With your senses set, imagine the smell of acres of apples. Anticipate their crunch and sweet taste, or think of a baking apple pie – and then thank Washington State because they produce almost half of the apples grown in the United States. Check back next week for another state highlight from the 2012 Census of Agriculture!
The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.
Just a couple of days ago, on November 11, Washington celebrated its 125th anniversary of statehood, and farming has been one of the cornerstones of the Evergreen State since the very beginning. Using new information from the Washington Department of Agriculture, which is spotlighting farms that have been in the same family since before statehood, combined with the Census of Agriculture, we can easily see this connection.
The 1890 Census of Agriculture reported that apples were already Washington’s top fruit and the state’s dryland wheat farms were tremendously productive. Our farmers stay true to this tradition to this very day. Almost half of all apples grown in the United States come from our state. The 2012 Census of Agriculture counted nearly 175,000 acres of apple orchards in Washington. Read more »
Farmer David Brown poses next to one of his giant pumpkins. Healthy soil is key to the success of Mustard Seed Farms. Photo courtesy of NRCS.
Oregon organic farmer David Brown didn’t start off growing 400-pound pumpkins, but every fall they hold a prominent place on Brown’s Mustard Seed Farms. Starting out as a 26-acre farm in Marion County, Oregon, Brown has grown his diverse, organic operation to 80-acres while also achieving large gains in soil health.
“Our name, Mustard Seed Farms, comes from Scripture where faith is a grain of mustard seed that God will bless, and we will grow, and that’s exactly what’s happened,” Brown said. He’s grown the size of his farm and giant pumpkins by first growing the health of his soil. Brown gathers his strength from above – but does have some help from below from groups like USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Read more »
Children sample local fare on Taste of Washington Day.
Students at Conway Elementary School, in Mount Vernon, Wash., learned a few things about carrots last week. First, they don’t start out as “babies” in bags; they grow in the ground and have green tops. And second, as the third grade boys can attest, they’re good for an impromptu sword fight. Bugs Bunny likes them because they are crunchy, tasty and good for you all at the same time. Students here were chomping down for all those reasons, but also because the carrots came from a farm just down the road.
Ralph’s Greenhouse supplied the carrots to Conway Elementary, while across the state Oxbow Farm, Full Circle Farm, and Local Roots Farm provided produce to Riverview School District. And last week in Vancouver, students at Fort Vancouver High School brought potluck dishes made with produce grown in their school garden. Read more »
A powerful dust storm, known as a haboob, blankets a farm near Ritzville, Wash. Photo courtesy of Susan DeWald. Used with permission.
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and state Soil and Water Conservation Districts has partnered for decades on protecting, restoring and enhancing private lands across the United States. Jim Armstrong is communications and special projects coordinator with the Spokane County Conservation District in Washington. – Jennifer VanEps, NRCS Washington
Haboob: a funny word, but its meaning is far from laughable. Defined as a type of intense dust storm carried on an atmospheric current, haboobs can have catastrophic effects on both land and life.
Dry August winds often stir up dust clouds in central and eastern Washington, but 2014 was exceptional. On Aug. 12, an enormous, miles-wide haboob, which was reminiscent of those from the Dust Bowl era, descended upon eastern Washington. Two weeks later, another dust cloud caused a 50-car pile-up in the southern part of the state, sending multiple people to the hospital and shutting down Interstate 82. Read more »
NRCS Assistant Chief Kirk Hanlin and Kate Kuhlman from Great Peninsula Conservancy discuss the progress of the Klingel Wetlands Restoration, while getting a first-hand look at the area.
When many people think of Washington State, they imagine rain, coffee and apples. My view is much more complex and nuanced, thanks to our team at NRCS who showed me diverse agricultural landscapes, including the state’s major estuary – Puget Sound.
During my visit, I was greeted by an idyllic landscape steeped in history. Early settlers to the Puget Sound area converted marshlands into pastures and hayfields. We visited one such area now known as Klingel Wetlands, where levee systems were installed in the 1890s and 1950s to prevent flooding. Read more »
Nine Pine Ranch, a wetland easement near Chewelah, Washington, provides habitat for a variety of wildlife including yellow-headed black birds. NRCS photo.
Most landowners would give up when faced with the challenges on Nine Pine Ranch near Chewelah, Washington, but not Glen Hafer. After trying for 40 years to farm his piece of land in the Colville River Valley, Hafer decided to convert it back to its original glory – wetlands.
Historically, the land in this valley flooded annually from the river, but settlers drained the area to farm. With no wetlands to hold water, flooding in the area worsened over time, making the land tough to farm.
When Hafer took the reins of his family’s land, he wanted to do something different. He was already – as he puts it – “semi-retired” and wanted to use his land to support his family. Read more »