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Posts Tagged: Gail Feenstra

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

Outstanding academics recognized with Distinguished Service Awards

Outstanding academics recognized with Distinguished Service Awards

Winners of the Distinguished Service Awards were announced June 13. Sponsored by UC ANR and Academic Assembly Council, the Distinguished Service Awards recognize service and academic excellence in UC Cooperative Extension over a significant period of time. The awards highlight the use of innovative methods and the integration of research, extension and leadership by UC ANR academics. 

Award categories include outstanding research, outstanding extension, outstanding new academic, outstanding team, outstanding leader and contribution to diversity, equity and inclusion.

We are pleased to congratulate and recognize this year's honorees:

Outstanding Research - Mark Hoddle 

Mark Hoddle

Mark Hoddle has been a UCCE specialist in biological control in UC Riverside Department of Entomology for 25 years. His research program on biocontrol of invasive pests that attack agricultural crops, threaten wilderness areas, and degrade urban landscapes in California has been supported by more than $14.5 million in grants from commodity boards and state and federal agencies and have significant impacts in California, nationally and internationally.

Highlights of his work include the successful biological control of the glassy-winged sharpshooter, a species of palm weevil (Rhynchophorus vulneratus), the Asian citrus psyllid and the Argentine ant, resulting in a massive reduction and elimination of these pests in California and other states and countries.

Hoddle also has developed proactive biocontrol and integrated pest management programs for pests not yet present in California but that are likely to invade, including the spotted lantern fly, the avocado seed moth and the avocado seed weevil.

His outstanding research has led to over 200 publications in peer-reviewed journals, books and book chapters. He also has published over 100 extension articles and 40 web pages. His outreach includes interviews for TV, radio, newspapers, magazines and podcasts.

In addition to his academic successes, Hoddle has mentored seven graduate students, more than 40 undergraduate students and nine post-graduate researchers. He also has received several national and international awards throughout his career.

Outstanding Extension - Lyn Brock 

Lyn Brock

Lyn Brock is the academic coordinator for statewide training for both the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program and CalFresh Healthy Living, University of California. Brock leads the training and professional development efforts for academics and staff that work at the state and county levels for both programs.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, the EFNEP and CFHL, UC programs were stymied by the inability to provide in-person education. Through her persistence, innovation and leadership, Brock transitioned more than 140 program staff to virtual delivery in a matter of months so that they could continue to serve the people of California. 

She spearheaded novel trainings pertaining to a wide variety of topics that suddenly became relevant, including learner-centered programming, online learning platforms and copyright policies, among others. Under her leadership, 24 evidence-based curricula were adapted for virtual delivery during the pandemic. These programs are still regarded by the programs' federally funded partners as cutting-edge in virtual education.

Brock has produced numerous limited distribution publications and also presented during conferences, trainings and presentations to extend knowledge in her role as training coordinator. Highlights of her extension work include the What's Up Wednesday meetings, virtual staff check-in meetings to facilitate communication between program leadership staff. She also developed training material and trained staff on available virtual platforms to allow them to deliver programs virtually.

Outstanding New Academic - Aparna Gazula 

Aparna Gazula

Aparna Gazula became a UCCE small farms advisor in 2016. Her extension program provides training and technical assistance for nutrient management, pest management, irrigation and food safety to diversified vegetable farmers in Santa Clara, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties.

Because a majority of the crops grown by Asian immigrant farmers – including amaranth, bok choy, gai choy, gai lan, a choy, Chinese celery, edible chrysanthemum, yam leaves, garlic chives and pea tips – are considered minor crops, there is little research-based information about them that can be used as the basis for management decisions or to fulfill regulatory requirements.In six years, she has secured more than $1.6 million in grant funding for research, outreach and technical assistance to fill information gaps on pest management, food safety and water and nutrient management.

Many of the socially disadvantaged farmers Gazula works with face language and cultural barriers. To provide targeted extension to non-English speaking farmers, she secured grant funding to hire specialists and educators who are fluent in Cantonese and Spanish. With her team, Gazula provides technical assistance, workshops, and outreach publications in Chinese and Spanish.

She also has led her team in assisting farmers in the region to access pandemic relief funding and state programs to improve soil health and water use efficiency. Gazula and her team helped non-English-speaking farmers submit over 200 applications for relief between April and December 2020. These farmers received $3.1 million in emergency aid, allowing them to maintain vegetable production during the pandemic. With her team she also provided training and technical assistance, in both Cantonese and English, to farmers about the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program and Healthy Soils Program.

Although Gazula is a new academic, she is recognized throughout the region for her expertise and is often called on by community and local government groups to contribute to food and farming initiatives. She has established herself as a leader in supporting the Asian vegetable industry.

Outstanding Team - UC ANR Winter Cover Cropping/Water Use Team

The UC ANR Winter Cover Cropping/Water Use Team is composed of UCCE specialists Daniele Zaccaria, Samuel Sandoval Solis, Amelie Gaudin, Jeff Mitchell and Khaled Bali, UCCE advisor Dan Munk and UC Davis students Alyssa DeVincentis and Anna Gomes.

In direct response to prominent knowledge gaps around implementing the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, the team conducted a focused applied research program on water-related impacts of winter cover crops in California's Central Valley from 2016 to 2019.

Their research showed that the benefits of winter cropping in processing tomato and almond production systems offset or compensated for water used during the winter by the cover crops. Contrary to widespread belief, research results showed that cover crops did not use a lot of soil water because evapotranspiration during this period is normally low, crops shade and cool the soil surface, and improve soil aggregation, pore space and soil water infiltration and retention. 

This research provided the basis for a series of 11 invited extension education presentations and outreach activities to inform and guide policy implementation of local stakeholder agencies and entities including the Madera Regional Water Management Group, the American Farmland Trust's SJV Conservation Partnership Program, the CA/NV Chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society, and the East Stanislaus, the Eastern Merced, Fresno, Kings, and Tulare Counties Resource Conservation Districts, as well as the California Irrigation Institute. 

Outstanding Leader - Gail Feenstra 

Gail Feenstra

Gail Feenstra, director of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, is a distinguished leader and visionary, not only in UC ANR, but across the food systems landscape. Her career has been exemplary in terms of her pioneering success in applied, multidisciplinary research, evaluation, and outreach. In the early 1990s, Feenstra began to parlay her graduate training in nutrition along with her experience in community development and food systems into what was then a very new, poorly studied discipline that she would continue to develop and lead for the next three decades.

This field of work comprises regional food systems that merge the business and livelihood needs of small- and mid-scale farmers with the economic well-being and nutritional health of their local communities. Feenstra developed SAREP's and the nation's understanding of values-based supply chains. She has been a pioneer in the farm-to-school movement and has developed widely adopted tools for farm-to-school evaluation. In recognition of her stature in this field, CDFA selected her to lead a four-year, $60 million evaluation of its Farm to School Grant Program.

Feenstra also has shown tremendous leadership within UC ANR through her role as co-chair of the California Communities and Food Systems Program Team where she has helped shape collaborations within UC ANR. She has worked to bridge interconnected disciplines of nutrition, food, health, community development and agriculture within UC ANR. She also has led efforts to work across program teams, particularly in developing new specialist and advisor position descriptions. Her energy is infectious and her leadership through collaboration is compelling. The Agriculture, Food and Human Values Society recently honored Feenstra with its 2022 Richard P. Haynes Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award.

Outstanding Contribution to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion - Katherine Soule 

Katherine Soule

Katherine Soule began her DEI work in 2013, focusing on providing solutions to the challenges that marginalized youth, families and communities face on the Central Coast.

Her work particularly focused on the needs of Latino youth and families, LGBTQ+ youth and adults, neurodivergent people, and individuals living in poverty. Through a timely intervention, Soule's DEI work has helped to increase health equity, improve food security and safety, and promote economic prosperity in marginalized communities.

She implemented a very impactful “Schools as Hubs of Health” program that reached more than 4,000 students annually in more than 150 classrooms and created a college and career readiness pathway that engaged more than 12,000 youth. She brings an interdisciplinary approach to her work with an emphasis on engaged and participatory research, and lifelong commitment to personally unlearning and decolonizing.

Soule also demonstrates DEI leadership by serving on the UC ANR DEI Advisory Council as the inaugural chair and serving on the City of San Luis Obispo's DEI Taskforce.

Names in the News

Hollingsworth named UCCE table grape advisor 

Joy Hollingsworth

Joy Hollingsworth began working as the new UCCE table grape advisor serving Tulare and Kings counties on May 16.

Prior to becoming a table grape advisor, Hollingsworth served for three years as the UCCE nutrient management/soil quality advisor for Fresno, Madera, Kings and Tulare counties. In that position she worked on research and extension projects in a variety of agricultural systems, including work on dairy manure, cover crops and biostimulants in raisin grapes.

Previously, Hollingsworth spent six years working as a research associate for the University of California on agronomic cropping systems, including sugar beets, canola and sorghum. 

She earned a master's degree in plant science from California State University, Fresno, and a bachelor's degree in communication from UC Davis.

Hollingsworth is now based in Tulare and can be reached at (559) 684-3313 or joyhollingsworth@ucanr.edu. Follow her on Twitter @ucce_joy

Zuercher joins NPI as assistant project scientist 

Monica Zuercher

The Nutrition Policy Institute welcomed Monica Zuercher on Feb. 1 as an assistant project scientist. Zuecher will work on NPI projects related to national school meal programs.

Zuecher is a nutritional epidemiologist with experience in teaching, health research, data analysis, scientific communication and nutrition interventions.

She holds a Ph.D. in epidemiology from UC Davis, M.S. in nutritional epidemiology from the Research Center for Food and Development, Sonora, Mexico and a B.S. in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Sonora in Mexico.

Zuecher is based at UCOP in Oakland and can be reached at mdrobles@ucanr.edu.

Carmignani joins UCCE as fire advisor 

Luca Carmignani

Luca Carmignani joined UCCE as a fire advisor for Orange and Los Angeles counties May 2. His research interests include image analysis, computer programming and scientific outreach. 

Prior to joining UC ANR, Carmignani was a postdoctoral researcher in the Berkeley Fire Research Lab at UC Berkeley. His research has focused on fire and combustion applications, from wildland fires to material flammability. 

He earned his Ph.D. in engineering sciences from the joint doctoral program between UC San Diego and San Diego State University after obtaining his bachelor's and master's degrees in aerospace engineering from the University of Pisa in Italy.

Carmignani is based at South Coast Research and Extension Center in Irvine and can be reached at carmignani@ucanr.edu and (949) 237-2956. Follow him on Twitter @l_carmignani.

Feenstra honored with Lifetime Achievement Award 

Gail Feenstra

Gail Feenstra, director of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, has been honored as the 2022 recipient of the Richard P. Haynes Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award in Agriculture, Food and Human Values. 

The award recognizes outstanding contributions towards realizing the goals of the Agriculture, Food and Human Values Society (AFHVS) through research, teaching, extension, public service or public policy. 

“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.

“With great skill and persistence, and with much passion, energy and humility, Gail Feenstra has achieved a lasting impact on the field of sustainable food systems,” said Kim L. Niewolny, chair of the AFHVS Professional Awards Committee for 2021-2022. “Overall, she has graciously crafted and lived a career that fully embodies the values and spirit of the Agriculture, Food and Human Values Society.

Feenstra accepted the award during the AFHVS meeting held in Athens, Georgia, May 18-21.

Tsai receives emerging leader in nutrition science award 

Marisa Tsai

Marisa Tsai, a research data analyst with the Nutrition Policy Institute and a doctoral student at UC Berkeley School of Public Health, has been named as a finalist for the Emerging Leaders in Nutrition Science Abstract Recognition Award Program, a program of the American Society for Nutrition that recognizes the highest quality research presented by students and young investigators at Nutrition 2022 Live Online.  

Tsai's abstract is titled “Larger WIC Cash Value Benefit for Vegetables and Fruit Is Associated With Lower Food Insecurity and Improved Participant Satisfaction in WIC Families With Children.”

More than 700 abstracts were submitted by students and postdoctoral fellows and the award program aims to recognize the top 15% highest scoring abstracts. Abstracts were rated by more than 400 nutrition scientists. Finalists will be recognized during the Nutrition 2022 Live Online conference that will be held virtually June 14-16.

Posted on Friday, May 27, 2022 at 4:36 PM

Names in the News

Marino named UCCE orchard specialist

Giulia Marino

Giulia Marino joined UC ANR as a UCCE orchard systems specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis on Jan. 22, 2020.

Her research investigates tree physiology and its application to enhance productivity, sustainability and competitiveness of fruit orchard production systems in a changing global scenario.

Prior to joining UC ANR, Marino was a researcher in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources at UC Davis, where she studied pistachio water use and tree performance under saline-sodic conditions. Some of her current research projects investigate the physiology of pistachio nut growth and shell split as a function of crop load and temperature, the impact of boron, salinity and hypoxia on pistachio vegetative growth and the effect of dormancy breaking agents on carbohydrates dynamics in cherry.

She earned a Ph.D. in fruit and forestry tree systems and M.Sc. and B.S. in agricultural science, all from the University of Palermo in Italy.

Marino is based at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier and can be reached at giumarino@ucdavis.edu.

Wilson named presidential director for Organic Agriculture Institute

Houston Wilson

Houston Wilson has been named the Presidential Director for the University of California's Organic Agriculture Institute, which was established in January 2020 with a $500,000 endowment by Clif Bar and a matching $500,000 endowment from UC President Janet Napolitano.

Wilson, a UC Riverside agricultural entomologist based at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, joined UC ANR as assistant Cooperative Extension specialist in 2017. He will launch the institute and chart a path for future growth while also focusing on immediate priorities such as a survey of organic production in California, multiple outreach and training opportunities for growers, publication of organic production guidelines, and developing research programs. Wilson's long-term goal is to continue to grow the endowment and position the organization to successfully support the state's growing organic farming economy. 

“Organic growers in California face an array of interconnected agronomic, economic and regulatory challenges,” said Wilson. “Tackling these issues simultaneously requires a multidisciplinary approach to develop solutions that work in all scales of production. The economic opportunities are there, and we want to help position California growers to reap these benefits, and in doing so increase the supply of affordable organic food for consumers.”

See the full story at https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=42592.

Feenstra named SAREP director

Gail Feenstra

Gail Feenstra has been appointed director of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP), effective July 1, 2020. Feenstra, who joined SAREP in 1989 and worked as the food systems coordinator, has been serving as acting director since October 2019, when Tom Tomich went on sabbatical. 

Vice President Glenda Humiston announced her appointment as part of the move to bring SAREP back to ANR's direct oversight effective July 1, 2020.

“I am excited to be part of a stellar SAREP team working more closely with UC ANR colleagues and community partners on strengthening resiliency of regional food systems and supporting economic and social justice for all people – from farmers and farmworkers to food system workers to consumers,” Feenstra said. 

Over the last 30 years, Feenstra has contributed to SAREP's definition of a sustainable food and agricultural system. She designed criteria for and funded community-based food systems statewide as part of SAREP's competitive grants program. Collaborating with ANR colleagues and others nationwide, she has worked to create an understanding of what sustainable, regional food systems are and how they function for communities.  

She helped initiate ANR's work in farm-to-school research and extension and her SAREP team was among the first to evaluate farm-to-school procurement data rigorously. From projects that focus on small and mid-scale farms to food hubs, food systems assessments and food policy councils, Feenstra is interested in uncovering the economic development potential of coordinated supply chain stakeholders and opportunities for building relationships between farmers, consumers and communities.

Feenstra earned an Ed.D. in nutrition education from Teachers College, Columbia University in New York City, and a B.S. in dietetics and nutrition from UC Davis. 

Feenstra and the SAREP staff plan to relocate from the UC Davis campus to the ANR building in Davis. The SAREP members include Sonja Brodt, academic coordinator for agriculture, resources and the environment; Penny Leff, statewide agritourism coordinator; Kathleen Patrocinio, business manager; Shosha Capps, community food systems analyst; Gwenael Engelskirchen, sustainable supply chain analyst; and Laura Crothers, grants manager/ outreach coordinator.

 

Posted on Friday, May 29, 2020 at 3:22 PM

Final position proposals due Sept. 15 for 2018 Call for Cooperative Extension positions

On Aug. 1, phase 2 of the Cooperative Extension Positions Call process ended and phase 3 began. During phase 2, the Program Teams reviewed the 40 phase 1 proposals and submitted six additional proposals. All submitted proposals are posted on the 2018 Call for Position web page: http://ucanr.edu/2018callforpositions.

Phase 3:

  • The statewide programs and institutes are now reviewing all 46 proposed positions to determine if there are any positions they feel are of higher priority.
  • If so, they can propose up to two additional CE advisor positions and two additional CE specialist positions by Sept. 15 – keeping in mind that the more proposals there are at the end, the lower the probability of being approved for recruitment.
  • The proposals that did not make the phase 1 final 40 can be picked up during these subsequent phases. They can be found on the proposal ideas web page. New proposals are not limited to these ideas.

After Sept. 15, Program Council will review all the feedback and make recommendations to the vice president.

“We thank the ANR network for actively engaging in this participatory process to strengthen and rebuild CE positions statewide,” said Wendy Powers, associate vice president.

Posted on Friday, September 7, 2018 at 4:17 PM

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