- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
Four staff research associates will join the ranks of UC Cooperative Extension scientists in the coming months to support nut crop advisors conducting critical research in walnut, almond and pistachio production.
The California Walnut Board, the Almond Board of California and the California Pistachio Research Board together have provided about $425,000 to cover annual salaries, benefits, travel and equipment for the new UC Cooperative Extension staff. Under the terms of the agreement, the new positions will be funded annually for up to three years, pending available funds and success of the program.
“By supporting these new positions in UC Cooperative Extension, the California Walnut Board, the Almond Board of California and the California Pistachio Research Board show their recognition for the value of applied research conducted by our nut crop advisors,” said UC Agriculture and Natural Resources vice president Glenda Humiston. “We are grateful to these industry organizations for this vote of confidence and the generous funding to generate science-based knowledge to apply on California farms.”
The new research associates will each devote time supporting two advisors with tree nut assignments:
- Alan Fulton and Luke Milliron, serving Butte, Glenn and Tehama counties
- Katherine Jarvis-Shean and Franz Niederholzer, serving Colusa, Sacramento, Solano, Sutter, Yolo counties
- Mae Culumber and Phoebe Gordon, serving Fresno, Madera and Merced counties
- Elizabeth Fichtner and an advisor under recruitment, serving Tulare and Kings counties
The arrangement reflects a change in how UC Cooperative Extension supports the agriculture industries in California with applied research. With less funding from its traditional revenue sources – USDA, the state government and counties – advisors cover more territory than in the past. Over the years, they have also taken on an increasing share of UC's applied research mission serving the state's specialty crops industries.
The new staff research associate positions were crafted to attract highly qualified candidates who will support advisors' applied research efforts. Their primary focus will be on assisting advisors with planning, execution and gathering data on experimental and demonstration field trials.
UCCE advisor emeritus Joe Grant, who now serves as production research director of the California Walnut Board, chaired an industry working group that drafted the plan based on advisors' input about their needs.
“Advisors are competent and creative people with the skills and knowledge to do research. They need the same support that researchers on campus have,” Grant said.
The California Pistachio Research Board previously provided funding for a plant pathology researcher and an integrated pest management advisor at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier. In addition, the board supported creation of $1 million endowments for a nut genetics researcher and a tree nut soil science and plant-water relations researcher as part of an initiative co-funded by UC President Janet Napolitano.
“We've been concerned for a long time about UC Cooperative Extension's research capacity and infrastructure issues,” said Bob Klein, manager of the California Pistachio Research Board. “This new initiative will increase efficiency and productivity for farm advisors and also reduce their stress from being overcommitted.”
Josette Lewis, the Almond Board chief scientific officer, said the organization depends on UCCE farm advisors for unbiased, quality information about almond production.
“Advisors are a valuable link between UC campuses and growers, not only in doing applied research that helps growers thrive, but in meeting California's goals of environmental and social sustainability,” Lewis said. “The information they generate is shared with a host of ag industry professionals – pest control advisers, crop consultants and people in the private sector who provide services to growers.”
Commodity industry funding for UC Cooperative Extension reflects the value the nut crop industries leverage from one of the strongest agricultural research and extension systems in the world, Lewis said.
The new program is modeled after a pilot project in Colusa County in which the Almond Board provided funding for Niederholzer to hire an intern to support almond research. A young scientist who held the post from 2015-16 was Milliron. In 2017, UC Cooperative Extension named Milliron a sustainable orchard systems advisor for Butte, Glenn and Tehama counties and he will now supervise one of the new staff research associates.
“We had a chance to keep him in the system and capitalize on what he learned during his internship,” Lewis said.
There are other tree nut and fruit advisors in need of research help, Grant said. For example, there are concentrations of tree fruit and nut acreage and growers in Kern, San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties.
“We positioned these four research associates where we heard the need for help was most critical. We can see adding another position or two in the future if funds are available,” Grant said.
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources) will be welcoming the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP) back to its direct oversight effective July 1, 2020.
“This change in management will enable closer collaboration between SAREP and the other statewide programs and institutes administered by UC ANR, while also expanding our current affiliation with the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) to other campuses and partners,” said Glenda Humiston, University of California vice president for agriculture and natural resources.
Humiston also announced that Gail Feenstra, who has been serving as acting director since October 2019, has been appointed director of SAREP, effective July 1, 2020.
Since 1986, SAREP has supported scientific research and education to advance agricultural and food systems that are economically viable, sustain beneficial ecosystem services, and enhance the quality of life in local communities. Moving forward, California farms and food systems face an ever-larger set of challenges: shifting consumer demands,invasive pests, climate change, additional regulations, lack of access to labor, and more. The need for new technologies, better systems and effective problem-solving is greater than ever.
“UC ANR envisions positioning SAREP to serve as a much broader umbrella of sustainability, addressing all aspects of the triple-bottom-line: people, planet and prosperity,” Humiston said. “To accomplish this, SAREP will provide leadership and support to several promising initiatives and will facilitate our ability to capture synergies among them. Those include agritourism, ecosystem services, regional food systems, community and economic development and more.”
Judith Redmond of Full Belly Farm said, “The SAREP program provides an opportunity for UC scientists and researchers to integrate their attention across the disciplines of social science, environmental science, and agricultural economics. The challenges facing down California's farmers and farmworkers today demand no less — those challenges are converging from different directions and should not be addressed without attention to long-term sustainability.”
In addition to working with farmers, SAREP partners with community organizations including the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) and the California Climate and Agriculture Network (CalCAN), a statewide network of sustainable farmers and ranchers and allied organizations, agricultural professionals, scientists and advocates.
“The UC SAREP program was a groundbreaking effort to bring the research and education needs of organic and conservation-oriented agriculture to the foreground within our University of California system,” said Jeanne Merrill, CalCAN policy director. “By bringing SAREP back to UC ANR, we hope to see that program flourish as a statewide program that addresses the latest needs of farmers and the environment, including agricultural solutions to climate change.”
CAFF executive director Paul Towers said, “SAREP's next chapter is exciting, strengthening sustainable agriculture research and more deeply connecting it to farmer needs across the state. Achieving our shared vision of a fair and resilient food and farming system is no small feat. So it's great to have an initiative focused on connecting the dots.”
Feenstra, who joined SAREP's staff as a writer in 1989, has spent her career encouraging interdisciplinary research and outreach that span the supply chain from farm to fork. She helped to initiate UC ANR's work in farm-to-school research and extension and was one of the first researchers with her SAREP team to evaluate farm-to-school procurement data rigorously. From projects that focus on small and mid-scale farms to food hubs to food systems assessments to food policy councils, Feenstra is interested in uncovering the economic development potential of coordinated supply-chain stakeholders and opportunities for building relationships between farmers, consumers and communities.
“I am excited to be part of a stellar SAREP team working more closely with UC ANR colleagues and community partners on strengthening resiliency of regional food systems and supporting economic and social justice for all people – from farmers and farmworkers to food system workers to consumers,” Feenstra said.
Feenstra earned an Ed.D. in nutrition education from Teachers College, Columbia University in New York City, and a B.S. in dietetics and nutrition from UC Davis.
“Our sincere thanks go to UC Davis CAES and Tom Tomich, who has served as SAREP director since 2007, for their leadership and support of the program,” Humiston said.
As part of the transition, the SAREP team will relocate from the UC Davis campus to the UC ANR building at 2801 Second Street in Davis, Calif. The move is planned to be completed by July 1, although timing may be impacted by ongoing shelter-in-place orders.
- Author: Hannah Bird
The University of California Hopland Research and Extension Center (HREC) will offer a sheep shearing and basic care Q&A via Zoom from 3 to 4 p.m. May 7. The session will include advice from experienced shearers, flock managers and fiber experts.
Presentations and discussion will focus on shearing that limits stress to both the sheep and shearer. We also encourage your questions regarding sheep handling, husbandry, flock health, running a mobile shearing service, ethical shearing, grazing for fuel reduction and climate beneficial ranching practices. This webinar will take the place of the planned Sheep Shearing and Basic Care 101 immersive workshop planned at HREC in Spring 2020.
Participants in the webinar may also be interested in learning more about the class planned for 2021. Due to these unprecedented times, you do not have to have been registered for the Sheep Shearing 101 class to attend this Q&A session.
The session is free, but registration is required. Click here to register for the webinar and to share your questions.
King is a shepherd focused on intensive rotational grazing for soil building, ecosystem restoration, fuel reduction and nutrient/water cycling. She raises Icelandic and Targhee sheep and sells meat, wool, and pelts through direct marketing. Services she offers include sheep shearing and contract grazing.
Smith is the shepherd of the flock of over 200 sheep at the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center. She also supports research and extension at the site.
Owner/operator of Hollenback Shearing, Hollenback has been professionally trained and employed as a shearer in the United States, New Zealand, Australia, and Austria. His primary focus in shearing is limiting stress to both the sheep and shearer.
Burgess is the executive director of Fibershed, chair of the board for Carbon Cycle Institute, and the author of “Harvesting Color.” A vocationally trained weaver and natural dyer, she creates hands-on curricula that focus on restoration ecology and fiber systems. Burgess has built an extensive network of farmers and artisans in the Northern California Fibershed to pilot an innovative fiber systems model at the community scale.
- Author: Katrina Hunter, UC Integrated Pest Management Program pesticide safety writer
Gloves, N95 respirators, coveralls and other gear that workers wear to protect themselves from COVID-19, pesticides, dust and other health hazards are in short supply as priority is given to health care workers during the pandemic.
To reduce the spread of COVID-19, workers may wear homemade face coverings, but for applying pesticides, they must wear respirators specified on the pesticide product label, said Whitney Brim-DeForest, UC Cooperative Extension rice advisor.
“Although this could change in the days ahead, half-mask and full-mask respirators are more available than disposable N95 respirators for now,” said Lisa Blecker, coordinator for the UC Pesticide Safety Education Program.
Before the pandemic, 10% of N95 respirators from 3M went to health care, but that number is now 90%, the company said in a letter to distributors. This has led to significant backorders of PPE supplies for distributors.
Carl Atwell, president of Gempler's, an online distributor of worker supplies, said that before the crisis, normal lead times for PPE was up to 10 days. He estimated disposable respirators will become available in the fall and other PPE supplies in August.
In the meantime, there is alternative PPE that agricultural professionals can use during the shortage.
Atwell suggests looking for lesser known brands of PPE as opposed to the first tier of choice: “It's sort of like searching for Purell hand sanitizer. Purell brand might be out of stock, but can you find a different disinfectant?”
On Gempler's website, the more recognizable Tyvek coverall from Dupont is sold out, however disposable protective clothing is available from other brands. Reusable chemical-resistant clothing is also available as opposed to their disposable counterparts. Supplies in high demand are reusable and disposable nitrile gloves, protective clothing, disposable respirators and certain protective eyewear, such as goggles and face shields.
For workers who will be applying pesticides, Blecker and Brim-DeForest offered some guidelines on how to meet PPE requirements as the shortage continues.
General PPE requirements: “Remember, the label is the law,” said Brim-DeForest. “PPE requirements for agriculture are not being loosened.” The UCCE advisor recommends purchasing only what you need for the season and choosing reusable PPE whenever possible. Growers who have excess supplies of PPE can coordinate with their county agricultural commissioner or UCCE advisor to help other producers in their area.
Respirators: If you can't find the respirator required on the label, Blecker said, “Use an alternative, more-protective respirator. For example, if an N95 is required, you can use a half-mask with N95 particulate filters; these can be stand-alone filters or ones that attach to an organic vapor cartridge. You could also use a different pesticide that doesn't require a respirator. Consult with your PCA (pest control adviser) for options.”
Gloves: Chemical-resistant gloves, usually 14 mil or more in thickness are required for most California pesticide applications and should be worn by mixers, handlers and applicators. If nitrile gloves are not available, viton and laminate gloves are universal chemical-resistant materials for most pesticide labels. If the glove material is specified on the label, that instruction must be followed.
“Disposable gloves less than 14 mil can be worn, but not for more than 15 minutes at a time,” Blecker said. “Farmers should also note that thinner gloves cannot be layered on top of one another.”
Coveralls: Coveralls should be worn when required by the pesticide label or when the signal word is “WARNING” or “DANGER,” or when applying by backpack or airblast. “Coveralls can be made out of high-density polyethylene fibers (Tyvek and other brands), which are disposable, or cotton, which are reusable,” Brim-DeForest said. “If reusable coveralls are worn, the employer must ensure employees are provided clean coveralls.”
Goggles/face shields: Face shields are required for mixing and loading pesticides only if it's stated on the label. “If a face shield is unavailable, a full-face respirator can be used,” Blecker said. “Goggles or protective eyewear should always be worn in California when handling pesticides, regardless of what the label says. The face shield, goggles or safety glasses must provide front, side and brow protection and meet the American National Standards Institute Z87.1 standard for impact resistance.
The UC Integrated Pest Management Program also covers these topics in their pesticide safety webinar series at http://ipm.ucanr.edu/IPMPROJECT/workshops.html.
For more information about PPE, contact your county agricultural commissioner or see the California Department of Pesticide Regulation's posters at https://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/whs/pdf/gloves_for_pesticide_handling.pdf and https://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/whs/pdf/n95_alternatives_for_pesticide_handling.pdf.
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
“A group of us are retooling our workshops for online delivery and have seen tremendous interest,” said Yana Valachovic, UC Cooperative Extension forest advisor in Humboldt County. “We have been blown away by the interest in this approach. The April oak health workshop has over 452 people registered after a week of advertising. We probably would have only had 40 people for an in-person event.”
She added, “The prescribed fire for foresters class has 225 people registered after a week of advertising and we probably would have only had 60 people for an in-person event.”
“I am humbled by the interest and hopeful that we'll be able to deliver meaningful content and interaction,” Valachovic said. To accommodate a larger number of participants, she said they are prerecording talks, gathering questions in advance to manage the deluge of questions flowing into the chat box and scheduling live Q and A sessions on Zoom with the speakers and attendees.
For UC Master Food Preservers, nutrition educators and anyone else interested in safe food handling, Erin DiCaprio, UC Cooperative Extension food safety specialist in the Department of Food Science and Technology at UC Davis, partnered with colleagues at North Carolina State University to create coronavirus and food safety materials. There are nine peer-reviewed fact sheets answering COVID-19-related questions about takeout food, food safety, handling groceries and more. The fact sheets can be downloaded free from the COVID-19 section of the ANR catalog: https://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/Items.aspx?hierId=1100.
The UC Master Food Preserver Program is training its volunteers via Zoom https://ucfoodsafety.ucdavis.edu/consumers/food-safety-home/home-food-preservation/uc-master-food-preserver-food-safety-training and will be demonstrating food preservation techniques via YouTube like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SeoymcsLWlg.
To help Californians support local farmers, the UC Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Program created the UC Agritourism Directory at www.calagtour.org. Consumers can look up local farms and ranches and purchase directly from the producer. The new UC SAREP webpage COVID-19 Shelter-in-Place Direct-from-Farm Resources, at http://www.calagtour.org/Shelter-in-Place_Resources, includes information and links to farms and ranches that offer box deliveries, farm stands, online ordering, delivery and pickup services, organized by region.
The UC Master Gardener Program is offering online training for volunteers at http://mg.ucanr.edu/Resources/eXtension_Campus/. Home gardeners trying to grow their own food can find resources at https://ucanr.edu/Coronavirus_and_COVID-19/Gardening/ and ask their local UC Master Gardener volunteers questions. To find local UC Master Gardeners, visit http://mg.ucanr.edu/FindUs/.
California Institute for Water Resources has created a new Water and COVID-19 web page that curates water safety, water use and water supply information. It includes links to information about COVID-19 from the Centers for Disease Control in Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean and from the World Health Organization in Spanish, French, Chinese, Arabic, and Russian. They plan to update the page at http://ciwr.ucanr.edu/California_Drought_Expertise/Water_COVID19 as the COVID-19 situation evolves.
In response to school closures, the UC Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, or EFNEP, and CalFresh Healthy Living UC staff members statewide are providing curricula and other resources to teachers and community organizations to continue nutrition education.
“We surveyed the needs of the educators and are exploring ways to continue to offer evidence-based curriculum while building skills for staff in the area of online and distance learning, using Zoom and social media platforms, such as Facebook Live and YouTube, and other learning platforms such as Google Classroom,” said Katie Panarella, director of UC ANR's Nutrition, Family and Consumer Sciences Program.
Parents who are home schooling their children can get curricula and ideas for educational activities from their local UC Cooperative Extension offices.
The following are a few examples of UC Cooperative Extension activities in counties.
In San Luis Obispo County, CalFresh Health Living, UC built a YouTube Channel to provide nutrition, food safety and physical activity lessons that educators share with their students as part of their assigned schoolwork during shelter in place orders https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCN8eCNc4m1vCbgFrld42MHw/videos.
“Parents should check out our YouTube station for videos featuring nutrition educators covering topics from nutrition and cooking to fun physical activities that don't require any equipment,” Shannon Klisch, CalFresh Health Living, UC program supervisor in San Luis Obispo County.
“There are great ideas for active learning like the Alphabet scavenger hunt at https://youtu.be/M5wMryJkH7M, she said. “And lessons about the importance of eating a variety of foods using MyPlate, including the “Dairy gives us strong bones lesson” with a yogurt parfait recipe included that children of many different ages can help assemble at https://youtu.be/_OUF1nKMKMM.
For kids in Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado and Tuolumne counties, UCCE 4-H advisor JoLynn Miller has been livestreaming lessons on FaceBook Live at https://www.facebook.com/Tuolumnecounty4h. She recently wore a crazy hairdo for Spirit Week while delivering an embryology lesson featuring hatching chicks https://www.facebook.com/Tuolumnecounty4h/videos/235774560806010/.
In Sonoma County, UC Cooperative Extension created a Food Recovery Coalition webpage https://ucanr.edu/sites/SCRFC/ listing opportunities to volunteer, donate and more.
In San Bernardino County, UC Cooperative Extension is offering online classes twice a week on topics including growing food, sustainable landscaping, composting and pest management. For upcoming events, visit http://mgsb.ucanr.edu/.
In Tulare and Kings counties, Alice Escalante, UC ANR adult nutrition educator, is using WhatsApp to motivate her Walking Club participants to continue striding toward their walking goal of 10,000 steps a day as part of CalFresh Health Living, UC's nutrition and physical activity program.
In Imperial County, 4-H program representative Anita Martinez is leading cooking demonstrations and organizing 4-H All Stars to show their cooking skills via Facebook Live three times per week. “We have done nine cooking demonstrations on Facebook Live with more than 1.5k views for each one,” wrote Yu Meng, UC Cooperative Extension youth, family and community advisor.
In Sutter County, UC nutrition educators distributed "Lunch to Grow" packages to 125 families at a Yuba City Elementary School drive-through lunch pick up. Each package contained one vegetable plant seedling, a small bag of potting soil, a small pot and instructions for planting.
Starting in Napa County on April 11, people can join the SOD Blitz, a sudden oak death disease mapping project. Matteo Garbelotto, UCCE forest pathology specialist and adjunct professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley, redesigned the annual citizen science project to adhere to current coronavirus precautions to ensure the safety of participants. The series of SOD Blitzes will be held in communities between Napa and San Luis Obispo through June. For more information and the latest schedule, visit www.sodblitz.org.
Find a link to UCCE in your county on the map at https://ucanr.edu/About/Locations/.