- Author: Jeannette Warnert
Innovation allows livestock producers and rice farmers to solve each other's problems
The California drought has ranchers desperate for inexpensive livestock feed. Air quality protection regulations that limit rice straw burning leave the rice industry with an abundance of typically low-quality straw to unload. Though it has rarely been done, Nader believes special treatment of rice straw will make it a nutritious cattle food. Two problems solved.
Nader will introduce producers to this new way to get through the drought at a meeting from 9 a.m. to 12 noon July 29 at the Veterans Memorial Hall, 525 W. Sycamore St., Willows, Calif.
When rice straw dries, its value as a forage declines dramatically. For 15 years, UC researchers have been trying to figure out why, but the reason for the significant change is not understood at this time.
"At one time, we thought the problem was silica in the straw," Nader said. "We grew silica-free rice. That didn't work. We thought it was the crystallinity of molecules in the straw. We parsed apart the plant, and we still don't know."
Ultimately, it was a rancher who suggested the scientists to put aside their desire to know why quality declines when rice straw dries and look for practical ways to get around it. Nader postponed his retirement to comply.
Normally, rice growers bale the straw two to four days after harvest. Nader and his colleagues instead baled the straw immediately after it exited the grain harvester. They stacked the green straw bales and covered them with a tarp to retain moisture and prevent spontaneous combustion. The result is a product they named "strawlage." One worry is mold. The researchers found that treating the straw with propionic acid prevents fungus growth.
"We haven't figured everything out, but with the drought conditions as serious as they are, we feel the time is right to share our research with growers," Nader said. "We invite producers to come to the meeting to see if this will work for their operations. Several producers who have already fed strawlage to their cattle will speak at the meeting about their experiences."
Nader believes the UC research into using rice straw for livestock feed will be helpful throughout the world.
Asian farmers produce rice straw in great abundance and their livestock would benefit significantly if the farmers worked to maintain the plant's moisture until it reaches cattle feeding troughs.
The July 29 meeting will cover:
- Nutritional advantages of strawlage over rice straw
- The challenges of baling the straw at 50 to 60 percent moisture
- Additives to prevent mold
- How to stake and tarp strawlage
- The costs associated with the practice
- How cows that ate strawlage last year fared
"Our goal is to give producers information that will allow them to make rice strawlage during this fall's harvest," Nader said. "Both cattle and rice producers are encouraged to attend."/span>
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
Rachel Surls, a UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Los Angeles County, and a team including UCCE farm advisors, policy and advocacy experts, urban planners, agricultural economists and others created the new urban agriculture website in response to the results of a UC survey of urban farmers in California.
“Our team interviewed urban farmers around the state about their challenges and successes, and what information they really needed as they got started,” said Surls, who specializes in sustainable food systems. “Based on their needs, we looked for science-based educational materials that would be helpful and packaged them into this website.
Many urban farmers are beginning farmers, according to Surls. “They need basic information on planting, pests and irrigation, as well as information that's more specific to farming in the city,” she said. “For example, they must navigate local laws and regulations that impact farming which include zoning and health codes.”
The UC ANR Urban Agriculture website also advises urban farmers about environmental issues that they may encounter.
“Urban soils can sometimes be contaminated and may need testing and remediation,” Surls said. “Farming close to neighbors in the city can also bring special challenges.”
She encourages people to check back for updates as the Urban Ag website continues to grow.
“We'll also share stories about urban farms around California and news around the state about urban agriculture policies and initiatives,” Surls said.
Visit the UC ANR Urban Agriculture website at http://ucanr.edu/urbanag.
- Author: Jodi Azulai, UC Statewide IPM Program
Summer is upon us, and nothing quite says summer more than eating freshly picked blueberries or using them in delicious desserts. California blueberry growers can find an additional treat – the newly published UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines for blueberry on the UC IPM web site. California is quickly becoming a top producer of blueberries, and the new guidelines can help with management information on blueberry pests such as thrips, light brown apple moth, and spotted wing drosophila with additional information on pesticides and resistance.
In 1995 the University of California Small Farms Program and cooperating farmers started evaluating low-chill southern highbush varieties in San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties. They found that “low-chill” southern highbush varieties offered the most promise for extended season production on the central coast. By 1997, Kearney Agricultural Center trials found that southern highbush cultivars were also well adapted to the semiarid climate of the San Joaquin Valley. Further evaluations identified the best yielding and flavorful cultivars. Initial and ongoing UC Small Farms studies have escalated California blueberry production swiftly up the learning curve, providing California farmers of small to moderate operations a niche in a very competitive market.
Today, California blueberries are harvested from May through July in the San Joaquin Valley and January through May on the central coast. While consumer demands are on the rise and profits can be excellent, producing and harvesting blueberries in California is expensive. It can run over $10,000 per acre to prepare a field because successful cultivation in many areas necessitates soil and irrigation water acidification and adding tons of mulch per acre. Specialized equipment, labor-intensive pruning, and pests like light brown apple moth, thrips, and spotted wing drosophila can add substantially to cost. Therefore, getting the right information and planning is imperative. While the UC Small Farms Program continues to develop field and market research for blueberry production in California, growers can also turn to the newly published Pest Management Guidelines for blueberries.
- Author: Penny Leff
“We really enjoy having people on our farm. We have started hosting tours, for fees, including 2 bus tours with more than 40 people. We also remodeled our 100 year old farm house, added a bathroom upstairs to make it ready for a farm stay. Our kids are very involved in these activities. Agritourism is definitely part of our farm plan now.”
Rancher Kathy Landini participated in a similar agritourism planning class in Orland two years ago, and reached different conclusions with her family about agritourism on their ranch:
“Although we are thinking of offering ranch stays, after a family conference we held off. We decided that family privacy and family time would be diminished if we had guests. The kids did not feel that they would be as comfortable coming home.”
Classes offered throughout California
Our goals – new skills and new networks
Because agritourism involves providing a memorable experience to visitors instead of (or in addition to) an agricultural product, agritourism operators must develop new and different relationships with their customers. Attracting and caring for guests usually also requires farmers and ranchers to learn new skills and to form new partnerships with each other and with risk management, hospitality and marketing professionals. Our goals for the classes were to increase understanding of the agritourism industry by participants, and to provide them with skills, resources and connections to plan, start and market their own agritourism businesses or to decide that agritourism was not right for their farm, ranch or family at this time.
Our process – interaction & local connections
The Agritourism Intensive classes used hands-on, interactive activities to guide participants in assessing their own farms or ranches for agritourism potential and starting their own business, risk management, and marketing plans.
Long term follow-up
After offering the classes for three years, we wanted to learn if we were meeting our goals. To learn whether the classes were useful to participants, we contacted the people who took the class two years ago in Fresno and Orland, and the people who completed the class in Sacramento a year ago. We asked if they had started or expanded agritourism activities since their class ended. We also asked whether they had stayed in touch with fellow class participants or presenters.
We heard back from 29 families, or 40 percent of those contacted. Of these, 22 were farmers or ranchers. (The others were tourism professionals, insurance agents, or other related people who work with agritourism operators). We learned that more than half of the responding farmers or ranchers had started or expanded agritourism activities since the class. We heard from a few who had used the class to decide not to pursue agritourism at this time. More than 80 percent of the people responding told us that they had worked with, collaborated with or consulted with at least one person who participated or presented in their class, since the class ended.
Here are some more excerpts from the responses to our inquiry:
Network is continuing
- I have pretty steady contact with some of the people from the class. People call a lot and ask questions about our trail-riding operation.
- The presenter from the Convention & Visitors Bureau has been a great resource to us, bringing some tour group leaders to us and referring other tour groups.
- I visited one of the class presenters and fellow participants to see and learn about his fishing pond operation.
- I purchased 2 mares for my summer camp from someone I met in the class
Many still moving forward…
- We are developing our lavender field and shop in preparation for opening to the public later this spring
- We got our roadside stand up. It's doing OK so far. We were investigating this possibility when we took the class
- Our blueberry U-Pick is still going. We were in the process of opening when I took the class. We have been open for a few years and would like to expand.
Some decided against agritourism…
- Concerns about liability squelched our initial plans to hold weddings on the site.
- Biosecurity has changed our plans for agritourism since we raise chickens.
Although our long term follow-up response was only a small sample, we were pleased to learn that the classes seemed helpful in growing agritourism enterprises and supportive networks. We learned that agritourism businesses can take time, sometimes several years, to grow, especially when farmers are busy farming. We also can say that local networks are important and durable resources for agritourism development.
View a presentation about the Agritourism Intensive classes and follow-up conversations given by UC Small Farm Program Agritourism Coordinator Penny Leff at the Women in Agriculture Educators National Conference, April 2014
- Author: Maureen Thompson
Hello Prospective Farmers!
Are you interested in being a farmer, but are not quite sure how to get there? The California Farm Academy (CFA), a program of the Center for Land-Based Learning in Winters, CA is a beginning farmer training program that helps you meet your farming goals and start your own farm business.
CFA is an 8 month program that trains beginning farmers in all aspects of agricultural production through field work, business planning, classes, and farm visits to give you a solid foundation in what you need to know to get started with your own farm business. At the close of the program you will have completed your own farm business plan and crop plan. Additionally, qualified graduates will have the opportunity to join the CFA Incubator Program and lease farmland for a reduced rate to help start your own farm business.
We are currently accepting applications! For more information see www.californiafarmacademy.org.
Maureen Thompson, Farm Program Manager and
Jennifer Taylor, Program Director
Farm Program Manager, California Farm Academy
Center for Land-Based Learning
5265 Putah Creek Road
Winters, CA 95694