Long, Mueller and Smith honored for career achievements

Feb 20, 2024

Three longtime University of California Cooperative Extension farm advisors were honored by the California Chapter of the American Society of Agronomy. The career achievements of Rachael Long, Shannon Mueller and Richard Smith, all now retired, were recognized by their peers at a ceremony on Feb. 6 at the California Plant and Soil Conference in Fresno.

Since 1973, the California Chapter of the ASA has recognized individuals who have made significant contributions to California agriculture during their careers.

As California ASA past president, Michelle Leinfelder-Miles congratulated her UCCE colleagues, all of whom have been granted emeritus status by the university.

“I wish to start off by personally thanking them for their knowledge, experience, commitment to service and mentoring,” said Leinfelder-Miles, who is also UCCE Delta crops resource management advisor for San Joaquin, Sacramento, Yolo, Solano and Contra Costa counties. “You have made a tremendous impact on my career, and, without a doubt, on the careers and lives of many.”

Long retired as a UCCE farm advisor in 2023, after 37 years of doing research on crop production, pollination and pest control in collaboration with farmers, starting in Sonoma County, then San Joaquin County and the last 32 years in Solano, Sacramento and Yolo counties. 

“She worked extensively with farmers over the years, learning about global positioning systems (GPS), subsurface drip and healthy soils practices,” said Sarah Light, UCCE agronomy farm advisor for Sutter, Yuba and Colusa counties, who presented Long's award. 

“Rachael's work in the late 1990s documented how pesticides were transported offsite from farm fields in surface irrigation water,” Light said, noting Long's research led to the adoption of practices – such as pesticide choice and vegetative filter strips including cover crops – that are now commonly used to protect surface waters from pesticides used on farms. She is currently writing a children's book introducing them to the world of bees.

Mueller, who retired in 2019, was a UCCE advisor in Fresno County and director of the UCCE Fresno/Madera Multi-County Partnership. 

“Throughout her 31-year career, Shannon exemplified professionalism on every research project, extension effort, committee, advisory board or workgroup with which she was involved,” said Carol Frate, emeritus UCCE farm advisor, who presented Mueller's award. “The results of Shannon's work with alfalfa seed and pollination resulted in practices used to this day.”

Smith retired as a UCCE vegetable crops advisor in January 2023, but continues to contribute his expertise. Initially hired in 1987 as a UCCE vegetable crop farm advisor in Stanislaus County, Smith transferred to San Benito County in 1989 as the small farms advisor. His role later expanded to UCCE vegetable crops and weed science farm advisor for San Benito, Monterey and Santa Cruz counties.

“Throughout his career, Richard made thousands of farm call visits to assist growers, PCAs and crop consultants with diagnosing crop production problems caused by abiotic conditions, diseases, insects, nutrient deficiency, salinity or chemical sprays,” said Michael Cahn, UCCE irrigation and water resources advisor for the Central Coast, who presented Smith's award. “Richard has also been at the forefront of solving major problems facing the vegetable industry on the Central Coast. One of the most recent and impactful issues was the major loss of lettuce production in 2020 caused by impatiens necrotic spot virus (INSV) and Pythium wilt disease.”

Leinfelder-Miles remarked, “It is rare for the chapter to recognize three UC academics in one year, let alone three Cooperative Extension farm advisors.” 

Read the full remarks about the extraordinary contributions Long, Mueller and Smith have made to agriculture in the California Plant and Soil Conference Book of Abstracts posted online at https://na-admin.eventscloud.com/docs/9711/409497.

By Pamela S Kan-Rice
Author - Assistant Director, News and Information Outreach