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New Director, Range Transition, Organic Expands

Posted by | November 5, 2008

Stark Assumes Directorship of WSU Puyallup

Washington State University entomologist and eco-toxicologist John Stark has been named the new director of the WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center.

WSU Dean of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences Dan Bernardo praised outgoing director Jon Newkirk for helping to set a new course for the 21st century at the facility that was established in 1894. Newkirk will continue his affiliation with WSU as director of the WSU Extension Western Center for Risk Management Education in Spokane.

Stark runs the Salmon Toxicology Research Laboratory at the Puyallup center, where he is researching the effects of pesticides and adjuvants in the water on salmon behavior. Last year, he was named to the nine-member Science Advisory Panel of the state’s Puget Sound Partnership, the agency responsible for Puget Sound restoration.

Stark said that he will continue his research on the effects of toxins and other environmental factors on threatened and endangered species while assuming his new administrative duties.

“I’m pleased that the administration is highly supportive of my continued role in research while extending their confidence in me to assume leadership of the center,” Stark said. “I’m excited about taking on my new responsibilities. I want the center to be a gem in this community.”

For more information about the WSU Puyallup R&E Center, please visit: http://www.puyallup.wsu.edu/.

John Stark in his eco-toxicology lab at the WSU Puyallup Research & Extension Center

John Stark in his eco-toxicology lab at the WSU Puyallup Research & Extension Center


WSU Tests CRP Transition Strategy

WSU is conducting a two-year, on-farm pilot project in Adams County to test the feasibility and reliability of converting land coming out of the Conservation Reserve Program into a vertically integrated grass-fed beef production system. If successful, the pilot project could provide farmers with an alternative to CRP that could not only protect the environment, but also provide them with a source of income.

The Conservation Reserve Program was created by the1985 Farm Bill to remove highly erodible crop and pasture land from production for 10 to 15 years. Farmers receive annual rental payments and cost-share assistance for practices that protect the land. In exchange, the farmer or rancher removes land from production during the life of the contract. More than a million acres in Washington is enrolled in CRP. While the program has protected fragile farmland from erosion and provided a source of income for farmers, it has had some detrimental effects on local economies. With future funding uncertain, farmers with expiring contracts must decide what to do with land currently enrolled in the program.

“We seek to develop a replicable strategy to help farmers make the transition from conventional dryland wheat production to sustainable alternatives that are profitable, good for the environment and that allow farmers to remain on the land and support rural communities,” said Don Nelson, WSU Extension beef specialist.

If the project proves successful, it could serve as a model for farmers facing the decision about what to do with fragile farmland coming out of CRP as well as those who might be looking for a profitable and sustainable alternative to dryland wheat production. The net result could help protect fragile farmland and provide wheat producers with another stream of income to help insulate them from swings in wheat prices. Improvements in wildlife habitat could provide another source of income for farming through the development of hunting enterprises.

For more information on Adams County Extension, please visit: http://grant-adams.wsu.edu/.

A pilot program is testing the feasibility of converting Conservation Reserve Program land into rangeland for beef production. The program could become a model for farmers facing the decision about what to do with fragile farmland coming out of CRP.


WSU Expands Offerings in Online Organic Ag Program

WSU, the first institution in the country to offer an academic major in organic agriculture and the first to offer an online certificate in organic ag, has now expanded its online course offerings in the organic agriculture certificate program. Three new courses that lead to the Certificate in Organic Agriculture will be offered this spring semester.

“The U.S. organic food industry has grown at a rate of 20 to 30 percent each year for more than a decade and is really challenged to find employees who understand the unique approaches used in organic agriculture,” said Kim Kidwell, associate dean for academic programs in the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences. “Those who complete the certificate will hold the credential they need to succeed in one of the fastest-growing industries in the country.”

Kidwell noted that many of those working in agriculture in Washington and throughout the United States already hold a bachelor’s degree, but may wish to expand their skill set to include organic agriculture. “This certificate fills that need,” she said.

Center for Distance and Professional Education director Janet Kendall said offering the organic agriculture courses online makes them available to a global audience. “Anyone from around the state or around the world with an interest in organic agriculture can participate. As long as they have Internet access, they can take courses,” she said.

New courses being offered this spring are: Crop Science 360, “World Agricultural Systems,” which surveys contemporary and historical systems of food production as well as the agro-environmental characteristics of the world’s farming systems; Soils 441, “Soil Fertility,” which deals with the impact of nutrients on crop productivity, and soil and water quality; and Ag and Food Systems 445, “Field Analysis of Sustainable Food Systems,” an experiential course in which students visit farms, and food processing and marketing facilities in order to explore first hand the issues and relationships impacting sustainable food production.

The Tukey Organic Teaching Farm. Admission to WSU is required to enroll in courses and to earn the certificate, and participants may apply as non-degree seeking students. More information is available at WSU's Center for Distance and Professional Education Web site at online.wsu.edu or by calling (800) 222-4978. The deadline to apply for admission to WSU for spring semester is Dec. 19. The deadline to register for classes for spring semester is Jan. 9.

The Tukey Organic Teaching Farm near the WSU Pullman campus

Admission to WSU is required to enroll in courses and earn the organic ag certificate. Participants may apply as non-degree seeking students. More information is available at WSU’s Center for Distance and Professional Education Web site at http://online.wsu.edu/ or by calling (800) 222-4978.

The deadline to apply for admission to WSU for spring semester is Dec. 19. The deadline to register for classes for spring semester is Jan. 9.