Monday, July 16, 2018

Last Hoorah!!

The last few projects I worked on here have been truly inspiring to be a part of, such as our volunteer project at the Entiat National Fish Hatchery. We were able to coordinate a service project with 16 of our incredible volunteers to go out to the hatchery and help with some trail maintenance on over 4.5 acres over the course of the day. I was so impressed by the positive attitudes and work ethic that every single one of our volunteers had. We were able to get so much more done than I could have hoped for. By the end of the day we were all exhausted and as I walked the trail making sure we had all the materials and that everyone was starting to head back, there were two volunteers that asked if they could stay just a bit longer so that they could get around to the next corner. Now this has taken place after hours of hard work, trimming, weeding, pulling snags, and raking. I did not anticipate having volunteers asking to stay longer and it caught me off guard for a moment, and then I had a sense of pride over how hard and how much they cared about what they were really doing. So, we all grabbed some rakes, pruners and threw our gloves on to help them to finish that last bit. I could not be more proud of the teams of volunteers I have worked with this year.
Working with selfless people who care about their environment and their communities is so rewarding, and it was a great way to close out my service. Out volunteers are vital to so many of our programs success, and throughout this year I have been impressed by the selfless people who donate their time, knowledge, and skills to our programs whether it is our Native Plant Sale, after school extended learning, Kids in the Creek, or any other various volunteer projects. There is a true sense of community that I have found when I am working with our volunteers and it is inspiring to see that many people take time from their busy days to help out their communities and their environment.

Joining Americorps and moving out to Washington State to serve with Cascadia Conservation has been a true life changing experience. I have been a part of so many amazing programs throughout the year and have learned a great deal about conservation, natural resource management, teaching, non-profits and so much more. This year has not been easy, but it has been worth every minute. I have encountered so many new challenges that have prepared me for my next step as I move on with my career in the conservation world with Sauk County back in Wisconsin as a Conservation Coordinator this August. I will be missing Washington and my Cascadia team deeply as I move back, but I am incredibly excited to start this new chapter, and I know that Americorps has given me a strong foundation and invaluable experience in which I will continue to pursue conservation and education.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Busy Busy Spring and Summer in Chelan County

 My position of Natural Resource Education Coordinator with Cascadia means that I get to help to coordinate, organize and facilitate many of our environmental education programs that we provide within Chelan County. We have taught formal lessons to more than 2,479 K-12 students in Chelan, Douglas, and Okanogan County. We have taught programs on soil health and conservation, wildfires and forest ecology, agriculture in Washington, and stream health just to name a few.

Spring with Cascadia Conservation District has become my new favorite season. It is filled with a number of amazing events and hands on lessons in some of the most beautiful parts of the world. I have gotten the chance to teach in the shadows of mountains and along the banks of raging rivers, but most importantly the students have gotten out of the classroom and have been able to experience all of this as well. Seeing the excitement in students that have never been to these areas or watching them develop a new interest and passion for conservation is the most rewarding experience for me.

In early May we hosted the 25th successful Kids in the Creek program at the Entiat Fish Hatchery. All the planning and coordinating that went into preparing for this program paid off when 240 high school students were able to come out to the hatchery for our field days.
Students Collecting Samples from the Pond at the Entiat Fish Hatchery
 We worked with a number of partner organizations such as US Fish & Wildlife, Forest Service, the City of Wenatchee, Chelan Co. PUD, and Cascade Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group to put this program together. With 40 volunteers from all of these organizations, and many more, we were able to provide a vast network of professionals for the students to learn from. The students were able to get a hands on, real life look into field work and also various professions within the conservation field at six different field stations. They learned about riparian zones, water quality, stream habitat, invertebrates, watersheds, water flow and so many more concepts and ideas taught by local resource specialists. By the end of the day, a number of students are exhausted but still using every last minute to ask the station leads more questions about everything from the material they just learned to specifics on their careers and jobs.

Cascadia is an organization I would  figuratively
and literally climb a mountain for!!
      During my service with Cascadia Conservation District, I have learned a great deal about conservation and natural resource management, teaching and how to share my passion for stewardship with others in an effective way, but I have also learned a great deal about myself and the skills that I possess. This service has given me the foundation for a career in the conservation world that I cannot wait to contribute further to.

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, 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:

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, and see if any of the cost share programs might be for you and your land. Contact Sandy Letzing at (509) 436-1601 or 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 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!


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