Our state’s powerhouse ag industry takes center stage in June edition

June always brings a spring to our step at the Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business as we explore the state of Washington’s agriculture and viticulture sectors for our annual Focus: Agriculture + Viticulture magazine.

Find the standalone magazine inside our June edition, along with a host of ag-related stories throughout the paper. We hope you find them as fascinating to read as we did to research, write and edit.

Mark Schuster, who runs global manufacturing for Lamb Weston Inc., the frozen fry giant, is featured in our monthly Q&A column.

We decided to have a little fun and ask Schuster, who managed Richland’s french fry plant before being promoted to his current post, if he has a favorite fry and a favorite sauce. He does – which you’ll find when you read through the feature.

The humble Concord grape tends to get overshadowed by its sexy wine grape cousins. But plenty of Eastern Washington acres produce Concords. Writer Eric Degerman takes a deep dive into the economics of growing Concords and what’s driving growers to convert to organic.

People didn’t stop eating during the Covid-19 pandemic, but potatoes, onions, asparagus, cherries, apples and hundreds of other products grown in our stretch of the Mid-Columbia had to find new ways to travel from farm to fork as consumer and shipping patterns shifted.

Consider Washington’s sweet cherries. 2020 was a good year for domestic sales as homebound customers added them to their grocery orders. That worked well for growers because passenger planes that usually ferry cherries to Asian markets weren’t doing much flying.

Cherries were not the only thing selling out in 2020.

Bored Americans turned to online shopping for relief and managed to disrupt international shipping. A flood of shipping containers bring sneakers, electronics and other goodies to the U.S., then scurry back to Asian ports to pick up the next load without picking up U.S. products for the return trip.

The imbalance left American exporters frustrated and demanding Congress provide relief.

Despite the challenges, our state and region remain an ag powerhouse, and there’s no better time to reap the benefits with cherry and strawberry season upon us – and peaches, watermelons, apples and grapes not too far behind.

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