4-H week ended on a high note. I received the photo, below, from Steven Worker. Notice the enrollment statistics for the program with overall growth by 141% and a 290% increase in Latino youth enrollment over the previous year! Congratulations, Sonoma County UCCE! Steven is noticeably absent from the photo; he must have been running the camera. Seeing Diego in the picture reminded me of my visit to the 4-H program in Sonoma County, where the youth were learning about the four forces of flight. It's no wonder the program is growing when you learn things like that.
I received an article last week claiming victory for Fresno County as the top ag producing county in the U.S. Congratulations, Fresno County! Kern closely followed Fresno County, then Tulare Counties, so a shout out to them as well. The article quoted the Fresno County Farm Bureau CEO as pointing out that almost all of the top 10 agricultural counties are in California. The rankings may be no surprise to us, but it is nice to know others across the country hear the news.
Last week the VP Council (Vice President's Council) met. This Council is made up of the statewide program and institute directors, business unit directors, vice provosts, and the associate vice presidents. The group meets quarterly to talk about issues of importance to the division. Last week, much of the meeting was about the results from the recent Staff Engagement Survey and moving forward to address some of the findings. The report is long, and in addition to positive outcomes, there is always room for improvement.
Kamal Khaira attended the VP Council meeting, just back from a trip to Bora Bora. I have to admit that I am a bit jealous. I lose track of time, but it's hard to believe that Kamal has been leading the UC CalFresh program for just over a year now. If you haven't had a chance to meet Kamal, take a look at the new UC Davis alumni feature and learn more about her background and what drives her. Then, be sure to find the time to connect with Kamal. Be sure to read the ‘Making A Difference' story on page 18, too. It is truly inspiring.
Later today, I head down to San Diego for the Western Region Administrative Officers Meeting. I don't usually attend this meeting. However, California is hosting the conference this year. I have a chance to welcome the group and thank them. The administrative officers and their teams provide tremendous support to the programs of UC ANR and its equivalents around the region.
It is a short week for me. I am taking Friday off as part of a long weekend to celebrate a milestone wedding anniversary. It will be far from a trip to Bora Bora but still better than the honeymoon, where we spent the night at a hotel near campus. The next morning we fed my anaerobic digesters before heading back to say farewell to out-of-town family and friends. Yep, we've come a long way.
Twice in the last week, someone has raised to me that I should be more active on social media. I have all the classic excuses: 1) no time, 2) don't want to be tied to my phone that much, 3) a Luddite-in-training (maybe a Neo-Luddist), 4) can't decide which platform, 5) can't be constrained to 60 characters, 6) nothing exciting to say, 7) don't like the idea of being followed, 8) I am better suited as a lurker. I wonder how long I can get by using those excuses. I may need to take some lessons from a few of the gurus, like Rose Hayden-Smith, Faith Kearns, and, of course, the Strategic Communications team. But, you know I don't like homework (very low on the Fun Scale).
If you are an Instagram user, be sure to follow Laura Snell and Dustin Blakey. They post incredible photos – clearly the benefit of living in some of the more remote areas of California. Dustin recently posted a fantastic night sky of Volcanic Tablelands #volcanictablelands. Rob Bennaton sent me a photo of a few of the Contra Costa 4-Hers meeting with their Board of Supervisors (thanks Rob!) in celebration of National 4-H Week. What an exciting day for the youth! The Board learned a bit about the program and the positive impacts the program has on youth, thanks to the 1-pager that Charles Go put together.
Fun Facts (compliments of Charles Go)
- 4-H youth are 3.5 times more likely to contribute to their communities
- 89% of 4-H youth indicate that they think about how their choices affect others
- 4-H youth are two times more likely to go to college
- 83% of 4-H youth are comfortable being a leader
- In Contra Costa County, 4-H youth participated in 229 projects ranging from cows to computers, public speaking, and financial management
- 262 adults serve as volunteers in Contra Costa County, and there are over 200 Junior and teen leaders
I haven't been out visiting counties lately (invitations welcome), so I appreciate the photo and facts. They are a nice departure from my odor facts.
Today was a full day meeting of Glenda, Tu, Kathy, and myself to talk about items that have been awaiting our decision as well as do some planning. You would think with all of the meetings we have, we wouldn't need an additional meeting, but opportunities are rare to focus on topics and plan or project, versus react. Everyone is swamped with meetings.
I became so engrossed in having a few hours of unscheduled time the other day that I ended up missing a meeting. I'm not sure when that popped up on my calendar, obviously sometime after I had last checked. The upside is that I did get a few things checked off my list. I'm still working on a presentation, but knowing I don't have to finish it until Sunday, I am likely to continue procrastinating.
We wrapped up the Information Sessions on Friday. Mark stayed behind in San Diego to enjoy the weekend. Each session brought about different topics for discussion during the open session. One common theme was that of the need to retain current academic and staff employees as well as a need to increase the numbers of employees focused on program delivery.
This week I will be back in San Diego on Wednesday to talk with the local office about the challenges of reduced staffing. The UCCE San Diego team isn't alone in this challenge, but we need to do some planning and brainstorming. I don't expect there will be time for the zoo or the sunset unless there is a delay in my return flight.
I'm headed to Fresno Tuesday evening to attend a local meeting to discuss the 4-H program and brainstorm how best to fund program growth. Hopefully, the attendees bring good ideas to the conversation. That program is doing such important work. Recently, the County received a $62,000 grant to pilot Work-Based Mentoring with At-Risk/Foster Youth. Congratulations to Alena and the team for their efforts to make this happen!
We are identifying new funding models for positions across the division. Considerations include County or other partner support for program staff or academic positions, endowments for program staff or academic positions, and recharge for business and research positions. All options come with challenges. Status quo has its own set of challenges.
On our way from the Kearney session to the San Luis Obispo session, we stopped at the SunMaid grower store in Selma. We discovered flavored raisins. Who would have thought that raisins, a product that has stood on its own for decades, would need to reinvent itself to keep up with changing consumers? One of our traveling group commented that the expansion in the product line did not sit well with the industry. I suspect that will change if the marketing strategy proves successful.
Thursday the Vice President's Council meets followed by the Dean's Council. At some point, I will have to identify what preparations I need to do for those meetings, but for now, I will focus on now through Wednesday.
During our meeting this week, NIFA Director Scott Angle met with the group and shared a number of updates. Things are moving quickly to relocate NIFA to Kansas City. About a dozen staffers and 8 program people will remain in DC. Program staff have until the end of this week to apply to remain in DC. While it's disheartening to think about UC ANR's budget this coming year, I can't even imagine how those within NIFA feel about things. Director Angle talked about NIFA priorities, citing that efforts will focus on 5 areas: climate change, nutrition and health, policy, artificial intelligence, and sustainable intensification. This isn't new information though he emphasized that NIFA is committed to addressing climate change which is a bit of a different direction than previous messages that have come out of USDA. We also heard about plans to take a look at the capacity fund allocation method. It's unclear what this means but good to know it is coming. Hopefully it means good things for California.
We heard quite a bit about the matching requirement for NIFA funds. Efforts are underway to have a fix in place for next year's call for proposals. Unfortunately, there isn't a fix for the current RFA. Rumor has it Glenda played a big role in conversations to make headway.
We received an update from National 4-H Council. Good things are happening there. Mary Ciricillo's success in receiving $60,000 as a result of Foundation efforts was called out. And Fe Moncloa's co-leadership of the Access, Equity, and Belonging Committee was recognized for the resources under development. Of particular interest was a True Leaders in Equity Institute that was held in DC in April. Take a look at what some of the participants shared about what equity means to them.
It has been fun to hear what's going on in other states. Ten schools in Albuquerque, previously rated as ‘failing' now have 4-H Fridays where the last hour of the day is a 4-H meeting. Every student goes to a ‘club classroom' and works on projects. Attendance during the week and completed homework assignments are required in order to participate in the club that week. The result – better attendance, better grades, excitement over school! In Oregon, OSU Extension has partnered with REI to launch an outdoor economy initiative. Non-profits, for-profits, and agencies will be engaged as partners as the initiative develops.
I'm ready to head back to CA and put my new knowledge to use. If the ambient temp is going to be in the high 90's I would rather have that at home.
Odd that people from the Oakland office came to Davis Monday to cool off, citing that their homes in the Bay area don't have air conditioners and that it was actually cooler in Davis. That didn't last long. I am extra fortunate in that my house has A/C, but we didn't need to run it over the weekend or last night; that didn't last long either, and now it is running.
I spent Monday night in Riverside having attended the County Board of Supervisors Budget Hearing that evening. Despite the heat, well over a hundred people turned out for the meeting in support of maintaining the UCCE budget. Many, many thanks to all who helped turn the proposed '0 budget' into a '0 cut'! The supporters really put the heat on the Supervisors to reconsider the original funding (de-funding) proposal. Those who offered public comment provided heartfelt testimony about the impact of our programs and how they, personally, have benefited and how the County has benefited. Tuesday I returned to listen to the rest of the Budget Hearing. I thought about all of the untapped opportunities we have to partner more with other departments and achieve shared goals. Have we considered working with Corrections to leverage their funding with our Master Gardener Program as a means of increasing skills and citizenry of facility residents before their release? What are the possibilities to work with Riverside University Health System's Behavior division to provide programming that enhances wellness among youth, adult, underserved, or all populations? We have substantial, documented successes working with school systems, so why not assume our impact would be as meaningful if we partnered with other County units?
The work's not over. We need to continue to engage those who don't know us but make decisions that impact us. We need to continue to engage those who do know us, and brainstorm how to do better – reach more people, have a greater impact. The work is exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. Out of the meeting on Monday, I met many of our long-time supporters. I met new supporters who were learning about UC Cooperative Extension for the first time. I was genuinely moved by the show of support by a group from CalFire who were there to fight for their own funding. I wonder, were they familiar with the UC ANR efforts around firewise landscaping, prescribed fire, or our response efforts following recent wildfires throughout the state? Or were they moved by the stories from the 4-Hers, the Master Gardeners, or the families that have benefited, directly, from UC ANR programs?
Now Wednesday is almost over, my 'Thank You' notes to the Board of Supervisors are ready for mailing, I'm behind on deadlines for the week, and it is only Wednesday. The good news – I think I've helped someone each day, been challenged by something each day, and learned something each day this week. And it's only Wednesday! Three years ago yesterday, I wrote a letter to my immediate supervisor indicating I was leaving my faculty/director position. While the message didn't say so, the reason was, in part, due to extreme boredom. Not bored yet. But I am still looking for a strategy to beat the heat.