Kennewick farmers donate $1,000 for Hanford Reach Interpretive Center

By John Trumbo, Tri-City HeraldSeptember 18, 2012 

Kennewick alfalfa farmers Chep and Kay Gauntt are putting up cash to help tell the story of agriculture for the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center.

The Gauntts made their surprise $1,000 donation at Monday's meeting of the Richland Public Facilities District, telling the board and executive director Lisa Toomey they believe agriculture's history and role in the region should be included in the center.

"Agriculture is the greatest base, the highest economic, most reliable return of any asset to Eastern Washington and even to the state," Gauntt told the board.

"We have a story to tell of farm life, hardship and joys. From contributions to the economy, the environment, the community and the people, to feeding the world," Gauntt noted in a letter to the board that accompanied the donation.

Gauntt said his son is the fourth generation of farmers in the family, which came to the Mid-Columbia in 1953 to take advantage of the Grand Coulee Dam. Gauntt said agriculture contributes 28,500 jobs and $1.44 billion to the state economy annually.

"All of my alfalfa is shipped to overseas to Japan and other countries," Gauntt said, emphasizing that Eastern Washington's alfalfa, potatoes, grapes, cherries and apples help feed people all over the world.

Toomey said the Gauntts' contribution will not only help tell agriculture's story in the interpretive center, but also with their cooperation and that of other farmers, the story will be told in the field through farm tours and hands-on visits to where the products are grown and harvested. His son, Drex Gauntt, is immediate past-president of the Washington State Hay Farmers Association.

Chep Gauntt, who has sat on the board of the National Alfalfa and Forage Alliance, said his donation on behalf of farmers is only the beginning.

"There will be others," he promised.

In other business, Toomey said the Richland city council meets tonight to consider adopting the proposal that will help finance the construction of the first phase of the project and to decide on adopting the project's proposed business plan.

-- John Trumbo: 582-1529; jtrumbo@tricityherald.com

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