Climate-Smart Team Announced for Farmers

UC Cooperative Extension Deploys Team of 10 to Help Farmers Practice Climate-Smart Agriculture

By Jeannette Warnert, UCANR Communications Specialist

Scientists are developing climate-smart farming practices, California is offering financial incentives to implement them, and now a group of 10 UC Cooperative Extension climate-smart educators are taking the program to the next level.

To help farmers apply for grants to improve soil quality and enhance irrigation systems, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources partnered with the California Department of Food and Agriculture to put climate smart educators in 10 California communities.  The educators are working closely with UCCE advisors to help farmers and ranchers improve soil health, irrigation practices and manure management.

The climate smart programs offered by CDFA and promoted by UC ANR educators are:

The educators provide hands-on assistance to farmers and ranchers through the complex application process, conduct field days with climate-smart farmers, establish demonstration plots to share the practices, and work with farmers who are voluntarily implementing climate-smart farming.

Most of the educators were hired in early 2019, just weeks before the application deadline. They are now gearing up for a second cycle of applications. The state funded 194 projects in 2018, and 217 in 2019.

Each of the educators has a passion for agriculture and the environment, shaped by their upbringing, experiences and education.

“I am interested in carrying out research that focuses on the adoption and economics of climate change best management practices. The practices should help farmers continue their business,” said Esther Mosase, climate-smart educator in San Diego County. “I’m interested in seeing policymakers making policies that have a farmer as a focal point. They have been here long, they have been tilling the land, they can also contribute in coming up with better solutions that reduce climate change.”

The state is providing incentives for farmers to improve soil health in order to moderate the conditions that are driving global climate change. Improving soil health increases its ability to store carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Side benefits include improved water infiltration, nutrient cycling and dust control.

Farmers can apply for three-year grants to implement new practices on their farm, such as reducing tillage, growing cover crops and applying compost. Conventional farm practices turn the earth, releasing the stored carbon back into the atmosphere.

UCCE’s 10 new climate-smart educators are:

Britta Baskerville
UC Cooperative Extension, Mendocino County
blbaskerville@ucanr.edu, (707) 463-4158

Baskerville started college as a theater major in Sacramento, then realized that wouldn’t result in a viable career. After suffering from an autoimmune disease tied to microbiome health, she began to understand the important role of the food and agricultural industries in public health. Baskerville earned a bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley that combines sustainable agriculture with the sociological and ecological impacts of agriculture, natural resources conservation and public health.

Last summer, Baskerville served as a program coordinator in an adaptive agriculture learning environment, where she designed two practicum programs for adults. She is considering a career in the food industry.

Caddie Bergren
UC Cooperative Extension, Merced County
cmbergren@ucanr.edu, (209) 385-7403

Bergren grew up in a small fishing town on an island in Alaska. She earned a bachelor’s degree in earth systems at Stanford University in 2013, and then spent two and a half years in Paraguay as a Peace Corps volunteer. Bergren worked with a women’s garden cooperative and with subsistence farmers. She spent the last three years as a community organizer.

“I was so excited to find this job, which combines my interests in working directly with all kinds of people on the intersection of agriculture and climate change,” Bergren said. “I’ve especially enjoyed using my Spanish-language skills to work with traditionally underserved farmers in this area.”

Dana Brady
UC Cooperative Extension, Glenn County
dmbrady@ucanr.edu
, (530) 517-8187

Brady completed a bachelor’s degree in animal science at Chico State University in 2018. She was familiar with UC Cooperative Extension through school and had visited UCCE research sites.

Brady grew up in a farming and ranching family in rural Linden, southeast of Stockton.

“My earliest memory is of my grandfather’s farm, where he had an emu, donkey and llama,” she said. “I was in 4-H and FFA as long as I can remember.”

In addition to working directly with farmers on grant applications, Brady has been helping advisors in Glenn County on research projects and building relationships in the community through workshops and seminars.

“I am also very excited for an upcoming event at an elementary school farm day to present about Climate Smart Agriculture and presenting at some bigger events later this year with a few others in the cohort,” Brady said.

Samikshya (Sami) Budhathoki
UC Cooperative Extension, Fresno and Madera counties
sbudhathoki@ucanr.edu, (559) 241-7515

A native of Nepal, Budhathoki traveled to the United States in 2015 to attend college at Fresno State, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in plant science. During her studies, she completed a weed and salinity management project with professor Anil Shrestha. Budhathoki served as an intern in plant pathology with Bayer Crop Science.

She developed in interest in agriculture because of the industry’s importance to society and the world.

“Some people don’t get enough to eat even once a day. I wanted to join the effort to end world hunger and food insecurity,” Budhathoki said.

Budhathoke said she also is concerned about climate change and welcomes the opportunity to help farmers maintain a sustainable agriculture industry even in the face of climate change.

In the future, she plans to pursue graduate studies in climate change or water management.

Emily Lovell
UC Cooperative Extension, Yolo, Solano and Sacramento counties
ejlovell@ucanr.edu, (530) 405-9777

Lovell grew up in Sacramento and developed an interest in agriculture when she was overcoming a serious illness. She graduated from UC Davis in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in sustainable agriculture and food systems.

“Originally, I didn’t want to make money in agriculture,” she said. “I wanted to live off the land. I believe farming is a political act and I wanted to help return power to the people through farming and land ownership.”

Lovell said she is interested in pursuing a graduate degree in an area that combines community resiliency through localized food systems and economics and, eventually, becoming a crop adviser.

Esther Mosase
San Diego County
enmosase@ucanr.edu, (858) 282-6737

Mosase has a master’s degree in agricultural engineering from Botswana College of Agriculture and a doctorate from South Dakota State University in civil engineering. Her master’s research focused on water resources, watershed modeling and management.

Raised in a farming family in Botswana, Mosase experienced the impact of climate change firsthand.

“I remember we had drought years, normal years and extremely wet years,” she said. “Twenty years ago, it was not uncommon for open water to freeze. But now we get mild winters and very hot summers. Rain-fed agriculture is now a risky enterprise compared to two decades ago.”

In addition to helping farmers with the climate-smart farming grant applications, Mosase is helping farmers cope with water quality concerns.

“For instance, one farmer wanted to improve the water quality at the edge of his avocado and citrus farm before it enters the stream. He also wanted to be helped with pools of standing water in the farm that usually affect the health of avocado trees,” Mosase said. “We advised him on what to do regarding the standing water, but for the edge of the field treatment, we decided to install bioreactors.”

Mosase will help collect field data on the bioreactors’ effectiveness and plans to publish the results.

Valerie Perez
UC Cooperative Extension, Santa Cruz County
valperez@ucanr.edu, (831) 763-8028

Perez earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo in 2018. She accepted an internship with a large animal veterinarian, and found her passion, she said. In addition to working as a climate smart community educator, Perez is taking prerequisite courses for veterinary school. She hopes her career will lead to conducting research to benefit the meat industry.

“I’ve always been interested in ways to better agriculture and how our systems could improve, but it wasn’t until I received this job that my interest for climate-smart agriculture really peaked,” Perez said. “Agriculture is such an important industry, it is vital that we find ways to educate one another on how to better what we have been doing for so many years.”

Allison Rowe
UC Cooperative Extension, Ventura County
amrowe@ucanr.edu
, (805) 645-1464

Rowe has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Colorado College in Colorado Springs and a master’s degree from the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at UC Santa Barbara. Her background and interests focus on the interface of land management and climate change.

“Everyone and everything is interwoven with our food system and yet so much of how we produce food accelerates climate change,” Rowe said. “I enjoy being at the interface of science and education, where the rubber meets the road. I wanted to find a role where I could work with people on the ground and implement solutions to climate change while contributing to resilient farming economies.”

She said it is encouraging to see that farmers and ranchers are interested in climate-smart agriculture and welcome the technical assistance.

Kristian Salgado
UC Cooperative Extension, Imperial County
kmsalgado@ucanr.edu, (442) 265-7700

Salgado attended San Diego State University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in 2014 with a double major in psychology and environmental studies and minors in counseling and social change. She earned a master’s degree in social science at Humboldt State University in 2018.

“My background in agriculture is very broad ranging, from topics relating to public health concerns connected to agriculture production – pesticide drift and agricultural burning – to food insecurity in low-income communities,” Salgado said.

Salgado is a native of Calexico, a city located across the border from its sister city, Mexicali, Mexico. Her farming experience centers on urban agriculture.

“Growing food on non-agricultural land has allowed me to learn the technical/scientific processes that go into growing food,” she said.

Salgado plans to continue her education in a doctoral program in ethnic studies at UC San Diego, where she can focus on several overlapping areas of interest, including race studies, food justice, sustainable agriculture, climate change, environmental decision-making processes, and participatory action research methodology and practices.

Shulamit Shroder
UC Cooperative Extension, Kern County
sashroder@ucanr.edu, (661) 868-2168

Shroder attended college at the University of Maryland in College Park, earning bachelor’s degrees in environmental science and policy and in Spanish language, literature and cultures. She has worked in an agricultural research lab, in the gardens at the University of Maryland and in a nearby organic farm. After graduating in 2016, Shroder volunteered with the Peace Corps in Senegal, West Africa, where she trained farmers on gardening and agroforestry techniques and extended improved varieties of staple crops like beans, corn, millet and sorghum.

“While serving in Senegal, I saw firsthand the effects of desertification and erratic rainfall on the ability of the community to feed itself,” she said

Shroder intends to earn a master’s degree and continue to research and promote sustainable agriculture techniques.

Sustainable Farming: Let’s Focus on a Farm’s Performance, Not its Size

In case you missed it, we are posting the article, “Let’s Focus on a Farm’s Performance, Not its Size,” with permission, from Environmental Defense Fund’s Growing Returns blog.

By  | BIO
Lettuce
Credit: Flickr user Dwight Sipler

What comes to mind when you think of a “family farm?” You’re probably picturing a bucolic spread of less than 100 acres, with a red barn, farmer in overalls, and cows grazing a big pasture. What about the phrase “corporate farm” or “?” Do you see a giant, impersonal and industrial-looking operation?

Unfortunately, these common (mis)perceptions are regularly promoted in everything from TV ads to online chats. But the reality is that “big” does not equate to “bad,” and “small” doesn’t necessarily mean “good” when it comes to sustainable farming. In fact, it’s the wrong debate altogether.

What really matters is performance, not size.

Today is National Agriculture Day, celebrated annually on March 18, and this year’s theme is sustaining future generations. If we’re going to meet the needs of a rapidly growing population, we’re going to need large and small farms alike. And no matter their size, they’ll need to minimize their impacts on the natural systems that sustain us all.

Addressing the myth

It’s a myth that large farms can’t be sustainable, just as it’s a myth that all family farms are small and better for the environment.

Take Christine Hamilton, for example, whose family farm produces corn, soybeans, winter wheat and cattle across 14,000 acres in South Dakota. For years she’s been participating in USDA conservation programs, using no-till practices, planting trees to limit erosion, and utilizing variable rate technologies to improve the environment and her yields.

There are also places like Fair Oaks Farms, which milks over 500 cows … an hour. To make their large operation more sustainable, Fair Oaks pumps methane from its livestock to an on-site natural gas station that compresses it into fuel for the farm’s fleet of 40 milk trucks.

Many small-farm operations implement sustainable practices as well. A perfect example is Full Belly Farms, a 400-acre organic farm in Northern California that won last year’s prestigious Leopold Conservation Award. But I’ve visited small farms where livestock roam freely into streams, soil erosion destroys riverbanks, and nutrient management plans are nonexistent.

Sharing responsibility4.1.1

In the U.S., agriculture already occupies 51 percent of our land, uses 80 percent of the [Nation’s consumptive*] water, and is responsible for 8 percent of our greenhouse gas emissions. And in the coming decades U.S. farms will be responsible for producing even more food. In order to make agriculture a plus for the environment, farm practices will need to change.

Of course, we have to keep in mind the context here. Mid-size and large-scale family farms account for 8 percent of U.S. farms but 60 percent of the value of production, so in order to bring sustainable agriculture to scale, they will have to do the bulk of the work. But small farms have a much higher share of production for specific commodities in the U.S. – they account for 56 percent of domestic poultry production, for example – so we’ll need their leadership, too.

Regardless of size, all farms need to:

  • Minimize the loss of nutrients and soil to air and water through nutrient optimization strategies such as conservation tillage.
  • Use water as efficiently as possible.
  • Improve soil health through strategies such as cover crops.
  • Avoid plowing up ecologically important lands.
  • Fence livestock out of streams and implement management plans to maintain healthy grazing lands and avoid overgrazing
  • Use strategically placed filters to capture excess nutrients.

It’s time we shift the public debate and get everyone on board the sustainability train. Arguing about a farm’s size won’t deliver environmental benefits. In the end, it’s all about performance.

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*“California Ag Today added Nation’s consumptive” from the original USDA text and offers the following definitions:

Consumptive water use” is a use of water that removes the water from the system so that it cannot be recovered for reuse by some other entity. Consumptive uses may be beneficial or non‐beneficial. A beneficial consumptive use would be crop evapotranspiration.

(Source: Agricultural Water Use in California: A 2011 Update 3 © Center for Irrigation Technology November 2011)

Evapotranspiration (ET) is the amount of water transpired by plants, retained in plant tissues, and evaporated from plant tissues and surrounding soil surfaces.

(Sources: (1) California Water Plan Update 2009 Glossary. Department of Water Resources. Resources Agency. State of California; (2) Agricultural Water Use in California: A 2011 Update 3 © Center for Irrigation Technology November 2011)

If the basis for the discussion is water consumptively used by only agricultural, municipal & industrial users, then agriculture’s share would be estimated in the range of 80 percent of the total. However, if the percentage is based on dedicated water, which includes environmental uses, then agriculture’s share is more in the range of 40 percent.

(Sources: (1) California Water Plan Update 2009 Glossary. Department of Water Resources. Resources Agency. State of California; (2) Agricultural Water Use in California: A 2011 Update 3 © Center for Irrigation Technology November 2011)

Dedicated water – as defined by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) is “water distributed among urban and agricultural uses, used for protecting and restoring the environment, or storage in surface water and groundwater reservoirs. In any year, some of the dedicated supply includes water that is used multiple times (reuse) and water held in storage from previous years. This is about 40 to 50 percent of the total annual water supply received from precipitation and imported from Colorado, Oregon, and Mexico.”

Context: Water Portfolio”1 (Source: Agricultural Water Use in California: A 2011 Update 3 © Center for Irrigation Technology November 2011)

Dedicated water includes water flowing in the Wild and Scenic Rivers. Many partially used or unrestricted rivers could have been significantly diverted for use by municipal & industrial and/or agriculture. However, these waters have been dedicated by law to the environment. Other examples of dedicated water are the 800,000 acre‐feet/year reallocated back to the environment by the Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA) and the 647,000 AF/year reallocated back for Trinity River restoration of that river’s fishery.

(Sources: (1) Record of Decision. Trinity River Mainstem Fishery Restoration. Final Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report. U.S. Department of the Interior. December 2000; (2) Westlands Water District vs. U.S. Department of Interior. Case Nos. 03‐15194, 03‐15289, 03‐15291 and 03‐15737. Argued and Submitted Feb. 9, 2004 ‐ July 13, 2004, United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit)

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The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) works directly with businesses, government and communities to create lasting solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF’s Growing Returns Blog posts news about the organization’s goal of meeting growing demands for food in ways that improve the environment.

California Coming off Warmest Winter on Record

United States weather scientists have revealed California is coming off of its warmest winter on record, aggravating an enduring drought in the most populous US state.

The state had an average temperature of nine degrees Celsius for December, January and February, an increase from 5.8°C in 1980-81, the last hottest winter.

Reuters Newsagency reports that figure was more than four degrees Fahrenheit hotter than the 20th-century average in California, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said in a statement.

Warmer winters could make the already parched state even drier by making it less likely for snow to accumulate in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, NOAA spokesman Dr. Brady Phillips said.

“Winter is when states like California amass their main water budget, when snowpack is building,” said Dr Phillips, a marine biologist. “If you’re starting from a deficit and going into the dry season, it’s setting you up for a drier summer.”

Reuters reports California is in the grip of a three-year dry spell that threatens to have devastating effects on the state and beyond.

Farmers are considering idling 200,000 hectares of cropland, a loss of production that could cause billions of dollars in economic damage, and several small communities are at risk of running out of drinking water.

The state also recorded its driest winter to date by March, despite recent storms, with an average of 114mm of rainfall, compared to 297mm over the previous winter, NOAA said.

The agency is planning to release its spring outlook climate forecast tomorrow.

NOAA is an agency that enriches life through science. Their reach goes from the surface of the sun to the depths of the ocean floor as they work to keep citizens informed of the changing environment around them.