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 attending a virtual conference this week. This makes for long days, because the ‘at home' work continues. I miss the old days when traveling to a conference meant you did not have to do double duty – the conference, and the usual meetings back home. Next week, I travel and continue to participate in a number of Zoom meetings. I am certain I am not alone in having difficulty finding a way out of what seems to be perpetual 10+ hour workdays. Always looking for the upside, I know I will not have too many meetings scheduled the last week of October due to jury duty. Time flies and my county clearly keeps close tabs on when my reprieve expires.
The Strategic Plan goal owners met this week. I believe we are making good progress, though there will always remain much to do, and then there is the homework. In particular, there are some interesting discussions underway with new partners and prospective donors. Then there are the efforts around DEI that continue to expand with learning opportunities and hiring practices, in particular. The new state funding will go a long way in expanding who and how we reach new audiences, through an expanded CE Advisor and CE Specialist footprint and new resources targeted at reaching our clientele in with modernized methods, while simultaneously offering advancement opportunities for some of our critical program staff. Finally, I am excited that we will take steps to right size our business support units with over 20 new hires. Again, improvement is never-ending, but we are clearly gaining ground.
This is a big week for a couple of our own. On Friday, the California Ag Leadership Foundation holds the ceremony to announce the 2021 Profiles in Leadership Award recipients. Introductions to this year's Leadership class will occur during the ceremony as well. Congratulations to Tracy and Betsy for their remarkable accomplishments!
I witnessed about 15 minutes of rain last week. Hoping to see more of it soon. In the meantime, in between presentation preparations this weekend, I need to take care of some weeds. While the rain won't help with weed control, the cooler temperatures sure make a difference.
I hope everyone has power restored. At least we don't have the temperatures to accompany the winter storm that those along the Eastern Seaboard are facing.
We presented the updated strategic plan to President Drake this week. I believe it was well received by him. He asked about the ‘so what' of our plan. The question immediately transformed me in time to a meeting where the then Governor posed the same question to me as I defended against eliminating our budget. I stumbled for the response because we lacked the evidence to make a case. After the meeting, I sat in my car, still storming about the situation, and realized that it is on us to overtly convey our ‘so what'. This time, we were well prepared for the response, but it doesn't mean we become complacent. Now, it is time to get to work making the goals happen. I have some interesting partnership discussions underway to increase our programmatic footprint. This is in addition to the good things outlined in the Governor's January budget release.
Program Council met this week. We completed presentations and discussions with Statewide Program Directors. The presentations were very informative, giving Program Council a chance to hear from the Directors what they are thinking as far as opportunities for the future. I will meet with the Statewide Program Directors later this week to brainstorm a bit about future collaborations. I met as part of a group early this week to brainstorm specifically about the 4-H program. I felt that was a great conversation.
I have had several meetings with members of NIFA lately. Last week as few of us met with the new NIFA director, Dr. Carrie Castille. She is no stranger to Cooperative Extension and specifically called out the 4-H at Home efforts as particularly important during this time. In a separate meeting this week, a small group discussed with NIFA leadership direction for the Cooperative Extension System and evolution of our partnership with NIFA.
It is time for me to get started reviewing dossiers and annual evaluation documents. In between, I look forward to reading about our programs from sources outside of California. Check out this post that shares how one of our Master Food Preservers helped prevent widespread sharing of poor canning practices. Way to go, Colleen! And California was featured as an example for reporting practices by NIFA. That should feel good for all who have been getting their program information and outcomes into Project Board!
The First Friday is here. That means a day of Zoom calls for standing meetings. In addition to REC, CD, and ECOP calls, this month I have a meeting with a newly formed systemwide group to explore transparency in animal research. That promises to be interesting and another important aspect of the ‘so what'.
Finally, I can share some exciting news that I've been having to keep to myself. Cheryl Wilen was recently awarded the 2020 Outstanding Contribution to Agriculture award by the California Association of Pest Control Advisers (CAPCA). The Outstanding Contribution to Agriculture award recognizes individuals or organizations that have made a significant contribution to California agriculture. We concur with the selection committee! Congratulations, Cheryl! I still have one more congratulations to send out, once the award is made.
Another rough week for many across the state who are without power or worse, evacuated. So far, I haven't heard of any major losses. Darren reported some small fires onsite at the South Coast REC, but they were controlled quickly. Let's hope the same holds between now and when the rain finally begins. Let's also hope that evacuations and power losses don't deter voters from getting out to exercise the super power we all have.
Because so many across UC ANR are touched when disaster happens, either in response to or planning for, you might find this recent article by Vikram, Susie, and Faith of interest. The tables identifying needs are of particular interest to me and perhaps something the Learning and Development team might think about for future trainings. Thanks to all of the 100+ people who assisted by providing survey responses.
Strategic planning winds down this week with meetings to finalize both the ANR plan and the REC framework. While I look forward to the end of the planning phase, the reality is that the work of the plan itself then begins. Time to direct towards those efforts need to be squeezed into the calendar amongst other, unplanned events. More meetings take place this week that would normally take place the week of November 9. That was the scheduled annual APLU meeting. However, because the meeting is taking place virtually, events have been scattered across what seems to be a 3-week window. I am hoping that means no meetings on Veteran's Day. I won't hold my breath, but I won't give up hope either. I have some projects to complete at home that would benefit from a free day that weekend yard work doesn't seem to permit.
Weeds must love heat because they are constantly ahead of me in our garden beds. This made for a gardening weekend. And it looks like our last Japanese maple bush is not going to be around next year. A couple of hydrangeas are failing as well. The sago palms and blue agave are thriving. Perhaps they are in the weed family.
I made good progress on my project this weekend despite the garden time, pool time, and homework I needed to complete. As much as I complain about homework, I found myself adding 21 days of it to my calendar last week. During the Vice Chancellors for Research (VCR) meeting last week, the VCR from San Diego shared the 21-day Anti-Racism Challenge that UCSD is completing. The group of VCRs were quite interested in this activity and making a commitment to the challenge. The result is a well-spent hour or more each weekday, beginning last Friday, through September 4. The challenge will wind down right around the same time that pool season winds down. I know others in UC ANR are undertaking a similar challenge. There are several challenges available. Take a look by conducting a web search. The activities are informative on many levels. Some are TED talks, and I am a big fan of TED talks.
Many meetings again this week, of a varied sort. Tomorrow is a UC ANR strategic plan webinar focused on development of partnerships as a key strategy to address resource constraints. Partnerships are the foundation of Cooperative Extension and all aspects of UC ANR work. While continuing that tradition, the plan will emphasize development of novel partnerships so that we accomplish more without doing more or identify new resources that allow us to do more with more. One comment that we hear often is that people don't see themselves in the plan. I interpret that to mean that they either don't see how they can contribute to the success of the plan, or that they don't see their specific work (i.e. program area) called out as part of the plan. Real success of the plan has everyone contributing in some way and everyone contributes differently. The plan doesn't address what we do, from the standpoint of programmatic areas, but what we will do in order to continue or expand the programmatic work. If the comment means something other than my interpretation, I need more information to fully understand. Perhaps the meeting this week will shed some light for me.
On Friday, the team working on a strategic framework for the RECs will meet for several hours. In between now and Friday is Administrative Orientation, an ECOP meeting for the executive committee, a meeting with a portion of the Peer Review Committee, and various meetings with different units. My COVID workspace reached 93 degrees on Friday before the day ended. Perhaps this week will cool down some. If not, I will be ready for this weekend's gardening activities.