Published online: May 30, 2012 Potato Storage, Potato Harvesting, Seed Potatoes
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Washington state's wheat and potato growers are working together to tell agriculture's story.

The Washington Association of Wheat Growers and Washington Potato Commission have formed an informal public relations coalition, called Washington's Farmers and Ranchers.

"It's potatoes and wheat taking the first step out together," said Chris Voigt, executive director of the potato commission. "To some extent, we're kind of blazing the trail."

Potential ideas include a shared website for growers' stories, videos of growers talking about issues like water use or soil conservation and the promotion of family farms.

The plan is for other commodities to eventually join the coalition, he said. An organizational meeting earlier this year found support for the concept, but some groups are waiting before making a financial commitment.

Kara Rowe, WAWG director of outreach, said the groups share many common messages, from family farms to good land stewardship to taxes.

"Our goal is to communicate better with the public and build that trust again," she said. "Some of the challenges out ahead of us are so big that by ourselves there's no way we can tackle them, but together we can."

The organizations intend to develop a communication plan, speaking about the value of agriculture to the state's economy. Combining resources will help them get their messages out, instead of repeating each other separately, Voigt said.

The goal is to reach out to members of the public who have lost touch with agriculture and counteract anti-agricultural messages.

Rowe called it "preserving the social license to farm," noting positive messages about farm life could later on educate the voting public, regulators or agency staff.

"We feel we need to step up to the plate and actually have farmers tell the story," Voigt echoed. "If people are ignorant of farming, they're more likely to propose wacky and insane rules and regulations."

Washington Association of Wheat Growers


Washington Potato Commission:


SOURCE: Matthew Weaver, Capital Press