- (Public Value) UCANR: Safeguarding abundant and healthy food for all Californians
- 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: Ryan Vercruysse)
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
As a Peace Corps volunteer in Niger in the early 1980s, Dahlberg was intrigued by sorghum, a staple food being cultivated by the country's vast population of subsistence farmers.
“I was impressed with the fact that sorghum was so drought tolerant,” Dahlberg said. “Nigerien farmers relied solely on rain for their sorghum and millet crops.”
Upon returning to the U.S., he earned a master's degree at the University of Arizona and a Ph.D. at Texas A&M, where his research focused on sorghum. He worked with the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Puerto Rico for 7 years and then spent the next 10 years as research director with the National Sorghum Producers in Lubbock, Texas.
When Dahlberg took the helm of the 330-acre UC agricultural research center in 2010, he and colleagues at the UC West Side Research and Extension Center and at UC Davis began conducting sorghum forage variety trials. Sorghum wasn't new to California. In the past, it had mainly been used for animal feed. But Dahlberg believed the crop's adaptability – excellent for forage, biofuels and gluten-free human food – offered the grain a rosy future in the Golden State.
"With our research, we have provided California farmers who are thinking about growing sorghum access to locally generated, research-based information to help them make the decision," Dahlberg said.
In 2015, Dahlberg and UC Berkeley specialist Peggy Lemaux launched a sweeping drought research project at KARE. The five-year study, funded with a $12.3 million grant from the Department of Energy, researched the genetics of drought tolerance in sorghum and how soil microbial communities interacted with sorghum roots to battle drought stress.
A journal article published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2018 presented the first detailed look at the role of drought in restructuring the root microbiome. The plant switches some genes on and some genes off when it detects water scarcity and access to water.
“That has implications for feeding the world, particularly considering the changing climate and weather patterns,” Dahlberg said.
In recent years, Dahlberg helped reestablish tea research at Kearney, initiated nearly 60 years ago in a study funded by Thomas J. Lipton, Inc. At the time, Lipton was seeking to grow tea for the instant tea market. When the Kearney tea research program was scrapped in 1981, a researcher had a handful of the best tea clones planted in the landscape around buildings at Kearney.
Those shrubs became the basis for a new tea research trial planted at Kearney in 2017 with UC Davis professor Jackie Gervay Hague to determine whether drought stress impacts the production of phenolics and tannins in the tea.
“We know we can grow good tea here and we can grow high tonnage,” Dahlberg said. “We want to determine if we can do that on a consistent basis and whether we can improve tea quality through irrigation management.”
In retirement, Dahlberg plans to relocate to Lake Ann, Mich., to be close to family. UC Cooperative Extension irrigation specialist Khaled Bali will serve as interim director of the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center.
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
The historic Faulkner Farm, a 27-acre farm near Santa Paula, is for sale. The property, which houses the UC Hansen Agricultural Research and Extension Center, is listed at $3.7 million by the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources.
The property on the corner of Telegraph Road and Briggs Road includes a 126-year-old Queen Anne Victorian house, a 134-year-old large red barn and a smaller barn built in 1982 for a Budweiser commercial. An orchard features an extensive collection of avocado varieties as well as a collection of tropical and sub-tropical trees including various citrus, banana, guava, mango, passion fruit, persimmon, papaya and fig.
UC acquired the Faulkner Farm in 1997, under the leadership of Larry Yee, who was director of Cooperative Extension in Ventura County at the time. The purchase was made with an endowment from Saticoy farmer Thelma Hansen, who passed away in 1993, for agricultural research and education activities in Ventura County.
Due to increasing maintenance costs for the historical buildings at Faulkner Farm and limited acreage for agricultural research, the Hansen Advisory Board along with agricultural stakeholders in the county recommended that UC ANR divest all or part of the property to honor the terms of the endowment. For over a decade, previous boards have recommended the sale to redirect the funds from maintenance of the historical landmark to support research and outreach for better fulfillment of the directives of the UC Cooperative Extension mission and enhance service to the Ventura County community.
“Now, more than ever before, we need to really expand our ability to find solutions for the challenges that agriculture faces: pests, diseases, climate change and more,” said Glenda Humiston, University of California vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “Enhancing research is critical to the future of agriculture for this region.”
The university will lease back a portion of the land for 18 months to complete active research projects and allow for continued UC Master Gardener Program activities at the site during the transition to the new location for its UC Hansen Agricultural Research and Extension Center.
“We are committed to having a UC Research and Extension Center in Ventura County, with more acreage to facilitate research on a wider range of crops and cropping systems, and better facilities for research and education,” said Mark Lagrimini, UC ANR vice provost of research and extension.
UC ANR is currently seeking a new location in the county.
“We are looking for 40 to 70 acres on the Oxnard Plain, ideally near potential partners and collaborators and suited for row and permanent crops,” said Annemiek Schilder, director of UC Cooperative Extension in Ventura County and the Hansen Agricultural Research and Extension Center.
“I am greatly saddened to learn that the University of California has decided to sell the Faulkner Farm, site of the Hansen Agricultural Center,” said Yee, the former director of UCCE in Ventura County and UCCE advisor emeritus. “In the beginning, we had every hope that the center would grow and prosper and serve both the needs of the agricultural and larger communities well into the future.”
Research at the facility focuses on improving crop productivity, irrigation, biocontrol of pathogens and pests, novel pruning techniques, and the introduction and evaluation of promising crop commodities. Additional research activities focus on issues in small-scale urban agriculture and organic farming.
UCCE advisors extend research results to local growers during field days and workshops at the site. Master Gardener volunteers maintain a demonstration garden, where they offer workshops for community members. Year-round 4-H agricultural literacy programs for students in grades K-12 include farm field trips, classroom outreach, an after-school Student Farm, and a Sustainable You! Summer Camp. The students learn about Ventura County agriculture, nutrition, cooking and sustainability.
“The Faulkner Farm has been such an important landmark and has made invaluable contributions to the life and well-being of the community,” Yee said. “Countless families, school children, teachers, Master Gardeners, researchers and other scientists have passed through its gates to enjoy learning about the importance of agriculture, how things grow and all the interrelationships between healthy soil, food and humans.”
Sales of property owned by the Regents of the University of California are governed by The Stull Act, which requires a sealed bid process. Bids are scheduled to be opened and reviewed in mid-November by the university.
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
Ashraf El-kereamy will be the new director of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' Lindcove Research & Extension Center, starting on July 1, 2020. He will continue to serve as a UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences at UC Riverside and based at Lindcove Research & Extension Center.
“Elizabeth Grafton-Cardwell retires this year after 13 years as director of Lindcove REC, California's premier citrus research center,” said Mark Lagrimini, UC ANR vice provost for research and extension. “We are excited to have Ashraf in place to carry on the tremendous success attributable to the research performed at Lindcove. Ashraf brings a breadth of research, extension and leadership skills.”
El-kereamy has extensive experience with several commodities with research revolving around plant hormones, fruit ripening, plant nutrition, and the responses of different plant species to abiotic stress conditions.
Since February 2019, El-kereamy has been serving as a UC Cooperative Extension citrus specialist based at Lindcove Research and Extension Center. Prior to the specialist position, El-kereamy was a UCCE viticulture and small fruit advisor for Kern County, where he established a research and extension program serving the San Joaquin Valley table grape industry for four years. Prior to joining UC ANR, he was an assistant/associate professor in the Department of Horticulture at Ain Shams University in Egypt.
“I am honored and very excited to be the director of Lindcove Research and Extension Center, which plays a crucial role in the California citrus industry,” El-kereamy said. “I am confident that, with the support of our industry, community and the University of California, we will build tomorrow's Lindcove REC as a center of excellence in research and extension. I am looking forward to leading Lindcove REC and providing our clientele with up-to-date technologies to cope with the challenges facing the California agriculture industry.”
El-kereamy earned a bachelor's degree in horticulture and master's degree in pomology from Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt, and a doctorate in agriculture with an emphasis in grapevine physiology and molecular biology from Toulouse University in France.
- 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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.