Agriculture in Washington: About this series

Rex Calloway juggles phone calls and selling corn before heading to his seed cutting operation on Friday, April 14, 2017, in Quincy, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Rex Calloway's seed cutting operation is seen on Friday, April 14, 2017, in Quincy, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Rex Calloway shows potatoes waiting to be cut into seeds during a tour on Friday, April 14, 2017, in Quincy, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Rex Calloway shows the sizes of potatoes waiting to be cut into seeds during a tour on Friday, April 14, 2017, in Quincy, Wash. Getting the spuds cut into uniform shapes and sizes is essential to planting efficiency and crop yield. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Workers manually cut potatoes into uniform sizes after they pass through a cutting machine on Friday, April 14, 2017, in Quincy, Wash. Getting the spuds cut into uniform shapes and sizes is essential to planting efficiency and crop yield. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Rex Calloway chats with workers during a tour on Friday, April 14, 2017, in Quincy, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Rex Calloway chats his father Damon during seed cutting on Friday, April 14, 2017, in Quincy, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Potatoes cut to seed are seen on Friday, April 14, 2017, in Quincy, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Rex Calloway holds seed potatoes on Friday, April 14, 2017, in Quincy, Wash. Getting the spuds cut into uniform shapes and sizes is essential to planting efficiency and crop yield. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Rex Calloway chats with workers during a tour of his seed cutting operation on Friday, April 14, 2017, in Quincy, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Rex Calloway chats with workers during a tour on Friday, April 14, 2017, in Quincy, Wash. Getting the spuds cut into uniform shapes and sizes is essential to planting efficiency and crop yield. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Rex Calloway chats with workers during a safety meeting at his seed cutting operation on Friday, April 14, 2017, in Quincy, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Rex Calloway checks on a truckload of potato seeds on Friday, April 14, 2017, in Quincy, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Long before Boeing, Microsoft, Starbucks or Amazon, Washington was known for its world-class agriculture. Apple orchards and waving wheat fields. Hops for the finest beers and potatoes perfect for your favorite French Fries.

Most of the world now sees our state very differently — the home of high tech, high-flying jets and highly caffeinated beverages. Yet, agriculture still is very much at the heart of what makes Washington what it is.

Our soil’s ability to grow so many types of crops makes it one of this nation’s most important farming states. But what is the health of the Washington farm and farmer?

For the next year, The Spokesman-Review will travel the state, spending it in the fields and farmhouses to better understand the challenges facing the newest generation of Washington farmers.

In addition to our day-to day-reporting, we’ll be taking a deep dive into each of these crops:

Tulips

A dazzling celebration of spring unfolds in the Skagit Valley each April. The blooms are showy, but farmers want the bulbs.

Asparagus

Slender stalks are a regional delicacy and a case study in trade agreements that can be ruinous for farmers.

Apples

The state’s iconic symbol, lipstick red and fit for a teacher’s desk, has undergone a radical transformation in past 20 years.

Wheat

The pastoral Palouse hills are carpeted with grain that feeds a growing world as competition grows and prices dip.

Cherries

Trees surrender fickle fruit picked in early summer and in time for the Fourth of July. The varieties are sold worldwide.