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 firstname.lastname@example.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!