- Author: Stacey AMPARANO
The University of California Desert Research and Extension Center (UC DREC) Farm Smart program recently hosted the 2nd annual USDA Food & AgScience Summer Program in June 2018. In collaboration with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 4 high school students were selected to participate in the 40-hour, 2-week experiential learning program. This program was designed to help students explore careers in food, agriculture, and sustainability. The selected students had the opportunity to expand their knowledge of agriculture through hands-on activities with local industry partners. While this was the 4th year that Farm Smart program has hosted high school students to explore careers in agriculture, this is the 2nd year that USDA has provided support for supplies and stipends for the participants.
Students began the program with an introduction to research conducted at UC DREC and a tour of the university feedlot with UC Cooperative Extension Livestock Advisor, Brooke Latack.
Over the next 2 weeks, the participants visited local agriculture industry businesses and partners to explore Imperial Valley agriculture. Visits were made to LIDCO, Inc, Farm Credit Services Southwest, SWIIM Systems, El Toro Export, El Toro Land & Cattle, and Spreckels Sugar. The students also visited the USDA Service Center: Farm Service Agency and Rural Development, the Agricultural Commissioner office in Imperial County, and the University of Arizona campus and research field station in Yuma, AZ.
The students surveyed field for subsurface tile line drainage systems with LIDCO, explored loan opportunities with USDA and Farm Credit Services Southwest, discussed tariff regulations with El Toro Export, and worked in the field and lab to test water and soil salinity with DREC Director, Dr. Jairo Diaz.
After the 2 weeks of site visits, the students began preparing a 3-5 minute video reflection of their experiences. The program concluded with a luncheon where the videos were showcased to their parents, ag teachers, and agriculture industry partners.
We would like to give a special thank you to USDA Office of Advocacy and Outreach Hispanic-Serving Institutions National Program Region Director for Southern California and AZ Roberto Gonzalez for funding the program!
Applications for the 2019 Food & AgScience Summer Program will be available in May 2019. If you, or someone you know, is interested in participating in future summer programs, please contact Stacey Amparano at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
- Author: Stacey AMPARANO
The Imperial Valley's beautiful winters have long attracted winter visitors to the area, and most come very curious about what's growing throughout this region. Since 2001, the UC Desert Research and Extension Center (DREC) has showcased Imperial County agriculture and the research conducted at DREC through their winter tours.
Farm Smart has seen over 139,000 visitors since it began. These participants come through our K-12 field trips to the farm and the winter tours. This year's tours began Monday, January 29, and run through February 23. Visitors to this year's tours will be treated to a program designed to educate the public about Imperial Valley and Yuma agriculture, water delivery and irrigation, and natural resources issues. In addition to our regular winter tours, Farm Smart will feature specialty tours this year. Sunrise on the Farm will be a breakfast tour taking place on February 7th and 22nd and Dinner on the Farm will be a date night themed tour with date appetizers and a tri-tip dinner taking place on February 14th. While many tour guests are winter visitors staying in the Imperial Valley, Yuma, and Indio the tours are open to the public at large and we encourage anyone wanting to learn more about valley agriculture to attend.
The tour will feature a recipe using local products. Stephanie Collins, Farm Smart Community Educator, will demonstrate a delicious raw cauliflower tabbouleh to highlight the valley's cauliflower production. After the tour of the 255-acre research farm, the wagons will stop at the 3-acre Farm Smart produce garden for harvesting. This year's visitors receive a large bag to harvest carrots, turnips, beets, daikon radishes, red radishes, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, romaine lettuce, spinach, iceberg lettuce, swiss chard and more. Seed for the crops was donated by Golden Valley Seed, and transplants were donated by Keithly-Williams.
Visitors end the tour with honey tasting of local honey and door prizes donated from local organizations, including Farm Credit Services Southwest, Jordan Implements, RDO, Glenna Sparks of Agriculture More Than Ever, El Centro Chamber of Commerce, Desert Trails RV, and more. The staff at Farm Smart is grateful for the generous community support it receives, including donation from Imperial Irrigation District, Farm Credit Services Southwest, and Imperial County Farm Bureau. Thank you to all the wonderful Farm Smart volunteers, who donated over 2,000 hours of time in 2017!
The UC Desert Research and Extension Center is a great resource for the Imperial Valley and the UC FARM SMART program welcomes winter visitors and the public. Regular tours are $25 per person, Sunrise on the Farm in $35, and Dinner on the Farm is $45/person or $75/couple.
Stacey Wills Amparano is the Farm Smart Manager at the UC Desert Research and Extension Center. She can be reached at 760-356-3067. Tours can be booked by phone/text at (760)791-0261 or online at http://drec.ucanr.edu