ANR Employees
University of California
ANR Employees

Posts Tagged: June 2022

Names in the News

Hicks named executive assistant to Bunn 

Savannah Hicks

Savannah Hicks has been promoted to the role of executive assistant, supporting Vice Provost David Bunn and UC ANR Second Street Building Operations.   

As executive assistant, Hicks will be assisting with calendaring, meeting and events management and purchasing, as well as many other essential duties in support of the research and extension centers, county offices and statewide programs and institute leaders.

She will also be supporting the Second Street Space and Operations Committee and helping to coordinate projects and meetings, including monthly networking events and current space moves. 

Hicks, who earned a bachelor's degree in communications at CSU Sacramento, joined UC ANR's Statewide Program and Research Operations Unit a few months ago and was selected to fill this new role following an open search. 

Before joining ANR, she was an office manager at Evolve BioSystems, a startup that specializes in a probiotic for babies to help them get the benefits of mother's breast milk.

Hicks is based at the UC ANR Second Street Building and can be reached at (530) 285-3249 and

Shellabarger, Zabronsky join water institute 

Rachel Shellabarger

Rachel Shellabarger and Hope Zabronsky have joined the California Institute for Water Resources, both as academic coordinator II.

Shellabarger will be responsible for coordinating CIWR's work with the National Institutes for Water Resources, as well as work on a new nitrogen and irrigation management program. She comes to us from UC Santa Cruz, where her recent Ph.D. research sought to better understand how California dairy producers engage with environmental initiatives.

An environmental scientist who grew up farming, Shellabarger is drawn to interdisciplinary work that crosses traditional boundaries. She previously researched conflict among conservation and human rights groups on the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as wetland mitigation efforts in Midwest agricultural landscapes. She also taught undergraduate Natural Sciences coursework for six years and worked with refugee resettlement agencies.

She earned a bachelor's degree in biology from Wartburg College, a master's degree in natural resources from North Carolina State University, and a Ph.D. in environmental studies from UC Santa Cruz.

Hope Zabronsky
Shellabarger can be reached at

Hope Zabronsky will be responsible for coordinating CIWR's Climate-Smart Agriculture Program and working with the team of technical assistance providers. 

Zabronsky comes to UC ANR from Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center in San Diego, where she directed the center's educational and research programs focused on sustainable agriculture, environmental stewardship, community-based leadership, and career-technical education.

Previously, she managed statewide climate resilience projects at Strategic Energy Innovations, supported agricultural and climate adaptation research in Southern Africa at the International Food Policy Research Institute, and studied climate-smart agriculture practices in California and Malawi as part of the Research Group on Agricultural Equity and Inclusion at UC Davis. 

She earned her bachelor's degree in environmental studies, sustainability and political science from the University of Vermont and master of science in international agricultural development from UC Davis. 

Zabronsky can be reached at

Holtz documentary wins Golden ARC Award 

Brent Holtz

Brent Holtz, director and pomology farm advisor for San Joaquin County, and members of the Almond Board of California won the Golden Agricultural Relations Council Award for Digital & Social Media: Video for "RESILIENCE: The Whole Orchard Recycling Origin Story."

The six-minute documentary produced by the Almond Board of California features the inspiring story of Holtz's journey to help his family, his industry and his community by finding an alternative to burning trees removed from orchards. 

The documentary was produced by the Almond Board's Jenny Nicolau, Daren Williams, Ross Thomas and David Gomar.

The Golden ARC Awards honor the stellar work created by professionals in the agricultural industry. They are judged by members of the Public Relations Society of America and are heavily weighted on measurable results achieved against the objectives.

Read more about the documentary project at

UC ANR communicators win ACE awards

UC ANR communicators received recognition from their peers in the Association for Communication Excellence, or ACE, international awards program. 

To raise awareness about COVID-19 vaccines among Latinos in California, NOS produced a video campaign and partnered with Univision and organizations that serve indigenous Mexican migrant communities.

Doralicia Garay posted information on social media about protecting homes and businesses from wildfire.
Ricardo Vela of NOS (News and Outreach in Spanish) and Linda Forbes of Strategic Communications successfully conducted a COVID-19 vaccination awareness campaign in Spanish and several Mexican indigenous languages. The “¡Vacunate Ya!” Reaching the Vulnerable campaign reached out to more than 350,000 people in targeted areas of California where Mexican migrant indigenous families live and work. Essential partnerships were created with organizations that cater to these communities. The campaign won the ACE Gold Award (first place) and the overall professional skill award in the category of Diversity 6: Electronic Media and Audio for Targeted Audiences.

Doralicia Garay won a Bronze Award for her wildfire preparedness social media campaign in the “organic” (unpaid) social media campaign category. During summer 2021, she created the Wildfire Preparedness social media campaign amid the active wildfire season in California. The campaign focused on delivering content that directed UC ANR's online audience on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to essential information on preparing homes and business structures for wildfire, also known as structure hardening. Given the high fire activity at the time, she also incorporated the Fire Locator map tool as a resource for wildfire evacuations. The campaign culminated with a Facebook Live session featuring UCCE forestry advisors Susie Kocher and Yana Valachovic and emeritus UCCE advisor Steve Quarles.

A bumble bee packs red pollen from lupine. Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey

Kathy Keatley Garvey, communications specialist in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, won two awards. She earned a Gold Award in the “writing for newspapers” category, for a feature story on Rebecca Jean “RJ” Millena, published in March 2021, a few months before Millena graduated with a bachelor's degree in entomology. “An Amazing Doctoral Opportunity Few Receive” centered on Millena's four-year, full-ride doctoral fellowship from the American Museum of Natural History.

Garvey earned a Silver Award for her photo story titled “The Flight of the Bumble Bee,” posted June 14, 2021, on her daily (Monday-Friday) Bug Squad blog on the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources website.



Posted on Friday, July 1, 2022 at 8:25 AM

UC President Drake praises COVID resilience, emphasizes partnerships

The President's Advisory Commission on Agriculture and Natural Resources met via Zoom on June 23.

During a meeting of the President's Advisory Commission on Agriculture and Natural Resources on June 23, UC President Michael Drake joined the virtual gathering to offer an update on the ongoing response to COVID-19.

Drake praised the diligence, resilience and continued productivity of the entire university community, and cited the systemwide 96-97% vaccination rate and judicious public health measures as reasons UC has been able to weather the worst of the pandemic.

While urging care and caution, he also expressed optimism for the future, pointing to the development and availability of better vaccines and treatments.

The PAC – comprising leaders from UC and the agricultural, natural resources and related human resources sectors – then heard from several commissioners about the importance of partnerships in achieving their shared goals.

Mary-Ann Warmerdam, senior vice president of government affairs for the Rural County Representatives of California, emphasized how essential collaborations are to advancing the interests of rural populations. Kathie Sowa, a senior vice president at Bank of America, highlighted the work of the A.P. Giannini Foundation, which supports research in the basic sciences and applied fields, and the Rosenberg International Forum on Water Policy.

Carol Chandler of Chandler Farms in Fresno County discussed the crucial role of the state's universities in delivering innovative solutions to farmers for a wide range of challenges – from diseases to water issues. Chandler, a former UC regent and California State University trustee, stressed the need for more collaboration between the two systems.

President Drake concurred, voicing his belief that – along with community colleges across the state – the UC and CSU institutions are all part of “one system of higher education.” In particular, he mentioned financial assistance plans and certificate programs as just some of the ways to help more people attain more education.

Posted on Thursday, June 30, 2022 at 3:33 PM
  • Author: Mike Hsu

Gail Feenstra retires after 33 years of championing sustainable food systems

Gail Feenstra

Gail Feenstra, director of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, retired July 1 after 33 years of serving Californians through UC Agriculture and Natural Resources. Her research and outreach have focused on strengthening food systems, encompassing farmers, consumers and communities.

“I have been proud to help build the concepts and practices of sustainable farming and food systems in California,” she said, defining sustainable as including environmental resilience and stewardship, economic viability and social justice and equity for all. “Long-term health for individuals, for communities, for our natural resources and the planet requires this broad approach.”

After earning a bachelor's degree in dietetics from UC Davis in 1978, “I soon discovered, dietetics was not quite for me,” Feenstra said. “I transitioned to community nutrition, worked as a WIC nutritionist for a few years and discovered that the nutrition issues that frustrated me were systems related. A few years later, when I went to Teachers College, Columbia University, to study with Dr. Joan Gussow, one of the leaders of the local food systems movement, I discovered a whole new perspective—food as part of a larger system!”

Feenstra joined UC ANR in 1989 as a writer for the newly formed SAREP and managed the competitive grants offered by the program.

“It was an exhilarating time in the late 1980s to be a part of creating and communicating about the first sustainable agriculture program to be established at a land-grant university anywhere in the nation,” she said. SAREP became a model for sustainable agriculture programs formed at other land-grant universities around the country.

As SAREP developed, Feenstra took on the role of coordinator to lead the community food system projects. Sales for local farms and food businesses, increased community awareness about where their food comes from and a willingness to seek out sources of locally grown food are critical to sustainable community food systems. To achieve those three goals, SAREP provided a grant to launch the PlacerGrown marketing campaign in 1994, which inspired farmers and consumers in other counties to create locally grown programs to strengthen their communities.

In the late 1990s, Feenstra, who has a doctorate in nutrition education from Columbia University with an emphasis in public health, introduced the concept of community food security to build an understanding of the links between hunger and agriculture. She began research on direct marketing and educating small and midscale farmers on how to sell crops at farmers markets and to restaurants and retailers. Over 80% of farmers landed new buyer contacts after attending her marketing workshops. 

Feenstra tells Univision reporter the benefits of a farm-to-school program in 2015.

She also promoted farm-to-school programs and nutrition education. 

“For me, the concept was a perfect way to bring together local agriculture and nutrition education to boost farm income and provide healthful food to children using the National School Lunch Program as a subsidy to help make it all happen,”Feenstra said.SAREP funded cooking classes to teach school cooks – who were accustomed to serving packaged foods – to prepare nutritious school meals with fresh produce. 

“Gail's accomplishments as a leader both statewide and nationally in the farm to school movement, as well as in community engaged food system assessments, have resulted in policy, systems and environmental changes benefitting some of the most vulnerable members of our communities including youth, small-scale socially disadvantaged farmers, and the food insecure,” said Jennifer Sowerwine, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy & Management at UC Berkeley.

To help small and midsized farmers coordinate to sell to institutional and retail buyers that need large quantities, Feenstra and her colleagues organized a California Food Hub Network.

“Not only have the food hubs contributed to strengthening regional food markets and improving the economic prosperity of their member farmers, they were also instrumental in helping communities pivot during the early days of COVID in 2020,” Feenstra said. “Many of them helped identify local producers who could bring food to the food hubs, where it could be distributed to food banks, retailers and even individuals who needed food.”

In recent years, SAREP has added agritourism as another means for farmers to remain economically sustainable. To enhance local food production and food security, Feenstra and her colleagues have begun offering advice for urban farmers and she led a special project for youth leaders in urban farming.

“Gail has been instrumental to our UC ANR efforts to provide support for California's urban farmers,” said Rachel Surls, UCCE sustainable food systems advisor in Los Angeles County. “From conducting a statewide needs assessment of urban farms, to developing workshops on the business of urban farming, Gail has been integral to our UC ANR Urban Agriculture Working Group for the past decade.”

With colleagues from a national research project, Feenstra pioneered county-based food system evaluations. One of the greatest benefits of these reports, she said, is they promote communication between farmers and low-income communities, including farmworkers, whose health and work are affected by farming practices.

In 2013, school chef Donnie Barclift, in white cooking pozole, told Feenstra students like meals prepared with fresh produce.

While continuing her research and extension, Feenstra took on administrative duties, serving as SAREP's deputy director from 2008 to 2018, then interim director of the Agricultural Sustainability Institute, which contained SAREP at the time, from 2019 to 2020. When SAREP became independent of the institute in 2020, she was appointed director.

In May, the Agriculture, Food and Human Values Society honored Feenstra as the 2022 recipient of its Richard P. Haynes Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award in Agriculture, Food and Human Values. 

“Much of her work has centered on the unique circumstances, challenges and opportunities of California food and agricultural systems, but the impact of her work is in no way confined to California alone,” Clare Hinrichs, professor of rural sociology at Pennsylvania State University, wrote in her letter nominating Feenstra for the award. “The fruitful insights and applications of Gail's work have traveled well beyond her home state. Her cogent thinking and practical frameworks have inspired and guided others from across the U.S. and other countries engaged in research and practice to enhance community and regional food systems.”

In addition to her academic work, Feenstra served as AFHVS president in 2000-2001 and has served on the board twice.

“As I have reviewed my career, two sentiments come to the fore – gratitude and humility,” Feenstra said. “I have had the good fortune to work for 33 years with wonderful, committed people who share strong values about a fair and equitable society, coupled with a passion for environmental, economic and personal health for all people and the planet.”

Acknowledging Feenstra's extensive career contributions, UC ANR has awarded her emeritus status. As an emeritus academic, she plans to help evaluate the California Department of Food and Agriculture's Farm to School Incubator Grant Program in addition to spending more time with her grandchildren, gardening, quilting, traveling and, eventually, volunteering for local food systems activities.

Posted on Thursday, June 30, 2022 at 11:56 AM

Comments on new Title IX rules due July 13

The University urgently invites comments on the U.S. Department of Education's proposed amendments to the Title IX regulations issued by the May 2020 administration, as published last week. 

The regulations primarily address how schools must respond to sex-based harassment, including sexual violence. However, as the Department of Education proposes amending them, they would also explicitly prohibit other forms of discrimination based on sex stereotypes, sex characteristics, sexual orientation, gender identity, and pregnancy or related conditions, and enhance protections based on pregnancy or parenting status.  

The rules address topics of great significance to the UC community, and it is critical that the Office of the President provide comments. 

To ensure those comments are informed by the views of the UC community, we encourage you to submit your input to the Systemwide Title IX Office directly via an online survey at Please comment no later than July 13, 2022.  The section numbers in the survey align with the section numbers in the proposed rules. 

The new Title IX rules are posted at

Posted on Thursday, June 30, 2022 at 10:56 AM
  • Author: Rachel Lloyd
Tags: June 2022 (21), policy (77), Title IX (1)

Mark Bell leaves legacy of a more effective, impactful UC ANR

Mark Bell made a point of getting out in the field to meet with UC ANR employees and find out what they were working on.
Mark Bell, Vice Provost of Strategic Initiatives and Statewide Programs, joined UC Agriculture and Natural Resources as an academic administrator in 2017 and retired from the UC on June 29.

Prior to joining UC ANR, Bell focused on international development and spent 10 years working for the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences International Programs Office at UC Davis. Furthermore, Bell developed multiple courses and workshops; training thousands of students and scholars in areas ranging from field diagnostics to extension strategies in over 30 countries.

Trained as a soil scientist and agronomist, Bell has dedicated much of his career to knowledge management and building better extension systems. The positive and productive shift that Bell helped create within UC ANR is in large part due to his strategic ability to plan and execute.

“Part of being successful includes how we engage with each other and the efficient use of time,” he said. “I have worked with others to put better structure into various aspects of our work – defining criteria and target outcomes.”

Jim Farrar, UC Statewide IPM Program director, said that Bell has always had a positive attitude and a great talent for bringing people together to work for change. “He initiated the first regular meetings of the statewide program directors and organized the monthly meetings of the strategic initiative leaders. Because of Mark's efforts both of these groups work more collaboratively and have identified additional areas for coordination and cooperation,” stated Farrar.

Bell, third from left, joined Jim Farrar in 2019 to accept a proclamation celebrating UC IPM's 40th anniversary. Bell's priority has been to expand UC ANR's positive impact and increase the number of people it reaches.

Bell's top priority at UC ANR has been supporting the organization's goal to expand its positive impact and increase the number of people it reaches. To boost funding and potential partnerships, he worked with statewide program and institute directors and other colleagues to refine UC ANR's “ask” and raise the organization's profile.

He emphasized the use of online channels and the need for intentional approaches in using videos and multimedia tools to teach and connect with communities. He has also steadfastly championed the importance of modernizing our outdated website ecosystem as part of UC ANR's strategic goal to increase the number of Californians we reach. Another hallmark of Bell's leadership has been emphasizing impact over activity – a focus now highlighted for UC ANR's new employees.

Bell also has worked on building and retaining motivated teams. When discussing employee sustainability, Bell said: “The goal here is to build connections, build shared purpose, and build team and capacity so the work overall can be more effective. Further, the goal is to hire and retain people by improving the hiring protocols and by helping people start well and connect.” 

Bell said that making a positive difference in the workplace has always been a top priority for him. And, as a result, UC ANR is stronger because of Bell's vision and dedication.

4-H Statewide Director Lynn Schmitt-McQuitty, attests to Bell's excellent leadership in the workplace. “Mark was such a positive force,” she said. “Always available to support, lend an ear, problem solve or lift your spirits. I was so fortunate to have a supervisor that supported me in my efforts while at the same time grounding me to make good decisions.”

Bell said, “I value and support the efforts of colleagues in forming focused, productive teams. Together we have improved efficiency and impact by better defining roles and responsibilities and by building a greater sense of unity and cohesion.”

Bell, left, (shown during a 2019 tour for UC Regent Cecilia Estolano and state Senator Anna Caballero) has been a “positive force” as a supervisor, said 4-H Statewide Director Lynn Schmitt-McQuitty.

Bell earned a Ph.D. in soil chemistry from the University of Queensland, Australia, a M.S. in soil chemistry from the University of Reading, UK and a B.Ag.Sc. in crops and pastures from the University of Queensland, Australia.

“Although the path forward is not yet 100% clear, I have the remarkable situation where I have considerable freedom to choose what comes next,” he said. “My intent is to explore needs and see how my interests and skills can help make a difference. To get that started, I have a trip lined up to Guyana in July and I will be doing work for some international development NGOs.”

He also expressed thanks and gratitude to colleagues “within and beyond UC ANR” for their collaboration and hard work to make a positive impact in the lives of others.

“I've appreciated the support and friendship of so many and I wish you all well for the future,” Bell said. “Until we meet again!”

Posted on Thursday, June 30, 2022 at 8:44 AM
  • Author: Saoimanu Sope
Tags: June 2022 (21), Mark Bell (10)

Read more

Webmaster Email: