First Impressions

A row of young apple trees.
Young apple trees in Wenatchee, Washington.

Wenatchee was a blast. I thoroughly enjoyed the tour of the Stemilt Growers packing and shipping facility and hearing about the strong partnership between the research team at Stemilt and the Wenatchee Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center team. Having been in two states where tree fruit was also core to the state economy, I was pleasantly surprised and impressed by the sheer scale of cherry and apple processing and automation, and particularly by the storage and handling of these products. I always enjoy the chance to meet the research teams, learn about student projects, and meet our partners and stakeholders. I look forward to visiting with WSU supporters Mike and Kathy Hambelton again soon and had several productive conversations with field day attendees.

I find it helpful to visualize our programs and places. I have heard about infrastructure concerns since day one, yet I was shocked to see the declining physical state of our Wenatchee Research and Extension Center buildings and greenhouses – such a sharp contrast to the first stop at Stemilt Growers and very different from what I had imagined based on the reputation of and need for the work from that center. I have been at a few land grant institutions, toured parts of many more, and have seen outdated facilities at all, but none have compared to what I saw in Wenatchee. In CAHNRS, we are committed to excellence across missions. I can’t but only wonder at this point how much ground we lose in addressing the grand challenges because we spend time trying to make do with, or make up for, aging facilities and infrastructure in need of repair due to inadequate support. My new impression of our infrastructure challenges at Wenatchee and across the entire college has strengthened my resolve to address these urgent concerns.

Last week, I had a chance to meet with the Apparel, Merchandising, Design, and Textiles’ Advisory Board. The work of AMDT overlaps with so many pillars of the CAHNRS contribution to a more resilient Washington: a well-trained, adaptable workforce that is connected to industry, products that promote both stewardship of our natural resources and healthy individuals, and a focus on business skills necessary for thriving communities. I only had an hour with the AMDT Advisory Board, but from that limited amount of time, my impression is that this is a power group with great ideas and unparalleled support for the department. I look forward to many more interactions.

This week a few of us are in Washington D.C. to meet with our federal partners and talk about common goals for Washington and key needs to achieve success. I went into COVID lockdown just a week after spring visits on the Hill two and a half years ago. Now, I am meeting new people, representing a new state. There are new practices in place as well. Overall, my impression is that change will not impede progress, but rather promote it.