Agriculture + Viticulture

Milk is the second-highest agricultural commodity in Washington, with a total production value of $1.1 billion in 2016. Ed Zurcher, owner of Zurcher Dairy in Basin City, one of about 400 dairy farms across the state, said his cows are milked twice a day, with the process beginning at 4 a.m. and cycling through all the cows before starting again at 4 p.m., seven days a week. (Photo: Robin Wojtanik)

Leading producers: Agriculture adds billions to state’s economy

Washington state is an agricultural powerhouse, leading the nation in the production of apples, grapes, cherries, pears, hops and blueberries. Supplying the world with millions of tons of apples each year, Washington fills nearly two-thirds of the entire apple market in the United States. It’s expected the current planted acreage of wine grapes could swell…

Apples

Apple capital: State sends fruit to more than 60 countries

Washington’s $3 billion apple industry is not just the state’s biggest crop, but it also accounts for two-thirds of total U.S. apple production. Proactive international marketing campaigns, coupled with intensive breeding programs, are key factors in making the state the nation’s apple capital. Washington’s “nutrient-rich soil, an arid climate, plentiful water and advanced growing practices…

The Port of Tacoma recently received eight new cranes as part of $250 million in improvements being made to the Husky Terminal. The Northwest Seaport Alliance led the U.S. in exports of eggs and dairy, vegetables, coffee and tea, oil seeds and prepared fruits and vegetables in 2017. (Photo: Northwest Seaport Alliance)

Export uncertainties: Recent changes in trade policy cause worry

By Jennifer L. Drey Washington’s agricultural exports increased significantly in 2017, but uncertainty surrounding U.S. trade policy has some producers worried the state may be on the verge of losing its competitive edge overseas. Although the numbers are still being finalized, Washington’s agricultural exports appear to have increased by at least 10 percent in 2017.…

Cherries

A gambler’s crop: Cherry orchards at mercy of Mother Nature

The Northwest saw one of the most perfect cherry crops last year, setting new production and export records. In 86 days, the nation’s leading cherry region shipped 26.4 million, 20-pound boxes of cherries to eager markets around the world. “We had fantastic weather last year,” said Denny Hayden, owner of Hayden Farms in Pasco, which…

The average annual wage for those working in agriculture in Benton County in 2016 was $27,300, and in Franklin County it was $28,150. (Photo: Washington State Wine Commission/Andrea Johnson Photography)

Fierce wage competition: Farms compete for laborers as worker shortage continues

By Jennifer L. Drey An ongoing shortage of agricultural laborers is forcing some Washington farms to get creative in their efforts to attract and retain workers, while others are looking to the federal government’s guest worker program to bring in the help they need. More than 96 percent of Washington farms experienced a labor disruption…

Red Mountain, between Benton City and West Richland, was designated a sub-American Viticultural Area in 2001. It now boasts 54 vineyards covering more than 2,300 acres. (Photo: Washington State Wine Commission/Andrea Johnson Photography)

Vines reign supreme: State boasts viticulture advantage

Growing high-quality wine grapes that become award-winning wine and millions of tons of juice grapes that become America’s best-known grape juices make up the viticulture industry in Washington state. Washington’s massive grape crop is among the 10 highest-valued crops in the state, ranking ninth in 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, after producing…

Kent Waliser, director of vineyard operations for Sagemoor Vineyards, just north of the Tri-Cities, grows 60 percent of its grapes for red wine and 40 percent for white wines. (Photo: Washington State Wine Commission/Andrea Johnson Photography)

Steady growth: Wine grape demand nearly outpaces supply

Washington has developed a reputation for over-delivering on the quality of wine as it relates to the price of the bottle, creating an increasing demand for the state’s wine grapes. “You can’t make good wine with bad grapes,” said Vicky Sharlau, executive director of the Washington Winegrowers Association. In the past five years, acres dedicated…

Concord grapes

Concord costs: The quest to keep juice grapes profitable

Washington produces more juice grapes than any other state in the nation, fueling the building blocks for not just juice, but also jelly, fruit leather and syrup. Despite sitting atop the U.S. supply, the state acreage of juice grapes has declined slightly in the past several years. People aren’t buying juice as often as they…

After hops are separated, they make their way to a conveyor belt where they then move on to a kiln to be dried. Washington boasts nearly 70 percent of U.S. hop production, with 98 percent of U.S. hops grown throughout the Northwest. (Photo: Hops of America)

Tops for hops: U.S. dominates world market

After five years of unprecedented growth, the Northwest hop industry has been almost single-handedly responsible for establishing the U.S. as the No. 1 producer of hops in the world, accounting for 42 percent of all production. Washington boasts nearly 70 percent of U.S. production, with 98 percent of U.S. hops grown throughout the Northwest, according…

A January 2016 study by Washington State University-Pullman found the state’s potato industry generates $7.42 billion in total economic output for Washington. (Photo: Washington Potato Commission)

Potato powerhouse: State ranks No. 2 in nation for potatoes

Potatoes are Washington state’s third top commodity, behind apples and milk, valued at $888 million last year, up from $813 million in 2016. This year’s outlook looks promising, with most of the state’s potatoes grown in Eastern Washington and the Skagit Valley and producing 20 percent of all U.S. potatoes. “Last year, Washington state produced…

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