel created a draft of the Sustainability Report Card this year and sought feedback from Washington producers of juice grapes for the National Grape Cooperative, the grower cooperative for Welch’s. So far, 193 growers have completed the draft assessment, which represents more than 90 percent of the cooperative’s Washington members, said NGC’s Craig Bardwell. The goal is to receive assessments from all Washington members before harvest. Revisions will be made to the Sustainability Report Card this fall based on comments received from the growers.

Michigan and New York have vineyard sustainability programs in place, but they are not juice-grape specific like the one being developed in Washington, Moyer said. Washington juice grape growers have many sustainable production practices already in place, as an inherent feature of producing juice grapes in Washington’s geography and climate. “Washington juice grape production is, for the most part, one of the more sustainable production systems in the country,” she explained. “Concord production is very low input. Now we’re putting a number to it.”

For more information about the Sustainability Report Card, visit the WSU Viticulture and Enology website at http://bit.ly/wsuveext.

–Nella Letizia

WSU Researcher Documents Links between Nutrients, Genes and the Spread of Cancers

Gary Meadows
Gary Meadows

More than 40 plant-based compounds can turn on genes that slow the spread of multiple cancers, according to a first-of-its-kind study by a Washington State University researcher. 
Gary Meadows, WSU professor and associate dean for graduate education and scholarship in the College of Pharmacy, said he is encouraged by his findings because the spread of cancer is most often what makes the disease fatal. Moreover, he said, diet, nutrients and plant-based chemicals appear to be opening many avenues of attack.

“We’re always looking for a magic bullet,” he said. “Well, there are lots of magic bullets out there in what we eat and associated with our lifestyle. We just need to take advantage of those. And they can work together.”

A bowl full of pomegranate seeds, potential cancer-fighting magic bullets. Photo by Timothy Valentine/Creative Commons license via Flickr.
A bowl full of pomegranate seeds, potential cancer-fighting magic bullets. Photo by Timothy Valentine/Creative Commons license via Flickr.

Meadows started the study, recently published online in the journal Cancer and Metastasis Reviews (available at http://bit.ly/SyziXW), with some simple logic: Most research focuses on the prevention of cancer or the treatment of the original cancer tumor, but it’s usually the cancer’s spread to nearby organs that kills you. So rather than attack the tumor, said Meadows, let’s control its spread, or metastasis.

Through a search of the medical literature, Meadows documented dozens of substances affecting the metastasis suppressor genes of numerous cancers.
 He found that amino acids, vitamin D, ethanol, ginseng extract, the tomato carotenoid lycopene, the turmeric component curcumin, pomegranate juice, and fish oil acted epigenetically, which is to say they turn metastasis suppressor genes on or off in breast, colorectal, prostate, skin, lung, and other cancers.

“So these epigenetic mechanisms are influenced by what you eat,” Meadoes said. “That may also be related to how the metastasis suppressor genes are being regulated. That’s a very new area of research that has largely not been very well explored in terms of diet and nutrition.”

Meadows said he now has a greater appreciation of the role of natural compounds in helping our bodies slow or stop the spread of cancer. The number of studies that serendipitously connected nutrients and metastasis suppressor genes suggests a need for more deliberate research into the genes.

Meadows also sees these studies playing an important role in the shift from preventing cancer to living with it and keeping it from spreading. “We’ve focused on the cancer for a long time,” he said. “More recently we’ve started to focus on the cancer in its environment. And the environment, your whole body as an environment, is really important in whether or not that cancer will spread.”

-Eric Sorensen

Perspectives on Sustainability – a New Blog from WSU’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources

CSANR director Chad Kruger and his colleagues have been busy blogging about sustainability and natural resources at http://bit.ly/tKoF74. The following post is by Kruger.

In the United States, there is a storied tradition of connectivity between the agriculture industry and land grant university science. While that connection has been both praised and criticized, there is no question that it has been massively influential in the development of both commercial agriculture and agricultural science. Over the past couple of decades the land grant universities, including Washington State University, have responded to long-standing demands to conduct more science relevant to farmers’ agricultural sustainability questions and challenges. This research has addressed such things as integrated pest management, organic production, no-till, composting, alternative crops, and environmental protection, to name a few. In fact, the Center for Sustaining Agriculture & Natural Resources (CSANR) was established 20 years ago to facilitate this kind of science at WSU.

CSANR has come a long way since its inception, engaging more than 150 different WSU faculty members from multiple scientific disciplines (and numerous collaborators from other institutions) in producing science relevant to improving the sustainability of Washington’s farms and ranches. Over the past four years that I have served as director of CSANR, one thing has become increasingly clear to me–there are a lot of people who are not actively farming who want to know more about what science has to say about agriculture and food system sustainability in the state, region, nation and globally. I know this based on the number of inquiries and requests that I personally receive to present CSANR scientific findings to non-farming audiences.

To address this interest, most of the agricultural science funding programs and opportunities are changing to ensure that agricultural science is not only providing research results relevant to production agriculture, but also relevant to major societal issues such as climate change, energy, environmental services, and human health and nutrition. CSANR and WSU have been extremely successful in securing funding as these programs have shifted–I think because of our strong connection to a broad stakeholder base in the state and region that is thinking “beyond the farm” when it comes to issues of sustainability. CSANR is now actually conducting as much agricultural science relevant to big societal challenges as production ag (though I’m also happy to report that we are doing more production ag science than ever before). What this means to me is that we need some new approaches for sharing our research findings and scientific insights on these questions with a much broader audience that doesn’t participate in the “traditional” ag-science education venues (i.e. field days, producer meetings, technical bulletins, etc.).

So, with this message, I am formally announcing the new CSANR blog titled “Perspectives on Sustainability.” What you’ll find at http://bit.ly/tKoF74 is an assortment of perspective articles from me, other CSANR faculty and staff, and occasionally guests on issues related to the science of sustainable agriculture and food systems. Like all science, this is a grand experiment with an uncertain outcome. Please join us by bookmarking the site and checking back often.

You can like our Facebook page (at http://on.fb.me/S3hQdE) to subscribe to our announcement feed when new articles are posted. We’d love to have your comments and input–-and if you have specific topics or issues you’d like us to address, please let us know at http://bit.ly/Q7dlA0.

Food To Bank On Project Seeks New Farmers

Mary Liz von Krusenstiern, owner of Neighborhood Harvest Farm, is in her second year of the project and grows a variety of vegetables for her Community Supported Agriculture shares.
Mary Liz von Krusenstiern, owner of Neighborhood Harvest Farm, is in her second year of the project and grows a variety of vegetables for her Community Supported Agriculture shares.

Applications are now available for up to three new participants in the 2013 Food To Bank On project, a beginning farmer business training project facilitated by Sustainable Connections’ Food & Farming Program. The project connects farm businesses with business planning resources and experts, mentor farmers, workshops tailored to specific business needs, and new market opportunities.

Food to Bank On participants go through a business planning series each winter, working with a cohort of peer and mentor farmers to write and revisit their business plans. In addition, participants receive free Sustainable Connections’ membership, an educational stipend, marketing assistance and market rate payments to deliver fresh food to local food banks and shelters, providing a foundation to build their business through relationships with retailers, restaurants, and seasoned area farmers.

These fledgling farmer-run businesses offer products ranging from produce to medicinal herbs, grass-fed beef and heritage meats to eggs, reflecting the goal of diversifying locally-available agricultural products. Last season, Food To Bank On farms delivered $9,000 worth of fresh local produce and meats to area food banks, soup kitchens, shelters, and other social service agencies.

Thirty five farmers have participated in the three-year program and 28 are still successfully farming today. That’s an 80 percent success rate, a phenomenal success rate for any beginning business.

“The Food To Bank On farmer support system is essential to my day to day decision making,” said Mary Liz von Krusenstiern, a CSA vegetable farmer in her second year of the project. “I am constantly on the phone with other farmers getting second opinions about everything from fertilizer requirements to how to deal with the stress that comes along with farming. The project, the connections, the resources have all been crucial to the success of my business.”

Current program participants include: Bellingham Urban Garden Syndicate, Heritage Lane Farm, Jordan Creek Farm, Misty Meadows Farm, Neighborhood Harvest, Nooksack Delta Ranch, Roll Organic Farms, Rustic Moon Farm, Sage and Sky Farm and The Carrot & Stick. Current mentor farms are Boxx Berry Farm, Cedarville Farm, Cloud Mountain Farm Center, Farmer Ben’s, Osprey Hill Farm and Rabbit Fields Farm.

Food To Bank On applications are due Nov. 1 and are available at http://bit.ly/S3cXkZ. Profiles and photos of current farmers are available on the Sustainable Connections website at http://bit.ly/S3cXkZ. For more information contact Sara Southerland at sara@sconnect.org.

Small Farm Conference Workshops Address Production, Sustainability, Management, Sept. 28-29

A partner in a small farming operation at a farmers market.
A partner in a small farming operation at a farmers market.

A presentation on small scale agriculture’s role in economic recovery along with workshops of interest to beginning farmers are part of the second annual Inland Northwest Small Farm Conference slated for Sept. 28-29 at the Spokane Interstate Fair and Expo Center.

Co-sponsored by WSU Extension Spokane County and the Spokane Conservation District, the conference will feature 24 workshops on topics related to animal and crop production, sustainable farming practices, and business and marketing management. Friday’s dinner will be sourced from local farms. The keynote speaker will be Ken Meter of the Crossroad Resource Center in Minneapolis, who has done extensive work on rural food systems and how they impact communities.

The registration deadline is Sept. 21. Registration costs range from $30 to $75. More information and a registration form are available at http://bit.ly/NAGE0i. Those paying by debit/credit card are asked to mail the form to: Inland NW Small Farm Conference Registration, Spokane Conservation District, 210 N. Havana, Spokane, WA 99202. Conference lodging special rates are available at the River Inn ($89 per night) and the Red Lion Hotel at the Park ($99 per night); ask for the Small Farm Conference rate. Camping is available at the Interstate Fair and Expo Center. For questions, contact Pat Munts, WSU Extension Spokane County, pmunts@spokanecounty.org, 509-477-2173. Support is provided by a U.S. Department of Agriculture Risk Management Agency education and outreach grant.

A Harvest of Fun at WSU Organic Farm Celebration Oct. 6

WSU organic farm manager Brad Jaeckel working the harvest.
WSU organic farm manager Brad Jaeckel working the harvest.

U-pick pumpkins, a corn maze, hay wagon rides, and more will be part of the fun at the free, public Harvest Party at the Washington State University Organic Farm 10 a.m.- 4 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 6.

“The star of the party will be a giant pumpkin on display,” said organic farm manager Brad Jaeckel. “Party-goers are invited to take a guess at the pumpkin’s weight. The closest guess wins the giant or a more reasonable sized jack-o-lantern of the winner’s choice.”

Other activities will include face painting and fresh pressed apple cider. The orchard also will be open for U-pick and pre-picked fruit sales; it accepts cash and checks. The U-pick pumpkin patch will have traditional jack-o-lanterns, baby pumpkins, and a few novelty varieties. Pumpkins will be sold by weight.

“The party is always a lot of fun, so we invite folks to come out to meet the farm crew and enjoy the harvest and the crisp fall air,” Jaeckel said.

The WSU Organic Farm is located inside Tukey Horticulture Orchard on the corner of Airport Road and Terre View; follow the signs to the farm.

The WSU Organic Farm is on Facebook – check out their page for upcoming events, news, and ideas.

Probiotics, Prebiotics, Health are Focuses of WSU Symposium Nov. 1-2

Topics centering on the health benefits of probiotics and prebiotics are the focus of a free, public symposium to be offered at Washington State University Nov. 1-2.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for not only faculty and students at our local universities but also the Moscow-Pullman community,” said Denise Smith, director of the WSU and University of Idaho School of Food Science. “Internationally recognized experts will share the most recent advances on how the use of probiotics may improve health and how our lives can be enriched because of the research.”

Probiotics and health is a “hot button” topic in the health and wellness fields. Commercially available food products containing probiotic bacteria are created for today’s consumers who want foods that are not only nutritious but also health-promoting.

Sponsored by the WSU/UI School of Food Science, “Probiotics & Prebiotics: Promoting Better Health,” will begin with a welcome reception and introductory talks 4-6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 1, in the Food Science and Human Nutrition Building, room 103. On Friday, Nov. 2, lectures will be 8 a.m.-4 p.m. in the Compton Union Building Junior Ballroom East.

The symposium will cover the genomics of probiotic organisms; chemical and biological properties of prebiotics; and novel synbiotics. Probiotics in select dairy foods and how they affect human health, including weight control, will be presented as well as the role of probiotics in animal health.

“We have some of the most respected professionals in the field coming to speak,” said WSU/UI professor of food science Boon Chew. “We hope attendees will benefit from the lectures on this timely and important topic.”

Featured speakers will be Todd R. Klaenhammer, North Carolina State University; David A. Mills, University of California-Davis; Robert W. Hutkins, University of Nebraska, Lincoln; and Jean Soon Park, P&G Pet Care, Mason, Ohio. Several faculty members from the School of Food Science will speak on related topics.

More information about the symposium and the school is available at http://bit.ly/RpkYXg or by contacting event coordinator Boon Chew at 509-335-1427 or boonchew@wsu.edu.