Can you believe that the pool season is half over? The daily strawberry harvest is all but done in my yard, and even zucchini season seems to be winding down. The only thing not slowing down is COVID cases. I'm sure I am not alone when I say that I miss visiting our county and REC locations, field days, and events though it wasn't often that I could make such trips.
Work has not slowed at all. By not leaving town for vacation, I am optimistic I can avoid the accumulation of emails, messages, and meetings that would typically pile up while on vacation. This week I was supposed to be in Kansas City for meetings. The sessions will occur by Zoom, and the schedule condensed. Like many of you have experienced, the rest of the day has filled with other Zoom conversations. I turned in one of my homework tasks – an update on my slides for the Administrative Orientation in August. I started with an easy task rather than the most time-sensitive assignments. I am awaiting more motivation to tackle those. The opportunities keep flowing, and so, too, does the work that goes into exploring them! That's a good thing. We may have more success connecting with new partners now than we've had before, out of need, or for some other reason. I had an email from someone today about finalizing an agreement to fund a couple of Academic Coordinator positions. Honestly, I had feared the agreement would be put on hold, but it will move forward regardless of the COVID economy!
I was encouraged to see a call to action regarding our budget by our stakeholders and partners. Repeatedly over the last several months, I have thought about the challenges brought on as a result of not having the ANR budget treated as a campus budget. It had brought back memories of the same struggle in Michigan when the trustees handled Extension and the Agriculture Experiment Station (AES) budgets, each a line item in the state budget, different from the rest of the higher education budget. Given that faculty would have split appointments that crossed budgets, there was always a disconnect if the higher ed budget (both UM and MSU) received increases when Extension and AES did not. Eventually, there was an agreement to treat AES and Extension the same as the remainder of higher education. Hopefully, that same arrangement can be reached for UC ANR, again. I say 'again' because applying the 'UCSF Corridor Model' to ANR was intended to rectify the disconnect. We shall continue to push for the use of that model in FY20/21 and beyond.
Last week the Peer Review Committee met for a long day of conversations by Zoom. Despite the length, I found the meeting very useful. I did end up with homework, the likes of which I hope will make future advancement decisions more straightforward. I learned that there are 95 merit and promotion cases scheduled for 2021. Of course, some individuals may defer or depart. Acceleration cases will offset, or perhaps exceed, the number of deferrals or departures. Regardless, many academics will prepare portfolios this fall and into early winter, and many will review cases next spring. I might need to check the prescription on my glasses sometime after January.
Have you heard about the groundbreaking accomplishment out of UC Riverside? Hailing Jin has identified a peptide that can kill the bacterium that causes citrus greening disease! This is great news for citrus growers and consumers of citrus!
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 statistics and news is far from good, with California cases on the rise and testing supplies running low in some areas. Jose Aguiar is doing his part to keep the new infections down. Take a look at the Public Service Announcement that Riverside County asked him to film. Hopefully, the County runs the PSA in Spanish and English. I'm curious if there are many more of these PSAs under development across the state. As trusted advisors, friends, and neighbors, it makes sense that counties recruit CE personnel to get the word out.
On Friday, I listened to Regent John Perez and the new UC President, Michael Drake. Dr. Drake spoke passionately about the need for public university engagement with communities and the public university's role in improving the lives of residents. It was as though he were reading our strategic plan as he spoke (see slide 24). He also talked about the need to lead efforts around societal challenges, such as climate change. President Drake referenced this year's World Food Prize winner, one of his faculty at Ohio State University. I have high hopes that the work of UC ANR becomes core to his messages of UC successes.
This week holds various meetings, including work on the UC ANR Strategic Plan update and meeting with the Peer Review and Academic Assembly Council Personnel Committees. Coupled with the REC Strategic Framework meeting that took place last week and a training series that starts in two weeks, I foresee a fair bit of homework in my near future. One of the activities requires journaling. I should have asked more questions upfront as homework has never resonated with me, much less keeping a journal. There's always room for personal growth and development. Perhaps, with practice, I will learn to like homework.
I have tuned in to a few TED talks recently, some of which seem to have translated into interesting action items that could bring long-term benefits to UC ANR in building support and funding resiliency. The action items are in addition to an impressive national effort that is both gaining momenta and taking up a bit of time. I look forward to sharing more details in the coming months. In the meantime, I need to think about my homework while enjoying the brief relief in temperatures.
This year, the 4th of July holiday seemed surreal. From the record-setting days of COVID-19 cases to the alarming speeches, I would be fine if we don't repeat one like this anytime soon. Great to see that some were able to get away and maintain physical distancing.
Last week was a short week. This week is anything but a short week. Each day is full of meetings from morning to late afternoon. No time for work on any project this week. Today, we held the County Director monthly meeting. The customary 2.5-hr meeting seemed long, likely due to the afternoon timing. Having had no break since my first meeting of the morning didn't help. The Strategic Initiative Leaders meet Tuesday afternoon before Program Council begins. Program Council runs through midday Wednesday, followed by a meeting of the Vice Chancellors for Research. Thursday includes, among other sessions, several hours set aside to makes some needed budget decisions, despite the fluid budget situation. On Friday, the week winds down with a full day of strategic planning for the REC system. Zoom fatigue is a real thing!
To prepare for a Thursday meeting, I watched a few videos over the weekend that focused on farming with data to address how we will build on precision agriculture to increase food production by 40% while reducing the environmental footprint of agriculture. The meeting addresses USDA's Agriculture Innovation Agenda. If you are interested in participating in this Western listening session, please register here. Note this is a working session where participants will select a breakout topic for contributing their ideas.
The UC Regents meet this week. Rumor has it we will learn who will serve as the next UC President. We are eager to help the new President learn about UC ANR and the great work that goes on all around the state. Our recent retirees are acknowledged far and wide.
Some good news is that the UC ANR 4-H planned giving site is now live! Planned giving is a new topic for UC ANR. Hopefully, a more general site that promotes planned giving for all programs will follow.
Enjoy your week. I know many were able to take a 4-day weekend, making this a short week.
Where did June go? It is hard to believe that July 1st is already upon us.
Congratulations to JoLynn Miller, Kendra Lewis (now at the University of New Hampshire), and team members of the Youth Retention Study, a Multistate Project. The National Association of Extension 4-H Youth Development Program (NAE4-HYDP) selected YRS as the national winner for the Susan Barkman Award for Research and Evaluation. This recognition represents a tremendous recognition for a multistate project that is still early in its lifespan. Please congratulate JoLynn for her accomplishment!
Amanda Crump is the recipient of the Western Region New Teacher Award. Many of you remember Amanda from her time in the 2nd Street building as Director of the Western IPM Center. Amanda received her award during a virtual ceremony that Glenda and I both attended. She continues to impress and amaze us, giving a wonderful ‘thank you' speech where she talked about her plans to have no less than 75% of her course readings written by Black authors or members of other marginalized populations to empower her students. Please take the time to drop Amanda a congratulatory note!
This week is a week of firsts for me. Yesterday I gave my first haircut. After four months without one, my husband thought it was a good idea. I assured him I was pretty good at shearing sheep. How different could this be? After all, the equipment is reasonably similar. The key to shearing sheep is positioning them so they can't wriggle around. I failed to consider that. Furthermore, sheep don't tell you how the 'professionals do it.' My husband owns many hats; he will get through this.
On Saturday, I will attend my first Zoom wedding. The ceremony starts at 5 AM Pacific Time. The early start time might be payback for the years of days that the bride had to be at work at 5 AM (or earlier) to run my lab. I've attended a video wedding before, but not one by Zoom. The bride is fortunate to have talented friends who can make all of the necessary arrangements.
I read an interesting blog post the other day that talked about the value of the concept of dreaming bigger than your present situation. The author wrote, “I have learned over the past few years that it is important to dream bigger than your current circumstances. Doing this allows me to remain driven and focused. I have been able to appreciate my biggest moments of success to date by keeping the mindset of always dreaming bigger than the now.” I have this mindset for UC ANR, always. In light of the current circumstances (budget, pandemic, social unrest), visualizing the dream provides the motivation and direction for moving forward. As challenging and perhaps unattainable as things might seem, we can keep in mind the inspiration of James Baldwin, who said, "Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced."
Enjoy the long weekend. Stay safe.
Former California Secretary of Agriculture, A.G. Kawamura, and former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, were the speakers for a webinar last week addressing what COVID-19 has revealed about our food system. Their message: We are in our 'ah-ha moment' where we can look back to better see forward. Other countries that had gone through SARS or other pandemics were better prepared than the U.S. and experienced less disruption and better containment. Now, the U.S. has an opportunity to appreciate the importance of food production and the need for expanded food access so that we are not in a position of disproportionate impact when the next pandemic or crisis occurs. When asked what he would want to see as a stimulus package's priority, Secretary Vilsack responded that an increase in SNAP benefits without barriers to access would be his top priority.
Regarding food production and processing, Secretary Vilsack stressed that we need to think about building a system of resiliency and give that attribute as much attention as we have provided to efficiency. A resilient system may be less efficient, but it will ensure food access during crises. The resilient food system doesn't completely replace what we have now, but adds another layer with a complimentary food system that collects, processes, and distributes locally produced food. This system may not be as efficient, which typically means more cost to the consumer. However, as part of a national food resiliency plan, the government could choose to subsidize the complimentary system.
Secretary Vilsack addressed the need for more public funding for research and repeated what I have heard from others. Like NIH, who justifies their need for more funding by stating that they can 'cure cancer,' agriculture needs to make a bold statement about preventing cancer or eliminating hunger to access more substantial funding. Secretary Kawamura talked about the need to re-think the role of each sector, including Cooperative Extension. He indicated that the university plays an essential role in moving us from our current ‘old structure' to ‘new structure' that emphasizes food system resiliency and equitable food access. Cooperative Extension continues to play a role in bridging discovery and implementation.
UC ANR is well-positioned to lead this conversation. In addition to a current effort, led by two of our Strategic Initiative Leaders, to imagine our food system in a food-secure world, we have demonstrated our programs' impact on increasing food security. Here's one example of the impact statements reported this last year that we shared with our NIFA partners:
- Of the 187 EFNEP graduates in Tulare and Kings Counties, 81% of participants showed improvement in food resource management practices. Additionally, results from 83 participants indicated $70.70 in average monthly cost savings, suggesting that making informed food decisions can help families improve nutrition and food resource management behaviors essential to maximizing the use of limited resources, supporting a healthy diet, and improving food security. (Deepa Srivastava)
As we wind down June, we recognize that several members of the UC ANR family are preparing for their next life adventure. Congratulations to all of our retirees. And, thank you, for all of your contributions and effort during your time with UC ANR! We wish you well, and we will miss you. Please, check-in often.