Anna King

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.

The South Sound was her girlhood backyard and she knows its rocky beaches, mountain trails and cities well. She left the west side to attend Washington State University and went abroad to study language and culture in Italy.

While not on the job, Anna enjoys trail running, clam digging, hiking and wine tasting with friends. She's most at peace on top a Northwest mountain with her husband Andy Plymale and their muddy Aussie-dog Poa.

In 2016 Washington State University named Anna Woman of the Year, and the Society of Professional Journalists Western Washington Pro Chapter named her Journalist of the Year. Her many journalism awards include two Gracies, a Sigma Delta Chi medal and the David Douglas Award from the Washington State Historical Society.

Correction, Sept. 18, 2020: A word to describe the amount of apples brought by Gov. Jay Inslee has been changed in this story to better reflect the amount of apples. The word "box" is now used instead of "bin." A "bin" of apples is a more technical industry term that is much larger than the actual number of apples in question.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s well-intentioned gesture of western Washington apples sent a detective hunting down the fruit in three counties this week.

With at least two dozen Oregon dairies threatened by raging wildfires, farmers are grappling with the delicate task of moving them to safer ground — or staying put.  

Willamette Valley dairyman Brandon Hazenberg of St. Paul, Oregon, has been hauling feed and bedding, and offering up his dairy as a landing pad for those in need. 

The federal government has designated the Royal Slope as Washington state’s newest American Viticultural Area, or AVA.

To qualify as an AVA, a wine grape-growing region must set itself apart with climate, soil, elevation and physical features. A new one doesn’t come around very often.

A lot of freshly harvested wheat bound for Portland, Oregon, could stack up on the Columbia River system soon because an old guy wire has snapped on the Snake River’s Lower Monumental Dam.  

Many Northwest wine tastings for groups are done over Zoom nowadays. 

Here at Fidélitas in southeast Washington, winemaker and owner Charlie Hoppes explains some of his favorite flavors in a video for wine club members with his son: 

“We always seem to get that little bit of dustiness in this wine, that we talk about from Red Mountain,” Hoppes says.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The story below includes a description and image of dead cattle that some people may find disturbing

Two more cattle have been mysteriously killed in rural eastern Oregon. 

A black-coated cow was found dead in July outside of Fossil, found sitting with her legs tucked under her body with her head off the ground. Pictures show her eyes bulging out with flies around the body. The cow’s tongue and genitals were removed. 

NOTE: Anna King is based in Washington’s Tri-Cities. On Wednesday morning, June 3, she felt fine. Then, fever came on like a train — 104 degrees. She feared she had COVID-19. Early that Saturday, she headed to the emergency room. Here’s part of Anna’s seven-week diary. Listen to it above.

Body aches, nausea. Things are a blur. It’s hard to breathe. It’s hard to think. 

When Marcus Aaron Luke runs fast, everything feels slow. 

“You feel every small step,” he says. “You feel every small detail.”

But in the pandemic year of 2020, he’s missed a lot of important details of his last year of high school.

Luke was a leader on his varsity track team, and also as a senior at Pendleton High School in northeastern Oregon. He missed his much-anticipated senior track season. Now bigger and stronger, he was ready to push his times down even more. 

He’s missed more than two months of classes.  

Just as a farmer’s fruit should be turning juicy and sweet, an old foe called “little cherry disease” robs the harvest. 

From The Dalles, Oregon to Brewster, Washington, Northwest cherry growers are checking their orchards now, just before harvest. Infected trees have to be cut down. And the disease can spread like wildfire from tree to tree until an entire orchard is just stumps. 

Small, pale, bland and bitter

Mother’s Day at Palouse Falls State Park in southeastern Washington looked like a scene out of the movie Mad Max

Massive RVs sped down the gravel washboard of Palouse Falls Road. They kicked up drifts of dust. In all, Palouse Falls, with its modest parking lot and viewing area saw hundreds and hundreds of visitors last Saturday and Sunday. 

With spring warming up, Northwest asparagus spears have started to breach the sandy earth at a swift clip.

For the last decade, the Northwest asparagus industry has been challenged by lower-cost imports, labor shortages and increased farming costs. But this year, the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the foreign asparagus supply,  increasing sales for the Northwest’s crop. 

It really frustrates Mark Anderson when he sends a truck to a Northwest port hauling a container of alfalfa or timothy hay and the truck rolls back without an empty shipping container to refill.

Anderson’s hay feeds everything from bunnies to camels to top race horses in 30 different countries.

He puts his compressed hay in containers to protect it. Once at port, the containers are loaded on and off container ships like large blocks of colorful legos. 

Updated April 30, 2020, 10:40 p.m. PT:

Blaine Vandehey spends his summers rappelling from helicopters into active wildfires. 

This is his 12th year in the U.S. Forest Service. And he’s worried about going to fire camp this summer with the menace of COVID-19.

Cattle brandings in the Northwest are usually dusty group affairs. 

Cowboys yell and call to each other. Horses work into a hot lather, helping their riders chase and rope the calves. Nervous mother cows bawl to try and find their babes. A smoky fire heats the irons. Children clad in Carhartt coats and cowboy hats watch from nearby pickups. You have to stay alert to not be trampled by horses or cloven hooves.

In recent weeks, Armand Minthorn led two traditional Washut religious services for elders at the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation longhouse. Washut is the traditional religion of many Northwest Native Americans.

But now, everything is different.

“We’re all in a sense warriors,” Minthorn says. “We’re at war. There’s people — sad to say — there’s people dying all around us.”

The coronavirus pandemic continues to make its presence known in all facets of daily life, including agriculture. That extends to some supply and demand economics lessons for Northwest apple and potato growers.

Potato Cuts  

Some of the largest potato processors in the world are dramatically cutting back their contracted acres with farmers this spring. 

That’s largely because the global pandemic has closed restaurants, and therefore demand for frozen french fries. 

It’s springtime in the Northwest: birds sing, emerald shoots are pushing up from the earth and the irrigation sprinklers tick, tick like clocks — same as always. 

But so much else has changed. 

Still, spring work starts up, ready or not. And Northwest growers are scrambling to figure out how to work around the global coronavirus pandemic and still bring in the coming harvest. 

Farmers wonder: Can they get it done safely?

First Up: Asparagus

Kenichi Wiegardt can really shuck oysters. His hands work at a dizzying pace opening the shells, a rhythmic thump, thump, crack, slice. Then oyster meat blurps into a strainer over and over.

Wiegardt, a fifth-generation oysterman, makes his living in the mud of Willapa Bay on Washington's coast.

"This time of year we should be shucking 40 to 45 hours a week, and we're down to 15 to 18 hours," Wiegardt says.

Kenichi Wiegardt can really shuck oysters. His hands work at a dizzying pace opening the shells, a rhythmic thump, thump, crack, slice. Then oyster meat blurps into a colander over and over.

Wiegardt, a fifth-generation oysterman, makes his living in the mud of Willapa Bay on Washington’s coast. 

“This time of year we should be shucking 40 to 45 hours a week, and we’re down to 15 to 18 hours,” Wiegardt says. 

Flood waters in southeastern Washington and northeastern Oregon are starting to recede. But this relatively good news follows days of bad news and inundated towns – along with collapsed bridges, dozens of helicopter rescues and washed-out roads.

It’s all caused by recent heavy rainfall and fast-melting snow.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has issued an emergency proclamation for 20 counties as major flooding inundated Washington and Oregon.

The original proclamation of 19 counties in western Washington was updated Wednesday to include Walla Walla County in southeastern Washington.

The large plant that produced two-thirds of the United States’ Cold War-era plutonium no longer exists. 

Crews at the Hanford site recently finished demolishing the tricky Plutonium Finishing Plant’s main processing facility in southeastern Washington. 

But the demolition gave contractors some real trouble.

NOTE: This story includes images and descriptions of dead cows and their mutilation that readers may find disturbing.

Rancher Stephen Roth is rattled by the recent slaying of one of his cows near Hampton, Oregon.

There's probably more written on how to kill a bigleaf maple tree than how to grow one, according to Neil McLeod of Neil's Bigleaf Maple Syrup, a farm in the tiny northwestern Washington burg of Acme.

"It's hard to kill," McLeod says with a wry smile. "A great tree. Perfect weed. It makes good syrup."

Fujis and Pink Ladies are some of the most valuable and last to ripen apple varieties in the Northwest. 

And this winter there are huge swaths of them left unpicked in orchards east of the Cascades. 

The trees’ leaves have dropped, and now with a blanket of snow the tracts of unpicked acres glow red even from miles away. The left-behind fruit has many speculating: Trump’s tariffs? Unripe? Bugs? Foul weather? 

The Washington Department of Ecology has issued a more than $1 million penalty to the U.S. Department of Energy for withholding important information at the Hanford cleanup site.

Ecology leaders say without access to this data, they can’t effectively protect the land, air and water for residents in eastern Washington and surrounding communities. They say they’ve attempted to negotiate this issue with federal Energy managers for years.

A blazing haystack puts out a ton of heat and light, and smells like a big cigar. 

Early Saturday morning, Nov. 30, in Washington's Tri-Cities region, a haystack was set alight north of Pasco in Franklin County. The fire was called in by an air traffic controller at the Tri-Cities airport in Pasco who could see it from miles away.

Outside Palouse, Washington, it’s mid-autumn and Chad Redman’s combine tractor keeps jamming with rocks it picks up in the field. 

Chad and his father, Jim, tug and ratchet at the combine. But nothing dislodges these rocks from the cutting header. 

“So we’ll have to go back to the pickup,” Jim Redman grumbles.

Racing The Rain

They’re racing the rain, and Chad says they just don’t need an extra challenge.

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