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Farmers of color share their contributions, concerns in UC SAREP webinar series

USDA’s most recent agricultural census, dating to 2017, counts approximately 25,000 producers of color among 128,535 total producers in California. Photo by Evett Kilmartin

When agricultural advisors came to the Cochiti Pueblo in New Mexico during the 1940s, they lined the irrigation ditches with concrete, in the name of boosting efficiency and productivity. But in single-mindedly focusing on water delivery, they neglected to consider how the previously inefficient seepage sustained nearby fruit trees. 

Their actions, as well-intentioned as they might have been, disrupted the local ecosystem and killed the trees that had fed many generations, according to A-dae Romero-Briones, who identifies as Cochiti and as a member of the Kiowa Tribe.

“In my language, we call the extension agents ‘the people who kill the fruit trees,'” said Romero-Briones, director of the Food and Agriculture Program for the First Nations Development Institute, a nonprofit that serves Tribal communities across the mainland, Alaska and Hawaii.

The historically tense relationship between Indigenous peoples and government-affiliated programs is one of the many complex dynamics discussed in a six-part webinar series, “Racial Equity in Extension,” facilitated by UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program.

During the "Retracing the Roots of Sustainable Agriculture" webinar, A-dae Romero-Briones explains the historical tensions between extension agents and Indigenous peoples.
“As extension professionals, we really need to know about the people we want to work with – what are their worldviews and what's the knowledge base that shapes their decisions,” said Sonja Brodt, associate director of UC SAREP, a program of University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources. “And this is especially important to pay attention to when those people are from cultures or segments of society that have a history of being marginalized or oppressed by mainstream society, and because their significant knowledge has often been made invisible.”

Making communities of color in the agricultural sector more visible is a priority for Victor Hernandez, a sociologist and outreach coordinator for the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service. Hernandez, who has organized “Growing Together” conferences for Latino and Black farmers, is trying to get more farmers of color to participate in the upcoming 2022 Agricultural Census.

“If we cannot quantify the demographic, we cannot justify the need,” emphasized Hernandez, explaining that his office uses the data to direct resources that advance equity in service, program delivery and distribution of funds.

A legacy of mistrust

At the same time, however, Hernandez also acknowledged the challenges in registering growers of color for the census, conducted by the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. (According to Brodt, USDA's most recent agricultural census, dating to 2017, counts approximately 25,000 producers of color among 128,535 total producers in California.)

“Many of us that are considered socially disadvantaged or historically underserved…a lot of times our peoples come from [nations with] oppressive governments,” Hernandez said. “And so when you come to the United States and you begin to build your life here, to go and engage with the federal government is not the first knee-jerk reaction.”

On top of government mistrust and fears of deportation or detention, other immigrant groups have seen mainstream agriculture – borne by the “Green Revolution” wave across the globe – replace deep-rooted cultural practices, said Kristyn Leach of Namu Farm in Winters.

“It just makes these small farmers distrust our own knowledge, the knowledge that's existed for centuries – before the kind of current iteration of agriculture that we're situated within right now,” said Leach, who works to preserve the agricultural heritage of her Korean ancestors, and facilitates a farmers' collaborative called Second Generation that adapts Asian crop varieties to climate change.

According to Romero-Briones, a collective memory of supplanted culture also lingers in Indigenous communities. In the Cochiti Pueblo, “primarily a subsistence agriculture community” with a long history of corn cultivation, their practices are distinct from those in the mainstream – including regenerative and sustainable agriculture.

Clockwise from top-left: Chanowk Yisrael, Kristyn Leach and Victor Hernandez share their perspectives during the "Serving Farmers of Color" webinar, moderated by UC ANR's Stephanie Parreira.
“These practices are not really rooted in Indigenous agriculture,” she explained. “They're actually meant to displace Indigenous agriculture and food systems.”

Building relationships takes commitment

Given that legacy of cultural displacement and appropriation, how do extension professionals and other agricultural advisors slowly rebuild trust with communities of color? For Romero-Briones, it begins with a genuine respect for Indigenous practices, and she urges interested people to contact their local tribal historic preservation officer to begin strengthening those connections and understanding – beyond a couple of phone calls.

“As someone who works with Indigenous people all day, even I need to recognize sometimes I have to meet with people up to 12 times before we actually start talking about the work that I initially wanted to talk to them about,” Romero-Briones said.

In a similar vein, Chanowk Yisrael, chief seed starter of Yisrael Family Farms, encouraged listeners to reach out to members of the California Farmer Justice Collaborative – an organization striving for a fair food system while challenging racism and centering farmers of color.

“To use a farm analogy: we've got this ground, which is the farmers of color who have been neglected for a long period of time,” said Yisrael, who has grown his farm in a historically Black neighborhood of Sacramento into a catalyst for social change. “It's not just going to be as simple as just throwing some seeds and things are going to come up; you're going to have to do more – that means you got to get out and do much more than you would do for any other community.”

Investing time in a community is one thing – and backing it up with tangible resources is another. Technical expertise is only the “tip of the iceberg,” Leach said, as historically marginalized groups are also seeking land access and tenure, more affordable cost of living, and access to capital.

“All of those things are actually much bigger burdens to bear for most communities of color than not having the knowledge of how to grow the crops that we want to grow, and not knowing how to be adaptive and nimble in the face of climate change," Leach explained, highlighting California FarmLink as an essential resource. (“Understanding Disparities in Farmland Ownership” is the next webinar in the SAREP series, set for Nov. 19.)

Bringing diverse voices to the table

Another key is ensuring that farmers and farm workers of color are represented in management and decision-making processes. Samuel Sandoval, a professor in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources and UC Cooperative Extension specialist in water management, develops outreach programs in English and Spanish for everyone from farm workers to the “boss of the boss of the boss.”

Samuel Sandoval, a professor in the UC Davis Department of Land, Air and Water Resources and UC Cooperative Extension specialist in water management, develops outreach programs in English and Spanish.
Sandoval said there are often gaps of communication between the decision makers and the people, most often Spanish speakers, who implement those measures. He remembers, for example, talking with water resource managers about their plans for a water treatment plant or new irrigation system – and then discovering that the irrigators and farm workers had no idea those discussions are happening.

“It has to be changed,” he said, “because at the end, the person who is going to operate the irrigation system and turn on or off the valves, the person who is looking if there's a leak or not – that's the person who's not being informed, or has not been informed on purpose.”

That exclusion of certain groups can lead to a loss of invaluable knowledge. Leach said there is a real danger in ignoring the wisdom of communities that have contributed so much to the foundation of food systems in California and around the globe.

“These really kind of amazing, sophisticated and elegant agroecological systems that we don't often legitimize through the scientific language and perspectives aren't seen as being really technically proficient – but, in many ways, they're more dynamic and more resilient than the things that we're perpetuating right now,” she said.

As a concrete example, Sandoval said that while extension advisors and specialists conduct studies to remedy a plant disease, farm workers might be developing – separately and in parallel – their own solutions by asking for advice from their social networks via WhatsApp, a phone application.

A reimagining of collaboration, Sandoval said, would include (and compensate) people working in the field for sharing their perspectives – bringing together academics and farmers, integrated pest management experts and pesticide applicators, irrigation specialists and those who do the irrigation.

A need to look within

Concerns about inclusion and validating alternate sources of knowledge apply also to the recruitment process in extension. Leach said that she has seen listings for advisor jobs that would require, at a minimum, a master's degree – which would automatically disqualify her, despite her extensive knowledge of Asian heirloom vegetables.

“When you look at a job description and you see ‘Asian crop specialist,' only required qualification is a master's degree, and then somewhere down the long list of sort of secondary desired, recommended things is some knowledge of Asian crops or communities…you know that just says a lot in terms of what  has weight,” Leach explained.

Before organizations can authentically connect with communities of color, they should prioritize diversity in their own ranks, said Romero-Briones. First Nations Development Institute had to ensure that they had adequate representation across the many Tribes that they serve.

“Before we start looking out, we have to start looking in,” she explained, “and that means we have to hire Indigenous people who know these communities.”

For extension professionals and other members of the agricultural community in California, the UC SAREP webinar series has helped spark that introspection and a meaningful reevaluation of institutional processes and assumptions.

“These discussions have been tremendously illuminating and eye-opening,” Brodt said. “But hearing and learning is just the start – it's incumbent on us, as an organization and as individuals, to take action to ensure that farmers of color and their foodways are truly respected and valued.”

Posted on Tuesday, November 23, 2021 at 4:20 PM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture, Food

Recruitment for California Organic Institute director underway

Organic strawberries. Photo by Mark Bolda

Applications are being accepted through March 30, 2020, from UC Cooperative Extension specialists and advisors who wish to be considered for the position of director of UC ANR's California Organic Institute. This opportunity will provide a dedicated source of funds (income from the endowment) to support scholarly activities and outreach focused on improvement of California organic agriculture production.

Through a funding partnership between Clif Bar & Company and the UC Presidential Endowment program, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources has established a $1 million directorship for the UC ANR California Organic Institute.

Through a competitive selection process, a director will be chosen to hold an initial seven-year term.The directorship will be awarded by UC ANR to a distinguished UC Cooperative Extension specialist or advisor currently working in the area of organic production in California.

Application and selection details, including timeline and submission guidelines, are available at http://ucanr.edu/sites/StrategicInitiatives/files/318017.pdf.

For any questions, please contact Mark Bell, vice provost for strategic initiatives & statewide programs, at mozbell@ucanr.edu.

Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2020 at 11:41 AM

Clif Bar invests in UC’s first organic research institute

The California Organic Institute will accelerate the development and adoption of effective tools and practices for organic farmers and those transitioning to organic farming. Organic strawberries photo by Mark Bolda.

The University of California system's first-ever institute for organic research and education will be established in UC ANR with a $500,000 endowment gift from Clif Bar & Company and $500,000 in matching funds from UC President Janet Napolitano. 

The California Organic Institute will accelerate the development and adoption of effective tools and practices for organic farmers and those transitioning to organic by building on the capabilities of UC ANR's Cooperative Extension and Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program. Although organic is the fastest growing sector of the food economy, funding for research has lagged far behind support for conventional agriculture. Farmers interested in transitioning to organic or improving performance of their organic systems often lack the guidance they need to succeed.

“California's organic farmers already benefit from UC ANR's pest management, irrigation and crop production research, and this partnership with Clif Bar will give UC more capacity to focus on challenges specific to organic farming,” said Glenda Humiston, UC vice president of agriculture and natural resources. “UC Cooperative Extension advisors work directly with farmers throughout the state so new organic farming techniques can be applied quickly.”

The California Organic Institute is Clif Bar's third organic research endowment and the first in its home state of California, where the company sources several key organic ingredients. Clif Bar is not alone in sourcing from the state, which has the most organic farms in the U.S.: California's nearly 3,000 certified organic farms grow crops on land that represents 21% of all U.S. certified organic land.

“The California Organic Institute will serve many of the organic producers we depend on for ingredients like almonds and figs, as well as farmers outside our supply chain,” said Lynn Ineson, vice president of Sustainable Sourcing for Clif Bar. “We recognize that the future of our food company depends on the ecological and economic success of organic and transitioning farmers.”

Recruitment for an institute director will begin in early 2020, with a search committee including industry representatives and partners. The director will work with a permanent advisory committee, Clif Bar, and UC ANR to launch the institute and recruit additional like-minded partners to support its long-term success.

Ultimately, with the support of UC ANR and a constellation of partners, the California Organic Institute will be in a strong position to increase the performance of organic farming for improved stewardship of natural resources, the economic well-being of rural communities, and greater stability for the next generation of California farmers.

 

Posted on Monday, January 27, 2020 at 11:18 AM
  • Author: Linda Forbes

Krkich named Executive Director of Development Services

Lorna Krkich
Dear Colleagues,

I am pleased to announce that we will be joined by a new colleague, Lorna Krkich, who has accepted the position of UC ANR Executive Director of Development Services. She will begin the position on Dec. 29.

Lorna brings a wealth of experience in income development, relationship building and strategic planning for future growth and sustainability. She has deep roots in California and is an alumna of UC Santa Cruz.

Working with The Salvation Army, Lorna developed funding opportunities, and trained and managed major gift officers across four states. Her program, in which she achieved well over annual goals and initiated a lapsed-donor process, resulted in 60 percent growth across the territory. During her time with the American Lung Association, she worked with staff and volunteers to build community presence and implement new fundraising initiatives in mid-level and major giving, increasing corporate donations by 900 percent in three years.

We are very excited to have Lorna working with us to grow our UC ANR programs, rebuild our academic footprint and improve our research infrastructure. Please join me in congratulating and supporting Lorna in her new appointment.

Glenda Humiston
Vice President

Posted on Wednesday, December 20, 2017 at 4:53 PM

Names in the News

Emma Fete
Fete joins 4-H as advisor for San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties

Emma Fete joined UCCE as an area 4-H youth development advisor for San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties on Dec. 4, 2017.

For five years prior to joining UCCE, Fete taught and developed various courses including online and hybrid variants as an instructor for the School of Communication at The Ohio State University. As a part of an interdepartmental team, she evaluated general education requirements for undergraduates. Fete also served on the Diversity Committee, analyzing and recommending departmental policies, hiring and recruiting strategies, and implementing training programs to best represent and serve diverse populations.  From 2010 to 2012, she worked as an assistant language teacher for the Hiroshima Board of Education in Japan, where she taught and developed coursework in three prefectural high schools and a special needs school. From 2007 to 2010, Fete worked at WOSU Public Media, where she helped manage WOSU radio programming, fundraising and development efforts, and the station's community activities. She also has experience in local and state government as well as child-focused local non-profits. Fete is a dedicated horsewoman who was an enthusiastic 4-Her in her youth and continues to coach 4-H participants today.

Fete earned a Ph.D. and M.A. in communication at The Ohio State University and a B.A. in broadcasting from Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio.

Fete is based in Stockton and can be reached at (209) 953-6118 and emfete@ucanr.edu.

Kate Wilkin
Wilkin named area forestry/fire science and natural resources advisor 

Katherine “Kate” Wilkin joined UCCE on Sept. 18, 2017, as an area forestry/fire science and natural resources advisor in Sutter, Yuba, Butte and Nevada counties.

Prior to joining UCCE, Wilkin was a postdoctoral researcher at UC Berkeley where she developed techniques for the California Air Resources Board to better estimate wildfire emissions and collaborated on an ecosystem services project, including water and carbon, of restored fire regimes. From 2011 to 2016, she was a graduate student researcher at UC Berkeley, and at Cal Poly from 2007 to 2009. Wilkin also worked at Yosemite National Park, National Park Service's Inventory and Monitoring Program, California State Parks, and The Nature Conservancy on complex environmental issues including forest health, wetland restoration, fire management, visitor-use, and mine reclamation. She has been a member of the Northern California Prescribed Fire Council since 2011.

Wilkin completed a Ph.D. in environmental science, policy and management from UC Berkeley, an M.S. in biology from Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, and a B.S. with a double major in biology and interdisciplinary studies (environmental science) from The College of William and Mary.

Wilkin is based in Yuba City and can be reached at (530) 822-7515 and kwilkin@ucanr.edu.

Oguns joins ANR as financial analyst

Tayo Oguns

Tayo Oguns has joined Resource Planning and Management Office as a financial analyst.

He serves a critical role in strategic planning for future UC ANR staffing and personnel initiatives.

Prior to joining ANR, Oguns was a financial analyst at UC Berkeley.

He earned a bachelor's degree in finance at University of Massachusetts – Amherst and an MS in business analytics at Saint Mary's College of California.

Oguns is based at UCOP and can be reached at (510) 987-9028 and Tayo.Oguns@ucop.edu.

Pete Goodell
UC IPM members win international awards

Three of the twelve awards announced for the upcoming International IPM Symposium will be given to UC Integrated Pest Management Program members.  

Peter Goodell, UC IPM advisor emeritus, and Frank Zalom, professor in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and former Statewide IPM Program director, were selected for the Lifetime Achievement Award.

The European Grapevine Moth Team was selected for an IPM Team Award for achieving the eradication of European grapevine moth only six years after its discovery in 2009. Team members helped growers in infested counties to monitor the pest and apply control measures on a timely basis. The team's research and extension efforts helped growers avoid losses to the pest every year until it was finally eradicated in 2016.

Frank Zalom
The European Grapevine Moth Team includes Lucia Varela, UC IPM advisor for the North Coast; Monica Cooper, UC Cooperative Extension viticulture advisor in Napa County; Walter Bentley, UC IPM entomologist emeritus; Larry Bettiga, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Monterey County; Kent Daane, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in UC Berkeley Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management; Rhonda Smith, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Sonoma County; Robert Van Steenwyk,  UC Cooperative Extension specialist in UC Berkeley ESPM; Joyce Strand, UC IPM academic coordinator emeritus; and Zalom.

Goodell started his IPM career in 1981 as an area IPM specialist during a time when farmers sprayed their fields based on a calendar date. Determined to reduce the use of broad-spectrum pesticides being used while still increasing yields, Goodell worked with growers, other IPM experts and organizations including the Natural Resource Conservation Service to promote the use of scouting for pests and the reliance on thresholds and degree-day models to determine when to treat.­­­

Zalom, extension entomologist at UC Davis, also has an impressive record of furthering IPM. Zalom began in 1980 as the IPM Coordinator in California. Although he was responsible for advancing IPM in the state, Zalom championed the idea of promoting IPM on a regional and even national level. For 16 years, he co-chaired the American Public Land-grant University National IPM Committee, leading to the development of the Regional IPM Centers. Zalom believes that the science and implementation of IPM will reduce the impact of pests and pest management on agriculture and the environment.

One of Zalom's most successful projects was IPM implementation in almonds. Because of his research on navel armyworm, damage from the pest fell from 8.8 percent in 1978 to less than 1.5 percent in 1990, with a 40 percent reduction in insecticides.

The winners will receive their awards and recognition at the 9th International IPM Symposium March 19-22, 2018, in Baltimore, Md. 

From left, Bob Van Steenwyk, Lucia Varela, Rhonda Smith and Frank Zalom of the European Grapevine Moth team show in 2016 accepting a UC ANR Distinguished Service Team Award.

CAL FIRE honors Quinn-Davidson

Lenya Quinn-Davidson

Lenya Quinn-Davidson, UCCE fire advisor in Humboldt County, has been selected to receive a CAL FIRE Partnership Award.

“As one of the team members helping work towards the statewide goals for using prescribed fire, your work with CAL FIRE, local cooperators and other stakeholders has created invaluable partnerships and expanded the training opportunities that many agencies were previously unable to access,” Ken Pimlott, CAL FIRE director, wrote to Quinn-Davidson. “It is important to CAL FIRE to work collaboratively with our partners to achieve our common goals. In this instance, your cooperative approach produced results which exceeded the normal expectations. I thank you for your efforts to further the mission of CAL FIRE.”

Yana Valachovic, UCCE director and forest advisor in Humboldt and Del Norte counties, said, “This is an incredible achievement for someone early in their career and it is strong evidence of her leadership skills and all around excellence!”

Quinn-Davidson will receive the award on Jan. 8 at a ceremony at the California Highway Patrol Academy in Sacramento.  

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