- Author: Wendy Powers
Mark, Glenda and I attended the Western Extension and Experiment Station administrator meetings this week. The meetings were in San Diego. Mark attends the Western Region Program Leaders Committee (WRPLC) meetings, I attend the Western Extension Directors Association (WEDA) meetings, and Glenda attends the Western Association of Agricultural Experiment Station Directors (WAAESD) meetings. During part of the WEDA meeting, we meet with WAAESD and during a different portion, WEDA meets with WRPLC. It's not that we don't have enough to keep us busy in UC ANR, but getting together with our counterparts across the region (and once a year, across the country) gives us an opportunity to see where we face the same challenges and present a unified front for supporting Extension and the Ag Experiment Station. The Western Agenda serves as that platform of common issues. So many of our conversations focus on how to make sure rural and agricultural needs west of the Rockies are recognized. These needs include support to address invasive species, endangered species, youth development, rural infrastructure, rural-urban interdependence, water/drought, climate change impacts, hunger and poverty, onboarding new academics and staff, communicating the value of Extension, and measuring our impacts. No doubt we could have all of these conversations just within UC ANR, but finding solutions means looking outside as well as inside.
Part of that ‘looking outside' has meant me considering what do we do and have at UC ANR that other states don't do or don't have? In other words, how are we expending funding? This came up a bit more indirectly during Program Council last week. Since arriving at UC ANR it has shocked me that we have approximately the same number of academics as my past states (Michigan and Iowa) yet California is so much larger than both in both size and population. In penciling out this anomaly, it has become clear that while we have fewer academics (and likely staff, as well) per capita and per square mile, we have more resources for personnel to use in accomplishing their work. In my previous positions, if I was holding a meeting, I lined up the venue, called the caterer or made the coffee, arranged the room chairs, sent out the agenda, collected registrations and any fees, etc. When Statewide Conference came around (annually, in those states) my travel costs came out of my grant or various donors accounts. And if I brought in part of my salary through a project, I saw none of it. Not to mention the fact that there was no help to coach me in fund development. I can imagine that if you haven't been outside in a while, or at all, it's easy to not recognize what we have at UC ANR.
I suspect it's also easily to forget how nice it is to just hop on a quick flight to San Diego and see some amazing things that UC ANR is a part of! We had an afternoon tour with Cheryl Wilen and Carmen Gispert as our bus hosts. You can imagine how fun and informative that was! I'd been wanting to see the Flower Fields and I was not disappointed. Holland has nothing on Carlsbad. Mike Mellano gave us a great tour; nothing like having an owner as a guide. Then off to Go Green Agriculture to see hyroponic lettuce production before stopping in a lemon grove with Gary Bender. Though many Emeriti in UC ANR are likely to help out, that's not the case everywhere. We finished up at a vineyard. Kellie McFarland had her work cut out for her keeping us all in line and on time. Sherry and her PSU team did a fabulous job with stops and accommodations.
No doubt what impressed everyone most was that every stop the host talked about their operation as a partnership with UCCE. No place was that more evident than at the Flower Fields, whether it be Mike talking about Mark Gaskell's work with the coffee production or hearing Laurent Ahiablame and Jennifer Pelham show us the results of their efforts and that of the UCCE San Diego Master Gardener's. A tremendous way to start a long weekend. Congratulations everyone for work well done!