Congratulations to Deepa for making the headline story in last week's Ag Clips! Not only did the story feature Deepa's research and the work of her team, but it was a great plug for the EFNEP and CalFresh programs. A UC website page quotes Jodi Azuli for her work in leading a pilot staff mentorship program. The feedback from the first cohort group was very positive. A second cohort just launched in January. Excellent work, Jodi, and team!
There were good conversations at the strategic plan retreat last week. It was nice to provide an overview of the work to date and accomplishments through a consolidated presentation. For those interested in reading about the progress, be sure to check out the website where you can find 4 Accomplishment documents. I suspect the slide deck used at last week's meeting will make its way to that website soon. I appreciated the expanded participant list to include non-ANR members of UC, providing us a more comprehensive array of perspectives and not just talk to ourselves. Gemma and I had a great table of participants, including two non-ANR guests. I particularly appreciated a comment from one of them who shared that her philosophy, as a former physical therapist, is to 'work with what you've got.' Often, I think we direct our focus towards what we don't have rather than exploiting what we do.
I spent the latter portion of last week in Chicago at the Trust in Food Symposium. I believe we were talking to ourselves rather than to those we wish to learn from or influence. However, it was eye-opening to learn about the coalitions formed to educate consumers about practices behind food production. The meeting had a heavy focus on regenerative ag with coalition partners sharing how they teach growers about best practices. In general, Cooperative Extension was noticeably absent from the coalitions. As a national organization, we can change that and help other partners see the benefits of working with what already exists and builds on local research. It was fun running into Tracy Schor at the meeting. She attended the Top Producer Summit (ran in conjunction with the meeting I attended) as a finalist for a national recognition. Way to go, Tracy!
This week is Program Council. We are only meeting on Wednesday. Tuesday, the Academic Assembly Council meets, and the SI Leaders meet; I will join both groups for a short bit of time. Later in the week, I am off on a short field trip. More on that later. Before I get to that point, there are many, many meetings this week. Thursday, in particular, looks to be stacked from 8 AM to past 5 PM before needing to catch a flight. That's the way it goes when calendars are tight. You have to work with what you've got as far as scheduling options.
I seem to still be in a bit of a fog today. I am in Davis for the second day of Program Council. Yesterday's fog resulted in cancellation of flights for our two Program Council members from Riverside. Flights eventually left Ontario and they both made it before the first day of the meeting ended. Georgios Vidalakis, a CE Specialist at UCR, just joined Program Council so it was his first meeting. I can't help but wonder if Chris Greer made special note of the fact that he didn't have to attend this week after what may have been 8 years as a member. That leaves Rob Atwill (UCD Vet Med) as the most senior consistent member of Program Council (excluding facilitator and ex-officio members), followed by me!Tim Paine may have the most total years on Program Council, with a break here and there. I was already feeling a bit older yesterday even before we identified that factoid. Things change quickly everywhere.
The Strategic Initiative Leaders met before Program Council. They talked about conference/workshop ideas, a summer roadshow, and their priorities for the upcoming year. A few of the SI panels are seeking members so, please, consider if that might be something that interests you and reach out to the appropriate SI Leader. The SI panels are a terrific opportunity to build connections for your own program and gain a better sense of the work going on under each SI umbrella.
The rest of this week includes a couple of conversations about the possibility of some new partnerships, preparation for a strategic plan goal owners meeting that is next week, and wrapping up some loose ends that remain from before the winter break. Unfortunately, I don't seem to have any visits out to county offices or RECs scheduled anytime soon; perhaps that will change in the near future. It is such an inspiration to meet people from across ANR and hear about their work, their struggles, and the possibilities. January is a short month and other travel and work picks up quickly after February 1. Perhaps I should take advantage of the lighter schedule, stay under the umbrella, and avoid travel delays due to fog and rain.
We wrap up the 5-location Information Sessions on Friday of this week, with 3 of those five sessions taking place the last portion of the week. It has been nice to get out and see those whom I don't often get a chance to see. Also, there have been some new folks that I hadn't met in person yet. For the summer, these five sessions took the place of county office and REC visits. Once summer ends, I will have to assess my schedule. However, I welcome any invitations to come out to your area and meet with the local team. Visits can be as long or short as the hosts' desire and be anything from an informal conversation around a table to an action-packed agenda with tight timelines. For me, the emphasis is on the connection and not the format.
Back in the office, I'm working to diversify our funding sources and build resiliency against the uncertainty of state and federal funding sources. The goals are to 1) develop capacity throughout the state, reducing the reality of too much work with too few people, and 2) provide more resources to do the work. I'm not alone if the effort; a number of us are working towards these goals, not for our individual programs but the broader UC ANR. The strategy is to identify opportunities for specific programs and secure additional resources. By so doing, the tide rises to lift all boats. Some examples include:
- Securing a $500,000 gift to expand the CalNat program, with a goal of building on that gift for a long-term sustained expansion of the program;
- Secured funding of $500,000 that was matched by the UC President's Office to provide the UC Presidential Researcher for Sustainable Citrus Clonal Protection, held by Georgios Vidalakis;
- Received $19M in state funding for structural improvements at 3 RECs plus Elkus Ranch, an amount that far exceeds all funds received previously for this purpose;
- Developed partnership agreements to co-fund 6 CE Advisor position and 2 CE Specialist positions. Partners included a state agency (2 positions), 2 UC campuses, one commodity group (2 positions), and two counties. An agreement is under review by a third county for a 7th CE Advisor position. Additional conversations with new partners are in various stages;
- Established 10 Community Education Specialist position, funded by CDFA, to work in Climate Smart Agriculture by leveraging our academic network;
- Worked with one County government officials to secure funding for FY18/19 and increase it in FY19/20, following three consecutive years without funding (other than space);
- Worked with one County government office to prevent removal of funding proposed as a result of a significant structural deficit in the County;
- Implemented new annual giving strategies, resulting in a total revenue increase of in FY18/19, compared to FY17/18;
- Establishment of funding campaigns to stabilize funding for Community Education Specialist positions in both 4-H and Master Gardener programs.
None of these successes happened overnight. Each required numerous conversations with donors or partners to determine common goals and establish a path forward. Following, continued maintenance of the relationship remains essential, requiring continuous time and effort.
The above accomplishments contribute to different 'slices' of our funding sources pie, making it perhaps appear as less significant accomplishments than say a $10M donation. Some of the above achievements represent Competitive Grants and Extramural Contracts, while others increase the County funds slice of the pie, and yet other strategies add to the Endowment Income slice. But that's part of the plan – to garner support for the breadth of work across UC ANR.
While not everyone feels a direct benefit from the efforts yet, over time everyone wins, even if it is in some small way (averting a funding crisis, maintenance of program support despite a flat state budget, one more person in the office delivering a program, etc.). No question that a $10M donation to a specific program or building fund is great, but I'm just as happy to spread the wealth a bit more even if it takes time for everyone to feel the victory. Like any condition change, this, too takes time.
Today was full of meetings. Strategic plan goal owners met to talk about progress on the plan, identify successes and obstacles, remind each other that we have a Wednesday deadline to provide updates into the Smartsheet project tracker. I hope to complete my updates early tomorrow morning.
Following the goal owner meeting, a number of us moved to the other end of the building to meet with the Development Services team and catch up on achievements around the state as well as prioritize the team efforts. There are many recent successes out in the counties. Congratulations to everyone who has been working with donors and partners! Even if you haven't realized a success, yet, the effort deserves a celebration.
The next meeting was to start to process of improving the UC ANR website, beyond the recent refresh that only addressed the first layer of the framework. Like Project Board, this entails a long process and sizable investment. We have to start somewhere. During the meeting, Hans Gude talked about risks in the process – outcome, process, and project risks.
After I complete my goal updates tomorrow, I head to the President's Advisory Committee meeting in Oakland. While the President is unable to attend, her office will be represented. Among other topics, Doug Parker and Secretary Karen Ross will provide an overview of our recent agreement with CDFA to increase implementation of climate-smart farm practices. The presentation will give Doug a chance to brag about the fantastic Community Education Specialists we've been fortunate enough to hire as a result of the partnership with CDFA. Though he might be jet-lagged a bit, I'm sure Doug is looking forward to the meeting. Doug, Glenda, and Sherry Cooper just returned from Spain over the weekend. They attended the Rosenberg Forum while in Spain.
Amidst meetings, jet-lag or whatever happens to be on your calendar, please don't forget a few key dates and items:
Wednesday, May 1, is UC Walks. Try to get out and enjoy the great weather and don't forget your antihistamines. Last year, I had the great pleasure of walking with the Fresno County team through the Garden of the Sun – what a fun walk!
May 15 is the last day to Raise Your Hand in support of 4-H. I noticed that Ohio is boasting over 17,000 hands raised. Surely we can beat out Ohio!
I hope everyone's meetings go well this week!
In between finishing up the merit and promotion packages, I did some gardening this weekend. My favorite plant on the property was in bloom. Unfortunately, it's not one of the plants that needs thinning and clearly doesn't spread like so many others we have (trumpet vines, calla lilies, cannas, among others) and I have no idea what it is. So consider this a trivia question and let me know if you recognize this plant.
Some think gardening is relaxing. I seem to approach it more as a full contact sport. I guess it's a matter of perspective. For example, I'm challenged to find the benefits to dividing California into 3 states but, clearly others find this a good idea. Who knows, I may be enlightened over the next few months. Right now, I struggle to see what such a change would mean to the University of California system. That could definitely make deciding between the Blue, the Gold, or a modified state for UC ANR appear a much simpler task.
Before the end of the week I need to put together a presentation about ‘what UC ANR program delivery looks like' to share with the ANR Advisory Committee early next week. I haven't decided yet what that presentation looks like. In the meantime, we have our annual meeting with President Napolitano on Thursday afternoon. We'll focus on progress made on our strategic plan goals. If you haven't visited the strategic plan website lately, take a look at the document now posted that provides updates on recent accomplishments. This will be updated 3 to 4 times per year so stop back in a few months to review the updated version.
One of the accomplishments outlined is the development of shared positions through new partnerships. As a result of a new financial partnership with NRCS, Anthony Fulford has joined UC ANR! Anthony started today as a CE Advisor, Nutrient Management and Soil Quality, based in Modesto, CA, with programmatic responsibilities in Stanislaus, Merced and San Joaquin Counties. Please take a minute to welcome Anthony.
Thursday is also the second WebANR where Nancy Franz will be joining us to talk about how the Public Value Statements are a strategy to help focus one's efforts, among other purposes. Like last month's webinar, it will be recorded in case you are unable to join the conversation live.
With Thursday promising to be a busy day, I'll be sure to give you an update on anything exciting that may happen. In the meantime, I'm staying out of the garden.
Make good use of the longest day of 2018!