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HABITAT — An “out-in-the-woods” educational event on June 21 will provide useful, timely, and unbiased information designed to meet the needs of landowners with five to 500 acres of forest in Eastern Washington and North Idaho.
The forestry field day sponsored by the Washington State University Extension will include exhibitors, demonstrations and classes from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Horsmann Hills Farm near Newport, Wash. The location is within easy driving distance from Pend Oreille, Kootenai, Bonner, Stevens, Ferry and Spokane counties.
This event is designed to prepare landowners to plan and accomplish management activities that meet their personal objectives, reduce risks and protect their financial investment. Absentee landowners with property in eastern Washington and north Idaho are especially encouraged to attend.
The state’s recognized experts will teach on topics such as forest health, plant identification, wildlife habitat, weed control, wildfire protection, timber and non-timber forest products, using global positioning systems, chainsaw safety and maintenance, and forestland security and safety and more. The presenters will be available to answer questions specific to your property situation. Youth activities will be available all day.
The fee for those who register by Friday, June 13, is $20 per person or $30 for a family of two or more. After that date the fee is $30 per person or $40 per family. An optional BBQ lunch will be available for $10 per person. Lunch reservations must be received by June 13.
A brochure with more detailed information, driving directions and the registration form can be found at http://forestry.wsu.edu.
The men walked along the rows of artichokes, following long, straight, ribbons of green that stretched out to the horizon as far as the eye could see. Moving toward the big mobile processing trucks parked on the road that marked the boundary of the field, they harvested artichokes without stopping. As they walked, in one swift motion, they cut and then tossed the artichokes over a shoulder into the strong fabric baskets strapped to their backs. When they reached the truck, the men dumped the contents of the baskets, put them back on, turned around and started again, this time moving in the opposite direction, marching toward another road and another truck.
A few smiled at the crowd gathered along the side of the road watching and taking photos, but most faces were unreadable as they passed us. There was still a lot of work to be done.
On the open trailer, an artichoke processing plant on wheels, men and women wearing hair nets and gloves sat one behind the other in a line of busy hands that didn’t pause as they quickly sorted, washed and packed the fruit. The boxes were filled and taken away.
The company they worked for, Ocean Mist Farms, has a four-hour “cut to cool” policy. Everything must move from the field to the cooler in that time and an elaborate system of bar codes and time stamps tracks it all along the way as the produce moves from the field to boxes to coolers to tables around the world.
I’d joined a private tour of the artichoke mega-producer’s fields and distribution center and it was an eye-opening experience.
Like most people, I’m relatively ignorant of the process by which my food arrives on my table. Oh, I read labels and worry about food safety, but beyond that I don’t know much. I like—I need—fresh vegetables all year, even in winter, even though I live in a place where nothing grows in the winter. So I depend, like most consumers, on the good practices of growers and producers in places like Salinas, Castroville and Monterey County, California.
Walking through the distribution center I noticed pallets of produce labeled for its destination, for the stores where it would be sold. Sitting side by side were cases destined for Kroger stores, Trader Joe’s and for Wal Mart. Food democracy in action.
I found this distribution to be a most interesting thing. We put such a negative label on “big.” Big is bad. Big is careless and always looking for a shortcut. Big is for “them,” not for us. We forget it takes a big effort to feed a hungry, demanding, world, even our small corner of the world.
At dinner that night I ordered an artichoke with my meal. Marinated and fire roasted, it was perfectly prepared. As I pulled each leaf from the cluster, dipping it in sauce and then stripping the tender meat with my teeth, I thought about the process that brought it to me. I could see the faces of the men who’d walked past me in the field, the people washing and packing what had been picked or driving the forklifts speeding pallets into coolers or onto trucks.
My artichoke now had a story. The big company behind it was suddenly small and intimate to me.
Although the fields are open to the public during the annual Artichoke Festival in Castroville, I had an exclusive look into the Ocean Mist Farms processing center and I came away thinking an occasional public tour might be a good thing. It’s reassuring to see the path our food has followed, that there isn’t always a caste system to quality and the same food really can be available to all of us.
Chances are, unless it was raised in our own backyards or in the fields of an area farmer, our produce was prepared in one of the fields of a company big enough to grow, process and distribute what we desire. To step into the fields, to follow the boxes, to see the safeguards and quality control is a good thing. To put a human face behind an artichoke, brussels sprout or head of iceberg lettuce shrinks even the biggest company profile.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap’s audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at email@example.com
HABITAT — Weed control on private lands is important to everyone with an interest in wildlife and wild lands.
Property owners can find out how to manage weeds and sign up for neighborhood cost-share assistance on Saturday, March 22, at a workshop offered by WSU Pend Oreille County Extension and the Pend Oreille County Weed Board.
This annual event, the Weeds, Neighbors and Cinnamon Rolls Workshop, will be held at Camas Center for Community Wellness, 1821 N. LeClerc Rd, Usk, WA from 8:30 am-2:30 pm. Thanks to sponsorship by Kalispel Tribe Department of Natural Resources, Centaurea, Inc, and Wilber-Ellis Company there is no admission charge, but participants are asked to pre-register by phoning 447-2401 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve handouts, lunch, and their share of locally-produced refreshments.
Speakers for the workshop include Jon Paul Driver of WSU Western Risk Management Education on composting and weed management; Joel Fields of Wilber Ellis Company on pasture and hay weeds; Matt Berger with Kalispel Department of Natural Resources on herbicide resistance and new aquatic weeds; Aaron Brown of Washington State Department of Agriculture on pesticide licensing: and Sharon Sorby, Jan Rice and Loretta Nichols, Pend Oreille County Weed Board staff on tools and strategies for noxious weed management.
Class participants will receive their 2014 Neighborhood Cost Share application early. Four recertification credits are available for both Washington and Idaho pesticide applicator license holders.
WILDLIFE — As mentioned in today's outdoors column about elk management in the Blue Mountains, Washington wildlife managers report good results from a program that signs contracts with farmers and ranchers to improve elk habitat and reduce big-game depredation issues on their lands.
One of the tactics is to plant "lure crops" to attract elk to higher elevation plots so they won't be so tempted to come down and ravage expensive crops such as garbanzo beans.
Remote camera photos such as the one above show elk using these food plots. Here's the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlfie field report that went with this and other photos:
Elk Lure Crops: Conflict Specialist Rasley met with two farmers on Wilson Hollow in Walla Walla County “regarding no elk damage.” Both farmers said, “This is the first time in over 20 years we have not had 60 plus head of elk in our garbs.” They asked what the reasoning was and Rasley showed them both where all 68 head of elk are living now; in our newly planted lure crops some five miles up the road.
Following are some of the top recent regional outdoors stories in The Spokesman-Review:
See 2013 Fishing Guide for a dozen stories on the region's fisheries
Reserve hunting spot on new online site
Earth Day cleanup set at Dishman Hills
Hatchery proposed at Walla Walla
Forest rule changed on project protests
Raise pheasant chicks
Glacier Park distance hiker speaking in Spokane
Fly fishing film festival in Sandpoint
Bamboo rod and walking stick built for Parkinson's effort
Anglers aid in Casting for Recover cancer effort
CONSERVATION – The Spokane chapter of Ducks Unlimited will hold its annual fundraising banquet April 11 at the Lincoln Center. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.
Bob Zorb of Spokane and St. John, who was unable to travel for the national ceremony in Washington, D.C, will receive DU’s national private lands conservationist of the year award at this Spokane event.
Get tickets online at ducks.org/washington.
PRIVATE LANDS — Hunters have a stake in the Conservation Reserve Program signup scheduled for May 20-June 14. The federal government expects the contracts to be highly competitive. The corresponding boost to wildlife habitat depends on the quality of the bids made by landowners.
Nationwide, 27 million acres are enrolled in CRP. The program is capped at 32 million acres. The signup will also cover acreage included in contracts that are expiring on Sept. 30.
Idaho has 622,570 acres enrolled in CRP, with 68,332 acres set to expire. The state has 2,722 farms enrolled in CRP, receiving more than $31.725 million in annual rental payments at an average of about $51 per acre.
Washington has 1,453,481 acres enrolled in CRP, with more than 253,600 acres set to expire. The state has 5,305 farms receiving more than $83.631 million in annual rental payments, averaging more than $57 per acre.
CRP contracts typically span 10 years and offer payments for growers to manage land for environmental and wildlife benefits rather than planting crops. Growers' contract offers are chosen based on scores derived from plans they offer to make enduring environmental improvements and benefit wildlife habitat, water quality, erosion control, farm soil health and air quality.
Interested landowners already are meeting with specialists from farm and fish and wildlife agencies to help groom their bids for maximum points.
SPORTSMEN'S ACCESS — Washington Fish and Wildlife Department officials say they plan to use a $1 million federal grant and at least $400,000 from big-game hunting application fees to improve recreational access to private lands in Eastern Washington.
WDFW is one of 11 agencies nationwide to qualify for funding fromthe U.S. Department of Agriculture in the second round of the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program, established under the 2008 federal Farm Bill.
The public can read details and post comments through Dec. 15 at this website.
“Hunters consistently rank access to suitable hunting areas as one of their top concerns,” said Nate Pamplin, assistant director of the WDFW wildlife program. “With the additional federal funding, we’ll be able to build on current state efforts to expand hunting opportunities for years to come.”
WDFW also received a three-year $1.5 million grant to expand access to hunting and fishing on private lands throughout the state during the first round of the program. The department is currently using that funding to establish contracts with landowners to open their lands to outdoor recreation.
Pamplin said the new $993,231 grant will be used to expand hunting and fishing opportunities in Eastern Washington in several ways:
- Provide incentives to private landowners to allow hunting on forested properties in Kittitas, Klickitat, Pend Oreille, Spokane, Stevens and Yakima counties.
- Work with landowners in Columbia, Garfield, Lincoln, Walla Walla and Whitman counties to improve habitat enrolled in both the federal Conservation Reserve Program and WDFW access programs, as I described in this story about research to help boost CRP's benefits for pheasants.
- Initiate a “Feel Free to Fish” program in southeast Washington, paying private landowners for shoreline access to river fisheries.
WILDLIFE – Northwest Alloys land near Addy, Wash., has a hand in feeding elk wintering at the Oak Creek Wildlife Area near Yakima.
For the fourth consecutive year, the Alcoa subsidiary is allowing local farmers to harvest alfalfa from fields adjacent to its curtailed magnesium and silicon plant near Addy so the hay can be donated to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The agreement nets the state about 750 tons of hay a year to feed the elk forced onto the Oak Creek winter range to keep them from damaging private-land crops.
Some people read thrillers. They like high-flying espionage and doomsday scenarios or murder mysteries with gory homicide cases solved by little old ladies or wise-cracking private detectives. This is the polar opposite of their ordinary life, but then that’s what makes the plots so exciting.
Others read biographies of fascinating people, they want to know the most intimate details of the lives of celebrities or historical figures. Some women are never without a romance novel, stories of love and lust. Some men go for stories of fly-fishing or tomes on the Civil War.
The point is that what we read is as individual as our thumbprint. It doesn’t necessarily reflect who we are, just what we find fascinating.
I have this weakness for books about farming. Not modern stories, but old books. I pick them up occasionally and then spend an evening reading about how to dig a well and where to put a greenhouse. The best way to operate a farm stand and how to raise geese. Mind you, I don’t want, at this particular time, to dig a well. I can’t see myself selling produce by the side of the road and I think geese are mean. But, that doesn’t stop me from reading about people who chose that life.
I have four favorites in the bookcase. Occasionally, when they catch my eye, I’ll lift one out and sit down for a good read about onion growing for market. Or, how to keep your freeloading friends and family from showing up each Sunday for a home-cooked meal of fresh produce and grain-fed chicken.
The oldest book, the beautifully bound “Garden and Farm Topics,” was written in 1884. It’s a complete “how to” manual for gardeners. Another, “Winged Seeds,” is the story of a doctor and his wife who bought a run-down farm house and built a life in the country. It was written in 1923 and is signed “To the ‘Scavenger.’
“Five Acres and Independence,” published in 1935, is a “practical guide to the selection and management of a small farm.” It is more than a manual. It is also filled with quotes from other books on farming and animal husbandry. I especially liked this quote from Donald G. Mitchell : “If a man would enter upon country life in earnest and test thoroughly its aptitudes and royalties, he must not toy with it at a town distance; he must brush the dews away with his own feet. He must bring the front of his head to the business, and not the back of it.”
And the 5th book in the stack is “How to Grow Vegetables and Fruits by the Organic Method.” It is a classic 1961 “Organic Gardening and Farming Magazine” staff compilation and it’s still very relevant.
My kids tease me about my farming books. But my youngest is determined to move us out to the country. She spends hours pouring over ads for farms and land. So, who knows, all that reading might come in handy one day.