- Author: Linda Forbes
On Dec. 10, the President's Advisory Commission on Agriculture and Natural Resources met in the San Joaquin Valley, gathering in person for the first time since December 2019. The group followed strict COVID-19 safety protocols, but that did not interfere with the energy and excitement of the discussions and activities.
Commissioners, UC President Michael Drake and local dignitaries began the day-long event at Lindcove Research and Extension Center (LREC) in Exeter to learn about the latest citrus research, see the packline in action and sample many of the varieties of citrus made available during Lindcove's public citrus tasting on Dec. 11.
Lindcove's greenhouses, orchard and packline are used by researchers for a variety of studies, including developing new citrus rootstocks and scions, evaluating environmental effects on rootstock and scion combinations, screening seedless varieties of mandarins, detecting freeze damage of fruit, and analyzing chemical treatments for pests and postharvest diseases.
Lindcove REC director Ashraf El-kereamy gave an overview of the facilities and discussed research and breeding highlights, including LREC housing the first structure in California to grow Citrus Under Protective Screen (CUPS). UC Cooperative Extension Specialist and Director of the Citrus Clonal Protection Program Georgios Vidalakis discussed LREC research in huanglongbing disease, which is a major threat to citrus worldwide. Curator 4 and Givaudan Citrus Variety Collection Endowed Chair Tracy Kahn showed some of the many varieties that participants would be tasting and invited people to explore the orchard.
The outdoor tasting tables offered a feast of color, smell and taste with 180 varieties to choose from, and commissioners and other attendees were given boxes of produce as parting gifts.
The group next explored Woodlake Botanical Gardens with UC Master Gardener volunteers who care for the three-acre rose garden. They also met with emeritus UC Cooperative Extension Small Farms Advisor Manuel Jimenez and his wife Olga, who oversee the Botanical Gardens and engage youth volunteers in gardening. They founded a program to help keep young people out of gangs and to teach skills and habits that prepare them for college or jobs. Attendees were impressed by the youth volunteers who spoke about the positive impact the garden and the Jimenez family have had in their lives.
At the Tulare County Cooperative Extension office, participants enjoyed a farm-to-table lunch showcasing local produce, heard remarks from VP Glenda Humiston and President Drake, and participated in interactive displays by researchers and programmatic staff:
- 4-H staff members Rochelle Mederos and Tyler Beck presented a slime making booth
- Citrus advisor Greg Douhan had microscopes to show a variety of citrus pest damage
- Farm advisor Elizabeth Fichtner offered olive oil tasting with three different oils and showed a video on the pomology program
- Nutrition educators prepared a low-calorie oatmeal cookie tasting with an option to vote on the best one
- Cristina Barrick-Murillo, agricultural land acquisition academic coordinator, showed maps of the north and south valley for all to pin a location of their choosing
- Farm advisor Ruth Dahlquist-Willard and Michael Yang, small farms and specialty crops Hmong agricultural assistant, displayed an array of specialty produce grown in the San Joaquin Valley
- Nutrient management and soil quality advisor Joy Hollingsworth showcased soil samples
- Farm advisor Nicholas Clark showed drone footage of agronomy field work
- Karl Lund, area viticulture advisor, offered wine tasting from UC viticulture research
- Farm advisor Konrad Mathesius offered a tasting of beer made with California-grown barley
After so many months of interacting on Zoom, it was a delight to get together to learn about and experience the amazing work that's being done in Tulare County to improve the lives of Californians. President Drake even joked about talking for too long during lunch because it was his first appearance at a lectern in a long time.
County Director Karmjot Randhawa and county and LREC staff – as well as Sherry Cooper and the Program Support team – worked tirelessly to make the event a huge success. We just cannot thank them enough!