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

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UC recognizes outstanding Master Gardener projects with 'Search for Excellence' Awards

UCCE Master Gardener of Santa Clara County displays their recent harvest from their demonstration garden at St. Louise Hospital in Gilroy.
UC Master Gardener programs in Riverside, Santa Clara, Orange and San Diego counties have won the program's Search for Excellence competition, announced Missy Gable, director of UC's statewide Master Gardener Program. The triennial Search for Excellence awards afford county programs the opportunity to share successful projects, including demonstration gardens, workshops, presentations or hands-on programs, community service, horticulture therapy, research or youth programs.

Educating the public was the focus of the Search for Excellence 2014 competition. The entries were judged by a team of experts selected from throughout the state.

"Congratulations to all the Master Gardeners involved in carrying out these innovative projects," Gable said. "This competition celebrates the hard work of dedicated UCCE Master Gardener volunteers across the state."

The Search for Excellence competition winners will be honored at the Master Gardeners Statewide Conference, Oct. 7-10 in Fish Camp, Calif. The next Search for Excellence competition will be in 2017.

The first place winners of the UC Master Gardeners triennial Search for Excellence Awards

First Place - Riverside County
“There's Gold in them thar hills!” Riverside County is a big county, stretching from the Los Angeles metro area to the Colorado River. The main challenge of the UCCE Master Gardener Program of Riverside County was how to better fulfill their mission of educating their community on sustainable gardening practices. The answer – “Gold Miners.” Riverside County was divided into nine geographic areas with a UCCE Master Gardener volunteer in each area actively pursuing volunteering opportunities for their peers. Since the program began in 2011, “Gold Miners” has increased the presence of UCCE Master Gardeners throughout the county, giving volunteers the opportunity to provide outreach closer to home, engage new members of the public and increase the number of certified UCCE Master Gardeners from all regions of the county.

Second Place - Santa Clara County
UCCE Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County developed a one-acre teaching and demonstration garden on the grounds of St. Louise Hospital in Gilroy. The demonstration garden was designed to create educational outreach opportunities in the far southern portion of the county. UCCE Master Gardener volunteers provide hands-on public workshops in the garden as well as classes in both the hospital boardroom and community libraries. The objectives of the St. Louise Hospital garden includes teaching residents about low-water vegetables, fruits, and ornamental plants well-suited to local growing conditions, and modeling sustainable gardening practices reflective of UC research-based horticultural principals.

Master Gardeners of Orange County received third place for their video series on composting.
Third Place - Orange County
Passionate volunteers from the UCCE Master Gardener Program of Orange County developed a series of 15 educational videos. Nine videos provide a comprehensive overview of the composting process and six videos concentrate on worm composting. Each series begins with an explanation of what composting is and shifts into how to start, maintain and troubleshoot a compost pile or worm bin. The videos are designed to instruct and encourage the gardening public to compost either at home or in community gardens. All of the educational videos were filmed and narrated by UCCE Master Gardeners. The videos are published on the UCCE Master Gardeners of Orange County public website.

First Runner-up - Orange County
Recognizing the need to reach a significantly larger number of home gardeners than demonstration booths and Farmers Market tables were engaging, the UCCE Master Gardeners of Orange County developed a speakers bureau. The criteria was simple: fulfill the mission of disseminating up-to-date, research-based information and to deliver "wow" presentations for the public. UCCE Master Gardeners created teaching plans, incorporating the statewide program mission and the ANR Strategic Vision to cover important topics such as gardening for improved nutrition and healthy living. Additionally, the UCCE Master Gardeners of Orange County engaged the help of Toastmasters International, an undisputed authority for training speakers.

Second Runner-up - San Diego County
UCCE Master Gardeners of San Diego County created a program called MG Growing Opportunities (MG-GO) which provides research-based horticulture education to teenage youth involved with the juvenile justice system. Under the guidance of UCCE Master Gardeners, incarcerated youth work along the MG-GO program and learn about eco-system friendly, sustainable gardening. In the process, the youth acquire vocational and life skills, such as teamwork, problem solving, self-esteem and leadership. The goals of MG-GO are to introduce sustainable gardening practices to an under-served population, highlight gardening as a healing endeavor, and develop a replicable model for statewide use.

About us
The UC Master Gardener Program provides the public with UC research-based information about home horticulture, sustainable landscaping, and pest management practices. It is administered by local UCCE county-based offices that are the principal outreach and public service arms of the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The UC Master Gardener Program is an example of an effective partnership between the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources and passionate volunteers. In exchange for training from University of California, UCCE Master Gardener volunteers engage the public with timely gardening-related trainings and workshops. With programs based in 50 California counties and 6,048 active members, UCCE Master Gardener volunteers donated 385,260 hours last year and have donated more than 4.2 million hours since the program inception in 1981.

Posted on Tuesday, September 16, 2014 at 3:01 PM

Fruit and Nut Center at UC Davis offers three-day course in pistachio production

The UC Fruit and Nut Research and Information Center and UC Cooperative Extension offer a three-day course in pistachio production.
The latest advances in pistachio production will take center stage in November at a three-day extension course in Visalia, offered by the Fruit and Nut Research and Information Center at UC Davis and University of California Cooperative Extension. The course, Advances in Pistachio Production, will be held Nov. 18-20 at the Visalia Convention Center.

“This course sets the standard for UC pomology extension courses with a wide array of farm advisor, specialist, and faculty instructors representing decades of experience in California pistachio production,” said Louise Ferguson, UCCE specialist with the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences. “Topics span the full range of pistachio production including tree biology, orchard establishment, pruning, irrigation, nutrition, pest management, harvest and postharvest.”

In addition to the essentials of California pistachio production, the course will feature new lectures on hot topics, including:

  • You know that feeling of walking into an orchard and realizing something is wrong? Farm advisors will help growers figure out what's wrong and how to fix it, outlining the diagnostic process they use to determine the cause of poor production or tree health.

  • Although pistachio is more tolerant of salinity than most tree crops, excess salinity does affect pistachio tree biology and production. Combing pistachio biology with data from ongoing research projects, experts will provide the latest production recommendations for irrigation under saline conditions.

  • The success of a pistachio orchard in California is ultimately determined by international markets and exports, even if all other aspects of production are optimal. Course participants will receive a current analysis of international markets and look into the future for pistachio production.

  • Grade sheets are an important tool to measure yield and understand potential problems in an orchard. Experts will detail the components of grade sheets to connect this important postharvest tool to future orchard management decisions.

Participants will receive a bound copy of all lecture slides, the recently published Nutrient Deficiency in Pistachio booklet, and exclusive electronic resources.

Registration is available at the following link:


Or, visit the Fruit and Nut Research and Information Center website, fruitsandnuts.ucdavis.edu, for more information.

Media contact:

Posted on Friday, September 12, 2014 at 12:56 PM

New California farm trails: Hidden farms now accessible to public

A family enjoys picking vegetables on a farm in the Capay Valley.
With the help of the University of California's Small Farm Program, three agritourism groups have released farm trail maps, directing the public to previously unknown gems from the Sacramento River Delta, Capay Valley and North Yuba regions, allowing easy access to farm tours, wineries, u-pick and festivals. Each map gives more reasons to see and taste the bounty of California.

The maps and updated websites suggest driving seasonal tours through olive ranches, vineyards, stone-fruit orchards, farm stands and farms. The Sacramento Delta region drive takes visitors along raised levees in a maze of waterways. Capay Valley boasts a long stretch of scenic beauty between two mountain ranges where pioneering organic farms hold yearly festivals. The North Yuba region, mountainous and seemingly remote, directs visitors from wineries to olive ranches and production facilities to a historic barn, while offering lakes and camping options.

Financed through a California Department of Food and Agriculture grant awarded to the UC Small Farm Program to enhance rural tourism and promote specialty crops, the three agritourism groups were given help creating maps, updating their websites, promoting an event and learning how to sustain their groups.

“Sometimes the best way to appreciate how lucky we are to live in California is to see and taste what our amazing farmers are growing,” Penny Leff, Small Farm Program agritourism coordinator says. “And it's a great way to see California,” she adds.

Though California produces nearly half of U.S.-grown fruits, nuts and vegetables, the public rarely gets to meet the farmers and view their operations. Discovering California through farms and off the usual destination track is an opportunity for short-distance day trips or weekend getaways. Events such as Open Farm Day in Capay Valley on October 5, August Passport Weekend in the Delta and May Tractor Day in North Yuba offer great food and family participation.

Editors: Full release and photos, click this link:

The University of California Small Farm Program focuses on the challenges and opportunities of California's small-scale farm operators. The three new farm trail maps are part of a project funded by a California Department of Food and Agriculture's Specialty Crop Block grant, and managed by the UC Small Farm Program.

Agritourism Groups
North Yuba Grown
Capay Valley Grown
Sacramento River Delta Grown Agritourism Association

Posted on Monday, September 8, 2014 at 1:37 PM
Tags: agritourism (4)

UCCE to host ‘insectival’ Sept. 13 in Half Moon Bay

Insects could provide the protein on MyPlate. InsectBlitz attendees can sample edible insects.
Picture the USDA MyPlate, then replace the protein food group with insects. Eating insects is one of the activities UC Cooperative Extension will serve up at its InsectBlitz at UC Elkus Ranch in Half Moon Bay on Sept. 13.

Community members are invited to come out, collect and count insects at the “insectival,” UC Cooperative Extension's insect-themed festival to celebrate its 100-year anniversary.

“UC Cooperative Extension is all about science and service,” said Virginia Bolshakova, director for UCCE in San Mateo and San Francisco counties. “People will be doing a service by collecting and contributing their insect counts to science and we will have entomologists (scientists who study insects) on hand to identify the species.”

The insect data will be used for a study on the biodiversity of insects in the area. “Knowing what is on the landscape will help us to properly manage the land and livestock, identify invasive and beneficial insects and create an online, open access database that will be available to the public through UC Berkeley 's Essig Museum of Entomology Collections,” said Bolshakova, who is also a 4-H youth development advisor who specializes in insect ecology.

Participants may upload images from the day on the California Academy of Science's iNaturalist app.

“We have a lot of exciting activities planned for the insectival,” said Bolshakova, including entomophagy, or eating bugs.

In some parts of the world, edible insects such as grasshoppers, ants and larvae are a protein source and an option for feeding the growing population.

“We will be offering food tastings of plain toasted crickets, spicy superworms and chile-lime crickets,” said Mary Vollinger, UC Cooperative Extension nutrition program manager.

Community members are invited to come out, collect and count insects at the “insectival” at scenic Elkus Ranch.
Other hands-on experiences include repurposing junk-drawer items to craft robot bugs and bug ornaments and visiting the farm animals (chickens, goats, sheep, donkeys, rabbits, pigs, horses) at Elkus Ranch.

UC Cooperative Extension advisors Igor Lacan and Andrew Sutherland will show how to collect and curate insects. Other talks include insect evolution, biodiversity, biocontrol and insect architecture that inspires human designs.

Video presentations will feature San Mateo and San Francisco agriculture, including the San Francisco Flower Market and innovative rural/urban ag direct markets, and Cooperative Extension's role in that rich history.

Long-time UC Cooperative Extension county director and advisor emeritus Hank Sciaroni, who began his career after returning from WWII, will be honored during the centennial ceremony.

Admission is free to UCCE San Mateo-San Francisco's Centennial Event and InsectBlitz from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sept. 13 at UC Elkus Ranch, 1500 Purisima Creek Road in Half Moon Bay. To register or to get more information, visit http://cesanmateo.ucanr.edu/Centennial.

Posted on Saturday, September 6, 2014 at 9:29 AM

UCCE harvest festival Sept. 20 in Oakland

Alameda County gardeners are invited to enter the Veggie Produce Contest.
Long before people began virtual farming in Farmville, real farmers were raising crops and livestock in the Bay Area with the guidance of UC Cooperative Extension.

If you grow food or just eat food, come out to the First Annual Fall Harvest Festival on Saturday, Sept. 20, to celebrate 100 years of UC Cooperative Extension in Alameda County. The free event will be held 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Fruitvale Village at the Fruitvale BART Station in Oakland. There will be fun activities for the whole family.

Did you grow more zucchinis than you can eat? Exchange them with other gardeners at the Crop Swap.

Are you growing a prize-worthy piece of produce in your backyard or community garden? Enter your tomato, squash or other vegetable in the Veggie Produce Contest. The Bountiful Basket Contest will judge creativity and imaginative use of five or more different home-grown vegetables in baskets. In the Creepy Critters Contest, children ages 12 and under will create creatures out of seasonal vegetables. To compete in the contests, please pre-register at http://cealameda.ucanr.edu/100years/Veggie_Contest.

Other activities include healthy food demonstrations and an urban farming puppet show/rap skit for kids. 

This year, the University of California is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Cooperative Extension statewide, and Alameda was one of the first counties in the state to have Cooperative Extension!

“For the past century, UC Cooperative Extension specialists and advisors have been educating Californians in their communities, at their places of work, and even sometimes at their own homes,” said Barbara Allen-Diaz, UC vice president for Agriculture and Natural Resources. “UC Cooperative Extension's network of researchers and educators continues to work with Californians to address local issues and use science to solve community problems.” UCCE researchers and educators live and work in each county so they can understand and help address local economic, agricultural, environmental, youth development and nutrition issues.

Today, California produces about 400 agricultural commodities valued altogether at roughly $44 billion annually, thanks in part to technical assistance from UCCE, but there's much more to Cooperative Extension. You may be familiar with other faces of UC Cooperative Extension, such as 4-H youth clubs, local nutrition educators, or Master Gardeners who share advice on growing food and safely managing pests.

For more information about the UC Cooperative Extension-Alameda County Harvest Festival and Centennial Celebration, visit http://cealameda.ucanr.edu/100years. To pre-register for the vegetable produce contest or to ask questions, call (510) 567-6812 (English), (510) 639-1339 (English/Spanish) or (510) 777-2482 (español).

Posted on Wednesday, September 3, 2014 at 4:27 PM
Tags: Alameda (1), garden (2), vegetables (1)

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