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.
What does one serve at a skeleton picnic? Perhaps ghoul guts, severed fingers, and a taco cheese skull. I took a couple of hours off today to get ready for the potluck at the Davis building tomorrow. I am prepared for the event unless I trip in the driveway while trying to balance a skull.
Offices that have been without power are starting to reopen. Hopefully, we see rain soon. In the meantime, I was pleased to hear the national news acknowledge that grazing goats were, in part, responsible for saving the Reagan library from fire. Maybe others will take note that this is only one of the benefits (ecosystem services) provided through livestock grazing.
Yesterday, this current Western Extension Leadership Development program cohort met with a few of the Extension Directors/Associate Directors from around the West. Several of the Directors talked about the importance of partnerships and the need to expand partnering efforts, including seeking new or non-traditional partners. I was surprised to learn the Colorado State now has a CE Specialist position that is co-funded with the wine industry. Now what surprised me wasn't the idea of co-funded positions. After all, this isn't new to California and even more common in other states. What surprised me was that Colorado has a wine industry of a size that would consider such a partnership. It is not hard at all to learn something new every day.
My trip to Riverside resulted in a few productive meetings. Now I am home for just over a week. The first Friday of the month is already here, so the standing CD and REC Director meetings will cover half the day. Both look to be full agendas.
On the good news front, I learned today that the Climate Smart CES team has funding for the next two years – thanks to Doug, Betsy, Dan, and especially the group of community educators who have over-delivered this year! And, we are just about ready to get started recruiting for two community educators as part of a similar effort to address produce food safety. Erin has done a fantastic job moving that along, working with Ruth, Aparna, Margaret, Ramiro, and Jose.
Now, if we can only get word that the Kincaid Fire is under control and everyone in Sonoma County is back in their homes, the weekend will be off to a great start.
Tomorrow I head to Imperial County to meet with essential partners from the nearby agriculture institute at the University in Mexicali. The group in Imperial County (both UCCE and DREC) already have strong relationships with the institute; we are considering how these might expand or be formalized. Wall or no wall, there's a commitment to working together to meet the needs of clientele in the Sonoran Desert region. It's a quick trip, returning on Thursday. Friday, like every first Friday, is booked with Zoom meetings.
The budget is at the forefront of conversations these days. Even though the federal government is back to work, we know that the deadline will be here before we know it and Congress has much work to do. I haven't followed the news too closely over the last two days, but so far, I haven't heard if there have been any negotiations yet. We, along with campuses, need to continue to think about next steps should an agreement not be reached.
The state budget is early in the process, but it's never too early to think through the implications of budget proposals as we hear about them. And, it is never too soon to look for opportunities to identify sources of funds. It takes time and effort but is one of those things that we need to make room for in our schedules, likely requiring that we are willing to give something up. A few of us met for several hours on Monday to strategize how we resource current commitments and position UC ANR to increase the number of people reached with the critical, relevant programming offered all across UC ANR. Four people won't solve it; instead, the power of the collective diverse and dispersed team, all across California, is required. Ideas, assistance, strategies are welcome!
Next week is Program Council. We will continue the January discussions, focusing on programmatic units and their impact. The meeting is shorter than the usual day and a half. I'm optimistic this will leave me with time to get some draft MOUs compiled for a couple of promising new partnerships. My goal is to be inundated with such requests so if you have prospective partners for positions or programs; please drop me an email.
Did you happen to see the nice callout in Western Farm Press that UC ANR received? The piece cited the important work that personnel around the state do to provide science and support to the agriculture community. In addition to a great photo of Beth Grafton-Cardwell, the article highlighted that CE Advisors, SRAs, Community Educators and CE Specialists all make a difference as leaders that are embedded in local communities, by looking forward and for novel ways of addressing challenges.
It's no wonder we have growing interest from many of the UC campuses to partner with UC ANR. Today we are one step closer to having our first CE Specialist at UC Santa Cruz, having finalized edits on an MOU where we (UC ANR) will share funding with UC Santa Cruz for a 100% UC ANR CE Specialist that will focus on organic agriculture. We are close to having our third CE Specialist on the UC Merced campus. Interviews for a CE Specialist focused on watershed science, who is half funded by UC ANR and half funded by UC Merced, will take place in early October. Such partnerships may be new to UC ANR but I think they are key to our ability to grow in numbers.
We talked about the concept of shared-funded positions while we visited with Ventura County yesterday. The question was asked how many I would like to see. Honestly, I'd love to see our numbers double and if the only way we could achieve that was so split everyone's funding with a partner, I'd be supportive of doing so. Now I recognize that is unlikely to happen, much less be acceptable to all, but imagine the reach and impact we could have! Yesterday we talked quite a bit about the talent and numbers that have been lost over the span of some longer careers. As I listened, I wondered if we could really ever identify what we wouldn't do. Even in Ventura County while numbers decline there is a desire to regain the breadth of programming there once was, let alone the depth of programming. The only solution to achieving both that I see is to look for non-traditional sources of funding and partners.
Soon I am off to the Advisory Board meeting for the Hansen REC. This will be only the second time I have met with the Board. I believe it will be Annemiek's first meeting as the REC director. I need to take a look at the agenda before I head over there and then look ahead and see what I need to complete this weekend before I leave town on Sunday.
I'm anxious to hear how the RCAS tour went that was hosted this year in California. It wraps up today. Lisa Fischer chaired the tour planning committee that included a number of Advisors, Specialists, and REC Directors. One of the tour stops was the Kearney REC. It looked to be a great tour, but one I unfortunately couldn't participate in. I did have a chance to meet the group on Sunday for their business meeting. As the group went around the room and talked about some of the challenges they have in their respective states there were some common themes, most of which are not altogether unfamiliar to CA. The real benefit of having such a group from around the country is the opportunity to share potential solutions and experiences and clearly this group is solutions oriented and not stuck on just discussing the problems.
I spent yesterday at the annual meeting for the UCOP Global Food Initiative. Both NPI and SAREP have ongoing projects with GFI. Peggy Lemaux's CLEAR program was one of the projects discussed in detail. Peggy commented to me how pleased she was to hear many of the GFI participants from around the UC campuses refer to UC ANR. I couldn't agree more. Given the topic is food, it only makes sense that UC ANR is an integral part of the GFI. I had the pleasure of sitting at a table with Jeff Couture's daughter who is a researcher at UCSB where she studies marine food sources. She is quite an impressive young lady; no doubt he is quite proud of her. I don't know Jeff very well but every morning that I head to Davis I hope he has arrived ahead of me so that I don't have to remember my alarm PIN. Fortunately he's pretty regular with his early arrival.
Today we had a UC ANR Strategic Plan Goal Owners meeting to share updates on each of the strategic plan goals and take a reflective look at the feasibility of all that is in the plan. Now that we've had 6 months or so to work on the goals, it is much easier to be realistic about the workload and investments involved in accomplishing the plan, not to mention the benchmarks and metrics to evaluate our progress. Now that's not to say that there isn't a strong commitment to achieving everything in the plan, but it's all about ensuring that we are realistic about how best to accomplish the goals. Time has also led to a new perspective on the 15 goals and how intertwined they are. That's a bit scary if you think of it in terms of potential to fail. On the other hand, that interconnection lends itself to a sense that all of the goal owners are headed in a common direction – an essential factor for success. During the meeting Gabe Youtsey talked about a grant submission to the U.S. Economic Development Administration's (EDA) Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) program only to discover while we were meeting that is was funded! Congratulations to Gabe Youtsey, Glenda and their team for a successful submission!
In other exciting news, the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors will be recognizing the 10th Anniversary of our Master Gardener Program this coming Tuesday, September 26th. The BOS will also recognize the few Master Gardeners that have contributed more than 1,000 hours of volunteer time each. Congratulations to my home county! San Joaquin County has and is a tremendous partner with UC ANR. The county provides strong financial support to fund and support Marcy Sousa, the Master Gardener Coordinator, Marcy Sousa, and the Environmental Horticulture Advisor position, held by Karrie Reid. As a result, San Joaquin County is home to 200 certified Master Gardeners. Way to go Marcy, Karrie, Brent and team! It is this type of partnership that makes UC ANR's work so effective and broad-reaching.
I can only guess what the rest of the week holds!