SEATTLE - Washington State University took another giant step in becoming the world's model for research, teaching and extension in organic and sustainable agriculture thanks to a $5 million donor investment announced here this afternoon.
"Washington State University has played an important role in the region's organic and sustainable agriculture for quite some time, establishing the nation's first four-year organic agriculture systems major in 2006," said WSU President Elson S. Floyd. "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."
WSU officials announced a $5 million investment by alumni and natural foods pioneers Chuck and Louanna Eggert and their family to expand the WSU Organic Farm from four acres to nearly 30 acres. The expansion provides WSU with the largest organic teaching farm on a university campus in the United States.
"With deep roots in the natural and organic food industry that go back to our time at WSU, our family sees the critical role organic and sustainable agriculture plays in our food system day in and day out," said Chuck Eggert, who with Louanna founded Pacific Natural Foods in 1987. "We greatly appreciate WSU's efforts in preparing the future leaders in agriculture, and in particular, those focused on organic agriculture, as they are vital to the continued innovation needed to advance the industry."
The couple, who met while attending WSU, have grown Pacific Natural Foods from a small soymilk production company to a global leader in natural food development, sustainable and organic farming and land stewardship that supports farmers and ranchers. Founded in 1987 in Tualatin, Oregon, Pacific Natural Foods offers a wide variety of all natural and organic food and beverages including soups, broths, non-dairy beverages and pot pies. The company's products are sold throughout the United States and Canada in mainstream grocery and natural food stores.
"This is a game changer for the program," said John Reganold, WSU Regents Professor of Soil Science and Agroecology who leads the university's organic agriculture major. "This investment by the Eggert family greatly expands the opportunities provided by the Organic Farm and major for students at Washington State University."
The gift was announced during the Organic and Sustainable Agriculture Summit organized by the WSU College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences and attended by representatives from every aspect of the organic and sustainable food and agriculture industry in the Pacific Northwest.
The Eggerts' gift will be counted as part of the university's $1 billion comprehensive fundraising effort: The Campaign for Washington State University: Because the World Needs Big Ideas. To date, generous donors, businesses and organizations have committed more than $680 million to the Campaign for WSU to increase support for the university's students, faculty, research and extension programs and to leverage the university's impact across the state, nation and world.