- Author: Wendy Powers
Last week I visited the last of the counties, at least for my ‘initial' visit. It took a bit longer than I had hoped but California is a big state and things always seem to crop up on my calendar. Then there's a list of ‘standing meetings' like Program Council, VP Council, REC calls, CD calls, Executive Council not to mention staff meetings in 2 offices, Core Leadership, Senior Leadership, Ethics and Compliance meetings. So when I realized this morning that I have no open days in November and very few in December I really shouldn't be surprised. Even some of the UCOP holidays seem to get booked over (Veterans Day, for example).
Also of no surprise is the comment I've heard all around the state that our visits are a rare opportunity for all of the county team to come together and learn about the programs and accomplishments of their peers. I suspect that was the case for the Yolo, Solano, Sacramento group we met with last Thursday as well as the Placer-Nevada team that we saw on Friday. I heard from many that peer networking was one of the highlights of the 2018 statewide conference as well; an opportunity to see each other in an environment that had both structured and unstructured time. Time, maybe more so than funds, is what prevents all of us from connecting more. Everyone is running in many different directions in order to contribute to the greatest extent possible.
Contribution by UC ANR has also been a regular theme of my conversations around the state. In Placer-Nevada I learned that, in part due to the work of the team:
- 86% of orchard growers now mulch their orchards (up from 18% in 2005)
- 90% of orchard growers now prune
- 90% of the repeat business training participants are profitable compared to only 24.8% of respondents to the 2012 Ag Census,
- UCCE has an economic multiplier effect of 1.86 and helps contribute to the 29.2 jobs produced for every $1 mill in ag production
The first two bullet points, above, contribute to the change in conditions that are conveyed in the last two bullet points. So how does one gather the information to document change in practices/behaviors? These questions came up during our visit to the Capitol Corridor team as well as during visits with other areas of the state. Cindy can share how she collected the data, above. For similar programs, periodic survey data to growers or grower groups, or even observation by a CE Advisor may work when the grower group is small. Gathering data from CCAs, PCAs or a commodity organization are another means of gathering data. Note that the change in behaviors for mulching reflect a 13-year timespan, suggesting that one doesn't want to collect data monthly or even quarterly. In this case, there was likely research that took place over years to document effectiveness followed by communication (meetings, newsletters, blogs, one-on-one consultations) to promote adoption. That all, collectively, and with likely additional influences (price of mulch, availability of mulch, testimonials from grower colleagues, etc.) has resulted in behavior change. Likely, the science supports use of mulch as a strategy to reduce input costs, improving overall profitability. If the grower also participates in the business training classes, they are even more likely to be profitable (class surveys compared to Ag Census data) and result in more jobs to stimulate the local economy.
As we discussed in Woodland, I think there would be real value to having a chance to have unstructured time to brainstorm how we document our contribution to improved conditions. And then there's the added benefit of that chance to just network.