University of California, Agriculture & Natural Resources
University of California, Agriculture & Natural Resources
University of California, Agriculture & Natural Resources
University of California
University of California, Agriculture & Natural Resources

UCCE Client Stories - Food systems

Accidental farmer finds his way, thanks to UCCE advice

Charlie recently became partner in a family farming operation. His area of expertise was business and marketing, not crop production. When his business partner passed away unexpectedly at the beginning of the planting season, Charlie found himself suddenly in charge of planting the crop—and he had no idea where to start. Fortunately he thought to contact his local UCCE farm advisor, who helped him learn the sequence of steps and the operational basics of ground preparation, planting, and pest management. The advisor told him how to arrange for custom services such as fertilizer application. With vital input from UCCE, Charlie managed to plant his first crop and see it through to a successful harvest.

Black medic in Dichondra seed no match for UCCE

Dichondra
Johnny* is a Dichondra seed producer in Yolo County. There is a weed called black medic that has seeds that look very much like those of Dichondra, and if the two get mixed together during harvest it can seriously damage the value of a Dichondra seed crop. Black medic was present in Johnny’s field and had the potential to ruin his crop. He didn’t know what to do, so he turned to his local UCCE office for help. After conducting several trials, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor Rachael Long identified an herbicide that would control black medic weed without harming the Dichondra. According to Johnny, UCCE saved not just his own crop, but the entire Dichondra seed industry.

 

Cotton mealybug ID'ed, okra crop saved for Coachella grower

Jorge Torres is a small-scale farmer in the Coachella Valley. As a child, he emigrated with his parents from Mexico to live in the United States. After working for years as a farm laborer, he was able to begin farming a few acres for himself in the 1970s. Not long after, he met UCCE small farm advisor Alfonso Durazo, who introduced him to drip irrigation and efficient fertilizer and water use. Jorge is now producing several acres of okra, chili peppers, dates, and many other specialty crops, and he relies on UCCE farm advisors for crop production information and assistance. Recently, a new pest began to show up on his okra crop. With the help of UCCE farm advisor Jose L. Aguiar, he was able to identify the pest as the cotton mealybug and treat the field. UCCE helped save Jorge's okra fields from further economic damage and prevented the pest from spreading and causing damage to other nearby okra fields.

Food safety regs stymie local grower; UCCE is there to help

Mrs. Wu, a native Chinese vegetable grower in Santa Clara County, had heard about changes in food safety regulations, and she was concerned. She found out that, although she did not speak very much English, she was expected to develop a plan and obtain a food safety certification, or her sales contracts would be cancelled. She contacted UCCE small farms advisor Aziz Baameur, who responded to her concern by developing a training program for Mrs. Wu and other growers like her. The training provided growers with a bilingual handbook and sample templates to help them better understand the new regulations. Aziz is also working with Mrs. Wu to help her prepare for audits and create a food safety plan specific to her farm.

For foothill satsuma grove, fruit rot no longer a problem

Eric farmed Satsuma mandarin oranges in the Sierra Nevada foothills. One year when his fruit began to mature, rainy weather caused what appeared to be a fruit rotting disease. Eric came close to losing his entire crop. He called his local UCCE farm advisor to see if there was a way to prevent the same thing from happening again next year. UCCE advisors and researchers launched a collaborative research project to study Eric’s crop, and after four years of field trials they were able to determine the specific reason for his crop loss and develop a long-term strategy to help him avoid future losses. Eric was able to keep the problem from recurring and continues to sell his delicious mandarin oranges direct to the public.

From pear decline to Apple Hill: UCCE advisor helps growers make change for the better

Pear decline
El Dorado County was once part of a thriving commercial pear-growing region in California. In the late 1950s, though, pear decline disease invaded California and quickly devastated nearly all of the county’s pear orchards. The late Dick Bethell, then a UCCE farm advisor, stepped in to help find a way for county growers to keep in business. He tested new disease-resistant rootstocks for the area, helped growers transition to apple production and then create and popularize local agritourism ventures focused on apples, and helped introduce winegrape growing to the area. Today, “Apple Hill” is a highly visited regional agritourism destination with apples, stone fruits, berries, and pumpkins in the fall—thanks in large part to the work of Dick Bethell.

 

New fruit looked like a tennis ball, but UCCE advisor's manual converted growers to the kiwifruit way

Kiwi fruit
In the 1970s, California farmers became interested in a new exotic crop—kiwifruit. No one really knew much about the crop or how to grow it here, so UCCE pomologist Jim Beutel did some research. Soon he had put together a how-to manual for growers and was providing individual grower consultations all over the state. He also helped UCCE farm advisors present short courses in their own communities. As a result, today kiwifruit is a mature industry in California and is growing in both the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys. California kiwifruit is exported all over the world, and has become an important alternative crop for growers who specialize in tree fruits or table grapes.

 

Research on one blueberry grower's thrips trouble yields benefit to all

John is a southern San Joaquin Valley farmer growing blueberries, a relatively new crop for the area. In 2006 John’s crop sustained significant losses, and from what he could tell the cause appeared to be thrips infestation. John was right about the cause, but on his own he could find very little information on thrips. So he contacted the UCCE Kern County entomology advisor for assistance. A three-year study ensued to determine the life cycle for thrips in blueberries and identify effective pest management practices, both conventional and organic. UCCE both saved John’s future blueberry crops and improved the profitability of the California blueberry industry, both as direct results of agricultural research and extension education.

UCCE Ag Leadership Tour links small organic grower to statewide distribution

Boua Vue is a small-scale farmer who came to the United States in 1990. Boua, like many other Hmong farmers, started out struggling to adapt to a new language and culture, and had a hard time breaking into some of the more lucrative markets: retail, organic, and community-supported agriculture (CSA). A UCCE advisor recognized the commercial potential of Boua’s produce and his desire to break into larger markets, and made Boua’s farm one of the stops on a California Ag Leadership tour. One of the people on the tour happened to the owner of one of the state’s largest organic CSA produce subscription organizations, and soon was very interested in making Boua a new supplier. UCCE helped by matching Boua with a mentor and helping him get his organic certification. Boua is now a successful supplier of lemongrass, you hoy, sinqua, and bok choy for Abundant Harvest Organics.

UCCE helps small farms resist E. coli, keep up with food safety changes

Sia Vue Thao is a small-scale farmer in Fresno County. In 2006, a large outbreak of E. coli bacteria in spinach sickened 204 people nationwide and killed 3. Like other spinach producers, Sia’s farm suddenly had to deal with much heavier regulations and food safety standards. Not sure how to keep up with the changing rules, Sia turned to her local UCCE small farm advisor. The advisor put together a series of trainings in Spanish, Hmong, Lao, and English to teach small-scale farmers about the changes and how to keep their farms up to code. The training spread to other UCCE offices all over the state, incorporating meetings, a training video, a manual, and a set of guidelines. With the help of these UCCE trainings, Sia and other growers have been able to develop food safety self-audit systems that allow them to continue selling to Whole Foods and other markets.

UCCE ombudsman helps Sonoma specialty cheesemakers navigate permit trouble

Marsha* and her sister have been making award-winning cheese on their family dairy for more than five years. They worked with California Department of Food and Agriculture dairy inspectors to build their facilities, and eventually they hired a distributor to help them deliver cheese to local stores. One soggy winter day, they received a letter from the Sonoma County permit department saying they were operating in violation of zoning laws and needed to cease all operations and purchase a $15,000 permit. This would have been well beyond the sisters’ available resources. The UCCE agriculture ombudsman in Sonoma County stepped in to help save Marsha and her sister’s business, and even negotiated an upcoming change in the zoning code that will officially allow small-scale agriculture processing to operate on land zoned to agriculture.

UCCE, UC Davis help organic tomato growers increase yields, profits

Tomato harvesting
In Yolo County, UCCE advisors are partnering with UC Davis faculty members to help organic tomato growers increase their crop yields. Initial tests have identified one organic fertilizer that can increase yields in processing tomatoes by as much as 20%. Commercial growers have started applying this new fertilizer and are looking forward to a bigger crop this year!

USDA grant helps UCCE train new farmers to be "agropreneurs"

Sonoma County is losing its farmland. As farmers age and retire, their land is rapidly converted to housing in order to keep up with the needs of the county’s growing population. As a result, the county is losing its ability to produce locally grown food, and that means populations of minorities and elders are losing easy access to fresh, healthy food. UC Cooperative Extension applied for and received a three-year USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program grant in 2011 to train beginning farmers and ranchers. The program, called Agropreneurs, has trained 43 farmers and ranchers in agriculture and business planning and is to be integrated into Santa Rosa Junior College’s Sustainable Agriculture Program in 2014.

Walnut blight, once a threat to growers, is no more thanks to UCCE solution

Walnut blight
Walnut growing is big business in California, with crops of better than 450,000 tons in recent years putting the state’s production second only to that of China. A very serious disease called walnut blight at one point threatened to put an end to walnuts in California. In response, UCCE used funding from the California Walnut Board to put together a team of specialists and advisors, partnering with faculty at UC Berkeley and UC Riverside, to study the disease. The team identified pesticide application techniques that provide effective protection for the trees while actually reducing the overall amount of pesticides applied. Working together, these UC researchers saved the California walnut industry.

 

Water quality solution helps dairyman qualify for financing, improvements

Bill* manages two small dairy operations in Sonoma County. He would have liked to purchase his leased dairy land so he could more easily make long-term improvements. However, water quality concerns complicated the process of acquiring grant funding for the purchase. UCCE tapped its water quality research data from local dairies and ranches to help Bill create an agriculture buffer that would reduce runoff and protect the quality of the water in streams. With the help of his local UCCE office, Bill was able to reach his long-term goals, all while improving water quality and increasing his ranch’s productivity.

Wheat industry revolution is legacy of retired UCCE advisor

Wheat field
Farm advisor Tom Kearney retired from UCCE a few years ago, but before he did he managed to change the entire wheat growing industry in the lower Sacramento Valley for the better. Traditional practice had been to plant wheat by scattering seed and fertilizer on the soil and then tilling it in. Kearney, with the help of UC Davis faculty and UCCE specialists, discovered that by using seed drills to precisely position and cover the seed and fertilizer a farmer could grow more and bigger plants and thereby increase yields. When Kearney held a series of educational workshops to demonstrate his results, growers enthusiastically adopted the new planting method, which is now a standard practice.

 

Here's to another 100 years of science and service!

Webmaster Email: mpalin@ucanr.edu