When President John F. Kennedy created the Peace Corps in 1961, he not only sent thousands of Americans to serve the cause of peace in the developing world, he set them on a course of service that continued when they returned to the U.S. A significant number came to work for UC Cooperative Extension.
One of them is Jim Grieshop, a now-retired UCCE community education development specialist, who was profiled in an article in the February issue of Alaska Airlines Magazine marking the Peace Corps' 50th anniversary.
Acceptance into the Peace Corps helped Grieshop achieve his personal goal of living and working in Latin America, the article said. In May 1964, he arrived in Cayambe, Ecuador, to spend two years as a science teacher. He quickly learned to be flexible.
"The science teacher in the village didn't really want me to teach science," Grieshop was quoted in the story. "So I taught English in primary schools and the high school . . . . We put on a rodeo, we did some summer programs - I was kind of making it up as I went along."
Here are some of the other UCCE academics, past and present, who served in the Peace Corps:
Monica Cooper, viticulture farm advisor in Napa County, volunteered in an agrarian community in Panama.
Jeff Dahlberg, director of the UC Kearney Agriculture Research and Extension Center, served for three years in the Republic of Niger.
Chris Dewees, retired specialist in Cooperative Extension marine fisheries, volunteered in Chile.
Morgan Doran, livestock and natural resources farm advisor in Solano County, volunteered in Ecuador.
Ben Faber, Ventura County farm advisor, served in Togo, Africa.
Mark Gaskell, small farm advisor in San Luis Obispo County, served in Ivory Coast, West Africa.
Juan Guerrero, farm advisor emeritus for Riverside and Imperial counties, worked with subsistence farmers and large-scale commercial farmers in Paraguay and Peru.
Susan Laughlin, retired regional director, spent three years in Colombia.
David Lewis, watershed management advisor in Marin County, volunteered in Niger.
Mike Marzolla, 4-H advisor in Ventura County, coordinated a school and community garden program in Guatemala.
Richard Molinar, small-scale farm advisor for Fresno County, served in Honduras.
Jeff Mitchell, cropping systems specialist, UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, served in Botswana, Africa.
Rachel Surls, UCCE director in Los Angeles County, served in Honduras.
Jack Williams, the retired Sutter/Yuba county director, worked alongside farmers in Kenya, Africa.
Ken Wilmarth, former 4-H advisor in Stanislaus County, and his wife, Jenny, spent two years in Chavin, Peru.
Have I missed any UCCE Peace Corps volunteers? Please post a comment letting me know.
Dahlberg told reporter Ashley Testa-Burk he is interested in developing 'Centers of Excellence' at Kearney to create a globalized focus spanning county, regional and state lines to benefit farmers across the nation.
“It's much easier to get any kind of federal grant if you have multi-disciplinary, multi-state projects,” Dahlberg was quoted. “So I think by perhaps developing these centers, it might give us a cohesive unit that could actually approach the new federal structure of funding for agriculture.”
Dahlberg also discussed plans for using solar technology at KREC to demonstrate how farmers could reduce their environmental footprint.
“I would like to potentially develop a center for on-farm green technologies in which we could become a demonstration and research site for different technologies that farmers could use to become 'greener,'" he said.
In the article, Dahlberg recognized the profound impact research at Kearney has already made on California agriculture.
“One of my jobs is to get out there and promote the fact that this station is here and it's doing really good work,” he said. “The research not only benefits farmers in this region, but the people of California and ultimately the people of the country.”
Ag radio personality Sean Michael Lisle of KMJ 580 am based in Fresno welcomed the new director of the UC Kearney Research and Extension Center, Jeff Dahlberg, back to California on this morning's ag radio show.
The program is broadcast from 5 to 6 a.m.; for later risers it can also be downloaded or heard on Californiaagnet.com.
Lisle caught up with Dahlberg at the San Joaquin Valley Grape Symposium in Easton on Wednesday.
Dahlberg told the reporter he is originally from the California Bay Area and spent a lot of time in the Sacramento Valley on his uncles' farms. Most recently, he served as director of the United Sorghum Checkoff Program in Lubbock, Tex.
"I haven't seen fog like this in a long time," he said.
Dahlberg said one idea he brings to Kearney is establishment of centers of excellence.
"I would like to start a center for on-farm green technologies," he said. "How can we bring greener technologies to farmers' fields? How can we use solar (energy) to impact electric costs?"
Dahlberg, a sorghum expert, said he is also interested in studying the crop's potential as a renewable energy crop in California.
"Sorghum is one of the few crops that span all the different renewable fuel options," he said. "You can use the grain to convert into ethanol. We have sweet sorghum, a specialty sorghum which is very similar to sugar cane. You can press the juice out and convert it into ethanol. And, we can produce a lot of biomass."
Sorghum could also be a potential water-saving forage crop, he said.
"Last time I checked, there are still a lot of dairies in this part of the world," Dahlberg said.
Dahlberg told Lisle he sees Kearney as first and foremost a resource to help keep farmers profitable.
"That's a real struggle right now," he said. "We're getting less and less farmers in the country. We need to make sure we keep those numbers up, encourage kids to get into farming. It's a good life and you can make some money doing it."