Benton, Spokane growers join WAWG state board 

Two new growers, representing Benton and Spokane counties, have joined the Washington Association of Wheat Growers (WAWG) state board.

Markus Smith, Benton County

Smith lives in Prosser with his wife, Kayla, and their nine-month old daughter, Adeline.

“I’ve always been interested in representing the wheat industry. I grew up reading Wheat Life. With the total population of farmers dwindling, it seemed like it was my turn to step up and do something,” Smith explained when asked why he decided to join WAWG’s board. 

Smith is the 4th generation born and raised on his family’s wheat farm in the Horse Heaven Hills, but after attending Walla Walla Community College, he realized the family’s farm wasn’t big enough to support him. Instead, he headed to North Dakota.     

“My parents said ‘find a job.’ I could have stayed local, but I knew I wanted to get out of Washington,” he said. Using a job site specifically for ag and forestry, he applied to a number of jobs west of the Mississippi River, eventually taking the job on a North Dakota farm, which also sold chemicals and seeds to local farmers. He went from an area that gets 6 to 8 inches of moisture to an area that averages more than 20 inches. During the winter months, Smith worked in the seed plant, cleaning wheat, barley, soybeans, and peas. “It was a great experience, and I got experience working with every side of agronomy.”

Smith stayed in North Dakota for seven years before getting the chance to return to Prosser in 2020 when he was able to acquire enough land to begin farming. The Smiths grow dryland wheat.

Laurie Roecks, Spokane County

Roecks and her husband, Scott, farm in the Plaza/Spangle area. They started farming in 1998, picking up ground from a retiring farmer. By 2005, they had taken over Roecks’ family farm after Scott’s uncle and then father retired. They grow dryland wheat, barley, peas, lentils, and garbanzo beans, along with raising a few cows and hay. They’ve switched much of their ground to no-till methods. WAWG is not the first organization Roecks has volunteered at. She has sat on the Pacific Northwest Farmers Cooperative board and is on the Farm Service Agency’s Spokane County committee.

“I’ve also been involved in the Junior Livestock Show of Spokane for the past 20-plus years,” she explained. “Getting people to understand agriculture, that we are not trying to kill them, is super important. I just think we need to educate the public and the youth on the ag industry.”

Roecks attended her first WAWG state board meeting in February and said she hadn’t fully appreciated what WAWG did and how the organization addressed grower issues and priorities. She is excited to get more involved and get others more involved. The Roecks have two grown daughters — and five grandkids — who help out on the farm when needed