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Alison Detjens | The goodness of growing

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We all need to eat. This column will typically revolve around that simple, truthful phrase while encompassing other relevant, timely topics such as food justice, local, organic, environment, water quality/ usage, traditions and culture.

I am Alison Detjens and I manage the Organic Garden and Greenhouses at Wenatchee Valley College. My adventures with food began when I was an undergraduate studying anthropology at Michigan State University. There I began to explore the accessibility of whole foods in an urban setting through research based out of a Lansing Michigan neighborhood center. As my interest in food grew I decided to intern at Gibbs Organic Farm in Leavenworth where I subsequently helped manage the market gardens for a few seasons. More recently I worked as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer for Community Farm Connection and started our regional gleaning project, Community Harvest.

In this column I want to create a forum of discussion around our local food industry. When I say local food industry I am referring to those growers whose primary market is in North Central Washington, but at times refers to Washington state in general. In the past decade or so it has come back into vogue for individuals to grow more of their own food, shop at farmers markets and generally source locally grown food when we can. What does this mean for our economy, environment, and community?

The Wenatchee Valley has a rich tradition of agriculture. Taking time to look inward at what has worked and what has not is a very valuable tool for any profession. Agricultural methods, chemicals, and tools have come and gone; some of which have been helpful, some harmful. Deciding which methods and tools to use requires constant evaluation. In order to expose students and community members to different areas of interest in agriculture WVC is creating ecologically diverse growing spaces featuring garden produce, native plants, natural habitat, and tree fruit. Currently, the first area is finished; featuring 13 raised beds which have been planted to demonstrate various growing styles and techniques.

Wenatchee Valley College Agriculture Department is working on preparing students living in this valley for careers in agriculture and related fields. It is easy to compartmentalize various aspects of food and food production; however, looking at the larger picture, holistically, will perhaps give us the perspective to look and think with an open mind about how we are engaging with our food and each other. We encourage the students to think critically about how they approach their career choices and other real life challenges.

The simple fact is: we all have to eat, preferably daily, in order to live healthy, productive lives. The choices that we make concerning this fact are the topics I hope to explore in this space. The question I want to pose is: As a community, how can we make the food choices that support ourselves, the environment and our community?

Alison Detjens manages the garden and greenhouses at Wenatchee Valley College. She can be reached at