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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

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice Program Team formed

Last month, UC ANR approved the creation of a new Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice (DEIJ) Program Team. The aim of this program team is to provide a forum for networking and cross-program/cross-disciplinary dialogue on DEIJ issues that promotes learning, collaboration, and improvement in UC ANR's capacity to engage and serve diverse (in terms of race, ethnicity, ability, gender, and sexual orientation) clientele across the state, and engage all clientele in embracing the benefits diversity brings to the state as a whole. California is a multicultural state rich with a population of diverse ancestry, and as a publicly funded institution, UC ANR has the responsibility to ensure we are effectively reaching all our California communities equitably.

“We envision that the program team will serve as a formal venue for individuals and workgroups committed to integrating DEIJ into their programmatic work to connect and learn from each others' experience,” said Clare Gupta, UCCE specialist, who is leading the effort with Sonja Brodt, Academic Coordinator for the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program. “It will also provide a means for colleagues new to this work to increase DEIJ capacity across ANR.”

“We anticipate that the DEIJ Program Team will complement rather than supplant participation in other program teams, given that the topic of DEIJ cuts across disciplines,” she said. “Beyond convening an annual meeting, we intend for this Program Team to serve as a vehicle for a number of other DEIJ engagement activities, training, and ‘network-smart extension' opportunities. The DEIJ Program Team will follow a collaborative leadership model, led by a rotating steering committee, with mutually agreed upon roles and responsibilities.”

If you would like to join the DEIJ Program Team, please contact Gupta at

Bringing DEIJ considerations to bear across the wide range of research and extension activities that take place within ANR will require a sustained, multidisciplinary, statewide effort that connects and builds on the work of those across the larger UC system who are already integrating DEIJ into their programmatic work.

The DEIJ Program Team will work together with the DEI Alliance, DEI Advisory Council, and newly formed Employment Resources Groups (ERGs) to provide a comprehensive framework for learning, collaboration, and organizational and programmatic change to improve ANR's impact in traditionally underserved communities around the state. 

Posted on Thursday, May 27, 2021 at 9:14 AM
Tags: diversity (13), May 2021 (17)

Celebrate Asian Pacific Heritage Month in May

Everyone in the UC ANR community is invited to join virtual events to learn, share, support and celebrate Asian Pacific Heritage Month every Tuesday in May from 3 to 4 p.m.

  • May 4 - The Asian Pacific Identity: Experiences and Stories
  • May 11 - Asian Pacific Farmers in California: Past and Present
  • May 18 - Violence in Asian Pacific Communities: Exclusion, Internment and Hate Crimes
  • May 25 - Supporting Our Friends and Colleagues: Bystander Intervention Training

The weekly events will begin May 4 with a discussion of who is included and what is meant by the terms Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander. Surendra Dara will describe his immigration experience and Soo-Young Chin, a cultural consultant and ethnographer from Ethnoworks will present.

On May 11, we'll hear perspectives from Asian Americans involved in agriculture, starting with a video about Koda Farms and how this Japanese-American family continues to farm since starting to grow rice in 1928. Kellee Matsushita-Tseng will talk about her work with Second Generation Seeds, representation in Extension, and the current acts of hate. UC ANR's very own Sua Vang, Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) community health specialist, will talk about her experience farming and continuing connections with Southeast Asian farmers in Fresno County. 

On May 18, we will review some history of violence and discrimination against Asians and Asian Americans in the U.S., then May Lin, postdoctoral fellow at the Interdisciplinary Research Institute for the Study of (in)Equality at the University of Denver, will encourage participants to think beyond the framing of individual hate crimes and more towards community approaches – such as the Black-Asian solidarity efforts in Oakland – to dismantle systemic violence.

On May 25, Advancing Justice Chicago, in partnership with Hollaback! and CAIR-Chicago, will give us a crash course in how to de-escalate harassment and support people who are targets of harassment and violence.

All of the sessions are scheduled for an hour, but speakers will remain online beyond 4 p.m. if needed to answer questions and allow for extended discussion. 

Register at 

The image for UC ANR's Asian Pacific Heritage Month was designed by Surendra Dara, UC Cooperative Extension entomology and biologicals advisor in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

The font and colors are representative of Asian Pacific heritage. The cherry blossoms represent spring, new life and vibrancy. The lanterns symbolize light, and light represents knowledge, wisdom and education. Lanterns representing the cultures of China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand are included. The shapes and colors of the lanterns are different, but the lanterns all serve the same purpose: to shine light. For UC ANR, the cherry branch represents our role in food production and natural resources while the lanterns represent our role in outreach.

Your APHM planning team:

Apurba Barman

Sibani Bose

Surendra Dara

Charles Go

Greg Ira

Pam Kan-Rice

Janice Kao

Dohee Kim

Vikram Koundinya

Elaine Lander

Tunyalee Martin

Yu Meng

Stephanie Parreira

Devii Rao

Marisa Tsai

Sua Vang

Laura Vollmer

Posted on Friday, April 30, 2021 at 9:22 AM
Tags: April 2021 (17), diversity (13)

Expand your diversity, equity and inclusion awareness

Image by truthseeker08 from Pixabay

Three opportunities are being offered to improve our diversity, equity and inclusion skills – an understanding unconscious bias workshop, intercultural competence program and a 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge.

Vice President Glenda Humiston encourages participating in activities such as these to support the ANR Strategic Plan 2020-2025 goal to develop a more inclusive and equitable workplace.

Understanding Unconscious Bias: Awareness, knowledge and competency development

Bias, in its most simplistic definition, is having a preference for one thing over another. Also, biases come into play in our impressions and judgment of people, especially those whose identities and experiences are different from our own.

Mikael Villalobos, associate chief diversity officer in the Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at UC Davis, and Eric Sanchez, diversity and inclusion educator at UC Davis, will lead the workshop.


  • We will explore how we make snap judgments about people by understanding how socialization informs our biases.
  • Participants will be introduced to theory and language in understanding implicit and explicit bias.
  • Using personal reflection, experiential exercises and case studies, participants will gain greater awareness when they engage in bias and gain essential knowledge and skills (tools) in how they recognize and mitigate biases in both personal and professional domains.

Who should attend:

  • Employees who work with clientele, volunteers or provide support to others in ANR.
  • Priority will be given to people who have not had previous access to this learning topic.
  • There will be a waiting list for those who are interested, but regularly engage with bias-related topics.

Each of the two-hour workshops will be tailored to job roles, but you are welcome to sign up for the session that fits your schedule. Each session will be limited to 35 participants.

Academic coordinators, UCCE advisors, UCCE specialists, community educators, UCCE field workers, REC and staff research associates and other employees who deliver programs to clientele

  • Thursday, March 3, 10 a.m.-noon
  • Wednesday, April 7, 9 a.m.-11 a.m.
  • Tuesday, June 1, 9 a.m.-11 a.m.
  • Monday, June 7, 10 a.m.-noon

Volunteer coordinators, managers and other employees who work with volunteers  

  • Thursday, March 4, 9 a.m.-11 a.m.
  • Monday, May 10, 10 a.m.-noon

Administrative and support staff who provide support to others in ANR  

  • Monday, March 15, 10 a.m.-noon
  • Thursday, May 20, 10 a.m.-noon

To register for Understanding Unconscious Bias, visit

Take the 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge

UC ANR employees are invited to participate in the Food Solutions New England 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge. The challenge timeframe is April 5-25, 2021, so sign up before March 29.

The challenge:

  • will raise your awareness, change your understanding, and potentially shift the way you behave,
  • goes beyond individual or interpersonal racism by helping to demystify structural and institutional racism and white supremacist patterns that are sometimes invisible to people, and
  • inspires you to act, on your own or with others in your organization, business or group, to dismantle these systems.

Why you should participate:

  • The 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge led by Food Solutions New England is designed to increase personal awareness and address cultural competency, implicit bias, and other relevant topics that are critical to deliver programs and to address needs of the people California.

How this works and your commitment:

  • Each morning of the Challenge, you'll receive an email "prompt" from Food Solutions New England with a short reading, video or audio file. You are encouraged to spend 10 to 15 minutes each day with the material in the prompt.
  • You are encouraged to participate in weekly discussion groups for this challenge. You can be placed in a group based on your registration responses or form your own group.  These conversations require vulnerability and a safe environment. Guidelines will be available to help your group preserve both.

To participate, please complete both online forms as outlined below before 8 a.m. Monday, March 29.

  1. Register here to participate to receive email prompts from Food Solutions New England.
  2. Complete this form to share with ANR that you will participate and to receive assistance with discussion group placement.

Increase your intercultural competence

UC ANR's Intercultural Development Inventory Qualified Administrators team invites you to participate in a professional development opportunity to increase your intercultural competence and demonstrate our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, and growth as professionals. 

An ANR-wide cohort of 10 to 12 individuals will participate in an intercultural competence professional development activity that uses the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI). 

As a member of the cohort, you will:

  •  Take the Intercultural Development Inventory, 
  •  Receive individualized coaching by an IDI Qualified Administrator, who will review your confidential results and help guide you to increase your intercultural competence, including your personalized intercultural competence plan. 
  •  This process is confidential

In addition, to support your intercultural competence professional development, you will have the opportunity to participate in several structured learning opportunities with other UC ANR professionals and video trainings. In these interactive and participatory sessions, you will engage in open dialogue and deep reflection on issues related to your work.

The commitment begins March 2021 and extends through August 2021, with an IDI Conference in February 2022. The $150 registration is paid for by ANR Learning & Development. Priority will be given to people who have no or little experience with the work of diversity, equity and inclusion. 

By participating in this intercultural competence program, you will: 

  • Increase understanding of how the development of our individual and collective intercultural competence is connected to the UC ANR mission and core values
  • Increase understanding of the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to strengthen your intercultural competence; understand how people perceive cultural similarities and differences and learn strategies to begin to bridge these differences.
  • Understand how people perceive cultural similarities and differences and learn strategies to begin to bridge these differences.

If you would like to participate in this professional development opportunity, please fill out the IDI Interest Survey by March 12, 2021.

For more information, contact the Intercultural Development Inventory Qualified Administrators Team:        

Dorina Espinosa,

Maria de la Fuente,

Russell Hill,

Car Mun Kok,

Keith Nathaniel,

Lynn Schmitt-McQuitty,

Liliana Vega,



Posted on Thursday, February 25, 2021 at 1:42 PM
  • Author: Jodi Azulai
Tags: diversity (13), February 2021 (17)

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Council appointed

VP Glenda Humiston has appointed 11 ANR people to an initial two-year term as founding members of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Advisory Council for UC Agriculture and Natural Resources. This appointment is effective retroactively from Nov. 1, 2020, through Oct. 31, 2022. 

In a Jan. 29 ANR Update, Humiston wrote:

I am convening this advisory council to support DEI efforts that UC ANR staff and academics have undertaken to improve working environments within UC ANR, as well as to improve quality of life for marginalized populations living in the state of California. Diversity is one of our core values and developing an equitable and inclusive society is one of our public values. This Council is a commitment by UC ANR leadership to take division-wide action on the existence and impact of longstanding discrimination within our Division, as well as in our efforts throughout the state.

I am asking the founding members to recommend a formal charter to document the objectives, organization and functions of the council. While the initial appointment for all founding members is two years, the intent is for members to have staggered appointments to allow for turnover and continuity. I ask that the Council work to develop the Charter and an agenda for an initial meeting with myself, AVP Powers and AVP Tran by June 30, 2021. 

Council members include

  • Elaine Lander
  • Esther Mosase
  • Fadzayi Mashiri
  • Gail Feenstra
  • Katherine Soule
  • Keith Nathaniel
  • Laura Snell
  • LeChé McGill
  • Mohammed Yagmour
  • Ricardo Vela
  • Ron Walker



Posted on Friday, January 29, 2021 at 12:09 PM
Tags: Diversity (13), Equity (2), Inclusion (1), January 2021 (22)

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