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Brooklyn (7) and Mackinzie (7) Ledgerwood in canola
at Ledgerwood Farms in Pomeroy.

Photo by Josiah Ledgerwood.





Beyond the bin

Eastern Washington wheat growers turn to grain bags for storage flexibility

October 2020
By Trista Crossley

Some Eastern Washington farmers are starting to think outside the bin when it comes to how they handle wheat at harvest.

“We were approaching the year with a lot of uncertainty out there in the grain market, and also the fear that maybe an elevator or two might have employees that contract the coronavirus and get shut down. If that was the case, what was Plan B? Where do we go with our grain if our elevator of choice is not open?” said Randy Emtman. “We always try to forward contract some of our crop, so say that an elevator had a temporary closure—there’d be no place to go with that grain that we are obligated to deliver.” See more

Distance learning

AMMO's 2020 Wheat College goes online with Wheat Pete

July 2020
By Trista Crossley

Setting aside the factors that can’t be changed, such as weather, what has the biggest impact on wheat yields? Peter Johnson, a Canadian agronomist with 30 years of specializing in cereals, says it’s all about the producer.

“Researchers have identified that if you put growers in the same region with the same inputs, everything the same, 27 percent, basically 1/4 of the yield outcome, is based on the producer and how they apply those inputs,” he said. “That is outside of the weather and soil type and everything else. It’s really cool in terms of how we can drive those yields forward, so keep an open mind.”

Johnson was speaking to growers as part of the Agricultural Marketing and Management Organization’s 2020 Wheat College. Normally, Wheat College is a full day of classroom and hands-on presentations. This year’s event, however, was solely online thanks to COVID-19 restrictions. Nearly 60 growers logged into Zoom to hear Johnson speak. Johnson is the resident agronomist with Real Agriculture, where he hosts a weekly podcast, “Wheat Pete’s Word.” He is also a regular on “Agronomy Monday” on Real Ag radio, Sirius Satellite Radio 147. See more

Cart(ful) of changes coming soon

NRCS uses webinar format to update Eastern Washington growers

June 2020
By Trista Crossley

In the year and a half since the 2018 Farm Bill passed, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has had their hands full implementing changes called for in the legislation. That transition is in the final stages, and last month, Washington growers got a chance to see what the agency has been working on.

“There are quite a few changes to each and every program, a lot of final tweaks,” said NRCS Washington State Conservationist Roylene Comes at Night. “We have new tools. The field offices have a new conservation planning system called Conservation Desktop. It’s a new system that is more computer friendly, more user friendly, more connected. The farm bill asked us to streamline in many ways. One way you will see is we are starting to transition towards one application, one conservation plan, one contract. We aren’t there yet, but we are going that way this year. That’s the biggest thing you will hear us talk about—this year is a transition year.” See more

Rounding up the gains of conservation tillage

No-till, direct seeding have many benefits, but one important tool is causing conflict

May 2020
By Trista Crossley

There’s very little disagreement that no-till and direct seed cropping systems are responsible for dramatic improvements in soil health and a reduction in erosion in Eastern Washington. There is, however, lots of disagreement over one of the main tools that makes those cropping systems viable—herbicides, especially glyphosate (also known commercially as Roundup).

Both no-till and direct seeding are considered low-disturbance systems where farmers don’t plow their fields but instead fertilize and seed through the previous year’s crop residue. According to Ty Meyer, executive director of the Pacific Northwest Direct Seed Association (PNDSA), direct seeding usually involves up to two passes over a field and causes a little more disturbance than does no-till, which generally only involves a single pass. That’s compared to three or more passes in a conventional tillage operation. See more

A quick trip through QuickBooks

April 2020
By Trista Crossley

The last Agricultural Marketing and Management session of the 2020 winter series was an accounting of the popular financial software program, QuickBooks.

Presenter Cassi Johnson, a financial consultant and QuickBooks super user, gave growers tips and tricks to increase their productivity when using the software and answered growers’ questions. Everyone, no matter their level of experience with QuickBooks, walked away with something useful. Johnson has practical experience using QuickBooks in an agricultural setting—she is part of a multigeneration ranching family in Oregon.

“In all my classes and sessions, people will see I share a lot of family stories and struggles and real life experiences because I find people generally don’t want to talk about private things, and I want my participants to know that their struggles aren’t unique, and they are not alone,” she said after the session. “Not everybody is experienced in bookkeeping and QuickBooks, and nobody loves to do bookkeeping. We didn’t get in this business to do that. We got in it to raise crops and livestock and be outdoors. I hope growers get out of my session that somebody like me who may know a little more about QuickBooks still isn’t perfect and still has the same struggles they have. It’s all a work in progress.” See more

Creating a conversation around mental well-being

March 2020
By Trista Crossley

The first regular Agricultural Marketing and Management Organization (AMMO) workshop of 2020 didn’t cover the usual weather/marketing/financial topics. Instead, it aimed to break down barriers surrounding mental health in agriculture.

“No one knows what a farmer is going through better than another farmer,” explained workshop presenter Lesley Kelly. “Your words matter. Your conversations matter. What you have to say can have an immense impact on somebody around you.” See more

Narrowing down the options

Data indicates PLC will likely be the better option for crop years 2019, 2020

February 2020
By Trista Crossley

The take away from last month’s farm bill education workshops was that the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program looks to be the most attractive option for the next two years, but that growers should run the numbers for themselves to make sure.

Sponsored by the Agricultural Marketing and Management Organization in conjunction with Washington State University (WSU) Extension, three workshops were held in Davenport, Walla Walla and Colfax. More than 155 growers and landlords braved snowy weather to attend the sessions.

Copies of the workshop presentations can be found here, here and here. A livestream of the Colfax session can be found online.

This article reviews the Colfax session. See more.


Fall's wet, cool weather threatened to leave crops in the field

November 2019
By Trista Crossley

In “normal” years, by mid-October, most of Eastern Washington’s wheat has been harvested, and growers are wrapping up winter wheat seeding. Unfortunately, this year is anything but normal.

As October rolled around, there were reports of thousands of acres of spring wheat and chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans or garbs) still to be harvested across Eastern Washington, especially in the Palouse region. The culprit is moisture. Thanks to a cooler summer and regular rain showers that began in August and extended through October—not to mention an early October snow storm that set snowfall records at the Spokane, Wash., airport—the opportunities for wheat, especially spring wheat, and garbanzo beans (garbs) to reach the required level of dryness to be harvested were scattered and unpredictable.

At the beginning of October, Clint Myers, a grower from south Spokane County, was sitting on nearly 500 acres of spring wheat that was still too wet to harvest. See more


In most parts of Eastern Washington, the combines and bank-out wagons have been put away for the year, and hot August days have been replaced by frosty October mornings. Here's some more photos from this year's harvest in case you are already missing it. See more

Ninety years and counting

October 2019
By Trista Crossley

Although there have been a lot of changes in the way wheat is harvested, many traditions surrounding the annual event haven’t.

For the past 90 years, the Mead family has provided three meals a day for their harvest crew. In the beginning, the kitchen came to the field via a horse-drawn cookwagon. Eventually, meal prep moved to the farm’s 1920s bunkhouse near Starbuck, Wash. These days, Skip and Julia Mead are in charge of the farm, which was settled by Skip’s grandparents more than 90 years ago, and have continued the harvest meal tradition.

“In the beginning, it (providing harvest meals) was essential. Everybody did it. You just didn’t go to town. Most folks lived on the ranch, and your seasonal workers didn’t have anywhere to go,” Skip explained, sitting at the table at the cookhouse in July while his current cook, Penny Hazelbaker, bustled around the small kitchen, putting the final touches on lunch. “It’s not only tradition, but we like it for team building, the camaraderie. We have fun in here. We give our workers a break from sandwich lunches. That’s important—a change of pace for them, but also it gives our wives a break.” See more

Wheat College

Growers learn about soil fertility, farm bill programs, digital farming, marketing

July 2019
By Trista Crossley

One of the highlights of the Agricultural Marketing and Management Organization’s schedule is the annual Wheat College, a one-day workshop that strives to bring the latest in research and technology to Eastern Washington wheat growers. This year’s Wheat College was held June 6 in Dayton, Wash. More than 90 growers attended the event to hear about soil fertility and soil sampling, 2018 Farm Bill program options, precision agriculture, marketing and grass identification. See more


Benton County farmers, conservation district team up on precision application project

June 2019
By Trista Crossley

In the ongoing fight against weeds, one Benton County wheat farming family feels like they’ve hit the spot by employing a precision technology that saves them 80 to 90 percent on their chemical costs.

“To me, this is the next best thing after autosteer for a return on investment,” said Devin Moon.

Moon and his brother, Garrett, saw a demonstration of the WEEDit technology last year and were impressed enough that they approached the Benton Conservation District (BCD) with a proposal for a pilot project to test the system in a no-till fallow rotation. The WEEDit system works by detecting small amounts of chlorophyll and precisely applying chemical to just that spot. According to their website, the WEEDit technology was invented in Holland in 2001 as a way to avoid applying a “blanket” of chemicals over roads and footpaths to kill weeds. In 2009, the technology was modified for use in agriculture with the first system sold in Australia that same year. The Moons purchased the system, which mounts on their existing sprayer, and the conservation district provided some financial assistance for the actual work, i.e. labor, fuel and chemicals. The project began in July 2018 and wrapped up in April. See more

Overcoming production challenges

Workshop focuses on using variety selection, proper chemicals for pests

April 2019
By Trista Crossley

Production challenges and options to overcoming them was the topic of the final session of the Agricultural Marketing and Management Organization’s 2019 winter schedule in February. Ryan Higginbotham from HighLine Grain Growers talked about disease pressure and how choosing the right variety can help address those issues, while James Zahand of James Zahand Consulting talked about herbicides and weed resistance. See more