The "Roadside Attractions" column in the Santa Maria Times today comments on the increasing number of hoop houses seen along Santa Barbara County highways and byways.
Hoop houses, long white tents also known as tunnels, shelter raspberries, the article said.
“There’s been a dramatic increase in berry growing in the county,” said Mark Gaskell, UC Cooperative Extension advisor for San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties.
Hoop houses essentially serve as mini-greenhouses. Made of plastic stretched over hoops, they control heat and humidity and shelter plants from wind.
The article said Leonard and Nancy Morrell were unsure what to do with their 2.5-acre farm in Solvang after their kids were raised and they retired from their jobs. Leonard read a research paper by Gaskell that suggested the area provided excellent conditions to grow blackberries and raspberries.
“It just seemed like something that I’d like to do,” Leonard said of his initial reaction. “(Gaskell) came down from Santa Maria and he helped me set it up and everything. That was kind of the beginning.”
Now 12 years later, the Morrells have turned their modest berry farm into a family business, selling fresh berries and berry jam at the Solvang farmers market.
"Fifteen years ago this would not be feasible because most people were satisfied with Yuban or Folgers types of coffee," Ruskey said. "Now people pay 10 to 20 times more than those old prices for . . . unique cups of coffee that have a wide range of flavors from a variety of cultivation techniques."
Ruskey sells the coffee at the local farmers market.
California small-scale farmers have an ally in their corner when it comes to specialty crop production - UC Cooperative Extension small farm advisors, noted a recent article in Capital Press.
In Fresno, UCCE small farm advisor Richard Molinar is working with Southeast Asian farmers on such crops as Chinese long beans, gailon, eggplant and jujubes, the story said.
He's also helping growers produce Uzbek-Russian melon, which is said to be more flavorful than cantaloupe or honeydew. And for the past seven years, he's been experimenting with miniature watermelons, another specialty crop well suited for small-scale production.
"We're taking a little twist off big watermelons," Molinar was quoted. "We're looking at varieties that growers can obtain and plant."
UC small farm advisor Mark Gaskell helps coastal farmers grow crops for niche markets.
"That's the kinds of things we do," Gaskell was quoted. "We get these things out in trials and get them in growers' hands."
The story said Gaskell, Molinar and other UC farm advisors are now working with Hidden Valley Salad Dressings to identify unusual vegetable varieties that will get elementary school students excited about eating right.
“We’re looking for vegetables that are not on everyone’s radar yet,” Gaskell said. “In some cases, a new crop is one that’s been grown by another culture for hundreds of years and is just ‘new’ to us.”
For more information the "Great Veggie Adventure," view the video below or see the UC news release.
|View a 90 second video about the Small Farm Program
and the Great Veggie Adventure.
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.