I had a brief email exchange with Sue Mosbacher the other day. She is not bored. I can see why – she is writing proposals and working on online delivery of Master Food Preserver classes. She has done some amazing work – check it out!
I spent Tuesday meeting with REC directors. They have some fun things going on and most, if not all, are seeing new researchers, in addition to long time users, planning projects at the RECs. John and the Hopland team have partnered with Rosie, one of our newest CE Specialists, to increase outreach efforts to sheep producers with small flocks. In addition, Hopland is developing a carbon farm plan for the REC. Ashraf and his team at Lindcove are working with the local school district to develop a K-6 activity book around citrus production. The team at Hansen are preparing for their relocation and developing a vision to drive the new facility look and function. Jairo has a number of construction projects getting started at Desert, some more complex than others. Dustin sees the end in sight for completion of the climate facilities and has attracted new Research Advisory Committee members. Rob and the Intermountain team are getting ready for their research proposal call and stay very busy. Khaled has a great idea to expand irrigation certification. Bob is feeling the spring rush already and is busy soil sampling and preparing fields for the 2021 research season. What a productive group of directors who work hard for their teams and their researchers! The conversations were upbeat, but I can sense that the team is tired – of COVID, of policy barriers, of worrying about the success of their team members, and of long hours keeping everything moving forward.
I was pleased to hear from Rachel Surls that Dean Dillard is a speaker at an upcoming Los Angeles County Master Gardener program to celebrate Black History month! The program topic is Farming While Black. I look forward to hearing from Helene and other speakers during the event this Saturday. Dean Dillard, a past Extension Director and CE Specialist herself, is such a strong supporter of Cooperative Extension. In the meantime, I have a few more annual conversations with Directors before the week closes out along with a whole host of meetings on various topics. In between, I hope to read a few merit and promotion documents. There are 80 to read this year. So far, I am not far enough along to even keep count. I am definitely not bored.
I couldn't wait until next week to share some more of the great stories we are hearing.
Overall, our day of meetings with our state elected representatives went very well yesterday. Most of our visits included key volunteers, coordinators, or program participants. Having these individuals as part of the conversations helped showcase our work during the visits. I learned a number of things during our conversations. From Lorrene's comments I learned that more youth consume a sugar-sweetened beverage daily than consume a vegetable. Maggie shared that in San Bernardino, the Master Gardeners have partnered with local churches to leave seeds for residents to plant at home. Keith talked a bit about the Seeds to Plate program with Venice Middle School. We were fortunate to be joined by Mathew who was able to break away from his spring sampling to talk about the research he is conducting after the Thomas Fire. Yana talked broadly about the prescribed fire efforts across the state.
Yana had a particularly busy day with advocacy visits and hosting portions of a remote conference. Initially Yana had planned an in-person conference, expecting approximately 60 registrants. As a result of having to suspend in-person meetings, like others across UC ANR, Yana move the conference to Zoom and spread the sessions over several days. To everyone's surprise, the event attracted 300 participants! I'm curious how many others have had the same experience. I know we have finite capacity to deliver meetings. I have considered our capacity as the barrier to reaching more people. To a large extent that is likely the case. What I hadn't thought much about was our client's finite ability to travel and attend our in-person events. Perhaps we can attract larger audiences by delivering more program virtually. Assessment of how best to provide adequate engagement to foster behavioral change remains a gap. However, drawing on the Federal impact report that is in development by Katherine Webb-Martinez we can make a safe inference that online learning can be as effective as in-person meetings:
- Research conducted by one UCCE academic found that both the online and in-person food safety extension of the Make it Safe, Keep it Safe program resulted in positive and statistically significant change among clientele. These findings confirm that this existing, cost-effective practice of delivering federally-funded programs online is just as effective as in-person extension in reaching its goals. (Christine Bruhn and Katherine Soule)
One of our 4-H youth that joined us on a call yesterday shared that she is one of the many making masks to supply local health care professional. If you haven't seen this 1-minute video about our 4-H youth involvement in the mask challenge, take a look. It is fantastic! Nice job Ricardo and team! The recently released 4-H annual report is worth a read as well. The numbers for program participation are impressive and the work, outstanding.
While you are surfing, Frank sent us the link to a KCBS radio story about the Oakland plant sale and the impact this year's program is having in the local community. All around the state, the people of California are grateful to the Master Gardeners for their efforts to ensure a healthy food supply. One generous donor to Sonoma County included a comment with their donation: To honor the heroic efforts of the Food Gardening Specialists in pulling off the Harvest for the Hungry plant sale.
Keep the good news flowing and enjoy your May Day weekend. Before we know it, it will be Cinco de Mayo.
I had more gardening to do this weekend. That translated to more wounds. I am done with gardening for a few weeks because vacation starts next weekend, giving the weeds plenty of time to get ahead of me.
Over the weekend I learned more than I cared to know about one Western U.S. weed – foxtail. One of our dogs ended up with a foxtail deep in her ear; the plight of having big ears, I guess. Apparently foxtail isn't a big nuisance for cattle as I haven't heard of it lumped with Medusahead, Goat grass, or Cheatgrass. To me, Cheatgrass and Foxtail look pretty much the same, but I am a far cry from a gardening wiz.
I am surprised to see just how far the reach is for some of our Master Gardeners. Browsing through Facebook last week I was pleasantly shocked to see that one of my sisters had ‘liked' a post by the UCCE Sacramento County Master Gardeners. This sister is not a big gardener, likely knows nothing about Cooperative Extension, much less Master Gardeners, and lives in Virginia Beach, making it all the more impressive that the UCCE Sacramento County Master Gardeners have ‘reached' her. This highlights the power of the internet and social media as a tool for getting our information out beyond what we can do through meetings and print publications alone.
If you've read the 2018 Master Gardener Annual Report, you know how far their reach extends. The over 6,000 volunteers reached half a million Californians in 2018 by donating almost as many volunteer hours and receiving over 90,000 continuing education hours. What's more, the volunteers are long time volunteers. Pam Bone, from the UCCE Sacramento County Master Gardeners, was featured in the annual report to recognize her almost 40 years of volunteer service. Pam was the first UCCE Master Gardener volunteer. We are able to accomplish so much thanks to our volunteers across a number of our programs. I encourage everyone to take a look at the report. It is a great reflection of the broader UC ANR goals and public value, and a fantastic reminder of how fortunate we are to have dedicated volunteers.
The SI Leaders meet on Tuesday, followed by Program Council late Tuesday and into Wednesday. Friday the Blue Ribbon Panel meets to talk about making a visit to a few RECs in mid-September. While I am ‘in town' this week, it looks like it won't be slow at all. Summer will be over before we know it!
During my trip to Fresno on Wednesday I was reminded once again how much of a difference we can make when we work together. The day was incredibly motivating while at the same time humbling. It started with the UC Walks – I hadn't expected such a large turnout! But when you have the chance to walk around the Garden of the Sun in Fresno, who wouldn't take time to come out and walk. The UC Master Gardeners have done some fantastic work on the grounds; the gardens were just beautiful. Austin did a great job photographing the group.
Following our official walk, Ruth, Michael and Jacob took us to meet a local farmer who has over 50 different crops on his farm. There was quite a bit of taste-testing! The strawberries were super sweet and the lemon grass smelled heavenly. I don't envy the farmer in trying to keep the rotation straight, let alone making the trip weekly to a Bay area farmer's market.
Later we visited Rescue the Children, an 18-month program for women and children designed to enhance skills including that of healthy eating and nutrition. Karina (UC CalFresh program manager) and Sylkie (Master Gardener volunteer) showed us the gardens that the women are maintaining and expanding. Priscilla (center director) spoke about the importance of the partnership with UC ANR in changing the lives of these women. I thought for sure that would be the most moving portion of the day. Not the case.
We wrapped up the morning with a visit to a local vineyard where Nick (vineyard manager at The Wine Group) reinforced to us how much the company depends on people like George for brainstorming ideas and learning about the newest research findings. Hopefully Nick recognizes how important to UC ANR it is to have willing cooperators like him! He and George are thinking forward to what the industry needs are as far as the vineyard of the future – low labor, water-wise, high value farming. This was a great stop to wrap up a fast-paced morning.
The afternoon included what may have been my most moving visit yet. Alena and Tracy introduced us to Brian from Street Saints, a homegrown organization determined to keep the local youth out of reach of gangs. Their story was what we are all about. What's more is that they believe that the 4-H curriculum is what they need to really achieve their goals and give the kids tools for success. This is a group with whom we must partner. How can we not help when we consider what they are doing? I had a chance to briefly visit with 2 high schoolers who had participated in a 6-week summer course last year. They were so articulate, focused and committed to the 4-H program. What an honor to have a connection to this program and the products of it! I know we have a number of famous 4-H alum. These two youth were stars in my book.
A phenomenal day ended with a visit to a U.S. Forest Service research site where we are partnering with the NEON project and CSU Fresno to study ecological changes. Rebecca has a great resource in her backyard and strong partners. I love gadgets and instrumentation – as soon as the NEON project has electricity they will no doubt have some great toys.
Everywhere you look UCCE Fresno is making a difference. Thanks to everyone for a great visit!
It turns out there is far more to the UC Master Gardener Conference than talk about gardening! I was unable to attend as many talks as I had hoped but those I made were great – filled with timely information from UC ANR Advisors. Despite the outstanding venue, the talks were well attended, reflecting the strong commitment to continued education by the volunteers. Rachel Surls gave a nice overview of the Search for Excellence First Prize Grow LA Victory Garden Project, complete with evaluation data that demonstrated the personal benefits one achieves due to gardening. There was a nice awards ceremony complete with Silent Auction and a Marketplace. Apparently Master Gardeners are passionate about shopping, in addition to gardening. Considering I once managed to buy 2 pairs of shoes while attending the World Pork Expo, it should be no surprise I returned home with a few items from both the Marketplace and the Silent Auction (thanks Lauren for transporting my items that were not plane-suitable!).
The most coveted item at the Silent Auction was a beautiful redwood garden bench made by our own Jim Downer – and it was mine until the final minute of the auction! Alas, I drowned my sorrow by winning a few gift baskets well stocked with regional wines and then brought home a beautiful ceramic pumpkin made by Master Gardener Liz Burns of Monterey County. When I get to that county I will be sure to try to meet her. Overall, it seems that Master Gardeners are quite a talented bunch, especially those in Ventura County. Must be the salt air.
On the flight back from Long Beach I took a look at the Southwest magazine and had some of my earlier questions answered, right there in the message from the CEO. As I read through the magazine I came upon another article that gave me an ‘ah-hah' moment and the start of an idea. More on that later. I don't mean to keep us all in suspense but now I really must get that logic model done. The workshop to identify condition changes associated with the public value statements that were developed by the Statewide Program and Institute Directors and the Strategic Initiative Leaders is Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. Thus my procrastinating is over.
I was a bit surprised to see that one of the promotion portfolios I reviewed for a faculty member seeking promotion from assistant to associate professor included a logic model for the candidate's research and Extension program. I wouldn't say it was the best logic model I have ever seen. However, this was the first time I have seen one in a promotion package. I can't help but think this demonstrates a movement in academia, or at least Extension, away from conducting activities as they present themselves to a more deliberate planning of work and efforts in order to achieve intended outcomes. What I found particularly astute, especially for an assistant professor, was that this candidate gave consideration to trends in funding and in societal and stakeholder needs and how those trends and needs might redirect the candidate's efforts in the future despite strong success up to the present. Despite the time it takes to review promotion documents for candidates outside of the UC system, there is great value in not only seeing what candidates across the U.S. are up to but in also seeing how portfolios are prepared – what's emphasized and how accomplishments are conveyed. I suspect that was my last review for this promotion year.