- Author: Mark Battany
Funding levels for UCCE have been declining gradually for decades, resulting in decreasing numbers of Advisor positions. The recent and near future retirements of Advisors serving San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties has led our office to reevaluate our assignments to determine if we can make changes to better serve the wide range of crops produced in our area (Figure 1).
During the era of more abundant funding, Farm Advisors were often assigned to serve a specific commodity, or a group of related commodities. This type of commodity assignment allowed for these Advisors to develop expertise in a variety of topics directly related to the production of these specific crops.
As reduced funding levels lead to fewer Advisors over time, such commodity assignments become less feasible in our region because each Advisor will need to cover an ever-increasing number of commodities, which may have very little in common with each other.
Our office has discussed this situation in recent months and our solution will be to realign some of our assignments, changing from commodity assignments to thematic assignments. Under this model, each Advisor will cover a narrower range of topics, but will be available to serve all commodities in the region. This organizational structure will allow us to focus our efforts on the most critical needs within our topic areas, and will allow us to develop expertise which can benefit a wide range of crops. Ultimately we feel that we will be able to serve our commercial agricultural industries better and more efficiently by making this change.
Our previous commodity assignments were the following*:
Viticulture Advisor (Mark Battany)
Strawberry and vegetable crops Advisor (Surendra Dara)
Specialty crops, small fruit crops, small farms Advisor (Mark Gaskell – retiring June 2018)
Horticulture, tree crops Advisor (Mary Bianchi – retired 2017)
Our new thematic assignments will be the following:
Water management and biometeorology Advisor (Mark Battany – effective Apr. 16, 2018)
Entomology Advisor (Surendra Dara – effective Oct. 1, 2018)
IPM Advisor, with emphasis on plant pathology (Chris Greer – effective July 1, 2018)
The staggered implementation schedule for Battany, Dara and Greer is a consequence of the different work evaluation schedules that each of us follow.
What does this change mean in practice for the grape industry in the region? In the future, questions regarding pests and diseases will be handled primarily by Advisors Dara and Greer respectively, after their scheduled change occurs. Questions related to water, soils, weather and climate will continue to be handled by Advisor Battany. Other viticulture topics will be addressed as most appropriate by Advisor Battany and other UCCE colleagues.
*Not included in the list are the following Advisors/Specialists, whose positions do not change with this realignment:
Soils/water/subtropical crops Advisor (Ben Faber) (Venturan and Santa Barbara)
Area natural resource and watershed Advisor (Royce Larsen)
Livestock Advisor (Matthew Shapero) (Ventura and Santa Barbara)
Area natural resource specialist - Oak woodlands (Bill Tietje)