FARM SMART is crazy about carrots! Using the “Identifying phenotypes, markers, and genes in carrot germplasm to deliver improved carrots to growers and consumers” project as a backdrop for context, FARM SMART has partnered with researchers and extension scientists to develop a consumer outreach component to the project that incorporates agriculture, including an expanded awareness of carrots and carrot diversity.
FARM SMART currently educates students and adults about nutrition, where food comes from, how to nourish themselves, and the importance of nutrition for the rest of the world. Increased knowledge of agriculture and nutrition allows consumers to make informed personal choices about diet and health. The FARM SMART agriculture outreach component to the project will prepare students and adults for a lifetime of informed choices in the global agriculture, food, fiber, and natural resources systems.
The carrot craze began in the September 2016 at the California Foundation for Ag in the Classroom conference in Sacramento, CA. The FARM SMART program volunteered to lead a “Taste of California” table at the annual dinner; connecting California educators from across the state to the colored carrot research taking place at the University of California, Desert Research and Extension Center. The dinner included a display on colored carrots, information on current research from Dr. Simon, information on the history of carrots, packets of carrot seeds to take back to their classrooms, colored carrot tastings, and lesson plan development specifically related to the research. Lesson plans included an emphasis on carrots and carrot diversity, and health benefits of disease-preventive pigments that give plants their distinctive colors. Participants left with a better understanding of the history of carrots and methods to incorporate carrots into their varying grade levels and educational institutions.
Carrots continued to take center stage at the 2017 Winter Visitor program. This program provided field tours to close to 1000 participants from across the United States and Canada and included hands-on activities such as carrot harvesting, carrot recipe demonstration, and carrot sampling. FARM SMART was able to introduce the research and history of the colored carrots, offer harvesting of colored and traditional carrots, and provide nutritional values of the different colored carrots. Participants were also introduced to carrot harvesting methods and carrot production facts for Imperial County and California.
FARM SMART has continued the carrot education through outreach to all visiting K-12 students. Students who attend a FARM SMART program from March to April have the opportunity to learn what carrots need to grow, the history of colored carrots, the nutritional value, as well as an opportunity to harvest their own traditional and organic carrots. Teachers will also be given resources to further enrich their lesson plans to include carrots. FARM SMART is excited to continue its carrot outreach to the community and visitors from across the nation in the coming 4 years through the Identifying phenotypes, markers, and genes in carrot germplasm to deliver improved carrots to growers and consumers Award from the USDA-NIFA-SCRI (USDA- National Institute of Food and Agriculture- Specialty Crop Research Initiative)
FARM SMART and Imperial County 4-H stirred up some spooky STEM adventures on the farm on October 29, 2016 at the University of California Desert Research & Extension Center. This new event aimed to increase STEM awareness (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) for younger youth, ages five to eight. This fun and educational event was open to the public and learners of all ages enjoyed the 16 stations set up around the center.
Dressed in Halloween costumes, over 250 kids visited the farm to enjoy all the spooky STEM fun. Over 60 youth leaders ages 11-19 controlled the 16 different stations, and the nominal entry fee included hot dogs, snow cones, chips, and drinks. The stations included learning about the life cycle of a pumpkin and planting a pumpkin seed, creating a healthy pumpkin pie in a glass, making green slime, and a ride on the hay wagon to the six-foot high FARM SMART corn maze.
This event was truly successful in creating an enjoyable family event and a catalyst for stimulating interest in STEM as well as develop the leadership skills of our Imperial County 4-H youth leaders. This would not be possible without the hard work of all our youth leaders and adult volunteers.
According to a recent report from the USDA, during the next five years, U.S. college graduates will find good employment opportunities if they have expertise in food, agriculture, renewable natural resources, or the environment. Currently, one out of every twelve jobs in the United States relates to agriculture. Because the world's population is expected to grow to 9 billion people by the year 2050, we will have to produce more food than we ever have before.
The USDA also reports that between the years 2015 and 2020, we expect to see 57, 900 average annual new job openings in the field of agriculture with only an average 35,400 new U.S. graduates with expertise in food, agriculture, renewable natural resources, or the environment to fill those positions. The need for graduates with agriculture expertise to work in the agricultural industry is increasing every day, and is essential to our ability to address the U.S priorities of food security, sustainable energy, and environmental quality.
To achieve the goal of attracting qualified students into pursuing a career in agriculture and address the need to increase the number of experiential learning opportunities for students hoping to engage in agriculture and enter into agriculture related careers, a student internship program was created that includes a range of experiential learning opportunities ft exposes them to a wide array of practical knowledge and career paths. With the participation of the University of California, Desert Research and Extension Center (DREC) staff, local agricultural partners, Southwest High School, and Imperial Valley Regional Occupational Group (IVROP) we were able to once again offer a summer internship opportunity to three local high school students.
The summer internship program was designed to enhance and stimulate interest in careers related to agricultural and environmental science, cooperative extension and agricultural research. The outreach that FARM SMART provided is an effective vehicle for providing pre-college students with practical experience in the field and serves to intensify student interest in agriculture related careers. Students had opportunity to expand their knowledge of agriculture beyond classroom through hands-on, real world experiences within the field of agriculture. The overarching mission of the internship program was to build an experience that fosters an awareness of agriculture related careers, broaden the student experience within the agriculture industry, determine their level of interest in the related career, as well as serve as a platform for making key contacts in the local agriculture community. The 2016 summer internship included visits to Keithly Williams Seed, BullFrog Dairy, Farm Credit Services Southwest, Ametza Hay Sales, Brent and Kenny Ashurst, IID, Imperial County Ag Commissioner, USDA, and various University of California researchers.
As mentioned in several final reports from participants, they were able to see Imperial Valley agriculture in a different way and were able to learn new aspects of the agriculture industry they were unaware of before. Because agriculture is a continuously changing industry and closely tied to many of today's major challenges, new jobs are always being added. Modern agriculture is so much more than small family farms; from farmers to scientists, or journalists to salesmen, there is a job for almost any interest area. With so many options, agriculture is a viable career choice for many young people in the US, even if they didn't grow up on a farm or have any agriculture background. Outreach is critical to fostering awareness of issues in agriculture among K-12 students as well as the many opportunities available within the field of agriculture.
Congratulations Francisco Maciel!
Our Center Director, Jairo Diaz, awarding a certificate of appreciate to our very own Francisco Maciel for his 15 years of distinguished service with the University of California. Francisco is currently a Staff Research Associate here at the Desert Research and Extension Center in Holtville, CA. Thank you for all you do Francisco and here's to many mores years with us at the Desert Research and Extension Center.
4/18/15 - An update on the statewide drought topped the agenda for the Agronomic Crops and Water Conservation Field Day held at the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Desert Research and Extension Center here early Thursday morning.
The event, sponsored by Imperial County's UC Cooperative Extension and the California Department of Water Resources, played out in a six-stop tour, with specialists from across the agribusiness world providing attendees with an inside look at a variety of initiatives taking place within the Valley and all over California.
Despite being classified according to Palmer Drought Severity Index markers as an area afflicted with “severe drought” in July 2014, Imperial County has seen its eastern regions downgraded to “moderate drought” levels. Only Del Norte County, in the extreme northwest of the state, fits into the “normally dry” category, while regions of 32 other counties face “exceptional drought,” per a report by Daniele Zaccaria dated March 23 of this year.
Per Gov. Jerry Brown's 25 percent water cut mandate enacted two weeks ago, those numbers are projected to steadily decrease, though California residents should prepare themselves for a long, self-restrictive haul, experts say.
Also Thursday, visitors were given tours of homegrown alfalfa fields born of subsurface irrigation, an approach which cuts water usage by reducing evaporation from the soil surface. Research results from variety trials and deficit irrigation studies were also presented, with Dan Putnam, an agronomist and professor at UC Davis, taking the lead on numerous talking points.
In the case of deficit irrigation, one of Putnam's areas of interest, water is withheld at specific times during the crop's development so that yield loss is minimized despite the water cutbacks which have recently been enacted statewide.
In addition to alfalfa research, the field day included presentations on oil crops, bell peppers, sugar beets, sorghum and giant king grass — a non-genetically modified hybrid that is currently undergoing consideration for bioenergy production due to its high yield.
Author: Michael Dukes, Imperial Valley Press