SPOKANE — Washington State University Extension’s new horticulture expert hopes to expand existing programs and even the growing season.
Jeremy Cowan has taken over as regional extension specialist WSU’s Spokane County Extension office.
Cowan’s responsibilities include commercial horticulture and homeowner horticulture through the county Master Gardener program.
Cowan is currently assessing the needs of commercial horticulture in the region. He’s talked with vegetable and Christmas tree farmers so far and expects to work with the landscaping and nursery industries.
Cowan plans to have his assessment completed by October or November.
“Ultimately, my goal is to see the people who are actively engaged in horticulture have the support they need to be successful,” he said.
Cowan completed his Ph.D. last May while stationed at the university’s center in Mount Vernon, Wash. While pursuing his Ph.D., Cowan worked with high tunnels and biodegradable mulches. The Spokane County extension offers a high tunnel workshop April 19 in Deer Park, Wash.
“Even though we have nice warm summers here, it’s a shorter growing season than California or some of the more productive growing areas,” he said. “Having high tunnels can allow growers to have earlier and later seasons. If we can extend the season a month in either direction, I think it will be a pretty big boost to a grower.”
High tunnels could also keep some crops during the winter, Cowan said.
He hopes to try different things to see what works before he commits to specific research projects because he’s new to the Spokane County area. He’s working on intercropping and rotations.
Cowan would like to explore an incubator farm in Eastern Washington, based on the 33-acre Viva Farms model in the Skagit Valley. Beginning farmers can rent several acres for a low price.
“Anyone I’ve talked to about it has said, ‘We definitely need something like that,’” Cowan said. “That would be a big benefit, especially given the current momentum building behind hobby farms and people wanting to start their own small farms.”
Cowan also hopes to combine the annual small farms conference and Spokane County Master Gardener Cabin Fever symposium into a concept similar to the WSU Extension Country Living Expo and Cattlemen’s Winterschool in Skagit County. It features 170 classes during a single day.
He grew up in San Diego, Calif., and has a wife and four children. A fifth child is due in the late summer.
“I was always the one that grew the garden at home,” he said. “I enjoy the connection to the land and the human health aspect of it. Horticulture is important in all of our lives. It would be great to bring that realization to more people.”