- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
Five California leaders, including two UC Cooperative Extension scientists, were recognized for their contributions to the field of agriculture and climate change at the California Climate & Agriculture Summit at UC Davis on March 5, 2019, said a news release issued by California Climate & Agriculture Network (CalCAN).
The summit was organized by CalCAN and brought together some of the state's foremost experts in agriculture — including farmers, agriculture professionals, researchers, advocates and policymakers — to grapple with the challenges of climate change and share knowledge about the opportunities facing the industry.
At the summit, CalCAN presented the leadership award for agricultural professional to Ruth Dahlquist-Willard, UC Cooperative Extension small farms advisor in Fresno and Tulare counties.
Dahlquist-Willard helps keep small-scale, diversified farmers in business by providing support with marketing, regulatory compliance, processing of value-added products, water and energy efficiency, and integrated pest management. She has been a driving force behind increasing access by Hmong farmers in the Fresno area to California's State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP). Dahlquist-Willard has promoted the program, provided thousands of hours of one-to-one, culturally-relevant support to farmers on grant applications, and assisted with project design and installation. The farmers she has supported are now benefiting from water, energy and financial savings.
"There are large environmental problems to solve in the Central Valley, and it's time for a different conversation around farming there," Dahlquist-Willard said. "I feel that there needs to be a conversation in the middle to solve problems rather than a conflict-based approach."
The leadership award for researcher was presented to Tapan Pathak, UC Cooperative Extension specialist for climate adaptation in agriculture, based at UC Merced.
Pathak is the chair of the UC Cooperative Extension Climate Change Adaptation Workgroup, which brings together scientists across the UC system to collaborate on research and extension projects related to climate change adaptation in California agriculture. Pathak is the lead author on an important and timely paper that was published in 2018 in the journal Agronomy. It synthesizes the impacts of climate change on California agriculture and offers directions for future research and implementation.
"We need more facilitated dialog with policy researchers and scientists on the science of climate change, and the implications of not taking action," Pathak said. "Given the scale of California agriculture and the pressure of climate change impacts, we need even more substantial funding for incentives for farmers and for research and tools, and we must integrate growers from the beginning of the process."
The other CalCAN leadership awards were presented to the following:
Leadership Award for policymaker: Ken Alex, former Director of Governor Brown's Office of Planning & Research
Leadership Award for farmer/rancher: Ward and Rosie Burroughs, Burroughs Family Farm (Denair, CA)
Leadership award for legislative staff: Brett Williams, Office of Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin