Farmers work long hours under the open sky, struggling to finish each day's planting, cultivating, pruning or picking before the sun sets. It's hard sometimes to imagine, while engaged in this day-to-day pressure, but city people often welcome the chance to pay for an hour or two on that farm, especially if they can pick their own fresh fruit or vegetables. For many urban people, just getting out of town to a farm is a delicious pleasure.
UC SAREP), a statewide program of UC ANR, has just published online a useful guide for farmers considering starting a U-Pick operation on a California farm. Planning a U-Pick Operation on Your California Farm can be downloaded free. The guide is part of a larger project, funded by the USDA's Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE), called "Growing California Agritourism Communities."
U-Pick farming has a long tradition. Fifty years ago it was common for families to spend an afternoon picking bushels of produce to take home for canning or drying or storing for use in the winter. As more women joined the workforce full-time, the practice of preserving food became less common and U-Pick farms shifted their focus.
Visiting a farm became an enjoyable family experience, designed to build lasting memories, often with an underlying goal for farm visitors of teaching children where their food comes from. With the current popularity of local food and culinary adventures, U-Pick farming operations are growing in popularity and attracting new customers.
However, U-Pick farming comes with risks. Customers need welcoming and caring for, and they tend to break branches, wander where they are asked not to, and not show up when the weather is bad, even if the crops are ripe and ready. Farmers considering a U-Pick operation need to understand their liability and food safety responsibilities, budget and set prices carefully, and train staff in customer service skills.
UC SAREP staff developed the guide with the help of several California U-Pick farm operators who were willing to share their experience and advice with other farmers. The guide also includes advice provided by farmers and Extension educators from other states. Topics include:
- Crop Diversity and Packaging
- Location and Layout
- Communications and Promotion
- Permitting and regulatory compliance
- Financial Planning and Budgeting
- Staffing considerations
- Food safety & Risk Management
- Complementary products & attractions
After careful consideration, farmers may decide that a U-Pick operation is not for them, or they may decide to move forward with building lifelong connections with a community of grateful customers.
To find a farm to visit (including U-Pick farms) visit the UC Agritourism Directory and Calendar, www.calagtour.org.
Even after wildfires have burned homes and taken lives, communities allow for rebuilding in wildland-urban interface areas prone to such disasters, reported Alistair Bland in the East Bay Express.
Van Butsic, a UC Cooperative Extension specialist at UC Berkeley, has studied the alarming trend of building homes in known fire-risk areas.
"We studied 30 of the largest fires since 1970," he said.
On average, 20 years after an inhabited area burns, most of the destroyed homes are rebuilt and many new homes were added — about twice as many homes in total as there were at the time of the burn.
UCCE forestry and natural resources advisor Sabrina Drill said people seem to have short memories.
"I (would) think people might think twice about building a home where there had just been a fire, but people seem to forget after about three years," Drill said.
Drill, Van Bustic and other UC Agriculture and Natural Resources scientists were sources for the nearly 5,000-word East Bay Express story about the hazards to people and property in the wildland-urban interface and ways to manage the problem in a state where climate change appears to be making wildfires more frequent and intense.
The article said most fire experts and community leaders believe not enough is being done to prevent catastrophic blazes. They want more prescribed burning to reduce fuel loads, increased funding for firefighting and wildfire research, and stricter controls on development in wooded areas.
"But that's so politically contentious — it's a line politicians walk up to but turn away from," said William Stewart, a UCCE forestry specialist at UC Berkeley.
He said society tends to be concerned about wildfires during and immediately after high-profile catastrophic events. However, the attention is often short-lived and doesn't generate change before the next fire strikes.
"It's surprisingly hard to get investments in fire prevention strategies, even after the scale of the fires we just had," Stewart said.
Stewart believes California's government should support more research into fire-safe building patterns and more effective vegetation management. Perhaps most importantly of all, he said, Californians must turn wildfire history into a learning experience.
"If we don't make significant investments in new ways of managing vegetation and building these housing developments in the (wildland-urban interface)," Stewart said, "we're going to be on this hamster wheel forever."
The California Natural Resources Agency released California's Fourth Climate Change Assessment today (Monday, Aug. 27), at http://www.ClimateAssessment.ca.gov. UC Agriculture and Natural Resources scientists contributed substantially to the report.
The Fourth Assessment is broken down into nine technical reports on the following topics:
- Biodiversity and habitat
- Forests and wildlife
- Ocean and coast
- Projects, datasets and tools
- Public health
The technical reports were distilled into nine regional reports and three community reports that support climate action by providing an overview of climate-related risks and adaptation strategies tailored to specific regions and themes.
The regional reports cover:
- North Coast Region
- Sacramento Valley Region
- San Francisco Bay Area Region
- Sierra Nevada Region
- San Joaquin Valley Region
- Central Coast Region
- Los Angeles Region
- Inland South Region
- San Diego Region
The community reports focus on:
- The ocean and coast
- Tribal communities
- Climate justice
All research contributing to the Fourth Assessment was peer-reviewed.
UC Cooperative Extension ecosystem sciences specialist Ted Grantham – who works in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley – is the lead author of the 80-page North Coast Region Report. Among the public events surrounding the release of the Fourth Assessment is the California Adaptation Forum, Aug. 27-29 in Sacramento. For more information, see http://www.californiaadaptationforum.org/. Grantham is a speaker at the forum.
Other UC ANR authors of the North Coast Region Report are:
- Lenya Quinn-Davidson, UC Cooperative Extension area fire advisor for Humboldt, Siskiyou, Trinity and Mendocino counties
- Glenn McGourty, UC Cooperative Extension viticulture and plant science advisor in Mendocino and Lake counties
- Jeff Stackhouse, UC Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources advisor for Humboldt and Del Norte counties
- Yana Valachovic, UC Cooperative Extension forest advisor for Humboldt and Del Norte counties
UC Cooperative Extension fire specialist Max Moritz contributed to sections of the main report on Forest Health and Wildfire and to the San Francisco Bay Area Report.
UC ANR lead authors of technical reports were:
- Economic and Environmental Implications of California Crop and Livestock Adaptations to Climate Change, Daniel Sumner, director of UC ANR's Agricultural Issues Center
- Climate-wise Landscape Connectivity: Why, How and What Next, Adina Merenlander, UC Cooperative Extension specialist
- Visualizing Climate-Related Risks to the Natural Gas System Using Cal-Adapt, Maggi Kelly, UC Cooperative Extension specialist
Northern California cooks are encouraged to enter their best quinoa recipes in a contest next month co-sponsored by the UC Cooperative Extension Master Food Preservers Program, reported Heather Shelton in the Eureka Times-Standard.
"Quinoa is such an interesting food and there is quite a bit grown here in Humboldt," said Jennifer Bell, a UC Master Food Preserver who is working with UC Cooperative Extension and the North Coast Co-op to offer the contest.
People consume quinoa like a grain, though it isn't a true grain. It is a complete protein and considered a superfood.
Quinoa "is higher in protein than many grains and low in fat, it is relatively inexpensive, it is versatile in dishes, it is tasty, with a crunchy texture and a nutty flavor and it is gluten free," Bell said.
In the spirit of local food month, the judges encourage participants to include as many local ingredients as possible in their recipes, especially locally grown quinoa. The winners will be selected based on the percent quinoa in the recipe, taste, appearance, use of local ingredients and creativity.
The contest has five categories: appetizer, breakfast, salad, burger/meatball and dessert. Participants may enter once in each category.
Recipes for the Great Quinoa Recipe Contest must be submitted online by Sept. 10. Enough food for sampling by five judges should be dropped off between 1 and 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15., at the UC Cooperative Extension office, 5630 S. Broadway, Eureka. Winners in each category will receive a crown and a prize.
The public is welcome from 3 to 5 p.m. Sept. 15 to view a short film, watch a low-sugar jam demonstration using quinoa, taste quinoa and take part in a quinoa Q&A session.
Canoeing on a mountain lake, telling stories around a campfire, sleeping under the stars — it's the quintessential summer camp experience — and for thousands of California kids it's also their first introduction to UC's 4-H program.
And just like the popular program that teaches children to raise and care for animals, 4-H summer camp is as much about leadership training and science education as it is about making new friends and getting out in nature.
“So many of the kids live in the city and for a week they get to escape,” says Tiffany Marino, who joined the Monte Vista 4-H Club in Chino as an 8-year-old and has loved it ever since — especially summer weeks spent at Camp Seely near Lake Arrowhead, with the Los Angeles 4-H program.
The camp is set on a hill with cabins, a fire circle, a mess hall and lodge. There are volleyball and basketball courts, and a pool. “It's all surrounded by trees and greenery. It's so beautiful. It's this one week in summer where everything is OK,” Marino says.
Kids from all over Southern California come to this magical spot, making tight friendships and getting a breather from city life.
But the thing that really makes the camp special is not the setting, Marino said. It's that the teachers and counselors are themselves kids — high schoolers who spend months before camp working together to plan it out, developing educational programming and other fun activities for the week.
A growth experience for teens and campers alike
When summer comes, they put their plans into action, getting first-hand experience teaching classes, leading activities and ensuring that campers have a memorable time.
Adult volunteers keep an eye on things, but the teens themselves run the show, said UC Cooperative Extension's Keith Nathaniel, the Los Angeles county director & 4-H youth development advisor.
Along with archery, nature walks, swimming and other traditional camp activities, the teens hold science-based classes that challenge campers to work in teams to come up with solutions for things like how they would improvise a shelter to get out of bad weather.
“The teens come up with the activities,” says Nathaniel. “It's an applied experience where they get to use the leadership skills they've developed in a really meaningful way.”
Rose Clara and Connor Gusman, rising seniors at C.K. McClatchy High School in Sacramento, have both spent time as teen leaders with On the Wild Side, a 4-H camp that brings fourth through sixth graders from disadvantaged communities out for a weekend in the mountains near Nevada City.
The goal is to give campers a chance to explore and learn about the natural world in a way that is fun and builds confidence.
“The kids are so excited to be on a camp-out, but sometimes they are sort of scared too — for some of them, it's their first time away from home,” Clara said. “It's super cute to see how excited they are by everything. By the end of camp, they're hugging you and crying and they give you their name tag so you'll remember them.”
Clara helps her young campers quickly feel at home by playing an icebreaker, like the game where each person names a favorite thing — maybe a food or an animal — and everyone else who likes that same thing steps into the circle with them.
“It's a way to unite everyone,” Clara says.
‘You can inspire someone and cause a change'
Both she and Gusman discovered that they liked teaching and bonding with the kids so much that they went from being camp counselors to joining the program development committee, a team that chooses the curriculum and plans the whole camp.
Gusman even helped write a grant that secured $500 from the Sacramento Region Community Foundation to help off-set the cost of buses and meals for the campers.
“Most of the kids haven't been outside Sacramento. They haven't seen the stars or had a camp experience before,” Gusman said. “They always love the campfire and the songs.”
One of his biggest surprises was learning how much of an impact he could have as a teacher.
He used the small lake by the camp to show the kids how to assess water quality, including analyzing the prevalence of indicator species that can tell you if the water is clean and healthy.
“Going through the process of developing the lesson, I wasn't totally hooked until we were at camp. There was one really shy girl who on the first day said, ‘I don't like science.' Then at the end, she was like, ‘I really loved it and I'm going to take as many science classes as I can,'” Gusman said.
“I wasn't a pessimist before, but I also wasn't super positive that there was a magical moment when you could inspire someone and cause a change. The camp has shown me that you can do that. You can help other people grow to love science and the earth, and see them grow like that.”
Marianne Bird, the 4-H youth development advisor in Sacramento County who oversees 4-H On the Wild Side as part of her work with UC Cooperative Extension, said that teens are particularly effective as teachers.
“They have a rapport with the little kids that as adults we don't always have,” Bird said.
Both she and Nathaniel evaluate the camps once they end, and survey both participants and teen leaders about their experiences. The responses on both sides are overwhelmingly positive.
One of the questions they ask the teenage teachers is whether they feel that they've made a contribution to their community, Bird said.
“That's a big part of 4-H — citizenship. Not just voting, but being a part of your community and believing that you can make a difference on issues that are important to you.”
The proof comes in seeing how these young leaders grow and change from their experiences.
A lasting legacy
Rose Clara, for instance, knew she liked teaching before she started volunteering with 4-H, but the camp experience has given her a new passion for advocacy and political science. She has joined the California Association of Student Councils and used her newfound leadership skills to host a mental health awareness week at her school.
“I think that comes from 4-H — stepping up like that. I want to help people,” Clara said.
Marino, who as the youth director was in charge of the entire week at Camp Seely last year, says simply of 4-H:
“It has taught me so much and given me everything: leadership skills, people skills, role models.”
At 19, she has now reached that bittersweet moment where she has “aged out” of 4-H. But through its programs, she learned to raise and show animals, came to understand civics through trips to Sacramento, and developed her leadership skills and style.
A sophomore majoring in business at Cal Poly Pomona, 4-H has taught her that she can succeed.
“It's definitely given me lots of confidence and substance — I know that I am capable.”
This article courtesy of the UC Office of the President.
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