- Author: Keith Nathaniel
- Author: Dohee Kim
Last summer, I was reminded of why I get so much personal and professional satisfaction from being part of UC Cooperative Extension.
I was having a discussion with a group of 4-H youth, preparing them for summer camp as staff members. I was talking about their important role to serve as mentors and provide a memorable camp experience to more than 100 youth. It was at that moment when I realized that our program must have been important and meaningful to them because they have volunteered for a week to give that same experience to a new group of kids. For them, 4-H meant something, and they wanted to share it with others. That was a powerful realization.
Like the volunteers, I wanted to share what I experienced as a youth growing up in local youth programs in Compton. Nearly every day after school, I was fortunate to play, learn and grow in an after-school environment that nurtured my interests and skills in a safe place. The program staff were committed to providing this experience to all their youth participants. Field trips and overnight camping trips to Catalina Island as well as year-round sports activities helped to keep me safe and away from unhealthy, risky activities.
I also realized how important non-parental adults can be to young people. They help broaden the context of life and guide youth through experiences and opportunities that lead to a thriving adulthood.
So, I understand why these 4-H youth gave up part of their summer to be volunteer mentors. I, too, felt that need to share my positive youth experience with others. It is a wonderful thing to want to share.
- Author: Yvonne Savio
Wreaths, garlands, valance hangings and table decorations, graced with velvet ribbons and fruits and leaves of the season, are easy-to-make glories during the holiday season.
In ancient Rome, circular wreaths were symbols of victory and celebration. In 16th century Germany, fir or spruce wreaths were laid flat on a table with a candle lit on the first Sunday of Advent. Today, the wreath symbolizes continuity and tradition.
Evergreen boughs brought indoors by Druids were honored as sacred plants that didn't die, allowing the house to survive the winter. Primitive tribes in Europe hung evergreens above their doors during the winter solstice to offer woodland spirits shelter. They hoped that this would bring good fortune and health. Today's garlands continue to brighten our door and window sills, mantels and tables.
Your creation can be as simple as a bunch of your favorite herb branches tied with a ribbon, or as complex as a large and intricate wreath embellished with many sentimental items from a person's lifetime. It can be fancy or plain and worked on for weeks or completed on the spur of the moment. It all depends on what you want and what materials you have collected.
Materials can encompass anything you have access to, such as grapevine trimmings off the back fence and herb sprigs from the kitchen garden to pine cones from an excursion in the foothills. A great way to find unexpected goodies is to wander the aisles in a craft store, trying different combinations of textures and colors and seeing what strikes your fancy. Matching ribbons and other bits and pieces to friends' personalities is always great fun.
Looking at "ordinary" items in a new way can also reveal many possibilities. Green and red bell peppers add holiday cheer to a wreath on the front door. An oddly curled Armenian cucumber or long-necked squash becomes decoration in a table arrangement. A tree ornament becomes special when it's the only one on a wreath hung on child's door. Anything and everything becomes fair game for decorating. It's all up to your cleverness and sense of humor.
Materials to consider for the wreath or garland base
- A whole sunflower head with the central stem portion removed, forming a "donut"
- Dried sphagnum moss (the long stringy kind, not milled)
- Eucalyptus foliage
- Evergreen clippings (pine, spruce, holly, redwood, cedar, osmanthus and juniper)
- Forsythia branches (young)
- Herb foliage (bay laurel, coriander, sage, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, basil, lavender and pennyroyal)
- Honeysuckle trimmings
- Magnolia leaves
- Olive branches (young)
- Styrofoam flat shapes or balls
- Willow branches (young, peeled to reveal blond-colored wood)
- Wisteria trimmings
Materials to consider for decorations
- Candy canes
- Chili peppers
- Cookies (cutouts and gingerbread men)
- Dried ferns and other greens
- Dried flowers
- Dried fruits
- Dried Indian corn ears with husks partially removed to reveal colored kernels
- Dried rosebuds splashed with rose oil
- Dried safflower pods
- Eucalyptus pods
- Fabrics in rich colors, patterns and textures
- Fall-colored leaves
- Florescent glow strips and stickers
- Fresh flowers
- Fresh fruits
- Garlic heads
- Herb blossoms and berries
- Magnolia seed cones
- Miniature tree lights
- Nuts (walnuts, almonds, filberts, brazils and chestnuts)
- Onion bulbs
- Oranges stuck with whole cloves
- Popcorn on a string
- Pyracantha clippings of berries and leaves
- Ribbon candy
- Seed pods
- Shocks of wheat or sorghum
- Silk flowers
- Small statuary
- Your child's artwork
- Author: Leigh Johnson
- Author: Dohee Kim
Aquatic invasive species cause significant economic and ecological problems. Quagga and zebra mussels clog water supply systems and deplete plankton; their sharp shells endanger people who work, boat or fish in lakes. Tiny New Zealand mudsnails, which are poor food for fish, displace native snails. Invasive bullfrogs and clawed frogs voraciously consume native species and carry a disease that has decimated native frog populations. Dense mats of invasive waterweeds, such as hydrilla, spongeplant and water hyacinth, slow water flow in streams and irrigation channels, block boats, and kill native species by blocking out sunlight and causing oxygen levels to fall.
However, much of the damage can be reduced if people who work in aquatic habitats are trained. They can help lower the risks of spreading invasive species to new areas and serve as eyes and ears for resource agencies with a mission to manage and control these pests.
What has ANR Done?
In spring 2013, UCCE advisors in Southern California conducted six workshops for 181 staff members of local public works, parks, watersheds and flood control agencies as well as for staff members of a UC Research and Extension Center. The participants learned how to recognize 25 aquatic invasive species, decontaminate their field gear, plan their work to reduce risks of spreading these pests, and report sightings to resource agencies. Forty-nine percent of the participants were minorities and 29 percent were women. Through hands-on exercises, they practiced identifying species, detecting them in mud, inspecting boats and decontaminating boots. The advisors distributed decks of laminated reference cards (with photographs and information), which they created, at workshops. They also wrote blog articles to extend the workshop information widely.
The workshops were supported in part by the USDA Renewable Resources Extension Act and the counties of San Diego, Orange, Los Angeles and Ventura.
The participants significantly increased their ability to identify aquatic invasive species and their environmental impacts, their knowledge of how to report sightings, and their skills on how to decontaminate their gear and avoid spreading these pests. According to survey results, 80 to 90 percent of participants reported learning this information for the first time at one of the workshops. Within the first few following months, agencies reported having made changes. Two agencies implemented new or improved their existing decontamination protocols for field gear and planned their work accordingly to prevent the spread of aquatic pests. Two agencies educated the public on how to prevent the spread of pests by posting signs and talking to visitors at lakes. Five aquatic pest sightings were reported to field supervisors and a New Zealand mudsnail infestation was reported to three natural resources agencies. Altogether, these actions will help to prevent the spread of pests in areas where the workshops were conducted--all 2.5 million acres. More than 14,000 additional people learned about aquatic invasive pests from the advisors' blog articles that were based on their workshops.
"We used the workshop information to modify a permit to prevent a fire-fighting, water-dropping demonstration from spreading quagga mussels from an infested lake to an uninfested stream," said Cathy Nowak, sustainability planner with the Orange County Parks Department.
- Author: Rachel Surls, Dohee Kim
More than half a century after its decline, agriculture has again become high profile in Los Angeles County, although the focus has shifted from rural to urban. Urban agriculture has gained momentum in the county, as it has in many metropolitan centers throughout the United States, with a growing number of small-scale city farmers, along with enthusiastic backyard beekeepers and poultry raisers. However, despite the apparent popularity of urban agriculture, a clear picture of its status in the county did not exist until very recently.
A new UCLA student report, "Cultivate LA," was released on August 15 and offered the first comprehensive picture of the local urban agriculture landscape. The report provides an important foundation for UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) and other groups involved in developing policy and educational resources for urban farmers. According to Rachel Surls, the "client" of the student project and UCCE sustainable food systems advisor, the report has generated tremendous interest.
The students verified a total of 1,261 urban agriculture sites using a variety of data sources, and confirming sites with telephone calls and Google Earth. They looked closely at issues, such as complex zoning codes that impact urban farming and the distribution of its products. As one of their final products, the students created a website (www.cultivatelosangeles.org) that contains an interactive map and a chart of agriculture zoning codes in each of the county's 88 cities and its unincorporated areas.
Surls became involved in urban agriculture in 2011, through her participation in the Los Angeles Food Policy Council. Due to the lack of information at that time, the task of crafting policy was a challenge. So, when UCLA faculty members offered to have urban planning graduate students produce a comprehensive report on urban agriculture in Los Angeles County, guided by her input, Surls embraced the opportunity. With Carol Goldstein, lecturer in urban planning, and Stephanie Pincetl, professor and director of the California Center for Sustainable Communities at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, she helped the students develop their research questions and directed them towards important sources of data.
Surls points out a few relevant findings that will guide her work in further developing UC Cooperative Extension's program in sustainable food systems.
School gardens are the most common form of urban agriculture. In Los Angeles County, there are more than 700 verified sites. The report suggests that more resources and training are needed to ensure that gardens are successful and integrated into the school curriculum. Surls plans to update resources for school gardens in the next few months.
Urban farmers face major challenges. They find it hard to compete with rural farmers. Their small, growing spaces make it difficult for them to produce fruits and vegetables that are competitively priced with those produced on large rural farms. "Also, urban farmers have to learn from the ground up. Often, they don't know where to start and don't realize they are entering a very complex business," said Surls, who plans on creating an online database of resources and best practices for urban farmers.
Despite some challenges, urban farmers can enjoy advantages. Some have access to free or low-cost land if they operate within a public agency or nonprofit setting. Surls is currently developing resources that will help urban farmers test their soil and identify and mitigate problems, such as lead contamination. She also hopes to partner with nonprofit agencies to evaluate vacant lands for their sustainability for farming.
Surls is currently leading a project that's assessing the needs of urban agriculture throughout the state. She is excited to see how the results of the UCLA student report will dovetail with the results of the statewide assessment.
"What's happening in Los Angeles is mirrored in cities around California. The public is enthusiastic about urban farming, and municipalities are struggling to find models that work in California's urban communities," said Surls. "Both of these projects can help planners and citizens make common-sense decision and help current and future urban farmers become successful," she added.
To learn more about the UCLA student project, visit www.cultivatelosangeles.org. For more information on Cooperative Extension's sustainable food systems program, please visit http://celosangeles.ucanr.edu.
- Author: Dohee Kim
As we started to think about highlighting another special UC Cooperative Extension volunteer, it was a no-brainer to come up with Florence Nishida's name. In fact, her name flashed in bright, neon lights through our minds.
Nishida sits at the center of the LA gardening world. As a UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener volunteer, she trained many new gardeners and helped sprout community gardeners throughout the county. One of her first students was artist Ron Finley, who has been celebrated for his inspirational talk on TED.com about urban gardening. With Finley, Nishida went on to co-found "Green Grounds" to install gardens in the underserved neighborhoods in and around South LA one yard at a time.
Born in Boyle Heights and raised in South LA, near USC and the Natural History Museum of LA County, Nishida is a research associate (mycologist) at the museum and is an instructor of edible gardening in the old neighborhood of Exposition Park. This area is locally considered to be a "food desert" due to its limited access to good markets and fresh, healthy food. Wanting to encourage residents to grow their own food, Nishida developed a plan to teach families how to transform a water-wasting lawn into an attractive, productive and edible garden.
"We bring people together to build edible front yard gardens for free. It's a great model for a neighborhood, and it really starts conversations and interactions among people, making the community safer and people more involved with each other," said Nishida.
Since late 2010, Nishida has helped launch 24 gardens. Unfortunately, four of the early ones have dissolved due to various reasons, such as evictions, failing health and dog damage. In order to help sustain the existing gardens, Nishida and her collaborators visit gardens, offer technical assistance and organize work parties. Her hope is that these gardens inspire and encourage others to copy this effort by creating their own edible gardens.
"Florence 'grows' gardeners through her inspiration and knowledge, enabling everyone to not only grow their own vegetables and fruits, but to share them and their new skills with their neighbors," said Yvonne Savio, program manager of the UC Cooperative Extension's Common Ground Garden Program.
For more information about UC Cooperative Extension's gardening and horticulture programs, visit http://celosangeles.ucanr.edu.