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Harvest 2020 at Deardorff Farms in Colville.
Photo by Jayson Deardorff

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Organization helps keep PNW navigation interests flowing

Kristin Meira, Pacific Northwest Waterways Association

August/September 2021
By Kevin Gaffney


Many people travel through their careers with quite a few bumps, curves and unexpected stops along the road. Some folks just seem to cruise along, landing at one good position after another, despite the difficulties.

Kristin Meira fits into the latter category. Along with some good fortune, however, her skills, dedication and hard work had much to do with her successes over the years. Currently the executive director of the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association (PNWA), Meira’s resume includes serving on the staffs of two U.S. senators in Washington, D.C.

Born and raised in southern New Jersey about halfway between Philadelphia and Atlantic City, Meira actually grew up in a rural area that produced crops including peaches, apples, blueberries and corn. She was in 4-H for years and had many FFA friends through high school. She graduated from Williamstown High School in 1989. Meira worked at various jobs to earn money during high school and college; much of that involved working with horses. She began riding at an early age and trained horses and taught riding lessons as a teenager. After a hiatus during her early work life, Meira took up riding again in her mid-30s. She recently purchased a new project horse that she is jumping in the hunter category of equestrian show events. Living near Portland with her husband, Erik, and son, Alex, she keeps her horse boarded at nearby Aurora, Ore. See more


To Washington (DC), with love, from Washington (state)

Mariah Wollweber, National Association of Wheat Growers

July 2021
By Trista Crossley


Does it take a wheat grower to know how to represent wheat growers?

It certainly doesn’t hurt, which is good news for the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) as they welcome Mariah Wollweber, a fifth-generation Washington wheat grower, as their new director of communications and partnerships.

Wollweber grew up on her family’s farm in Edwall, Wash., where she began helping her grandfather bale hay at age 8 and stepped up to driving a harvest truck at 13. She graduated from Eastern Washington University in 2018 with a degree in public relations and a minor in journalism. See more


Couple flies into aerial aviation business

Erin and Gavin Morse, GEM Air Inc.

June 2021
By Trista Crossley


The success of Gavin and Erin Morse’s aerial application company, GEM Air Inc., didn’t happen without a little turbulence.

Neither of the Morses grew up in agriculture or aviation. Erin graduated from Quincy High School in 2000. From there, she went to Big Bend Community College (BBCC) in Moses Lake and (later) Eastern Washington University in Cheney. Gavin grew up in Spokane where his father was a contractor. He was homeschooled instead of attending public high school, but took and passed the GED at 16 so he could get to the thing he had loved from the time he was a child—flying. His mother wasn’t very pleased.

“At the time, I thought high school was in the way of becoming a pilot,” he said. “I took the test and passed, packed my things and moved myself, at 16, to Seattle to be closer to where airplanes were.” See more


Promoting direct seeding in the Pacific Northwest

Ty Meyer, production ag manager, Spokane Conservation District

April 2021
By Kevin Gaffney


Born and raised in the wheat country near Colton, Wash., in the heart of the Palouse, Ty Meyer grew up on a wheat and cattle farm operated by his father and uncle.

After graduating from Colton High School, Meyer earned a bachelor’s degree in agribusiness from Washington State University in 1993.

“My first employment was with Northwest Farm Credit Services as a farm appraiser,” said Meyer. “I worked out of the Yakima office for two years.”

Meyer returned home to accept the position of assistant manager of Johnson Union Warehouse, which is now part of the Pacific Northwest Farmers Cooperative. By that time, Meyer and his longtime hometown sweetheart, Kay, were married, and they moved to the west side of Washington when Meyer landed a job with AT&T Wireless during the tech boom of the late 1990s. Meyer’s management duties included taking IT professionals around the country to train field office staff. See more


New product targets some familiar weeds

BioWest Ag Solutions

March 2021

Being “in the weeds” is seldom a good thing, and there’s a new product on the market that could help get farmers out of them.

BioWest Ag Solutions, based in Caldwell, Idaho, is marketing a new bioherbicide based on research done by U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service soil scientist Ann Kennedy, who worked in Pullman, Wash., before she retired. The product targets cheatgrass (also known as downy brome), medusahead and jointed goatgrass. See more


Selling wheat seed throughout the western U.S.

Riley Hille, farm wife and wheat seed expert for Syngenta AgriPro

February 2021
By Kevin Gaffney


High achievers like Riley Hille often graduate from high school along with their classmates. They just do it with two years of college work already completed.

Born and raised in the Tri-Cities, Hille graduated from Hanford High School in 2010. Not only was she earning college credit through the Running Start program at Columbia Basin College, she worked for Calaway Hay Company during her senior year.

“I was a little bored in the classroom, so most of my class time was online, and when I wasn’t studying or working, I spent time with my horses,” recalled Hille. Hille fell in love with horses at an early age and was fortunate enough to have parents supportive of her equestrian interests. See more


A champion for agriculture

Previous WAWG president, county commissoner heads to state Senate

January 2021
By Trista Crossley


There’s a number of past Washington Association of Wheat Growers’ (WAWG) officers who have used their time leading the association as a springboard into politics. Perry Dozier, a newly elected state senator from Walla Walla County, is the latest.

Dozier, a republican, is replacing retiring Sen. Maureen Walsh in the 16th Legislative District. He was elected with 59 percent of the vote over his opponent, Danielle Garbe Reser, a democrat. The 16th Legislative District covers Columbia and Walla Walla counties, the southern portion of Benton county and the city of Pasco in Franklin County.

Dozier was WAWG president in 2000/01. He was recruited to go through the WAWG chairs by outgoing President Alex McGregor, who called him one night to ask him if he’d be interested in being an officer in the association. Dozier agreed, maybe a little too quickly, because McGregor called back the next day just to make sure. See more


Focus will be on small businesses

Walla Walla grower's background will come in handy as a state Representative

January 2021
By Trista Crossley


Mark Klicker’s agricultural experience is as diverse as his family’s history of raising crops, and he’s planning on taking that experience and putting it to work as a newly elected state representative for the 16th Legislative District.

“If we don’t step up, we are going to lose this country,” he explained, referring to a rural America that includes smaller urban areas like Walla Walla and the Tri-Cities. “It’s important that we get involved. I believe if I can find ways of working in collaboration with both sides of the aisle, we can find solutions. That’s what we need to do. We need to bring people together.” See more


Advising farmers, ranchers in the Inland Northwest

Steve Van Vleet, Whitman County WSU Extension agent

December 2020
By Kevin Gaffney


It’s only fitting that Steve Van Vleet works directly with farmers, ranchers and fruit tree growers all over Eastern Washington. Van Vleet grew up on the western slope region of Colorado on a fruit farm. Along with apples, pears, peaches and apricots, they also had a few cattle to work with.

His hometown of Paonia is located in a region known mostly for tree fruit production and coal mining. Rumor has it the town was named after the peony flower, but was misspelled. After finishing high school in 1985, Van Vleet earned his bachelor’s in biology from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., in 1990. The next career step was working for the National Park Service for two years. Van Vleet then moved on to the University of Wyoming to complete his master’s degree in entomology. He was working full time under a weed science professor when he completed that degree in 1995. Deciding he wasn’t quite done with his schooling, he was encouraged by his mentor and professor, Steve Miller, to earn his Ph.D. in agronomy. See more


Jumping in is nothing new to this farmer and his family

Phil Isaak, WAWG past president 1993/94

Aug/Sept 2020
By Kevin Gaffney


Most Washington Association of Wheat Growers (WAWG) presidents spend several years working through the ranks of their county organizations. Many serve as committee chairs or county reps on the WAWG state board before going through the state officer positions. Phil Isaak jumped directly into the WAWG secretary-treasurer position at the request of then-outgoing President Chris Laney.

It wasn’t like Isaak was an unknown quantity, however.

Isaak had experience on various boards and commissions before WAWG and many more in the years following his service in the leadership positions. And nearly as important, Isaak had already spent an entire year traveling around the state with his daughter, Brenda, as she served as WAWG Wheat Queen. Read more


Long-time ad sales manager retires

Kevin Gaffney has spent 30 years contributing to the success of Wheat Life

June 2020
By Trista Crossley


You may not immediately recognize his name, but he’s one of the main reasons Wheat Life is as successful as it is.

In May, after almost 30 years of involvement with the magazine and the Washington Association of Wheat Growers (WAWG), Kevin Gaffney, our ad sales manager, is hanging up his hat.

It’s an understatement to say we will miss him.

“Kevin has been a well-rounded and hardworking employee for WAWG,” said Michelle Hennings, WAWG’s executive director. “He has a great personality and a natural ability to connect with others. His working relationships with Wheat Life’s advertisers, growers and fellow staff members has helped make it possible for the magazine to thrive in a time when other print publications have struggled. We are sorry to lose him, but wish him the best in his well-deserved retirement!” Read more


Educating students about the wheat industry one week at a time

Kara Kaelber, founder of Wheat Week

June 2020
By Kevin Gaffney


Wheat Week has been an effective tool for educating fourth and fifth graders in Washington state about agriculture and, more specifically, the wheat industry, for 13 years. The mastermind behind this unique in-the-classroom instructional program is Kara Kaelber.

Born in southern Idaho, Kaelber spent her middle and high school years in Connecticut, where her mother had taken a job with Weight Watchers, a division of the H.J. Heinz Company. Kaelber began her college studies at the University of Florida. After her mother landed a job with Welch’s in Kennewick, Wash., Kaelber eagerly returned to the Pacific Northwest and attended Washington State University (WSU). Read more


Ag's story told

Sue Tebow turns to social media to spread the word on farmers and ranchers

June 2020
By Trista Crossley


Moses Lake resident Sue Tebow has taken the phrase “sharing is caring” to a new social media level.

“I had been thinking about doing something for a long time to share the ag life with people. I have a lot of friends that aren’t ag related and didn’t understand what goes on in agriculture. I put it off and put it off until one day, I just thought why not and what if? It turned out to be a really good idea,” Tebow said.

Tebow’s idea was to create a Facebook page where she could share stories from farmers and ranchers. The idea—a daily post from a farmer or rancher, no names and a single photo—may have been simple, but it was effective. Four years later, her page, agri.CULTURE, has more than 25,000 followers from around the world and has more than 900 posts. In 2017, Tebow was awarded the Charles Easton Award by the Agriculture Council of America for her work as an advocate for accurate communications between rural and urban audiences. She has also been inducted into the Grant County Agriculture Hall of Fame and given the Excellence in Agriculture Service Award. Read more


Forming resonsible adults as an FFA chapter leader

Steve Braun, Liberty High School ag instructor

May 2020
By Kevin Gaffney


Steve Braun was destined to be an ag educator, but he didn’t recognize his calling until he was working his way through college.

Braun was raised in the small agricultural community of Cambridge, Idaho, in a family with several generations of farmers and ranchers. His grandfather, his father and three uncles raised wheat, barley, alfalfa and grass hay and beef cattle on their diversified farm. He was actively involved with the Future Farmers of America (FFA) during his high school years. Their Cambridge chapter was very competitive, and it paid off in a big way in 1989, when they took on a project that was part of the Building Our American Communities, a program to promote volunteerism.

The FFA group designed a plan to place new street signs throughout Cambridge. Their application was accepted, and the city agreed to fund the cost of the new street signs. The group did all the labor of installing the signs throughout town. Their project won the Idaho state award, beating all the larger schools. The award included a paid-in-full trip to Washington, D.C., for their ag instructor and for Braun, the FFA project leader. Read more