Agricultural research and education center moving to new site in Ventura County

UC Hansen Research and Extension Center to expand capacity at Camarillo location

The University of California Hansen Agricultural Research and Extension Center – the site of popular school field trips, 4-H programs, a UC Master Gardener demonstration garden, and numerous research trials on crops and landscape plants – is moving to a new location on the west side of Camarillo. The center was established through an endowment bequeathed to the UC by Saticoy farmer Thelma Hansen, who sought to support university research and extension activities benefiting Ventura County.

For the past 25 years, Hansen REC has been located on the historic Faulkner Farm in Santa Paula. At 27 acres, Hansen REC was the smallest of the nine RECs across the state operated by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources; in 2019, UC ANR leadership decided a larger property was needed to expand the center's capacity. The Faulkner Farm was sold in March 2021, but a portion was leased back to the UC to sustain its programs until a new location was identified.

In December 2022, the UC acquired a 114-acre farm property in Camarillo to serve as Hansen REC's new home. Moving structures and equipment from Faulkner Farm will take place over the next six months. Public programs at the new location are on hold until seismic retrofitting and other building upgrades are completed. A new research and educational facility also will be built, with an estimated opening date in 2027 or 2028.

“Our planning committee looked for a site on the Oxnard Plain that is representative of the coastal agriculture environment and conducive to research on Ventura County's high-value crops, such as strawberries,” said Annemiek Schilder, Hansen REC director. “We also sought a location with diverse soil types, access to sufficient irrigation water, and a low risk of flooding – and we're pleased that this Camarillo property meets most of our search criteria.”

Of the approximately 104 cultivable acres, 28 are certified organic, which will allow researchers to study organic as well as conventional crop production methods, Schilder noted. She said another bonus of the new location is its proximity to California State University, Channel Islands and the Rodale Institute California Organic Center, which are both potential partners for future research and a student organic farm on site.

Initial plans for the new Hansen REC facility include offices, conference rooms, laboratories, greenhouses, a demonstration kitchen, and indoor and outdoor education areas. The center will aim to be water-efficient and energy-neutral, relying on solar panels for much of its energy usage. The UC Cooperative Extension Office in Ventura is also slated to move to the new facility.

“We fully expect Hansen REC to become a vibrant research and education hub that provides science-based solutions and is responsive to the needs of agricultural, rural and urban communities and the environment in Ventura County,” said Glenda Humiston, UC vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “We're excited to expand current programming while bringing in new educational opportunities, such as the UC Master Food Preserver and Master Beekeeper programs.”

By Mike Hsu
Author - Senior Public Information Representative