Moses Lake, WA 98837, USA

Continuing education crucial to farming

New challenges, new responses in an ever-changing business

For the Basin Business Journal

MOSES LAKE — Farming looks timeless. Sure, technology has come to the farm, and some farm chores look different than they once did because of it. But really, farming’s essentials don’t change. Farming is farming.

Well, no.

One of the few constants in farming is change. Methods of farming change — just look at a picture of an apple orchard in 1925 or 1985, and orchards being planted today. Varieties change — anybody growing Winesaps these days? Pests and diseases change, and the way growers fight them changes. Fertilizers and fertilizer application changes.
As growers cope with old challenges, new ones emerge or old ones emerge in new ways. Just ask any apple grower coping with fire blight.

Fire blight can attack apples as well as pears, but typically it poses a bigger threat to pears. Well, at least that used to be the case. During the 2018 growing season fire blight was a big problem for apple growers.

So sometimes farmers could use some help navigating that ever-changing landscape out there. And then there’s the whole issue of pesticide application credits. (The short version is, applying pesticides requires a license, which must be renewed periodically. The license applicant must show familiarity with current application regulations.)
Luckily there’s plenty of information out there.

“Continuing education is critical to farmers to help them keep up to date with new research and growing techniques,” wrote Tianna DuPont, tree fruit research specialist with WSU-Chelan County Extension. “From new invasive pests to ever-changing technology, orcharding is an ever-evolving field.”

“New ways, new methods, new products,” said Karen Lewis, tree fruit production specialist with WSU-Grant/Adams County Extension. “Whatever your job is, it requires lifelong learning.

“That doesn’t happen just because; it happens because growing fruit has many challenges.”

Learning is a year-round endeavor, and some classes must be scheduled in summer due to the seasonal nature of the workforce. “All year round there is opportunity (for education) but highly concentrated from November to March,” Lewis said, winter being a slow time in the orchard.

Lewis said most education initiatives in the fruit industry focus on two main groups, growers and decision makers being one and employees the other. Classes cover pretty much any and every topic, “from a couple-hour pruning demonstration to a full day, multi-topic educational event to fruit school.”

And education is a group effort. “It’s done by the public sector and the private sector both,” Lewis said. The extension program sponsors a wide range of classes and programs, individual companies offer training in the use of their products. Companies and fruit processing warehouses that provide a range of services also provide information and classes on a lot of different topics. Spanish-language classes are also available.