State of Ag for Tri-City Herald

Book of the Week

In The Magic of Children at Christmas, edited by Alicia Walters, twenty women share their precious childhood Christmas memories in stories that are filled with all the sweetness of a magical childhood and hope in the true meaning of Christmas. A quick, endearing read for yourself or your holiday book club to set the mood for Christmas. 109 pages.


I love these beautifully illustrated Harry Potter books for children. I want to collect the whole series.

Apples Still #1 Commodity in Washington

This is a shortened version of an article that was originally published in the State of Ag insert for the Tri-City Herald on October 20th, 2016. You can pickup copies to read more about agriculture in the Mid-Columbia at the Tri-City Herald building, 333 W. Canal Street in Kennewick.

Washington state boasts 39 thousand farms spread over approximately 15 million acres and ranks first in the U.S. for production in 11 commodities (, led by our own apple industry with 70 percent of U.S. apple production.  Washington is considered a major producer of apples as well as stone fruits such as: peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums and so forth. 2013 listed apples as the number one Washington commodity with a value of production of 2.18 billion U.S. dollars.

Mark Rowley of Rowley and Hawkins Fruit Farm, a 900 acre farm in Basin City and Othello, is of the opinion that some of the farm’s success relies on the weather but that “careful pruning and thinning” and management of the orchards on the part of the farmer lies at the heart of a good crop. Similar to last year, their crop was two weeks ahead of schedule, and 3-4 days ahead of 2014’s schedule; however there was no decrease in apple production.


Photo by Rachael Cutler, for Sheffield Cider / Empey Brothers Farms. Used with permission.

In fact, the cooler summer, including a cooler July made for better fruit as the young fruit was not subjected to sunburn; and then of course, a good harvest resulting from competent farm management. Rowley and Hawkins is a traditional farm, using integrated pest management. They keep their orchards clean and this year, were able to yield plentiful apples with minimal damage despite several storms.

Rowley and Hawkins apples are sorted into 4 X 4 bins and they report volume as “bins per acre.”  They grow twelve varieties of apples, with their Red Delicious doing particularly well this year at 85 bins per acre. The Gala apples produced 75 bins per acre—“a really good yield,” Mark says, and Golden at 45 bins per acre. The Honeycrisp did not have as many bins per acre.

Rowley and Hawkins fruit is made available to consumers in grocery stores, farmer’s markets and fruit stands.  They also produce delicious tart cherry juice from concentrate, dried cherries, and gourmet jams and jellies including: apricot, cherry and blackberry cherry jam. These products can be found here.

Washington orchardists have been in the organic growing business for decades due to consumer preference and environmental responsibility. The Organic Food Products Act was passed by the state of Washington in 1985 and certification is managed by the Washington State Department of Agriculture. You’re likely to notice that many of Washington’s apples are grown organically  such as the apples grown at Empey Brother’s Farms in Mesa, WA.

Organic farmers like Nolan Empey always have to find the balance between bugs, being a mostly organic farm and pesticide use. Obtaining a pesticide license is considered by some farmers to be more of an investment than obtaining a Washington driver’s license. You have to get 20 continuing education credits every 5 years.

These requirements for pesticide use are not unique to Washington state.  Actually, “The EPA reviews all chemicals and their proposed uses by commodity to set restrictions on how, when and in what amounts these products can be applied. Washington state’s role primary role is in licensing qualified and trained applicators to oversee the use of these products and enforcing EPA label instructions,” says Jon DeVaney, Washington State Tree Fruit Association. Cont…

Girl’s Coats

I love these bright colors and fun patterns, especially since it can be a little gray out during the winter.

Perhaps it is Washington farmer’s commitment to these standards that make their apples so great. Nolan Empey grows 14 varieties of commercial apples including: Gala, Fuji, and Granny Smith. His apples are 93% certified organic and he also grows 40 cider apple varieties used to make Sheffield Cider. Empey Brother’s Farms send 44 million apples all over the world each year. Their 849 acre farm also produces: cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots and apriums.

Nolan Empey of Empey Brother’s Farms says, “Mother Nature has been good to us. We haven’t had any problems—no hail [affecting our orchards], perfect cold nights, a short summer, etc. To be honest, it’s been pretty good for everyone.” Apple picking should continue until early November.  While it may not be a record breaking year for apples, it has certainly been a great year.

Laura Chapman, Legendary Water Solutions water softeners is giving away $20 Olive Garden gift cards to those wanting to learn more about their 100% Made in the USA water softeners – great tasting water, no slimey feel. Call Laura Chapman to schedule, 509-201-7967.

New World Distillery opening in Eden, Utah this December

I’m happy for my friends Chris and Ashley Cross, owners of New World Distillery opening in Eden, Utah this December. Read feature article by Ben Trentelman for Slug Magazine about environmentally conscious New World Distillery, here. And visit their website, to learn about their products.


Boy’s Coats

Click image for details

Thank you for reading! I hope you will visit often!

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by writer Alicia Walters, contributor to print and digital magazines.

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