FARMERS Washington agriculture is a $46 billion industry and a giant on the world stage. Ocean-going vessels haul agricultural products through the state’s deep ports, among the largest in North America, and a gateway to the Pacific Rim.

The Evergreen State, where Mount Rainier reigns as king and volcanic ash fills the soil, is home to some of the finest growing regions on earth. Throughout history, growers have survived the whims of Mother Nature, low prices and uneasy markets to keep Washington a leading U.S. exporter. Consumers are biting into the Red Delicious in Siberia, sipping a Washington merlot in New Delhi and fueling up on Washington grains in Japan.

  • Washington-grown crops—like wheat, apples and potatoes—ship to key markets in Asia and Canada.
  • Washington is growing its trade with India, home to 1.2 billion people and the largest middle class on the planet.
  • Our emerging wine industry now exports to more than 40 countries. The number of Washington wineries has more than doubled since 2005.
  • The state exports as much as 90 percent of its wheat.
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Starting in 1911, Washington established 11 deep-draft ports, building its presence abroad. The state exported approximately $75 billion in goods in 2012, more than twice the national average. Forty percent of all jobs in Washington are connected to the trade industry. Per capita, Washington is still the most trade-dependent state. Courtesy Kyle Stubbs


“I believe that in every strike we gained something. Above all, workers gain some respect from their employers. Unfortunately employers still have not learned to listen to their workers concerns and … fear that if workers unionize they will lose control, rather than seeing it as a benefit to both employers and employees alike.”
-Tomas Villanueva, Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project

The state depends on the grueling work of foreign labor to export apples, a top crop. At peak harvest, 150,000 on-thefarm workers scale tall ladders and haul heavy fruit. Many come from Mexico. Their history here is long and complex, influenced by controversial immigration laws, difficult working conditions and labor shortages that can throw the entire industry into a lurch. “Without migrant workers, we wouldn’t have an industry,” said a spokesperson for the Washington Apple Commission.

History is filled with stories of the Mexican-born Tomas Villanueva. Inspired by his personal journey and by labor leader Cesar Chavez, Villanueva gave up his life to the rights and benefits of the agricultural labor force.