UC Cooperative Extension advisor Rose Hayden-Smith has taught schoolchildren at 4-H summer camps about food, inspired Master Gardener volunteers to plant school gardens, led the UC Cooperative Extension office in Ventura County as its first female director, and encouraged fellow University of California scientists to collaborate more on sustainable food systems research as a statewide leader. In recent years, the historian wrote a book about Victory Gardens, created the UC Food Observer, and became a leader in using social media to expand the university's public outreach.
Hayden-Smith, who joined UC Agriculture and Natural Resources in 1992, is reinventing herself again after retiring Jan. 3, 2020. She has been selected to be a Fellow for the eXtension Foundation, to promote adoption of new technology by Cooperative Extension professionals nationwide. She also launched her own consulting business, Shine Communications.
“I've loved the multi-faceted aspect of my UC career, which has enabled me to serve my community and my colleagues in creative and meaningful ways,” Hayden-Smith said.
Lynnette Coverly was a 4-H volunteer when Hayden-Smith joined UCCE Ventura County.
“Rose struck me immediately as a passionate and organized leader who easily motivated everyone she came in contact with,” Coverly said. “She motivated me personally to get more involved as a 4-H volunteer leader.
“For my daughter, Rose continually spoke with her about how to practically apply her education and the skills she learned in 4-H to her collegiate life and later, in dental school.”
“At Loma Vista Elementary School, Rose developed an experiential demonstration garden for the fourth-grade classes,” said Curwood, who is currently director of School Nutrition Programs at the Virginia Department of Education. “Crops introduced by the Spanish and native California crops used by the Indians, grown on the grounds of the California Missions to feed the complex, were grown by students in the school garden to replicate this important part of California history and culture.”
Hayden-Smith worked with Loma Vista Elementary School teachers annually to integrate the school garden with their California history curriculum and persuaded the kitchen staff to add the garden-grown foods to the cafeteria salad bars so the students could taste them.
“Rose also provided professional development to the school nutrition program foodservice staff on the agriculture present in Ventura during WWI and II and the contribution of local Victory Gardens to the war effort. It really brought history to life and amplified their work and community connections from a historical perspective.”
During a sabbatical leave, Hayden-Smith worked with deaf and hard-of-hearing students in garden settings. She teamed with the City of Ventura to pilot-test a curriculum for middle-school age youth about sustainability through fun garden activities.
A career day at the county science fair, agriculture and natural resource journalism academies, and on-farm programs for court-mandated kids were some other learning opportunities offered by Hayden-Smith, who served as a county commissioner for juvenile justice.
“Most recently, I've been working in digital communications in Extension, which has been a wonderful fit for my skills and evolving interests,” Hayden-Smith said. “This work has also brought me back to my early career work in marketing and technology.”
An early adopter of technology, Hayden-Smith began blogging and using Twitter in 2008 as @VictoryGrower, a handle chosen to reflect her expertise in the war-time Victory Garden movement.
“It's a different ‘victory' now, but many of the goals are the same,” Hayden-Smith said. “Gardens connect people with food and food production. Food is fundamental. It's what everyone shares in common. As we are entering a more challenging era of increased population and pressure on resources, it is vital for people to understand how to cultivate food.”
Over the years, the practicing historian has delivered many presentations, commented for documentaries and podcasts and published articles about gardens. She published a book, “Sowing the Seeds of Victory: American Gardening Programs of World War 1” in 2014.
While serving as a Kellogg Food and Society Policy Fellow, beginning in 2008, Hayden-Smith developed a national media and education campaign to promote school, home and community garden efforts and public policies, publishing articles in the Huffington Post and Civil Eats. She served on the USDA People's Garden Advisory Group, visiting the White House garden groundbreaking and again in 2012, when she live-tweeted her experience.
People increasingly took notice of the academic's extraordinary communication skills.
As the social media maven's following grew, she began mentoring and encouraging UC Cooperative Extension colleagues who wanted to use social media for outreach and professional networking.
In 2011, Hayden-Smith, who had developed a reputation for being upbeat with a knack for cultivating cooperation, was tapped to lead UC ANR's strategic initiative in sustainable food systems. She was honored for her leadership, work ethic and integrity in 2013, when the Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis presented her with the Eric Bradford and Charlie Rominger Agricultural Sustainability Leadership Award.
To support UC's Global Food Initiative, Hayden-Smith was asked to curate a selection of news, reports and thought pieces from a broad range of sources that represent diverse perspectives on food. The intent was not to focus on UC, but to facilitate discussions about food that were occurring across many communication platforms. She launched the UC Food Observer blog in 2015 and complemented it with social media.
“Over the course of my UC career, I've worked with the best people: curious, driven to improve communities and inspiring all around,” Hayden-Smith said. “I've been blessed to work for a world-class institution that has fostered my creativity and need for new challenges. My biggest takeaway? It all goes so fast, the possibilities for learning new things are endless, and work – and the people you work with – are a blessing.”
Prior to working for UC, Hayden-Smith worked in the technology sector as a product manager, and public relations and marketing manager for a number of companies, including Tymshare, Wavefront Technologies and McDonnell Douglas Information System Group. She earned her bachelor's degree in English, master's degrees in education and US. history, and a Ph.D. in U.S. history and public historical studies. She began her UC career in 1989 as a student affairs officer at UCSB advising re-entry students.
“Transitions are hard, and I'm filled with both sadness and excitement,” Hayden-Smith said.