New Experiences Bring New Insights

DNR managed crop land

DNR managed crop land. Photo by Kristie Thomas.

I started working for the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in April of 1991 and have enjoyed a challenging and diverse career working in a variety of programs including forest practices, surface mining reclamation, aquatics, fire, and now agriculture.

Last April, I was asked to fill a temporary position in the Columbia Basin District as an Agricultural Unit Land Manager working out of our Ephrata field office. I grew up on a ranch raising sheep and cattle and this was an opportunity to get back to my roots, so I accepted the position.

DNR's  Southeast Region

In the past year, DNR’s Southeast Region earned more than $15 million from state agricultural trust lands for the school construction fund. Photo by Kristie Thomas.

As a graduate of Central Washington University and of the Agriculture and Forestry Leadership program, involved in the Ellensburg Rodeo, WSU Extension, and other agricultural-based organizations in Kittitas County, agriculture is no stranger to me. Living in Ellensburg, I’ve had a lot of exposure to irrigated agriculture–mostly hay–but no exposure to dryland farming, irrigated row crops, orchards or vineyards. Over the summer I realized just how diverse farming in the Columbia Basin really is. It is interesting to compare the rainfall, production, and farming methods in the different counties in which I work. I’ve learned about the many different varieties of spring wheat and winter wheat, moisture barriers, sunlight reflectors, frost pockets, summer fallow, contour farming, crop residue, CRP programs, farming rotations, marketing, and a myriad of other things that make the agricultural industry tick.

Photo by Kristie Thomas.

DNR manages many types of agriculture and grazing lands for state trust beneficiaries, such as public schools. Photo by Kristie Thomas.

Over the summer I’ve enjoyed working with many farmers and ranchers who have state leases and tried to absorb as much of their vast knowledge and experience as possible. I have always known that the agricultural community is a well-connected community. It is interesting to find just how many of the folks I have met know people that I know. It was a real eye opener to see what challenges farmers in the dryer areas of our state have to make a crop and how much capital is invested in an irrigated crop. I have enjoyed my time in the agriculture program and have a new appreciation for farmers, ranchers and the dedicated people working in DNR’s agricultural program.

This past year DNR’s Southeast Region earned more than $15 million from state agricultural trust lands for the school construction fund and I am proud to have been a part of that success.

By Cindy Preston, Ephrata Unit Land Manager, DNR Southeast Region