Urban Agriculture
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Urban Agriculture

UC Food and Agriculture Blogs

Small-scale growers meet virtually to discuss organic agriculture

Over 150 current and prospective organic growers gleaned practical information shared by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources experts at the “Introduction to Small-Scale Organic Agriculture” workshop held virtually on Dec. 15, 2020. While most attendees were from inland San Bernardino, Riverside, Los Angeles and Orange counties, a handful were

Farmer Grace Legaspi shared tips on growing microgreens.
from other continents, including growers from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka who stayed connected into the wee hours of their morning. 

“I attended this workshop and it was very helpful to hear different aspects of organic farming from experienced people,” one attendee from Sri Lanka said in an email.

UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP) Director Gail Feenstra and Deputy Director Sonja Brodt kicked off the day with a presentation on program goals and resources. SAREP supports the goals of growers by developing more sustainable agricultural practices and effective regional food systems. They described a new online self-directed training program for organic specialty crop farmers in California and those in transition at https://ofrf.org/beginning-farmer-training-program. They also discussed marketing and business management.

Houston Wilson, director of UC ANR's new Organic Agriculture Institute, provided an overview of the program and pointed out that organic farming is expanding throughout California and includes more than 360 commodities. UC ANR will continue to take a lead role in developing and extending research and extension to this important sector, he said.

UC Cooperative Extension sustainable food systems advisor Rachel Surls discussed legal basics such as permits, licenses and regulations. UC Cooperative Extension organic agriculture specialist Joji Muramoto talked about the importance of soil health, a very popular and important topic. Other UC Cooperative Extension presenters covered nitrogen management (small farms advisor Margaret Lloyd), irrigation management (irrigation specialist Amir Haghverdi), integrated pest management (IPM advisor Cheryl Wilen), and plant diseases (plant pathology specialist Alex Putman).

“Thank you for the great workshop and resource links you provided for workshop materials and beyond! I have already downloaded and started to incorporate information from a few of the UC ANR pest management guidelines and legal and marketing links,” wrote an attendee from Chino. “Tips from peers are always great, too.”

Lavender grower Carol Hamre spoke about her trials and successes regarding vertebrate pest control and drip irrigation.

During the afternoon portion of the workshop, five California organic farmers shared tips from their experiences. Carol Hamre (123 Farm, Cherry Valley) spoke about her trials and successes regarding vertebrate pest control and drip irrigation. Grace Legaspi (Tiny Leaf Micro Farm, Temescal Valley) talked about the art and science of growing microgreens. Lisa Wright (RD Flavorfull Farm, Riverside) discussed the importance of planting the right varieties in the right seasons. Arthur Levine (Huerta del Valle, Ontario) stressed the importance of collaboration and working synergistically as a team, and the importance of inclusiveness in all practices. Richard Zapien (‘R Farm, UC Riverside) shared inspiring stories and opportunities regarding the popular and successful UC Riverside community garden he manages.

“I am very glad to attend this workshop as a Bangladeshi,” wrote a grateful attendee from half way around the world. “Really, I have learned many things about organic farming in this workshop. I am working in the Tree nuts sector in Bangladesh but I have only cashew nuts plantation and processing factory…. I want to make an organic farm on 25 acres of land to cultivate vegetables, fruits, livestock, and fishing. Thanks again.”

Following the workshop, an extensive list of UCANR and external resources on topics covered during the workshop was provided to attendees https://ucanr.edu/sites/smallscalefarming/RESOURCES_/.

“I wanted to thank you for such a great webinar,” replied another Southern California participant. “I am a farm business advisor with the non-profit Kitchen Table Advisors and I learned a lot myself. Thank you for providing this list of resources. I look forward to the webinar recordings and slides, which I hope to be able to share with some of my farmer clients.”

The efforts of our co-sponsors also led to the overall success of the workshop. Inland Empire Resource Conservation District (IERCD) Manager Mandy Parkes, co-moderator, discussed district irrigation and soil testing resources and handed out gift certificates throughout the day. Evelyn Hurtado from IERCD volunteered to translate the workshop recordings into Spanish and Maggie O'Neill shared membership information and resources from the San Bernardino County Farm Bureau. Other co-sponsors included the Riverside County and Orange County Farm Bureaus. The California Certified Organic Foundation promoted the workshop and heightened awareness of UC ANR's programs and activities in the field of organic agriculture.

The PowerPoint presentations and recordings in English will be posted on the UCCE San Bernardino County website: https://ucanr.edu/sites/smallscalefarming/ by Feb. 15, 2021, and the Spanish translations later this winter. Next year, if conditions allow, actual farm visits will be included.

Posted on Thursday, January 14, 2021 at 7:04 PM

New avocado study outlines costs and returns of high-density plantings

A worker prunes weak tree branches to improve sunlight penetration in a high-density avocado orchard.

Growers considering producing avocados in San Diego County with high-density plantings now have help to determine the economic feasibility. A new study on the costs and returns of establishing and producing avocados in San Diego County has been released by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' Cooperative Extension, UC Agricultural Issues Center and the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

Avocado has been one of the prominent crops produced in Southern California since the early 1950s. California avocado production peaked in 1987-88 with about 76,300 acres. San Diego had been the leading producer accounting for about 60% of the acreage.

“Beginning in the early 1980s, there has been a continuous decline of acreage and production of avocados in San Diego County, said Etaferahu Takele, UC Cooperative Extension farm management advisor for Southern California and co-author of the study. “This is mainly because of the expansion of urban development that has increased the cost of producing the crop and especially the cost of water, reaching to up to $2,000 per acre feet in 2020.”

The same amount of water was sufficient for the high-density avocados as it was for the traditional planting. Photo by Gary Bender

High-density planting increases profitability of avocado production given there is suitable land for high-density orchard development.

Although the cost of water accounts for 44% of the total production cost in the high-density planting, the water cost is proportionally less than in the conventional planting of 145 trees per acre when distributed over a higher yield per acre, the authors write.

Their cost analysis describes production operations for avocados planted at 430 trees per acre, with an expected life span of 40 years. The study includes a detailed summary of costs and returns and a profitability analysis of gross margin, economic profit and a break-even ranging analysis table, which shows profits over a range of prices and yields. Growers can identify their gross margin and returns to management based on their yield and prices received.

UC Cooperative Extension advisor Gary Bender checks sunlight penetration in a high-density avocado orchard.

Input and reviews were provided by a UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor and grower cooperators in San Diego County. The authors describe the assumptions used to identify current costs for avocado establishment and production, material inputs, cash and non-cash overhead. 

The new study, “Avocado Establishment and Production Costs and Profitability Analysis in High Density Planting, San Diego County-2020,” can be downloaded for free from the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics website at http://coststudies.ucdavis.edu and UCCE Riverside County Farm Management website at https://ucanr.edu/sites/Farm_Management/Costs_and_Returns. Sample cost of production studies for many other commodities are also available on the websites.

For additional information or an explanation of the calculations used in the studies, refer to the “Assumptions” section of the report or contact Takele at (951) 683-6491 Ext. 243 or ettakele@ucanr.edu or Donald Stewart at the UC Agricultural Issues Center at destewart@ucdavis.edu.

For the high-density planting study, avocado trees were spaced 10’x10’ or 430 trees per acre. Traditional plantings of avocados are spaced 20’x15’ or 145 trees per acre. Photo by Ben Faber
 
Posted on Monday, January 4, 2021 at 1:58 PM

Elders need food and family for the holidays

Even in non-pandemic times, elderly community members face food insecurity and isolation. UC Cooperative Extension trains senior ambassadors, like the woman in red, to encourage neighbors to join activities like this 2018 class on growing food in gardening containers. Photo by Evett Kilmartin

In the U.S., the holiday season of Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year seems to be a nonstop race to the end of the year. Gathering to exchange gifts and eat special food and bountiful meals are common ways we celebrate. But the new ‘Grinch' of the season, COVID-19, prevents us from gathering with elders and other people outside of our households.

“We've asked the most vulnerable in our culture to shelter, and now they are the most isolated and most in need of seeing people,” said Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at UC San Francisco. 

Historically, elders in many cultures have special places in the hearts of families during the holiday period of thanks, well-wishing, giving and remembering.

Elders play a major role in passing on oral family history and showing how to prepare cultural or traditional family foods, favorite recipes and other novelties handed down from one generation to the next. In contemporary society, extended-family households are rare so millions of seniors are living alone. Some elders have the financial capability and support systems to enjoy fulfilling experiences during the holidays, as much as the pandemic allows. Others will spend time lacking the basics — food, warmth and conversation.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published some considerations with tips to prevent the spread of COVID-19 throughout the season – stay home and avoid unnecessary travel. The best way to help keep friends and loved ones safe is to celebrate at home with immediate household members or connect virtually.

Seeing someone nourishes the soul

In his spare time, Max Fairbee volunteers to deliver food to elderly Alameda County residents. "I think that seeing someone actually means more to them than the food itself,” he said.

UC Cooperative Extension collaborates with local public and private community-based organizations and groups to serve senior residents.

As charter member of the Alameda County Community Nutrition Action Partnership (CNAP), inaugurated in 2006, UC Cooperative Extension coordinates with the Alameda County Health Department, Area Agency on Aging, Alameda County Social Services Agency, Alameda County Department of Education, Alameda County Food Bank and others.

During the pandemic, CalFresh Healthy Living, UC supervisor Tuline Baykal and community educators Max Fairbee and Leticia Christian continue to provide nutrition information to community members, inserting into food bags recipes, nutrition information and exercises that can be done at home. Max Fairbee, CalFresh Healthy Living, UC educator has also volunteered to deliver food bags to residents at a senior housing site.

CalFresh Healthy Living, UC educators add recipes and other information to food bags for seniors.

“The food bags were hefty in the beginning, but are smaller now with less items available at the Food Bank,” observed Fairbee. “Still, they usually get some fresh produce, some canned fruit or veggies, bread, potatoes, onions, eggs (sometimes) and meat (sometimes). Spectrum Community Services also has provided emergency relief food boxes which contain non-perishable items (including canned tuna) generally once a month.”

The food bags are delivered without contact with the elders.

“We knock or ring the doorbell, announce we are dropping off food and leave it in a safe spot near their door for them,” he explained. “The seniors stay inside their homes, but they are happy and so grateful to see the volunteers and staff. I think that seeing someone actually means more to them than the food itself.”

Food and family top the holiday wish list of vulnerable seniors

A senior learns container gardening to grow her own food. Elders who have limited mobility would appreciate offers of assistance. Photo by Evett Kilmartin

In November 2020, CalFresh Healthy Living UC educators asked low-income housing site coordinators and center directors what seniors in their complexes and centers would appreciate most for the holiday season.

Their desires are very basic to daily living. The seniors suggested the following:

COVID-19 prevention: Hand sanitizer, gloves

Food: A traditional holiday meal, Safeway gift cards; fresh produce, vegetarian meal, pumpkin pie

Celebration: cookie box, fruit box, dried fruit box, nuts.

Family: Having immediate or extended family visit

Clothing: Warm blankets and warm clothing

How can we honor and assist seniors?

Before coronavirus constraints, UC Cooperative Extension nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor Mary Blackburn, left, held classes for senior residents and awarded certificates recognizing those who completed the program.

Consider sending meaningful holiday messages to seniors. Let the seniors in your community know it is to them we owe our lives, our survival, our respect and our gratitude. 

Families and friends: Call elders living alone to ask about their well-being. Having a conversation with them in person – while standing outside their door, distanced and wearing your mask – helps keep them connected. Offer to assist them, using all COVID-19 precautions. Make time to shop for them to ensure they have their medicine and food that is safe and healthful, in small portions for one or two people, and easy to prepare or heat. See that their refrigerator is clean, set at the right temperature, and free of outdated food. They may need help putting out the garbage, cleaning and sanitizing the kitchen, and doing laundry. Let them know you are someone to call if they need immediate help.

Caregiving: Caring is the operative word. Treat seniors with patience, respect and understanding. Let them know they are worthy of the care you give. 

With the COVID-19 constraints, underserved and vulnerable groups are facing an even greater crisis, especially with access to health services, housing, food and financial support. This holiday season and throughout the year, I encourage you to reach out to our elders. If you don't have money to spare, you can give emotional gifts. Your attention, conversation and compassion will be appreciated. 

When COVID-19 restrictions ease, UC Cooperative Extension will resume educational activities where elders can socialize and be recognized when they participate in gardening, nutrition, physical activity and safe food handling classes. We have seen success in training elders as “wellness ambassadors” to encourage their neighbors to join our activities to address isolation and communication issues.

Leticia Christian used to lead physical activities for senior residents of Oakland's Fruitvale district, which is an underserved community. The classes offered seniors an opportunity to socialize as well as exercise.

 

Posted on Wednesday, December 23, 2020 at 12:56 PM
  • Author: Mary Blackburn, UC Cooperative Extension nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor for Alameda County

Garden and Landscape Books On Sale

PGSF

Give the gift of knowledge this holiday season! Save up to 60% on select UC ANR gardening and landscape pest management publications now through December 11.     Pests of the Garden and Small Farm, 3rd Edition   This...

Posted on Monday, December 7, 2020 at 3:24 PM

Support UC IPM on #GivingTuesday!

Woman in Sunflowers with Basket

Support the work of the UC IPM Urban and Community Program! Our mission and work to help Californians continues despite the COVID-19 pandemic. With your support, we will continue to provide practical, trusted pest management answers to people like you...

Posted on Monday, November 30, 2020 at 11:00 PM

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