Sa
hlin Award for Outreach/Engagement

 

 
Sustainability. It’s a hot buzz word, but it hasn’t always been that way. David Granatstein, area extension educator, sustainable agriculture specialist and 2007-08 Sahlin Faculty Excellence Award winner for outreach and engagement, can clearly remember days when his line of research was looked upon as just a nice idea.
 
“If you went to your average college extension office in the ‘70s and ‘80s, you would have received little support for organics,” he said. “Now institutional support has grown and WSU has been able to recognize work on a topic that wasn’t politically correct or glamorous for many years.”
 
Granatstein started his work literally in the field as an organic farmer for seven years in the 1970s. But after meeting now-retired soil science professor David Bezdicek, he decided to go back to graduate school with the hopes of becoming a much-needed bridge between consumer and farmer issues.
 
He did just that and joined the WSU faculty. In 1993, he became part of the fledgling Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources in Wenatchee.
 
In the 15 years since, Granatstein has been more than just a bridge. Using a material called PAM (polyacrylamide), he was able to reduce the amount of soil loss farmers were experiencing due to runoff by 95 percent — an annual savings of 1 million tons in the Columbia basin.
 
With a grant from the Kellogg Foundation, Granatstein and others started the Food Alliance. This program for recognizing sustainable standards at local farms — such as soil and water management, biodiversity, safe and fair work practices, integrated pest management and fertilizer use — compliments organic farming.
 
The alliance caught on and now reaches 17 states and 2 million acres of American farmland.
 
“David’s efforts and leadership, perhaps more than any other individual in the state, propelled sustainability into a position of prominence,” said Christopher F. Feise, director of the WSU Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources. “His efforts moved this topic out of the realm of bitter argument and into the constructive dialogue that occurs today among agriculture and the broader society.”
 
Despite all the press on sustainability and organics and the accolades Granatstein receives, he still sees some bumpy roads ahead.
 
“Organic has all too often become an over-simplified code word,” he said. “People drive 15 miles to get to a store to buy their organic food and forget about the rest of the impact that the trip incurred.”
 
Nonetheless, Granatstein sees this award as a positive statement from WSU and of the good things to come.
 
“Organics impact more than just the farmland,” he said. “It trickles down!”
 
About the awards
 
Sahlin awards recognize faculty who epitomize the highest levels of performance and excellence in the pursuit of WSU’s goals, including developing or revitalizing public service programs and enhancing the public’s appreciation of WSU.