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GFI fellows tour community projects in San Diego

A UCSD student discussed a closed-circuit aquaponic system created at Roger’s Garden. Multiple UCSD students as well as GFI fellows conduct research projects in the garden with the goal of replicating and scaling to gardens outside of UCSD and in the community.
Sustainability. Food justice. Research to action. These were the themes discussed April 13–14, 2018, as emerging food leaders throughout the UC system gathered in San Diego for a tour titled “The Rooted University: Bridging food system changemaking on and off campus.”

The trip brought together nearly two dozen 2018 Global Food Initiative Fellows, all of whom are working on projects that advance the mission of the UC-wide Global Food Initiative, including Nutrition Policy Institute GFI fellow Kristal Caballero. Caballero wrote the following story about the event.

This strategic initiative was started in 2014 by UC President Janet Napolitano to align the university's research to develop and export solutions — throughout California, the United States and the world — for food security, health and sustainability. The initiative funds student-generated research, related projects or internships that focus on food issues. All 10 UC campuses, plus UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, participate in the program.

“We need to start thinking of the interconnectedness of our research, and begin to implement place-based solutions that take into account the environment, food-security, and sustainability,” said UC San Diego professor Keith Pezzoli as he welcomed the GFI fellows. Pezzoli, who leads the UC San Diego Bioregional Center for Sustainability Science, Planning and Design, hosted the GFI fellows for the weekend. Pezzoli and his team led the fellows to multiple campus and community-based projects that are implementing collaborative, innovative solutions that advance food security, environmental sustainability and economic prosperity. GFI fellows were tasked to think of their projects critically and use the trip to gather ideas and inspiration for their own projects and in their work as future food leaders.

This year's GFI Fellows are working on projects that range from addressing food security and basic needs on UC campuses, to capturing the culture of eating through film, and from efforts to connect water salinity to crop yield, to creating energy-generating agricultural covers.

Dinner with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources - advising California for 150 years

The first day of the trip ended with a presentation by and dinner with advisors from UC's Agricultural and Natural Resources. Ramiro E. Lobo, small farm and agricultural economics advisor for UC Cooperative Extension in San Diego County, gave the GFI fellows basic information about the farming landscape in San Diego County and introduced the five UC ANR Strategic Initiatives. Lobo, who specializes in agricultural economics and marketing, talked about the challenges of farming in San Diego and the future of agricultural economics.

“San Diego,” Lobo said, “has the one of the highest prices of agricultural water in the world. The majority of our farms are small, specialty crop farms. So now, many growers and shutting off the water and letting their land dry up.”

In order to combat these issues and drive sales, Ramiro helps farmers market their products and share their stories.

“We're moving towards a ‘value-based' model of marketing,” said Lobo. “I help farmers figure out what their personal farming stories are and help share those stories with the public, a model that's really helping to drive sales.”

GFI fellows discussed future food systems with UCCE advisors. From left to right: Oli Bachie (Imperial County); Chutima Ganthavorn, (Riverside and San Bernardino); Laurent Ahiablame, (San Diego); Natalie Price (Los Angeles) and Ramiro Lobo (San Diego)

Fellows then enjoyed dinner with ANR advisors from throughout Southern California and discussed student-led topics related to food security, water quality, federal food programs and research ethics. With areas of work ranging from water quality to crop science, and from federal food programs to agricultural tourism, conversations were rich and varied as ANR advisors answered students' questions and shared their expertise.

“It was so interesting to hear the ANR advisors' perspectives on their particular issues. Also, I was really inspired by the wide range of expertise and backgrounds present among the advisors. Each one brings their own unique perspective to the work, and I enjoyed learning how each of their focus areas connected,” said GFI fellow Mackenzie Feldman, an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley. 

“After this trip, I am full of new ideas, energy and confidence that can I make a difference. I now know I need to find the right partners and keep believing that solutions to food justice and environmental sustainability are possible,” said Holly Mayton, GFI Fellow and PhD student at UC Riverside. “My thoughts and ideas are really falling into place, and I am creating a new framework for action and results.”

Read more about the GFI tour at http://ucanr.edu/?blogpost=26971&blogasset=99473.

Posted on Thursday, April 26, 2018 at 10:30 AM
  • Author: Kristal Caballero

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