Washington Grown Magazine - November 2022

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magazine Puzzles and games related to this issue! Grand Coulee Dam Staple & Fancy in Seattle How rotations make the difference WIN A$25GIFT CARD

through all the years to come.”

-President Franklin D. Roosevelt, October 2, 1937, at Grand Coulee Dam.

The largest hydroelectric dam in North America, Grand Coulee Dam, is a marvel of modern engineering. The dam provides Washingtonians with countless benefits, including irrigation, electricity, infrastructure and flood control. It was built to provide power to the growing economy of Washington state, and it has been doing exactly that since completion in 1942.

Grand Coulee Dam stretches 5,223 feet (nearly a mile) across the Columbia River and stands 550 feet tall. It has enough concrete to wrap a sidewalk around the Equator, twice, making

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“...we are building here something that is going to do a great amount of good for this Nation

it the largest concrete structure ever built until 2009. The dam provides irrigation for over 680,000 acres of land and creates more than two-thirds of the region’s electricity. Lake Roosevelt and Banks Lake reservoirs can hold up to 9.5 million acre-feet of water—providing water to over 10,000 farms, irrigating $2.9 billion worth of crops, producing more than 21 billion kilowatt-hours of power, and supplying electricity to over 2 million households each year.

At the height of economic uncertainty and record unemployment during the Great Depression in 1933, newly elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the New Deal, a massive

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public works project aimed at getting America back to work. A large part of this infrastructure bill was the creation of the massive Grand Coulee Dam, powered by the raging Columbia River. The dam was finished on time and under budget — eight years and $300 million, or almost $5.5 billion today. It employed around 8,000 people. By harnessing the power of the river through the dam’s six huge turbines, an irrigation project known as the Columbia Basin Project would turn the dry, barren Central Washington desert into thriving cropland.

Hydropower is one of the best sources of renewable energy in the world. The mechanics of hydroelectric dams are simple. Gravity allows water to flow through pipes in the concrete and up into steel turbines. The natural force of water spins the turbines, producing electricity via generators that store the power for later use. Enormous transformers and power lines stretch from the dam for hundreds of miles to provide the region with power. In order for farmers in

Central Washington to reuse the water for irrigation, some of it is pumped uphill by the John W. Keys III Pump-Generating Power Plant into a canal, flowing into 27-mile-long Banks Lake Reservoir, and then onward into thousands of miles of irrigation canals criss-crossing the desert.

Hydropower creates inexpensive electricity for consumers, and Washingtonians enjoy some of the lowest energy bills in the country. Another benefit not often associated with the power of Grand Coulee Dam is the internet. Because of the availability of cheap power, tech giants like Microsoft, Yahoo and Dell have established server farms in towns like Quincy to run their cloud networks and search engines. As the demand for new tech grows exponentially, the demand for cheap electricity also grows, bringing more business to communities surrounding Grand Coulee Dam and the dams of the Columbia River. It is imperative to continue supporting Washington’s economy and farmers with renewable energy and irrigation to encourage growth and prosperity for generations to come.

The Secret to Success

Good rotations. Good technology.

Just outside of Coulee City in Eastern Washington you will find the Isaak Brothers Farm. Nestled alongside Banks Lake, the multigenerational farm is home to dryland wheat and irrigated crops galore. We caught up with them during the heart of sunflower season, which is a key crop in their rotation.

“There’s a lot of sunflowers in a 125-acre field,” laughed Brad Isaak. He and his brother are the fourth generation to work the land. “Wheat is the main crop in our area, so all our dry land is wheat. With irrigation, we’re able to grow a few different crops. We grow sunflowers. We grow canola. Potatoes are growing on our ground. We grow a couple of thousand acres of timothy hay and alfalfa hay.” By rotating these crops, the Isaaks are able to cut disease, insect and weed pressures naturally.

With technology changing so rapidly, the changes have impacted the industry and the environment dramatically.

“In my life, probably the biggest change is the unity of technology and mechanization,” said Isaak. “Our tractors drive themselves. They draw perfectly straight lines. They’re actually driven by GPS. None of us as growers and none of us as people want to be wasteful with our resources and everything else. You go back 40 years ago, you had to apply a certain amount of fertilizer across your whole field. Now we can actually specialize and put fertilizer on exactly what that individual crop and plant needs.”

Washington is a unique state with many unique characteristics that make growing food ideal. A good climate and healthy soils allow us to grow more crops than almost any other state in the nation. We can grow more than 300 different crops, making us second only to California in the diversity of food we can grow. Our water supply is another factor that sets us apart.

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“We have really good water,” said Isaak. “Our water is really stable, and we have the ability to have a lot of water.” In fact, for the Columbia Basin Project (CBP), roughly 3 percent of the Columbia River is diverted to irrigate nearly 700,000 acres of land in Central Washington. The CBP serves thousands of farms, and much of the water that is diverted eventually finds its way back into the river system. On many farms like the Isaaks, the stable water supply has allowed them to grow and focus on rotations and new practices.

“My dad has always said if you’re not growing, you’re going backwards because the world’s growing,” said Isaak. ”People outside the agricultural community use words like sustainability and everything else, and sustainability is the word we have to have. This field has to be producing not for my lifetime, but for my children’s lifetime and their children’s after that.”

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Rosemary and Garlic Roasted Beef Ribeye with Leek and Hedgehog Mushroom Gratin

Total time: about 1 3/4 hours

Serves: 4 to 6

Cooking time for the meat will vary with the thickness of your ribeye and your preferred doneness. If fresh wild mushrooms are not available, feel free to use shiitake or button mushrooms.

Rosemary and Garlic Roasted Beef Ribeye

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons olive oil

1 extra-thick (2 to 2 1/2 inches) boneless beef ribeye steak (2 to 2 1/2 pounds)

1 teaspoon sea salt

1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

Leek and Hedgehog Mushroom Gratin

2 tablespoons butter

4 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, cut into 1/2-inch rounds, rinsed and dried

4 to 6 ounces hedgehog mushrooms or other wild mushrooms, brushed clean and trimmed (halved or quartered if large)

3⁄4 cup heavy cream

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

1⁄4 cup breadcrumbs

Black truffle, for shaving over to serve (optional)

Rub 2 teaspoons of the oil over the ribeye steak and season with the salt and pepper. Rub the garlic and rosemary over the meat and refrigerate for up to 3 hours to marinate. Meanwhile, prepare the gratin.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Put the butter in a large skillet, add the leeks and mushrooms and sauté over medium heat until mostly tender, about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring often. Add the cream and bring to a boil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a medium gratin dish or similar baking dish. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and bake until

golden brown and bubbling, about 25 to 30 minutes. Set the gratin aside while preparing the steak. Reduce the oven to 325 F.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a large cast-iron skillet, or other heavy, oven-proof skillet, over medium-high heat. Brown the steak for about 2 minutes on each side then transfer the skillet to the oven. Roast until a thermometer registers about 115 degrees for rare (temperature will increase as it rests before serving), about 25 to 30 minutes, or longer to suit your preference. Remove the pan from the

oven, place the meat on a carving board, cover loosely with foil and let rest for about 20 minutes. During this time, reheat the gratin in the turned-off oven.

To serve, cut the ribeye into slices and arrange on warmed plates. Spoon the gratin alongside, topped with a shaving of truffle if using.

To see Chef Ethan Stowell preparing this recipe, go to Season 1 Episode 8 at wagrown.com.

WASHINGTON GROWN MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 2022 11
Staple & Fancy’s

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DID YOU KNOW?

BLUEGRASS CANOLA CROP

DISEASE

GARBANZO LAND

POTATO

ROTATION SOIL

STOWELL

SUNFLOWER

VETCH WEEDS WHEAT

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GAME
CORNER
ENTER EXIT
Grand Coulee Dam is one of the largest concrete structures in the world. It contains nearly 12 million cubic yards of concrete.

Keeping it Fresh

In the quiet Seattle neighborhood of Ballard lies Staple & Fancy, Chef Ethan Stowell’s elegant, yet understated restaurant. It boasts one of the freshest menus in Seattle, focused on simple, Italian-inspired food. The menu has a variety of local favorites, but it’s most famous for its tasting menu.

“At Staple & Fancy, you’ll really have two different menus here,” said Stowell. “One is the A La Carte menu, we call that our staple menu, and then the other one we call the fancy menu. It’s essentially a chef’s menu, but you just don’t know what you’re going to get there.”

Diners are sure to be pleased with the restaurant’s ever-changing menu, which features seasonal local ingredients.

“We go to the farmers market and get what we get, and that’s what we serve,” said Stowell. “We do it because it’s the best in the world, what we have here. It’s the forage things, it’s the wild edible stuff, it’s the shellfish, it’s the salmon, obviously, and halibut. It’s a real pleasure to be able to work with the products that are naturally that great. It makes my job a whole lot easier. The cus-

tomers are happy, and they love it, and people want to know, they want to feel like they’re taken care of. I think that’s something that our menu really addresses.”

And they wouldn’t be an Italian restaurant without a thoughtful wine list that includes both old and new world selections. Don’t miss the opportunity to eat at one of the state’s best restaurants this season!

Staple & Fancy serves up an ever-changing, Italianinspired menu in Ballard
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Staple & Fancy invites diners to enjoy one of the freshest menus in Seattle in an elegant, yet understated atmosphere.

If you were to record any field of potatoes in Washington for five years, you would see that field grow five different crops. Those five crops are part of a scientific and proactive method of rotation farmers use to responsibly manage and improve their lands. Each crop is grown as part of their larger crop production system.

Crop Rotation 101

In high rainfall areas of Eastern Washington, such as Spokane and Whitman counties, wheat is the primary crop for farmers. These farmers may also grow canola, garbanzo beans, dried peas, lentils and Kentucky Bluegrass seed in rotation with wheat to improve the crop on each piece of land they own. In drier, nonirrigated areas, farmers will use a fallow rotation to help conserve moisture. In Skagit County, farmers grow more than 80 different crops, and rotational farming allows farmers to break up disease, insect and tillage cycles naturally on land. They often voluntarily “share” land so they can implement healthy rotations on each parcel. Some farmers use cover crops such as clover, rye, vetch and mustard as a rotation and grow them between cash crops when the land would otherwise be bare.

A crop rotation can help to manage soil and fertility, reduce erosion and disease, improve soil health, and increase nutrients available for crops. For example, when a wheat farmer plants a nitrogen-fixing crop, such as peas or lentils, it improves the soil naturally. Another example is potatoes. Potatoes can only be grown one year out of four on the same piece of land because they are highly susceptible to disease. The three years between potato crops allow time for the diseases to die out on that land. One reason Washington potato farmers grow more potatoes per acre than anywhere else is because they

have a meticulous rotation. An irrigated potato farmer in the Columbia Basin may use a seven-year rotation like this on a certain field:

Year 1 - Canola Year 2 - Wheat

Year 3 - Potato Year 4 - Wheat

Year 5 - Peas

Year 6 - Kentucky Bluegrass

Year 7 - Kentucky Bluegrass

Managing the larger crop production system is such an important part of potato farming that the industry stepped up this year to hire Steve Culman as Distinguished Endowed Chair in Soil Health for Potato Cropping Systems at Washington State University. Culman will address priorities in irrigated agriculture, including the need to better understand and protect the soil.

“Growing potatoes is a highly productive and highly intensive process,” he said. “There’s a wide diversity of rotation crops and grower constraints. Making sense of all those systems will be a grand challenge for me.”

Based at Pullman, his work will take him across the Columbia Basin.

“The way things are grown reflect what we value and what we want to pay for, protect and think about. My goal is to improve fertility and the health of our soil, and to do that while we grow food,” Culman said.

Rotations are as important as sunshine, water and nutrients to our farmers. They are one of the most important practices that help set Washington apart and allow us to grow safe and healthy food.

for better water infiltration.

Farmers set goals for what they want their crop rotation to accomplish. Then they develop rotation plans, maps and sequences for each section of their farm to achieve them.

Planting a diversity of rotation crops keeps the soil healthy, breaks disease cycles, and can allow

Q&A

Shopping for the holidays can be a daunting task. Not only is it often difficult to find the best local produce, but shopping on a budget can make it even more challenging. We partnered with blogger Kristin Fixmer and headed to a local grocery store for some tricks.

What’s the difference between potatoes when you’re picking them?

The fun thing about potatoes is that there’s so many different kinds you can try. There’s the standard russet potato, which you can use to bake up. It’s more of a starchy potato. And then there’s Yukon Gold. They look like butter, and they taste like butter. And reds are great for soups.

What’s a little secret you can share with people?

My favorite spot in the store is the bulk aisle. It’s a great way to try things that are new to your family. You can find a lot of Washington-grown

with Kristin Fixmer

Shopping for the Holidays

ingredients right here, and you usually save money buying bulk. If you want to try something new, it’s a great place to get a small quantity of something and try it first before you invest in a large bag of something.

Now tell us about the frozen section. Is it as nutritious and local as the fresh section?

Absolutely! Take berries, for example. Outside of a month during the summer, for the rest of the year, when you are buying fresh berries over in the produce section, your berries are coming from another country like Mexico or somewhere else warm and tropical. If you want to eat fresh Washington berries year round, then you come to the frozen section, and you get delicious Washington berries, and you save money because they’re cheaper. They’re frozen at the peak of their flavor and freshness, so you know that you’re going to get top quality. They’re delicious.

You can still use them in any recipe, and you’re going to save money. It’s a win-win.

Marketing Director Brandy Tucker Editor Kara Rowe Assistant Editor Trista Crossley Art Designers Laura Meyer Kara Rowe Writers Cynthia Nims Callie Ogborn Kara Rowe Images Staple & Fancy Shutterstock Washington State Historical Society Spokane County Library Washington Grown Executive Producers Kara Rowe David Tanner Chris Voigt Producers Ian Loe Sydney Nelson Hosts Kristi Gorenson Tomás Guzmán Val Thomas-Matson
The Washington Grown project is made possible by the Washington State Department of Agriculture and the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant program, through a partnership with the state’s farmers.
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