The Dirt...

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AgForestry Alumni Making a Difference...

Paul and Kim at the top of Badger Mountain Ski Hill, where Paul has served on the board for many years.
We recently caught up with Paul Katovich, Class 34, CEO of Highline Grain Growers, Inc. to discuss how COVID-19 has affected Washington grain growers. Paul says, by nature, grain growers are professional social distancers, so besides taking the necessary precautions of having a COVID-19 plan in place, they have been fortunate to operate the Waterville-based operations with only minor adjustments.
When asked about current market conditions and his outlook for the 2020 crop year, Paul likened grain markets to a constantly shifting bowl of marbles: sometimes the effect of moving a marble can be predicted, other times not. Paul shared the downturn in wheat prices had less to do with COVID-19, more to do with an increase in Chinese demand for corn and soybeans. This increase in demand has pushed export facilities to full capacity, which can depress the price of wheat at times.
On a positive note, Highline has had success in managing some of its operating costs and is passing that savings on to their wheat farmers by deferring payments on fall seed sales until the end of the year. For more info visit their website at
Highline has also been involved in distributing over 1,500 gallons of hand sanitizer to local agricultural communities. Way to support local farm families and school districts!
Sanitizer headed to Waterville, Odessa, Davenport, Harrington, Wilbur, Almira, Coulee City, Hartline, Orondo, Mansfield, Bridgeport, Brewster, Ritzville, Medical Lake, Edwall and Reardan.
Highline Grain Growers has offered to help local growers who are struggling during tough financial times

AgForestry On-the-Move

Sara Higgins (Class 42)

Sara will serve as Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of 501 Consultants, She told us about how AgForestry has prepared her for this transition.
“AgForestry has heightened my self awareness and emotional intelligence. As I embark on small business co-ownership and the increased responsibility that comes with that, I know that the future of 501 Consultants will be influenced by my personal and professional growth. I owe it to my team members and the clients we serve to continue learning. One of the more accessible and supportive opportunities to do so is AgForestry, and I am challenging myself in unexpected ways as a member of Class 42.”
“To me, leadership is about realizing the potential in others. 501’s founder and CEO (Vicky Scharlau, Class 10) is an AgForestry graduate, and she has made strong leadership characteristic of our work environment. As I now work with her to guide the direction of the company, AgForestry has provided an incredible, simultaneous opportunity to delve into what I see modeled and what I want to strive toward in my own leadership.”

Kate Delavan (Class 42)

Coordinator of the Office of Farmland Preservation at the Washington State Conservation Commission

Kate Delavan, Class 41

Tell us a little about what led you to working in farm and forest conservation. What will you be doing in your new role with the Washington State Conservation Commission?

I grew up on the Rathdrum prairie in North Idaho with alfalfa, wheat, and mint fields as neighbors. I’ve watched housing subdivisions pop up on once fertile fields, fragmenting the agricultural land base. I’ve seen that same story play out in Washington where I’ve lived for the last 13 years. I’ve sat at kitchen tables with farmers discussing the future of their land as well as talked with beginning farmers trying to figure out how they can ever afford a chunk of land to work as their own. I’m drawn to this work because it supports a future for working lands. It gives farmers, ranchers, and foresters one more tool in their toolbox to keep their land in production. It can also be an important tool in increasing access to land for the next generation.

In my role at the Office of Farmland Preservation at the Washington State Conservation Commission, I’ll be working to address the loss of working farm and forest lands across the state. This will include working on conservation transactions, assisting local and regional stakeholders in their efforts to retain working lands, and providing resources to assist with farmland transition. 

What is the biggest challenge with what you do? What skills/strengths has AgForestry given you that have helped to deal with these struggles?

One of the challenges of this work is that it is often complex and slow moving while development moves quickly. When it comes to a conservation transaction, aligning the various policies, program processes, and landowner goals can often feel like putting together a large complicated puzzle. My time in AgForestry has helped me refine my communication style and given me a tight network of natural resource professionals I can call on for additional expertise. 

What do you find to be the biggest reward with the work you have done?

The biggest reward of this work is opening up landowners to the idea of conservation and then helping them through the process. Many folks don’t know conservation is an option or how to go about it. I’m able to connect them to resources that allow them to envision a future where their land stays in production. I also appreciate that this work allows me the opportunity to get out from behind my desk and get to know farms and farmers across the state.

What are the first steps that an individual should take to ensure their land is retained as agricultural or forest lands. 

The first step is to think through what are your goals for the land. The next step is often to contact a local conservation organization to learn about the resources available in your area. This might be your local conservation district, a local land trust, or a county agricultural program. You can also contact me at the office of farmland preservation and I can help steer you in the right direction. 

What actions could a non-land owning individual take to support retention of agricultural and forest lands?

Support Washington farmers and foresters! The bottom line is if we want to keep Washington farms and forests, we need those businesses to be successful. Depending on your situation, this could take a variety of forms including buying Washington grown products, telling your policy makers how much you value working lands, or supporting local conservation agencies and organizations.

AgForestry Alumni Innovating...

Tristin Klesinck, Class 32, faced many of the challenges that businesses across the state have dealt with. One way Tristan is making his farming community better is by developing a new logistics management software called Customer Aligned Logistics. CAL has allowed him to expand from 600 deliveries a week to more than 2200 deliveries a week.

AgForestry on AM 610 KONA, Tri-Cities

Brian Baumann, Class 38, talked with Glenn Vaagen on the Washington Ag Network about his AgForestry experience, what the program means to industries and communities and why someone should apply for Class 43.

Executive Director Matt Kloes on Wheat All About It!

Click the image to listen.

Life changing experiences come in all shapes and sizes, and for many of the more than a thousand people who have graduated from the AgForestry Leadership Program, participation represents a crucial milepost in their lives. In episode 155 entitled: Leadership and Learning the AgForestry Way, listen in as Matt Kloes, executive director of the organization, describes how the program changes lives while getting a first person account of how it influenced Class 13 participant Scott Yates, host of Wheat All About It! and director of communications and producer relations for the Washington Grain Commission.

Japanese legislators touring an Olympia-based tree farm got recommendations on best practices from a small forestland owner as they sought information to aid their nation’s timber industry.

Ken (AgForestry Class 22) and Bonnie Miller recently hosted a tour of their forest to advise Japanese legislators and foresters on ideas to improve their forestry industries. 

Ed Orcutt (AgForestry Class 17) was also involved in the tour, discussing challenges from the political side.

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