- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
“UC ANR touches the lives of thousands of people in rural communities and urban centers alike,” said state Senator Anna Caballero, after meeting UC Cooperative Extension staff and stakeholders in Fresno County. Caballero joined UC Regent Cecilia Estolano for a tour Sept. 25 to see results of ANR's work with small-scale farmers, 4-H youth and UC Master Gardener volunteers.
“On my tour, I saw how ANR is a valuable partner across generations and communities for Californians who grow our food, and green our neighborhoods,” Estolano said. “From urban 4-H chapters to Master Gardeners to culturally connected crop advisors and nutritional instructors, ANR is keeping California on the leading edge of agriculture, health and healing.”
Joined by Vice Provost Mark Bell, UCCE Fresno County Director Karmjot Randhawa, and Anne Megaro, government and community relations director, Caballero and Estolano began the tour with a visit to the Thao family farm, where they learned about specialty crops – such as jujubes and moringa – grown in the area by Southeast Asian farmers. UCCE farm advisor Ruth Dahlquist-Willard described growing and marketing moringa and her work to help bring resources to disadvantaged farmers to help improve their prosperity. Michael Yang, UCCE Hmong agricultural assistant, talked about delivering UCCE information to farmers in Hmong via his radio program.
Next, they visited Street Saints, a program of the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission, and learned how they created an afterschool program to keep low-resource youth in Southwest Fresno safe. The Street Saints, who partnered with 4-H, described for the senator and regent how they promote healthy choices to deter young people from engaging in gang activity in their urban setting. Using 4-H's evidence-based curricula, Street Saints offers a safe place for youth after school where participating youth develop employment skills through 4-H activities such as sewing classes, STEM Teen Teachers, “Mindful Me” to improve physical and emotional health, and working in a community garden.
“It was exciting to see the interaction between the senator and regent with the UCCE stakeholders,” Randhawa said. “Both seemed really engaged in the work and asked questions. It's vital for them to see how we engage with the community and how the community amplifies the research and support we provide. They met small farmers and 4-H members who have built businesses based on their work with 4-H and Cooperative Extension. They met with Master Gardeners. It was fantastic for them to experience, rather than be told, how we deliver ANR's mission.”
Megaro got the impression Caballero and Estolano enjoyed meeting some of the Californians who have bettered their lives by participating in ANR programs.
“I think they both knew us mostly for our rural agricultural work, but this tour really showed them how we're active and present in urban communities to effect change and how we partner with community-based organizations to further our reach.” Megaro said. “We also talked about how the sites we visited were just one example of the programs and services we provide throughout the state, and how we are looking to increase resources so we can build out our programs to serve more people.”