Small Farm Blogs
Farmer Vang Thao has been managing a successful farm south of Fresno for nearly 30 years, producing a spectacular array of vegetables – heirloom tomatoes, purple bell peppers, water spinach, bitter melon, Thai eggplant and dozens of others.
Every weekend the family traverses the Grape Vine to set up a visual feast at farmers markets in Santa Monica, Hollywood, Palos Verdes, Torrance and Hollywood. Acclaimed Los Angeles chefs rave about his produce, according to a Los Angeles Times feature story on the Thao family.
Produce like sweet potato leaves, amaranth and black nightshade are essential for families hailing from Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, the Philippines and India who seek ingredients for their traditional cuisine, but the market is limited. Now, small-scale farmers like the Thaos are on the cusp of something with much wider appeal.
One of their crops is moringa, a tropical tree that produces an abundance of fresh shoots to sell at the farmers market booth for $1 a bundle. Moringa is a delicate green that can be added to salads, soups and nearly any other dish. It has a pleasant nutty, earthy and slightly pungent green flavor. While it tastes good, it's the plant's nutrient profile that is commanding attention.
On the internet, moringas are called miracle trees. All parts of the plant are edible – the tender leaves can be cooked or eaten fresh, moringa flowers are considered a delicacy, the tree's young pods can be used like green beans, roasted seeds are said to have antibiotic and antifungal properties. The roots and bark have medicinal potential, but need more study to determine the right dose. A 100 gram serving of moringa greens has more protein than a cup of milk, more iron than a cup of spinach, and is high in calcium, potassium, vitamin C and vitamin A.
Moringa is the Superfood of 2018, according to the trend watchers at SPINS.com. UC Davis nutrition researcher Carrie Waterman is studying moringa's use, production and processing worldwide. She is pursuing moringa for therapeutic applications in treating cancer, HIV and inflammatory bowel disease.
Ruth Dahlquist-Willard, the UC Cooperative Extension advisor to small-scale farmers in Fresno and Tulare counties, recognized moringa's potential to supplement income for Southeast Asian farming families who are marketing specialty Asian vegetables and herbs to immigrant communities.
“Moringa is a drought tolerant tree known for its excellent nutritional content,” Dahlquist-Willard said. “We believe it could improve the economic viability of small-scale farms in our community. We are helping small-scale farmers with moringa product development and marketing.”
Supporting farmers growing moringa in marketing the product to new buyers is an objective of the UCCE moringa project, a partnership with the UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, which was funded by a California Department of Food and Agriculture specialty crop block grant. Lorena Ramos, the project lead, is working on developing marketing materials, outreach opportunities, and value-added options.
While using moringa is second nature for many immigrant groups, expanding the market includes demonstrating how easily the green can be used in the kitchen. Dahlquist-Willard and Ramos called on another sector of UC Cooperative Extension – the UC CalFresh Nutrition Education Program – for assistance. UCCE offers nutrition education in schools and community settings to children and families eligible for the USDA's nutrition assistance programs. Each year, Fresno State dietetic students serve two-week internships at UCCE. In 2018, one of their tasks was developing creative, healthful recipes incorporating moringa. Among the recipes were overnight oatmeal, pesto, smoothies, guacamole and energy bites – all with moringa.
“We are publishing the best recipes to share with the public to help them add this nutritional green into their diets,” Ramos said.
Recipe cards and moringa samples will be available July 26 at the Fresno Food Expo, where UCCE is hosting a booth to raise awareness about moringa by introducing farmers to Fresno area chefs, buyers and consumers and sharing information about the vegetable's health benefits, culinary versatility and its ability support small-scale farmers in Fresno and Tulare counties.
Following is a USDA recipe ideal for incorporating moringa:
Grilled quesadilla with vegetables
Nonstick cooking spray
1 medium zucchini, diced
½ broccoli head, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 medium onion, minced
1 carrot, peeled and grated
16 (6 inch) flour tortillas
12 ounces cheese, shredded
½ cup moringa leaves
- Wash all vegetables.
- Collect, dice, shred and measure all ingredients before starting to prepare the recipe.
- Spray a large skillet with cooking spray. Add zucchini, broccoli, green pepper, onion and carrot. Cook vegetables on medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove vegetables from skillet, and put on a clean plate.
- Spray skillet with cooking spray again and place 1 tortilla in the skillet. Top with ½ cup vegetables and 1/3 cup cheese. Sprinkle on fresh moringa leaves.
- Place a second tortilla on top. Cook on medium low heat for 2 to 3 minutes or until the cheese starts to melt and the bottom tortilla starts to brown.
- Flip over the quesadilla. Cook for another 2 to 3 minutes until tortilla brons.
- Repeat steps 4 through 6 to make additional quesadillas
- Cut each quesadilla in half or quarters, serve hot with your favorite salsa or other toppings.
- Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours. Eat within 3 to 5 days.
Fresno farmer Vang Thao in his moringa plantation.
Vang sells small bundles of moringa shoots at farmers markets for $1 each.
UCCE moringa project leader Lorena Ramos and Vang Thao with purple bell peppers.
Fresh moringa can be easily added to many recipes.
UCCE agricultural assistant Michael Yang, left, and Vang Thao snack on a freshly picked melon during a field visit.
UCCE nutrition projects coordinator Evelyn Morales demonstrates moringa recipes.
Agricultural advances draw opposition that blunts innovation
(Science) Anne Q. Hoy, June 29
Scientists are using technology to expand global food production and ease its environmental impact, but advances are being challenged by claims that lack scientific evidence and raise public distrust and concern, a leading agricultural scientist told an American Association for the Advancement of Science audience.
Alison Van Eenennaam traced the advent of campaigns against agricultural innovations related to areas from cattle and chicken production systems to plant biotechnology. The impact such efforts are having on agricultural advances was the focus of the ninth annual AAAS Charles Valentine Riley Memorial Lecture on 5 June at the AAAS headquarters in Washington, D.C.
UC Davis Experts Help Farmers, Ranchers Profit in Growing Trend
(Cal Ag Today) Patrick Cavanaugh, June 29
Many farmers could benefit from agritourism and the added value it brings, but developing successful agritourism operations can be tricky. Experts at the Agricultural Sustainability Institute (ASI) at UC Davis are helping farmers and others in the agricultural community understand the regulations, permits, insurance, marketing and other considerations needed to succeed.
“Agritourism operations are more successful when they're part of a supportive community of tourism professionals, county regulators, agriculture regulations and others,” says Gail Feenstra, ASI's food, and society coordinator.
Feenstra and her team recently received a $73,000 grant from Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, a U.S. Department of Agriculture program, to develop training, resources and peer support for farmers and ranchers considering agritourism. Feenstra is working with Penny Leff, ASI's statewide agritourism coordinator and team project manager.
Green thumbs at the Marin County Fair
Wendy Irving, June 29
…UC Marin master gardeners is a group of more than 300 trained volunteers who work as non-paid staff members of the University of California Cooperative Extension. There are master gardener programs in 50 counties across California; our Marin group is one of the largest and most active.
Answer to how urban coyotes thrive is not for weak-stomached
(Texarkana Gazette) From the LA Times, June 29
This scientific study is a coyote postmortem on an unprecedented scale—it has so far documented the contents of 104 stomachs and intends to examine 300 by the end of the year. The team, led by Niamh Quinn, UC Cooperative Extension's human-wildlife interactions advisor, is already generating a wealth of data to better understand how these omnivorous canids sample everything from pocket gophers to hiking boots while managing to survive in a land of 20 million people.
Mechanized vineyard saves labor, boosts quality
(Western Farm Press) Tim Hearden, June 27
Kaan Kurtural started working on a fully mechanized vineyard to help growers save on labor costs, but then he noticed it also produced grapes with superior quality.
“We made wine from these last year and compared it to our traditionally-farmed vineyards,” says Kurtural, a specialist in the University of California-Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology. “Until we tell people what it is, they can't distinguish the quality of the fruit or the wine.”
He demonstrated the 40-acre experimental vineyard during a recent field day at the UC-Davis Oakville Station north of Napa. About 200 winegrape growers, vineyard consultants, and other industry representatives attended.
Several methods available to control vineyard weeds
(Western Farm Press) Tim Hearden, June 27
As most fumigants in California are being phased out, growers are having to find other ways to control weeds in young vineyards.
And while weeding by hand has been done, increased costs and a shrinking labor force have made this task impractical, says John Roncoroni, University of California Cooperative Extension Weed Science Farm Advisor in Napa County.
New podcast offers advice to California farmers
(Capital Press) Padma Naggapan, June 26
Two enterprising farm advisors with the University of California's cooperative extension have begun a podcast that will focus on tree crops and other produce grown in the Central Valley.
Called “Growing the Valley,” the podcast will have a new episode every two weeks, with each episode focused on news growers can use, such as managing specific pests, irrigation techniques, alerts about what to watch out for, and what tasks to take care of at particular times of the year.
Proactive Pawnee Fire response in Lake County seeks to avoid another catastrophe
(SF Chronicle) Lizzie Johnson, June 25
“I've never seen so much focused attention in Sacramento on the issue,” said Keith Gilless, a professor of forest economics and dean of the College of Natural Resources at UC Berkeley.
“Last year, 2017, got everybody's attention,” said Gilless, chair of the California State Board of Forestry and Fire Protection. “Last year was just terrible. Everybody involved is doing their best to be as prepared as we can. Any area might burn now, including those with much higher structure densities than they did 20 or 50 years ago.
“You are going to need a lot of resources that you might not have needed before,” he said. “The state is being very aggressive in its suppression efforts.”
UC's Humiston welcomes visiting Chinese ag scientists
(Farm Press) Jeannette Warnert, June 25
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources vice president Glenda Humiston recently welcomed a delegation of Chinese agricultural scientists to UC ANR's Intermountain Research and Extension Center in Tulelake, reported Danielle Jester in the Siskiyou Daily News.
With vineyard labor scarce, Napa growers warm up to machines
(Napa Valley Register) Henry Lutz, June 24
On a recent morning at the UC Davis Oakville Experimental Station, extension specialist Dr. Kaan Kurtural walked along the edge of an especially tall block of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Planted in 2016, the block hosts 1,340 vines and produces roughly 15 to 18 pounds of fruit per vine. “So it'll be yielding quite nice,” Kurtural said as he walked down the 62-inch tall rows.
Far more notable than the vineyard's fruit, however, is how it gets farmed.
“There are no hand practices out here,” said Kurtural. “Everything is done by machine.”
Early Detection Key to Managing Ceratocystis Canker in Almonds
(Growing Produce) Dianne Munson, June 22
...Based on a statewide survey out of the Department of Pathology at University of California, Davis, canker diseases are the primary cause of tree death in almond orchards, and Ceratocystis canker is one of the most prevailing canker diseases found in California. This canker disease is aggressive, but it doesn't have to mean disaster.
“If you know what to look for, the disease is manageable,” says Florent Trouillas, UC Cooperative Extension Specialist, Department of Plant Pathology, University of California, Davis.
California has 27M more dead trees than in 2016, but numbers may be easing in some areas
(Ventura County Star) Cheri Carlson, June 22
“Trees aren't getting moisture that they need to be healthy and they're stressed,” said Susan Kocher, a natural resources adviser for UC Cooperative Extension. “We had a huge insect outbreak because of the drought.”
Kocher, based in South Lake Tahoe, focuses on the Central Sierra, where stands of ponderosa pines were hit hard by beetle attacks.
…The highest risk of fire is when trees still have their needles – the so-called “red and dead” phase, Kocher said. Green needles turn red, and those dried-out needles are a particularly flashy fuel, like tinder in a campfire. Once the needles fall off, the risk drops a bit.
Chinese scientists visit Tulelake
(Siskiyou Daily News) Danielle Jester, June 20
The University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources Intermountain Research and Extension Center in Tulelake hosted a group of scientists from Chinese universities on Sunday; the scientists are on a tour of agriculture in northern California through June 22.
University of California Vice President of Agriculture and Natural Resources Glenda Humiston explained the purpose of the tour, noting, “The Chinese face many of the same issues that we do here in the U.S. The Chinese universities want to improve rural economic development to lift up the quality of life for people in rural communities.
“They are also responding to global climate change, drought and pests while trying to improve food security and water use efficiency. They see UC Cooperative Extension as an effective research model; we hope that scientific collaborations will accelerate solutions and help maintain relations for California agriculture with China.”
It's summer. Here's how to preserve those fresh fruits and veggies
(San Luis Obispo Tribune) Rosemary Orr, June 20
June in San Luis Obispo County is a wonderful time to start preserving our summer bounty of fruits and vegetables.
The UCCE Master Food Preservers will teach the basic principles of food preservation and canning in its Introduction to Canning class on Saturday.
With wildfire season at hand, California on slightly safer footing this year
(SF Chronicle) Kurtis Alexander, June 17
… But as significant, and plentiful, as the new fire-protection measures are, they merely nip at the edge of an underlying issue: that fire is a constant in California, and as long as people choose to live in and around the state's wildlands, experts say, the threat remains.
"I would not be surprised if we have another big fire," said Bill Stewart, forestry specialist at the University of California, Berkeley. "I just don't think we're where we need to be."
… “We really haven't put together the pieces of a resilient fire strategy in local areas,” Stewart said.
Reducing food waste to combat world hunger
(Morning Ag Clips) June 17
One-third of the world's food is spoiled or tossed rather than eaten, a fact that is tragic when nearly one billion people go hungry. The injustice of food waste is worsened by the fact that food decomposing in landfills emits greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.
UC Cooperative Extension is working closely with the cities and county of Santa Clara in a far-reaching program to divert organic matter – food and green waste – from landfills by composting and using the product to enrich soil in the home garden.
From dendrometers to drones, devices drive ag-tech boom
(Farm Press) Tim Hearden, June 16
Agriculture across the country is going high-tech, and California is leading the way as the tree nut and other industries are looking for ways to save water.
Agriculture across the country is going high-tech, as the ag and food sectors invested $10.1 billion in digital technologies in 2017, according to a University of California study. That's up from $3.2 billion in 2016, reports the UC's Giannini Foundation for Agricultural Economics.
In California, which was the leading state last year with $2.2 billion spent to adopt new technologies in ag and food production, UC Cooperative Extension researchers are researching or developing lots of new, innovative ideas. And growers are putting them to work in their fields and orchards.
Santa Barbara County Avocado Farmer Struggles to Find Workers Amid Immigration Crackdown
(CNN Money/KTLA) Kristen Holmes, June 15
…“The crops that are most affected are the ones that use hired labor,” explains Daniel Sumner, director of the University of California, Agricultural Issues Center at UC Davis, pointing to avocados, berries and tree fruits. “It's really now through the rest of the summer that we're going to hear more and more farmers and farm workers rushing to get a harvest in with really not enough labor force to do it. And that's a real challenge. It may mean that we have crops rotting in the fields.”
Research Nets Going Over Citrus Trees To Prevent Huanglongbing Disease
(Cal Ag Today) Jessica Theisman, June 15
Beth Grafton-Cardwell is the director of the Lindcove Research Extension Center in Tulare County and research entomologist based out of the University of California, Riverside. She recently told California Ag Today that there is work being done on installing a net structure to protect trees from Asian Citrus Psyllids, which spread the deadly Huanglongbing disease. Texas A&M researchers are installing net structures on the edge of groves to block psyllids from coming into an orchard.
Overburdened growers fuel an ag-tech investment boom
(Western Farm Press) Tim Hearden, June 14
…While ag was slower than some other industries at adopting digital technologies, farm and food sector investments in these technologies zoomed to $10.1 billion nationwide last year, up from $3.2 billion in 2016, according to a new University of California report.
California was the leading state for ag-tech investments with $2.2 billion in 2017, or 22 percent of the total, and ag and food producers in the Golden State spent $5.1 billion on new technologies between 2012 and 2017, reports the UC Giannini Foundation for Agricultural Economics.
UCD Oakville Field Day Highlights: Trellis Trials, Red Blotch Vector Update, Mechanization Tools
(Wine Business) Ted Rieger, June 12
The University of California, Davis (UCD) hosted its annual Grape Day at the Oakville Station experimental vineyard in Napa Valley June 6 with talks and presentations by UC Cooperative Extension specialists, and presentations and equipment demos from vineyard industry suppliers.
UCD viticulture extension specialist Dr. Kaan Kurtural showed a trial planted in 2016 with six different trellis systems designed for mechanical harvest in a 1-acre block at the experimental vineyard using Cabernet Sauvignon 08 on 3309 rootstock. The six trellis types include: a traditional vertical-shoot- positioned (VSP) trellis as a control; a single high-wire system designed for mechanized management; a high-quad system; a cane-pruned system with 12-inch cross arms for a sprawl-type canopy; and two versions of a relaxed VSP, one with a T-top post for a wider canopy.
Local groups offer water measurement course
(Siskiyou Daily News) June 12
The Siskiyou County Cattlemen, Siskiyou County Farm Bureau and University of California, Cooperative Extension will sponsor a Water Measurement and Reporting Course in order to comply with Senate Bill 88.
New Potato Varieties Displayed at Field Day in Kern County
(AgNet West) Brian German, June 11
Dozens of industry professionals took part in the annual Kern County Potato Variety Field Day where attendees got an opportunity to view new potato varieties and see the progress of ongoing growing trials.
“The potato field day in Kern County has a long history, it's been going on for generations essentially,” said Farm Advisor Emeritus with Kern County Cooperative Extension Joe Nunez. “It's an opportunity for the growers to see all the new varieties that are being developed throughout the country and see how they perform here in Kern County because our growing conditions here are a little bit different than where most of the potato varieties are being developed.”
Debating California Tillage
(Farm Equipment) Alan Stenum, June 9
Despite differing opinions, Alan Wilcox, of Wilcox Agri-Products and Jeff Mitchell, no-till advocate at University of California–Davis, sat down during World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif., to discuss the challenges and the opportunities for conservation tillage practices to take hold in California's Central Valley.
Letter: Residents get primer on fire preparedness
(Chico Enterprise-Record) Calli-Jane DeAnda, June 8
May was wildfire awareness month and the community participated in the wildfire safety fair at Lake Oroville Visitor Center on Saturday, May 19. At this fantastic event community members were able to get information about how to sign up for emergency notifications, access the evacuation preparedness plan, get wildfire recovery information and get tips for protecting homes from wildfire.
Kate Wilkin, UC Cooperative Extension, provided two presentations on prescribed fire and ways to protect homes from wildfire. Local fire-safe councils were there to answer the question: What does a fire-safe council do?
Why a Decline in Insects Should Bug You
(Wall Street Journal) Jo Craven McGinty, June 8
Entomologists want to put a bug in your ear: Insects are necessary for the survival of mankind.
“It's the classic third-grade food chain,” said Richard Redak, an entomologist at the University of California, Riverside, and co-author of the book “Bugs Rule!” “If you pull insects out, you've got a problem.”
…“Any organic product in a human's life probably has a beneficial insect and a pesty insect,” Dr. Redak said. “The pesty ones are an incredibly small fraction of the total. Those that are not a problem are critical to the ecosystem.”
Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Officially Deemed Pest of California Almonds
(Growing Produce) David Eddy, June 7
Brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) is certainly not new to California growers, but in the wake of some more troubling finds, it is now officially a pest of almonds.
Almonds are now listed as a preferred host on the Stop BMSB website, which was created by a team of researchers from all over the country dedicated to finding a way to stop the pest from damaging a wide range of crops.
One of those researchers is Jhalendra Rijal, University of California Cooperative Extension Area IPM Advisor for San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Merced counties, who said the first such damage was just two years ago, when they were found in peaches. The actual first finding in the state was three years before that, in Sacramento, but despite being a very large find, they never appeared to spread, adding to the mystery of BMSB movement.
Visible smoke coming from UC field station burn
(The Union) June 7
Nevada County residents wondering why there is smoke in the air coming from our neighbors to the west today may be seeing smoke from a live fire training held by the University of California Cooperative and Extension at a field station in Browns Valley, according to Cal Fire spokesperson Mary Eldridge.
UCCE advisors launch 'Growing the Valley' podcast
(Farm Press) Jeannette Warnert, June 5
A new UC Cooperative Extension podcast that focuses on growing orchard crops in the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys is now available free at http://growingthevalleypodcast.com, Apple iTunes and Google Play Music.
The hosts are Phoebe Gordon, UCCE orchard systems advisor in Madera and Merced counties, and Luke Milliron, UCCE orchard systems advisor for Butte, Tehama and Glenn counties. The pair conduct research and extension programs that cover tree crops, with a focus on almonds, pistachios, walnuts, prunes, figs and cling peaches.
7 Highlights from the 2018 World Meat Congress
(Pork) U.S. Meat Export Federation, June 4
The 2018 World Meat Congress concluded Friday with sessions focused on consumer trends and education, as well as an in-depth look at cutting-edge technologies reshaping meat production around the world. The 22nd World Meat Congress was held in Dallas May 31 and June 1. Hosted by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) and the International Meat Secretariat (IMS), the event drew about 700 participants from more than 40 countries.
…The panel featured Gary Rodrigue, blockchain food trust leader for the IBM Corporation; Dr. Martin Wiedmann, Gellert family professor in food safety at Cornell University; and Dr. Alison Van Eenennaam, cooperative extension specialist for animal genomics and biotechnology at the University of California-Davis.
… Van Eenennaam, whose program at UC-Davis focuses on research and education around the use of animal genomics and biotechnology in livestock production systems, explained the value of gene editing. For example, research is underway to utilize gene editing to prevent such diseases as African swine fever in hogs and tuberculosis in cattle.
“What better way to approach dealing with disease than through genetic improvement?” she noted.
Use of gene editing to introduce the polled trait into elite germplasm
(Progressive Dairyman) Alison L. Van Eenennaam and Maci L. Mueller, June 4
Physical dehorning of dairy cattle is a standard practice to protect both human dairy workers and other animals from injury. However, it is not only costly for producers, but also painful and stressful for the animals. As a result, dehorning is currently facing increased public scrutiny as an animal welfare issue. Despite these factors, 94 percent of U.S. dairy cattle producers report routine dehorning.
Early Ripening Grapes Could Revolutionize Raisin Production
(Growing Produce) Matthew Fidelibus, June 2, 2018
The USDA-ARS raisin grape breeding program has long focused on the development of early ripening varieties. Early ripening allows drying to begin sooner, thus helping to avoid inclement weather and enable production of dry-on-vine (DOV) raisins. ‘Fiesta' and ‘Selma Pete' are examples of early ripening raisin grapes from the USDA that have helped change the way California raisins are made.
Slugs, snails, ants, aphids, spider mites and inclement weather conspire against strawberry growers harvesting perfect red berries to sell.
“Farming is hard work,” said Fam Lee, as she pulled a weed from a row of strawberry plants. Lee and her husband Nathan Punh are among about 60 Mien farmers in the Sacramento area who call on Margaret Lloyd, a UC Cooperative Extension advisor, for farming advice.
“Although we are not organic farmers, we always want to go with organic,” said Lee. “For example, we have slugs and ants, I asked Margaret if it's okay to put organic slug bait around the plant as long as it doesn't touch the berry. She said that's the best way to do. We work closely with our extension staff.”
In the Sacramento area, many of the Mien-owned farms are husband and wife teams. The typical couple farms an acre or two themselves, picking berries to sell the same day at a roadside stand, which provides the family's primary source of income.
“Many of them grew up on farms in Thailand or Laos growing vegetables or growing rice or soybeans,” said Lloyd, who serves small-scale farmers in Sacramento, Solano and Yolo counties. “A lot of them come from farming backgrounds so when they came to this country, they also sought out an agrarian lifestyle.”
Some Mien growers had never seen a strawberry before arriving in California, but chose the high-value crop to maximize returns on their small plots of land.
To help Mien growers develop successful strawberry farms, Lloyd updates them on regulations and shares growing tips at an annual extension meeting, visits them at their farms, and records videos demonstrating how to do things such as using compost to fertilize the crop.
“Because of language barriers, coming out to the farm regularly is a big part of the job,” said Lloyd, who partners with staff from the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) to assist Mien farmers.
“Once we're on the farm, we can communicate in-person more easily,” she said. “Often times it involves pest identification, so I'll show them how to use a hand lens and how to identify spider mites, aphids and lygus bugs, for example.”
“A lot of them have children who speak English fluently so if they don't speak English fluently, sometimes the children come out and help.”
For the past five years, Lee and Punh have been growing and selling strawberries at a farm stand on Bond Road, between Bader and Bradshaw, in Sacramento. They grow Albion, Chandler, Santa Rosa and Seascape – sweet, delicate varieties, some of which aren't found in supermarkets because the berries don't store and ship as well. They typically begin harvesting berries at the end of March and pick through July or August, depending on the weather. This year, the first berries were ruined by spring rain and frost.
Savvy consumers will ask for certain varieties by name, Lloyd said. “Chandler is well-loved by consumers for its delicate flesh and sweet flavor. Albion produces larger berries that are also very tasty.”
Because berries sold at the roadside stands are picked fresh daily, the farmers wait until berries are perfectly ripe before picking them.
Monday through Saturday, Lee begins harvesting her strawberries by hand at the break of dawn.
“We start at 5:45, the minute we can see, and we pick until 8 o'clock. That's our goal,” Lee said. “By 8:30, we want to open our stand and we sell until all the berries run out.”
Lee's parents often drive up from Alameda to help pick berries.
To extend the farm stand season, some Mien farmers supplement the strawberries with other berries, strawberry jam and vegetables. They grow blueberries and blackberries, tomatoes, peppers and green beans and sometimes specialty vegetables such as bittermelon.
“Growing strawberries isn't easy, but it's enjoyable work,” Lee said.
Lloyd has updated a map showing locations of about 60 strawberry stands in the Sacramento area at http://bit.ly/strawberrystands.
Fam Lee examines a strawberry for insect and slug damage. “Although we are not organic farmers, we always want to go with organic,” she said.
Some farm stands offer vegetables, like these red onions, to complement the strawberries.
Nathan Punh, left, talks with UCCE farm advisor Margaret Lloyd, who works with about 60 Mien farms in the Sacramento area.
Established farm stands, like this one on Florin Road at South Watt Avenue, develop a loyal following of customers who eagerly await their opening to buy strawberries.
Mouang Saetern harvests strawberries.
To help consumers find the Mien farm stands, UC Cooperative Extension has created a map showing locations in the Sacramento area at http://bit.ly/strawberrystands.
Visiting Mien farms makes it easier for Lloyd, right, to demonstrate practices for farmers who aren't fluent in English.
The UC-patented strawberry cultivar Albion produces large, sweet berries.
Unprecedented Study Discovers what Urban Coyotes Really Eat
(Care2) Laura Goldman, March 30
Hiking boots, avocados, candy wrappers and fast-food containers. These aren't a few of my favorite things, but they are some of the items found inside the stomachs of dead urban coyotes in Los Angeles and Orange counties.
…Since the study began over a year ago, the researchers, led by Dr. Niamh Quinn, the human-wildlife interactions advisor for the University of California Cooperative Extension, have discovered that cats make up only about eight percent of a coyote's diet.
Red blotch grape virus confirmed in Calaveras
(Calaveras Enterprise) Jason Cowan, March 29
Red blotch virus, a DNA infection that decreases a grape's sugar levels on the vine, has been confirmed in Calaveras County, officials said last week.
After confirmed cases of the virus were located recently in El Dorado and Amador county vineyards, University of California Cooperative Extension Farm Adviser Lynn Wunderlich saw what she thought were symptoms of the virus in Calaveras and recommended farmers test for red blotch.
The results came back positive.
(Daily Democrat) ANR News release
Californians who raise poultry outdoors are invited to get their eggs tested for contaminants.
To find out if harmful substances on the ground that are eaten by hens get passed along in the eggs they lay, Maurice Pitesky, UC Cooperative Extension poultry specialist at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, is providing free egg testing.
“We're trying to understand the connection between the environment that backyard poultry are raised in and the eggs they are producing,” Pitesky said.
Here's what trade tariffs could mean in Merced County, where nuts are big business
(Merced Sun-Star) Thaddeus Miller, March 28
China has threatened retaliatory tariffs on a select group of exports from the U.S. following President Donald Trump's plan to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.
China's tariffs would first hit U.S. products such as avocados and nuts, with 15 percent duties. Beijing, if officials deemed it worthwhile, could also place 25 percent tariffs on American-made goods such as pork and aluminum.
…"It doesn't really matter which one it is, whether it's alfalfa, almonds or wherever it may go," said David Doll, a farm adviser with the Merced County UC Cooperative Extension. "They're as much political as they are anything else."
Nuts are big business in Merced County, where almonds are the second largest commodity at $578.5 million, according to the 2016 Merced County Crop Report, the most recent available. Almonds, pecans and pistachios bring in tens of millions of dollars more.
Out of every dollar made on a farm in the Central San Joaquin Valley, half pays for salaries and 40 cents goes to pay for supplies, Doll said, citing UC cooperative studies.
"Farms are businesses, and if they aren't profitable they're not going to stay in business," Doll said.
A film you may want your favorite doctor, trainer, chef and lawmaker to see
(Farm Week Now) Mike Orso, March 28
In the documentary “Food Evolution,” scientist Alison Van Eenennaam captures a smartphone selfie image of her with Bill Nye, the “Science Guy,” following a spirited forum in New York City on genetically modified organisms or GMOs. That was three years ago. Now, Van Eenennaam has young people coming up to her asking for selfies.
“If we can engage this next generation with critical thinking skills and trying to get to the bottom of what actually is true, I think we will have accomplished our job,” said Van Eenennaam, a University of California-Davis Extension specialist and one of several scientists featured in the film.
Scientists say regulation stifles many new biotech traits
(Agri-Pulse) Jim Weber, March 28
Federal regulation of agricultural biotechnology needs to be based on risk and not on process, a wide range of scientists and food industry executives agreed at the Agri-PulseAg and Food Policy Summit. Coincidentally, a similar message was delivered a day later by a Council on Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) task force.
“Scientists have been screaming that for 30 years,” said Alison Van Eenennaam, a cooperative extension specialist in animal genomics and biotechnology at the University of California-Davis. “That's where regulation should be.”
…Although the USDA, universities and small businesses have developed dozens of GE crops – with improved traits ranging from healthier and less allergenic to safer and more environmentally sustainable – and carried many through safety and pre-market testing, almost all have been denied commercial release mainly because of U.S. regulatory obstacles,” according to the CAST task force, led by Alan McHughen, who chairs the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences at California-Riverside.
If China Strikes Back On Tariffs, California Tree Nut Exports Could Take A Hit
(CapRadio) Julia Mitric, March 27
California agriculture could find itself caught in the middle of the U.S. — China trade dispute.
After President Trump ordered a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum last week, China hit back, announcing it may impose a 15 percent tariff on agricultural exports from the U.S.
The U.S. faces competitors for every agricultural product it exports. California wines, for example, compete with wines from New Zealand and Chile. If China hits the U.S. with a 15 percent tariff on wine, that's a problem, explains Dan Sumner, Director of the University of California Agricultural Issues Center.
"We may think California wine is special, but not everybody does,” Sumner said. "And if it's 15 percent more expensive than it used to be because of the tariff, there'll be a substantial reduction in how much gets sold in China."
State senator to honor UC 4-H program
(Morning Ag Clips)
California State Senator Ben Hueso will honor California and Baja California 4-H with a resolution in the State Senate at 2 p.m. April 2 to recognize the cross-border team that established a 4-H Club in Mexicali, Baja Mexico, in January 2017.
Last year, UC ANR Vice President Glenda Humiston signed a memorandum of understanding with the Baja California Secretary of Agriculture Development, Manuel Vallodolid Seamanduras, to offer UC's 4-H expertise to youth south of the border. The agreement increases the academic, scientific, technological and cultural cooperation that are part of UC President Janet Napolitano's Mexico Initiative.
Building an IPM Program to Fight Fruit Flies
(Growing Produce) David Eddy, March 26
When faced with spotted wing drosophila (SWD), it's critical for growers to keep in mind this is almost certainly unlike any pest they have dealt with before. That's because it's one of two species — out of a potential 1,500-plus — that feeds on healthy, not rotting, fruit.
That's certainly not the end of growers' difficulties with SWD, says Jhalendra Rijal, University of California Cooperative Extension Area IPM Advisor, Northern San Joaquin Valley. It's tricky because vinegar flies — the tiny flies often found circling above fruit bowls on kitchen tables — are so ubiquitous. Even the oh-so-common name, “fruit flies,” indicates the pests' omnipresence.
Stallion Springs 4-H Swine Group visits local swine breeder
(Tehachapi News) Olivia Loyd, March 24
Tim Sturm, owner and operator of California Swine Services, farrowed approximately 600 piglets this year which will be shown all over California by 4-H and FFA members who take them to fairs and jackpot shows.
Sturm, who has a passion for teaching today's youth about raising swine, allowed the members of the Stallion Springs 4-H swine group to come to his facility on March 17 to learn to process one-day-old piglets. The kids learned to ear notch, dock tails, administer shots and clip needle teeth. Members learned why these processes are necessary, how to do them cleanly and correctly, and last were actually able take part in the process. They also learned valuable information about pig breeding and husbandry.
World Water Day
(KCAA) Water Zone, March 22
For World Water Day, Glenda Humiston discusses UC water research and what UC is doing to help ensure farmers and other Californians and the environment get the water they need. She also explains the Farm Bill. Humiston is introduced around the 30 min mark.
Small Farms Must Include Marketing
(Cal Ag Today) Jessica Theisman, March 22
Mark Gaskell is with the University of California cooperative extension as a small farm and Specialty Crop Advisor for San Luis Obispo County. Gaskell recently told California Ag Today about his work with growers and small farms in the county since 1995.
“Part of my job has to do with applied research and educational programs, and this case related to keeping small farms viable and successful,” Gaskell said. “These activities include troubleshooting problems, helping growers develop new crops and develop new market opportunities that make them more competitive.”
How Biocontrols Fit into a Traditional Pest Control Program
(Growing Produce) Carol Miller, March 21
One of the great strengths of using biocontrols is that it allows growers to use traditional chemistries less often, says Surendra Dara, Strawberry and Vegetable Crop Advisor with the University of California Cooperative Extension. Dara was speaking to a packed room at the Biocontrols USA West conference in Carlsbad, CA, hosted by Meister Media Worldwide, the parent company of American Vegetable Grower.
Has the California dairy industry gone sour?
(Agri-Pulse) Tyler Ash, March 21 (Subscription only)
Rumors are circulating that a stampede of California dairy producers is heading toward greener pastures in other states. But why?
Experts in the nation's No. 1 milk-producing state have been ruminating on this dilemma for over a decade now, and it seems to stem from the same problems that are plaguing farmers all over America. Typical of the ag industry in general, mom-and-pop farms are going by the wayside and more large-scale farms are increasing production. So, the production seems to truck along but the number of players in that production does not.
“I remember being a kid, driving up I-5 and there were dairies all over the darn place,” said Jeff Stackhouse, livestock adviser for the University of California Cooperative Extension in Humboldt and Del Norte counties. “Now there's one.”
Statistics from the California Department of Food and Agriculture back him up. According to the agency, the state had 1,563 dairies in 2012 and four years later the number was 1,392, an 11 percent decline. The drop was 4 percent from 2015.
...Frank Mitloehner, professor of Animal Science at UC-Davis and a UC Cooperative Extension specialist, said California has lost approximately one fourth of its dairies over the last 15 years. His research focuses primarily on air quality related to livestock production and specified that the number of dairy cows in California hasn't actually decreased, just the number of dairies. He confirmed that most of the dairies that have closed were relatively small and weren't as competitive in today's market.
“The small ones often have a harder time in a strongly regulated environment,” Mitloehner said. “Large dairies generally hire some consultants to deal with air and water regulations to get their dairies to comply, but many small folks lack resources.”
According to Betsy Karle, dairy farm adviser for the University of California's Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR), the primary regulation that significantly affected California dairy producers was the General Order of Waste Discharge Requirement that was implemented by the Regional Water Quality Control Board in 2007, which affected approximately 1,400 dairies in California's Central Valley.
'Buy local' food programs deceive consumers and are rarely enforced, a USA TODAY Network investigation finds
(The Republic) Robert Anglen, March 20
As local-food sales grow into a $20 billion industry, a USA TODAY Network investigation found that state-branding programs designed to inform consumers and support local farmers are deceptive and virtually unregulated.
These "buy local" programs purport to connect shoppers with food from their states by affixing logos and stickers.
…"The word local is chic; it sells things," said Cindy Fake, horticulture and small-farms adviser for the University of California Cooperative Extension. "So it's used by everybody and anybody."
Fake said the word "local" has no clear definition and consumers are easily misled.
"They are likely to be deceived," she said. "Consumers are thinking one way and the marketers know that. They know consumers want local, so they say it's local."
… "There is a huge diversity across states about what is local," said Gail Feenstra, deputy director of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program at the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Feenstra said there is more transparency on fresh produce because it's easier for consumers to identify where it came from and recognize regional products on store shelves.
But shoppers need to do their research, she said.
Roof Rat Damage Causing Concern for Growers
(AgnetWest) Brian German, March 16
Typically more of a problem in urban areas, roof rat damage is causing significant concern for farmers. According to University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UCANR) scientists, roof rats are appearing in considerable numbers this year. Researchers suggest monitoring fields for rodent activity and using bait stations before the growing season to prevent problems from developing further.
Valley farmers welcome rainstorms
(KFSN-TV) Reuben Contreras, March 15
Rain in the valley and snow in the Sierra from the last few weeks is adding to the water supply local farmers count on to grow their crops.
…"During the strawberry season if you have too much rain it is going to cause the fruit to rot," said Michael Yang of the UC Cooperative Extension Fresno County. "So during the full harvest, we don't want any rain."
Yang works with smaller growers in Fresno County. He says almost all of them rely on groundwater and wells to grow Asian specialty crops sold at farmer's markets.
Pedestrian Orchards Will Reduce Injuries
(California Ag Today) Jessica Theisman, March 14
California Ag Today recently spoke with Becky Phene with the University of California out of the Kearney ag center. She's working alongside Kevin Day, UC tree fruit advisor in Tulare County, on development of pedestrian orchards.
"My background is irrigation. I got asked to participate in the pedestrian orchard with Kevin because he wanted to demonstrate multiple technologies that would be beneficial not just now, but in the future,” Phene said.
Day has combined his pedestrian orchard with subsurface drip irrigation. The pedestrian orchards are by design kept short so that there is no usage of ladders. Eliminating the usage of ladders can help prevent on the job accidents.
“The pruning lets the tree grow quickly and fill in as quickly as possible in the first couple of years, and then he develops the shape of the canopy and the shape of the leaders,” Phene said.
Whole orchard recycling has promise for new almond plantings
Western Farm Press) Tim Hearden, March 14
When it comes time to push out old almond orchards, grinding them into the ground will improve soil nutrients for the next planting, a University of California Cooperative Extension researcher has concluded after years of studying the practice.
Whole orchard recycling increases soil organic matter and carbon, soil nutrients, and microbial diversity, leading to better productivity for the new trees planted in the old orchard's place, says Brent Holtz, pomology farm advisor in the UCCE office at Stockton, Calif.
California Almonds Are Back After Four Years of Brutal Drought
(Bloomberg) Alan Bjerga, Donna Cohen and Cindy Hoffman, March 14
After dropping during the drought, the 2017 almond crop rebounded to a record 2.14 billion pounds of shelled nuts. That's more than triple the amount of walnuts, the No. 2 U.S. nut, and more than four times that of pistachios, which are emerging as a serious competitor for California acreage. Almonds are “incredibly versatile,” said Daniel Sumner, an economist at the University of California, Davis. “And California is the best place to grow it. Where else can the weather be hot and dry and perfect, but you also have a system where you can bring water from mountains full of snow?” Almond-picking is also highly mechanized, which attracts farmers concerned about migrant-worker labor shortages, and its long history in the state creates a level of expertise competitors can't match, he said.
International delegation will be looking for trade, research partners
(Sacramento Business Journal) Mark Anderson, March 13
Subscription only. Article based on ANR news release http://ucanr.edu/News/?blogpost=26598&blogasset=44547.
The What, When, and Why of Using Microbials on Your Farm
(Growing Produce) Robin Siktberg, March 12
Why should microbial controls be a part of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program? The first, and main one, is that research shows that they work. Many microbial products in the market today are backed by trial data that shows when used correctly, microbials can be a very effective way to improve plant health, suppress pest pressure, and improve yields.
“Microbials are very powerful tools,” says Dr. Surendra Dara, Strawberry and Vegetable Crops Advisor at University of California Cooperative Extension. “They have a number of benefits for the grower. Microbial control agents are either very specific (as with some viruses or Bt) or can attack a broad range of pests (as with fungi). They can have multiple modes of action, which prevents development of pest resistance. They are very safe for workers and consumers, and are a sustainable control option.”
(Fresno Bee) Robert Rodriguez, March 12
Roof rats, a common problem for city dwellers, are migrating to California farms and nibbling on everything from avocados to irrigation tubing.
University of California scientists say last year's wet weather created a perfect environment for the quick-breeding rats to flourish.
…"Rodents are everywhere and they are opportunists," said Rachel Long, a University of California, cooperative extension adviser. "They move in from their surrounding urban habitats to take advantage of any food source they can find. And once that food source disappears they search for food elsewhere."
Do Backyard Chickens Need More Rules?
(KQED) Menaka Williams, March 12
…It was easy to welcome another chicken, partly because Oakland's local policies for keeping poultry aren't that restrictive. Roosters aren't allowed, and hens just have to be housed at least 20 feet from any house. That's it. No rules about the number of birds, their coops, slaughter or care. Bare-bones local laws around chickens are really common, says Catherine Brinkley, a veterinarian and urban planner at the University of California, Davis.
Brinkley says these policies tend to focus on limiting nuisances, like early morning cock-a-doodle-dos or eyesore coops — leaving a gap in codes when it comes to health and safety. "They're not at all focused on public health considerations, like [requiring] training for new owners in washing hands and selling eggs, nor do they think about if somebody is hoarding chickens or other awful things that, quite honestly, happen with animal welfare," Brinkley says.
OPINION Farm Bill must include climate change adaptation
(Redding Record Searchlight) Marty Walters, March 9
A new study published by a group of University of California researchers led by Tapan Pathak, published in the journal Agronomy, provides a whole new level of analysis in the ways that California's agriculture will change and be stressed by our changing climate, and it recommends ways to reduce some of the negative effects.
OPINION The self-inflicted economic damage to American agriculture
(The Hill) Daniel Sumner, March 9
Agriculture is so fully integrated into world markets that consumers everywhere take for granted that ripe peaches will be available to everyone, everywhere in January, while Zinfandel, Shiraz and Prosecco are universally available. Likewise farmers all over the world use tractors made in America, and tomato processors use equipment from Italy.
Study indicates that climate change will wreak havoc on California agriculture
(LA Times) Michael Hiltzak, March 9
The California we know is the breadbasket of the nation, producing more than two-thirds of the country's fruits and nuts, including almonds, pistachios, oranges, apricots, nectarines and prunes, and more than a third of its vegetables, including artichokes, broccoli, spinach and carrots. It's all valued at more than $50 billion a year.
Precise gene technology impacts GMO debate
(Capital Press) Tim Hearden, March 8
Precise gene-editing technology is bringing the debate over genetically modified crops into a new era, researchers and experts say.
While the use of GMOs has ignited a high-pitched public debate for years, the ethical and socioeconomic debate over the newer techniques “seems to be keeping pace with the science,” observes Neil McRoberts, a University of California-Davis associate professor and plant pathologist.
Trade war could spark food fight, California growers fear
(LA Times) Geoffrey Mohan, March 2
Steel and aluminum may be the intended quarry of a trade war that President Trump has said would be "good" for the U.S. economy, but the casualties of the conflict could be food, agricultural economists warn.
… No state has more at stake than California, which leads the country in agricultural revenue. Farmers and ranchers in the Golden State are twice as dependent on foreign trade as the country as a whole. World leaders also likely know that Trump enjoyed deep support in rural, agricultural areas, including much of the Central Valley, said Dan Sumner, an economist who directs the Agricultural Issues Center at UC Davis.
"The word 'local' is chic; it sells things," said Cindy Fake, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Placer and Nevada counties. "So, it's used by everybody and anybody."
Fake said "local" has no clear definition and consumers are easily misled.
"They are likely to be deceived," she said. "Consumers are thinking one way and the marketers know that. They know consumers want local, so they say it's local."
The reporter also spoke with Gail Feenstra, deputy director of UC ANR's Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program.
"There is a huge diversity across states about what is local," Feenstra said
There is more transparency on fresh produce because it's easier for consumers to identify where it came from and recognize regional products on store shelves.
Feenstra said shoppers need to do their research.