- Author: Daniel H Putnam
- Author: Rob Wilson
Family and friends mourned the loss this week of Steve Orloff, University of California Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor, who passed away October 3, 2017 from cancer.
Steve Orloff advised many farmers, industry members and conducted research on many crops, including alfalfa.
Steve is remembered for his great sense of humor, his dedication to his family, his friendship to many, and his immense service to agricultural science. He served as a University of California Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor for more than 33 years.
The alfalfa industry, in particular rues his loss, since he contributed greatly to this important California crop.
A True Agronomist. Steve Orloff was a true agronomist with broad knowledge and in-depth expertise related to most fields of agriculture science. He published hundreds of articles reporting on his original research related to pest management, irrigation, harvest management fertilization and variety selection. Steve worked with many crops including alfalfa, grass hays, small grains, onions, and several specialty crops. His accomplishments played a vital role in progressing California agriculture and helping solve many regional problems related to pests, water conservation, and economic stability. The publications “Intermountain Alfalfa Management' which he led in the 1990s, and “Irrigated Alfalfa Management for Desert and Mediterranean Zones” (2008) which he made significant contributions on are considered the leading nationwide references to management of alfalfa.
From Southern California. Steve grew up in Lancaster, California, where he learned to appreciate agriculture in the high-desert communities of Los Angeles County. It was also in Southern California that Steve learned to surf the waves, literally, and became an expert surfer – a passion he continued to cultivate throughout his life.
Steve spent several years in Central America serving in the Peace Corps, primarily El Salvador, where he worked with marginal farmers struggling to survive in this tropical, crowded region. He met his wife-to-be in Honduras during this period. After graduation with an MS in Crop Sciences from San Luis Obispo, Steve took the University of California Farm Advisor position at Lancaster, CA. Although he had said that the job required a steep learning curve, he was aided by the many experts in crop production in the region, farmers and ranchers, PCAs, and crop specialists at UC Davis and UC Riverside who appreciated his dedication to his scientific solutions to important problems.
To the Northern Mountains. After making significant contributions in the high desert region, Steve made a momentous change in his life-to move his young family, now with three children, from the high desert of Los Angeles County to the high mountains of California, to take a position in agronomic crops at the UC Cooperative Extension office in Yreka, Siskiyou County, where he has lived for more than 24 years. In many respects, this was a good fit- given the dominance of alfalfa as a major crop, the confluence of crop rotations with small grains, pasture, and specialty crops, and the importance of irrigation in a dry environment. There Steve quickly established himself as a regional expert on many crops including alfalfa, conducting significant research on-farm as well as at the University of California Intermountain Research and Extension Center at Tulelake, CA.
Steve had as special interest in weed management. His work on the control of dodder, a major weed in alfalfa production in California, during the 1980s became the gold standard for management strategies for this important and difficult parasitic weed. More recently he conducted much of the university evaluations with Roundup-Ready alfalfa, including techniques to prevent weed shifts and resistance in this system. His sharp observations and excellent field research also identified a novel crop injury phenomenon in intermountain Roundup-Ready alfalfa in 2015-2017. He continued his field research right up until the time of his recent diagnosis in August, 2017.
Widely Appreciated by Farmers. Steve was beloved by growers and industry representatives in California, the West, and nationwide due to his robust research program, excellent crop management knowledge, and his great ability to extend information in a fun and easy to understand style. He was a widely sought after speaker at state-wide and regional events, including the Western and California Alfalfa Symposium, Western and California Weed Science Society Conferences, and annual grower meetings in New Mexico, Utah, Nebraska, Washington, Arizona, Idaho, Oregon, and Nevada. He was a regular contributor to research presentations at the UC Intermountain Research and Extension Center, and at UC Davis. His thoughtful analysis and presentation of his own research data was always a highlight of any meeting, including his incorporation of humor that always enlivened the crowd.
Steve gave many talks and conducted programs internationally in alfalfa and agricultural development, including Spain, Romania, Chile, Argentina, China and Mexico. His talent and his in-depth knowledge was appreciated not only by many farmers and industry members in California, but throughout the nation, as well as internationally. He has received many awards including the Jim Kuhn Service Award from the California Alfalfa & Forage Association in 2011.
The most important attribute of Steve, though were his personal characteristics. He was personal friends to many farmers, industry members and university colleagues. He was valued not only for his accomplishments and intelligence, but his ability to light up a room and to engage on nearly every subject. He deeply loved his family and community and will be sorely missed by all. Steve is survived by his wife Islia, sons Rob, Michael and Danny, mother Carol and sisters Lisa and Diane.
Celebration of Life. A “Celebration of Life” event for Steve Orloff will be held at 4 p.m., Saturday, October 14, 2017, at Five Mary's Farm in Fort Jones (117 miles north of Redding, 22 miles southwest of Yreka). Everyone is welcome! A catered community BBQ will follow at the same location. This will be an outdoor event so please be aware, that as the sun sets, mountain temperatures can drop rapidly. Five Mary's Farm is located at 6732 Eastside Rd, Fort Jones, CA 96032. Cards can be sent to the Orloff Family, c/o Cooperative Extension, Siskiyou County, 1655 South Main Street, Yreka, CA 96097. (530) 842-2711.
It is with deep sorrow that we say goodbye to a wonderful friend, colleague and excellent human being.