- (Public Value) UCANR: Promoting economic prosperity in California
- 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, nearly 1,000 attendees from 26 countries converged in Fresno on Oct. 18-22 for the inaugural FIRA - World Ag Robotics Forum to be held in the U.S. The event was co-sponsored by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' The Verde Innovation Network for Entrepreneurship, or the VINE.
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 more than a dozen companies offering in-the-field demonstrations.
Although growers are the target market for most of the equipment, the benefits of automation can ripple out into society, according to Glenda Humiston, University of California vice president for agriculture and natural resources.
“Technology can help us grow, harvest and distribute food more efficiently so that it can become more affordable and accessible for those who are food insecure,” said Humiston. “If we do this right, it's good for the whole community.
Here are a few themes and takeaways 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 on 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 AgRobotics 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 ag tech 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
Labor issues also emerged as a persistent theme during the event. One of the major forces driving the need for automation in agriculture is persistent labor shortages. Simply put, farmers do not have sufficient labor to sustain their operations and are turning to agtech, robotics and automation to fill the gap. At the same time, as robotics and automation take hold in the agriculture industry, farmworkers and farm labor organizations are rightly concerned about the impact that the adoption of automation will have on agriculture jobs, in particular farm labor jobs.
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.”
We've got to find ways to help our farm workers actually get the training they need to make use of this technology, which will give them a better quality of life.
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.
“Our job at The VINE is to drive collaboration between industry, academia and government forward,” said Youtsey. “Robotics is moving very fast and there's a new set of players coming into the space. UC Cooperative Extension advisors can bring startups and farmers together in creative new ways during development and advance these solutions into commercialization faster.”
Co-sponsors of the conference included FIRA, Western Growers, University of California, Merced, California State University, Fresno and the Fresno-Merced Future of Food (F3) Innovation Initiative.
Industry sponsors included Bluewhite, Carbon Robotics, CNH Industrial, Far West Equipment Dealers Association, Grimmway Farms, Keithly-Williams Seeds Inc., Robotics Plus, VARTA AG, and Sonsray Machinery, LLC.
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- Author: Ria DeBiase, Communications Director, Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics
If energy price spikes and supply chain disruptions continue, inflation expected to persist
In January 2022, inflation reached its highest yearly increase at 7.5% in nearly 40 years. But are these high rates here to stay, or are they only a temporary symptom of COVID-19 and the recent supply chain-related disruptions?
Economists from UC Davis, Bar-Ilan University, and the London School of Economics analyzed financial markets that trade in the risk of inflation to show how expectations of long-term inflation have changed over the last year. They found that between November 2020 and November 2021, there was over a tenfold increase in the probability of average inflation lying above 3% over the next five years, suggesting that many expect inflation to persist.
Inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), has risen dramatically over the last year. Gas prices hit a new all-time high in November 2021, with inflation for food at home, electricity, and new vehicles at 6.5%, 6.3%, and 11.8%, respectively, in December. Rising oil and natural gas prices, higher personal savings and increased consumer demand coming out of the lockdown, and a sluggish supply chain coming out of the pandemic may all be partially to blame for inflation over the last year.
As pent-up demand slows and supply chains adapt, their impact on inflation may also subside. But, if the energy price spike in response to the invasion of Ukraine persists and if supply disruptions continue, it could lead consumers to demand higher wages to increase their purchasing power.
“If companies raise prices in response to higher wage demands by workers, leading to further high expectations of inflation, further wage demands, and so on, then the United States could enter the wage-price spiral that is often at the heart of high and persistent inflation,” said Jens Hilscher, associate professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at UC Davis.
To better understand the likelihood of long-term inflation, Hilscher and co-authors Alon Raviv, senior lecturer at Bar-Ilan University, and Ricardo Reis, A.W. Phillips Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics, looked to the financial markets that trade in contracts that pay off if inflation rises above a given cutoff (with one cutoff at 3% and another at 4% — both well above the Federal Reserve's target of 2% inflation per year). Assessing the payoffs of these two types of contracts allowed them to determine the probability of the average inflation being above 3% or 4% over the next five years.
They found that between November 2020 and November 2021, the probability of an average inflation of 3% jumped from 6.1% to 66.2%, while the probability of an average inflation of 4% rose from 1.6% to 14.1%, a dramatic increase.
Long-term inflation leads to higher uncertainty, making long-term planning harder for businesses and individuals alike. It also leads to lenders experiencing a loss in the real value of the money they are repaid. Over time, these factors lead lenders to charge higher interest rates to account for uncertainty and potential losses. In turn, access to credit will suffer.
Hilscher noted, “A central bank that is very committed to a stable inflation target can always bring inflation down, even if only by causing a recession. We will see over the next several months which risk the Fed perceives to be the greater threat to our economy.”
To learn more about the risk of long-term inflation, read the full article “Inflation Risks are on the Rise,” by Hilscher, Raviv and Reis published by UC Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics in ARE Update 25(3): 9–11, free online at https://giannini.ucop.edu/filer/file/1645718420/20317.
ARE Update is a bimonthly magazine published by the Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics to educate policymakers and agribusiness professionals about new research or analysis of important topics in agricultural and resource economics. Articles are written by Giannini Foundation members, including University of California faculty and Cooperative Extension specialists in agricultural and resource economics, and university graduate students. Learn more about the Giannini Foundation and its publications at https://giannini.ucop.edu.
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today (Jan. 25) announced plenary speakers for the 2022 Agricultural Outlook Forum, themed “New Paths to Sustainability and Productivity Growth” to be held virtually Feb. 24–25, 2022.
The opening plenary session will feature a fireside chat between Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Elizabeth Economy, senior advisor to the Secretary of Commerce. Secretary Vilsack and Economy will discuss U.S.-China agricultural trade relations and prospects for the Chinese agriculture market.
The Secretary's discussion will be followed by a panel titled “Growing Market Opportunities for Climate Smart, Sustainable Agriculture Systems,” which will bring together sector leaders to discuss how climate smart, sustainable production practices can generate both environmental and economic returns, while still meeting the needs of consumers.
Speakers at the plenary panel include:
- David Allen, VP of Sustainability at PepsiCo Foods;
- Glenda Humiston, Vice President, Agriculture & Natural Resources at University of California;
- Mike McCloskey, Co-Founder and CEO of Select Milk Producers;
- Elena Rice, Chief Scientific Officer of Genus, PLC; and
- Emily Skor, CEO, Growth Energy
“The Outlook Forum is USDA's largest event of the year. Being asked by Secretary Vilsack to serve on the opening plenary panel is a significant honor,” said Humiston.
Also, during the Thursday morning session, USDA Chief Economist Seth Meyer will unveil the Department's 2022 outlook for U.S. commodity markets and trade and discuss the U.S. farm income situation.
Along with the plenary session, forum attendees can choose from 30 sessions with more than 90 speakers. The concurrent track sessions and topics supporting this year's theme are: climate mitigation and adaptation, supply chain resilience, commodity outlooks, frontiers in agricultural production and technology and U.S. trade and global markets.
Registration to the 2022 Outlook Forum is free but required. Register at https://www.labroots.com/ms/virtual-event/usda-aof-2022.
USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America's food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy, and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
The University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources is pleased to announce a new partnership with the California Stewardship Network to accelerate economic recovery across the state by tapping expertise in broadband development, small-business acumen, agricultural technology and more.
To help communities recover from the recession and expand regional economic-development efforts, UC ANR is investing approximately $3 million to hire 15 new UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) advisors and one specialist. These UCCE experts will collaborate closely with members of the California Stewardship Network – an alliance of regional leaders who are committed to solving state's most pressing economic, environmental and social well-being challenges.
“The California Stewardship Network represents regions across California and each region is different, with its own challenges and opportunities. This UCCE investment brings science and solutions that fit the uniqueness of each region, while partnering across the state to improve our communities,” said Heidi Hill Drum, co-chair of the California Stewardship Network and CEO of the Tahoe Prosperity Center.
The UCCE scientists will leverage existing community and economic development efforts, especially in rural parts of the state, and provide vital expertise in business development, agricultural technology, biomass and wood products, disaster recovery, water justice, controlled environment food production, food systems development, urban resiliency and – crucially – digital infrastructure.
“We've long known how important it was to close the digital divide, but COVID really highlighted the absolutely critical need for all families and communities to have high-quality access to the internet,” said Glenda Humiston, University of California vice president for agriculture and natural resources.
In rural regions of the state, the pandemic, catastrophic wildfires and increased global competition have been whittling away at rural economies. The “working landscapes” of wilderness areas, farms and ranches provide food as well as wildlife habitat, recreational venues, energy and water. Humiston sees vital opportunities to expand revenue in these areas for rural residents.
“For California to thrive, these working landscapes must be managed to yield economic opportunities now and into the future,” Humiston said.
“California needs healthier forests for many reasons – reduced risk from wildfire, producing more water, better habitat and recreation opportunities – but we will not get there if we can't develop valuable uses for the excess biomass that needs to be removed from our forests.”
Hiring is underway for some of the new UC Cooperative Extension positions; others will be released for recruitment in early 2022. The 16 new UCCE positions and the counties they serve include the following:
1. Rural Community and Economic Development Area Advisor (Del Norte, Humboldt, and Trinity)
2. Agricultural Technology (Intermountain Research and Extension Center in Siskiyou County)
3. Biomass and Forest Products Advisor (Siskiyou, Shasta and Trinity)
4. Broadband Development Area Advisor (Butte, Tehama, Glenn)
5. Disaster Recovery for Housing (Plumas, Lassen, Sierra)
6. Water Justice Policy and Planning Specialist (UC Berkeley)
7. Regional Food Systems Area Advisor (Sacramento, Placer, Yolo, Solano)
8. Regional Food Systems Area Advisor (Amador, El Dorado, Calaveras, Tuolumne)
9. Woody Biomass and Forest Products Advisor, (El Dorado, Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, Tuolumne, and Mariposa)
10. Agriculture Technology Area Advisor, (Monterey, Santa Cruz, San Benito, San Luis Obispo)
11. Technology and Innovation for Small Farms Advisor, (Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Fresno County)
12. Community and Economic Development Area Advisor, (Inyo, Mono, Northeastern Kern)
13. Water and Community Resilience Area Advisor, (Kern, Kings, Tulare)
14. Community and Economic Development Area Advisor – (Los Angeles, Orange)
15. Woody Biomass and Bioenergy Advisor, (Riverside, San Bernardino)
16. Agriculture Technology Area Advisor, (South Coast Research and Extension Center in Orange County)
- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
Douglas Amaral is the new pomology, water and soils advisor in Kings and Tulare counties
“I am very excited to be part of the UC Cooperative Extension system and am looking forward to serving growers, producers, processors, and support industries for their research and extension needs in the Southern San Joaquin Valley,” Amaral said.
Before joining UCCE, Amaral was a project scientist and postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis. His research has focused on the physiology and biochemistry of plant nutrient uptake, and molecular and genetic aspects of nutrient acquisition and tolerance in citrus, almonds, pistachios and other crops.
Amaral said he is currently meeting growers in Kings and Tulare counties and assessing their needs.
“Numerous research needs exist in the tree nut industries, including, but not limited to, irrigation and fertigation efficiency, salinity management, and water use improvement,” he said. “I believe that the most relevant scientific inquiries start with observations of the challenges faced in the field and the opinions of observant growers and the vision of industry leaders.”
Amaral, who was born and raised in Brazil, is fluent in Portuguese and English. He earned a doctoral degree in plant and soil sciences at the University of Delaware, a master's degree in plant nutrition and soil fertility at Federal University of Lavras, Brazil, and a bachelor's degree in biological sciences at University Center of Lavras, Brazil.
Amaral is based in Hanford and can be reached at (559) 852-2737 and firstname.lastname@example.org. His Twitter handle is @UCCE_DougAmaral.
Apurba Barman named UCCE integrated pest management advisor in Imperial County
"I am very excited for my new role as IPM advisor based in Southern California and for the opportunity to serve one of the most important vegetable production regions in the state,” Barman said. “The diversity and intensity of crop production in this region demand targeted research to solve pest management issues and effective extension programs to reach out diverse clientele. I feel prepared for this job with my experience and passion to serve the community.”
Barman earned a bachelor's degree at Assam Agricultural University in India, and a master's degree at Texas Tech University, Lubbock. In 2011, he completed a doctoral degree at Texas A&M University in College Station, where he worked on insect pests of cotton. Subsequently, he worked as a cotton extension entomologist with Texas AgriLife Extension Service and developed a research program to understand the extent of damage and management of thrips in the Texas High Plains region.
Barman comes to UC Cooperative Extension from the University of Georgia, where he led a whitefly monitoring and management program targeting cropping systems in the southern region of the state. Barman can be reached at (209) 285-9810, email@example.com. His Twitter handle is @Ento_Barman.
José Luiz Carvalho de Souza Dias named area agronomy advisor in the northern San Joaquin Valley
Prior to joining UCCE, Carvalho de Souza Dias was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he worked on identifying management practices and environmental factors to ensure successful establishment of alfalfa interseeded into corn silage, sustainable management of waterhemp in established alfalfa for dairy systems, and weed control, clover selectivity and resulting yield of grass-clover mixed swards.
“I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with growers, industry and academia within the agriculture industry in the Central Valley. It is amazing how diversified, complex, and productive the different production systems can be in the region,” Carvalho de Souza Dias said. “Knowing that I have the chance to work with many different challenges present in economically viable and sustainable crop production is something that makes me very excited and looking forward to the future.”
Carvalho de Souza Dias earned a doctoral degree in agronomy with a focus on weed science from the University of Florida, a master's degree in crop protection and bachelor's in agronomy from São Paulo State University in Brazil. He is fluent in Portuguese and English.
His doctoral research centered on developing and implementing integrated management practices to reduce giant smutgrass populations in bahiagrass pastures. For his master's degree, he researched herbicide selectivity in sugarcane. Based in Merced, Carvalho de Souza Dias can be reached at (209) 385-7403 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
UCCE feedlot management specialist to work at UC ANR's Desert Research and Extension Center
Carvalho grew up on his family's cattle and crop farm in the state of Goias in Brazil. In 2012, while an undergraduate, he came to the United States to work as an intern in the beef cattle reproduction and nutrition labs at The Ohio State University.
After earning a bachelor's degree in animal science at Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul in Brazil, he completed a master's degree at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He recently earned his doctoral degree at Pennsylvania State University, where he conducted research projects to enhance the efficiency of Holstein steers in the feedlot.
“My plan as an extensionist and researcher at the Desert Research and Extension Center is to first understand what the needs are from our feedlot operations in Imperial County,” Carvalho told Stacey Amparano, Farm Smart manager, who wrote a Q&A with him. “After that, I plan to implement and conduct actions (research projects and on-farm training) to help our beef producers and farmworkers. I really hope that I can bring value to our stakeholders by providing information on nutrition and management, as well as helping to train and improve the lives of the workers in feed yards of our state.”
Read the full text of Carvalho's Q&A with Stacey Amparano at https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=43442. Carvalho can be reached at email@example.com and (217) 418-0202. Follow Carvalho on Twitter at @pedrocattle.
New youth, families and communities academic coordinator named for Central Coast counties
The new position was created in a reorganization, and allowed the office to maintain existing multi-disciplinary programs, including Master Food Preservers, Master Gardeners, 4-H and CalFresh Healthy Living, UC.
“I am excited to step into this new role,” Klisch said. “I know that my six years of experience managing the CalFresh Healthy Living, UC program will help inform my academic work in community health and that experience has definitely helped prepare me for taking on a leadership role in the other Youth, Families and Communities program areas.”
As community education supervisor, Klisch led the expansion of 4-H programming across San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties through the UC Garden Nutrition Extender program and the 4-H Student Nutrition Advisory Council youth engagement program. Prior to joining UC ANR, Klisch worked as a private consultant with the Center for Family Strengthening.
“I am looking forward to having the time and the mandate to publish the results and accumulated data of our work in food security, positive youth development and healthy communities,” she said.
Klisch earned a master's degree in community health education at San Jose State University and a bachelor's degree in anthropology and communication from UC San Diego. She holds credentials as a master community health education specialist and community health education specialist. Klisch is headquartered in San Luis Obispo and can be reached at (805) 781-5951 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gerardo Spinelli is the new production horticulture advisor in San Diego County
“Since I saw the job description for this position, I thought, ‘Wow, what a cool job!'” Spinelli said. “The agricultural setting of San Diego County is quite unique and so is this position. I'll be working with thousands of crops, ornamentals, flowers, succulents, palms. And if it wasn't enough, I also get to work with urban agriculture and a new and dynamic vegetable production industry in hydroponics. Can you dig it?”
Prior to joining UCCE San Diego, Spinelli worked for the Santa Cruz Resource Conservation District since 2015, focusing on irrigation and nitrogen management for strawberry and lettuce. He collaborated with UCCE advisor Michael Cahn to promote the adoption of CropManage, an online decision-support tool that helps farmers optimize irrigation and nitrogen application.
Spinelli also served as a visiting scientist at the University of Hawaii, Manoa, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources in the late 2010s, where he designed and built hydroponic farming systems for lettuce.
Spinelli grew up in Italy on an olive and vegetable farm on the hills overlooking Florence and is fluent in Italian, English, French and Spanish. He earned a bachelor's degree in agronomy and a master's degree in tropical agriculture at the University of Florence. He also earned a master's in international agricultural development and a doctorate in horticulture and agronomy at UC Davis. Spinelli can be reached at (858) 822-7679 and email@example.com.
Tian Tian is the new viticulture advisor in Kern County
“I feel very excited to join the UC Cooperative Extension and be part of this collaborative group,” Tian said. “I look forward to working with local growers and industry to improve management practices in the vineyard and increase the profit margin of table grape production.”
Tian earned a master's degree at California State University, Fresno, and a bachelor's degree at Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University, China, both in viticulture and enology. For several years she worked in industry, including an internship at E. & J. Gallo Winery in Modesto and as the assistant vineyard manager at Berryessa Gap Vineyard in Winters.
Tian's doctoral research focused on development of better guidelines for vineyard nitrogen management for growers in the Willamette Valley. She and the research team evaluated the influences of vineyard nitrogen on vine productivity, fruit composition and wine characteristics in chardonnay and pinot noir.
Tian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her Twitter handle is @TianUcce.
Laura Vollmer is the nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor for the Bay Area
“As a multigenerational Bay Area resident (born and bred on the San Mateo County coast), it's a dream come true to serve the community that raised me,” Vollmer said. “The Bay Area has long been a leader in child nutrition and I am particularly excited for the opportunity to help implement and evaluate innovative programs that support the well-being of children and communities.
Vollmer previously worked at the UC Nutrition Policy Institute, where she helped to coordinate the National Drinking Water Alliance, a national network of allies working to ensure that all children in the U.S. can drink water in the places where they live, learn and play. She also contributed to research on food security and the charitable food assistance system, and on the impact of community nutrition and physical activity on children's health. Vollmer served as a grant writer and institutional giving associate for City Harvest, an anti-hunger nonprofit in New York City, for two years.
Vollmer earned a bachelor's degree in English at Wesleyan University and earned a master's degree in public health from UC Berkeley. She is a registered dietitian. She is a board chair of Oakland-based Youth Outside, which works to ensure equitable access to the outdoors. When she's not at work, Vollmer enjoys swimming in the ocean, cooking and hiking.
Vollmer can be reached at (650) 276-7429, email@example.com.
Grace Woodmansee is the new livestock and natural resources advisor in Northern California
“As an undergraduate research assistant at the Chico State Beef Unit, I discovered my passion for rangeland science and management a discipline that combines my interests in social, ecological and livestock production research,” said Woodmansee. “I am very excited to join the community of Siskiyou County and to work with ranchers and land managers to identify research priorities, develop projects and address challenges related to livestock production and natural resource management.”
Woodmansee has a bachelor's degree from Chico State and completed a master's degree in agronomy at UC Davis in November. She will be based in Yreka and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.