- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
Field trips are out, but the learning continues at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center. Students who are involved with UC Cooperative Extension's 4-H Youth Development program will compete virtually in a unique pumpkin-growing contest centered at the 330-acre research station in Parlier.
The program replaces traditional in-person educational events offered to schools, which were suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Instead, teams will be organized and assigned to small plots of pumpkins. The remote teams will act as farm managers and use an imaginary budget to decide on the use of micronutrients, fertilizers, pollinators, pest control, fungicides and irrigation practices. All the farming will be conducted by Kearney staff and progress shared frequently via the pumpkin project's Instagram account, @UCCE_KARE_pumpkins.
As part of the project,
- Prizes will be offered for the teams with the highest yield and quality of pumpkins.
- Students interested in engineering will compete with homemade catapults in a “pumpkin chunkin'” contest
- 4-H members who love cooking and baking may enter items in a cooking and baking with pumpkin contest.
- Artistic participants can submit entries for pumpkin carving and decorating contests.
- Animal enthusiasts will feed pumpkins to elephants at the Chaffee Zoo.
“They will be doing all things pumpkin,” said Ryan Puckett, Kearney outreach coordinator, who is working closely with outreach mentor, Julie Pedraza, a staff research associate at the center.
The Kearney event will give the 4-H members activities in a time when 4-H program opportunities have diminished due to various restrictions and closures.
“COVID hit really hard,” said Predaza, who has served as a judge and consultant for traditional 4-H competitions in sewing, baking, community service and public speaking. “The Fresno Fair might be cancelled. Projects are on hold. 4-H members are waiting to see if they will be able to do regular competitions. We decided to launch our first virtual program.”
The first Zoom contestant meeting will be the first week of August.
- Author: Glenda Humiston
UC ANR and the entire UC community are dedicated to helping create the open and equitable society to which we are all entitled. As we stand with the global outcry against the senseless, tragic murders of Black Americans, we are exploring new paths we can take to support our communities during this time and into the future.
To help us discover those new paths, resources have been created and compiled by colleagues throughout UC to promote dialogue, understanding, connection and healing. You can find UC ANR resources on our Diversity • Equity • Inclusion webpage. There, you can also find resources for confronting gender and sexuality bias, and we are working to add resources that address the breadth of diversity, equity and inclusion challenges in our organization. We welcome suggestions for additional resources to include. Please email suggestions to DEI@ucanr.edu.
Today is Juneteenth, widely celebrated in African American communities as “Freedom Day” or “Emancipation Day,” to mark the date of June 19, 1865, when the federal orders were read by Union Colonel Gordon Granger in Galveston, Texas, informing more than 250,000 still-enslaved Blacks that they had their freedom. The notice came to slaves in the state of Texas more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which became official on Jan. 1, 1863.
On this important day, we are reflecting on our country, its treatment of Black, brown and Native American peoples, and how UC values can help guide us into the future. We must continue to reflect on how our institutions and our culture treat people of color as well as religious minorities, the LGBTQ+ community, and all those who don't fit into dominant cultural norms. Our mission can never fully come to fruition if historically victimized groups continue to suffer hatred and bias. All of us at UC ANR are deeply committed to our mission and will work to build a healthy, peaceful and prosperous California for all.
- Author: Ricardo Vela
Both women face many cultural and economic challenges to achieve their missions, and thanks to their tenacity, dedication and hard work, they have turned their goals into a reality.
Claudia P. Diaz Carrasco, a native of Atizapán de Zaragoza, State of México, has been part of UC ANR since 2015 as Youth Development advisor focusing on Latino and/or low‐income youth and families.
“When I joined ANR, there were really few people in the state and around the country doing work intentionally with Latino youth development and 4-H,” said Diaz-Carrasco.
Since joining 4-H, Diaz-Carrasco has been instrumental to increasing Latino participation in 4-H programs. She works in the Inland Empire, which includes Riverside and San Bernardino counties — two of the largest counties in California, with almost 5 million residents; 65% are Latino.[i]
“About 60% of school-aged youth in Riverside and San Bernardino are Hispanic/Latino,” said Diaz-Carrasco. “Since the beginning, the primary focus of my position has been to develop, implement, evaluate, strengthen and expand local 4-H programming to serve the current under-represented population better."
In an environment that is generally not friendly to changes and challenges, Diaz-Carrasco faces a daily array of obstacles to achieve her goal. Among them are high levels of poverty among the families she serves, high crime rates in some communities, and a lack of interest from the parents, who in most cases work two or three jobs to make ends meet.
“The success of my work as the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) advisor relies on how effective my extension team and I can be in sharing knowledge gained through research, education and program evaluation, and transferring it to the communities we serve in ways that are relevant for their day to day lives while embracing their cultural context,” said Diaz-Carrasco.
The knowledge that Diaz-Carrasco and her team bring directly to the youth, their families and communities in the Inland Empire creates positive changes and healthier lives.
“The way we educate the public matters, who are our educators matters. Science and culture are at the core of every program we have implemented since I started,” Diaz-Carrasco said.
Diaz-Carrasco gives three reasons why her work is penetrating the thick layers of the communities she serves. The first one is that she is an immigrant, like many of the families she works with day in and day out. “I approach my work, knowing that a lot of people are going or have gone through the same process I went through in 2014.”
She also cites thinking out of the box as another reason for her success. “I believe creativity and flexibility are at the core of any programs I develop.”
To exemplify this statement, Diaz-Carrasco and her team partnered with the Mexican Consulate in San Bernardino, where they held a successful summer camp and strengthened the partnership with the Consulate. Youth were able to participate in this unique program that aims to help them embrace their Mexican identity, even when in some cases they or their parents cannot travel outside the US.
The summer camp program was designed to increase positive ethnic identity, and to provide youth development reflecting the Latino and immigrant experience and the physiological and social effects of discrimination. The program also responded to economic poverty by assisting families with transportation, providing snacks and in some cases other items such as toothbrushes, water bottles or connecting families to health and food agencies. “Above all, we held the camp in a place that the families were already familiar with and felt safe, the consulate!” said Diaz-Carrasco. “We turned their art gallery, where official agreements are signed, into a playground. That's what I mean by out of the box.”
The interest in the program was visible from day one. In a matter of hours, 100% of the participants were reached. In the end, the parents expressed their gratitude for offering the programs in an accessible way.
Thinking out of the box has also allowed Diaz-Carrasco to partner with major companies in Southern California for the benefit of the youth.
In five years, Diaz-Carrasco has been able to increase 4-H membership in her area from 667 to 6,021. The overall percentage of Latino youth in 4-H went from 28% to 85%, and the number of volunteers grew from 175 to 354.
In the words of Sofia, a Moreno Valley student and one of the participants in the 4-H Juntos conference, “Juntos 4-H provides a home and a place where you can safely feel like it is your community. I hope expanding the program gives more students an identity as to what the community is like and that there are people who care for them and have someone to relate to and trust.”
In the heart of California's Central Valley, far from the busy streets of the Inland Empire, almost 100,000 ethnic Hmong call communities like Merced and Fresno home. This community has grown from 1,800 in April of 1982 to nearly 95,000 in 2019.[ii]
UC ANR has supported the Hmong communities in diverse areas, from farming to nutrition. For the past 34 years, Sua Vang, Community Health Education Specialist with the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), has been educating these communities on the value of healthy eating.
“In 1986, I first moved in from San Diego, and I was looking for a job. My husband happened to be a community aid specialist for low family aid,“ said Vang. “So the EFNEP program asked to have two nutrition educators for this position, he happened to be there, I happened to be looking for a job, and I got hired.”
Tens of thousands of Fresno County families have benefited from her nutrition lessons during three decades of bringing healthy habits to Hmong families. Vang has faced a lot of cultural problems while doing it.
“When we go to recruit for our nutrition program, the husband has to approve it and sometimes the husband does not give his support,” said Vang. “It doesn't matter if the wife would like to take the class.”
Cultural eating habits are also a big challenge, obstacles she has overcome with patience, tenacity and creative thinking. “People from Southeast Asia don't eat or drink milk a lot,” she said. “I introduce the almond milk and rice milk so that even if they have lactose intolerance, they can still have milk and calcium in their diet.”
Vang speaks four languages: Hmong, Lao, Thai and English. She has used different platforms to bring the nutrition programs to the Hmong communities, from churches to private homes to classrooms to airwaves. Vang stresses how challenging recruiting new participants to the nutrition classes has become through the years. The older generation of Hmong don't want to go out of their homes and the new generation, said Vang, are more interested in making money than living a healthy life. But she has a pitch for them. “I say to them, if you have a lot of money and your health is not doing well, you have diabetes, and you are dying out, who is going to spend that money?”
Considering that participants in Vang's nutrition classes are immigrants from countries where food safety and nutrition are not part of their daily eating habits, the impact of her classes within the Hmong community is impressive. 73% of participants have improved in one or more food safety practices. Eighty-nine percent have improved in other areas, like reading nutrition labels and ensuring children eat a healthy breakfast.
“Thanks to this career, I would say that I have helped a lot of people, and I am glad. I know my family, my children are doing good, they eat healthily and they are doing good," Vang said. “I make a lot of new friends. I am delighted knowing that I help them.”
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
The coronavirus crisis is revealing inequities in public health that arise out of social factors. Raising awareness among LGBTQ+ individuals about COVID-19 is one of 85 research projects selected for funding by the University of California to lessen the pandemic's impact.
"LGBTQ+ individuals are at increased risk for severe illness from a COVID-19 infection,” said Katherine Soule, UC Cooperative Extension youth, families and communities advisor, who is leading the project. “We are partnering with LGBTQ+ serving organizations, health care providers, government agencies and decisionmakers to develop an educational campaign. Our goal is to increase the quality of healthcare services for LGBTQ+ individuals.”
The team is working with community partners across the state to deliver the information through social media, online training and other means of information sharing.
One reason that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people are vulnerable to more COVID-19 complications is that they are likely to postpone medical care due to fears of stigmatization. Also, LGBTQ+ individuals report poor quality healthcare and abuse in healthcare facilities, which may deter them from seeing a doctor. In addition, LGBTQ+ individuals are also hesitant to reveal or discuss their gender identity and/or sexual orientation, which can lead to inadequate treatment, care and access to essential services.
At the same time, LGBTQ+ individuals are at higher risk of having underlying chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, cancer or HIV. LGBTQ+ people over age 65 are also more likely to suffer from poverty, physical conditions and mental health conditions that put them at higher risk during the COVID-19 crisis.
“Consequentially, healthcare professionals and medical providers need to be prepared to effectively communicate with, engage with and treat LGBTQ+ individuals during this crisis,” Soule said.
Working with LGBTQ+ organizations and health care institutions, Soule and two student interns are leading an effort to develop a campaign to increase awareness among LGBTQ+ individuals of their heightened risk during the COVID-19 crisis. For healthcare providers, they are raising awareness of LGBTQ+ terminology and issues to improve their competency in treating LGBTQ+ patients.
Although statistics on the death toll and infection rates are tracked for race and ethnicity, they are not tracked for LGBTQ+. “The systemic decision to not track sexual orientation and gender identity is one of the reasons why this high-risk population is both more vulnerable and mostly invisible,” Soule said.
“Increasing awareness of these issues by healthcare providers, medical professionals, and community service organizations is vital during the COVID-19 crisis to support positive health outcomes of LGBTQ+ individuals," she said.
Her two student interns are 4-H Youth Development Program alumni: Danielle Pacheco, a Smittcamp honors student at California State University, Fresno, and Trent Baldwin, a Monterey County native majoring in community extension education at The Ohio State University.
“I am pursuing a career in medicine and feel strongly about addressing the needs that marginalized communities face in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis,” Pacheco said. “I am also passionate about LGBTQ+ issues as I am a member of that community. This project is a great way to support the community I love as well as being able to work on something I am passionate about.”
Baldwin said, “Through my time in the 4-H program, I developed a passion for LGBTQ+ youth development and extension work. I worked for a time with Ohio 4-H on their LGBTQ+ Youth Dialogue event. I'm excited to be involved and to get extension work experience in this topic!”
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
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.