The WSU organic agriculture systems program received $5 million April 20 from alumni Chuck and Louanna Eggert to expand the organic farm and teaching program.
The donation will increase the WSU organic farm from four to about 30 acres. As proponents of organic and sustainable agriculture in the food industry, the Eggerts have donated throughout the years to the WSU agriculture and animal science departments, Chuck said.
“A lot of people involved in organic are right on the technological edge of what to apply to their farm,” he said. “Throughout the world people don’t have access to fertilizers. Organic teaches good farming techniques and new techniques of plant breeding.”
John Reganold, a WSU Regents professor of soil science and agroecology, said the increased acreage will allow vegetable, fruit, grain and some livestock farming. Roads, irrigation, new fields and animal shelters will also be built with the donation, he said.
Chuck and Louanna started Pacific Natural Foods, an organic production company that now offers products including soups, broths and non-dairy beverages, in 1987.
“It is so great that the donation came from Chuck and Louanna because they are successful organic farmers themselves,” Reganold said. “Their Pacific Natural Foods farm and food production operations are economically, socially and environmentally sustainable, setting a great example for our new organic farm and other farms.”
Reganold said he hopes the program will expand from the 29 organic agriculture systems majors, and draw in future donations. He said they also would like a student and visitor community center and housing for organic agriculture majors.
At the grant announcement, WSU President Elson S. Floyd said WSU has held an important role while working with the region’s organic and sustainable agriculture. The university established the first four-year organic agriculture systems major in the nation in 2006, he said.
"WSU's ability to serve this economically important and growing industry regionally, nationally and around the globe will be greatly enhanced by this generous investment," Floyd said.
WSU is well known in the natural food industry, and the enthusiasm of its students is exciting to see, Chuck said. The university was an appropriate investment because of the program’s efforts to combine organic agriculture and farming techniques.
“Dr. Reganold has really put together a smart farm of the future and it just happens to be organic,” Chuck said. “WSU has made amazing strides in organic culture and this donation will just help them at the next level.”
WSU will add the Eggerts'donation to the $1 billion fundraising endeavor, Campaign for Washington State University: Because the World Needs Big Ideas, to gain support for university research. So far the campaign has received $680 million.