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Agriculture

Winter 2008

Rethinking the Fundamentals

Feeding the world may require us to use old knowledge in new ways. Although the prices of fuel and commodities have dropped since early summer, the volatility of their relationship will surely dog us for the foreseeable future. While stock prices may temporarily overshadow food prices in the public consciousness, some farmers and researchers are looking at different ways of doing business, perhaps moving the land-grant university back to its founding purpose. » More ...
Summer 2006

Uncommon access: Gaylord Mink shifts his focus from viruses to wild horses

Gaylord Mink, hunched over and quiet as a mule deer, picks his way through rugged rangeland near the center of the Yakama Indian Reservation.

Mink stops, straightens, and scans toward Dry Creek Elbow in the distance. Much closer, five wild horses lift their own heads to meet his gaze. They are all well within range.

The small band’s stallion snorts a warning as the nervous mares and a colt seem anxious to bolt. Mink snorts back, and the stallion circles even closer to take up the challenge, dragging his wary entourage in his wake.

Mink is a hunter who doesn’t pack a gun. He shoots … » More …

Spring 2006

Farming in the rain

Farming in the Skokomish River Valley can be a challenge, what with 60 to 80 inches of rain a year. One year, Hunter Farms’s pumpkin fields flooded, the pumpkins bobbing like buoys on a temporary sea. Fortunately, the river receded in time for families across the South Puget Sound region to visit Hunter Farms and cart home their pumpkins.

One of the Hunter family cousins has a letter written by Isaac Woods soon after he arrived in the valley from Iowa in the 1880s. Apologizing that he couldn’t repay the $8.00 he’d borrowed from the recipient of the letter to move west, he complained about … » More …

Summer 2008

Dahlias

When Dan Pearson was eight years old, his father brought a batch of brown tubers home and planted them in the yard. Intrigued, Dan helped tend the vigorous plants that sprang from them and watched them bloom into flashy, brightly hued flowers, some as big as a dinner plate. He memorized the names of all 30 varieties.

The next spring, tickled by his son’s interest, Chester Pearson ’59 planted even more. Their yard was so full of color that cars would slow as they drove by. One day when a car stopped, Dan offered to sell some blooms for a dollar. Pretty soon it was … » More …

Winter 2002

Gardening in the Inland Northwest

If you are a gardener just embarking upon the horticultural journey of growing vegetables or fruit in the Inland Northwest, this book is quite simply the best reference you can find. Tonie Jean Fitzgerald starts out with the basics that every gardener should know about the unique soils and climate of the region. Next she gets down to the specifics of planning and planting a vegetable garden, including how to raise transplants from seed and what varieties perform best in area gardens.

She follows up with a chapter on pest control from pesky insects to damaging diseases, providing sound advice on how to limit the … » More …

Fall 2008

BJ Duft – Of meals and missions

At age 24, BJ Duft found himself in Bill Marriott’s private jet face-to-face with the CEO of Marriott International. They were headed back to Washington D.C. from Penn State University where Duft ’86 had gone to do some on-campus recruiting for the company and Marriott had attended a ceremony in his honor. During the flight Marriott turned to Duft and asked if he could change anything at the international hotel company, what would it be? Duft was so nervous that he has no clue what answer he managed to stammer out. What he does remember is that Marriott took a Steno notepad from his shirt … » More …

Fall 2008

Seeing red (and far-red)

Ask crop scientist Michael Neff about plant growth, and he won’t talk about rainfall or fertilizer. He’ll talk about what the plants see.

“What I’ve been interested in forever is how plants use light as a source of information,” says Neff. “Plants have photoreceptors that are completely independent of photosynthesis and chloroplasts, that read their environment and say, ‘I am in full sunlight, I’m in the shade of another plant, I’ve got plants that are growing too close to me,’” and so on. The photoreceptors then trigger a host of hormonal reactions that influence how tall the plant will grow.

Neff thinks it’s possible to … » More …

Fall 2003

Irrigated Eden: The Making of an Agricultural Landscape in the America

This gem of a book is actually about the gem state, Idaho—specifically, the Snake River Plain of southern Idaho, where farmers, engineers, lawyers, bankers, and politicians have carved an agricultural landscape out of the parched and dusty sagebrush desert. With deft prose and engaging anecdotes, author Mark Fiege (’85 M.A. Hist.), a professor of history at Colorado State University, systematically traces the 100-year history of the creation and maintenance of the irrigation infrastructure that made farming possible in the Snake River plain. Praising it as “an ingenious, intricate, technological system,” Fiege nevertheless offers sober assessments of the economic inefficiencies, ecological losses, engineering foibles, and political … » More …

Spring 2006

Eat more garlic

If there’s just one thing you plant in your garden, make it garlic.

For one thing, it’s extraordinarily easy to grow. Plant it around Columbus Day. Cover it with mulch. Or don’t. Water it now and then when it starts growing again in the spring. And that’s about it.

You can start eating it at any stage, though obviously you don’t want to eat it all up before it develops heads. Thus, you need to plant a lot. You can chop the young shoots and add to a stir-fry. Pull the developing young heads and slice, using it for a mild flavoring. In early summer, … » More …