- (Focus Area) Economic Development
- Author: Rose Hayden-Smith, PhD
Dave, tell us more about where you're from.
I was born and raised in Maryville, Tennessee. From fifth through ninth grades, I lived in northern New Jersey, and then we moved back to Maryville. I attended Westminster College, near Pittsburgh. It changed my life in so many ways. For starters, I met my wife Mary Lynn there; we married the week after I graduated.
I also found my life's work there. There was a political science professor named Dale Hess, who became my mentor and friend. I went on to earn an MA in political science from Ohio State and was on track to do my Ph.D. there. Midway through the program, I decided it wasn't for me. I ended up at the University of Oregon. I studied community organizing, interviewing 18 community organizers at different stages in their lives. The question was: What sustains political commitment over time?
After a brief stint at San Jose State, I got a job at Mercer University in Atlanta. Sadly, the college was disbanded a few years later. That put us on the road to look for different opportunities. We ended up in Davis. After a semester as a “freeway flyer” teaching at three different community colleges, I showed up, hat in hand, on what became a series of wonderful opportunities at UC Davis.
What has your career trajectory been at UC?
I started teaching political science at UC Davis in the Fall of 1990. I knew Gail Feenstra, and she told me that SAREP was looking for an economic and public policy analyst. I told her, “I don't know anything about agricultural policy.” I didn't feel especially well qualified, but was asked, “Do you know a good idea when you see one?” I said, “I think so” and got the job.
I worked at SAREP and for the Political Science department. In 1996, Al Sokolow, Jim Grieshop, and Joan Wright put together a proposal to ANR Associate Vice President Henry Vaux to create the California Communities Program. I was tapped as its inaugural (and only) director. In 2000, a community development specialist position opened at UC Davis. I've been in that role for 19 years.
As a community development specialist, it was about finding partners who knew things I knew nothing about. I was fortunate to have had many wonderful individuals and groups to collaborate with over the course of my career, both within and outside of Extension.
I also served as the Strategic Initiative Leader for Healthy Families and Communities for almost four years, succeeding Sharon Junge and preceding Keith Nathaniel. I left that role when I started as the Associate Dean for Social and Human Sciences in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in 2014.
Which accomplishments are you most proud of?
Pride doesn't come easily to good Calvinist Presbyterians! But I am proud to have done some form of specialist work in 38 of California's 58 counties. I spent a lot of time out in counties working with local advisors on projects. That work attempted to reflect the best intention of our system to bring campus and community together, to connect them, and to make sure learning is going both directions. Not just campus to community, but also community to campus.
I'm proud that the California Communities Program had a series of yearly conferences that highlighted critical topics in community development. Those conferences were good at including both internal and external audiences, connecting the university with stakeholders and the community.
My dad was a coach. In our family, it was all about the team. I pride myself on being a good team player. That's sometimes meant leading, and other times being a pinch hitter or utility infielder, or sometimes it's just lugging the bats back to the car. I've tried to find teams that matter and contribute in whatever way I can to their work.
What about memorable research?
I was fortunate to have had articles voted best in a journal for a particular year on three occasions. The most impactful one was a 2012 piece called “What works is workarounds,” which drew on more than 2,000 interviews I conducted with other team members in local communities throughout California. But the first one was the most interesting story.
Joan Wright and I were working in Humboldt County with Deb Giraud. We provided technical assistance to nine nonprofit groups and helped them develop outcome assessment plans for their own organization. Simultaneously, we did surveys and focus groups with foundations and agencies in the community that were funding the nonprofits. What was it they wanted to know? The funny thing was what came out on the other end: the old tried-and-true metrics, like the number of jobs created and wage levels of those jobs. None of the fancier new indicators mattered to funders.
Joan and I basically wrote the article – “Outcomes Assessment and the Paradox of Accountability” – as we drove five hours from Arcata back to Davis after our last trip up there. The article sort of wrote itself and won an award. It was the easiest writing experience I've ever had.
“As retirement has grown near, my main emotion has been gratitude.
UC has given me so many wonderful opportunities
that I would never have dreamed up myself."
What would you want to tell advisors and others beginning their career with UC?
I would say to find the people in the organization that you trust and who embody some kind of wisdom and experience that you value. Don't be afraid to call on them for advice and assistance.
The other thing is not to be afraid to make the job what you think it needs to be. The reality is that at its best Extension is a living organization, an adaptive organization, a responsive organization. It has to be willing to try new things, be new things, while holding on to the best of our land grant tradition. Often when people are starting out – particularly with our merit and promotion processes and other kinds of bureaucratic processes – there's a natural push towards meeting organizational expectations. That's important, but it's not the heart of the work and it's not what is going to keep you excited and passionate about the work. It's not what will keep you connected with the community and with what's on the minds of locals. I think it's important to keep focused on the passions that drew you to the work in the first place.
Any other takeaways?
I'm struck by the contradictions of the time we're in. In some ways, an organization like Cooperative Extension is absolutely more critical, more vital, and has more to contribute to public life than ever before. If there's anything missing in our public life, it is institutions that can bring people together, solve problems, realize dreams, and do so in a way where evidence, reason, and thoughtful discussion are the modus operandi, and not just passion and tribalism. We need this desperately. At its best, Extension does this and yet, here we are in an organization that has seen a decades-long funding decline, and in the eyes of some is becoming less and less relevant.
Part of the land grant mission, and the vitality of that, is to promote leadership and active citizenship in communities, and to promote connections between university and community. We live in a culture that has grown increasingly anti-intellectual. All things university-related have come to be considered ivory tower: disconnected, elite self-interested. We need to take seriously that critique, but it's not all we are, or all that we should be or could be. Extension at its best represents what that alternative can look like.
What are your hopes for retirement?
Mary Lynn and I are moving to Fort Collins, Colorado, to be closer to our son, daughter-in-law and our new grandson, Pax. I hope to do more writing, including potentially writing a book. I'm looking forward to joining a new church with my wife where she doesn't have to be the pastor; that will be a new experience for us. I'll certainly get involved in the civic life of Fort Collins in whatever ways make sense. No big travel plans for me: I'm a homebody; been there and done that. However, I would like to explore Colorado when it doesn't interfere with golf!
Among California's agricultural commodities, cattle rank fifth in revenue. The University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources' Agricultural Issues Center has released a new study showing the cost and returns of a beef cattle operation.
“Ranchers can use UC beef-cattle cost studies to guide their production decisions, estimate their own potential revenue, prepare budgets and evaluate production loans,” said Rebecca Ozeran, UC Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources advisor for Fresno and Madera counties.
The study estimates costs and returns of a representative owner-operated beef cattle operation located on rangeland in the Central San Joaquin Valley and foothills of Madera and Fresno counties. The study describes a 200-head cow-calf operation and includes pasture costs on the basis of the rental per animal unit month.
The analysis is based upon a hypothetical cow-calf operation, where the cattle producer both owns and leases rangeland. The “typical” ranch in the Central San Joaquin Valley is an owner-operated cow-calf operation, often relying on multiple private leases. The operations described represent production practices and materials considered typical of a well-managed ranch in the region.
Input and reviews were provided by ranch operators, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisors and other agricultural associates. The study describes in detail the assumptions used to identify current costs for the cow-calf herd, material inputs, cash and non-cash overhead. The cost calculations in this study are based on economic principles that include all cash costs and overhead costs. The study also includes a “ranging analysis” to show potential net returns over a range of market prices. Other tables show the average costs and revenues, the distribution of monthly costs and revenues over the year, and the annual equipment, investment and business overhead costs.
“In addition to producing meat, cattle play an important role in California's landscape and environment by grazing on vegetation that could fuel wildfire,” Ozeran said. “Ranching therefore has ecological and social impact on rural and fire-prone communities. If we can help ranchers remain economically viable, then we help support local stewardship of productive natural landscapes and contribute to fire resiliency and food security.”
The new study, “Sample Costs for Beef Cattle, Cow-Calf Production - 200 Head Operation, Central San Joaquin Valley - 2019” is authored by Ozeran, Donald Stewart, staff research associate of the University of California Agricultural Issues Center; and Daniel A. Sumner, director of UC Agricultural Issues Center.
This study and other sample cost of production studies for many commodities are available for free download at http://coststudies.ucdavis.edu. The program is supported by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, including both Agricultural Issues Center and UC Cooperative Extension, and the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
For more information, contact Stewart at (530) 752-4651 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To discuss this study with a local UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor, contact your county UC Cooperative Extension office https://ucanr.edu/About/Locations or contact Rebecca Ozeran at (559) 241-6564 or email@example.com.
The ongoing international trade turmoil between the U.S. and other countries has prompted import tariffs on many U.S. agricultural commodities in important export markets, which could hurt U.S. farmers.
A new report released by the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources' Agricultural Issues Center estimates the higher tariffs could cost major U.S. fruit and nut industries $2.64 billion per year in exports to countries imposing the higher tariffs, and as much as $3.34 billion by reducing prices in alternative markets.
“One way to mitigate the impact of the tariff impacts would be to offer assistance to shift the products to completely new markets where these displaced commodities could be delivered without causing price declines,” said co-author Daniel A. Sumner, director of the UC ANR Agricultural Issues Center and UC Davis professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
When nuts and fruits are diverted back into the remaining markets for their crops, Sumner and co-author Tristan M. Hanon, a UC Davis graduate student researcher, expect farmers to lose revenue from lower prices.
The agricultural economists foresee major losses for many commodities caused by diverting the produce from high tariff countries to sell in the remaining markets.
Almonds alone could lose about $1.58 billion and pistachios could lose about $384 million, according to Sumner and Hanon.
The authors looked at the impact of tariffs on almonds, pecans, pistachios, walnuts, apples, oranges, raisins, sour cherries, sweet cherries and table grapes. All 10 nuts and fruits are perennial crops, growing on trees or vines, so growers cannot easily change their production quantities or plant a different crop.
The U.S. exports 13 percent of its almonds, 14 percent of its pistachios and 22 percent of its pecans to countries imposing the new tariffs. China and Hong Kong are major export markets for U.S. fruits and nuts. In 2016 and 2017, China and Hong Kong spent over $500 million to buy 40 percent of all U.S. almond exports, and nearly $600 million for most of the exported pistachios. Some of the exports to Hong Kong are transshipped to other markets, but most of it stays in the China market.
The new tariffs apply to all ten crops that are exported to China. “We consider most of the exports to Hong Kong with China because we understand that most of the U.S. fruit and nut exports to Hong Kong are destined for China,” Sumner said.
To avoid paying tariffs, there are clues that Hong Kong's open market is the entry point for nuts ultimately shipped to China, in what Sumner calls “leakage.”
“The 7 million people in Hong Kong would have to eat 20 times the pistachios consumed by people in other countries if they aren't sending them on to China, the Philippines and other Asian countries,” Sumner said. “China turns its back on leakage, but those commodities may be vulnerable if China decides to crack down.”
After the Trump administration imposed tariffs on an additional $16 billion worth of Chinese goods, China announced duties on $16 billion of American goods. Another round of new tariffs has now been scheduled.
In India, Mexico and Turkey, new higher tariffs apply to selected fruit and nut products. India, which buys roughly half of all exported U.S. almonds, applies new tariffs to almonds, walnuts and apples. Turkey's new tariffs apply to almonds, pecans, pistachios and walnuts. Mexico's tariffs target apples, for which the country paid about $250 million last year.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced up to $12 billion in federal aid to farmers to soften the impact of tariffs.
“The U.S. government could purchase the commodities that would have been exported,” Sumner said. “Of course, the produce must be diverted from remaining markets to new market channels to avoid driving down prices.”
The full report “Economic Impacts of Increased Tariffs that have Reduced Import Access for U.S. Fruit and Tree Nuts Exports to Important Markets,” along with details on data, sources and methods, can be downloaded for free at the UC Agricultural Issues Center website at http://aic.ucdavis.edu.
[This article was updated at 10 pm, Aug. 14, to update the dollar estimates in this sentence: "Almonds alone could lose about $1.58 billion and pistachios could lose about $384 million, according to Sumner and Hanon."]
Mark Gaskell is best known these days for cultivating the idea of California-grown coffee that launched the emerging industry. But coffee isn't the first crop that Gaskell convinced California farmers could be locally grown. For more than 23 years, the UC Cooperative Extension advisor has been researching new specialty crops, such as blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, kiwi berries, Pakistani mulberries, sweet onions, lychees and longans, for small farms to grow for a profit.
Gaskell, who began his career with the University of California's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources as an advisor for small farms and specialty crops in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties in 1995, retired July 1.
Blueberries become a California crop
Blueberries weren't grown in California until Gaskell planted test plots of southern highbush blueberries in 1996 to give small-scale growers a new crop option. He hosted his first blueberry field day in 1998. In collaboration with UC Cooperative Extension advisors in other counties, Gaskell identified varieties suited to the local climate and developed cultural practices for California growers to successfully produce blueberries. What was once a niche crop is now planted on over 7,000 acres in the state, according to the California Blueberry Commission. California currently leads U.S. production of fresh blueberries, Gaskell said.
“If it wasn't for Mark Gaskell, I wouldn't have lasted three years,” said Tony Chavez, who grows 40 acres of blueberries, blackberries and some raspberries in Nipomo.
Chavez had grown bored after selling La Tapatia Norcal, a tortilla shop that he operated for 34 years, and retiring in San Luis Obispo County.
“After I retired, I started a little farm. I started with blackberries,” Chavez said. “I have friends who farm. I didn't realize it would be such hard work.”
Someone told Chavez that Gaskell helps small farmers. “He's been my teacher about how to grow berries. Everything I know about farming, I owe to Mark,” said Chavez, who has been working with Gaskell for about 10 years. “I don't know what I'm going to do after he retires. He's a wonderful person and very, very knowledgeable.”
Recently Gaskell's knowledge of coffee production has been in demand.
“Personally, I would not be where I am today professionally without Mark's guidance, support and friendship,” said Jay Ruskey, CEO and co-founder of Good Land Organics.
“I met Mark in 1996 through the California Rare Fruit Growers,” Ruskey said. “We started work with lychee and longans and we worked for several years on bringing in plant material and planting trials. He brought me my first coffee plants in 2002.”
The exotic fruit didn't work out for the Goleta grower, but with Gaskell's research-based advice Ruskey has produced premium coffee. His Caturra coffee made Coffee Review's Top 30 coffees in 2014 and in 2017 Daily Coffee News reported that Blue Bottle was selling the California-grown coffee for $18 per ounce.
Prior to joining UC, Gaskell had worked for several years in Central America in coffee growing areas.
“I became curious about coffee in 2000 after I had seen some plants growing at botanical gardens in SoCal, but I assumed the hand labor and processing requirements would prevent profitable growing here,” Gaskell recalled. “About that time, I had the opportunity to visit the coffee production area in Kona on a totally unrelated project – we were doing research with lychees and longans and that is how I began to work with Jay. But visiting coffee farms and the coffee cooperative in Kona made me rethink coffee in SoCal because of similarities to coastal sites around Santa Barbara – Jay's farm – and the fact that costs of water, land and labor were high in Kona and yet they were making a business out of coffee.”
California is now in the coffee business with 15 varieties of Arabica coffee that Gaskell's research has shown are growing well with acceptable yields and high quality.
“Currently, there are about 30 farms with maybe 30,000 coffee plants between San Luis Obispo and San Diego counties,” Gaskell said. “I would expect that to double this year and again next year.”
Ruskey recently co-founded Frinj Coffee, Inc., a company that provides aspiring California coffee growers with plant material and production and marketing advice.
“Industry-wide, there are many farmers who have benefited directly from working with Mark, but there are far more farmers who are currently benefiting today from the specific crops and farming systems he has introduced through his service as a University of California farm advisor,”Ruskey said. “Mark's retirement will certainly leave a resource void for farmers who are looking for allies to help them navigate the complex and dynamic world of farming.”
Educating growers beyond California
Gaskell began his career as an agronomy instructor for four years at Iowa State University, after earning his B.S. in agronomy and his M.S. and Ph.D. in crop physiology and production at Iowa's land-grant college. He became an assistant professor of agronomy from 1980 to 1987 at Rutgers University, where he began working with small farmers in Panama. For two years, he conducted agricultural research in Central America for the U.S. Agency for International Development and became fluent in Spanish. From 1989 to 1992, Gaskell was director of agricultural technical services, overseeing crop production in Latin America and Central America for Chestnut Hill Farms in Miami, before returning to USAID to develop new crops for farmers in Central America.
After joining UC in 1995, the Iowa native continued his international work through consulting projects and sabbatical leave, sharing his expertise in Albania, Portugal, Turkey, Italy, Sicily, France and Spain, Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bolivia, Uruguay, El Salvador and Nicaragua.
As a Fulbright Senior Scholar, 2011 to 2014, Gaskell worked with the Moroccan National Agronomic Research Institute training growers and establishing a national research program to develop blueberries, blackberries and raspberries as alternative crops.
Gaskell's achievements were recognized by USDA-National Institute for Food and Agriculture with the 2010 National Extension Excellence Program Award for the UC Small Farm Program Team. In 2007, he was named “Outstanding Educator” by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.
“My work in California - beyond horticulture and agronomy – has been one of relationships,” Gaskell said. “I have worked with dozens of farmers in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, in many cases, for more than 20 years. These farmers have often been collaborators for on-farm trials or educational events, or I have assisted them with farming and marketing, problem-solving with diverse crops and settings. These have been very rich, enjoyable and fulfilling relationships that I will truly miss.”
A new study on the costs and returns of producing processing tomatoes in Fresno County and the central San Joaquin Valley has been released by the UC ANR Agricultural Issues Center. Growers contemplating crops to grow may use the estimates to help decide whether to plant processing tomatoes.
The report estimates costs and returns and provides an overview of common production practices related to irrigation, fertility and pest management of processing tomatoes. In this report, some specifics are assigned and calculations are based on a hypothetical well-managed farming operation, which is described in detail.
The new study, “Sample Costs to Produce Processing Tomatoes in the San Joaquin Valley South, Fresno County – 2018,” can be downloaded for free from the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics website at http://coststudies.ucdavis.edu. Sample cost of production studies for many other commodities are also available.
For additional information or an explanation of the calculations used in the study, contact Jeremy Murdock at the Agricultural Issues Center at (530) 752-4651 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Tom Turini, UCCE farm advisor for Fresno County, at email@example.com.