Several farmers have begun an effort to bolster research at Washington State University's Wilke Research and Extension Farm by increasing the farm's endowment fund.

The Beulah Wilke Endowment is now $25,000. They want to increase it to $1 million.

The 320-acre farm doesn't receive funding directly from WSU. It is primarily funded by the revenue generated from the sale of crops including wheat, canola, barley, mustard and chickpeas.

Howard Nelson is a member of the farm's advisory committee and one of the organizers behind the fund drive, with Hal Johnson and Jim Baye.

Nelson graduated from WSU in 1977 and has mostly worked for agribusiness and farmed for 10 years in Creston.

Nelson will retire April 3 from HighLine Grain Growers. He sees the endowment as a good goal to work on in his retirement. 

"I grew up in this area," he said. "My family has farm ground in the area. Research is vital to the long-term success of agriculture, and I would like to see this farm survive financially, have a little bit more stability in their financial standing."

Under current conditions, Nelson said, funds that have been in reserve have been declining.

"It would be nice to generate a steady income other than the crop sales so budgets wouldn't be as tight as they are," he said.

"We're no different from any other farm," farm manager Aaron Esser said. "We would like to have higher crop sales as well as lower input prices."

The annual budget is roughly $120,000, but that's been trending downward, he said.

Researchers aren't charged for the plot area they use on the farm. Esser hopes to continue that practice.

The Wilke endowment is within the WSU Foundation, which operates as a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization. All donations will be kept private unless the donor agrees to public disclosure of the gift. Business and personal donations are accepted.

The principal farming practice in the area around the farm is a cycle of fallow, winter wheat, a spring crop and back to fallow, typical for the intermediate rainfall zone, about 12 to 17 inches per rain.

Nelson estimates 2 million acres of cropland is in that cropping zone. 

"This farm is the only research farm in that cropping zone for WSU," he said.

The farmers' support means a lot to Esser.

"I'm kind of a little bit overwhelmed by it, that they would step up and make sure that this continues and grows," he said. 

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