The Second Street parking lot is reasonably full these days. But the building is so large, it still seems like a ghost town. However, in walking around the hallowed halls, I met Dora in person for the first time, ran into Terri and Pam for the first time since the pandemic, and met Mike Hsu who started on Monday. Mike is part of the Strategic Communications team. David Bunn was in as well, also starting this week. Please send a warm welcome to both Mike and David when you get a chance.
I've spent the week in the Davis building to improve my internet connection given the number of meetings this week where I had a presentation. On Monday, there was a meeting with academics to kick off the merit and promotion process for the upcoming year. Yes, we just wrapped up last year's cycle. Both the Peer Review Committee and the AAC Personnel Committee work hard keeping up with everything.
Governing Council met on Tuesday. Budget was on their mind; both Cooperative Extension funds and Agriculture Experiment Station funds. We had constructive discussions about both, including a position call process to put the new state funds into operation. Now that we have the Council's input, be on the lookout for more information about that upcoming process.
Administrative Orientation for new personnel was held on Tuesday and Wednesday. Someday we will have those in person again, but for now, probably best to keep gatherings to a minimum while we get COVID under better control. Containment seems a bit out of reach these days, but I will remain optimistic. Regardless of the Zoom meeting, it was nice to meet some of the newest members of UC ANR!
A colleague from the East Coast shared with me a post about the fundraising at the Plumas-Sierra 4-H Livestock Auction. Buyers gave over $250,000 to youth, many of whom have been directly impacted by the Dixie Fire. Talk about community! The warm weather isn't helping to get fires under control. I know many have been evacuated. I am hopeful we won't suffer any additional home losses!
We are wrapping up interviews for the Kearney/West Side REC director position. With many more positions gearing up, it will be nice to wind one down. Ideally, all interviews would move to in-person; let's hope at least aspects of the interview can move to that mode soon. Personally, I am hoping to make a few trips in September and October. We'll see how the travel materializes and remain hopeful it becomes a safe option.
I had a chance last week to attend the annual Department of Pesticide Regulation's IPM Achievement Award ceremony. The first awardees worked with schools. The winners acknowledged Cheryl Wilen for her assistance with their project. Congratulations, Cheryl, for that recognition!
The second winners acknowledged was the Spray Application Pest Management Alliance Team. Lynn Wunderlich did a fantastic job providing an overview of the project and the impacts to date. The project is a team effort between UC and industry, including the following ANR colleagues:
Maria Alfaro, Community Educator Specialist, UC Statewide IPM Program.
Catherine Bilheimer, California Department of Pesticide Regulation-Grant Manager.
Lisa Blecker , Pesticide Safety Education Program Coordinator, UC Statewide IPM Program.
Stephanie Bolton, Communications & Sustainable Winegrowing Director, Lodi Winegrape Commission.
Matt Bozzo, Chair, Yuba-Sutter Spray Safe; Farm Manager, Golden Gate Hop Ranch, Yuba City, CA.
Luis Espino, UCCE Rice Farming Systems Advisor, Colusa/Glenn/Yolo.
Franz Niederholzer, UCCE Yuba/Sutter/Butte Farm Advisor, Co-Principle Investigator.
Ken Giles, Professor, UC Davis Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department.
Gwen-Alyn Hoheisel, Washington State University Regional Extension Specialist
Petr Kosina, Content Development Supervisor, UC Statewide IPM Program.
Peter Larbi, UCANR Spray Application Specialist, Kearney Ag. Center.
Ray Lucas, Sr. Producer/Director UC ANR Communication Services.
Tunyalee Martin, Associate Director for Communication, UC Statewide IPM Program.
Louie Mendoza, Butte County Agricultural Commissioner.
Cheryl Reynolds, Instructional Designer UC Statewide IPM Program.
John Roncoroni, Weed Science Farm Advisor Emeritus, North Coast
Marcie Skelton, Glenn County Agricultural Commissioner.
Rhonda Smith, UCCE Viticulture Advisor, Sonoma County.
Matt Strmiska, (former) CEO, Adaptiv.
Emily Symmes, (former) Area IPM Advisor, Colusa/Glenn/Sutter-Yuba/Tehama.
Congratulations to the team! Be sure to take a look at the video to learn more. What a nice event.
I missed the last Black History Month activity this week. From what I have heard, it was another fantastic event. All of the sessions had great topics with outstanding presenters. I hope the attendance at this last session of the series was as strong as it was for the other presentations. Congratulations to Esther, Keith, and LeChe for their success. Their hard work is much appreciated.
Darren gave a great presentation to the UC ANR Governing Council. He talked about the role that the RECs, and UC ANR more broadly, can play in connecting different, reductionist research topics to construct a holistic approach to addressing the urban living realities. The Council had great ideas. One member said “I want to be a part of this”. Council members will be key to identifying partners and players from around the UC system and beyond. Well done, Darren!
I am looking forward to a warm weekend, with hopefully a bit less wind. I need the internet to move a bit faster.
This has been a relatively slow week for me. However, Thursday and Friday are packed with meetings so I suspect the week as a whole will end up ‘about average'. Last week featured discussions about the ANR strategic plan and the REC strategic framework with partners. The plan and framework were the focus of discussions at the ANR Governing Council meeting on Thursday and ranged from how we build relationships with new AES faculty to how we get to know more about shared interests on our non-AES campuses, and vice versa. I left with clear ideas about a process to engage the non-AES campuses in research, less clear on a path for extension and outreach collaboration. I am confident that collective insights will get us there and am grateful that many across UC ANR continue to pursue prospects. I know Frank and Keith are looking at opportunities in their counties and one of the Governing Council members reached out to brainstorm ideas about ANR working more closely with CITRIS in the telehealth space. Such efforts might couple nicely with CDC priorities and partnerships.
The partnering conversations continue this week as we begin to take on the work of the REC strategic framework, including planning for upcoming meetings with REC directors. In addition, I had an interesting and promising conversation today with what I hope is a new partner in supporting an academic position and that could readily expand into broader partnering across the UC system.
I get excited about partnering. Not only is it the foundation of Cooperative Extension, I see it as a way for an individual to do less, with more. At first, it might sound like I have that backwards, but I assure you, I don't. The benefit of a good partnership, in my opinion, is that I don't have to carry the entire workload (do less), yet, collectively, our pooled resources and assets offer all partners more with which to work, resulting in greater impact.
Friday is the first virtual tour of UC ANR for legislators and their staff. Anne and Kathy have worked tirelessly to pull the tour together. Based on the dry run last week the numerous hosts for tour stops have worked hard as well. It will be nice to share the self-guided tour with everyone. There is so much to talk about when it comes to the great work going on all across UC ANR. While the virtual tour is just a taste of that work, the self-guided tour can be expanded to tell more of the story, expanding on the breadth of partnerships we have.
I hope everyone is enjoying some rain (or snow)!
I had lunch with the UCCE – Riverside office one day last week. Understandably, some are very eager to get back to an office environment and resume client meetings. With new pests emerging frequently, field access is essential to staying ahead of production challenges. Others have found some positives to remote engagement with clientele. Carmen indicated that she feels more connected with her growers in San Diego because she doesn't need to find time to make the commute. She has used video chats to look at their grape fields and troubleshoot problems. Hopefully this increased engagement can be maintained going forward. Stephanie talked about the 6 virtual camp sessions her team is developing. No doubt, those will be very popular with parents. And Myriam has 13 of 18 EFNEP participants finishing a virtual learning series. She has another session planned this summer. Myriam said that some of the participants worked with their kids to learn how to use a computer. A useful skill, made possible by shelter at home that could be of use to these clients in the future. Rosa and her team are working on Zoom gardening workshops for the public and virtual sessions with schools just in case schools don't resume in person this fall. The hour went by very quickly so I didn't have a chance to talk with everyone. Hopefully I might be invited back soon.
I attended the 2020 World Food Prize Laureate Announcement. This year's laureate, Dr. Rattan Lal, has a long career using a soil-centric approach to building soil health. I'm sure his work is familiar to some. Dr. Lal joined the faculty at The Ohio State University in the 1990's. He is a 2007 Nobel Peace Prize certificate holder. I encourage you to look into his story and his science; so much of what we do today around the topic of soil health is built on his foundational work.
This week, the meeting schedule is a bit lighter with many short meetings and few that extend more than 60 minutes. However, the ANR Governing Council meets one afternoon this week for 90 minutes or so. This meeting was in addition to the standing schedule. The PAC now has committees with committee meetings in addition to the PAC meetings. As it is, the PAC meetings have moved from twice annually, to four meetings per year. The intended outcome is greater productivity
It has occurred to me that I am attending even more meetings than pre-COVID, perhaps due to availability because travel time is non-existent. I have a whole new outlook on travel time now; whereas I hadn't previously thought of it as ‘down time', now I see it as an alternative to meetings. On the other hand, the meetings are productive and important, especially when I get a chance to interact with our offices and RECs.
I hear there was rain in some places yesterday! None in Lodi. I love the cooler weather, but rain means the garden will grow – more yard work! At the risk of upsetting all gardeners out there, I will admit that after spending close to 30 minutes pruning one rose hedge on Sunday, I took to the hedge trimmers for the remaining two. They may not look as good as they could, but they will grow back. And, if that philosophy is good enough for my self-haircuts, it is good enough for the garden.
Did you know that Program Council now reviews Emeritus requests and provides a recommendation to Vice President Humiston? The new practice is the result of policy changes that require some involvement of the Academic Senate during the review process. We are fortunate that 4 Academic Senate members are Program Council members. So far, the process has gone well. The question came up during the Academic Assembly Council meeting last week.
Today the ANR Governing Council met. Much of the conversation focused on updates to our strategic plan. Specifically, the Council provided input on what success looks like and how we will recognize success (metrics). I left with some ideas to improve a goal or two. I also left with a sense that the Governing Council understands the importance of UC ANR to the UC system. There was a strong sense that success means that ANR is considered an 'essential function' and 'key to the recovery of the California economy.'
Later in the day, I met with a group of Extension Directors from around the country, and we talked about the struggle to increase our capacity funding from the U.S. Government. One member of the group reminded us that the NIFA Director challenged us to develop a 'big, bold, audacious goal' such as solving food insecurity. Funding what we have always done isn't a draw for new funding. We discussed the idea of focusing on critical areas where we could build capacity around topics that would resonate now – security (financial and food), K-12 at home, rural health, and farmer stress.
There seemed a fair bit of overlap in the conversations between the ANR Governing Council and the meeting with Extension Directors. Both discussions included recommendations to focus on crucial objectives where failure is not an option. And both sessions included conversation around the new normal, with a sense that we aren't going back to pre-COVID times. Instead, we need to find a path forward and identify new opportunities along the way. One Extension Director cautioned us, "don't over study it; if you don't move, you are going to miss it."
I need to think a bit about what all of this means. I suspect it comes down to balancing the importance of planning, even when everything is uncertain, with not getting so locked into a plan that you forfeit the nimbleness necessary for seizing fleeting opportunities.