Posts Tagged: Michael Yang
With sales down dramatically at Asian markets and restaurants, crops on Southeast Asian farms have been left to wither away in the fields, reported Donald Promnitz in The Business Journal.
“I would say it's a 100% loss. I can't sell anything," said Chongyee Xiong, who used his earnings as a school groundskeeper to pay upfront expenses for his farm.
According to UC Cooperative Extension in Fresno, there were nearly 2,000 Asian farms in the San Joaquin Valley area in 2015. Roughly 70% of these were run by Hmong growers. The farmers typically produce crops they had previously cultivated in Laos — including Thai peppers, bok choy, snow peas and lemongrass. Some grow strawberries.
Farmer Chue Lee applied for loans through the federal Paycheck Protection Program, but found out he didn't have enough employees to qualify for aid. With a loss of about 70%, Lee may not be able to afford the lease for the two portions of land he has in Fresno County, which together amount to roughly 12 acres. Meanwhile, his own ability to access customers has been made more difficult by his wife's heart condition — which would make a Covid-19 infection devastating for her, the article said.
“Everything that we make, all that we're saving now is just like already out there and there's no help for us at all,” Lee said. “We tried to apply for all the releases, but there's nothing that fits into our category.”
UCCE ag assistant Michael Yang said there are also issues with technical literacy for the farmers. And without training with a computer, accessing aid online becomes nearly impossible. It increases the odds of losing everything.
“It's pretty tough when you come to a country where you have to relearn everything and the first thing you know is just farming,” Yang said. “And just bringing the clothes on your back is pretty much what you have.”
ASEV's Invasive Pest Webinar Series Starts June 3
(Wine Business) May 30
… The invasive pest webinar series will include:
June 3: Impact of the New Invasive Pest, Spotted Lanternfly, in the Northeastern Vineyards by Heather Leach (The Pennsylvania State University, University Park) at noon – 1:00 p.m. (PDT)
July 2: Fruit Flies and Their Role in Causing Sour Rot by Megan Hall (University of Missouri, Columbia) at noon –1:00 p.m. (PDT)
October 22: Lifecycle Modeling and the Impacts of Climate Change by Gwen-Alyn Hoheisel (Washington State University, Prosser) at noon – 1 p.m. (PDT)
November 12: Invasive Species Response: Lessons from the European Grapevine Moth Collaboration Program by Monica Cooper (University of California, Cooperative Extension, Napa County) at noon – 1 p.m. (PDT)
UC Davis sponsoring COVID-19 symposium
(Woodland Daily Democrat) May 30
… Statewide Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño, based in the UCD Department of Entomology and Nematology, is scheduled to share her expertise on bee venom, one of the possible COVID-19 treatments suggested by researchers but not yet investigated.
… Among those asking questions will be Jennifer Cash, the newest faculty member of the UCD College of Biological Sciences; Fred Gould, a National Academy of Sciences member; UC Cooperative Extension adviser Surendra Dara; and University of Brasilia graduate student Raquel Silva.
Gardens Have Pulled America Out of Some of Its Darkest Times. We Need Another Revival.
(Mother Jones) Tom Philpott, May 29
The first great national gardening mobilization came two decades later, scholar Rose Hayden-Smith writes in her 2014 book Sowing the Seeds of Victory: American Gardening Programs of World War 1. Building on a Progressive Era push to install gardens in public school yards as an educational tool, President Woodrow Wilson tapped the Bureau of Education, with funding from the War Department, to launch the US School Garden Army shortly after sending troops to intervene in the European conflict. “A Garden for Every Child,” its slogan promised. “Every Child in a Garden.”
The School Garden Army was just one of several national programs that “encouraged Americans to express their patriotism by producing and conserving food,” Hayden-Smith adds. Wilson also promoted a civic gardening boom through the Committee on Public Information, which hired writers, artists, scholars, and advertising professionals to create marketing campaigns to promote school, home, and community gardening.
More scientists joining UC Cooperative Extension
(Daily Democrat) Jim Smith, May 29
Four staff research associates will join the ranks of UC Cooperative Extension scientists in the coming months to support nut crop advisors conducting critical research in walnut, almond and pistachio production.
The California Walnut Board, the Almond Board of California and the California Pistachio Research Board together have provided about $425,000 to cover annual salaries, benefits, travel and equipment for the new UC Cooperative Extension staff. Under the terms of the agreement, the new positions will be funded annually for up to three years, pending available funds and success of the program.
Tree Nut Industry Provides Funding for more UCCE Researchers
(Ag Net West) May 29
The California tree nut industry is helping to provide funding for four new research associates who will become part of the UC Cooperative Extension system. The addition of the new personnel is being made possible by the California Walnut Board, the Almond Board of California, and the California Pistachio Research Board who have contributed a total of $425,000 in funding support. Collaborations like this are one of the many ways that the UC system is able to support important agricultural research through alternative funding methods.
Modoc County continues to see zero coronavirus cases
(Action NewsNow) Ana Marie Torrea, May 28, 2020
…Next month, the Modoc Junior Livestock Auction is planned for June 8 to June 12. Action News Now reached out to the U.C. Cooperative Extension which oversees the auction. A representative tells Action News Now that they've already made significant changes to the event.
The event's Facebook page says it is working to follow state guidelines by increasing seating and sanitation.
Gardens Have Pulled America Out of Some of Its Darkest Times. We Need Another Revival.
(Mother Jones) Tom Philpott, May 29
…The first great national gardening mobilization came two decades later, scholar Rose Hayden-Smith writes in her 2014 book Sowing the Seeds of Victory: American Gardening Programs of World War 1. Building on a Progressive Era push to install gardens in public school yards as an educational tool, President Woodrow Wilson tapped the Bureau of Education, with funding from the War Department, to launch the US School Garden Army shortly after sending troops to intervene in the European conflict. “A Garden for Every Child,” its slogan promised. “Every Child in a Garden.”
Women Taking the Reins at Marin's Family Farms
(Marin Magazine) Christina Mueller, May 27
…The two sisters, who grew up on the family ranch but no longer live there (Melissa lives in Novato, Jessica lives in Bend, Oregon), were looking to re-establish their connection to the family's West Marin land. After attending a University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) and MALT agricultural summit 15 years ago that focused on helping the next generation of Marin ranchers figure out how to sustain small family farms, the sisters started researching, digging into their family history to learn what Angelo and subsequent generations of Poncias produced. Cattle, dairy and potatoes kept appearing at the top of the list. With the help of the Tomales Regional History Center, they found an old Petaluma Argus Courier newspaper advertisement where their grandfather posted about the potato varietals he was working with. One of those varietals was known as the Bodega Red.
San Joaquin County cherries withstand ‘spotty' rain losses
(Ag Alert) Kevin Hecteman, May 27
… Rain gauges around the area showed 0.19 to 0.52 inch fell during this year's May storms, according to Mohamed Nouri, a University of California Cooperative Extension orchard advisor in San Joaquin County, with cherries in the Escalon area being among the most affected
… Temperature plays an important role in the rate of cherry fruit cracking, Nouri said; more water is taken up when the temperature is warm following rain, causing the cherry to expand and split.
Table grape industry promotes viticulture research
(Farm Press) Lee Allen, May 27
…Another of the presented research subjects involved remote sensing for nutrient content detection. Ali Pourreza of the University of California Cooperative Extension was one of the presenters.
“Future agricultural and food production systems must make better use of limited resources to ensure farmers can economically produce more high-quality food while minimizing impact on the environment,” Pourreza said. “An effective nitrogen (N) management plan involves monitoring vine N status, currently accomplished by collecting plant tissue samples for lab analysis.
Houston Wilson Named Presidential Director for the Clif Bar Endowed Organic Agriculture Institute
(Cal Ag Today) May 27
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.
(Move Your DNA) Katy Bowman, May 26
… First up, I am talking to Dr. Rose Hayden-Smith. She is an author, educator, and advocate for a sustainable food system. She is University of California emeritus. Dr. Hayden-Smith leverages the power of social technologies in her research as a historian, to tell stories, share information, start conversations, and engage with a wide range of people interested in the food system. She believes in the power of gardens to transform the world. And I first interviewed Rose in 2018 and I'll be sharing parts of that interview, where we discuss gardening, how to get started, the history of Victory Gardens, as well as garden movement tips. But I wanted first to get Rose's take on our current situation, and what she thinks about how things are changing.
California Nut Industry Funds 4 New Extension Researchers
(Growing Produce) David Eddy, May 26
Four staff research associates will join the ranks of University of California Cooperative Extension scientists in the coming months to support nut crop advisors conducting critical research in walnut, almond, and pistachio production.
Specialty grant to examine impact of integrating animals in crop rotations
(Farm Forum) May 24
…“Fresh produce growers and their advisors will benefit from learning about the impacts of integrating livestock grazing with winter cover crop management on soil health including soil organic matter, nutrient cycling and reduced nitrate leaching, and potential food safety risks discovered in this project to make decisions on adoption, management, and environmental benefits of WCC in annual vegetable systems,” said Alda Pires, University of California Cooperative Extension specialist and lead principle investigator in the study.
ABC30 salutes Michael Yang on Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
(ABC30) Aurora Ortiz Diaz, May 22
ABC30 salutes Michael Yang on Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
Yang is a former Hmong refugee who came to the United States when he was ten years old. He has worked for UC Cooperative Extension's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources for 26 years.
Yang says, "I'm a certified pesticide safety trainer, I speak Hmong, Lao, and English." Yang connects with local Southeast Asian farmers when he visits their farms in the central valley. "Fresno is a nice place to grow everything. We're the number one ag county in the nation."
Project explores livestock grazing impacts on organic crops
(Feedstuffs) May 22
…“Fresh produce growers and their advisors will benefit from learning about the impacts of integrating livestock grazing with winter cover crop management on soil health, including soil organic matter, nutrient cycling and reduced nitrate leaching and potential food safety risks discovered in this project to make decisions on adoption, management and environmental benefits of winter cover crop management in annual vegetable systems,” said Alda Pires, University of California Cooperative Extension specialist in the University of California-Davis (UC-Davis) School of Veterinary Medicine and principle investigator in the study.
Leafy Green Growers Will Survive COVID-19
(Growing Produce) Carol Miller & Frank Giles, May 20, 2020
…“The lag in adjusting to the situation is mostly a two-month window for a crop like lettuce,” says Richard Smith. Smith is a University of California Vegetable Crop and Weed Science Farm Advisor at the Cooperative Extension in Monterey, Santa Cruz, and San Benito counties.
…“Companies varied in their level of exposure to this market that just collapsed,” Smith says. “Some were more exposed than others. Given other issues with the food distribution system, in general, some growers think that they may be 30% overplanted.”
The Underlying Importance of Improving Broadband Expansion
(AgNet West) Brian German, May 20
The University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) continues efforts to assist rural Californians in gaining access to high speed internet. UC ANR has spearheaded multiple initiatives that have driven development in underserved areas of California to provide better coverage in rural communities. Vice President of UC ANR, Glenda Humiston noted the importance of providing broadband internet to rural, agricultural communities will become even more critical moving forward.
Hard-fought industry wins 'evaporating' under new budget reality
(Agri-Pulse) Brad Hooker, May 20
… Roschen was also disappointed by a 10% cut to the current budget for the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Division.
(Brooklyn Reader) Erin DiCaprio, May 19
Wear a mask, but skip the gloves. Don't sanitize the apples. And if you are older than 65, it's probably best to still order your groceries online.
As a food virologist, I hear a lot of questions from people about the coronavirus risks in grocery stores and how to stay safe while shopping for food amid the pandemic. Here are answers to some of the common questions.
The Conversation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TICHjPLwcIY https://theconversation.com/heres-how-to-stay-safe-while-buying-groceries-amid-the-coronavirus-pandemic-138683
New bioinsecticide promises help with tree nut pests
(Farm Press) Tim Hearden, May 19
….“Based on what I hear from some growers and the biopesticide industry data, there has been a steady increase in biopesticide use,” said Surendra Dara, a University of California Cooperative Extension entomologist.
These 5 foods show how coronavirus has disrupted supply chains
(Nat Geo) Sarah Gibbens, May 19
… “What we have is a low-cost and efficient system that allows for huge variety and attention to individual tastes,” says Daniel Sumner, an economist at the University of California, Davis.
“A dairy farm has milk coming out of the cow into a tank. That milk must be pasteurized and packaged, meeting lots of food safety standards,” says Sumner.
Individual farms generally can't afford the equipment necessary to process milk on site without raising prices significantly. “Nowhere is a dairy farm suited to send milk directly to a store,” Sumner says.
Central Valley residents from Visalia to Sacramento look forward every year to the beginning of strawberry season in early April, when roadside strawberry stands operated by Hmong and Mien farmers open to the public.
These farms grow strawberry varieties such as Chandler and Camarosa that haven't traded flavor for shelf life – they don't ship or store well, but they are far sweeter than varieties usually sold in stores, and they reach their peak ripeness and flavor in the fields next to the strawberry stands.
As strawberry season opens this year, farmers are hoping that customers will still stop by the stands to pick up their fresh, seasonal strawberries, and also that they will observe 6-foot social distancing and other guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19. UC Cooperative Extension agricultural assistant Michael Yang and I were interviewed on a local news station to encourage Fresno residents to practice these guidelines while supporting local farmers.
To assist Fresno strawberry farmers, the UCCE small farms team in Fresno County developed, printed, and distributed signs for roadside strawberry stands reminding customers to observe social distancing and other safety practices, as well as guidelines for farm stands to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Versions of the signs were also developed for strawberry stands in Merced and Sacramento, as well as a general sign for local produce at any farm stand.
Signs and safety guidelines were printed with funding from the Western Extension Risk Management Education Center, and Michael Yang distributed large printed versions of the signs to all strawberry stands on the Fresno County Fruit Trail map in Fresno County. These materials have also been shared with UCCE small farms and food systems advisors as well as nonprofit and agency partners and county Agricultural Commissioner's offices, and they are available for printing on the UCCE Fresno strawberry website.
Road side stands selling fresh strawberries and vegetables are opening up around the San Joaquin Valley, and are a excellent option for safe shopping, reported Dale Yurong on ABC 30 News in Fresno.
In keeping with social distancing guidelines, Yurong conducted remote interviews with UC Cooperative Extension advisor Ruth Dahlquist-Willard and agricultural assistant Michael Yang, who work closely with small-scale farmers in Fresno and Tulare counties.
Dahlquist-Willard suggested customers maintain a six-foot space from other shoppers at farm stands and follow other common sense precautions when purchasing the healthful fresh food by, "not touching any produce that you're not planning to buy, leaving as soon as you've made a purchase and washing the produce when you get home . . . . Similar to what we're seeing at farmers markets right now."
Some valley farmers have been selling their produce at farmers markets out of town and have noticed fewer people are out shopping, Yurong said. They hope more people will stop by the local farm stands, away from the crowded grocery stores, and pick up something straight out of the field.
"My farmers that go to farmers markets, even though the farmers market is still open, they only allow a few people at a time. You don't have a lot of customers walk by just like before," Yang said.
San Joaquin Valley strawberry stands were all expected to be open by April 10, Yurong said.
This is the third in a series featuring a few scientists whose work exemplifies UC ANR's public value for California.
Keeping current on government regulations, agricultural marketing news and crop research advances can be challenging for California farmers, especially for those who speak English as a second language.
Hmong farmers in the San Joaquin Valley can tune in at 2 p.m. on Tuesday afternoons to listen to farm-related news delivered to their radios in their native language from Michael Yang, UC Cooperative Extension small farms and specialty crops agricultural assistant for Fresno County.
For the past 22 years, Yang has hosted the one-hour Hmong Agriculture Radio Show on KBIF 900 AM in Fresno to promote prosperity in the largely immigrant, small-scale Southeast Asian farming community. Yang provides advice on crop production and marketing.
“Fresno County has a large number of small and diversified farms; we have over 1,300 Southeast Asian farms and over 900 are Hmong farmers, according to a survey we did in 2007,” Yang said. “I used to help 250 to 300 farmers every year, in the past couple of years it's grown to about 400 farmers.”
Yang not only speaks their language, he shares their culture and history. After his father was killed for assisting the U.S. during the Vietnam War, Yang, his mother and three younger brothers spent 4 years of his childhood fleeing on foot through the jungles of Laos, subsisting on vegetation and wildlife, to reach safety in Thailand. The refugee family eventually made it to Fresno, where they took up farming.
The Hmong farmers grow Asian specialty crops including eggplant, lemongrass, long bean, squashes, bittermelon and moringa that they sell at farmers markets or to restaurants. Connecting Southeast Asian farmers to sell their produce at farmers markets has been a vital role for Yang, who serves as a translator and cultural interpreter between the immigrant farmers and farmers market managers. He explains the requirements for participating in the farmers markets and helps the farmers with paperwork and communication. Some growers drive as far as San Diego to get a higher price for their produce; the price can be three times as high at farmers markets in larger cities compared to Fresno.
Sales of Asian specialty crops grown by Hmong and other Southeast Asian farmers in Fresno County are valued at about $17.5 million annually, according to the Agricultural Commissioner of Fresno County.
Although Yang and colleague Ruth Dahlquist-Willard, UC Cooperative Extension small farms advisor, offer workshops and field days to share information, the radio show is an important information source because farmers can listen to the show while they work in the field. Because Hmong Agriculture Radio Show is such a critical tool for bilingual outreach, Dahlquist-Willard continually seeks grants to pay the $75 per show to the radio station. Of the 69 Hmong farmers who responded to a 2015 UC Cooperative Extension survey, 80% said they regularly listened to Yang's radio show.
“With the help of our Hmong Agricultural radio outreach, I have Hmong farmers calling our office for assistance from Tulare County up to Stanislaus County,” Yang said.
In 2015, during the drought, Yang and Dahlquist-Willard began helping desperate farmers who were running out of irrigation water.
“Wells were starting to dry up. Some Hmong farmers were reportedly calling suicide hotlines,” Dahlquist-Willard recalled. “For the ones with dry wells, it could cost $20,000 to $50,000 to drill a new well.” That is money that most of the farmers, who typically cultivate less than 50 acres, didn't have.
Eighty-seven percent of the Hmong farmers said their utility bills had risen during the drought. Yang, Dahlquist-Willard and Xai Chang, a young Hmong farmer working with UCCE, helped the farmers get a free PG&E rate analysis, which could help the farmers choose the best electric rate for their irrigation practices to lower the expense. The UCCE team also searched for financing to deepen wells for farmers who had difficulty qualifying for USDA loans and helped them apply for grants from the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program. With additional help from small farms assistant Jacob Roberson, the UCCE small farms team in Fresno has assisted 36 small-scale Hmong, Latino, and African-American farmers to implement SWEEP projects on a total of 846 acres. The small-scale growers have used SWEEP dollars to invest in technologies like energy efficient pumps, drip irrigation systems and flow meters to save water and reduce their energy costs.
“Michael helped me get a grant to buy a new pump for drip irrigation,” said Xiong Pao Her, who grows about 100 crops throughout the year – including ginger, broccoli rabe, fennel, garlic, green onions, napa cabbage and kale – in Sanger. “It saves me water.”
Obtaining land to farm can be difficult for small-scale farmers so the UCCE agricultural assistant connects farmers looking to rent land with landowners, and serves as a bridge for the language and cultural gaps between the two, according to Dahlquist-Willard.
“There was an elderly couple and their daughter wanting to rent land to a Hmong family, and Michael sat down at the table with all the parties and helped them work out a lease agreement, such as requirements for liability insurance,” she said. “Land isn't as available to rent as it used to be, but when it was, Michael would get frequent calls from landowners asking if he knew any farmers who would be interested in renting their land. The number of Southeast Asian farmers who have had a successful lease agreement or a successful farmers market stand because of Michael's help is probably very large.”
Recently Yang and Dahlquist-Willard partnered with California State University Fresno to produce a pesticide-safety video series for the California Department of Pesticide Regulation. “We hope the videos help more farmers understand pesticide regulations and avoid fines, as well as improve their safe handling, selection and effectiveness,” said Yang.
It's not the first time Yang, who has been working for UC Cooperative Extension since 1993, has helped farmers navigate government regulations. Between 2005 and 2008, individual Hmong and Hispanic farmers were being fined between $14,000 and $26,000 for noncompliance with state labor regulations. To provide farmers with a clear understanding of the labor laws, Yang and Richard Molinar, then UCCE small farm advisor, partnered with a variety of community organizations to present information to farmers in English, Spanish, Lao and Hmong at community meetings, on the radio and television, and in trade magazines and newspapers.
“Without the support provided by the UCCE, hundreds, if not thousands, of Hmong farmers would have been added to the victim list for not knowing or understanding the laws. The UCCE has gone many extra miles to fill gaps between enforcement agencies and the Hmong farming community,” Toulu Thao, a Hmong activist, said at the time.
To help farmers decide which crops are most profitable to plant, Yang collaborated in the past with UC colleagues to estimate production costs for some Asian vegetables including sinqua, moqua, opo, longbean, bittermelon, oriental eggplant and lemongrass.
Yang currently advises Hmong growers on about 200 crops and continues to learn about new ones as farmers market customers ask the growers to produce fruits and vegetables from other cultures.