Agriculture Well-represented among GEELA Awards

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross joined colleagues from across state government this week to honor recipients of the annual Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Awards  or GEELA Awards.

The GEELA program is California’s highest environmental honor – recognizing individuals, organizations, and businesses that have demonstrated exceptional leadership and made notable, voluntary contributions in conserving California’s precious resources; protecting and enhancing our environment; building public-private partnerships; and strengthening the state’s economy.

Secretary Ross was pleased to present awards to Parducci Wine Cellars, for its efforts to conserve and reclaim water; to the Lodi Winegrape Commission, for its rules for sustainable winegrowing; and the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, for the development of metrics for water, energy, and nitrogen use, as well as greenhouse gas emissions.

Parducci Wine Cellars, over the course of 14 years, has come up with unique and innovative ways to reduce, reuse and recycle water at their winery. By using the surrounding landscape and natural ecosystems, Parducci has transformed a polluted pond into a bird sanctuary and created other recreational and habitat uses from its wastewater facility. In addition, the winery now recycles and cleans 100 percent of its wastewater and reuses it for irrigation, resulting in a 1.5 million gallon per year decrease in water usage even as production doubled. Parducci’s Water Reclamation System is proof that ecosystems can be valuable tools in creating efficient, cost-effective methods for water conservation that have tangible long-term environmental and economic benefits.

In 2005, the Lodi Winegrape Commission started California’s original sustainable winegrowing certification program. For their efforts, they were awarded a GEELA in 2006. Since their first year the program has expanded and evolved, and has established a reputation as a model certification program. The program grew from over 1,500 certified acres in 2006 to nearly 27,000 acres in 2013 while continuing to promote practices that enhance biodiversity, water and air quality, and soil health. Growth in the certification program allows for growers throughout the state to recognize the program’s value as a tool for implementing and codifying their practices that meet the triple bottom line of environmentally friendly practices, socially responsible business management and economic viability for maintaining vineyards for future generations.

The California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA) is a statewide sustainable winegrowing program introduced in 2002. CSWA was a recipient of a GEELA in 2004, and, after a major update to their program in 2006, they were also awarded a GEELA in 2010. They continued their trend of innovation after another update to their program in 2012, which includes online performance metrics for water, energy, nitrogen and greenhouse gas emissions, and a winery water guide for small wineries, in addition to new workshops and online tools focused on the results of a carbon footprint study on California wine. CSWA’s program has helped growers and vintners adopt sustainable practices that have improved efficiency and quality and conserved natural resources, reduced risks, and in some cases, reduced costs.

is administered by the California Environmental Protection Agency, in partnership with the Natural Resources Agency; the Department of Food and Agriculture; the State Transportation Agency; the Business, Consumer Services, and Housing Agency; the Labor and Workforce Development Agency; and the Health and Human Services Agency.

UC Davis Professor Suggests Update to Agricultural Cooperative Extension

There is a Growing Network of New Technology to Update Cooperative Extension and Help California’s Farmers

By Diane Nelson, Senior Writer, UC Davis Ag and Environmental Sciences

 

California’s growers and ranchers get their agricultural information from multiple sources in a variety of ways. Intuitively, most of us know that. But new research by UC Davis Professor Mark Lubell, Department of Environmental Science and Policy, provides empirical evidence that the state’s agriculture community relies on a network of people using new information technologies to make land-use and orchard-management decisions.

Mark Lubell, professor of Environmental Science and Policy at UC Davis (Source: UC Davis)
Mark Lubell, UC Davis Professor of Environmental Science and Policy (Source: UC Davis)

“Over the last century, agricultural knowledge systems have evolved into networks of widely distributed actors with a diversity of specializations and expertise,” said Lubell, lead author of, “Extension 3.0: Managing Agricultural Knowledge Systems in the Network Age,” research recently published in Society & Natural Resources.

Lubell and his team hope their work will help agriculture cooperative extension programs harness the potential of these evolving personal and professional networks and make them explicit components of their outreach strategies.

Extension 3.0

Since land-grant universities were created in the late 19th century, University of California Cooperative Extension has been the state’s main campus-to-community connection that delivers sound, scientific data to growers and ranchers, landowners, environmental groups, and consumers to help develop practical solutions to real-world problems. In the early days, extension specialist shared information in person, meeting with farmers in fields or coffee shops or town halls.

The system has evolved over time, as farming has become more specialized. And the systems still works, said Lubell and coauthors Meredith Niles, UC Davis ecology alumna, and Matthew Hoffman, grower program coordinator with the Lodi Winegrape Commission. But, they argue, it could use an update. They outline a case for what Lubell calls “Extension 3.0,” a modern model for agriculture extension that capitalizes on social learning, information technology, and evolving networks of expertise.

Reviewing 10 years of surveys, Lubell’s team studied how California’s growers and ranchers make farming decisions and who they turn to for advice. They learned that Cooperative Extension specialists and farm advisers are still primary trusted sources, but respondents are also influenced by pest control advisors, local leaders, commodity groups, sales representatives, fellow farmers, and others.

“Our research provides an empirical layer to support what many Cooperative Extension specialists and advisors already do,” Hoffman said. “It’s about making sure information reaches the right people in the right way at the right place and time.”

The authors are not calling to eliminate traditional extension professionals nor suggesting all current outreach strategies be converted to more modern methods like social media, webinars and smartphone applications.

“Instead, Extension 3.0 seeks to understand how personal networks and new information and communication technologies can work together,” Lubell said.

The authors recognize social media is already a part of agricultural extension, and they know they aren’t the first to recognize its importance. But they encourage extension programs to formalize social media, information technology, and network science as part of their hiring, training and outreach strategies.

“Extension systems and professionals must be experimental, adaptive and creative with program design and implementation to maximize the synergy between experiential, technical and social learning,” Lubell said.

 

Encouraging conversation

Aubrey White, communications coordinator for the Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis, says she finds news she can use in “Extension 3.0.”

“Understanding key linkages in a community or area of research can dramatically shorten the distance between knowledge-seekers and knowledge-holders,” White said. “Lubell’s article reminds us that extension is not just delivering information, but creating conversation.”

Cooperative Extension specialist Ken Tate, rangeland watershed expert with the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences, has been a longtime proponent of collaboration and conversation.

“For me, the study reaffirms that we shouldn’t abandon what works — face-to-face meetings, for example — but we have to keep building and adopting new components. Content is the key. We need to produce good science and provide practical solutions, and then use the best means possible to make sure that information reaches the people we serve, and helps meet society’s needs.”

You can read the full journal article on the Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior website.