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

UC blogs

How will you celebrate World Food Day?

Each year on Oct. 16, the world takes a moment to raise global awareness of agriculture, hunger, and food issues. World Food Day officially marks the anniversary of the creation of the UN's Food Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 1945, and nowadays it aligns with other global events such as this week's World Food Prize activities in Iowa.

Food and agriculture are central to what UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) professionals deal with every day. We're elbows-deep in solving specific problems like pest identification, childhood nutrition in schools, drought-tolerant plant breeding and spreading sustainable agricultural practices.

Britta Hansen and Elise Brockett plant okra and other vegetables at the Horticulture Innovation Lab Demonstration Center, in advance of its grand opening on World Food Day.

World Food Day is a day for all of us to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Here are some ways that UC ANR faculty are raising awareness on World Food Day this year. How will you join them?

If you're near UC Davis, two free events invite the public to mark World Food Day:

America's Farm-to-Fork Capital Speakers Series offers participants lunch and an in-depth discussion of the connections between soil health, farm health, healthy foods, and the gut microbiome. These themes are particularly pertinent this World Food Day, as it is also the International Year of Soils. Author Daphne Miller will speak about her book "Farmacology" and then join a panel of academics from UC ANR's Agricultural Experiment Station, specifically Kate Scow and Bruce German, moderated by Tom Tomich. The event will be 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., Friday, at the Buehler Alumni Center on the UC Davis campus. Event details and registration

The Grand Opening of the Horticulture Innovation Lab Demonstration Center will send participants home with a souvenir vegetable seedling and a closer look at some of the technologies and crops that UC academics work with in developing countries. UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist and pomologist Elizabeth Mitcham is also the director of the Horticulture Innovation Lab and will be joined by Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA), UC Davis CA&ES Dean Helene Dillard, and others to discuss the work that UC Davis and its international partners do to help small-scale farmers in developing countries. This event is particularly pertinent as this year's theme for World Food Day focuses on how agriculture can break the cycle of rural poverty. The event will be at 2 – 3:30 p.m., Friday, on Solano Field, near Nelson Hall on the UC Davis campus. Event details and information about the new demonstration center

Online this week, you can hear UC ANR academics Dan Sumner and Christine Stewart speaking on a panel at the World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue, broadcast online via a live stream. They will be speaking 1:30 p.m. PDT, Wednesday, on a panel with UC Davis' Roger Beachy about the UC Davis World Food Center, “Launching a New Initiative - Food for a Healthy World.”

More information about World Food Day can also be found on the FAO website or by browsing #WFD2015 in social media.

Author: Brenda Dawson

Posted on Tuesday, October 13, 2015 at 2:07 PM

Antibiotic drug use in food animals focus of October workshop

Cows feed at a California dairy. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
New guidelines being implemented by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration – effective Jan. 1, 2017 - require label changes allowing only therapeutic uses of some medically important antimicrobial drugs, and call for increased veterinarian oversight for these drugs used in animal feed. The drugs are currently sold over the counter with unrestricted access. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overuse may be related to the development of antibiotic-resistance-related infections, which kill 23,000 people and sicken millions each year.

The UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and the Farm Foundation recently brought together the state's livestock and poultry producers, their feed suppliers, veterinarians and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension specialists to discuss a changing landscape of antibiotic drug use in food animals.

Regional industry leaders were among the speakers at the workshop, held at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. They included Chuck Ahlem of Hilmar Farms, Bill Mattos of the California Poultry Federation, Dr. Stuart Hall of Feedlot Health Management Services, and Dr. Marit Arana of A.L. Gilbert Company. Dr. Craig Lewis of the U.S. FDA and Dr. Kathe Bjork of the USDA were also present to provide an overview of the complex public health issue of antibiotic resistance, the new guidelines and available to answer questions from the nearly 70 participants.

A welcome by Sheldon Jones with the Farm Foundation, Dean Michael Lairmore with the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and meeting facilitator Kevin Ochsner kicked off the morning. In his address, Lairmore emphasized the important role the school plays in reducing antibiotic resistance and working with its partners to build consumer trust in a safe food supply.

“Our school's role is critical in training the next generation of veterinarians on this issue and providing evidence-based science on the ethical, proper use of antimicrobials in food animals,” said Lairmore said.  “Our ability to bring people together around important topics like this and our research and public service programs place UC Davis veterinary scientists at the forefront of this issue."

Dean Lairmore, Chuck Ahlem with Hilmar Farms and VMTRC's Terry Lehenbauer

How to best move forward with the new guidelines was a central theme among featured speakers representing producers, veterinarians and the feed industry.

Chuck Ahlem with Hilmar Farms, the world's largest single site cheese and whey manufacturer that sells products in more than 40 countries, said he believes the changes will help strengthen the relationship between producers and veterinarians. Bill Mattos with the California Poultry Federation emphasized how important the issue is to the state's poultry industry, citing California as producing more chickens this year without antibiotics than any other state.

State Veterinarian Dr. Annette Jones provided an overview of CA Senate Bill 27
Lunch speaker California State Veterinarian Dr. Annette Jones provided an overview of CA Senate Bill 27 - passed by the legislature and currently before Gov. Jerry Brown – that would put into place the FDA guidelines and eliminate the unnecessary use of antibiotics in animals, such as those used to promote growth. If the bill becomes law, California will lead the nation in addressing the serious public health threat of antibiotic resistance.

Afternoon break-out sessions allowed participants to discuss the management challenges and impacts ahead due to the changes, and provided state and federal agency staff, veterinary medicine faculty and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension specialists insight into the changes needed to meet the requirements.

The Davis workshop was one of 12 that the Farm Foundation is hosting across the country. A report based on comments gathered at the workshop will be presented at a national summit to be convened by the Farm Foundation later in 2015 to advance the conversation on the industry's adaptation to the changing landscape of antibiotic drug use.

Examples of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine's programs to help prevent unwanted drugs from entering the food supply include the resources of the federally funded Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank, research and vaccine development through the Center for Food Animal Health, surveillance and diagnostic testing at the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System and international outreach conducted by the Western Institute for Food Safety and Security. (Read more about these programs and the critical role veterinarians play in food safety and public health in Dean Lairmore's recent op-ed in the Sacramento Bee.)

Author: Monique Garcia Gunther

Posted on Thursday, October 8, 2015 at 1:28 PM

Low residual dry matter on rangeland a concern heading into wet season

Leaving sufficient dry matter on rangeland prevents soil erosion and creates a conducive environment for diverse plant communities to thrive.
Over the past few years, drought has negatively affected everyone in the state and ranchers are no exception. Due to the drought, most areas have seen a decline in forage production and water availability, and as a result many livestock producers reduced their herd sizes and grazing season.

With some recent forecasts bringing encouraging news about a potential El Niño, some ranchers have been asking about what they should expect in terms of forage production, if and when the rains come. What they want to know is how soon rangeland productivity will reach the pre-drought levels again. One issue that I always draw their attention to is the levels of residual dry matter (RDM) on the rangelands. Even with the reduction in herd sizes and shorter grazing seasons employed by most producers, more rangelands now have less than recommended RDM levels.

RDM is a measure of the old plant material (without counting summer annuals) that are left standing or on the ground before the fall precipitation comes. It is a great indicator of both forage production and grazing intensity. These leftover plant materials are critical on California rangelands to reduce erosion and nutrient loss, and to create a conducive environment for diverse plant communities to thrive. Optimum RDM levels are site specific, they range from 100-2,100 pounds per acre, and depend on precipitation zone, slope and tree canopy cover. Ideal RDM levels increases with precipitation and slope, and decreases with tree cover. Studies show that too low or too high RDM levels will reduce species composition and forage production, both factors critical to any livestock production system. The good news is that annual rangelands are resilient and will likely return to normal production within two years after bringing RDM level to recommended standards.

Knowing the RDM standards for one's rangeland and continuously monitoring is an important step towards achieving sustainable rangeland management and livestock production.

Details about RDM standards, data collection methods and more can be found in the free UC Agriculture and Natural Resources publication Guidelines for Residual Dry Matter on Coastal and Foothill Rangelands in California

Author: Fadzayi Mashiri, Ph.D.

Posted on Friday, October 2, 2015 at 10:24 AM

It's time to get serious about food waste

Here's my take on food waste. It goes back in part to lessons I've learned from studying World War I, when the American government set food conservation goals (along with goals for local food production via Liberty - later Victory - Gardens). I'm a big proponent of both reducing food waste and producing more food in communities via school, home and community gardens. Big point: the World War I poster included in this post has advice we'd be well served to heed today.

"Food waste is both an ethical and environmental issue. It should concern us that we waste nearly 40 percent of the food we produce and purchase in this food-abundant nation.

For an interesting comparative statistic, consider this: our nation produced nearly 40 percent of the fruits and vegetables we consumed on the American home front during World War II in school, home, community and workplace gardens."

Poster from the collection of the Museum of Ventura County. (Credit: Aysen Tan)
Period piece or photoshopped image?

It's an iconic poster from World War 1. Food...don't waste it. The image is regularly shared on Twitter and Facebook.

The original was produced in 1919 by the United States Food Administration, under the direction of the newly appointed food "czar" - Herbert Hoover.

The poster was reissued during World War II. It's been revised in recent years, by individuals and organizations interested in encouraging an ethos incorporating local foods and sustainability.

While I'm the UC Food Observer, I also dabble in the history of wartime poster art. I'm often asked if this is a contemporary mock-up made to look and feel vintage.

It's not a mock-up. It's the real deal, produced 95 years ago, with messages we should embrace today.

History of poster art

The First World War marked the first large-scale use of propaganda posters by governments. Posters, with easy-to-understand slogans and compelling images, made powerful propaganda tools. The government needed to shape public opinion, recruit soldiers, raise funds and conserve resources and mobilize citizens to important home front activities ... including gardening, food conservation and food preservation. In an era before television and widespread radio and movies, posters were a form of mass media. And they appeared in windows and were posted on walls everywhere, in as many languages as were spoken in this nation of immigrants.

If you want to dig a little deeper, the poster art of WWI was influenced by the La Belle Epoque - the beautiful era - named in retrospect, after the full horror of WWI had been revealed. The Art Nouveau movement in France and the rise of modern advertising were also important in shaping how posters were used during wartime. Technical improvements in printing, including a process called chromolithography, facilitated mass production of posters.

The original poster: Yes: 'buy local foods' is rule 4

The original poster has six rules that we'd be well served to follow today. The fourth rule - buy local foods - is somewhat of a surprise to people today, because the notion of buying local seems somewhat modern. But in WWI, the U.S. government encouraged the local production and consumption of food, in part, to free trains to more effectively ship troops and war materiel.

Tackling food waste through preservation: today's Master Food Preserver Program

UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) hosts a UC Master Food Preserver Program. The program teaches best practices on food safety and preservation to volunteers. The extensive training program prepares the volunteers to work in their community educating others on the safe practices of food preservation, including pickling, drying, freezing, canning and fruit preserves.

Thinking about gardening? Do we have resources for you!

UC ANR also has the UC Master Gardener Program, which fields more than 5,000 volunteers in communities across the state. The Master Gardener Program is a national program, housed at the land grant institution in each state, but it's also connected to the USDA. Free gardening resources are available here. Advice to grow by...just ask.

This is an excerpt of an article from a post on the UC Food Observer blog, used with permission.

Posted on Thursday, October 1, 2015 at 11:01 AM

Fostering changes one #healthyselfie at a time

A group of participants in the UC CalFresh Nutrition Education program will graduate next week ready to use the knowledge and skills they have acquired to make healthy choices for themselves and their families. Let's find out what healthy changes they have made:

A collage of the #healthyselfies by Jobs 2000 participants.

“I added whole grains.”

“Put more vegetables in daily diet.”

“Serving more fruits and veggies.”

“Eating more greens and less fatty foods.”

 “Eating more colorful vegetables.”

“Don't leave meat out!”

“Eating more vegetables and fruits.”

“Being more physically active.”

The UC CalFresh Nutrition Education program is a no-cost, evidence-based course focusing on nutrition, physical activity, food safety and resource management offered to low-income youth and adults. Community partnerships are essential for successful, sustainable programming. 

The Fresno-Madera County UC CalFresh Nutrition Education Program is currently hosting an Eat Smart, Being Active class series in partnership with a local job training agency. Participants attending Proteus' Jobs 2000 classes are offered nutrition education as part of their ongoing education, job training and job placement services. UC CalFresh maintains an ongoing partnership with Proteus Inc., enabling us to expand our reach and assist low-income families to make informed and educated decisions when it comes to their health.

Nutrition Educator Angelica Perez engages and teaches participants about lean protein choices and the importance of portion size.

The current class has covered topics including:

  • Incorporating a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins into meals and snacks.
  • The importance of physical activity, and the health benefits one derives from maintaining a healthy diet alongside an active lifestyle.
  • Resource management, to encourage participants to stretch food dollars while making the healthiest food choices.
  • The importance of dairy foods and calcium for bone health.

As a nutrition educator, I always encourage participants to make healthy lifestyle changes, regardless of how incrementally it's done. Whether it means walking around the block during lunch or breaks, or adding more fruits and vegetables to everyday meals, no change is too small. Health changes made gradually enable us to maintain them over time.

Below are a few tips I like to provide series participants:

  • Start with a goal that is achievable and time bound.
  • As you achieve your health goals, challenge yourself further. For example, you may be accustomed to drinking whole milk and have effectively transitioned to reduced-fat milk (2%). Don't stop there, challenge yourself and go for low-fat (1%) milk. 
  • Write down your health goal, this will keep you accountable.
  • Your health goal should be fun and enjoyable, involve your family or friends to make it social. For example, create a neighborhood walking club and encourage others in your community to be more active.
  • Celebrate your successes!
  • For more tips, I encourage participants to visit choosemyplate.gov. There are always new resources available to make a healthy lifestyle easier.

Lifestyle changes happen gradually, and Jobs 2000 participants are leading the way toward building healthier families, while encouraging others to do so too. Together we can inspire others to make healthy changes!

I want to encourage you to take a #healthyselfie to inspire others within your community to make healthy lifestyle changes. 

Pictured above is Donald, his #healthyselfie is centered on adding more vegetables into his daily diet.
Pictured above are Ermila (left) and Abigail. Their #healthyselfies is to keep food safe when preparing meals and adding more whole grains.

Use the hashtags #UCCE and #healthyselfie, and follow @UCCalFreshFC and @UCANR to stay connected with our social media platforms, for more healthy tips, and for updates about events and classes in the Central Valley. You can join and stay connected to the work being done in Fresno and Madera counties across many platforms including: FacebookTwitterInstagram,  YouTube, and our Blog.

Pictured above are (clockwise, from upper left) Brenda, Cheyenne and Mercedes who showcase their #healthyselfie with goals for food safety, eating more leafy greens and being more physically active.
Pictured above are (clockwise, from upper left) Brenda, Cheyenne and Mercedes who showcase their #healthyselfie with goals for food safety, eating more leafy greens and being more physically active.

Posted on Tuesday, September 29, 2015 at 7:54 AM

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