Notes from Pasco & The Columbia Basin, Washington

     Last week, I visited the farms and farmers in Pasco, Washington.  Pasco is located in south-central Washington state, at the southern end of the great Columbia Basin.  It is bordered to the west by the mighty Columbia River, which is the main transport for crops and commodities to the west coast.  They are barged downriver to Portland, Oregon, where they are then shipped to points all over the world, especially the Pacific Rim.

The pivot of a center pivot irrigation system or “circle” for short
Circles have revolutionized irrigation for farmers

The Columbia Basin is irrigated by the gigantic Columbia Basin Project (CBP) irrigation network which originates in northeastern Washington.  It is the largest reclamation project in the United States, supplying water to over 671,000 acres of farmland.  The water originates on the upper Columbia River, and is held in reservoir by the Grand Coulee Dam.  This dam project was part of President Roosevelt’s new deal.  Construction on the dam began in 1933 and was finished in 1942.  The lakes resulting from the dam are Banks Lake and Lake Roosevelt.

     The irrigation water is held in reservoirs throughout the basin, sometimes called “potholes”, and is then delivered to the farm fields by way of 331 main canals, 1,339 miles of lateral canals, 3,500 miles of drains and wasteways.  Wow!

A lateral canal delivering water to a farm

        Because this is a relatively new and modern irrigation system, the land has been divided in larger, more uniform-shaped fields, ranging in size from 50 to 150 acres each, as compared with older systems which have smaller and often irregularly shaped fields.  The climate of south central Washington is arid; natural rainfall here is 7″ per year.  The Columbia Basin Project turned desert into some of the most productive farmland in the country.

A field of beautiful timothy hay.
This will be cut two times this year, and baled as hay for horses
Look at that pretty sky!

    Columbia Basin farms grow an endless variety of crops.  Alfalfa and timothy hay, potatoes, dry beans, onions, garlic, buckwheat, sweet corn, fresh peas and beans.  Grapes for wine and the table, as well as all number of other fruits including cherries, pears, apples, peaches, nectarines, walnuts – all are grown on a commercial scale.

Potatoes for you and for me!  They’re coming along nicely.

Our Pasco farmers are busy this time of year.  All of their crops have been planted, and have emerged from the ground. The first cutting of alfalfa hay is underway, and unfortunately, much of it was rained on.  Here are some photos for you to enjoy.

Haylige.  Like silage, only hay.  This was harvested in 2012,
then set all winter in the plastic wrap, which fermented it.
The milk cows love it, and it provides super-nutrition for them too.

John Deere tractors all lined up, ready for work

The tractors pull these hay-balers, to bale alfalfa and timothy hay
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