To promote the exchange and sharing of agricultural extension information, several U.S. Land Grant institutions have formed an alliance with 10 Chinese agricultural universities. From June 17 to 22, UC Agriculture & Natural Resources took a group of scientists from Chinese agricultural universities on a tour of agriculture in Northern California.
Extension in China
As Anne Megaro, director of governmental and community relations for UC Agriculture & Natural Resources explained “They have extension in China, but it is not like ours. They are looking to strengthen their advisor positions and develop a mechanism for career advancement, similar to what we have in the U.S.”
Visit to Sonoma County
On June 19 and 20, the delegation visited Sonoma County to learn about our Ombudsman, Master Gardener, 4-H and Rangeland programs in Sonoma County. Photos at end of the story.
The evening of June 19, Agriculture Ombudsman, Karen Giovannini, shared how she helps farmers and ranchers navigate permitting and regulations. She explained how, at their most refined, regulations are in place to protect resources, that is, people and the environment. China also has many ‘rules' as the delegates called them. Karen shared locally made sheep, goat and cow cheeses with the delegates as an example of how a dairy operation could expand their product offerings to help them stay viable. Although cheese is not a ‘traditional' product in China, Karen explained that it could be a way to help keep some of the younger generation in rural areas.
China is continuing to experience the largest migration in world history. The rural population is migrating into the urban areas for better pay and opportunities raising concerns about the negative impacts on their agriculture sector and food security. Fun fact, in 2013: “Roughly one out of every 25 people in the world was a resident of a Chinese city who arrived, or was born, since the current round of [Chinese] economic reforms began in 1978.” Like United States, labor shortages in agriculture in China are creating a need for more agriculture technology. By the way, of the delegates that tried the cheeses, their favorite was the goat cheese.
Master Gardener and Bayer Farm Programs
On morning of June 20, Master Gardener Food Gardening Specialists and Jonathan Bravo from Bayer Farm kindly hosted the Chinese delegation. Jonathan, the garden manager, showed the delegation the community garden at Bayer Farm and talked about the programs there and then the FGS team led the delegation through the demonstration garden and discussed the sustainable food gardening principles being shown in the garden, such as integrated pest management and square foot gardening, and discussed their educational outreach programs in the garden. Because so much of China's population lives in the cities, this example of urban farming is of interest to the delegates.
The delegates were also very interested in the bilingual interactions. In China, there are many dialects and it will be important for youth extension programs to reach out to the rural population in their native dialects. The delegation was also quite interested in 4-Hers selling market livestock at the fairs as they observed when visiting Shasta County fair earlier that week.
Final stop in Sonoma County was a visit to Taylor Mountain Regional Park. Dr Stephanie Larson shared the experiences she had with setting up grazing on public lands and the many benefits it provides, including exposing the non-farming community to livestock on working lands. They hiked to one of the educational signs along the trail that UCCE advisors developed, along with videos and fact sheets, to educate the public about the importance of maintaining proper livestock grazing and rancher stewardship on California's rangelands with public access.
Although China has the third largest population of cattle, they import most of their beef to meet the increasing demand due to increasing standard of living of the Chinese people. As recent as 2016, “small farms with 9 or fewer cattle slaughtered per year are responsible for a major portion of Chinese beef production.” Plus, their native cattle breeds far underperform when compared to fast growing beef cattle breeds in the United States and other countries. Developing grazing programs on public park lands in China will keep their heritage alive while producing the many benefits grazers provide. The delegates were fascinated to see the cattle enjoying the grasses.
The delegates loved their visit to Sonoma County. Next stop was UC Davis and the Russell Ranch Sustainable Agriculture Facility, UCD's living laboratory.
Glenda Humiston, VP of UC ANR summed up the visit best, “The Chinese face many of the same issues that we do here in the U.S. The Chinese universities want to improve rural economic development to lift up the quality of life for people in rural communities. They are also responding to global climate change, drought and pests while trying to improve food security and water use efficiency. They see UC Cooperative Extension as an effective research model; we hope that scientific collaborations will accelerate solutions and help maintain relations for California agriculture with China.”/h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>
- Author: Mimi M Enright
Air quality in Sonoma County has been significantly impacted by the fires that spread through the region. The full scope of the air contamination is still unknown, but likely includes high concentrations of likely carcinogens including heavy metals, Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs), and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).
There is limited research on the impact of smoke from a wildfire in a wildland urban interface on produce safety. UCCE Sonoma is partnering with Vanessa Raditz, who was working with community organizations on emergency food relief during the crisis, to develop a Citizen Science project to assess the impact of the air pollution from the wildfire on produce. During the crisis Vanessa, who has a Master's degree in Public Health from UC Berkeley, began quickly developing a partnership with members of the community and UCCE Sonoma to gather samples and seek funding for testing and education on this topic.
Master Gardeners and other concerned community members were trained to collect samples from local farms and gardens of washed and unwashed produce, each in triplicate, to determine if contaminants can be easily washed off produce, or whether it has been taken up in plant tissue. Volunteers focused on kale, collards, chard, and lettuce, as these leaves are directly exposed to air pollution. Vanessa scheduled volunteer training at Bayer Farm, Harvest for the Hungry and Petaluma Bounty, and samples were taken from 10/19-22. Time was of the essence to gather samples which are all being frozen. Now we turn to find partners to find funding for the testing and develop an educational outreach program when results are received.
Visit Disaster Recovery to learn more.
- Author: Karen Giovannini
Visit 4-Hers & Master Gardeners at the Fair
July 22-August 7, closed Mondays
"Lights, Camera, Fair!"
Fair time is also a great time to see 4-Hers in action! Visit the Livestock area and watch the kids show chickens, rabbits, goats, sheep, swine, dairy cattle and beef cattle. Showing livestock at the fair requires months of preparation for the market animals (sold at the auction) and years of work for the breeding projects (ongoing dairy and livestock projects).
Check the Livestock schedule and stop by to see the kids show while you are at the fair (look for Junior, Jr or Market on the schedule). The Large Animal Round Robin class on Thursday, August 4 starting at 5pm is where you can see the best junior livestock show persons take their turn at showing all of the different large species: goats, sheep, swine, beef cattle, dairy cattle and horses. The winner is crowned top junior livestock show person of the fair. Small Animal Round Robin is Wednesday, August 3 at 3pm, where best junior show persons in rabbits, cavies, poultry, pygmy goats and dogs compete.
One way to support 4-Hers is to contribute to the purchase price of or to purchase a market animal. 4-Hers use the auction proceeds to pay back loans taken out to fund the project (bank of mom and dad or actual loan from Community First or Sonoma County Grange Credit Union). Any remaining funds are used to purchase next year's market animals, to support their breeding project and/or saved for college.
Support future agriculture leaders at the Junior Livestock Auction:
- July 24, 9am – Lambs, Rabbits & Goats - also Farmers Day!
- July 29, 9am – Hogs & Poultry
- July 30, 6pm – Beef
While at the fair, visit the Garrett and E.C. Kraft buildings to view the junior exhibits and the Hall of Flowers Annex to enjoy the junior gardens.
Check out the Sonoma County Master Gardeners Demonstration Garden at Sonoma County Fair outdoor patio at Hall of Flowers. To go along with the fair theme, the Master Gardener's named their garden “Good, Bad and Beautiful” based on the Spaghetti westerns. It will showcase good practices, bad practices and how a garden can be beautiful and sustainable. Stop by to check it out and chat with the Master Gardeners docents who are available to answer your questions 11am-6pm./table>
- Author: Mimi M Enright
This is a new model for how the Master Gardeners engage as we hope to share knowledge mutually and learn from each other. In fact during the first work day that we participated in, the Master Gardeners helped pull dandelion weeds and learned that they can be used for medicinal purposes!
Pictured here, at Bayer Farm on Feb. 28, is Master Gardener, Michael Knappman (far right) with Sonoma County LandPath's 'In Our Own Backyard' program counselor, Nick Whitaker along with 4th graders from a nearby school.
- Author: Mimi Enright
They were there to accept the first place award in the 'Community Service' category of the IMG's Search for Excellence for the Garden Sense program. They were proud to represent the hard work & commitment of all of the Garden Sense consultants who make the water conservation program such a huge success. There were over 900 Master Gardeners in attendance at the conference from the United States, Canada and South Korea.