Safe, healthy and happy Thanksgiving
For UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE), attention to climate change goes beyond an increase in severe wildfires, droughts, floods and heat in California, and their impact on natural resources, agriculture and the state's economy.
The program focuses on the health and resilience of people in California, particularly those most vulnerable to climate change – those who can't afford air conditioning, who work outside on farms and in construction, those who are already disadvantaged by a low income, racial inequity or advanced age.
“UCCE climate change efforts must account for people and communities that face socioeconomic and political barriers to prepare for, adapt to and recover from the effects of climate change,” said Clare Gupta, UCCE public policy specialist.
UCCE advisors, educators and specialists are working in their local communities across the state to prepare residents to adapt to the warming climate and make changes that will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions to make climate change less severe. They convened Oct. 7-8 at UCCE's Elkus Ranch Environmental Education Center in San Mateo County to learn about projects currently underway to confront the crisis, share resources for adaptation, identify future research and education needs, and add their voices to a growing chorus of experts speaking out to protect the future of planet earth.
“We are at a momentous time,” said Janaki Jagannath, a law school student and climate activist who spoke at the meeting. “California is waking up to environmental justice problems and climate change.”
The plight of underprivileged California residents at the forefront of climate change impacts became crystal clear to UCCE small farms advisor Ruth Dahlquist-Willard when she was hired during the state's devastating 2011-2016 drought.
In the summer of 2014, many small-scale family farms in the San Joaquin Valley saw their wells dry up due to dropping groundwater levels. Some Hmong farmers were calling suicide hotlines, in fear of losing their crops and livelihoods. Dahlquist-Willard said these farms, with shallower wells and limited resources to cope with the effects of drought, are more vulnerable to climate change.
“I worry about the snowpack,” she said. “Every winter during the drought, I would look at the mountains and wonder if there would be more wells going dry next summer. When surface water from the snowmelt isn't there, farmers use more groundwater. And the snowpack is probably going to be less reliable due to climate change.”
To help Hmong farmers and other small-scale farms prepare for the next drought, Dahlquist-Willard and her team began helping them with applications for the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP), which provides grants to improve irrigation systems. Improvements funded by SWEEP help farmers use less water and cut back on electricity for pumping.
So far, 38 Fresno and Tulare farmers have received SWEEP grants with technical assistance from Dahlquist-Willard's program, for a total of 878 acres.
The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), which goes into effect in 2020, also imperils small-scale farmers. The new law will limit both large-scale and small-scale farmers' ability to pump groundwater, however, small-scale farmers often are not in a position to influence the agencies that will be governing groundwater use.
“There will be competition for water under SGMA,” Dahlquist-Willard said. “Whether the small farms still have access to water depends on how the rules are set up.”
SGMA poses another threat to vulnerable rural community members. Experts predict the imposition of regulations on groundwater use is likely to put 500,000 to 1 million acres of California farmland out of production, reducing jobs for farmworkers and putting a strain on businesses in the rural communities where they live and shop.
The expected shift in crops grown in California due to climate change also potentially reduces income for workers who have specialized in specific crops, said Federico Castillo, UC Berkeley agricultural ecology professor.
“They work longer hours to compensate,” Castillo said. “Their income is impacted.”
On a recent trip to Huron, a San Joaquin Valley city with highest proportion of Latino residents in the U.S., Castillo said he passed by vast solar farms that now cover formerly productive farmland.
“Solar farms are a benefit for society, but there are not local benefits. The problem is, this displaces farmworkers,” he said. “We have to think hard about economic policy. This is just one example. There are many others.”
In addition to the threat climate change poses to their employment, farmworkers are particularly susceptible to the warming temperatures the world faces. Castillo is studying the potential impact of weather extremes on people who do the planting, weeding, irrigating, pruning and harvesting that makes California's $50 billion annual agricultural output possible.
“Heat and humidity impacts ag workers negatively,” Castillo said. “It impacts the heart, liver and kidneys.”
What's more, many farmworkers don't have health insurance and don't visit medical doctors. Some, particularly those who hail from the Mexican state of Oaxaca, Castillo said, rely on home remedies, putting their health at still greater risk.
Sylvia Chi, policy director with the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, spoke about her constituency's concern about the future.
“How do we deal with labor market displacement from phasing out fossil fuels?” she asked. “We need to transition all communities.”
Transition in farming
A large part of UC Cooperative Extension research and extension targets the agricultural industry, which joins other industries in emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, resulting in our warming climate. A key part of mitigation is tied in new brands of farming that aim to address these issues: climate-smart, emergent, sustainable, regenerative and conservation farming.
A component of all these farming philosophies is soil health. Improving soil health traps more carbon underground, where it can't immediately escape into the atmosphere and contribute to increasing warming. Improving soil health has co-benefits, such as improving soil fertility, water infiltration and yield.
The CDFA Healthy Soils grant program offers financial incentives to eligible farmers for implementing soil-building practices. CDFA provided UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR), UCCE's parent organization, with $1 million to hire climate-smart educators to provide technical assistance to farmers applying for Healthy Soils and SWEEP grants to improve their irrigation systems, plant cover crops, eliminate or reduce tilling, and implement other practices. A target in their effort is helping underprivileged farmers determine eligibility and navigate the complicated application process.
UC ANR hired nine community education specialists, who are now working with farmers in Mendocino, Merced, Glenn, Yolo, Solano, Sacramento, Santa Cruz, Kern, Ventura, San Diego and Imperial counties. Their contributions to farmers in those areas go beyond the grant applications and reach farmers that can't take advantage of CDFA grant programs.
“Because this is a new program, we have the luxury of helping figure out our role,” said Britta Baskerville, the community education specialist in Mendocino County. “We're all coming up with ways to educate farmers in climate-smart practices.”
Climate change resilience
The UC ANR Infomatics and GIS Program is supporting climate change resilience by creating an online networking platform for local governments, such as city councils and boards of supervisors, to empower their communities' resiliency efforts. Called the California Resiliency Alliance, the resources include case studies, planning guides, incident maps, and weather watches, warnings and advisories, plus a platform for sharing information across public-private sectors and across industry sectors.
IGIS is also involved is gathering peer-reviewed data sets for downscale climate projections. UC Berkeley Ph.D. student Lucy Andrews is conducting interviews to identify climate needs and social vulnerability information. The information will make the state's Cal-Adapt website, the primary repository of knowledge about the California climate of the future, an even more useful tool.
“Our strategy is to make climate data accessible,” said Andy Lyons, IGIS statewide program coordinator. “People can get climate data and decision support tailored to specific audiences.”
Diversity in the UC California Naturalist program
California Naturalist's new Climate Stewards Initiative, which will provide training to extend information about climate change mitigation, resilience and adaptation, is being created with diversity, inclusion and equity woven in from the outset. Trainees will learn about psychology, sociological and cognitive sciences, in addition to the hard sciences that touch climate change – meteorology, physics, natural resource management and biology.
“The certified climate stewards will be able to communicate and work with others as to how climate change will affect them. It will be an ongoing social learning community that provides a transition from a sense of helplessness to a sense of empowerment,” said Sarah-Mae Nelson, the UC Climate Stewards Initiative academic coordinator.
Traditional CalNat certification courses are provided fully in-person and partially outdoors. Climate Stewards training will be available in a hybrid online/in-person format to increase the course's availability to a wider circle of community members.
“The flexibility will increase accessibility,” Nelson said.
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources will host the UC Almond Short Course Nov. 5-7, 2019, at the Visalia Convention Center.
UC faculty, UC Cooperative Extension specialists and farm advisors and USDA researchers will provide in-depth, comprehensive presentations of all phases of almond culture and production. An optional field tour will be offered on Nov. 8 in Parlier.
The program is based on the latest information and research and will cover the fundamental principles that form the basis for practical decisions. Each session will include Q&A, quality time with instructors and networking opportunities. The full agenda is at https://ucanr.edu/sites/almondshortcourse/2019_Agenda.
This year's short course offers an in-depth field tour at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center on Friday, Nov. 8. For an additional fee, participants can learn firsthand about topics ranging from orchard establishment and management to integrated pest management. See the tour agenda at https://ucanr.edu/sites/almondshortcourse/2019_Field_Tour.
Registration is $900, discounts are available until Oct. 21. On-site registration will be $1,000.
- Three full days of instruction with more than 35 presentations
- Binders containing presentations
- Three lunches and two receptions
- DPR (PCA) & CCA continuing education credits (pending approval)
- Option to add Field Tour for $65
For more information, visit https://ucanr.edu/sites/almondshortcourse. Register at https://ucanr.edu/survey/survey.cfm?surveynumber=27971.
Major fires are sometimes caused by utilities, but there are many other potential causes, including lightning, arson and sparks from dragging chains. All of these factors, are compounded by "lack of fuel management, poor land-use planning, and homes that aren't ready for fire and aren't resilient to fire," Quinn-Davidson said.
Power outages can complicate response and evacuation efforts should a fire break out, Quinn-Davidson said. Phone lines have been jammed during this week's outages and people have had trouble communicating with loved ones.
“If a fire starts because of other causes — which could easily happen under severe conditions — now we have no way to communicate,” she told the TIME reporter. “Seriously, like, if this power outage happened when the Carr Fire (sparked by a vehicle) happened — how would you evacuate people? That's completely possible. You could have a power outage and have a fire start from a roadside cigarette. Or arson. Or anything. And then what?”
The TIME article also quoted Jeffrey Stackhouse, UCCE livestock and natural resources advisor in Humboldt and Del Norte counties, about the sweeping power outages.
“People are freaking out around here,” he said.
Nevertheless, Stackhouse and Quinn-Davidson agree that scheduled power outages shouldn't be eliminated as a tool for preventing fires. They believe outages should be used sparingly, and in conjunction with preventative measures, such as fire-proofing homes and managing land.
“The disruption is pretty huge for something we're not sure is going to prevent a major wildfire. The actual likelihood of that event was not equal to the impact that this is having,” Quinn-Davidson said.
Read about Quinn-Davidson and Stackhouse's efforts to improve fire resilience in Humboldt County by establishing a prescribed burn association.
Esparza, second-year Masters of Public Health student, will work with UC Nutrition Policy Institute researchers on the CDFA Healthy Stores Refrigeration Grant Program Evaluation to assess the effects of neighborhood stores obtaining refrigeration units on store environments, store owner perceptions, and consumer perceptions. As an undergraduate at UC Davis, Esparza admired the GFI Fellows' work and aspired to be a part of the program for the professional and academic opportunities.
“I hope to grow as a researcher and advocate,” Esparza said. “I hope to branch the two roles – advocacy and research – in my work at NPI. This will be possible through my work in other projects, including creating public-facing materials for policymakers. I want to learn how to frame issues and research appropriately in order to target and educate folks who are in positions of political power.”
“I am deeply invested in making sure every person in the community, from child to senior citizen, has access to healthy and affordable foods and resources that improve their quality of life,” Jacobo said. “I am excited to be a GFI fellow because it will allow me to pursue what I am most passionate about, community and healthy food.”
The UC Global Food Initiative was launched by UC President Janet Napolitano in 2014 with the aim of putting UC, California and the world on a pathway to sustainability. The GFI fellows are part of a group of UC graduate and undergraduate students working on food-related projects at all 10 UC campuses, UC Office of the President, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and UC ANR. Each participant receives a $3,000 award to help fund student-generated research, projects or internships that support the initiative's efforts to address the issue of how to sustainably and nutritiously feed a world population expected to reach 8 billion by 2025.
In addition to their individual projects, GFI fellows are invited to participate in systemwide activities designed to enhance their leadership skills and enrich their understanding of the food system in California.
[This story was updated Oct. 11 to correct the spelling of Elsa Esparza's last name.]
John Bailey, director of the University of California's Hopland Research and Extension Center, has been appointed to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Advisory Committee on Beginning Farmers and Ranchers by USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue. Bailey's two-year term expires on Sept. 17, 2021.
The purpose of the Committee is to advise the USDA Secretary on strategies, policies and programs that enhance opportunities for new farmers and ranchers.
“As a member of the Committee, you will advise me on matters impacting beginning farmers and ranchers, including access to land and capital, recruitment and retention of farmers and ranchers, and more,” Perdue wrote in Bailey's appointment letter. “Your role is vital as I strive to obtain the public and industry perspectives on National and State strategies, policies, and programs impacting beginning farmers and ranchers.”
Before joining UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, Bailey was the Mendo-Lake Food Hub project manager for North Coast Opportunities, where he developed a regional food hub with an integrated training, marketing and distribution system that allowed regional specialty crop growers to dramatically increase sales of their crops.
Prior to that, Bailey worked at McEvoy of Marin for 12 years. He started in horticultural operations in McEvoy's vegetable gardens and fruit and olive orchards and worked his way up to director of operations, overseeing product development, production and distribution of their botanical-based body care brand as well as national sales and marketing for their private label soap line. He also owned and operated Middle Mountain Farm, which grew and marketed specialty crops to retail and wholesale customers. He is currently a partner in a bulk wine storage company in addition to overseeing Hopland Research and Extension Center's 5,300 acres of oak woodland, grassland, chaparral and riparian environments for research and education.
“In my various roles related to, and diverse network of professionals contacts in, agriculture, combined with my experience in multiple business enterprises, I have gained experiences and knowledge which will help me provide solid advice to the Secretary,” said Bailey. “I am honored to be appointed to this committee and will do my best to advise the Secretary on issues affecting beginning farmers and ranchers across our state, and methods that show promise for assisting them in their agricultural careers.”
The Advisory Committee on Beginning Farmers and Ranchers is made up of 20 members from organizations with demonstrated experience in training beginning farmers and ranchers, and other entities or persons providing lending or technical assistance for qualified beginning farmers and ranchers. Congress authorized the committee in 1992 and since its inception, the advisory committee has been an important part of the USDA strategy to engage, support and serve new and beginning farmers. The committee is funded by the Farm Service Agency. USDA's Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement provides oversight, which ensures fiscal accountability and program integrity.