Where did June go? It is hard to believe that July 1st is already upon us.
Congratulations to JoLynn Miller, Kendra Lewis (now at the University of New Hampshire), and team members of the Youth Retention Study, a Multistate Project. The National Association of Extension 4-H Youth Development Program (NAE4-HYDP) selected YRS as the national winner for the Susan Barkman Award for Research and Evaluation. This recognition represents a tremendous recognition for a multistate project that is still early in its lifespan. Please congratulate JoLynn for her accomplishment!
Amanda Crump is the recipient of the Western Region New Teacher Award. Many of you remember Amanda from her time in the 2nd Street building as Director of the Western IPM Center. Amanda received her award during a virtual ceremony that Glenda and I both attended. She continues to impress and amaze us, giving a wonderful ‘thank you' speech where she talked about her plans to have no less than 75% of her course readings written by Black authors or members of other marginalized populations to empower her students. Please take the time to drop Amanda a congratulatory note!
This week is a week of firsts for me. Yesterday I gave my first haircut. After four months without one, my husband thought it was a good idea. I assured him I was pretty good at shearing sheep. How different could this be? After all, the equipment is reasonably similar. The key to shearing sheep is positioning them so they can't wriggle around. I failed to consider that. Furthermore, sheep don't tell you how the 'professionals do it.' My husband owns many hats; he will get through this.
On Saturday, I will attend my first Zoom wedding. The ceremony starts at 5 AM Pacific Time. The early start time might be payback for the years of days that the bride had to be at work at 5 AM (or earlier) to run my lab. I've attended a video wedding before, but not one by Zoom. The bride is fortunate to have talented friends who can make all of the necessary arrangements.
I read an interesting blog post the other day that talked about the value of the concept of dreaming bigger than your present situation. The author wrote, “I have learned over the past few years that it is important to dream bigger than your current circumstances. Doing this allows me to remain driven and focused. I have been able to appreciate my biggest moments of success to date by keeping the mindset of always dreaming bigger than the now.” I have this mindset for UC ANR, always. In light of the current circumstances (budget, pandemic, social unrest), visualizing the dream provides the motivation and direction for moving forward. As challenging and perhaps unattainable as things might seem, we can keep in mind the inspiration of James Baldwin, who said, "Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced."
Enjoy the long weekend. Stay safe.
Former California Secretary of Agriculture, A.G. Kawamura, and former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, were the speakers for a webinar last week addressing what COVID-19 has revealed about our food system. Their message: We are in our 'ah-ha moment' where we can look back to better see forward. Other countries that had gone through SARS or other pandemics were better prepared than the U.S. and experienced less disruption and better containment. Now, the U.S. has an opportunity to appreciate the importance of food production and the need for expanded food access so that we are not in a position of disproportionate impact when the next pandemic or crisis occurs. When asked what he would want to see as a stimulus package's priority, Secretary Vilsack responded that an increase in SNAP benefits without barriers to access would be his top priority.
Regarding food production and processing, Secretary Vilsack stressed that we need to think about building a system of resiliency and give that attribute as much attention as we have provided to efficiency. A resilient system may be less efficient, but it will ensure food access during crises. The resilient food system doesn't completely replace what we have now, but adds another layer with a complimentary food system that collects, processes, and distributes locally produced food. This system may not be as efficient, which typically means more cost to the consumer. However, as part of a national food resiliency plan, the government could choose to subsidize the complimentary system.
Secretary Vilsack addressed the need for more public funding for research and repeated what I have heard from others. Like NIH, who justifies their need for more funding by stating that they can 'cure cancer,' agriculture needs to make a bold statement about preventing cancer or eliminating hunger to access more substantial funding. Secretary Kawamura talked about the need to re-think the role of each sector, including Cooperative Extension. He indicated that the university plays an essential role in moving us from our current ‘old structure' to ‘new structure' that emphasizes food system resiliency and equitable food access. Cooperative Extension continues to play a role in bridging discovery and implementation.
UC ANR is well-positioned to lead this conversation. In addition to a current effort, led by two of our Strategic Initiative Leaders, to imagine our food system in a food-secure world, we have demonstrated our programs' impact on increasing food security. Here's one example of the impact statements reported this last year that we shared with our NIFA partners:
- Of the 187 EFNEP graduates in Tulare and Kings Counties, 81% of participants showed improvement in food resource management practices. Additionally, results from 83 participants indicated $70.70 in average monthly cost savings, suggesting that making informed food decisions can help families improve nutrition and food resource management behaviors essential to maximizing the use of limited resources, supporting a healthy diet, and improving food security. (Deepa Srivastava)
As we wind down June, we recognize that several members of the UC ANR family are preparing for their next life adventure. Congratulations to all of our retirees. And, thank you, for all of your contributions and effort during your time with UC ANR! We wish you well, and we will miss you. Please, check-in often.
As I interacted with colleagues last week and learned that it was raining in their part of the state, I was a bit jealous. I'm over that now, having watched it rain for more than 24 hours beginning Sunday afternoon and wrapping up after dinner last evening. For the most part, the rain was light. Monday afternoon, however, was filled with thunder and power surges, although the power didn't go out until today. By dinner time yesterday, the front yard had become duck habitat, a new event for us but not altogether surprising given that the winter of 2019 our backyard was home to sandhill cranes. Life is full of surprises!
During a Zoom break today I read an article that Glenda sent that I can't help but share. The author is the former President of Goucher College, a small private college in Maryland that happens to be the alma mater of one of my sisters. The topic is the featured conversation in many of my meetings, both within UC and across the country. One line, in particular stuck out: “…now we need to embrace a greater tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty”. As a ‘planner' the concept is, without question, uncomfortable, but the author reinforces the idea that tactical moves don't prepare one for the future the way that strategical decision do. And while uncomfortable, it is better to be prepared by building nimbleness and flexibility into our plans, than to be caught off guard. A year ago we started planning a summer meeting focused on the future of the land-grant institution. The timing for that topic couldn't be better. I met with the AAC Specialist representatives today and they talked about how things have changed on the campuses and the sense that fall courses will be delivered online. It may be more true now than previously that the only constant is change.
Several of my meetings have brought up the topic of investment into tools and resources necessary for relevancy and access in the future. This includes a discussion with other Western Extension Directors that are considering our needs for executive staffing (what support do we and our program leaders need, both in terms of skill and FTE), with REC directors regarding investments to best position the REC system going forward, and with eXtension regarding where the organization needs to direct their efforts to maintain relevancy to Cooperative Extension units across the U.S. If you have ideas regarding eXtension, in particular, please share your thoughts with me.
Here's a nice surprise! Did you know that IGIS offers office hours to support those using the R statistical program to analyze their data? What a great resource for UC ANR! My days of using SAS are behind me at present, but who knows when I might need mixed model assistance in the future? Oddly, I just provided data analysis advice to my brother-in-law a few weeks back. That's just one of the informative items shared on the Innovation Tracker that Linda Forbes launched. Take a look and see what other things you can learn. Or, share an idea or two.
No surprise, I see a calf running around next door. This one is approximately 6 months old. Perhaps she will scare the ducks away before heading back to her pen.
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.