- Author: Laura R. Crothers
The University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Program — a statewide program of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources — announced the recipients of its 2021 Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Small Grants Program today (April 13, 2021).
The grants program, which was reinstated this year after a 10-year hiatus, supports pilot projects focusing on strengthening California's sustainable agriculture and food systems. Together, 11 recipients are receiving $77,000 in funding to support their work.
"Many groups have innovative ideas on how to build a more profitable, environmentally sustainable and just food system in California, but they often need seed funding to get those ideas off the ground,” said Glenda Humiston, University of California vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “That's what UC ANR and UC SAREP are bringing to the table with these small grants: an opportunity to bring a creative idea to fruition."
The recipients of this year's grants are:
Agricultural and Land-Based Training Association, to pilot an agricultural plastics recycling program among primarily Spanish-speaking small-scale producers. (Project lead: Nathan Harkleroad)
California State University, Fresno, to evaluate the effect of cover crops on water demands and weeds in table grape vineyards in the Eastern San Joaquin Valley. (Project lead: Anil Shrestha)
Napa Farmers Market, to communicate the importance of locally and sustainably grown produce from farmers of diverse backgrounds through a bilingual educational campaign. (Project lead: Cara Wooledge)
Red Bluff Joint Union High School District, to teach high school students environmentally regenerative agriculture and leadership skills through its School Garden to Cafeteria project. (Project lead: Marissa Stevens)
San Diego Second Chance Program, to offer classes and workshops on sustainable agriculture for low- to middle-income youth with prior involvement in the juvenile justice system. (Project lead: Caelli Wright)
Santa Rosa Junior College, to add hibiscus products and mutual-aid garden kits to a bilingual mobile herb clinic that offers culturally relevant holistic health programs to Latinx and Indigenous populations. (Project lead: Heidi Hermann)
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, to study the effects of livestock guardian dogs on wildlife species and the potential for conflict with recreationists. (Project lead: Carolyn Whitesell)
UC Cooperative Extension in Fresno County, to develop an equipment share program for equipment needed to apply compost on small-scale, diversified vegetable farms operated by socially disadvantaged farmers in Fresno County. (Project lead: Ruth Dahlquist-Willard)
UC Cooperative Extension in San Bernardino County, to provide interactive nutrition education classes, gardening lessons, and food safety and preservation demonstrations for ethnically diverse and limited-resource residents in San Bernardino County. (Project lead: Christine Davidson)
UC Davis, to build a team of researchers and community groups to develop a research and extension program to support beginning and first-generation ranchers in building resilience to environmental, economic, and social shocks and stressors. (Project lead: Leslie Roche)
UC Santa Cruz, to translate instructional videos on organic growing skills and practices into Spanish and to pilot a short course with Spanish-speaking trainees. (Project lead: Stacy Philpott)
“We're excited to watch these projects unfold over the coming year,” said Gail Feenstra, director of UC SAREP.
“This grant program isn't just important for supporting new ideas. It's also an opportunity for the University of California to build stronger connections with producers and other food system stakeholders across California. Those connections are essential for making the research and education that comes out of the university benefit everyone.”
UC SAREP was established in 1986 to strengthen California's agricultural production and supply chains to advance knowledge of the science of sustainability, support farmers and ranchers to develop more sustainable farming practices and assist communities to build healthy regional food systems.
- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
Giulia Marino was named the UC Cooperative Extension Specialist in Orchard Systems in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis on Jan. 22. She is based at the UC Kearney Research and Extension Center in Parlier.
Marino's research focus is tree physiology and its impact on productivity, sustainability and competitiveness of fruit orchards.
Marino is currently studying the correlation of pistachio nut growth and ripening with temperature and crop load in orchards in Woodland and at Kearney.
“This information will help growers to better predict hull maturity and shell splitting patterns and allow the industry to understand when nuts become susceptible to navel orangeworm, the most damaging pest in California pistachio production,” Marino said.
A second study in pistachios will examine how salinity, boron and hypoxia (low oxygen associated with salinity) impact young trees' growth and water use. In cherries, Marino is working to understand the physiological impact of traditional rest-breaking agents on tree seasonal carbohydrates dynamics to improve effectiveness of their applications under warmer conditions caused by climate change.
These research projects are built in collaboration with UCCE advisors and specialists and UC professors, and are funded by the California Pistachio Research Board and the California Cherry Board.
Prior to joining UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, Marino was a researcher in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources at UC Davis, where she studied pistachio water use and tree performance under saline-sodic conditions. Marino earned a doctorate degree in fruit and forestry tree systems and master's and bachelor's degrees in agricultural science, all from the University of Palermo in Italy.
Marino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Frank McPherson joined UC ANR on Feb. 3 as a regional director for UC Cooperative Extension serving Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco and San Mateo counties, and Elkus Ranch Environmental Education Center in Half Moon Bay.
Shortly after taking on this new role, McPherson was charged with quickly converting many UCCE operations from in-person to online to comply with the state's shelter-in-place guidance to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
“The Contra Costa County UC Master Gardener program's largest fundraiser had to be canceled and we were forced to quickly come up with processes and procedures to donate more than 30,000 tomato plants to give to school children,” McPherson said.
The educational programs for inner city youth at Elkus Ranch also were canceled. McPherson is now working with staff to open the facility for family tours of up to 10 people at a time, an opportunity which is proving popular.
The second major tragedy that rocked the U.S. during his short tenure – the murder of George Floyd and ensuing unrest – was another opportunity to put his knowledge and experience to work for UC Cooperative Extension.
“The topic came up during my ‘social hour' calls with my staff,” McPherson said. “I have now scheduled a Racial and Social Equity Forum for my teams in which they can express their thoughts and feelings. It's a place where they can hear and be heard.”
Prior to joining ANR, McPherson was director of Customer Service at San Jose-based BD Biosciences. From 2000 to 2013, McPherson served as a senior manager at Applied Materials, where he led a team of account service representatives, directed and managed Contact Center start-ups across the globe, negotiated contracts, and interfaced with planning, purchasing, order fulfillment and logistics to meet customer requirements.
“Cooperative Extension for me is a great place to work, as it allows me to give back to our underserved and most vulnerable population. I am able to make an impact with those that need the help the most.”
McPherson holds a bachelor's degree in business management from University of Maryland and a master's degree in business management from Troy State University in Alabama. He is fluent in German.
He is based at the UCCE office in Concord and can be reached at (925) 608-6674 and email@example.com.
Carolyn Whitesell started her job as the UC Cooperative Extension human-wildlife conflict advisor for San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin and Sonoma counties on Feb. 18. She is based at the UC Agriculture and Natural Resource's Elkus Ranch Environmental Education Center in Half Moon Bay.
In her new position, Whitesell will foster knowledge and tolerance for local wildlife, implement research projects and run educational programs aimed at various audiences, from school kids to adults.
During the first few months on the job, under shelter-in-place guidelines, Whitesell has been getting acquainted with potential partners for her research and extension program by virtually meeting with livestock producers, mountain lion researchers, regional agencies and land trusts. She participated on panels for the online 4-H Animal Science Symposium and the Santa Cruz Mountain Stewardship Network Mountain Lion Salon.
“I can't wait to further develop relationships with my clientele and collaborators and dive into new research and outreach projects,” Whitesell said.
Among her projects, she plans to conduct research on the effectiveness of guardian animals for protecting livestock from wildlife and already teamed up with UCCE advisor Dan Macon to develop a fact sheet on Selecting a Livestock Guardian Dog Puppy.
Whitesell earned doctoral and master's degrees in ecology at UC Davis and a bachelor's degree in ecology, behavior and evolution at UC San Diego.
A Bay Area native, Whitesell, lived for years in rural farming communities in southern Africa. For her dissertation research, Whitesell studied human-carnivore conflict in a cattle ranching region in Botswana. In addition, she conducted a wildlife survey in Angola, and served as an ecology research assistant at the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia. When in Namibia, part of her work involved breeding livestock guardian dogs that were placed with local farmers to protect their livestock from carnivores.
Whitesell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.