UCCE advisor Janine Hasey, who transformed walnut production, retires after 38 years

Jul 5, 2019

After nearly 38 years of working for University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, Janine Hasey, retired on July 1 as the UC Cooperative Extension orchard and environmental horticulture advisor for Sutter and Yuba counties.

Hasey has worked mainly with walnuts, kiwifruit, cling peaches and almonds. Over the course of her career, walnut acreage in Sutter and Yuba counties has grown from 17,000 acres to 47,000 acres.

Collaborating with local farmers, Hasey conducted research on tree pruning, pest management, walnut rootstocks and varieties, water quality, cover crops, and irrigation management.

“Janine has been a tremendous asset to our entire agriculture industry during her 38-year tenure with UC Cooperative Extension,” said Sandra Gilbert, Rio Oso walnut grower. 

Gilbert, who farms with family members, said, “Working side-by-side as Janine conducted research on our ranches, often with other scientists from the UC system, has been a pleasure. She has provided important information that has dramatically changed the methods we employ to produce walnuts.”

Hasey has been the “go-to person” for the California kiwifruit industry, said Tom Schultz, past chairman of the California Kiwifruit Commission and current chairman of the Kiwifruit Administrative Committee. 

“It would be hard for me to list all the kiwifruit research projects that Janine has tirelessly worked on for the benefit of our California kiwifruit industry,” Schultz said. “She has always been the first person that we would contact in our UC Cooperative Extension system when a kiwifruit research project was needed. If it was an insect problem, fungus, canker, you name it, Janine was always there to help us either solve the problem or name the best researchers to contact for help.”

To show other walnut growers the results of experiments, Hasey held field days at the Gilberts' ranch.

“It's rewarding to see other growers demonstrate their high regard for Janine when they flock to the on-site meetings to witness results of her test plots,” Gilbert said. “We have a number of test plots where the on-site grower meetings really bulge. Growers, buyers and nurseries are eager to examine growth patterns, production, nut quality and crack outs of new varieties. Janine has provided quality information that is paving the way for advanced tree vigor, more timely harvest schedules, quality nuts and higher production.”

A recent change in walnut training management, at first met with skepticism, was the no-pruning, no-heading practice introduced by UC Cooperative Extension orchard management specialist Bruce Lampinen and Hasey. “We had a paradigm shift when we realized that lateral bearing walnuts do not have to be headed to grow during the training stage,” Hasey said.

Gilbert agreed: “Watching over the plot for the past 6 years, we were all taken aback by the superior growth and early production this method provided. After adding in the significant labor savings for pruning labor and brush removal costs, savvy growers quickly put this method into action on their own ranches.”

The farm advisor's research also helped walnut growers estimate plant water needs. “Watermark soil sensors and leaf-pressure chambers proved invaluable in determining optimum water needs for orchards leading to significant advancements in tree health with the added benefit of often saving large quantities of water,” Gilbert said. “The use of the pressure chambers is a regular part of our employee training now.”

Growing up in Bakersfield, Hasey wasn't raised on a farm, but her family knew many farmers. She became intrigued with a career in UC Cooperative Extension as an undergraduate at UC Davis in plant science and then working for a consulting company in the Bay Area. “I found that I loved diagnosing plant problems and also attended extension meetings so I was familiar with UCCE,” she said.

After earning an M.S. in plant pathology, Hasey was selected by UC ANR for an intern program in 1981. She trained with mentors on tree crops in Sutter and Yuba counties and weeds, environmental horticulture and wine grapes in Napa County.

“I was drawn to the flexibility of the position, responding to problems and challenges as they arose, solving those problems through applied research and collaborative work with colleagues, conducting extension meetings and field days, and the opportunity to work with so many growers, PCAs and Master Gardeners,” Hasey said.

In 1983, she returned to Sutter-Yuba counties as a UCCE farm advisor working mainly with walnuts, kiwifruit and almonds, later adding cling peaches. In 2011, she began serving walnut growers in Colusa County. In 2014, she added UCCE director for Sutter-Yuba counties to her responsibilities.

“She has been a foremost resource and promoter of agriculture and is responsible for keeping our industry in front of the pack,” Gilbert said. “On behalf of the entire Gilbert family, we have enjoyed and learned from every encounter and hope that Janine doesn't entirely kick her work shoes off to the side.”

In retirement, Hasey, who has received emeritus status from UC ANR, plans to continue some research projects, contribute to the Sacramento Valley Walnut Newsletter and remain involved in the local agriculture industry. “I am looking forward to traveling more, but I'm not planning to ride into the sunset for a while.”

“I can't think of a better career than working with so many fine individuals in orchards and vineyards throughout these counties, diagnosing problems and researching methods to increase production, reduce labor costs and manage pests and diseases with products safer to humans and the environment,” Hasey said. “We've persevered through droughts and floods, good times and bad.”

By Pamela Kan-Rice
Author - Assistant Director, News and Information Outreach