Quarter 2, Spring Newsletter

Quarter 2, Spring Newsletter Articles

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Ice Harbor Fish Passage Forum 

On April 5, our team at the Agriculture & Natural Resource Center of Excellence (ANR COE) made up of Director, Lindsey Williams and Coordinator, Ceana Pacheco attended a tour and forum held at Ice Harbor Lock & Dam on the lower Snake River. Located upstream from McNary Lock & Dam and downstream from Lower Monumental Lock & Dam, Ice Harbor Dam serves as an inland port for agriculture and contributes the regions clean energy sector. The dams along the lower Snake River are intrinsically tied to the regional economy in a myriad of sectors ranging from agriculture to energy.

The Save Our Wild Salmon movement has been rejuvenated by a flood of global orca advocates that support and promote restoration in the Columbia and Snake River systems to improve ecosystem functions that may aid in both salmon and orca recovery, as they are synergistically bound. Calls to breach the lower four Snake River dams have increased as orca populations reached their lowest numbers in over three decades. This conversation has pitted environment vs. economy for decades and it’s crucial that all stakeholders come together to establish common ground to create innovative short-term and long-term solutions to our dynamic dam dilemma through collaboration and innovation. The Ice Harbor Forum on Fish Passage is one of three open forums focusing the conversation on fish passage.

The Ice Harbor Forum on Fish Passage, organized by Don Schwerin (chair of the Ag and Rural Caucus of State Democratic Central Committee) was focused on the topic of breaching the four lower Snake River dams. The forum consisted of two guest speakers, John McKern and Jim Waddell; John a proponent of keeping the dams and Jim an advocate for breaching the four lower Snake River dams. While their collective views on salmon and orca populations clashed, they both ultimately agreed that springtime spills are not a viable management option for juvenile salmon traveling downriver. In the end, John concluded that the dams are not the main cause of salmon and orca declines, while Jim concluded that salmon populations will be “functionally extinct” if the four lower dams aren’t breached within 6 months.

The intersection between ecosystem productivity and salmon health were highlighted by both speakers while views on the breaching dilemma varied. One pivotal commonality was the desire to facilitate an inclusive working discussion around salmon and orca recovery in a safe and informative environment. The forum welcomed a broad audience of representatives stretching from Walla Walla County to Clark County and fostered a Q&A which in turn nurtured the exchange of opinions, ideas, and values. The issues surrounding the dams throughout the entirety of the Columbia River watershed are multifaceted – there will not be a one-size-fits-all solution or an all-or-nothing solution. Balancing the economic, social, and cultural needs of the Columbia and Snake River systems wherein stakeholders from all sectors have their values and interests included in decisions that impact Washington’s vibrant economic, social, and cultural structures will be pivotal in future forums.

The Ice Harbor Dam tour and forum was a great opportunity for our team at ANR COE to observe the conversation and exchange of opinions on both sides of the isle in a reliably unbiased capacity. The Ice Harbor Fish Passage Forum was the first of three forums that the ANR COE plans to attend and will update as information becomes available. If you are interested in joining the conversation, please contact Coordinator [email protected]

FFA ANR Visit 

Future Farmers of America (FFA) has been supporting the leadership potential of high school students since 1928 with their mission of preparing future generations for the challenge of feeding a growing population. The founding group of young farmers recognized that “agriculture is more than planting and harvesting – it’s a science, it’s a business and it’s an art.” Washington FFA

FFA State Officers are elected by their peers, and have a strong focus on service based leadership. Each crop of state officers is different, but each is a strong group of young people who care for the agriculture industry as a whole and represent the more than 8000 FFA students in Washington State. As a Center of Excellence serving Agriculture and Natural Resource industries, we feel a certain level of pride and comradery when it comes to FFA.

Recently, the state officer group made up of President Sadie Aronson, Secretary Naddile Widner, Treasurer Kyle Johnson, Reporter Karlee Hansen, and Sentinel Zachary Schilter visited the Ag & Natural Resource Center of Excellence (ANR) at WWCC for a tour, and discussion about agriculture education opportunities throughout Washington State. Often, students with the foresight and ambition of FFA Officers overlook the Community and Technical College (CTC) system in favor of larger universities. ANR was happy to illustrate the many reasons that the CTC system should be on their radar.

Following our time with this friendly, inquisitive, forward-thinking group of officers, we reached out to them for some thoughts on our time together, here’s what they had to say-

“We were able to experience all of the diverse opportunities for students to take advantage of and grow with through the Ag Center of Excellence at the Walla Walla Community College.”

“It was such a neat opportunity to visualize the careers that could come from WWCC. It really connected all of our experiences to real world jobs and education!”

To learn more about Washington FFA, visit: Washington FFA

AgForestry International Seminar

The AgForestry Leadership Program, now in it’s 41st year, has spent the last nearly half-decade helping participants reach their leadership potential through experiences they may not otherwise have – one of which being the International Seminar. Each class spends two weeks in an unfamiliar place, learning about its people, government, and relationship with the US, while creating a bond between classmates and between countries.

Class 40, of which ANR Director Lindsey Williams is a participant, traveled to Ecuador in late January, landing in the capital of Quito, and visiting nearby areas of Otovalo, Ibarra, and the Amazon basin. Time spent in historic Quito was focused on architecture, history, and religion. The group visited Compañía de Jesús, a church opened in 1765 and built by Jesuit missionaries in Spanish Baroque style – a highlight of the trip with its gold leaf adorned interior, age, and external detail.

Otovalo and its (largest in Ecuador) indigenous goods market, Ibarra’s sleepy small town feel, and the Amazon basin’s Napo River and locals all lent a very “traveler vs. tourist” feel to the journey, but a homestay opportunity with Quechua (Ecuador’s indigenous population) families was unmatched. Lindsey stayed with “Mama” Josefa and Mario, and met several of their children and one grandchild. Spending time removed from the group (though still with 3 classmates), immersed in the native culture of Ecuador, was an experience unlike any other throughout the two weeks.

Touring Ecuador with an agriculture and natural resource focus led to an experience beyond the average work-trip, or even vacation. Rose growing operations, cacao and vanilla bean jungle plots, coffee plantations, homestead herb gardens, Amazonian wildlife rehabilitation, and discussions with the USDA Foreign Ag Service (USDA FAS) and Ecuadorian American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) felt both out of the norm, and yet comfortable. These experiences illustrate the efficacy of AgForestry as a whole, and show the importance of international experience in support of agriculture and natural resource industries.

The time spent with USDA FAS and AMCHAM felt candid and friendly. Staff took time to answer questions about Ecuador, its economy, and its economic relationship with the US, from their own perspective – rarely did they hesitate to focus on what many of us might consider difficult or delicate issues. With the US as Ecuador’s main trading partner, they were enthusiastic to meet with a group of AgForestry students who might keep trade concerns in mind for future needs. Agriculture makes up just under 8% of Ecuador’s GDP, excluding their robust “informal” markets. Ecuador is very self-sufficient in their own sustenance needs, and exports to the US a number of food-grade goods, including fish, crustaceans, fruits, nuts, meat, and cocoa. One of the main exports, worldwide, is roses, for which Ecuador has become particularly famous.

Imports from the US include polymers, industrial machinery, soybean oil waste, and wheat. During a number of produce market “scavenger hunts”, classmates were excited to see that Washington apples were on the list of imports as well (making each of us feel a little more at home, and proud of our state’s reputation on the global market). It is difficult to not think of, and take pride in, Washington’s global-scale agriculture economy when you are exploring a market in a country that took a full day’s travel to get to, and you come across this:

This exceptional experience for agriculture and natural resource focused professionals was the culmination of 15 months, 12 multi-day seminars, multiple public policy projects, and hours of educated, civil, productive discussion between people who may otherwise never have met. In today’s politicized environment surrounding ag and natural resources, this type of interaction is difficult to come by and rarely sought out. AgForestry Leadership facilitates these interactions and encourages class members to get outside their comfort zone and increase their knowledge. The ANR’s goals align so closely with AgForestry Leadership’s Mission, and we are ecstatic to have the experiences provided through the program to fall back on as ANR moves forward in their statewide mission.

“Networking, relationship building, and partners like AgForestry make us better.” – ANR COE Director, Lindsey Williams

To learn more about AgForestry Leadership, contact [email protected] or visit AgForestry Leadership