A few of us attended the RCRC new supervisor installation meeting last week. It was rewarding to hear the new chair, Daron McDaniel of Merced County, acknowledge the importance of the partnership with Cooperative Extension in carrying out RCRC's work. Following the CORO meeting last week, I see all kinds of ways to expand our partnering that translates to a more significant impact without greater individual effort. Following their exercise to learn about UC ANR, The Northern cohort members identified several ways that they believe they can connect with UC ANR. Ideas ranged from UC Health to the engagement of UCSC undergraduate students, to the UCB School of Business as a prospective collaborator working towards shared goals. I am eager to hear from Keith and Darren if they had similar interactions with the Southern CORO cohort. I do not doubt that together the UC system can better translate research into public impact.
I read an FFAR announcement last week that directed readers to recently funded proposals. The amount of funding received by the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, a center that was unknown to me, was surprising. Perhaps those who work in plant agriculture are familiar with the Center. It appears to be privately funded but closely associated with Washington University in Missouri, among others. The Center houses a Maker Lab and an impressive listing of corporate partners ranging from Nestle to the airport. I immediately started wondering what their draw was, other than the local support that the Center offered the local economy by investing in an innovation hub (39° North). Could we be successful, even at a smaller scale, in a location such as Elkus Ranch or one of our RECs? What grabbed my attention was the link to a Ted Talk by the President, Jim Carrington. His lecture, The Science in Our Food, addressed the benefits that science has allowed for in advancements in growing food. He cites that in 1960, one farmer fed 26 people. Today, one farmer feeds 155 people. The Center's website is worth a look if you aren't familiar with the Center.
I am challenged by innovation. Last week I switched to a new laptop and learned that we are leaving the age of USB ports and moving into a USB-C world. While I recognized the connection (think cell phone connection to the power supply), I had no idea some laptops don't have USB ports anymore. That is the case with my new laptop. Change is uncomfortable, and I have not fully adjusted yet, though I have purchased a USB hub that connects to the computer using the USB-C connection.
During the acclimation period, I had a chance to take advantage of the long weekend. In addition to a close up with the elephant seals in Pt. Reyes, I watched what had to be hundreds of sandhill cranes fly in to the Woodbridge Preserve one night. While it would be nice to be at or above average in rainfall, I am grateful the cranes aren't in our backyard this year.
Some days I am easily sidetracked. I started out reading an article about an upcoming meeting in Sacramento, focused on the state's agricultural future. Dan Sumner is one of the speakers at the conference, as is Erin Fitzgerald, who is someone I worked with in my previous position. The topic seems a natural segue to a fascinating article that Doug Parker shared earlier in the week.
I quickly found myself going to the Dairy Voice website to listen to Pete Kappelman's podcast on the dairy industry's need for change. The new Senior Vice President of Member and Government Relations at Land O'Lakes talks about the need to do things differently to avoid continuing the same outcome. Pete was asked his thoughts on the competition with non-milk beverages for market share and what he thinks about the growing interest in plant-based proteins. He talked about some of the new dairy-based products under development. I see the challenge not just on the marketing side but also at the farm level.
Back in the spring, Betsy and Dana took us to a dairy farm. Speaking with the farmer, I found myself in awe of how one makes a go of it when the milk price is $18/cwt. That's the same price we received back when I was managing a herd in Florida. Florida's milk price was always a bit higher than more prominent dairy states, but how, decades later, can a farmer stay in business when costs have climbed at a much faster rate. Economies of scale, alone, can't possibly make up the difference. I have no answer. The dilemma likely contributes to the commitment people in UC ANR has to the industry.
Please take a minute to reach out to Giulia Marino. Giulia started on November 1, 2019, as an Orchard CE Specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, based at the Kearney REC.
If you have a few minutes to read about a colleague, take a look at this interview by UnidosUS. Fe Moncloa talks about our 4-H programs that engage youth in computer programming, even when a computer is not available. The different tracks of programming make for an excellent example of taking a different approach to achieve an intended outcome by meeting people where they are.
Interesting reading opportunities filled last week. That extra hour went by quickly.
I said ‘good-bye, for now' to the Great Australian Bight. It wasn't easy but it was time to get back to work. Travel turned out to be a bit hectic but everything worked out in the end. After all, if the worst thing that happened was that I had to stay a few more days, I certainly wasn't going to complain. One of the challenges was managing luggage; Qantas has different baggage rules with limits far less than that allowed by United Airlines. I found I had to juggle things around while still remaining under the weight limit that was less than what I had on the flight over. The result was moving items from one piece to another then weighing each piece (carry on and checked bags) to make sure I was under the total limit of 32 kg with no individual piece exceeding 23 kg. The process seemed more complicated than necessary and was further complicated by the fact that I wished to carry on my laptop and camera with extra lenses. Technology comes at a hefty weight.
The process of juggling buckets and keeping within a restricted limit that was far too low for what I wanted to accomplish served as a good step in bringing me back to reality (out of vacation mode). The process paralleled that of trying to maneuver UC ANR goals given budget realities. Faced with a flat budget that functions as a reduction because dollars don't cover the increased costs, does one devote the same level of funding to provide existing personnel with the resources for success (travel funds, discretionary funds, support staff) at the expense of increasing the number of programmatic positions (staff and academics) or vice versa?
I want both and I'm not giving up until we have both. Fortunately, and unlike the luggage situation, we can have both but it takes some work, some time, perhaps a leap of faith, and stepping outside the comfort zone. The fact that the Program Planning and Evaluation unit's academic footprint numbers show that we are holding ground in spite of last year's budget situation reflect that we can maintain support and numbers. Sometimes it feels like we are going backwards but then I realize that it was only a half-step backwards followed by a full step forward. The challenge is the time delay between steps.
We continue to hire new academics. Just yesterday Kamyar Aran started as an Assistant CE Specialty Crops Advisor with programmatic responsibilities in Contra Costa and Alameda Counties. Please take the time to welcome Kamyar and position our newest colleague for success. We have a few other new CE Specialists and CE Advisors joining UC ANR this month. I will share their information when their start date occurs.
In the meantime, there's a flurry of activity and interest in building support for UC ANR's budget. From UC Regents requesting tours of county-based programming to elected officials seeking input about our programs to clientele groups holding events and asking ANR to showcase their contributions, Anne Megaro has a full plate as do many, many others who develop and deliver the programs across the state who will be involved with these meetings. It is very exciting to see this high level of interest. Now is when we really have a chance to tell people who we are and the value our programs deliver all across California, to every Californian.
The August Costco Connection ran a story this month about the 5 questions to which the answers form the pillars of a company's success. In the article, the author references Steven Covey's comment that companies need to “begin with the end in mind”. The author concluded that “you can't know what you want to be until and unless you have envisioned it.” The timing of the upcoming 5-location workshops couldn't be better. Envisioning the ‘end' is the focus and more specifically, discussing how to provide the evidence that we have contributed to the stated end goal. The idea of capturing condition change data can be daunting but the author of the Costco Connection story says the answer to the ‘how' step is to “have fun, be brutally honest, work hard at it every day and it will become as natural as the air you breathe.” I'm counting on that applying the principle to the ‘how to have it all' question as well.
It's time, again, to start the weekend yard work routine. I spent a small part of the time this weekend weeding but didn't come close to catching up with all that somehow grew since Thanksgiving. And now, with more rain on the way and next weekend already committed for a trip to DC with our CARET representatives, I imagine the weeds will be far ahead of me by the time I get back to yard work again. That's just how it goes.
I'm reviewing my calendar and weeding out things that just might have to go on hold while I work through the merit and promotion documents (79 total, I hear, with all of them left to review by early June). Also, there are many, many meetings to attend some of which are standing meetings while others are somewhat new to the calendar. I need to decide where things fit in my Focus Funnel. I suspect some of the things I really enjoy (county visits) may slide. I need, also, to determine which activities present themselves as competing commitments and, as a result, deter my efforts to achieve my stated goals for the good of the Division.
If I need some inspiration to stay focused and avoid competing commitments all I need to do is look at this morning's UCOP Daily News Clip. There was a great call out to work in Fresno County. Take a look; the work is inspiring!
I'm looking forward to seeing the County Directors and the REC Directors this week. Both groups are meeting in Davis. The Research and Extension Council meets Tuesday evening, followed by the County Director meeting all day Wednesday. The REC meeting, on Thursday, is an ‘all-hands' meeting so Business Officers and Superintendents will be in attendance. Each of the meeting agendas is quite full. I expect I will learn a lot and later need to weed through all of the information to separate out action items from ideas for future use. It already appears that the weather may make travel challenging for some, but hopefully, travel disruptions are minimal. My week should be hassle-free as far as travels go; just a quick trip to Irvine on Friday. Then I head East again over the weekend, so plenty of opportunities to traverse the airports at that point.
Remind me – does the saying go that you can or can't teach an old dog new tricks? I'm struggling to learn new things these days. Google Analytics isn't cooperating, and now Interfolio presents a challenge. For those wondering if I read the instructions for either – no, but that's not the point. Eventually, I will figure it out; surely before mid-June.
This week has been relatively slow and Zoom-based. A number of County Directors participated in a call on Monday to talk about the 4-H program. We will repeat that conversation next Tuesday. The REC User's Committee met on Tuesday morning, and the Commodity Liaisons met this morning. Other calls were planning calls for various meetings including the Western Extension Directors and Program Council. I'm still working on developing a couple of agreements, but I need a break from those.
I plan to spend much of tomorrow reading through annual evaluation documents. I recognize that everyone contributes considerable effort in putting their documents together each year. I want to be sure to leave myself plenty of time to review the dossiers of those who submitted documents for merit and promotion consideration. I have a new strategy to consider this year. I plan to separate the 80 portfolios by rank and program area then complete one pile at a time. I haven't determined what I will do with the acceleration packages – there seems to be more of those than I would have expected. Perhaps I will review that pile last.
Wednesday I had a chance to take a trip to Tulare. I didn't make it to the World Ag Expo, but as I drove down, I noted that the weather this year was by far the worst over the past three years of making the trip. I sympathize will everyone around the state wrestling with flooded roads, mudslides, and snow loads. Hopefully, we will have a break from miserable weather this weekend.
I have many things to catch up on over the weekend. Some will probably get done while others will still be there when the week starts. Not on the list – reading instructions.