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Impact Survey, Fire, Farmers’ Markets

Posted by | August 1, 2007

Take Our Survey!

A few months ago we posted a link to our Washington State Impacts Web site: The site was created five years ago to inform lawmakers about the research, extension and teaching at WSU that benefit the lives of their constituents. Lots of other people have found impact reports to be useful as well.

Help us improve the site by taking a brief survey at Please respond by August 15.

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.

How to Not Get Burned by Erosion

One of the most devastating effects of wildfire is soil erosion. Residues of burned vegetation leaves a water-repellent coating that slows rainfall absorption and promotes erosion. After a wildfire, annual soil erosion may increase up to 47 tons per acre, which could cause substantial property and structural damage. At this magnitude, sedimentation runoff may also harm aquatic life and pollute water supplies.

Assistant professor of biological systems engineering Joan Wu and graduate student Sarah Lewis are working with Peter Robichaud of the U.S. Forest Service to devise a quick and effective way to identify erosion-prone areas following forest fires. Land managers can use this method to choose which areas should be rehabilitated first. The scientists are using remote sensing technology to measure the reflectance of light from burned areas. The wavelength of the reflected light indicates the amount of burned carbon compounds in the upper layers of soil. Fire-blackened soils reflect light with unique spectral signatures depending on the severity of the burn. Burn severity often correlates with potential for erosion.

Remote sensing is faster and more accurate than the traditional ground testing and will allow post-fire rehabilitation to be focused on the sites where erosion is most likely.

Top: Fighting fire from the air. Bottom: Gully formed by flow and debris in a severe burn area. Photo: NOAA.

Small is the New Big

The number of farmers’ markets in Washington has doubled in the last decade, increasing from 60 in 1998 to more than 120 in operation today. Statewide, farmers’ markets reported $38 million in sales in 2006, up more than 50 percent from the previous year. Most of those dollars go directly to Washington family farmers.

“The growth of the farmers’ market movement is driven by consumer demand and it gives producers more opportunities to sell their products and consumers more flexibility to buy fresh local produce,” said Fred Berman, WSDA Small Farm & Direct Marketing program coordinator.

In order to continue to meet consumer demand, the Washington State Department of Agriculture, with technical expertise from the WSU Small Farms Program, is publishing a manual on how to start and operate a farmers’ market.

The WSU Small Farms Team provides research-based information and educational programs for farmers, consumers, decision-makers, and others involved in local food systems. The team is a statewide affiliation of professionals from WSU, state agencies, and non-governmental organizations.

For more information, please visit:

For a listing of farmers’ markets in Washington and Oregon, please visit:

Top: Student picks greens at the WSU Organic Farm just east of the Pullman campus. Photo: WSU. Bottom: Vendor selling honey at a local farmers’ market. Photo: Paul Brians.