Thursday, March 22, 2018

Spring with Cascadia Conservation


Spring is in the air! Everyone is getting ready to begin their spring planting as this warmer weather looks like it is here to stay. To celebrate the coming spring we have our Native Plant Sale going on here at Cascadia. Along with our plant sale we hosted our 8th annual Native Planting 101 Workshop on Saturday February 24th at the Wenatchee Valley College.
                This workshop features local experts that present on the benefits and the importance of incorporating native plants into landscapes, restoration projects, pollinator gardens, and yardscaping. This year we reached our capacity with 45 participants. We received donations of cookies from Sure to Rise Bakery in Cashmere, coffee from Starbucks, and apple slices from Crunch Pak in Cashmere. Thanks to the support of these amazing local businesses we were able to offer some delicious refreshments to all in attendance, making it a little easier to stay inside on a sunny Saturday afternoon. During our workshop I had the opportunity to speak with many people who were looking for ways to make their properties more firewise. It was inspiring to see so many people who care not only about their properties but about their communities and environment.
                Following the Native Planting Workshop I helped with our after school urban agriculture program. For one of the final lessons with this group of 26 fourth graders, we went to the Wenatchee Valley College greenhouse to plant some starts for salsa container gardens they will take home in the spring. The kids had so much fun exploring the greenhouse and planting their tomatoes, peppers, and onions. After planting our seeds, we got to investigate some different invertebrates, hydroponics, and vermicomposting. One student, Gabe, was inspired by the worms from the vermicomposting project. At first he didn’t want to even touch a worm, the idea of getting close to them made him squeal. After we talked about the importance of worms (and that they don’t have teeth) Gabe ended up spending 15 minutes investigating the worms and was proudly holding more than 50 red wigglers by the end, showing them off to his classmates with pride and informing them on his recently learned worm facts.
                Being a part of a team involved in so many amazing programs that help educate and inspire people of all ages is what I hope to be doing every day. Joining Americorps and serving with Cascadia Conservation has been such an honor. Every week I encounter a new challenge and meet new people who care about their communities and the environment. I consider myself extremely fortunate because of this opportunity.
I would like to thank Crunch Pak, Starbucks, Sure to Rise Bakery, our Native Planting 101 presenters: Bob Gillespie, Julie Sanderson, Ted Alway, and Connie Mehmel, and all of our volunteers that have been crucial to the continued success of these programs. The support, whether it is the time put in by our amazing volunteers or the donation of goods by local businesses, shows just how much the people and businesses care about our community, the environment, and one another. 
If you are interested in getting involved with Cascadia Conservation District as a volunteer, send me an email, americorps@cascadiacd.org or call our office at 509-436-1601. You can also go to our website and sign up to be a part of our volunteer team. Follow the link below:

http://cascadiacd.org/volunteers_227.html

Monday, January 22, 2018

Washington Agriculture


As the new Americorps Intern at Cascadia Conservation District, I have taken over teaching our environmental education programs, Wheat Week and the Water on Wheels, in the schools throughout Chelan, Douglas and Okanogan Counties. I really enjoy being able to get out and teach these lessons, not only because they are educating students about crucial environmental concepts, but also because they are teaching the students about farming. Farming is something we have become further removed from as the number of small family farms have decreased across the country.
                However there is hope! In Washington, 89% of our farms are small farms. This is much higher than the national average where only 49% of farms are considered small farms. This impressive figure helps to bridge the gap between the production of food, fuels, and fibers and the consumer. Being aware of what goes into the production and the hard work, dedication, and care put in by farmers is extremely important. This is one of the many concepts I try to teach and convey to my students. It is not just going to the grocery store. I try to get them to think on a larger scale.
     Between crops and livestock, Washington agricultural products were valued around $10.7 billion for 2015. That figure represents only the products that are grown and raised here in Washington, it does not include the food processing industry that is also crucial, contributing more than $20 billion to the economy. Apples are a huge part of the agriculture industry here. Washington produces 70% of the apples in the USA. Here in Wenatchee, the apple capital of the world, we have rich volcanic soils combined with irrigation fueled by the Columbia River basin, providing quality growing conditions for ample yields.
                Farmers are not just growing the food that will end up on our tables, they are growing the fuel we use and the fibers we need. Farmers are crucial to our society and we are lucky to have as many amazing farmers as we do in our state. We depend on the agricultural industry not only to provide us with the food, fibers, and fuel for our day to day lives but we also rely on them for environmental stewardship, as they are caring for and managing many acres of land.
                Taking good care of the land is critical to farmers. They depend on healthy productive lands to grow their crops and keep their operations sustainable into the future. By implementing environmentally sound practices more commonly referred to as “Best Management Practices” or BMPs, farmers are protecting our soil, water, and even the air we breathe. 

If you are a famer and are interested in making improvements to your land by implementing some more Best Management Practices, check out our landowner assistance page on our website,  http://cascadiacd.org/landowner-assistance_239.html and see if any of the cost share programs might be for you and your land. Contact Sandy Letzing at (509) 436-1601 or sandyl@cascadiacd.org if you have any questions regarding the landowner assistance programs.

If you are missing the amazing farmers markets that we have here in Washington, check out http://wafarmersmarkets.org/washingtonfarmersmarketdirectory/ for more information on where to find farmers markets during the year and look forward to the spring to come.


Thank you for reading, please leave any comments, questions, or concerns below!

-Justine 


Did you Know?


The modern domestic apple originated from what is now Kazakhstan in the Tien Shan Mountains.


The only apple native to North America is the crab apple.




Works Cited

Monday, December 18, 2017

Americoprs Story of Service

I was drawn to Washington for the natural beauty and the vast number of environmental education, conservation, and research positions that are here in order to protect and ensure that future generations will be able to experience and appreciate all that Washington has to offer. I have always wanted to see Washington and the Cascades, I never really imagined I would be able to live and serve here as a part of the team working to improve and promote the environmental stewardship of these areas.
  I am serving through Washington Service Corps as the Americorps Intern with Cascadia Conservation District in Wenatchee WA. A portion of my service includes going out to schools across Chelan, Douglas, and Okanogan counties to teach an environmental education program called “Wheat Week” to 4th and 5th grade classes. The program uses wheat as the teaching tool in order to talk about greater environmental issues we face such as storm water runoff, pollution, erosion & soil conservation, and energy production. I am extremely happy to be a part of this program and have the opportunity to teach it, programs like this one are the reason I moved from Wisconsin to Washington with Americorps.
This past week I got the chance to teach at Columbia   Elementary in Wenatchee. I met some awesome teachers and enthusiastic future scientists (maybe)! The students here really looked forward to our daily Wheat Week lessons, they could hardly wait to investigate their terrariums and see how their wheat was changing and growing each day. Every day I would have multiple students run up to me and show off the new roots growing or a stem emerging from the little cup of soil. We recorded these observations in our “Kernel Journals” every day. They are so excited that they remember the names of the different parts of the plant that we labeled on the very first day, I have never heard “look! root hairs” shouted with such enthusiasm before. They took such pride in growing their terrariums and taking care of their wheat plants.
The vast majority of the students I teach are far removed from farming and the ideas and issues brought up during our Wheat Week lessons. When presented to them, these are awe inspiring for many of the students who have never realized how much work goes into farming or the amount of effort that many farmers put into being responsible stewards for their lands. At the very end of our week we write postcards to the Washington Wheat Farmers. Reading through the postcards before I send them out is one of my favorite things. The kids write about their favorite parts of wheat week, tell the farmers what they learned, and ask questions about being a wheat farmer.
Seeing the excitement and the enthusiasm that the students have is what motivates me. I see every classroom as an opportunity to advocate for and educate people about the importance of preserving the natural world and the environment. There is always a balance between us and the environment, which I do my best to explain to the kids. I hope that maybe one of them will find an interest or passion for environmental sciences and maybe someday help to solve some of the issues we face.

For more information about Wheat Week, check out Franklin Conservation District’s website!
https://www.franklincd.org/wheat-weekIf you are interested in having this program at your school for 4th and 5th grade and you are located in Chelan or Douglas counties send an email to americorps@cascadiacd.org

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Are LEDs a Bright Idea?



As we settle into winter, the temperatures begin to drop, the sun starts setting earlier and our days get shorter and shorter. With the decrease in sunlight, we begin to rely more and more on our lightbulbs to make up for the shortened days and lack of natural light. LED bulbs are a great way to keep energy costs down and increase the efficiency of your home or business, making it more environmentally friendly. The Dept. of Energy (DOE) has conducted research into solid state lighting or SSL, which includes Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) and Organic Light Emitting Diodes or (OLEDs). According to the research done by the Dept. of Energy, “switching to SSL could reduce national lighting energy by 75% in 2035”.

LEDs or Light Emitting Diodes are the most efficient light bulb available on the market today. Using a semiconductor to convert electricity into light, they are able to use 95% of the energy they use to create light, wasting only 5%. This process decreases energy draw by around 80% when compared to incandescent light bulbs. Very little heat is lost from LEDs in comparison to incandescent bulbs, which can lose 90% of their energy as heat. The LED bulbs can actually benefit from cooler temperatures as well; the DOE found that they were 5% more efficient at -5 degrees Celsius than 25 degrees Celsius.  Not only are LEDs better in terms of efficiency, but they last much longer than other light bulbs.Depending on the LED bulb, a good quality one will last 25,000 hours or more.

If you have concerns regarding the variety, size, color or light quality, not to worry!! LEDs are one of the most compact lighting options available on the market, they are extremely durable, come in a number of colors and are very adaptable lighting options. The market is expanding as more and more people are making the switch to LEDs.

Another benefit of these beautiful bulbs is that, unlike compact florescent lights, LEDs do not contain any   mercury and do not need to be disposed of as hazardous waste. Though florescent lights are more efficient than the standard incandescent bulbs, they contain small amounts of mercury, less than 5 milligrams generally. However, even this tiny amount of mercury can poison thousands of gallons of water or pose a threat to people that come into contact with it. Despite the energy savings that the   florescent bulbs presented, their disposal and the mercury they contained created another issue. The bulbs must be recycled at a facility that is qualified to handle florescent bulbs, which are limited. These bulbs should not be thrown out in the trash due to the mercury they contain. Mercury does not decompose or dissipate, it remains in the environment.

Generally, the upfront cost of LED bulbs is a little higher the florescent or incandescent; however, you will be saving money as they last far longer and are much more energy efficient. Consider LED bulbs a good investment for the winter, and one that will continue to benefit you for years to come. 


-Justine

Works Cited



Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Leaf them be

Now that the colors are changing and those leaves are falling, many people are beginning the fall chore of raking their leaves, the good news is that this isn’t necessary! Skip the raking and bagging and enjoy a game of football or go for a hike instead. The leaves that you pack up and leave curbside to go to landfills are filling up space in the landfills and contributing to the production and release of methane, a formidable greenhouse gas.

According to the EPA landfills accounted for 18% of the total methane emissions in the United States and globally more than 60% of methane emissions are due to human activity. Methane only makes up about 0.00017% of our atmosphere, which may make methane look less important than it really is to us. The problem we face is how powerful methane is, pound for pound the impact of methane is 25-28 times greater than Carbon Dioxide over a 100 year period (EPA), this makes Methane the 2nd most important greenhouse gas behind Carbon Dioxide. We have made a difference and we can continue to make a positive impact on our methane emissions, the lifetime of methane is much shorter than that of Carbon Dioxide a primary greenhouse gas. This shorter lifespan of atmospheric methane means that it can be removed from the atmosphere via chemical reactions in 9-12 years, this means that we can reduce the amount of methane in our atmosphere.


When we place organic materials into our landfills they undergo anaerobic decomposition, meaning they are not exposed to oxygen while they decompose and thus produce methane. When composting, our organic material experiences aerobic decomposition, breaking down in the presence of oxygen. Because of this access to oxygen, carbon dioxide (carbon from the organic material and oxygen from the air) is produced rather than methane. Now this is still a greenhouse gas, but composting done correctly has produces a negligible amount of greenhouse gasses when compared to anaerobic decomposition that takes place in landfills. Plus we can reap many benefits from our compost that we do not see when we take our leaves curbside for the landfills.

Once your compost is ready, it can be added to your soil and gardens as a replacement for chemical fertilizers. Compost is rich in carbon and when distributed back into the soil, it not only provides valuable organic material to your dirt but it also helps to sequester carbon and create what is called a “sink” an area that takes in or absorbs carbon from the atmosphere. If that is not enough of a reason to stop throwing your leaves away and start mulching or composting, they can also help to reduce your water bill! With the added organic matter from those leaves/compost, happily absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in your soil, they are also increasing the soils capacity to hold and store water, reducing the need or the frequency with which you have to water or irrigate your soil. It helps to reduce soil compaction, making for wonderfully workable soils. The healthier the soil, the less the risk of erosion as well, which will in turn help to reduce the amount of sediments in our storm water runoff, improving the water quality.

If you have a new found love of composting or want to try it out this fall, our Urban Ag. program has some great information for how to get started with composting in an urban setting. Contact Sandy Letzing at SandyL@cascadiacd.org or call into the office at 509-436-1601 for more information or with questions regarding composting.


-Justine


Works Cited:

Monday, November 6, 2017

New Americorps Member

Hello!! My name is Justine Bula and I am the new Americorps Intern here at Cascadia Conservation. I have moved out to Wenatchee for this position from Baraboo Wisconsin. I completed my undergraduate degrees in Geography and Spanish with minors in Environmental & International Studies at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse. My interest in the natural world and the balance between environmental and humanitarian work are what brought me to Americorps and are what inspired my undergraduate degrees. I have a background in agriculture, growing up and helping to run our diversified family farm back in Baraboo, WI. Travel is another passion of mine, and a part of the reason why I have chosen to come to the beautiful Chelan County to volunteer for the year. There is so much to see, experience, and learn about the world and I am very excited to be able to join Cascadia Conservation District and start my next adventure here in Wenatchee.

-Justine

Friday, July 14, 2017

Farewell

This past year I have been able to volunteer with and lead a variety of restoration events for the benefit of the environment. More recently I have been completing the acreage required for the environmental stewardship portion of my performance plan.

I assisted a work party of 10 individuals over three weeks at Leavenworth’s Ski Hill, where we cleared brush and improved mountain bike trails. The lead agency for the work we were doing was the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance. We also assisted with pulling out non-native plant species. I also had the opportunity to lead four weekly volunteer trail crews at the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery. The hatchery received donations of wood chips from the Chelan County Natural Resources Department. The Chumstick Wildfire Stewardship Coalition organized a few days for free brush disposal at the Dryden Transfer Station this past Spring, so all of the wood chips came from those events. The chips had to be used within the apple maggot quarantine area, so the hatchery was a great fit.

Once we acquired the wood chips, we worked hard to distribute them on the public access horse trails around the hatchery. I also spent some time helping with maintenance efforts at a few of the sites that Cascadia works on. One of the publicly accessible sites is the Cashmere Sportsman’s Association club, where a restoration project has been ongoing for a few years.


 All of these events have been a satisfying way to give back to the community that I have called home for the last 11 ½ months. I’ve worked to remove tires from embankments, planted dozens of native species in riparian areas, pulled noxious weeds, improved and maintained bike and horse trails, and have educated the public on the importance of native plants. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know this area and hope to continue living here and appreciating everything this valley has to offer.  Thank you. 

Friday, June 2, 2017

Spring Festivities

     Spring is our busiest time with community outreach, due to the sunnier weather and the multitude of Spring festivals. This year, I had the opportunity to attend and provide outreach at the Entiat Swallowfest, Chelan Earth Day Fair, Leavenworth Earth Day Community Fair, Entiat Earth Day at the elementary school, Apple Blossom Youth Day, and Touch-a-Truck. Each festival varied in size, but we reached 75-200 community members at each event. This year we partnered with Team Naturaleza, which allowed us to bring kids arts and crafts as well as educational material to each event.

     As a part of Earth Day, I reinvigorated our district’s Earth Day essay contest. It was open to students in grades 6-8 and I had 37 students from three schools participate. This year’s theme focused on encouraging the students to reflect on an experience they’ve had in nature that inspires them to care for the Earth. The top three essay winners each received student memberships to the Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center, as well as hand painted nature journals from local naturalist Heather Wallis Murphy. Prizes were presented at the Leavenworth Earth Day Community Fair.


     Educational outreach is critical to all of our programs. For example, at the Chelan fair I had three groups of people sign up for fire risk assessments for their properties, which is part of our Firewise program. The festivals give us a chance to meet with and talk to the community about all of the programs and services we have to offer. It also gives us a chance to address any concerns or questions that individuals may have. I have learned through the outreach that often times individuals do want to help their land improve, thereby improving their environment, but they don’t know where to begin. That is when we can help bridge that gap by connecting our resource professionals to the concerns and problems facing a particular area. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Earth Day Winning Essay


          I feel the warmth of the rising sun on my oversized T-shirt. My eyes are closed but I can see what I want to see. I see myself standing on the rocks of the staggered cliff, arms in the air, with a slight breeze combing through my messy brown hair. I see the Columbia River with its gentle current at the bottom of a series of large warm rocks that I just happen to be standing on. The water is the brightest, most shocking blue I’ve ever seen. I see the park, our beautiful park. And I see the world, or at least a small portion of it.
         I don’t want what I see in my imagination to fade so I hesitate on opening my eyes, but I’ve been here enough times to know that when I open my eyes, I won’t be disappointed. My warm eyelids open to see what I imagined, but better. The river is the kind of blue that makes you wonder if anything else should even be considered a blue. The large trees on the other side of the water provide just enough shade to attract a few families along the water line. Bikers and joggers zoom behind me on the public trail. This… this is paradise.
        I look down at the my torn up sneakers, and at my blue bike with the chipped paint. There is no other place on earth I would rather be. I mean the smell of a warm day is just exhilarating. The buzz of bike tires whizzing by is more than a sound, it’s a way of life, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s the only life for me.
         This park, our park, in the small town of Wenatchee is my favorite place on earth. That’s why I need it to stay here. That’s why I want other people to see exactly what they imagined when they open their eyes. I want that water to stay that blue, and I want the smell of a hot day to fill the lungs of others the way it fills me with hope. I want the feeling of sun on your back to become not only the feeling of warmth, but a mindset. And that’s why I want to help in anyway I can with keeping our park beautiful, by picking up trash, encouraging others not to litter, and staying confident that we can change our world, no I said that wrong, and we will change our world for the better. So let’s work together to keep our parks beautiful, and better yet lets keep our world beautiful.


                                                                                                                        Happy Earth Day, Scarlette.


Heather Murphy, Scarlette, and Ava Izdepski pose for a photo at the Leavenworth Earth Day Community Fair. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Community Supported Agriculture

Community Supported Agriculture.

The idea is simple. Get community members to pay farmers the cost upfront for receiving a weekly box full of the harvest’s bounty.


Of course, there is a shared risk factor involved in anything to do with farming. If a crop gets damaged or fails to produce anything, the consumer and the farmer are both negatively impacted.
The original CSA format, promoted by Robyn Van En, called for community members to participate in the labor on the farms using the share model approach. Now, with more and more members joining from cities and urban centers, there has been a shift to what is known as a subscription based model.

On the plus side, community members receive a substantial amount of locally produced, farm fresh products that allow them to eat healthy and cost-effectively. For the farmer, they receive money upfront, which helps with their cash flow through the growing season. Also, they help build a community bond with their neighbors by sharing what they do.

Benefits include local variety, introduction of new vegetables, economic viability for the farmer, opportunity for a living wage for farmers, local distribution of food (>100 mile radius) decreases transportation and carbon costs, community celebrations like harvest festivals, and donations of excess produce to food banks.

The subscription CSA model can involve a single farm, but it is becoming increasingly common to have multiple farms participate. This way, if a crop does not do well on one farm, the box can be supplemented with produce from a different farm.One of the biggest challenges that CSA farmers face is in getting land security for farms that are closest to urban centers.

On the consumer side, cost can be the biggest determining factor. Asking individuals or families on tight budgets to submit a lump payment, before the season begins, is not a feasible option. Some CSA’s are tackling this problem by offering a sliding scale option that can even accept SNAP benefits through certain USDA grants (Solomon). These are known as Agriculture Supported Communities (ASC). (Celebrate CSA). The weekly payment format is more accessible for low-budget families or for individuals on fixed income.

Everyone wants to eat healthy, locally grown produce. The issue is the cost and availability of such products. If you want to support your local farmers, while also being sustainably healthy, look below for some different choices. Spend time investigating the best fit for you and your family. There are lots of options!

In the Wenatchee valley, here are some options for joining a CSA:


If you’re in the Seattle area, check out http://www.seattletilth.org/about/stcsa
Or visit http://www.pugetsoundfresh.org/find-csa to find a CSA near you.

Farmer’s markets are a great choice as well, and may take less time and money to participate in. 

Below are some links to farmer’s markets coming in to season soon:

Cascadia Conservation District will be hosting a Backyard Gardening workshop on Saturday, April 15th. Come on over to the Community Education Garden to learn more about composting, gardening, and even backyard chickens!!!


~ Ava

Works Cited

"Community Supported Agriculture.” Complied by AFSIC Staff, Alternative Farming Systems Information Center, National Agriculture Library, U.S. Department of Agriculture. Reviewed Feb. 2017. https://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/community-supported-agriculture
Local Harvest. “Community Supported Agriculture.” http://www.localharvest.org/csa/
McFadden, Steven. “The History of Community Supported Agriculture, Part II.” February, 2004. Rodale Institute Dig Deeper Blog.  http://rodaleinstitute.org/the-history-of-community-supported-agriculture-part-ii/
Rodale Institute. “Celebrate CSA Day with Rodale Institute.” Dig Deeper Blog. 22 Feb. 2017.  https://rodaleinstitute.org/celebrate-csa-day-with-rodale-institute/
Solomon, Nicole. “CSA aims for affordability.” Mother Nature Network. 26 Aug. 2009. http://www.mnn.com/your-home/organic-farming-gardening/stories/csa-aims-for-affordability