WSU Organic Ag Education and Research Scores a Perfect 8
A recent assessment of educational and research programs in organic agriculture in the U.S. puts WSU in the top six schools in the nation. In fact, WSU outranks every other program in the country, because WSU is still the only university to offer a four-year, science-based Bachelor of Science degree in organic agriculture. WSU’s program is hands-on and draws on decades of faculty research and educational leadership to give students a solid grounding in the science and business of organic and sustainable food production. WSU is also one of the few universities in the world to offer online and, through various departments, graduate programs in organic and sustainable agriculture.
And it’s only going to get better. A recent $5 million investment by organic and natural foods pioneers Chuck and Louanna Eggert and their family will expand the WSU Organic Farm from 4 acres to 30 acres. This will make WSU’s farm the largest organic teaching and research farm in the country.
The assessment was conducted by the Organic Farming Research Foundation, a national non-profit organization that, among many other things, tracks and reports on organic ag programs in the U.S. land-grant university system. OFRF’s Organic Land Grant Assessment sheds light on America’s ability to meet growing consumer demand with organic farmers and research. In the assessment, OFRF scored each institution on eight points, including maintaining organic research land; cultivating a student organic farm; offering an organic minor, major, or certificate; and employing dedicated organic ag faculty.
According to an OFRF news release, the assessment illuminates the opportunity the United States has in meeting rapidly growing consumer demand for organic food with a sustainable, well-trained supply of organic farmers. There are currently 14,600 certified organic farmers in the U.S. The USDA hopes that will increase by 20 percent over the next five years. This is the perfect moment for agricultural universities to fill a tremendous economic niche in our nation.
Learn more about WSU’s innovative approach to the future of food and farming in this short video. Learn more about WSU’s educational opportunities in organic agriculture here. Help support organic ag research, education, and extension here. You can download the OFRF’s Land Grant Assessment here.
WSU Monarch Butterfly Project Gets Lift from Penitentiary Inmates
Gilbert London stood in front of a blue plastic food-storage barrel converted into a Monarch butterfly-rearing cage. Inside, roughly two dozen opaque-green chrysalises hung from milkweed plants like living jewels. Soon, the chrysalises London helped to raise will yield the iconic adult butterflies with orange and black wings. He and five other Washington State Penitentiary inmates will tag the butterflies soon after that, readying them for their release as part of a study by Washington State University entomologist David James. The Monarchs will then be free to leave; London will not.
London has been locked up at the Walla Walla penitentiary for 25 years of a life sentence. He didn’t say what he did to get there. Instead, he talked about what he likes best about raising the Monarchs. He referred to a passage in the Bible that describes shedding an old skin to become a new creature. London pointed to a small, shriveled, black husk at the bottom of the blue barrel, hardly worth looking at twice. Except that the Monarch once occupied this skin and then shed it to become something else. Something better.
“And that’s what a lot of us are trying to do too,” London says.
Read the rest of this story on the WSU ag news website »
Student Food Product Development Team Wins National Competition, Addresses Nutrition Issues in Kenya
A food product development team from the Washington State University and University of Idaho School of Food Science won first place at a national competition at this week’s Institute of Food Technology annual meeting in Las Vegas. The WSU/UI team’s challenge was to develop a mango-based food product that addresses common Kenyan nutrient deficiencies and that can be produced rapidly in order to realize the full potential of this crop during its short harvest season.
The food product the joint WSU/UI team developed is called “Mango Maandazi.” Maandazi is a fried bread product that is a popular snack in Kenya. Mango Maandazi is a comprehensive approach to improve mango utilization in Kenya. The team’s vision for the product includes reducing post-harvest mango losses by incorporating their use in maandazi, creating opportunities for greater farm and rural income by processing dehydrated mangos, and incorporating these into a profitable food product. The WSU/UI team developed a supply-chain plan in which mangos would be purchased from farms and transported to regional processing centers where the fruit would be cleaned, sliced, and dehydrated for retail and wholesale distribution or incorporation into a dry-mix product for maandazis. Using community-appropriate technology, the team envisions a safe, high-quality product that requires minimal capital expenditure or energy costs to produce and distribute, and that will create jobs in economically challenged communities.
Read the rest of this story on WSU’s ag news website »
WSU Extension Publishes Climate Change Fact Sheet
WSU researchers have written a fact sheet on the science, debate, and challenges of global climate change. “This is a topic on which WSU and the body of international research has some clear conclusions,” said Lynne Carpenter-Boggs, associate professor and research leader of WSU’s Biologically Intensive Agriculture and Organic Farming program. “It is a perfect opportunity for WSU to express the larger concept of ‘Extension,’ which can make any work of the university more transparent and useful to the public.”
Carpenter-Boggs came up with the idea to produce the fact sheet, which was largely written by Bertie Weddell, an associate in WSU’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Stewart Higgins, a senior scientific assistant at the center with a background in plant ecology, agriculture, and climate change. All three have doctoral degrees from WSU.
The publication, in some ways, is a study of how the scientific process works. It lays out what scientists currently know about changes in the Earth’s climate and atmosphere, elements of the debate over its warming, and how science contributes to our knowledge of the phenomenon through observations, experiments, models, and supporting evidence. Tables compare projected physical and biological consequences of climate change with evidence that they are already taking place.
“Although some puzzles remain,” the fact sheet concludes, “the consensus of thousands of climate scientists in hundreds of countries worldwide is that the Earth is getting warmer; that human activity is the principal cause of this warming; and that this warming will have serious ecological, health, and economic consequences for the 21st century.”
The fact sheet, titled , is available as a free PDF download from WSU Extension Publications »
Putting Two and Two Together: Connecting Service Industry Professionals with Local Farmers
A guided farm tour put on by Sustainable Connections and Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism will inform local service industry professionals about local agritourism hot spots. “We want our locals to be the experts or ‘local food ambassadors’ for all of the scrumptious offerings Whatcom County has to offer,” Sara Southerland, Sustainable Connections’ Food & Farming Outreach Coordinator said. “Familiarizing the folks who most directly interact with visitors with these unique and delicious farm experiences, means they can provide genuine recommendations for connecting visitors with the food and farm gems we have here.”
Tourism bring in approximately $555.4 million a year to Whatcom County. “If we can get visitors to stay another night, or for one more meal, or make a return visit, then we are building our local economy,” said Jacqueline Cartier, marketing director at Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism.
Learn more about upcoming tours as well as self-guided tour itineraries, and Sustainable Connections guide to local food, by visiting the Sustainable Connections website » “These resources are great tools for residents and visitors alike to find the local farm products they’re seeking, locate restaurants that source from local farms, and enjoy a leisure day visiting farms and wineries throughout the county,” Southerland said.
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