- Author: Deanne Meyer
Days are cooler and rain may be coming. Fires continue to burn. We are keeping good thoughts for our first responders and everyone in these areas living with smoke, evacuations and uncertainty.
Last week Program Council reviewed the UC Master Gardener Program. The review encompassed 10 years of work including major budget cuts, a global pandemic, and incredible growth in volunteers. Kudos to the review committee and Kit Alviz and Leyla Marandi of Program Planning and Evaluation. Program Council appreciated the detailed analyses and contributions of information from many sources.
Did you know the UC Master Gardener Program started in 1980? The current volunteer roster exceeds 6,000 people. Sustainable landscaping, food gardening and community well-being are key focus areas. Workshop topics cover everything from food security to water conservation. Understanding the right plant and the right place is increasingly more important with our changing climate, unpredictable precipitation and scarce water resources. Plants improve our well-being through beauty, shade and improved soil characteristics. The Master Gardener website is a fabulous resource! It's a great resource if you need information or if you're just curious about the program. Give it a read!
Goings and comings. As the calendar turned to September, we thanked Katherine Soule who served as Assistant Vice Provost of UC Cooperative Extension for the last two years. We appreciate all her efforts in that role. Just a few days later, we wished David Bunn a happy retirement. Both David and Katherine worked closely with County Directors. Their energies, efforts and enthusiasm were appreciated. The first Friday CD/REC Director meeting in September was informative and a great information exchange occurred.
Leadership development is important for our organization. Keith Nathaniel is working with Western Extension Leadership Development Class XI. Oli Bachie and Jennifer Heguy are interns from UC ANR. Thank you, Keith, for your leadership. Betsy Karle is on the last part of her her 17 month leadership development in the California Ag Leadership Program's Class 51. Congratulations to Anne Megaro for being accepted into Class 52! I applaud everyone for continuing their leadership journey.
We continue to grow! Welcome Hanif Robert Houston, digital communications Alameda; Chun Fung Yu and Stephen Dampier, IT services; blank assistants Maximus Mendez, Kearney and Todd Wenstrom San Diego; Jose Pax Villegas and Jackson Dias, Fresno Madera MCP; Community Education Specialists Sierra Washington, Plumas and Sierra counties; Julie Salomonson, Ventura; Braulio Rodriguez Villalobos, Ana Mora Camacho, Coral Franco, Fresno and Madera MCP; Kathleen Carter and Alfonso Mota, Sierra Nevada; Nichol Santisteven, Santa Clara; Arlene Silva, Imperial; Tara Kelly, San Mateo; and Brandon Frost, Shasta. We are happy you have all joined the ANR family!
Thank you for all you do for California! Together we effect change for California, and beyond.
I have always said that I lead a charmed life and little of what I encounter is ‘hard'. Often the response is a quizzical look. I go on to explain by stating that I have never known real, sustained hunger. I don't have a long-term debilitating condition. I have never lived in the middle of a war. I can't even imagine what it is to hurry your family to a subway station for safety and to try to conduct some semblance of ‘normal' under those conditions. During my faculty days, I made several trips to Eastern Europe, including Ukraine, to work with local faculty (Extension Specialists) to modernize the production of animal protein to enhance food security and improve living conditions. Regularly, the night before my departure I would be handed a stack of manila envelopes that contained applications from those seeking admittance to the U.S. through what was known as the lottery system. It has been many years since I was last there and I always hope things have improved, that our work made a difference and conditions changed. Each of us can do something, no matter how small, to ensure things don't go backward.
I started annual evaluation discussions this week. These are always fun; I don't spend enough time with the CE Specialists throughout the year. I had a chance to spend an hour with a few people from across UC ANR during a ‘coffee with leadership' on Tuesday. There was no coffee, but I think the conversation stood on its own. Then it was on to Program Council where we reviewed, discussed, deliberated, and developed recommendations for the CE Specialist positions. We had to whittle down more than we did for the CE Advisor proposals, so it took a bit longer. We came to a consensus, and I am eager to see the announcement go out in late March or early April after the Vice President has had a chance to review the recommendations and make final decisions.
I am in Davis most of this week. It is great to see the number of persons in the building continue to climb. Even the refrigerator looks fuller with lunches! Let's hope we have turned a final corner in the pandemic. I ventured out across the country last week for some downtime. We did some birding, though I must admit that we identify most birds by color or shape, rather than genus and species. We saw pelicans, herons, egrets, ducks, and the occasional roseate spoonbill. We went in search of ocelots but came up empty. The photos are not from my trip but from a friend in Colombia. Her birding adventures are far more exotic than mine. Definitely the dilemma of someone leading a charmed lifestyle.
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.
Christopher Chen started his career at UC ANR this week as the Integrated Vineyards Systems Area Advisor, based at the Hopland Research and Extension Center in Hopland, with programmatic responsibilities in Mendocino, Lake and Sonoma Counties. Christopher is a hire from the positions released in July. We are excited to have him on board! Also joining this week is Philip Weisen began as the Vegetable Crops and Small Farms Advisor, based in Indio, with programmatic responsibilities in Riverside and Imperial Counties. We have eagerly awaited Philip's arrival for some time! Please take a minute to reach out and welcome both Christopher and Philip.
These hires represent the start of something special. I anticipate regular ‘welcomes' over the next few months. This is long overdue, but hopefully something that continues well into the future and the result of new partners and funding sources.
After a somewhat slow Monday, Program Council met for almost 12 hours between Tuesday and Wednesday. We reviewed CE Advisor position proposals, repeatedly remarking on the extraordinary effort by proposers to work collaboratively and think strategically about statewide needs. Kudos to everyone for their role in the process! We will have a few more conversations about the CE Advisor positions at our February meeting, before reviewing and discussing the CE Specialist positions at the March meeting. The Vice President has some tough decisions to make. I would venture a guess that we will hear about her decisions before mid-March. In the meantime, the hiring continues. The search committees, Mark, Pam, Tatiana, Tina, Val, Bill, and Alma have been so efficient in getting positions advertised. For many of the positions, Becky plays a big role in getting the new hires here. What a team!
Thursday is the quarterly meeting with the Dean's Council. I have a list of projects to wrap up including a few communications to finalize and distribute, homework for a National Academy committee, complete some email tasks. I am on a plane most of Friday, assuming airlines are flying that day, and need to wrap up the weekly tasks a bit early. I need another slow Monday! Already, I am starting to feel the winter chaos with merit and promotion packages, national and regional meetings, and decision-maker visits. Is it me, or does time get shorter?
Happy New Year everyone! I have become accustomed to and accepting of the winter curtailment, but I continue to find it difficult to get my head back into work after a complete shut down for a week or so. I must not be alone because this week is quite light on meetings. I suspect a fair number of people have taken an additional week. Maybe some are spending it listening to the water. Hopefully all are safe from the travel challenges of the last two weeks. I have a flight scheduled late next week but remain unconvinced the airlines will be caught up by then.
Congratulations to Chutima and team! Their work was selected by NIFA to be showcased as one of the SNAP-Ed (CalFresh Healthy Living) success stories! Be sure to congratulate the team. What great news to start of the new year!
My in-person meetings this week have largely converted to Zoom. Tomorrow is the annual meeting with the Davis CE Specialists. We were so optimistic about an in-person meeting, but will make do with remote. Either way, it is always nice to meet with the CE Specialists as a group. I have a number of meetings related to ECOP again this week. Friday finishes out with a monthly ECOP meeting for directors. Fortunately, my responsibilities for the meeting are minimal, giving me more time to prep for next week.
Program Council meets next week to review the CE Advisor position proposals. The multi-day meeting promises to be a lively discussion with the work made easier by all of the effort already put into the process by directors and program teams. Program teams continue their work by reviewing the CE Specialist proposals over the next month. It is an exciting time and likely the only time in my career that we will have the opportunity to fill so many positions!
Another nice problem to have is all of the recent precipitation! I suspect many of you might have had weather-related travel challenges over the break, but nothing compared to the backup on I-95 in Virginia. I am having water challenges in the back yard. We look like a water fowl preserve. The dogs have lost the yard, but gained some excitement in trying to scare off herons, ducks, egrets, and the occasional sandhill crane. Hard to believe our area is still considered in ‘extreme drought'.