WENATCHEE — The first growing season for Easley Farms was a learning experience.
“Looking out there, you couldn’t see vegetables among the weeds,” Kevin Easley said. “We did grow a little bit of stuff, but it was just learning basically. ... So the second year, we really kind of looked at what we needed to fix and what was costing us the most time and energy.”
Easley co-owns and operates the farm with Miranda Heinlen on 3 acres above Rotary Park in Wenatchee. They now use about half an acre but think they’ll eventually have about 1.5 acres in production.
Since that first season in 2018, they’ve started using a flame-weeder and weed block and have stopped tilling. They’ve added micronutrients like volcanic rock dust and alfalfa meal to their soil, and they also now use domestic water instead of irrigation because it’s cleaner and available year-round.
This year, more adjustments were in order due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
For instance, they’ve been growing microgreens since 2016 but are scaling back because restaurant shutdowns have quelled demand.
Easley said they used to provide “probably 20-30 pounds a week” of microgreens to Yodelin Broth Co. and the Watershed Café in Leavenworth.
“That completely dropped off in March,” he said. “All of a sudden, we didn’t have quite a bit of income. We were kind of scrambling, so we kind of diverted. That’s the beauty of a small business. We don’t have a ton of employees, a ton of equipment and a ton of stuff. We can always pivot and go a different direction real fast.”
They opened an online store and started selling directly to customers with no-contact pickups. They also became a supplier for Rhubarb Market in Wenatchee.
“We took her 100 pounds of greens (Tuesday), so we’ve really been busy keeping up with her,” Easley said.
In the past they have sold produce at the Wenatchee and Leavenworth farmers markets.
“The support at the market is awesome,” Easley said. “The community is awesome. We love interacting with people. We work really hard and it’s really rewarding to be able to take your stuff down to Pybus. ... Just that reward of feeding people good, honest vegetables and them really appreciating it, it’s awesome.”
Wenatchee’s farmers market opens Saturday, but Easley and Heinlen are waiting to see how it goes with COVID-19 restrictions in place before deciding whether to participate this year.
Heinlen said the online shop has done well, and people can also order through Facebook or Instagram. The couple place orders in an outside cooler at the farm, 1905 Mulberry Lane, for their no-contact pickup service.
“We had to adapt,” Easley said. “You either adapt or die, and we’re not going to die. We’ve worked too hard to let this go.”
WENATCHEE — The bride and groom were in their backyard in Wenatchee and the officiant was in Iowa, marrying the happy couple via a Zoom chat projected on a large TV screen. Two socially distanced friends served as witnesses as they exchanged vows.
A pandemic-style wedding wasn’t the first choice for Dennis Jeziorski and Krystal Augustine, but the state’s stay-at-home order has forced a lot of changes. They agreed that taking their nuptials online was a better option than postponing their wedding.
On April 25, they hosted a virtual ceremony, complete with relatives from across the country. Instead of rows of seats, the wedding had rows of Zoom chat boxes on a large TV.
Dennis, an electrician, and Krystal, a receptionist at Confluence Health, originally planned to marry at Ohme Gardens with a family gathering of about 25 people. Krystal said she is considering renewing vows and holding an in-person family gathering at Ohme Gardens once the pandemic passes.
Those who Zoom chatted into the wedding said it was the next-best thing to being there, according to Krystal. There was “a little bit of everything in that 40 minutes,” she said.
The couple is from Minnesota and recently moved out to Wenatchee. Krystal’s dad hoped to fly out to see the wedding and was disappointed he could not attend in person.
“He got super excited … to be a part of it even though he wasn’t physically there,” she said.
To ensure all went smoothly with the ceremony, family and friends even held a virtual wedding rehearsal a couple days prior.
To start the service, the couple danced in their backyard to the tune of “Adventure of a Lifetime” by Coldplay. Krystal’s sister, an ordained minister, then began officiating the ceremony via Zoom.
Not all went according to plan, however. Part way through the wedding, Krystal ran offscreen. “I had forgotten the rings on the counter,” she explained later.
After vows were successfully exchanged, the couple kissed. They later toasted with their virtual guests and shared a slow dance, all within the boundaries of their live-video frame. “We even added Corona beers in there and did a little clang,” Krystal said.
The Jeziorskis are waiting for places to open up again before making any honeymoon plans.
“It feels pretty good to be married — doesn’t feel like a whole lot has changed,” Krystal said.
EAST WENATCHEE — The Chelan-Douglas Health District has stopped releasing a breakdown of COVID-19 test results by ethnicity, data that has shown a disproportionately high rate of cases among the local Latino community.
The health district said it was contacted by some members of the Latino community who felt the disparity in testing results could lead people to inaccurately believe they were responsible for the spread of the virus.
“My understanding is they were concerned some people could misinterpret that as though the Hispanic community was responsible for the outbreak or the source of the outbreak, or in some sense they could be blamed,” Administrator Barry Kling said Friday. He declined to say who contacted the district over the issue.
Other local Latino community leaders said the information is important for understanding the disparity and responding to it appropriately.
“It is not a matter of blaming anybody, it’s a matter of addressing the fact that the population of Latinos here in Wenatchee are being affected at a higher rate. It’s not about pointing fingers, it’s about addressing these issues,” said Karina Vega-Villa, a program director and faculty member at Wenatchee Valley College.
The health district has been updating COVID-19 test results — including cases broken down by age, sex and city — on its website every day for several weeks. It plans to continue releasing that other demographic information.
NCW — This page will be regularly updated as new COVID-19 cases in North Central Washington are reported by health officials.
On April 14 it added a chart for ethnicity. At that time, the cases numbered 47 Hispanic and 40 non-Hispanic.
As capacity increased and more tests were administered, the ethnic disparity grew. On April 28 the cases numbered 130 Hispanic, 41 non-Hispanic and one unknown. That was the last day the ethnicity data was updated.
On April 21, 36 Stemilt Ag Services workers were reported to have the virus. All of the new cases added to the health district’s website that day were reported as Hispanic.
It’s one of the few wide-scale tests conducted in the area and furthered the disparate number of confirmed cases in Chelan and Douglas counties.
But even without those tests, the numbers would skew more than 2-1 Hispanic to non-Hispanic. The population of Chelan and Douglas counties is around 30% Hispanic.
The number of COVID-19 patients in the ICU at Central Washington Hospital was 53% Hispanic in early April, the most recent data available.
Kling said North Central Washington’s reported cases are “certainly” disproportional, but are being attributed only to ethnicity rather than taking into account other factors like socioeconomic status.
“We don’t think it’s due to ethnicity, we think it’s due to income,” he said. “When you have lower income and you’re living in crowded housing conditions, more people in fewer rooms ... That’s going to predispose you.”
Vega-Villa agreed there are many co-existing factors that affect the disparity, but said the data needs to be public for accurate analysis.
“It is the responsibility of the health department to make that information by ethnicity public,” she said. “Only then can we have a response that is really meaningful. I understand their hesitation, but we need to acknowledge this issue.”
The data is also important in demonstrating the need for coronavirus-related funding and outreach in the Latino community, said Teresa Bendito, who is leading the Latino Communications Network with Our Valley Our Future.
“In order for our outreach to continue, we will need to show the need and impact of our work,” she said.
And health resources for the Latino community are more important than ever, Vega-Villa said.
“The disparities in health access are obvious,” she said. “What this crisis has done is magnify what we already knew: Communities of color lack access and information.”
Kling said the Chelan-Douglas Health District’s decision is in line with several of the other counties in the state.
Other nearby counties, including Grant, Okanogan and Kittitas, don’t provide a breakdown of ethnicity on their case-count web pages.
King and Snohomish counties — which have the highest case counts in the state — report ethnicity data compared to the population.
The state Department of Health releases both case counts and deaths by ethnicity for Washington, which has a 12.4% Hispanic population, according to the data.
Across the state, 31% of positive cases and 8% of deaths are attributed to people who are Hispanic.
WENATCHEE — Confluence Health Dr. Mabel Bodell was walking through Central Washington Hospital’s intensive care unit in mid-March when she noticed more than half the COVID-19 patients were Hispanic.