Entrance to IAREC building.
The entrance to WSU’s Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center at Prosser, pictured in early autumn of 2022. Since 1919, discoveries at IAREC have aided Northwest growers and communities.

Last week I was on the Tri-Cities campus for a meeting with Chancellor Haynes, followed by time with members of some of the state’s largest commodity groups, and time with the new Department of Viticulture and Enology.

The visit reminded me that all partnerships can be tricky, but fruitful, pending a genuine commitment to success and an understanding that there is give and take. While there may have been some hesitancy around a new department and a location other than Pullman, the faculty are excited about the opportunity to support the industry by providing the best possible trained students. Clearly, the industry is committed to investing in their own success and looks to WSU as a critical resource and partner. It is exciting to be part of this venture, and I am grateful for the opportunity.

I visited the Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Prosser last week, too. I was at Prosser during my interview, but the nature of this visit was different. This trip I was able to meet with the staff, graduate students, and faculty. Partnership was a focal point of the conversation, particularly because facilities and quality of space are roadblocks to more good work by WSU scientists and placement of additional USDA-ARS scientists. The USDA-ARS leaders I met shared that the WSU-ARS partnership is the ideal model for their organization.

The work conducted at Prosser is nothing short of impressive, from the AgWeatherNet, to the Clean Plant Center Northwest, to supporting new crops like hemp, developing automation in agriculture, and everything in between. I feel fortunate to be part of work that has achieved so much and could do so much more, with more. Given water availability concerns in California, more of the nation’s food production sector is looking to Washington as the place to feed the U.S. and the world, but we need to ensure we can achieve the advancements necessary to grow that food on a fixed footprint.

I met with two prospective faculty last week, for two different departments. It is fun to engage with those just starting their careers and hear their ideas and enthusiasm. Two of the staff at Prosser were only two days on the job and one of the faculty members had just joined a few weeks ago. Late in the week, I met with the Department of Human Development to talk about new leadership for the department and ideas for growth. While we wish Matt Bumpus well in his new adventure, we are all sad to see him leave WSU. I hope there are ways to continue to engage with Matt in his new role and am glad I had the chance to work with him, if only for a fleeting period.

As we look forward to the long weekend with families and friends, please take time to think about the things for which you are grateful. I wish everyone safe travels and a relaxing holiday!