One would think that Mother Nature was one of the main organizers of the Pacific Northwest Vegetable Association (PNVA) Conference in Kennewick, Washington last week. The Monday prior to show, the city felt the effects of a windstorm carrying 100-plus mile an hour gusts.
Thankfully by the start of the conference, the weather calmed to occasional scattered showers. The extreme weather served as the backdrop to discussions of climate change and its consequences—good and bad—toward the regional grower. Iowa State University Professor of Agronomy and Extension Climatologist S. Elwynn Taylor touched upon the subject during his keynote address, “Pacific Northwest Weather – Impacts on Water Supply, Pest Development and Crop Susceptibility”.
“El Niño… the friend of the Midwest farmer,” he told the luncheon attendance to their amusement. “Not your friend, you’re the Northwest farmer.” Taylor explained that the current weather patterns are part of a 60-year cycle with drought-like conditions that appeared in the east and slowly moved its way west.
Also, another hot topic—the state of California—was discussed during the two-day event. The state has been experiencing consecutive years of a drought that is growing direr as time goes on. Michael McMillian, sourcing and production manager with Organically Grown Company, led an open discussion about shifting patterns of fresh vegetable production due to climate change.
McMillian and others in attendance cited the current situation of drought conditions in California with the unpredictability of high-water crops such as onions, cotton and alfalfa as a source of supply difficulties with vendors. That being said, that could leave the door open for the growers up north.
“We are finding that onions are moving away from California and to the Pacific Northwest,” he said. “This presents an opportunity for the Pacific Northwest to ship to California.” Audience members—vendors and farmers in attendance—thought out loud about ways to deal with the current drought such as finding efficient ways to use water, rewarding growers who are thriving despite the situation, and how to better managing capacity needs for frozen storage.
Other sessions included onion and general vegetable growing practices; pest management and organic-related topics. The trade show floor featured many area growers and manufacturers such as Pacific Calcium, Inc., Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Certis USA and Clearwater Supply. The event sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Vegetable Association will host its 30th annual event in November 2016 at Kennewick.