UC ANR was well-represented at the California Economic Summit in Bakersfield on Oct. 27-28 to find new ideas and partners for economic development projects. The annual event is held to identify economic opportunities, improve state and regional competitiveness and generate jobs.
“This year's California Economic Summit really highlighted the need to invest in our working landscapes and harvest the huge opportunities for jobs and economic growth throughout the state if we do,” said Glenda Humiston, vice president. “I'm really excited to see state and regional leaders recognizing the critical role that UC ANR and UC Cooperative Extension can play in supporting those initiatives.”
Humiston was joined at the event by Anne Megaro, director of government and community relations; Keith Taylor, UC Cooperative Extension community economic development specialist; Julia Van Soelen Kim, UCCE food systems advisor; Olivia Henry, UCCE food systems advisor; Cindy Chen, UCCE woody biomass and forest products advisor; Ashley Hooper, UCCE urban community resiliency advisor; Alec Dompka, UCCE rural community and economic development advisor; and Rita Clemons, director of UCCE for San Bernardino, Riverside and Orange counties.
“We have too many people that are working every single day and they're not making it,” said Antonio Villaraigosa, infrastructure advisor to Governor Gavin Newsom, told attendees on the first day.
Another speaker, Dolores Huerta, co-founder of United Farm Workers, called for equitable pay for farmworkers.
On the second day of the summit, Governor Newsom joined the event. He chatted on stage with Ashley Swearengin, former mayor of Fresno, noting that California is now the fourth largest economy in the world, surpassing Germany. He complimented the San Joaquin Valley for its economic development efforts.
The 2023 California Economic Summit Summit will be held in the Coachella and Imperial valleys.
Solins joins UC ANR as new environmental horticulture advisor
Joanna Solins joined UC ANR on Oct. 3 as a UC Cooperative Extension environmental horticulture advisor for Sacramento, Solano and Yolo counties.
Solins will focus on research and outreach related to urban plants, landscaping and climate change, while building relationships with county and municipal governments, nonprofits, landscape and tree care professionals, nursery growers and utilities, among others. She also will support the UC Master Gardener coordinators in her assigned counties, collaborating to extend knowledge and resources to community members.
“My core goals are to improve the climate suitability and ecological performance of urban landscaping and promote the equitable distribution of benefits from urban plants,” Solins said.
After attaining a bachelor's degree in environmental studies at Vassar College, Solins began her career leading outreach education programs for the New England Aquarium and writing for educational publishers. She also worked in communications at the Coral Reef Alliance in San Francisco before starting graduate school at UC Davis, which culminated in a master's in geography and Ph.D. in ecology.
Solins' research at UC Davis combined field studies and geographic information system analysis to investigate plant communities, tree canopy and soils along urban creeks in the Sacramento area. She also carried out postdoctoral research on green stormwater infrastructure, urban forest composition, and the water demand of urban vegetation across California, and contributed to projects examining residential landscaping and urban heat in Sacramento.
Solins is based in Sacramento and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (916) 875-2409.
Mar named UCCE organic materials management advisor
Stephanie Mar joined UC Cooperative Extension on Oct. 3 as the assistant organic materials management advisor serving Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties. Mar is responsible for investigating ways to divert organic wastes from landfills to alternative end markets, such as circular food economies, composting and wastewater reclamation.
“To me, waste doesn't have an end life, just a next life,” said Mar. “A lot of people don't know what happens to their waste after the garbage truck comes or they flush a toilet, so a part of my job is to understand what we are wasting and what happens to it.”
Mar attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she earned a master's degree in public health focused on environmental science and engineering, and a master's degree in city and regional planning focused on land use and environmental planning. She also has a bachelor's degree in public health from UC Berkeley.
Much of Mar's professional experience, like her time working for the City of Berkeley, is centered on community outreach and policy development, two strengths that she believes will serve her well in this new role.
Previously, Mar worked as a public health analyst for UC San Francisco and as a social research analyst with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services too. Both of which strengthened her understanding of policy and program development, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation.
“Research gives us a lot of information, but then there's a need for translation from what we know to what it actually means,” she said. “There are a lot of people doing different things [to manage their waste], so there's a need for coordination and dispersal of information."
Mar's background in policy development is something she'll rely on to operationalize the research being done by herself and her colleagues.
Behavioral change is one of Mar's anticipated challenges in this role. Even if research and policy efforts yield successful results, encouraging the community to adapt can be an uphill battle.
“Sorting trash, for example, is more of a mental burden than a physical one,” she explained. “We know what the research says and what we need to do, it's just about developing the market to make it happen.”
Mar is based out of Irvine at the South Coast Research and Extension Center and can be reached at email@example.com.
Dobbin named UCCE water justice policy and planning specialist
Kristin Dobbin has joined UC ANR and the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at UC Berkeley as a UC Cooperative Extension specialist focused on water justice policy and planning.
Originally from Utah, Dobbin comes to Rausser College from UC Los Angeles' Luskin Center for Innovation, where she was a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow. Dobbin pairs her love for rural communities, community natural resource management and environmental justice organizing with a strong belief that research can and should play an important role in advancing policy. She hopes to leverage her new position, the first of its kind for UC, to uplift community water managers and impacted residents as leaders and experts in conversations surrounding water management and access.
“It's a dream and a responsibility to be assuming a role that so perfectly weds research and impact,” Dobbin tweeted about her new UC Cooperative Extension water justice policy and planning specialist role.
Dobbin earned her Ph.D. in ecology with an emphasis in environmental policy and human ecology from UC Davis and B.A. in environmental analysis from Pitzer College in Claremont. Prior to graduate school, she worked for the Community Water Center – a grassroots environmental justice organization that advances community-driven solutions for water justice in the Central Valley.
Dobbin is based at UC Berkeley and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @kbdobbin.
Shive named UCCE forest and fuels management specialist
Kristen Shive has joined UC ANR and the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at UC Berkeley as a UC Cooperative Extension specialist focused on forest and fuels management.
Bringing more than 20 years of experience in conservation, forest and fire management, and ecology, her work broadly focuses on restoring fire to fire-adapted ecosystems, prioritizing areas for restoration, and understanding shifting fire regimes. Prior to joining UC ANR, Shive led the forest program science team for The Nature Conservancy's California Chapter and was the director of science for Save the Redwoods League. She also has worked for the National Park Service in Alaska, California and Wyoming, most recently as the fire ecologist for Yosemite National Park.
She earned her master's degree in forestry from Northern Arizona University and a Ph.D. in ecosystem science from UC Berkeley.
Shive is based at UC Berkeley and can be reached at email@example.com and (630) 917-5170 and on Twitter @klshive.
Bacon joins NPI as policy analyst
Kassandra Bacon joined the Nutrition Policy Institute on Oct. 12 as a project policy analyst.
Bacon earned her Master's in Public Health with a concentration in public health nutrition and Graduate Certificate in Food Systems at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health and B.S. in nutritional sciences from the University of New Hampshire, Durham.
During her academic journey, she contributed to several research projects pertaining to sustainable food systems, program evaluation, and improvement of public nutrition policy. Additionally, her experience includes program coordination and evaluation, data analysis, and development of communication materials to advance equity-based public health solutions.
At NPI, Bacon will continue to support public health nutrition through policy and program evaluation. She will work on projects related to nutrition and increasing consumption of drinking water and in childcare and universal school meals.
Bacon is based at UC Office of the President in Oakland and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rodriguez joins 4-H as advisor in Northern California
Matt Rodriguez joined UC Cooperative Extension on Sept. 5 as a 4-H youth development advisor for Nevada, Placer, Sutter and Yuba counties. As a 4-H advisor, Rodriguez implements extension education and applied research programs grounded in positive youth development theory. He also provides expertise to enhance volunteer engagement in 4-H youth development programs.
Rodriguez earned his Ph.D. from the University of Maryland's School of Public Health in the Department of Family Science. His dissertation, “Influence of Latinx Fathers' Behaviors, Cognitions, Affect, and Family Congruence on Youth Energy Balance-Related Health Outcomes,” investigated Latinx father involvement in the context of youth energy balance-related behaviors. During his doctoral training, Rodriguez also supported several USDA-funded research initiatives involving Latinx fathers and youth. His recent publication, "Predictors Associated with Fathers' Successful Completion of the FOCUS Program,” investigated a sample of fathers in Texas who participated in a child welfare parenting intervention.
Rodriguez currently co-chairs the Men in Families focus group at the National Council on Family Relations. He was also recently elected as Section Counselor for the American Public Health Association's Health Informatics Information Technology section.
Prior to his doctoral studies, Rodriguez was a professional web developer for several large nonprofits in the Midwest. Growing up in a multicultural family with ancestry deriving from Puerto Rico, Japan, Nigeria and England, he embraces the importance of cultural diversity and competency in his family science research.
Rodriguez is based in Auburn and can be reached at (530) 889-7391 and email@example.com and on social media @MattR_Rodriguez.
Martinico named human-wildlife interactions advisor
Breanna Martinico joined UC Cooperative Extension as a Human-Wildlife Interactions Advisor on July 5. She will work on issues that involve wildlife as agricultural pests and beneficial species. She will be conducting a needs assessment to learn about priority issues in Napa, Lake and Solano counties.
Martinico is a wildlife biologist and ecologist, specializing in ornithology. Her past research addressed the role of birds on farms as pests and pest control agents. She has worked on projects investigating the important role farmland plays as habitat for California birds. In other work with the USDA Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program, she investigated the implications of agricultural land-use and pest management practices on raptor ecology and conservation.
Martinico is a UC Davis graduate with a B.S. in wildlife fish and conservation biology, MS in avian sciences, and has nearly completed her Ph.D. in ecology.
Martinico is compelled by the co-existence and mutual benefits of humans and wildlife in agroecosystems and is committed to working to find solutions that benefit both people and wildlife. She is excited to be part of UC ANR where she can develop a research and extension program that has the power to increase knowledge and adoption of management practices that promote ecological sustainability and increase farm viability in California.
Martinico is based in Napa and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (707) 253-4141.
Forest Stewardship Education Initiative wins award
UC ANR's Forest Stewardship Education Initiative received the national Family Forest Education Comprehensive Program Award from the National Woodland Owners Association and the National Association of University Forest Resources Programs.
The award is shared by the UC ANR forestry team which includes co-principal investigators: Susie Kocher, UCCE forest and natural resources advisor for the Central Sierra; Mike Jones, forestry advisor for Mendocino, Lake and Sonoma counties; and Kim Ingram, Forest Stewardship Education Initiative academic coordinator.
Other UC ANR forestry team members include Yana Valachovic, UCCE forest advisor for Humboldt and Del Norte counties; Ricky Satomi, forestry and natural resources advisor for Sutter, Yuba, Placer, Nevada and Butte counties; Ryan Tompkins, UCCE forest and natural resources advisor for Plumas, Sierra and Lassen counties; Rob York, UCCE specialist and co-director of Berkeley Forests; Bill Stewart, UCCE specialist emeritus; Rachelle Hedges, Berkeley Forests project and policy analyst; and Ariel Roughton, Berkeley Forests research stations manager.
The initiative – developed in 2019 as a project through input by the Forest Landowner Education and Outreach Working Group of the California Governor's Forest Management Task Force – is focused on educating private forest landowners to better understand, manage and protect their forests by developing a forest management plan, engaging with natural resource professionals, and taking advantage of cost-share opportunities that can help them meet their management goals.
The program was implemented using three-day forest stewardship workshops prior to COVID-19 and an educational construct involving self-study in advance of online sessions with resource educators during the pandemic.
Currently the program involves nine weekly online sessions and one in-person field day. Completion of the workshop series entitles participants to an initial site visit by a resource professional. To date, 335 individuals attended, with 98% indicating improvement in the understanding of forest management planning, 89% planning to consult with a professional, and through May 2022, 49 participants have had site visits from professionals using the program's $800 stipend that supported the visit.
Evaluators felt that the sessions reflected “Excellent submission and programming,” and that it was “Highly complementary that personnel follow-up with participants AFTER the program to determine impacts cited.” Some were also impressed when recognizing the narrative that program managers would like to reach more private landowners about participating in the program using a benefit/barrier assessment.
One evaluator commented, “This is a very high-quality program. It easily rates very high in each of the criteria categories. The nomination package was thorough and it is evident that those involved in the development and delivery of these workshops are knowledgeable and passionate about landowner and professional education. Kudos to California!”
“Our funder CAL FIRE was so pleased with the program that they funded an expansion starting in 2022, which includes additional field days for people not in the workshops, and additional outreach to broad audiences across the state,” Kocher said. “We have funding for two community education specialists and a communications person, which are under recruitment.”
The award was presented on Sept. 22 at the 2022 Society of American Foresters national convention in Baltimore, Maryland.
Roche and multi-state team win NIFA Partnership Award
Leslie Roche, UCCE rangeland management specialist, received on Oct. 6 the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Partnership Award for Multi-State Efforts on behalf of the National Connections Team for Forest and Rangeland Resources.
The certificate reads, “NIFA recognizes the National Connections Team for Forest and Rangeland Resources, based at the University of Hawaii-Manoa, for developing a webinar series around Renewable Resources and Extension Act critical issues. The team's goal for the webinar series was to strengthen RREA programming by increasing renewable resource Extension and outreach professionals' capacity to provide scientific and technologically relevant content. It showcased innovative programming developed by forest and range professionals from Land-grant universities across the nation. Evaluations showed the series had both national and global appeal. Additionally, the webinar series were influential with participants indicating that they had learned ways to enhance their own programming.”
The multi-state team was led by Mark Thorne (University of Hawaii-Manoa) and Barb Hutchinson (Rangelands Partnership/University of Arizona) and includes Kris Tiles (University of Wisconsin), Retta Bruegger (Colorado State University), Adam Downing (Virginia Tech), Sheila Merrigan (Rangelands Partnership/University of Arizona), Martha Monroe (University of Florida), Dave Bogner (University of Arizona), Elise Gornish ( University of Arizona), and Roche.
The web-based conference series can be viewed at https://globalrangelands.org/rreasp/webinars.
4-H receives national recognition
At the National Association of Extension 4-H Youth Development Professionals annual conference, UCANR 4-H was recognized. Fe Moncloa, 4-H advisor for Santa Clara County; Martin Smith, UCCE specialist; Charles Go, former 4-H advisor for Contra Costa County; and Lynn Schmitt-McQuitty, statewide 4-H Youth Development director and interim director of County Cooperative Extension, received awards for 25 years of service to the organization. JoLynn Miller, 4-H youth development advisor, received the distinguished service award for 7 to 15 years of service to NAE4-HYDP. Stephanie Barrett, 4-H community education supervisor for Southern California, received an achievement-is-service award for serving 3 to 7 years.
UC ANR academics met with staff for California members of Congress via Zoom on Oct. 12 to discuss invasive species and pest management. Integrated pest management research is funded through the federal Farm Bill, which is up for renewal in 2023.
“The 2023 Farm Bill is right around the corner and it is the perfect time for UC ANR researchers, staff and volunteers to meet with policymakers and demonstrate the impact and return on investment of federal funding for Cooperative Extension throughout California,” said Anne Megaro, government and community relations director.
Jim Farrar, UC Integrated Pest Management Program director; Georgios Vidalakis, UC Cooperative Extension specialist at UC Riverside; Jhalendra Rijal, UC IPM advisor; Cindy Kron, UC IPM advisor; Andrew Sutherland, urban IPM advisor; Tom Getts, UCCE weed ecology advisor; and Missy Gable, director of the UC Master Gardener Program; and UC Master Gardener volunteer Linda Haque met with Chloe Koseff, who represented Senator Dianne Feinstein, and Angela Ebiner, who represented Senator Alex Padilla.
The group discussed how pest prevention is key, comparing the cost to mitigate established pests to the cost of preventing new pests and diseases from entering California.
Gable and Haque shared how the local UC Master Gardener hotline in Los Angeles played a critical role in elevating the first recorded sighting of Asian citrus psyllid in California, and how the UC Master Gardener Program continues to work closely with researchers like Vidalakis to share science-based information on pest management.
Sutherland discussed the human health hazards of urban pests including cockroaches and bed bugs. Farrar and Rijal provided an overview of IPM in California and the importance of the UC IPM program.
Vidalakis, Rijal, Sutherland and Gable also discussed those subjects with House Agriculture Committee staff members Malikha Daniels and Emily Pilscott.
Chris Greer, UC IPM advisor, and Gable met with Tanner Dorrough, staff member for Rep. Salud Carbajal, who represents residents in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties. They discussed soilborne diseases in berries and use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, on farms.
Richard Smith, UCCE vegetable crops advisor, and Gable met with Sam Harris, staff member for Rep. Jimmy Panetta, whose district includes Salinas, Santa Cruz and Monterey. Smith discussed impatiens necrotic spot virus and thrips in lettuce and the “Orwellian” experience of seeing vast swaths of dead lettuce fields surrounded by red skies and smoke from nearby fires. Gable described the UC Master Gardeners' demonstration garden in Watsonville where they teach IPM, how to read pesticide labels, weed management and more.
Getts, Gable and UC Master Gardener volunteer Kay Perkins met with Alexandra Lavy, staff member for Rep. Doug LaMalfa, whose district includes the northeast corner of California, Chico and Redding. Getts discussed the role of IPM advisors solving current problems of the local community, using invasive grasses in grazing lands and wildfire risks, grasshopper populations as examples. Perkins described the UC Master Gardener demonstration garden at Patrick Ranch Museum where they teach and demonstrate IPM and sustainable landscaping practices. They also offer adult education classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and at local libraries.
Rijal, Vidalakis, Farrar and Haque met with Alexa Fox, staff member for Rep. Jim Costa, whose district extends from Merced to Fresno. Rijal discussed navel orangeworm management in almond orchards and spotted winged drosophila in cherry orchards. Haque described the outreach materials UC Master Gardener developed with IPM advisors to educate the public about these pests.
“We made several great connections and we are busy following up on issues discussed and setting up tours for staff in California,” Megaro said.
Two new members are being recruited for the Sustainable Food Systems Strategic Initiative (SFS) panel.
The SFS Initiative is one of five UC ANR Strategic Initiatives that help unify, communicate and advocate for the work we do in UC ANR. The Sustainable Food Systems SI encompasses UC ANR's work in sustainable production, intensive agriculture systems, safe food processing, and enhanced food access.
The SFS panel tasks include contributing to UC ANR's strategic plan, identifying themes and priorities for the future, identifying research and extension gaps, providing input on staffing, and highlighting important work in UC ANR related to sustainable food systems. We identify time-sensitive opportunities based on strategic priorities, convene meetings, engage stakeholders, and foster dialogue.
Appointments to the panel are for two- or three-year terms. The two individuals appointed will start their term in January, 2023.
Anyone within UC ANR or with an Agricultural Experiment Station appointment is eligible to apply.
Applications are due Nov. 15, 2022. Please apply at
For more information, please contact Rachel Surls, UC ANR Sustainable Food Systems Strategic Initiative Leader and UCCE sustainable food systems advisor for Los Angeles County, at email@example.com./span>/span>
- Author: Hanif Houston, Associate Director, Communications & Marketing for UC ANR's The VINE
Agriculture and the global food supply is threatened by a range of issues including drought, climate impacts, increasing business costs and labor scarcity. To forge solutions to these issues and more, on Oct. 18-22 nearly 1,000 attendees from 26 countries converged in Fresno for the inaugural FIRA - World Ag Robotics Forum to be held in the U.S. UC ANR's Verde Innovation Network for Entrepreneurship, or the VINE, co-sponsored the event.
Widely observed as a pivotal moment for agricultural technology and robotics in U.S. agriculture, the event was kicked off by California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross and moved into a packed agenda with panel discussions, lightning talks and pitches where automation company representatives, academics and growers had the opportunity to share their challenges, concerns and hopes for the future of autonomous farming. The event culminated at CSU Fresno with over a dozen companies offering in-the-field demonstrations (See link and field day).
Here are a few themes and takeaways the VINE team took away from this pioneering multi-day event.
Gaining On-Farm Use - Focus on end user needs and ease of use!
A major question speakers tackled was why more growers aren't yet integrating automation into their farms. Automation solutions exist and are being developed to help growers in nearly every aspect of running a farm — from planting, harvesting and weeding to addressing persistent labor shortages. Despite this, ag automation companies, both big and small, still face resistance from growers to adopting new technologies.
Part of the problem, Jeff Morrison of Grimmway Farms said during a panel on mechanization versus automation, is that companies pay more attention to their product than the needs of the grower. “Farmers want technology that fills a particular need,” he said. Anna Haldewang, the founder of InsightTRAC, agreed. “Don't be married to your product, be married to your customer.”
Chuck Baresich, president of the Haggerty Ag Robotics Company, emphasized the importance of creating automation solutions that are simple and intuitive to use. “For a manufacturer, the first thing I'd tell them is don't overcomplicate things,” he said. “Make sure your robot can drive straight, start with that.”
Panels also touched on the technical, business and regulatory challenges to automating agriculture. The agtech startup market is much younger than Silicon Valley, and we don't yet know the best route to establishing a successful business, Rob Trice of Better Food Ventures and The Mixing Bowl observed during a panel on robotic product development with key industry leaders, including Walt Duflock, vice president of innovation for Western Growers. That said, panelists identified three things that startups should do:
- Get prototypes into the field as quickly as possible to get performance data and get feedback, including from farmworkers, who may come up with multiple uses for the product.
- Be transparent about development to build partnerships with investors and growers. Partners understand that startups are a work-in-progress.
- Be ready to evolve and change your technology or your business to meet the customers' needs. Love the customer, not the tech.
AgTech, Labor and Farmworkers - Forging win-win opportunities
Hernan Hernandez of the California Farmworker Foundation acknowledges the labor concern, but also sees opportunity. “All of a sudden, you go from 100 individuals that are going to be able to harvest this season to now 10 that will harvest with a machine," he said. "But the way we look at it is as well, when we talk to farmworkers and engage them, and we look at data, there is also opportunity. We know a lot of the farmworkers want opportunities to further their skill sets.”
This sense of optimism about the future of the farmworker was shared by Gabe Youtsey, chief innovation officer of UC ANR, who moderated a panel on the future of agricultural work. “California as a whole has begun recognizing the importance of creating the next generation of ag workers,” he observed, “and schools and industry have both taken notice.” Indeed, California community colleges have begun working on new relevant programs that translate directly to jobs, and the federal government has allocated $10 million going directly to Central Valley agricultural education and workforce development programs.
The gathering also served as a platform for launching new technology initiatives. Youtsey, in collaboration with our partners at UC Davis AI Institute for Food Systems, announced the 2023 Farm Robotics Challenge at FIRA USA 22! We look forward to co-hosting this event!
It is clear that automation and robotics will play an increasingly crucial role in agriculture. Not only in addressing the pronounced labor shortage in agriculture, but by creating new value creation opportunities related to resource efficiency, crop health, disease, harvesting and more.
Thanks to Partners and Sponsors
All of us at The VINE extend our heartfelt thanks to attendees, partners, sponsors and UC ANR's Program Support Unit who made this event possible.
Our partners include FIRA, Western Growers, University of California, Merced, California State University, Fresno and the Fresno-Merced Future of Food (F3) Innovation Initiative.
Industry sponsors include Bluewhite, Carbon Robotics, CNH Industrial, Far West Equipment Dealers Association, Grimmway Farms, Keithly-Williams Seeds Inc., Robotics Plus, VARTA AG, and Sonsray Machinery, LLC.
Stay in the Loop!
- Subscribe to the FIRA Newsletter HERE and keep tabs on the website for future events
- Interested in the 2023 Farm Robotics Challenge announced at FIRA, check out https://farmbot.ai