To plant the seed of healthful eating among youngsters, UC Cooperative Extension is giving away vegetable plants to Oakland families with school children.
On Thursday, May 7, CalFresh Healthy Living, UC staff will give tomato and basil seedlings to Oakland parents who come to pick up food for their children at West Oakland Middle School. The team will also be giving away plants again at Elmhurst United Middle School on May 14 and at Bret Hart Middle School on May 21. The plants are being donated by the UC Master Gardener Program of Alameda and Contra Costa counties.
“Gardening activities can help increase children's interest in eating fresh fruits and vegetables and improve their understanding of the health benefits and major nutrients found in the plants grown,” said Tuline Baykal, program supervisor of the CalFresh Healthy Living, UC team in Alameda County.
UCCE Master Gardeners are donating 100 tomato plants in 1-gallon pots for the giveaway on Thursday. The seedlings are in paper bags with planting instructions in six languages: English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean and Arabic.
The plants were part of the annual plant sale normally held in April to raise funds for the UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County, which is funded primarily by revenue generated by the plant sale and donations. The sale, which attracts thousands of gardening enthusiasts, was canceled due to COVID-19 safety concerns.
“We didn't want the plants to go to waste, we wanted to get them out into the community,” said Dawn Kooyumjian, UC Master Gardener Program coordinator.
“Rather than compost the plants at this time of heightened interest in home vegetable gardening and food security, we saw an opportunity to connect with Oakland Unified School District through the UC Master Gardeners of Alameda County School Garden Support Team, which supports gardens in Title 1 schools by mentoring teachers, parents and Food Corps volunteers.”
In past weeks, they gave away tomato plants at Sankofa Academy, which serves children in preschool through fifth grade.
UC Master Gardener volunteer Devra Laner coordinated with OUSD to distribute plants at the meal giveaways.
“Six to eight Oakland school gardens are being opened up this week,” Kooyumjian said. “UC Master Gardeners will be donating some tomato plants to these school gardens and FoodCorps Service members will be harvesting the garden produce to donate to food distribution centers.”
In addition to the plants being given away to Oakland families, the UC Master Gardener Program in Contra Costa County has donated 30,000 plants to 48 community and school gardens in the Bay Area. They also provided plants to local nurseries that could not keep up with the current demand for gardening supplies that COVID-19 has created.
“Typically, our plant sale takes in $85,000 or more. Because of COVID-19, we turned the Great Tomato Sale into what our gardeners call ‘Our Great Tomato Share' to support our underserved community,” said Frank McPherson, director of UC Cooperative Extension for the Bay Area.
- Author: Ricardo Vela
"I love it when they say, ‘You've taught me something new.'” When Lisa Blecker hears these words from workshop participants, she says it is one of the greatest satisfactions in her role as a pesticide safety education coordinator with the UC Integrated Pest Management Program. She enjoys teaching people how to see their surroundings differently when it comes to working with pesticides.
"Participants who have spent years in the profession often say, 'I've been doing this forever, and I had no idea that my gloves had to be 14 mils thick,'" Blecker said.
At the end of their workshops, webinars, or in-person training, all the participants fill out a survey and the results are positive: 93 percent of last year's participants indicated plans to make a change in workplace safety as a result of attending the workshops. The results also indicate that as many as 62,901 fieldworkers and 12,071 pesticide handlers will be trained in pesticide safety by participants from these workshops.
Training keeps Blecker busy. Half the year, she and her team travel across California to conduct workshops that provide pesticide safety training for commercial and private pesticide applicators. She works closely with the California Department of Pesticide Regulation to promote, through testing, the basic competency requirements for applicators.
“We write the study material that helps them pass the test. We help people through our study guides to get occupational certifications or, in some cases, a license," Blecker said.
What also makes Blecker proud is the fact that she delivers her pesticide safety workshops in Spanish in addition to English.
"I think it's critical for a pesticide safety program, and many outreach programs in this state, to deliver the message in Spanish because so much of the agricultural and even the non-agricultural workforce around pesticides are native Spanish speakers," she said.
Blecker emphasizes the importance of the workshops in Spanish for on-farm applicators. Their education on safe pesticide use and decision-making has the potential to impact as many as 829,300 farm laborers across the state working in the vicinity of on-farm pesticide applications.
"Many of these laborers are Spanish-speakers, which further underscores the need for community education in Spanish; it is easier to deliver technical content in Spanish if you previously received that information in Spanish," Blecker said.
She learned Spanish many years ago in Panama during her time in the Peace Corps. There, she provided community outreach to regional farmers through agricultural education and has been proud ever since to utilize the skill that opened many doors in her profession. Her first experience educating the public on pesticides was in Idaho, where she learned the value of being bilingual.
"I had the privilege to work with the pesticide safety program in Idaho where there was a need for Spanish language delivery. I love speaking Spanish which helps me connect with the language even more because I also get to pair it with my love for education," Blecker said.
With workshops in communities near the border with Oregon to the border with Mexico, Blecker has a vast area to cover. And that is only one of the many services her department provides. Another service is offering courses in continuing education for those interested in maintaining a license to apply pesticides. The licenses must renew every two or three years.
In 2019 alone, Blecker taught 34 in-person continuing education programs to a total of 1,987 applicators across the state who already hold licenses. Some of the topics include proper selection and use of personal protective equipment, respiratory protection, and safe use of pesticides in the landscape. A pesticide safety educator on her team delivered 10 similar programs to an additional 1,275 applicators last year.
"We also provide statewide train-the-trainer workshops because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Department of Pesticide Regulation require certain people to go through an approved train-the-trainer program, so they can, in turn, provide pesticide safety training to field workers and pesticide handlers.
“We are approved by both the US EPA and by the Department of Pesticide Regulation to provide this curriculum," Blecker said.
She attributes the success of her department to the passion and hard work of her staff.
"I am proud of my program, but I'm very well aware of the fact that I can't run this extensive program on my own and I depend on my valued and talented staff," Blecker said.
She and her team promote the economy and a better lifestyle for all Californians, embodying the true nature of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources public values.
Blecker envisions a new direction for her department, one that will benefit even more Californians.
"I would love to follow that model where we work with employers to create policies that contribute to a safe workplace because it's not enough to just train people to do their job or to train them to keep their licenses," she said.
- Author: Mark Bell
Theories abound as to what life will be like when we come out of our current predicament. And who can say?
However, the focus for many is simply on dealing with the immediate. What can I eat? How do I visit the supermarket safely? Can I drink the water? I want to get outdoors, but is it safe? Can I garden? If so, how? How can I provide my kids meaningful engagement? What resources are available for the agriculture industry? How do I cope?
In response to these pressing needs, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, like many other universities and extension organizations across the country, are moving quickly to get more information online. While I haven't seen the actual numbers, we know millions of students (both high school and university) are quickly transitioning to online classes.
In addition, millions are seeking information on topics from agriculture and food to gardening to nutrition to wellness. The activity behind the scenes is at times frantic. We at UC ANR already have large amounts of credible, practical “how to” information online, but we know we can provide more. Our 12 statewide programs and institutes (links below), along with our network of advisors and specialists, are moving quickly to enhance out virtual connections and getting more useful information online - videos, fact sheets, courses, etc. - to ensure our outreach continues. For example, the UC California Naturalist program already had its first virtual graduation. Advisors are providing virtual consultations to farmers and others.
Do you need help navigating life during the coronavirus crisis? Explore our portal - ucanr.edu/covid19communityresources - to find information on gardening, safe outdoor exploration, food access, water and food safety, nutrition, wellness and more.
Learn about our statewide programs:
UC Integrated Pest Management Program (how to manage pests)
Nutrition, food, water and wellness
Enjoying the outdoors
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The event is described in the following article published in Citrograph magazine.
Sweetening the Future of Citrus at Lindcove
On Oct. 4, Director Beth Grafton-Cardwell held a gala at the Lindcove Research and Extension Center and officially named its conference center the “Ray Copeland Citrus Center” after the late Ray Copeland. It is very fitting that the Center be named after Ray, because as superintendent of the field station from 1965-1987, he was instrumental in developing the orchards, facilities and the relationships with the first group of scientists who conducted research here. Susan Fritz and Karen Bray, daughters of Ray Copeland, spoke about their father's achievements and their memories of growing up living at Lindcove. Jim Gorden, chair of the Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Committee and local grower, also spoke about his many years of partnership with Ray and Ray's contributions to the citrus industry.
The gala was also an opportunity to honor Georgios Vidalakis, the Director of the UC Citrus Clonal Protection Program (CCPP) and specialist and professor of plant pathology at UC Riverside. The CCPP program is a world-renowned program that brings in new citrus germplasm from around the world, cleans it free of disease and provides the California nursery industry and homeowners with ‘clean' budwood. Lindcove REC is the location from which the budwood is distributed. In 2019, The Citrus Research Board and the UC Office of the President co-funded a $1 million endowment. Vidalakis was awarded this “Citrus Research Board Presidential Researcher for Sustainable Citrus Clonal Protection Endowment.” Vidalakis spoke about the endowment funds and their importance for supporting the CCPP program at Lindcove.
The gala was also the kick-off for a fundraising program to improve the conference center area and outreach programs at Lindcove REC. During the past 25 years, University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) and the Citrus Research Board have partnered again and again to develop high quality facilities and equipment for research. These facilities include the packline and fruit grading system, screenhouses and greenhouses to protect citrus from pests and disease, and a modern laboratory with high-tech equipment. The Citrus Research Board also provides funding to the scientists for the majority of the 30 research projects conducted at Lindcove REC each year. These facilities and projects have given Lindcove REC a world-renowned reputation as a Center of Excellence for citrus breeding, horticulture and pest management.
While research at Lindcove REC is cutting edge, outreach programming has been limited because of Lindcove's small staff, small conference center and undeveloped roads and parking around the conference center. The current outreach program focuses primarily on tours and field days for growers, pest control advisers and nurserymen. For the general public, outreach has been limited to a yearly master gardener workshop, bringing in local Ag Academy high school students for one-day experiences with ag mechanics and ag science and the December fruit display and tasting. UC ANR recently committed to provide funds to redevelop the outreach facilities at this location to better serve the needs of the citrus industry and the local community. The redevelopment plans include constructing a larger conference center to create a hub for citrus industry and University interactions. This building could be used for 300-person industry meetings or subdivided for committee meetings. Plans also include building a youth experiential laboratory where students are taught agricultural science and then taken into a nearby demonstration orchard for hands-on learning.
Beyond facilities improvements funded by UC ANR, additional funds are needed to support staff who specialize in education to develop the outreach programs and to provide equipment for these new outreach facilities and that is why a fundraising campaign has been initiated. The Ray Copeland and Jim Gorden families together have very generously contributed $150,000 as a match for funds donated by others to the fundraising campaign “Sweetening the Future of Citrus at Lindcove.” The goal is to raise at least $2 million in donations that, combined with the UC ANR funding, will provide the facilities improvements and program support to take Lindcove REC educational outreach into the future. With these changes, Lindcove REC will continue to attract top research programs, provide a hub of interaction between the research community and the citrus industry, train local youth and educate the general public about citrus.
For more information about the campaign or to make a donation, please visit the campaign website at lindcovecitrus.com.
Helping people attain financial security and healthy, active lives has been a career passion for Patti Wooten Swanson, UC Cooperative Extension nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor for San Diego County. Wooten Swanson, who joined UC Agriculture and Natural Resources in 2001, retired July 1, 2019, from a career of research and outreach focused on family financial management and nutrition education to help San Diego County residents improve their lives.
Melinda Opperman has worked with Wooten Swanson on several campaigns promoting financial wellness that received proclamations from the San Diego City Council, mayor and board of supervisors.
“She was instrumental in improving people's financial lives and promoting the common purpose of financial wellness. Her work was critical,” said Opperman, executive vice president of Springboard Nonprofit Consumer Credit Management in National City.
In 2005, Wooten Swanson launched the annual San Diego Saves, part of the America Saves campaign, to encourage San Diegans to improve their financial security.
“The basic message is to encourage people to build wealth through systematic savings over an extended time, with an emphasis on saving and paying down debt,” Wooten Swanson said at the time. She persuaded consumer advocates, credit unions, banks and other local businesses to offer savers' clubs and money-management workshops. As part of San Diego Saves, several financial institutions offered savings accounts that could be opened with as little as $5 and no fees for 12 months.
In her research, the Cooperative Extension advisor found that people were more successful at building their savings if they wrote down a goal, such as buying a car. Wooten Swanson also encouraged saving through payroll or checking account deductions, saying, “You won't miss what you can't see.”
In her blog Small Steps To Health And Wealth, Wooten Swanson provided practical tips for consumers to eat healthfully, avoid foodborne illness and save money.
She also authored UC ANR's Financial Caregiving Series for adult children of aging parents. Recently Wooten Swanson co-chaired the Money Talks workgroup that developed “Living on Your Own” guidebooks, currently in production. The guidebooks outline living expenses low-income youth and young adults should consider before moving to their own apartments. As UC Cooperative Extension advisor emeritus, she plans to promote the Living on My Own program at professional society meetings.
An active community member, Wooten Swanson served on the San Diego County Food System Initiative leadership team and as a research partner with a volunteer gleaning program that provides fresh produce to food insecure families. She also trained social workers to give their clients just-in-time money management information.
Her contributions to the field of family and consumer sciences were recognized with the 2018 Leader Award from the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences' California affiliate. The National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences honored Wooten Swanson with its 2018 Excellence in MultiState Collaboration Award (Eastern Region) for her contributions to a NIFA Extension Project, and its 2017 Continued Excellence Award for her leadership and promotion of the professional development of others.
Wooten Swanson earned her Ph.D. in consumer science at Texas Woman's University, an M.Ed. in vocational education at North Texas State University and B.S. in home economics at Texas Christian University.
After a busy 44-year career in education, Wooten Swanson is enjoying spending more time with her husband, Jerry, at their home in San Diego and traveling. Once Quicken, her English springer spaniel, gets certified as a pet therapy dog, she plans to volunteer to cheer patients at Scripps Mercy Hospital.