It has been a while since I have checked in! March is always a busy month and with resumed travel, it seemed more hectic than usual this year. We held an in-person Strategic Doing workshop in Davis mid-month. It was a small, but committed group and we have some action items to advance later this month.
The Western Extension Directors Association and Western Association Agriculture Experiment Station Directors met two weeks ago in Reno. Despite the loud noise and lights of the casino/hotel environment, it was a good meeting and nice to see everyone after two years of a virtual meeting. A key theme of the meeting was ‘telling our impactful story'. I am so proud of where UC ANR is with this topic! While there will always be room for improvement, reading through this year's federal report of impacts makes clear that we are getting better at sharing and measuring our impact. Here's one example from one of our newer CE Advisors, Zheng Wang, targeting a condition change of reduced input costs: Processing tomato growers adopted UCCE's recommendations of replanting early in the season to reduce the chance of BLH feeding and BCTV infection. Some fields prevented up to $900 of losses per acre, an approximate yield reduction of 10 tons per acre, compared to growers' other fields that were not replanted.
Last week, the Extension Council on Organization and Policy (ECOP) met in California. This group represents each of the 5 Extension ‘regions' to talk about common topics around the Cooperative Extension System. Our focus was on ensuring a clear process for working topics through the system and continuation of building our national impact narrative as we pursue opportunities for the system. While thrilled to be back in person, I do have to admit that these in-person multi-day meetings require a different kind of energy than virtual sessions. I need to acclimate a bit, but will be there soon, I am certain.
Congratulations to all those who have been working hard to submit grants! Heidi and Kathy have reported that at just three quarters of the way through the fiscal year, UC ANR is already past our total awarded amount for last fiscal year! Kathy says “Our PIs have been very busy putting in proposals and securing the awards this year. What an amazing group of academics we have!”
Lenya had some airtime recently! Check out her interview with PBS News Hour. Congratulations to Lenya and the entire Fire Advisor team for the work they are doing! I am excited to see how this work expands with the new hires coming on board.
Speaking of new hires, Amrita Mukherjee started Friday, April 1 as Cooperative Extension Urban Agriculture/Small Farms Advisor, based in Highland, CA, with programmatic responsibilities in San Bernardino, Riverside, Los Angeles, and Orange Counties. Please reach out to Amrita with a warm welcome!
Program Council meets this week to finalize recommendations to the Vice President regarding CE Specialist positions. Stay tuned!
I am behind on everything! Ever feel that way? Only two weeks into merit and promotion season and I am well behind on my self-imposed deadlines and already giving up the time I had set aside to read documents in order to accommodate other meetings. I have completed my initial review of seven documents so far, about 10% of the total documents to review. Somewhere in there I need to start in on the annual evaluations, too. Oh yeah, I suspect I need to think about my own evaluation in the somewhat near future. Still not bored.
The work across UC ANR continues to receive good press! Take a look at the kind words shared by our friends at the Imperial County Ag Commissioner's office about Oli, Jairo, and the entire Imperial team! Congratulations to all.
This week contains many ECOP-related meetings. Did I say that last week, too? That seems to be a theme, but I am almost halfway through my year as chair – maybe 40%. Time has flown by with not much checked off the list, yet. Conversations have moved us forward and there are action steps that remain.
I did have a chance to participate in most of a webinar on critical race theory today. The team that identified the speaker are to be commended. Truly an outstanding presenter who shared terrific videos. I believe it was recorded and need to remember to look for the link so that I can listen into the last 20 minutes of the webinar. Hopefully my schedule permits attendance at more of the Black History Month events.
Just a short post this week. I still have to prep a bit for tomorrow's adventures.
While much of January was a bit slower paced, this week is vastly different. The mornings and nights have blurred, running into each other while seemingly getting further behind on the to-do list. I know many of the academic personnel felt this way this week with review packages due on Tuesday.
Program Council met this week and finalized recommendations to the Vice President regarding CE Advisor positions. The highlight of the meeting was a presentation by Gail that offered an inside look at the draft strategic plan for SAREP. Clearly the team has worked hard to engage stakeholders in development of a thorough and forward-thinking plan. While not in final form yet, the SAREP team is to be congratulated for their accomplishment.
Congratulations go out to Brent Holtz for the release of a documentary video by the Almond Board that takes one through his long-time efforts refine the practice and encourage adoption of whole orchard recycling. As we push past one of the driest January's on record, the need for new approaches that hold moisture in the soil are evident. Craig Kallsen received a callout in the Bakersfield News this week as part of a trio that developed an important pistachio variety. Congratulations to that team for the difference their efforts have made!
Previously, I shared a few impacts from Extension programs in other states. I spent some time today going through the impact survey to pull out a few of my favorites in preparation for a conversation that I will lead on Friday with Extension directors. The primary objective of the discussion on Friday is to determine what story we want to tell as a Cooperative Extension System and identify if there are key messages we want to focus on and commit to gathering impacts around. I share a couple more stories, below, in hopes we can all learn a bit more about what our colleagues across the U.S. are doing and think about how we tell our own story. While some of the stories provide condition change data, others convey the relevance of Extension in addressing challenges at critical points in time. Enjoy!
Twenty Alabama Extension Peanut Pod Blasting workshops were conducted at the Wiregrass Research and Education Center in Headland. The workshops helped 225 peanut growers in the Wiregrass region increase their profits $3.4 million by digging their peanuts at optimum maturity. The return on investment for Alabama Extension resources spent was $664 for every dollar invested in this program.
The University of Maine Cooperative Extension Diagnostic Research Laboratory provides pest identification and integrated pest management education to commercial and home clients. The $500 million potato industry is the largest agricultural sector in Maine, encompassing more than 500 businesses generating more than $300 million in annual sales, employing over 2,600 people, and providing over $112 million in income to Maine citizens. In 2020 the Extension's IPM research and identification efforts saved Maine's potato industry an estimated $10 million in losses avoided, yield increases and reduced pesticide use; for an expenditure of $95,000, the return was 110 to 1.
Puerto Rico imports more than 80% of the food consumed locally. One way to overcome our food susceptibility is by improving the marketing strategies of our local agribusiness. During 2020, Puerto Rico Agricultural Extension Service (PRAES) county agents and specialists provided training and individual assistance to 1,574 farmers about farm management, feasibility analysis, business plans, marketing strategies and network development to promote the sales and production of local food. A total of 111 farmers reported adopting computers as a management tool for their business, 61 prepared business plans, 17 acquired loans to improve their business, 91 new agricultural projects were established, 107 farmers increased their business, 55 increased production and 135 adopted innovative marketing strategies for their agribusiness.
Break's over; back to work! The meetings have resumed. It was very nice however to hear voices in the ANR building this week. While a number of us have been in regularly, it has been rather quiet. Perhaps we are turning a corner, with more people coming in on a steady basis. Booster shots perhaps increase the comfort level. I even had two consecutive meetings in person this week! Well worth the masking. Even introverts are ready to resume some human connection.
The ANR Governing Council met by Zoom this week. The meeting was only 2 hours long with a number of guests from UC Santa Cruz and UC Merced joining us. Two hours wasn't quite enough time to complete the agenda items but there was good discussion.
In other meetings, Monday started off with the second meeting of a National Academy committee. Like the first meeting held last week, this one was 3 hours long. We have two more 3-hr meetings before the winter break. I like the fact that this committee will wrap up before August. Other panels I have served on have been closer to a year in duration. But this one is about best practices for building sustained partnerships so not as controversial as estimating air emissions from animal feeding operations. It's a nice change.
The week has several ECOP meetings scattered throughout, in addition to the first Friday CD and REC director meeting. In addition, there's a discussion about a novel partnership opportunity that finishes the week. Overall, not a bad way to come off a 4-day break.
The best news so far this week is that the first of the released CE Advisor positions has been filled! Congratulations to AHR and the search committee for identifying a stellar candidate to serve as a Viticulture Advisor! There are a few more offers out for other positions, so it is just a matter of time before I regularly welcome new faces in new places. Very exciting and the result of long term efforts! The Vice Provost position is under recruitment as well. I very much look forward to filling that position to help ensure career success at UC ANR for our new hires.
Next week includes some much welcomed travel and, more importantly, a chance to see our programs in action. Long overdue…
Welcome to Dr. Hung Doan who started Monday, November 1st as a Small Farms Advisor, based in Moreno Valley, with programmatic responsibilities in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. We are excited that Dr. Doan is here; please reach out with a warm welcome!
I anticipate we will see a number of welcome announcements over the remainder of the fiscal year. While a tremendous amount of work for everyone across UC ANR, the circumstances are both exciting and long overdue! Mark Bell and the HR teams are doing a great job working with committees and keeping things moving, despite the many moving parts. I am not sure I could keep all of the various searches straight in my head! Those serving on multiple committees may have the same challenge. Thanks so much to all who are participating!
This is a short week for me. In addition to our scheduled holiday, I am taking two days off. Before I get to that, the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities will have the annual Excellence in Extension Awards ceremony. Of all the meetings on my schedule this week, this is a highlight of the week for me though there are no California winners this year. We can't win every year.
Another highlight of the week is a chance to meet with the Academic Assembly Council Specialists and Other Titles committees. Last week I met with the Academic Assembly Council. Each conversation focused around resources. While it is hard to imagine that such a sizable increase in state funding did not get us everything we all want, that is the case due to a long history of deficit budgets. We have work to do to get our support levels from all funding sources to a point where we have the capacity necessary to tackle all of the big challenges facing Californians. We have made tremendous progress, and the work doesn't stop there. Nationally, Extension directors are discussing strategy to build resources across the entire 1862, 1890, and 1994 Extension System. Now is the time to do so. And, working together, our collective impact can be strong. I will ponder strategy while spending a couple of days staring out at big water.
I have a few agreements to review over the week. We continue to hear from prospective partners for positions and program resources. Next Monday, I meet with a new donor who has a fascinating background. I look forward to many more such opportunities. In the meantime, a bit of rest while we hope for more rain.