Since this is my first time writing as president of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers (WAWG), I thought I’d take a few minutes to introduce myself and my family. I’m the third generation on my family’s Douglas County dryland wheat farm, which was settled in the 1950s by my grandfather. Although I grew up on the farm, I didn’t always stay there. In the 1970s, I had to go out into the cruel world because times were tough on the farm. I worked my way through Alaska and Idaho selling welding supplies before making my way back to Washington. I’m pretty proud of the experience I earned, and I feel like it made me a better farmer in the end.
My son (and fourth generation), Travis, now runs the farm day to day. I don’t often tell him this, but he does a great job. We are about 80 percent no-till with the rest conventionally farmed. When Travis joined me on the farm, we took a hard look at our practices and rotations because our yields weren’t where we thought they should be. We made some changes and started investing more in our soils. We may not have it right yet, but we think we are on the right track. We’ve been experimenting with cover crops—that’s a work in progress—and in the past few years, we’ve started growing canola and sunflowers alongside the wheat. My other son, Taylor, works for a major fertilizer company and is one of our farm’s agronomists.
I can’t mention Travis and Taylor without talking about the rest of my family, including our four grandchildren, and how grateful I am for what they bring to my life, especially my wife, Teri, who really pushed me to into getting involved in WAWG. I’m proud that our blended family is full of farmers, agronomists and teachers, occupations that are important in keeping our rural communities thriving.
I look at these younger farmers and am so proud of them. They are so passionate about farming. They talk to each other about what they are doing and share their knowledge so everybody benefits. I believe it’s because they want to keep this way of life going for their kids. And let’s be honest, farming is hard, and it can take a lot out of a family. Teri likes to joke that I’m never going to retire, and that’s probably true. I go out to our farm almost every day just because I love being around what we’re growing.
As I prepare to assume the responsibilities of WAWG president, I’ve been considering the year to come. I think we’ve got a lot of issues on our plate that we’ll need to deal with. There’s always transportation, protecting the lower Snake River dams and dealing with the new overtime rules in agriculture. But I’m also keeping my eye on the cost and availability of fertilizer and fuel. I’m hearing rumors of fertilizer shortages next year, not to mention potential seed shortages. Whatever happens, know that I and the other officers and staff at WAWG will be working hard on our farmers’ behalf, both in Olympia and Washington, D.C.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I hope your holidays are safe and full of family, good food and fun. I’ll see you in January, ready to get to work advocating for the best people I know—Washington wheat farmers.