Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
University of California
Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Three long-time UC ANR academics in Tulare County retire in 2015

Left to right, Jim Sullins, Cathi Lamp and Neil O'Connell.
Three members of the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) academic staff in Tulare County, with a combined 90 years of experience, are retiring in 2015. UC ANR Cooperative Extension is the local arm of UC ANR, conducting research and education programs in Tulare County for agricultural production, home gardening (UC Master Gardeners), youth development (4-H) and public health and nutrition.

Retiring this year will be:

Jim Sullins, director of UC ANR Cooperative Extension in Tulare and Kings counties and livestock range, and natural resources advisor, retires after 32 years of service. Sullins began his UC ANR career in Southern California, serving as livestock and range advisor for San Bernardino, Riverside, Los Angeles and Orange counties.

Early in his career, Sullins' work in rangeland management focused on applying scientific principles to the relationship of livestock grazing and implementation of the Endangered Species Act.

In July 1993, Sullins took the position of UC ANR CE director and livestock, range and natural resources advisor in Tulare County. In the advisor aspect of this role, he concentrated on watershed management and control of invasive species.

“I am proud to say we have been responsible for the untimely demise of many yellow starthistle plants,” Sullins said.

A significant moment in his career was prompted by the devastating citrus freeze of 1998. UC ANR CE stepped forward – as it did following after the previous “100-year freeze” of 1990 – to aid the community after thousands of acres of citrus were damaged and thousands of workers lost their jobs. Sullins co-chaired the community Freeze Relief Committee and the Fund Raising Committee, working with numerous nonprofits and establishing partnerships that have endured for years, enabling collaboration on additional projects.

Another major event during Sullins' tenure was development in 2001 of a new agricultural complex for UC ANR Cooperative Extension and the Tulare County Department of Agriculture. Sullins worked with the Tulare County Board of Supervisors, the Tulare County Agricultural Commissioner and industry support groups to build a modern and highly visible facility across Laspina Street from the World Ag Expo grounds in Tulare County.

Three years ago, Sullins also took the reins of UC ANR Cooperative Extension in Kings County.

“I believe that Cooperative Extension is the very best organization of its kind on earth,” Sullins said. “I have worked with committed and highly trained professionals who make a difference in the lives and livelihoods of the people they serve.”

In retirement, Sullins said he and his wife will ride California's highways and byways on his Harley motorcycle – a hobby he recently revived after a 30-year hiatus. He also plans to write some opinion pieces and look into editing and publishing two books written by his late mother. Retirement will also give him more time to spend with his grandchildren and following baseball. Sullins will stay active in the community as a volunteer with the World Ag Expo, working with the Happy Trails Therapeutic Riding Academy, and as president of the County Center Rotary Club in Visalia.

Cathi Lamp – nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor – is completing a 27-year career with UC ANR Cooperative Extension. Lamp joined the organization after working for 10 years in the Tulare County Department of Health as a public health nutritionist.

She said the position appealed to her because it involved both research and community nutrition. Her work on a “nutrition plate” project exemplified the ability she had to identify a need in the community, find a solution, research its effectiveness and see the results benefit society.

“Years ago, the educators I worked with were telling me that people didn't understand the abstract nature of nutrition guidance in pyramid form,” Lamp said. “We started using a plate as a nutrition education tool in Tulare County.”

This led to a statewide research project to evaluate the use of the plate showing the proportions of foods needed to achieve a healthy diet in nutrition education. Lamp and her colleagues took the project a step further and photographed plates of familiar foods in proper proportions to demonstrate the concept. The pictures were evaluated by low-income families and many changes were made based on their feedback. The photographs are now incorporated into posters, handouts, and other teaching aids and are used in conjunction with nearly all UC ANR nutrition curricula for youth and adults. A UC ANR nutrition specialist asked if she could share the work conducted in California with USDA.

“She thinks that our project was instrumental in the eventual adoption of MyPlate to replace MyPyramid by USDA,” Lamp said. “We saw a local need, worked on it, did a study and developed it further, and had a considerable impact on providing clear nutrition education.”

In retirement, Lamp plans on traveling extensively, with places in Europe, Asia and Australia on her list of international destinations, plus sites in the U.S., including Savannah, Charleston, Austin and many national parks. She is interested in training from the Society for California Archaeology that will allow her to visit and record changes at archaeological and historical sites in the state.

Neil O'Connell, UC ANR Cooperative Extension citrus advisor, retired after 34 years serving Tulare County citrus producers. O'Connell studied entomology in college and took a position with Sunkist Growers, Inc. and then a packing association affiliated with Sunkist in Visalia. When he learned the local citrus advisor, John Pierson, was moving to a specialist position at the UC ANR Lindcove Research and Extension Center, he applied for the extension job.

O'Connell developed a strong relationship with citrus farmers and pest control advisers working in the citrus industry.

“They trusted my judgement and experience,” O'Connell said. “My interaction with growers was always pleasant and they were very appreciative of my efforts to help them solve problems.”

He views the current battle to control Asian citrus psyllid and the pest's ability to spread huanglongbing, a devastating citrus disease not yet found in California, as the biggest challenge to citrus producers since he became involved with the citrus industry four decades ago.

“Asian citrus psyllid and huanglongbing have stimulated a tremendous amount of research work in Florida and at the University of California,” O'Connell said, adding that he believes in the resiliency of California growers to overcome the challenge with the help of world-class University of California researchers.

O'Connell and his wife wish to travel in retirement, including trips to Alaska and Pacific Northwest among the first.

Posted on Tuesday, May 19, 2015 at 8:41 AM

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