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Cookson Beecher

Cookson Beecher

A journalist by trade, Cookson Beecher spent the past 12 years working as an agricultural & environmental reporter for Capital Press, a four-state newspaper that covers agricultural and forestry issues in the Pacific Northwest. Before working at Capital Press, she was the editor of a small-town newspaper, the Courier Times, in Skagit County, Wash. She received her B.A. in political science from Hunter College in New York City, and before moving West, she worked for publishing companies in mid-town Manhattan. In the 1970s and 80s, she and her family lived in North Idaho, where they built a log home and lived a “pioneer life” without running water and electricity for almost ten years. She currently lives in rural Skagit County of Washington State.

Articles Written by Cookson Beecher

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Is that the answer blowin’ in the wind, or pathogen drift?

Free-manure

“The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.” — Bob Dylan The question in the case of food safety is: “What’s blowing in the wind?” Turns out it can be dangerous pathogens such as E. coli, Campylobacter and Salmonella when manure is spread on the land, which is a common agricultural practice. At least that’s… Continue Reading

Small plus local doesn’t equal a free pass on food safety

FamilyFarmed-workshop-graphic

There’s a revolution going on in a grocery store near you. Fueled by consumer demand, it has been dubbed the “fresh revolution” by industry heavyweights such as the United Fresh Produce Association. It’s all about fresh produce — fruits and vegetables that nutritionists are praising as “healthy foods” and that shoppers are increasingly seeking out…. Continue Reading

Oyster research could lead to food safety strategies

Tiny bacteriophages attack larger microscopic organisms such as viruses.

Microbes battling microbes. This type of warfare is happening all around us — and even inside of us — every day. And as in every battle, there are good microbes and bad microbes, depending on what you want the outcome to be. In this case, the bad guys are pathogens that are infecting large numbers… Continue Reading

Food safety scientist unravels questions about food safety act

Skagit-Ag-Summit

Are you in or are you out? That was one of the first questions Don Stoeckel, a food-safety scientist with Cornell University, posed to the farmers and processors attending his presentation on the federal Food Safety Modernization Act  during the Ag Summit in Skagit County, WA, on March 3 and 4. It was a question… Continue Reading

Patchwork of state regs on raw milk blankets the country

raw milk for sale sign

There’s more than one way to skin a cat. That’s especially true when looking at how states are tangling with the dilemma of how to regulate the sale of raw milk. Even though federal law requires any milk that’s sold across state lines to be pasteurized and prohibits the sale of raw milk across state… Continue Reading

Raw milk’s ‘explosive growth’ comes with costs to the state

406x250Raw-Milk1

“Explosive growth.” That’s how Washington state’s Agriculture Department describes what’s been happening in the raw-milk industry in the past 10 years. The numbers say it all. There were only six raw-milk dairies in the state in 2006. There are now 39 — more than double the number in 2013 when there were 18. All are… Continue Reading

New dietary guidelines show potential conflict between safe and healthy

dietary-guidelines-2015-2020

Time was that food and medicine were two different things. Food was for eating and medicine was for curing diseases. It was as simple as that. Take a look at the recently released 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and you’ll see that things have changed. Food is now viewed as a form of preventive medicine… Continue Reading

Sesame Gains Traction in Push for Food-Labeling Requirements

Sesame seeds and sesame oil

For the estimated 300,000 to 500,000 people in the United States who are allergic to sesame, the recently introduced Food Labeling Modernization Act of 2015 comes as good news. Included in the act’s provisions, which primarily seek to give consumers easy-to-understand labels on food so they can make healthy choices, is Section 8, which would require… Continue Reading

Managing ‘Black Gold’: Animal Manure and Antibiotic Resistance

Compost turner used for windrow churning. To avoid across contamination, compost turner was thoroughly washed by farm workers in between study treatments.

Many farmers refer to manure as “black gold” and rightly so because it adds nutrients to the soil, which helps crops grow and be more productive. In earlier times, before the advent of synthetic fertilizers, crop farmers would often buy a cow solely for the manure it would produce and use the manure for fertilizer…. Continue Reading