Different crops, same issues

By Trista Crossley


Farmers in the Skagit Valley may be producing crops unthinkable in Eastern Washington, but they face many of the same pressures as dryland wheat farmers do. At stop after stop, producers on last month’s legislative food and farm tour discussed issues such as farmland preservation, labor, the cost of inputs, the need for research funding, sustainability and mandatory regulations.

The Washington Association of Wheat Growers (WAWG) was one of the sponsors of the tour, along with other industry groups and stakeholders. 

The group began the tour at Washington State University’s Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center in Mt. Vernon. Derek Sandison, director of the Washington Department of Agriculture, gave an overview of agriculture in Washington and acknowledged that there are major pressures on producers.

“Pretty much everything to do with farming, the cost has gone up,” he said.

Over the next two days, the group toured Viva Farms, a farm business incubator; Hughes Farms, a fresh potato packing plant; Skagit Valley Malting; Roozengaarde, a flower and bulb company; Mesman Farm, a dairy; John Peth and Sons, a beef and cattle ranch; and Taylor Shellfish.

“The issues Washington producers are facing are universal, whether you are growing shellfish, strawberries or dryland wheat,” said Howard McDonald, WAWG president, who was on the tour. “Being able to bring legislators and their staff out to a working farm where they can see how a mandatory riparian buffer would impact the farm or see the technology farmers employ to protect natural resources is irreplaceable.”

Bill Dewey, director of public affairs for Taylor Shellfish Farms, explains shellfish production.

A photo op at Mesman Farm.

Sampling the berries at Viva Farms.

Steve Lyon, a plant breeder at Washington State University’s Breadlab, talked about research on grain varieties for the west side of the state.

The potatoes at Hughes Farms are all bound for the fresh market.

Ben Mesman of Mesman Farm explains the care and feeding of his dairy herd.

Berries are one of the crops grown by farmers at Viva Farms, a co-op and farm business incubator.

Dave Green of Skagit Valley Malting talks about value-added agriculture.