In today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Chuck "Mr. Civil Discourse" Pezeshki wrote:
Much is made of the fracture between town and gown in Pullman...Part of the reason that Pullman has a problem with separation between the community and the university is because topographically, Pullman is separate from the university.Wrong again, Chuck. The town-gown fracture in Pullman is created when tenured WSU professors make comments like this, not by four hills:
I've pretty much lost sympathy for most of the working people on the Palouse.Alex McGregor, president of The McGregor Company, had a few thoughts on Chuck's divisive and arrogant comments in a column in the Daily News back in December 2003:
I've never seen a more dysfunctional, irrational culture in a 1st World country than what's on the Palouse. Keep voting against your interests, and alienating your intellectual and real allies.
I believe that a good part of this is because most people in the region are wildly ignorant about who actually butters their bread.
The universities provide for the living, and also agricultural community support, for all of Latah and Whitman County.
Ag and WSU: Whitman County cornerstonesExactly. The recognition of the value of all players in the local economy will help bridge the town-gown divide in Pullman, not trams, bicycles built for four, $40 Schwinns, or stilts.
A Daily News Town Crier columnist, Chuck Pezeshki, called State Sen. Larry Sheahan "a liar" or a "dumb rube," largely because he has worked to strengthen the agricultural economy (Opinion, Nov. 19). Higher education "is our economic driver," Pezeshki said, while agriculture is "a minor player" in the county and state economy, with "poverty level" wages and "nonexistent sharecropper jobs."
Family farms in Whitman County grow more wheat than do their counterparts in any county in the United States, and they've been doing so since 1910.
Growers in this area are leaders nationally in dry pea and lentil production.
Here's what the Washington Agricultural Statistics Service reports about their trade: Agriculture is the state's largest employer, offering jobs for 170,000 people, and it is the second largest industry after aerospace.
The $5.5 billion of raw agricultural commodities produced annually contribute, when processed, transported, and marketed, $29 billion, or 13 percent, to the Washington economy. Hardly a "minor industry."
Pezeshki claims only a small percentage of Whitman County jobs are agricultural. He ignores many whose livelihoods involve serving farm families -- those employed by grain companies, implement dealers, fertilizer firms, insurance agencies, trucking businesses, automotive dealers and so on.
As a land grant university, Washington State University employs many in its College of Agriculture, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences whose professions are closely related to crop production. "Nonexistent" jobs? Try telling that to the more than 300 dedicated people of my family's Whitman County-based business, who have devoted their careers to serving farm families here and in nearby counties. There are many other firms whose success depends upon agriculture. "A minor player?" Get real.
The people of Whitman County agriculture have worked closely with dedicated university scientists for generations. Working together, we've made big strides forward -- yields have more than doubled, water-borne soil erosion has declined 75 percent and dust has been reduced six-fold.
Growers, and the businesses serving them, have won awards for their environmental achievements at the state, regional, and national level including recognition from the current governor for their progress in pollution prevention. As Donald Meinig puts it, in his historical study of our region: "the collaboration of scientist and farmer is now so close that one can glimpse the ideal of the future when every field is a test plot, every farm a laboratory, and every farmer a scientist."
Agriculture is a big business in terms of its regional importance but a special one, too -- no other trade is so dramatically a family enterprise, dependent upon sustained wise stewardship of natural resources, as is farming.
Let's give thanks this holiday season for our remarkable "salt of the earth" farm family neighbors and the bountiful foodstuffs they produce rather than, as my daughter Emily would put it, "dissing" them.
Working together, growers, university researchers, local business people and neighbors can achieve much in the future, as we have in the past. As Nobel Prize winning plant breeder Norman Borlaug puts it, if we allow misconceptions, not science and good judgment, to dictate the future of agriculture we as Americans will be guilty of "displaying a diminished gene frequency for common sense."
I remember personally -- as do many agricultural people -- working hard over the years urging legislators beyond the Palouse to join our local representatives in supporting funding for WSU. The building now under construction between Martin Stadium and Johnson Hall -- Plant BioSciences I -- is the first of six buildings planned as a plant science and biotechnology center, likely to be the finest such facility in the western states.
It speaks volumes about what our elected officials see as the importance of agriculture and of WSU in the days ahead. It is strong evidence the close working relationship between farm families and our land grant university -- begun at the end of the 19th century when it was called Washington Agricultural College -- is not only part of our shared heritage, but of our future, too.
I hope we can move beyond needlessly provocative rhetoric. Both agriculture and WSU are important to our economy and our future. We cannot succeed long-term without each other. All of us -- university, business, and farm families -- need to work together to keep the economy of the Palouse strong. It's a big task but, pulling together, we can do it.