CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ACCEPTING PROPOSALS FOR 2023 SPECIALTY CROP MULTI-STATE PROGRAM

Courtesy of the CDFA

2023 SPECIALTY CROP MULTI-STATE PROGRAM
This is a federal grant program offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service. The purpose of the program is to competitively award funds to projects that enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops by funding collaborative, multi-state projects that address regional or national level specialty crop issues, including food safety, plant pests and disease, research, crop-specific projects addressing common issues, and marketing and promotion.

Specialty crops include fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops (including floriculture). All prospective applicants are encouraged to review the 2023 Request for Applications: https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/2023_SCMP_RFA.pdf

Additional information about the grant program , including application instructions and templates are available on the CDFA website: http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/Specialty_Crop_Competitiveness_Grants/SCMP.html

Grant awards will range from $250,000 to $1 million per project and projects may last for up to three years. Specialty crop producer associations and groups, other state agencies, Tribal government entities, universities, non-profits, and other stakeholder groups and organizations are eligible to apply.

All proposals must include at least two partners (referred to as “multi-state partners”) with substantive involvement in the project, and the multi-state partners must be located in two different states to qualify for the program.

The deadline to submit proposals is 1:59 p.m. PT on December 22, 2023. Proposals must be submitted electronically to grants@cdfa.ca.gov.

CDFA will conduct a webinar on Wednesday, October 25, 2023, at 10:00 am PDT featuring an overview of the proposal application. There is no cost to attend; however, space is limited and CDFA requests that attendees register in advance.

Webinar registration link: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/3443709335194813016

All questions regarding the Specialty Crop Multi-State Program should be emailed to grants@cdfa.ca.gov. Please include “SCMP” in the subject line.

2023-09-28T13:23:00-07:00September 28th, 2023|

Walnuts Carry a Great Health Punch

By Patrick Cavanaugh, with the Ag Information Network

Eating a hand of walnuts a day, well, it’s easy, helps your heart and vascular system stay in great shape. Pam Graviet is a Senior Marketing Director International for the California Walnut Commission. She talks about that Power of 3.

Absolutely, I actually had walnuts with breakfast this morning. It’s one of those things that’s my go-to when I want that special crunch in the Omega-3s,” said Graviet. “And for the fourth year in a row, we’re doing our Power of 3 global marketing campaign. It’s getting consumers to understand the value of omega-3 and that walnuts are the only tree nut that contain a significant amount of Omega-3 that their bodies need, but they can’t produce.”

And many people think you have to eat seafood for omega-3. But walnuts are plant-based.

“Absolutely, they’re plant-based. And there’s not a lot of plant-based sources. And with other plant-based sources, you’d have to eat a whole lot, but with walnuts you only have to eat a handful a day, so it’s a really easy way to get that in your daily diet. Omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid is the correct form for your body

 

Patrick Cavanaugh

520-395-0327

 

2023-09-27T16:32:55-07:00September 27th, 2023|

UC Cooperative Extension & Hansen Agriculture Research & Extension Center

Avocado Irrigation Workshop

Join UCCE advisors Ben Faber and Ali Montazar for this comprehensive workshop on July 18 from 1 to 4 p.m. at the United Water Conservation District in Oxnard. Topics will include drought and heats effects on avocado, strategies in managing salinity, and tools and information for effective irrigation management. Use this link for more information and to register: Avocado Irrigation Workshop.

 

Rodale Institue California Organic Center Annual Field Day 

This event takes place on Tuesday, July 11 for 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is ideal for farmers, researchers, students, educators, and anyone interested in learning about the science behind organic agriculture. For a $25 fee, participants will tour fields, see equipment demonstrations, learn about healthy soils and specialty crop projects, and enjoy an organic lunch with vegetarian and omnivore options. Registration is required: California Organic Center Field Day

 

Prescribed Fire, Cultural Burning get Liability Support to Reduce Wildlife Risks in California                                                    

California is providing $20 million in new protections for prescribed fire and cultural burning practitioners. The bill, Prescribed Fire Liability Claims Fund Pilot, will cover losses from the rare occurrence of prescribed or cultural burns escaping control. Read more about the Pilot Prescribed Fire Claims Fund here: Prescribed Burn Fund.

 

Possible Tide of False Chinch Bugs Ahead

UCCE Ventura Advisor Ben Faber passes along a note from UCCE Kern County Entomology Advisor David Haviland that the hills are drying up and the toxin-injecting False Chinch Bugs could be descending meaning trouble for orchards and row crops. Get the scoop of these insects by reading Ben’s blog: False Chinch Bugs Coming? – Topics in Subtropics.

 

Planting Day in Camarillo Creates New Home for Pollinators

Come ready to work and help create a vital monarch and pollinator habitat in Arneill Park in Camarillo. On Saturday, July 22 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. volunteers will be planting California native pollinator resources and connecting irrigation. It’s going to be a fun, productive day in the sun. Use this link to for more information and to sign up: Planting Day 2023.

 

Pollination Investigation – The Essential Role of Pollinators in the Natural World

Nearly 90% of flowering plants rely on about 200,000 species of animal pollinators for fertilization. Explore the essential role that pollinators play in the natural world in the Smithsonian poster exhibition Pollination Investigation on display now at the Museum of Ventura County Agriculture Museum, 926 Railroad Avenue, Santa Paula. For more information visit: Museum of Ventura County.

 

USDA’s Chief Scientist to be Keynote Speaker at International Annual Meeting

Hosted by the American Society of Agronomy, the Crop Science Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America, plan to attend the 2023 International Annual Meeting to inspire change in agronomy, crop, and soil sciences to impact scientific advancement. The meeting takes place from October 29 – November 1 in St. Louis, Missouri and offers limited virtual attendance. Dr. Jacobs-Young from the USDA will be the keynote speaker. For more information and to register go to: ACS International Annual Meeting.

 

UC Davis Team Wins Top Prize in Farm Robotics Challenge 2023

Team Amiggie from UC Davis designed a robot to assist human pickers and streamline harvest operations. The robot monitors risky postures, carries harvested crops, and streamlines the unloading process for increased efficiency. UC Davis continues to be the home of innovative agricultural research. To read about all competitors, go to: UC ANR News.

2023-07-06T13:45:01-07:00July 6th, 2023|

Fresno State Helps Lead USDA Efforts to Strengthen California Food Industry

By Geoff Thurner, Fresno State Jordan College

Fresno State’s Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology will receive $2.2 million from the United States Department of Agriculture to take on a leadership role in the new Southwest USDA Regional Food Business Center that will help small- and medium-sized farmers and food producers integrate with larger, regional food supply chains.

 

The regional center is part of a $35 million cooperative agreement led by the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources that will offer added assistance in California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and Colonias communities with inadequate infrastructure along the rural, U.S.-Mexican border. The Jordan College joins 16 organizations and 38 collaborators from four states, coming together to enhance and expand business support services to food and farm businesses.

 

“Food security is national security,” said Dr. Rolston St. Hilaire, dean of the Jordan College. “I am pleased that, through our team’s participation in the Southwest Regional Food Business Center, we will be able to address regional food insecurity challenges and provide insights on the economic viability of food and farm businesses across the supply chain.”

 

The Department of Agricultural Business at Fresno State will work to expand connections with underrepresented minority growers, service providers and businesses to leverage resources and expand opportunities for growth and economic stability. Dr. Srinivasa Konduru, chair of the department, said faculty will share their expertise to help food producers and other food businesses improve their business plans, especially to optimize strategies for supply chain integration. 

 

The Department of Industrial Technology at Fresno State will help small and medium food businesses leverage technology to improve efficiencies, develop new products and packaging, increase traceability and ensure customer satisfaction. 

 

“All of these areas are vital for today’s regional and global supply chains and Central Valley economy,” said Dr. Arun Nambiar, chair of the Department of Industrial Technology. “It is imperative to provide them with every possible assistance to ensure that they can thrive in today’s world of stiff competition. We will consult with them to help them select, implement and use appropriate technology so that they can access wider markets.”

 

Dr. Erin Stafford Dormendy, chair of the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at Fresno State, will share her expertise in making the food supply chain as safe as possible by controlling food-borne pathogens and improving food contact safety. She will work with small- and mid-sized food businesses on best practices for food safety, quality control and sustainability that businesses can follow to meet the regulatory requirements of larger buyers. She will help train a team of graduate students and a team of undergraduate students to become the next generation of leaders in the food processing industry.

 

The Southwest USDA Regional Food Business Center will add expertise from the university’s Water, Energy, and Technology (WET) Center, which provides vital resources and support to local food entrepreneurs, farmers and innovators, driving economic growth and sustainability in the region

 

I am thrilled the award will support our food accelerator program that can contribute to the transformation of the food system of California’s Central Valley,” said Helle Peterson, director of the WET Center. “We will empower the next generation of food leaders to bring food products and innovations to communities throughout California and beyond.” 

 

Finally, the Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship will provide a team of two MBA students per semester to consult on in-depth projects that will focus on opportunity assessment, feasibility assessment, business planning, marketing strategies and HR issues tailored to the food producers’ needs. 

 

The Southwest USDA Regional Food Center is one of 12 centers recently unveiled by the USDA as part of a $420 million initiative to help the economy avoid an overreliance on national-scale businesses across the nation. Encouraging smaller, regional food suppliers could help to alleviate food distribution vulnerabilities that were exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic, when certain companies shut down temporarily.

 

“From the second I spotted this opportunity, I knew the Jordan College could be a leader for California,” said Gil Harootunian, executive director of University Initiatives and the Office of the Provost. “The Jordan College houses the experts who can be the backbone of this work to create more resilient, diverse and connected food supply chains.”

2023-05-12T11:56:40-07:00May 12th, 2023|

USDA Forecasts Smaller Almond Crop

By Rick Kushman, Almond Board of California

The 2023 California Almond Subjective Forecast published Friday by the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (USDA-NASS) estimates that the crop harvested in 2023 will come in at 2.50 billion pounds, 3 percent below last year’s 2.57 billion pounds.

Forecasted yield is 1,810 pounds per acre, down 90 pounds from 2022 and the lowest since 2005.

“A lower crop estimate was not unexpected considering all that growers dealt with last year and during this year’s bloom,” said Richard Waycott, president and CEO of the Almond Board of California (ABC). “The cold, wet weather kept bees in their hives and reduced the hours they could pollinate orchards. In the past three years, growers have faced high costs, shipping issues, drought and more. But the water picture is better, at least for this year, shipping continues at record levels and global demand continues to grow. California’s almond farmers are prepared to meet that global demand.”

The report said: “Record rainfall and unprecedented stormy conditions impacted pollination. Limited bee flight hours were reported in all growing regions. There were reports of downed trees due to high winds and oversaturated soil. Yields are expected to be the lowest in years, with variation observed across varieties and orchard locations. Colder than normal temperatures continued through March and April, resulting in a delayed crop.”

The Subjective Forecast is the first of two production reports from USDA-NASS for the coming crop year. It is an estimate based on opinions from a survey conducted from April 19 to May 6 of 500 randomly selected California almond growers. The sample of growers, which changes every year, is spread across regions and different sized operations, and they had the option to report their data by mail, online or phone.

On July 7, USDA-NASS will release its second production estimate, the 2023 California Almond Objective Report, which is based on actual almond counts in nearly 1,000 orchards using a more statistically rigorous methodology to determine yield.

This Subjective Forecast comes two weeks after USDA-NASS released the 2022 California Almond Acreage Report which found total almond acreage had dropped in 2022 to 1.63 million, 1.2 percent down from 1.65 million in 2021. It also estimated 1.38 million bearing acres in 2023, up from 2022’s estimate of 1.35 million bearing acres.

USDA-NASS conducts the annual Subjective Forecast, Objective Report and Acreage Report to provide the California almond industry with the data needed to make informed business decisions. These reports are the official industry crop estimates.

2023-05-12T11:46:14-07:00May 12th, 2023|

Louder Voices, Bigger Investments Needed for California Water Security, Local Experts Say

By Alex Tavlian, San Joaquin Valley Sun

The California Water Alliance’s water forum tackled how best to fight for a stable, plentiful water supply for America’s breadbasket.

As the San Joaquin Valley yo-yos from drought to flooding, the region’s top water experts spent Thursday afternoon examining how to best approach the Valley’s long and short-term needs.

The viewpoints came amid the California Water Alliance’s third-annual water forum featuring the leaders of Friant Water Authority, Westlands Water District, farmer Cannon Michael, and Rep. John Duarte (R–Modesto).

Duarte hones in on twin crises: With the expected ‘Big Melt’ likely to increase flooding likelihoods across the San Joaquin Valley over the spring and summer, Duarte opened the forum by noting that he pressed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expedite permitting for channel flow improvements by water agencies.

  • “I would encourage anyone who can to move ambitiously on this opportunity. There may be some Federal grants available, but the diesel is going to be cheaper than the biologists later,” Duarte said. “So get busy.”
  • The freshman Republican congressman stressed that bringing California’s water security conversation to its urban hubs in the Bay Area, and particularly Southern California, should center around its ability to relieve housing affordability through the creation of new, available 50-year water supplies.
  • He added that the dream list of water projects – from proposed new dams to raising pre-existing reservoirs – would run the state roughly $12 billion.
  • “I’m in favor of the Federal government and the state government paying for it. California had $31 billion in unemployment fraud during COVID. California’s paying $120 billion for a bullet train nobody’s going to ride. It’s currently flooded, it’s a bullet boat. [Gov. Gavin Newsom’s] gonna go from Woke Moses to Woke Noah this summer,” Duarte said.
  • “The money’s there. There’s a definite sentiment in at least part of Congress, and I think it’s spreading. I think there’s a lot of urban legislators that are Democrats that are starting to wake up and find out that our water scarcity in California is really hurting working families up and down the state. Without water abundance we will never have affordable housing for working families in California again.”

Reality check needed: Michael, a member of a litany of water organizations and chairman of the San Luis-Delta Mendota Water Authority, pressed for an all-of-the-above approach to the state’s water fluctuations, acknowledging the need for groundwater recharge while boosting above ground water storage.

  • “It makes me nervous a little bit that some of the NGO community is highlighting groundwater recharge as strongly as they are. Not that I don’t think it’s valuable. But in some ways, it’s kind of a head fake. It’s this shiny object that’s going to solve these problems. It’s going to solve some problems, but [the Water Blueprint for the San Joaquin Valley] has done a great job of pointing out the deficit in the Valley of water and the only way out of that is from above ground storage.
  • Michael singled out Shasta Dam as the poster child for the tug of war.
  • “There’s this opposition to raising Shasta, which is just insane. It was designed to be bigger and it’s a key component of our system. That reservoir has essentially been hijacked,” Michael said. “That reservoir will never be drawn down below 1 million acre-feet any more. We saw that last year when the Settlement contractors, who were supposed to get 75 or 100 percent of their supply got 18 percent At the same time, there was 1 million acre-feet more of water in Shasta than in 1977.”

Embracing recharge: Freshly-minted Westlands Water District executive director Allison Febbo noted that the nation’s largest agricultural water district is focused on tackling water scarcity by leaning into efficiencies while rapidly embracing in groundwater recharge, a top priority of the district.

  • “What we need to do is be able to recharge and really squirrel away the water when we have this abundance of water that we’re seeing right now we need to be able to take that and save it for the future,” Febbo said.
  • “Westlands has gone from zero recharge to right now over 1600 acre feet a day of recharge, and we’re hoping to get to over 65,000 acre feet of recharge in the next month or two, possibly more.”
  • Febbo added that a collaborative approach was the route to strengthen water security in the Valley.
  • “This isn’t something that can be done by just one water district or one water agency or even one region, this is really a statewide solution where we need to be collaborating with each other, partnering with each other, and moving away from this ‘If I win, you lose’ or ‘If you win, I lose’ mentality,” she said. “We need to be collaborating together and finding multifaceted solutions for these problems.”

A call-to-action: Jason Phillips, the chief of the Friant Water Authority, laid bare the deficiencies in securing increased water supplies for central California, calling on farmers to utilize their voices for targeted investments.

  • “I would say that we need to understand something very clearly: we have failed miserably for 40-plus years at generating new water supplies and constructing anything. We’ve gotten nothing done for new storage. So, we need to be very careful when we say ‘We need to build new storage.’ We’ve been saying that for 40 years,” Phillips said.
  • “We failed with CALFED, which was a President Clinton and Governor Gray Davis joint proposal to build five new reservoirs, none of which happened. That was 23 years ago,” the Friant chief said. “[2014’s] Prop. 1 was a failure. It passed, but it has not been building any new storage.”
  • “When we talk about what we should be focusing on, the only people who should be focusing on storage is Congressman Duarte and others who can write into law that you are going to go get it done. Because the environmental community and the current people that run this government, they have our number. Checkmate it every time. They will make sure we don’t build it, no matter how smart or how good we think we’re going to get it done.”
  • “We need to get more sophisticated at how we can go and actually start building water supply. The most important infrastructure that we need is infrastructure of advocates and advocacy to be able to use our existing project facilities. The reason we failed for the last 40 years and depressing as it might sound we might fail for the next 40 is because we’re not able to sit up here and articulate quickly enough – because it’s so complicated in California – why we’ve lost so much water.”
  • “In 2008 and 2009 there was a biological opinion that was forced upon us by government employees – not Congress – that cost us more water than five Temperance Flat Reservoirs would have produced like that. Gone.”
  • Phillips turned the table on professional advocates, lawyers, and lobbyists working on behalf of water agencies and grower groups who have insufficiently fought onerous water cutbacks.
  • “Most of [the 2008/2009 biological opinions], you were all paying someone who agreed to it. That was our advocacy. You were paying somebody to agree to give up water on an order of magnitude that far exceeds any storage projects we’ve built,” Phillips said.
  • “The hardest thing is that the government employees using the Endangered Species Act and other laws to take our operation of existing projects and constantly tweak it to send more water out to the ocean – and it’s not instead of what they were sending, it’s always on top of that.
  • “We will have choices to make: do we want to advocate against that? Or do we want all of who you’re paying for to go sit at the table with the government to agree to give up more of our water?”

Rethinking the Calif. equation: Ryan Jacobsen, the Fresno County Farm Bureau boss, noted that the state needed a reality check to its once-simple water equation of 50-40-10, meaning 50 percent of water went to environment, 40 percent of water went to agriculture, and 10 percent to municipal and industrial water users.

  • “That’s no longer true. Today, those numbers are 80.5 percent of the water in the state of California goes toward environmental purposes now. Of that, 50 percent of that is uncaptured in the environment, 30.5 percent is captured and stored for the environment. Fifteen percent of the total supply is now going toward agriculture, and 4.5 percent is the urban share,” Jacobsen said, citing a new study from the California Farm Bureau Federation.
2023-05-11T15:10:38-07:00May 11th, 2023|

Hales to Join UC ANR Leadership Team

By Pam Kan-Rice, UCANR

Higher education leader is known for his work with underrepresented communities

Brent Hales will be joining University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources as the new associate vice president for research and Cooperative Extension beginning July 1. 

“After a nationwide search, Brent emerged as a proven and respected leader who will help us to strengthen partnerships, build trust, address challenges and define our 2040 strategic vision,” said Glenda Humiston, UC vice president for agriculture and natural resources. 

Hales brings over 20 years of higher education research and leadership experience, including at land grant institutions and in Cooperative Extension. He currently serves as an associate dean of Pennsylvania State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences and director of Penn State Extension. 

“I am very excited to join the UC ANR family,” Hales said. “My grandfather was a 1939 graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and both of my parents grew up in California.”

Before joining Penn State in 2019, he served as the senior associate dean and chief financial officer of the University of Minnesota Extension, associate dean for the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Community Vitality, and the director of the Economic Development Authority Center at University of Minnesota, Crookston.

His research focuses on holistic community and economic development and entrepreneurship. He has spent his career working across the United States and the globe with underrepresented communities. Since 1998, Hales has worked with Native American Nations in asset development and capacity building. 

“I am excited to collaborate with California’s Native Nations, urban residents and underinvolved Californians as they seek to achieve their goals,” Hales said. “Some notable areas are tackling climate change, food security and workforce development.”  

“What excites me most is to be part of the leadership team for the premier institution of Ag and Natural Resources research and extension in the United States,” Hales said. “The people, the facilities, the opportunities and the engagement with the communities and organizations of California is second to none.”

Hales earned a Ph.D. in rural sociology from Iowa State University, a master’s degree in sociology from Middle Tennessee State University and a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Brigham Young University in Utah.

He is the father of six children, is the grandfather of six grandchildren and has been married to his best friend Candy for over 30 years.

Deanne Meyer, UC Cooperative Extension livestock specialist, has been serving UC ANR as interim associate vice president for research and Cooperative Extension over the past year and is assisting Hales with the transition.

UC Agriculture and Natural Resources brings the power of UC to all 58 California counties. Through research and Cooperative Extension in agriculture, natural resources, nutrition, economic and youth development, our mission is to improve the lives of all Californians. Learn more at ucanr.edu and support our work at donate.ucanr.edu.

2023-05-11T11:58:57-07:00May 11th, 2023|

UC ANR receives $1 million for VINE Climate-Smart Agrifood Innovation Program

By Pam Kan-Rice

University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) has been awarded a $1 million UC Climate Action Innovation & Entrepreneurship grant for its VINE Climate-Smart Agrifood Innovation Program. The VINE, a UC ANR program advancing sustainable agriculture and food innovation, will use the grant to develop new technologies and techniques that help California farmers adapt to climate change.

“Expanded programming from The VINE will improve UC ANR’s overall ability to serve our mission of improving the lives of all Californians,” said Glenda Humiston, UC vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

California’s agricultural sector is the largest in the United States, producing over 400 crops that account for 25% of the nation’s food production and 40% of its fruits, vegetables and tree nuts.

However, climate change is expected to have a significant impact on the productivity and resilience of California’s working landscapes. Higher temperatures and changing precipitation patterns are projected to increase water demand for crops and create a more limited growing season that will produce lower yields in some crops. Additionally, climate change may increase weed growth and insect damage, leading to higher uses of herbicides and pesticides.

“We are thrilled to receive the UC Climate Action Innovation & Entrepreneurship Award,” said Gabe Youtsey, UC ANR’s chief innovation officer. “With this grant, we will be able to support even more entrepreneurs and innovators in developing climate-resilient solutions for California’s agriculture and food systems.”

“Our ultimate goal is to build a bioeconomy in California’s food valleys that rivals Silicon Valley in size and importance to the future U.S. economy, while also addressing urgent climate crises and advancing equity for underserved populations,” Youtsey said.

The VINE Climate Smart Agrifood Innovation Program is designed to identify, commercialize, and scale science and technology breakthroughs that make food production more sustainable. The VINE team has already supported entrepreneurs in the areas of controlled environment agriculture, precision agriculture, robotics, biologicals, climate-resilient crops, livestock health, and other topics that have direct or indirect mitigating effects on climate change.

The UC Climate Action grant will enable The VINE program to expand its support for startups and entrepreneurs developing climate-resilient solutions for California’s food system. The program will include the creation of a VINE Climate Solutions Seed Fund, which will provide project support for testing, trialing and demonstrating agrifood technology products or services to support commercial expansion.

The VINE Navigator Service will be expanded to provide matchmaking, mentoring, talent identification, finance connections and technical assistance to entrepreneurs from UC campuses, across California, or startups around the globe that have climate solutions in the agrifood sector.

An example of this work is farm-ng, a farm robotics start-up based in Watsonville that The VINE has been advising. With the networking opportunities facilitated by The VINE, farm-ng was able to secure 20 new customers, generating an estimated $500,000 in revenue. The VINE’s involvement also enabled farm-ng to establish a professional manufacturing facility and employ local talent from disadvantaged communities.

The UC Climate Action award is part of a historic $185 million partnership between UC and the state of California to tackle the climate crisis, from developing new methods for carbon capture to creating innovative coping strategies for drought, wildfire and other impacts of a warming planet. 

The VINE 

The VINE program aims to create a next-generation agrifood technology bioeconomy in California’s food valleys to promote sustainable economic growth, address climate crises, and advance equity for underserved regions and populations. The VINE team will work closely with local and regional partners to identify key industry-driven gaps and opportunities across the food system and provide critical support to startups and entrepreneurs developing new solutions for climate mitigation and adaptation.

For more information, please visit The VINE website: thevine.io.

2023-03-03T08:08:46-08:00March 3rd, 2023|

Farm Smart program instills appreciation for ag in Imperial Valley youth

By Saoimanu Sope, UCANR

Desert REC program has reached more than 168,000 people thanks to broad community support

“Oohs” and “aahs” fill the classroom as Stacey Amparano, Farm Smart program manager at the Desert Research and Extension Center in Holtville, yanks an ear of corn off a stalk. Holding it high in the air, she begins shucking the corn to reveal a bright yellow color.

“It’s corn!” yells a member of the audience. Amparano demonstrates how to shuck and shell corn to a group of local kindergarteners, all while explaining its many uses.

Farm Smart, an outreach program focused on agricultural literacy, has educated more than 168,000 people in the Imperial Valley and surrounding areas since its inception in 2001. The program is an integral part of Desert REC – one of nine centers operated across the state by University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources – and serves K-12 students and their families.

Nestled in the southeastern corner of the state, Imperial Valley is home to over 500,000 acres of farmable land and more than 65 crops, making it an ideal place to teach youth about the valley’s significant contribution to California, the U.S., and the world.

“Farm Smart is a reminder to kids that they come from a place that feeds most of the country throughout the year. It’s something to be proud of,” said Amparano.

While the younger participants might not grasp the full impact of Farm Smart right away, the community sure does. More than 60% of the program’s funding comes from contributions from the community, including local organizations, institutions and families.

“I don’t think many people realize that a majority of Farm Smart is funded by the community. It makes this program even more special, that our own community believes in our impact and wants us to keep going,” Amparano said.

For example, the Imperial Irrigation District has supported and funded the program since it began, donating $107,500 in 2022 alone.

“This program has created an awareness of how food is grown, harvested and put on our table,” said Norma Galindo, former IID board director. “It invites participation from the elementary through high school grades and serves as a hands-on experience that is priceless.”

During her tenure, Galindo championed the increase of IID’s monetary allocation to Farm Smart and requested that older people be allowed to participate in the same manner as the students. This created an opportunity for Farm Smart to engage a segment of the population that is often overlooked. Like the youngsters, retirees escaping cold weather in northern states can learn about irrigation and soils and pick vegetables to take home.

Valeria Landeros, a community education specialist at Desert REC, grew up in the Imperial Valley and remembers attending a Farm Smart field trip in elementary school. “I remember learning how to milk a cow and make butter and thinking that we traveled somewhere far out of town,” she said.

“Most people who grow up in Imperial Valley and the greater area know nothing about the fields that surround us,” said Clarissa Abarca, another community education specialist at Desert REC.

Similar to Landeros, Abarca participated in Farm Smart field trips during elementary to high school and can attest to the program’s ability to modify its content and suit the interest of all ages. As an educator, Abarca gets most excited about instilling an appreciation for agriculture and introducing students to the numerous careers in the sector.

Galindo said that she expects that the IID Board will continue to support this program with crucial funds.

“Any other [county] that emulates this type of program stands to benefit from it, if and when it is done on a long-term and consistent basis. Teaching the city folks about farming is a process, not an event,” said Galindo.

Farm Smart was selected as a recipient of the California State Future Farmers of America Distinguished Service Award and will be recognized at the upcoming State FFA Conference in March.

To learn more about Farm Smart visit https://drec.ucanr.edu/Farm_Smart/.

UC Agriculture and Natural Resources brings the power of UC to all 58 California counties. Through research and Cooperative Extension in agriculture, natural resources, nutrition, economic and youth development, our mission is to improve the lives of all Californians. Learn more at ucanr.edu and support our work at donate.ucanr.edu.

2023-02-23T08:23:29-08:00February 23rd, 2023|

Harvesting Light to Grow Food and Clean Energy Together

By Kat Kerlin, UC Davis

Different Light Spectra Serve Different Needs for Agrivoltaics

People are increasingly trying to grow both food and clean energy on the same land to help meet the challenges of climate change, drought and a growing global population that just topped 8 billion. This effort includes agrivoltaics, in which crops are grown under the shade of solar panels, ideally with less water.

Now scientists from the University of California, Davis, are investigating how to better harvest the sun — and its optimal light spectrum — to make agrivoltaic systems more efficient in arid agricultural regions like California.

Their study, published in Earth’s Future, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, found that the red part of the light spectrum is more efficient for growing plants, while the blue part of the spectrum is better used for solar production.

A door opener

The study’s results could help guide global interest in agrivoltaics and identify potential applications for those systems.

“This paper is a door opener for all sorts of technological advancements,” said corresponding author Majdi Abou Najm, an associate professor at the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources and a fellow at the UC Davis Institute of the Environment. He conducted the study with first author Matteo Camporese of the University of Padova in Italy, who came to UC Davis as a Fulbright visiting scholar. “Today’s solar panels take all the light and try to make the best of it. But what if a new generation of photovoltaics could take the blue light for clean energy and pass the red light onto the crops, where it is most efficient for photosynthesis?”

For the study, the scientists developed a photosynthesis and transpiration model to account for different light spectra. The model reproduced the response of various plants, including lettuce, basil and strawberry, to different light spectra in controlled lab conditions. A sensitivity analysis suggested the blue part of the spectrum is best filtered out to produce solar energy while the red spectrum can be optimized to grow food.

This work was further tested this past summer on tomato plants at UC Davis agricultural research fields in collaboration with UC Davis Assistant Professor Andre Daccache from the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering.

Guiding light

In an era of shrinking viable land, understanding how plants respond to different light spectra is a key step toward designing systems that balance sustainable land management with water use and food production, the study noted.

“We cannot feed 2 billion more people in 30 years by being just a little more water-efficient and continuing as we do,” Abou Najm said. “We need something transformative, not incremental. If we treat the sun as a resource, we can work with shade and generate electricity while producing crops underneath. Kilowatt hours become a secondary crop you can harvest.”

The study was funded by a U.S. Department of State Fulbright Research Scholarship, UC Davis and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

2022-12-14T11:13:10-08:00December 14th, 2022|
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