- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
While growing up in urban Irvington, New Jersey, neighbor to Newark, Enfield hadn’t considered a career in agriculture. Community gardening and community supported agriculture experience piqued his interest after he moved to Santa Barbara so Enfield enrolled in the UC Santa Cruz Farm and Garden Project, which was a 12-month apprenticeship program. While studying at UC Santa Cruz, he was introduced to UC Cooperative Extension. He stayed on another year working as a field assistant to the director Stephen Kaffka, who is now a UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis.
“I became very interested in teaching methods and experiential education and learning,” Enfield said.
Enfield began studying agricultural sciences at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and joined UC Cooperative Extension as a summer intern in the UCCE 4-H office in San Luis Obispo County after earning his B.S. degree in June 1980. Three months later, he was hired as a 4-H youth development advisor. Under his leadership, the 4-H youth development activities evolved to incorporate more research-based approaches to foster a commitment to learning, positive identity, social competency and positive values.
“Over the years, Richard made the 4-H program more visible in San Luis Obispo County by reaching out and offering the program to not just the traditional club audiences but to other youth,” said JoAnn Overbey, who has volunteered with 4-H for 42 years.
“I remember years ago when 4-H was set up in housing projects in the North County,” Overbey said. “He started the 4-H SLO Scientists Program that youth could join, and this program was years ahead of the UC SET (Science, Engineering and Technology) Program that started a few years ago.”
Enfield designed 4-H SLO Scientists in 1996 to engage families in the hands-on science activities because research shows that direct parental involvement is an important influence on student achievement. More than 1,500 people have participated in the program. In 2011, the program was recognized as one of 4-H’s 15 promising science programs in urban communities across the country.
“SLO Scientists today is still one of our most popular groups to join,” said Overbey, who works for San Luis Obispo County Department of Social Services as a program review specialist for foster care and adoptions. “It can be started in the smaller communities and we reach youth who would not otherwise know about or join a traditional 4-H Club.”
In 1987, Enfield earned an M.A. in educational psychology and research methods from UC Riverside. In 1991 he was appointed UCCE director for San Luis Obispo County, serving for two years. In 2005, he was reappointed UCCE director for San Luis Obispo County and added oversight in Santa Barbara County in 2008, leading UCCE in both counties until his retirement. He also served as interim UCCE director for Ventura County from April 1, 2011, until Aug. 31, 2012.
“Richard was always there with high expectations for performance coupled with personal support and caring,” said Mary Bianchi, a UC Cooperative Extension advisor who reported to Enfield and succeeded him as UCCE director for San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties.
In 2010, Enfield began serving as a 4-H advisor for Santa Barbara County in addition to San Luis Obispo County.
Locally he created a middle-management structure to strengthen the 4-H program. The middle-management structure empowers adult volunteers and teen leaders and allows them to serve in critical 4-H management and program development roles at their peak levels of performance. UCCE offices in other counties have recently begun adopting his model. He also presented the middle management approach at state and national conferences.
“Through his local impacts and national efforts, Richard can rest assured that he has been important in the lives of thousands of children and generations within families,” Bianchi said.
“I can tell you with complete honesty that we would not have the huge steady increase in enrollment without his leadership and skills guiding us,” Overbey said. “He went after all types of available grants that allowed our program to extend beyond just the club level – grants that allowed our youth to be involved in things like oak tree plantings and a 4-H hiking program.”
Enfield has won numerous accolades over his career. In 2005, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors issued a proclamation recognizing his 25 years of service to children, youth and families in the county. In 2010, his professional peers honored him with the Meritorious Award from the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents. For his work behind the scenes at the statewide administrative level, colleagues acknowledged Enfield with the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Distinguished Service Award for Leadership in 2011. In February, the Board of Directors of the California Mid-State Fair presented Enfield with a Resolution in Appreciation of Service for “outstanding contributions to the California Mid-State Fair.”
“I loved the freedom to be creative and I enjoyed getting to know all the wonderful and diverse people whom I got to work with and collaborate with on issues of positive youth development and community development,” Enfield said. “Every day was different, exciting and I always felt I was contributing to my community.”
Enfield has been active in the community as well, serving as a member of the Child Abuse Prevention Council of San Luis Obispo County, the Bakari Project Advisory Board at Cal Poly and the SLO Children’s Services Network and participating in the San Luis Obispo County Community Foundation “Pathways to Adulthood” Initiative.
Enfield and his wife Elaine Cormier, a retired optometrist, plan to stay in San Luis Obispo and spend more time hiking, ocean kayaking and bicycling to explore the natural beauty of the area.
“I plan to remain active in the community through various organizations, such as the Asset Development Network of San Luis Obispo County,” Enfield said. “The Asset Development Network is a collaboration of agencies, organizations, and individuals who have come together in order to promote positive youth development throughout the county.
He will also pursue his personal passions of attending ballet performances and baseball games and collecting publications about the West.
“I will continue adding to and developing my collection of over 1,300 modern first editions, dozens of broadsides, and ephemera exploring the American West,” said the East Coast native, explaining that broadsides are beautiful single page prints of book excerpts or poems. “My extensive collection explores the old West to the new West and what it means to be Western and live and work in the West. The collection of fiction, associated nonfiction, and poetry both perpetuates and dispels the myths of the West and explores the sense of place that is so prominent in the literature of the West.”
UC has granted Enfield the prestigious emeritus status so he will continue working on his state and national research projects on the development of individual and community social capital through the 4-H program.