Posts Tagged: Dan Sumner
This is one of a series of stories featuring a sampling of UC ANR academics whose work exemplifies the public value UC ANR brings to California.
The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted life for everyone, with information about COVID-19 changing daily. For Californians who aren't fluent in English, obtaining reliable information is particularly difficult. Aparna Gazula, a University of California Cooperative Extension advisor who serves Santa Clara, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties, has been providing COVID-19-related information in Chinese and Spanish for immigrant Bay Area farmers.
In March, when restaurants shut down to curb the spread of the virus, many restaurants and wholesale produce markets cancelled produce orders placed with farmers. Language, cultural differences, low computer literacy and limited access to computers created barriers for small-scale, immigrant farmers in the Bay Area to quickly find new buyers for their perishable produce. Gazula introduced them to food banks, hoping they would accept the produce donations, but the food banks were not set up to pick up donations from small farmers.
Most small-scale farmers lack the financial capital to absorb the revenue shock. To help offset losses from unsold specialty crops, the UCCE advisor and Qi Zhou, the small farm program assistant specialist, have been helping Asian and Latino farmers complete English-language disaster aid applications.
“Since March, we have helped farmers apply for Covid-19-related farmer relief funds,” Gazula said. So far, she said, four of the 17 immigrant farmers who applied to the American Farmland Trust Farmer Relief Fund have received a total of $4,000, and 10 farmers of the 30 who applied to the California Family Farmer Emergency Fund received a total of $42,500.
Recently the U.S. Department of Agriculture expanded the list of specialty crops eligible for its Coronavirus Food Assistance Program to include bok choy, daikon and other vegetables with a deadline of Sept. 11. Communicating by phone and the app We Chat, Gazula and Zhou, who speaks Mandarin, notified local farmers, and advised them how to apply for the disaster funds. Zhou, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service rangeland management specialist Ling He and another NRCS staff member assisted 64 farmers in completing applications over the past week.
Bob Kuang, president of the Bay Area Chinese Growers Association, shares UCCE information with the association's growers.
“Most of my members don't understand English so they [UC Cooperative Extension] help, like for policy and safety,” Kuang said, providing information the growers can't find elsewhere in Chinese.”
When she was a girl, Gazula saw how hard farmers work to make a living off the land while spending summers and winter breaks at her grandparents' farm in India, where they grew rice, mung beans and chili peppers.
“Farmers are very hardworking people, and small farmers even more so as they manage everything on the farm,” said the small farms and specialty crops advisor. “Their grit, determination to succeed and hardworking spirit truly inspire me.”
“I'd like to help them be successful as much as I can,” she said, “be it research-based information to farm successfully or bilingual support to help them better navigate regulations or apply for grant funds.”
In addition to helping farmers apply for financial relief, Gazula alerted the farmers to shelter in place rules and is delivering COVID-19 safety information about masks, sanitation and social distancing requirements in Chinese and Spanish to them.
“We also helped farmers implement COVID-19-related protocols on their farms,” she said. “We are currently putting together 200 COVID-19 kits that will help farmers comply with worker health and safety-related protocols on their farms. The COVID-19 kits contain reusable masks, hand sanitizer, bilingual Cal OSHA guidelines for employers regarding COVID-19, and a resources sheet listing where to buy the enclosed items.”
When she's not involved in COVID-19 crisis communications, Gazula continues to conduct research on nitrogen uptake in bok choy and bell peppers and irrigation management. She collaborates with Linda Chu, Guo Ping Yuan, Han Qiang Kuang and other Santa Clara County growers who allow the farm advisor to study crops on their farms.
“They do research, like test irrigation systems for right amount of water for the crop and nutrition – fertilizer – for the crop. They do lot of things,” said Bob Kuang, of the Bay Area Chinese Growers Association, who provides land at his farm in Gilroy for UCCE studies.
Gazula also advises farmers on how to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) on their farms and fulfill irrigated land nitrogen reporting. Fines for not complying with regulations can threaten the economic sustainability of small family farms.
Although the majority of growers she works with regularly have limited English and need assistance filing reports to the government, others consult her for production information they can't get elsewhere for the specialty crops they grow. Farmers of Korean, Japanese, Indian and Vietnamese ancestry and others attend meetings to learn the latest research on Asian vegetables such as daikon radish, napa cabbage, bok choy, on choy and various Asian leafy mustard crops including gai choy and pea shoots.
Gazula, who joined UC Cooperative Extension in 2016, currently works with about 180 small-scale growers in San Benito and Santa Clara counties and hopes to expand her outreach to farmers in Santa Cruz County.
To help small farmers adapt to climate change, Gazula and Zhou partnered with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' Healthy Soils Program staff and Santa Clara County Farm Bureau for technical assistance and held workshops during the winter. Zhou helped the farmers apply for grants from the California Department of Food and Agriculture's State Water Efficiency & Enhancement Program and Healthy Soils Program. The 22 farmers who received CDFA grants brought a total of $424,111 into Santa Clara County.
The outreach work UC Cooperative Extension does wouldn't be possible without the help of bilingual staff such as Zhou, the scientist Gazula hired with grant funds in September, and some translation support from partner organizations and growers as well.
“Relying on partners for translation support isn't practical,” Gazula explained. “Outreach is most effective when it is targeted. It's not just literally translating words, but translating the information the words convey. Because we provide outreach materials to comply with regulations, the language in these materials is very technical and it's important that the information is presented accurately. We also depend on relationships with the farmers to extend the information within their communities. Long-term, it's easier to do outreach with support from our own staff.”
Competition is stiff for money to serve non-English-speaking Californians because the state is home to so many immigrants with different needs. The majority of the grants she uses for outreach are for food safety. The local Open Space Authority, which promotes preserving land for open spaces, has also provided funds for small and beginning farmer outreach and education.
Gazula draws on the expertise of fellow UC Cooperative Extension farm advisors across the state. For example, she said, Richard Smith, who specializes in vegetable production, and Michael Cahn, who specializes in irrigation and water resources, are always willing to help, even though they are not assigned to serve Santa Clara County.
“Farmers already have tremendous challenges when it comes to being successful,” Gazula said. “I feel language barriers and lack of access to the same resources as fluent English-speaking growers shouldn't be the reason they can't farm successfully.”
Coronavirus's next victim: Big Meat
(Grist) Nathanael Johnson, April 30
“It's going to cause price spikes somewhere downstream,” said Rich Sexton, an agricultural economist at the University of California, Davis. But the average shopper might only notice empty shelves rather than higher prices, because “big grocery chains don't like to jack up prices, especially in times like this.”
…“There is going to be even more of a rush to automate farmwork and slaughterhouses,” Sexton said.
As meat plants idle, California has no shortage of fish, dairy
(NBC News) Dennis Romero, April 29
…California produces about 20 percent of the nation's milk and has a large poultry processor in Foster Farms, but is otherwise dependent on the Midwest for pork and much of its beef, according to Daniel Sumner, director of the University of California's Agricultural Issues Center.
The state slaughters dairy cows for hamburger and raises calves for beef. But the 1-year-old livestock is sent to the Midwest for corn and soy feeding before being processed for beef there, he said. "We've never produced any hogs to speak of," Sumner added.
California producers fill nearly half the state's chicken and egg demand, he said.
1-In-4 San Diegans Unemployed From Pandemic, North County Wants Businesses To Reopen, San Diego Sees Drop In Homelessness, And Online Learning Nightmare For Vets
(KPBS Midday Edition) Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, April 29
An estimated 25% of San Diegans are out of work because of the pandemic, according to a new SANDAG report. Plus, a handful of North County mayors want businesses in their towns to reopen sooner rather than later. Also, homelessness in San Diego is seeing a decline, according to the latest homeless count. Also, it's not just young students who are having a hard time with distance learning, veteran students are also dealing with the challenges of virtual classrooms. ... Finally, growing your own veggies? Some gardening tips from a master gardener. [UC Master Gardener Sommer Cartier discusses a new website to help gardeners https://www.mastergardenersd.org/lets-grow-together-san-diego/.]
Virus-related food shortages will be temporary in U.S., experts say
(Farm Press) Tim Hearden, April 29
…“Every economist agrees that the massive hit to the world economy and trade will likely cause millions of very poor people to be out of work and with no income,” said agricultural economist Daniel Sumner, director of the University of California's Agricultural Issues Center. “This is a consequence of the disease, but also of the policy of shutting down the economy.
“In poor countries, when the economy is shut down, the poorest people get even more hungry and people die, especially the kids,” Sumner said in an email.
'We're in pretty good shape' | Northern California unlikely to see meat shortage
(ABC10) Lena Howland, April 29
… Despite the ad Tyson Foods released over the weekend, saying the food supply chain in America is breaking, UC Davis Professor Daniel Sumner said we could expect to see some higher prices, but he doesn't expect to see shelves being wiped out anytime soon.
"If you want to have some very specialized meat product, you may find that in short supply in your local market on the day you're shopping, if you went back the next day, it may be there, but I don't think anybody has to worry about the supply chain in America, we're in pretty good shape," Sumner said.
And he said the only way we will see a shortage is if people panic buy, just like they did with toilet paper.
"As we've learned in the past month or two, you could certainly create a shortage in the sense that consumers can altogether if we all ran out and decided to stock up every freezer space that we have with steaks and pork chops," Summer said.
Nature And The Coronavirus: As Humans Continue Lockdown, Wildlife Creeps Back In
(On Point NPR) Brittany Knotts and Meghna Chakrabarti, April 29
Humanity in lockdown. Wildlife creeps back into cities around the world. We look at the pandemic from the animal kingdom's point of view.
Scientist at work: Trapping urban coyotes to see if they can be 'hazed' away from human neighborhoods
(Conversation) Niamh Quinn, April 29
After weeks of sleepless nights spent scrutinizing grainy images relayed from our remote cameras, mostly of waving grass and tumbling leaves, finally, there it is. A live coyote with a loop around its neck. On October 8, 2019, my colleagues and I caught the first member of the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources pack, #19CU001.
Coronavirus: Should California brace for a meat shortage? Not exactly, say industry experts
(SF Chronicle) Esther Mobley, April 28
… There's not a shortage, exactly, say industry experts, though interruptions to the supply chain mean that it's taking a little longer than usual for meat to get from a farm to your grocery store shelf.
“We will have a short period where we have fewer packages of meat in the case,” said Daniel A. Sumner, director of the University of California Agricultural Issues Center. It will be an inconvenience, he said: “Let's say you like thin-cut pork chops, I like thick-cut pork chops. Well, one of us will be disappointed if we shop late in the day.”
Carbon Sequestration in Vineyards
(AgInfo) Tim Hammerich, April 27
...However, Extension Specialist Kaan Kurtural and his team at the Oakville Experiment Station are currently evaluating the impact cover crops can have on carbon sequestration in vineyards.
Kurtural…”Growers came to us. A couple of the questions they had was how can we sequester the carbon and how can we mitigate the amount of greenhouse gases we emit from the vineyards? So that was some background work done on it. Cover crops do sequester carbon and will store it in the soil. But as you till them, if you till the row middles, all this stuff is release back into the atmosphere. So we worked with a couple of private companies and we were able to get this new type of cover crop using a perennial system. Meaning that it doesn't have to be tilled or mowed, it just goes dormant. So we're comparing now till versus no-till systems using perennial and annual cover crops. So that's how that began.”
Covid-19 has forced large-scale farms that supply institutions to dump produce they can't sell. Why can't it just feed hungry people ? We've got answers.
(Counter) Lela Nargi, April 27
… To get a clearer understanding of where institutional food comes from, why kinks at the center of the supply chain make rerouting a challenge, and what's being done to change that, I talked to a variety of agriculture experts.
…Dr. Gail Feenstra, deputy director, Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, University of California Davis: Our food system generally is built for global distribution. Now that's suddenly cracked, people are going back to more local food systems, where [important middle-tier components] like storage facilities [for meat and grain] aren't available.
…Feenstra: In California, some new food hubs are starting up to make the connection between small- and mid-scale famers with excess, and consumers who use CalFresh/SNAP. There's also work being done to figure out how to change CSAs to direct delivery or drop-off. Who is making these connections are co-op extension service agents, in every county in the U.S. They can share resources and research, and have access to grant monies. One agent told me she worked with county board supervisors to keep farmers' markets open, then with market managers to reorganize to keep the markets safe.
COVID-19 outbreak causing possible meat shortage across US
(KRON4) Dan Thorn, April 26
…“That doesn't seem to be on the horizon yet… but we have had some disruptions,” Daniel Summer said.
Those disruptions, says Daniel Sumner — a U.C. Davis agricultural economist — will not create a shortage of meat.
Even after the country's largest meat producers including Tyson, along Smithfield and JBS have recently shuttered processing plants.
“You and I may see our favorite supermarket low on something but there will be plenty of meat –beef, pork and chicken that we all like there will be plenty of meat in the supermarkets,” Summer said.
Marin farm sector struggles as virus cripples food services
(Marin IJ) Richard Halstead, April 26
… Randi Black, a University of California Cooperative Extension dairy adviser for Marin County, said, “We're kind of lucky where we are. We haven't been impacted quite as much as some of the eastern U.S. dairies have been. That's where we're seeing a lot of milk dumping.”
Black said that is because processors who buy Marin dairy farmers' milk sell most of their milk to grocery stores, while processors in the east rely more heavily on the food-services industry, which includes restaurants, hotels and airlines.
Want to save your citrus trees? Start a full-fledged insect war
(Los Angeles Times) Jeanette Marantos, April 25
…In citrus-loving California, some 60% of homes already have one or more citrus trees in their yard, said UC Riverside entomologist Elizabeth Grafton-Cardwell, director of the Lindcove Research and Extension Center in Exeter. (That's a statewide average, with fewer in Northern California and more in Southern California, she said.)
…But Mark Hoddle, a biological control specialist at UC Riverside, sees things differently. Hoddle and his entomologist wife, Christina Hoddle, also at UC Riverside, went to Pakistan in 2010 looking for natural enemies of the Asian citrus psyllid, and there they found Tamarixia radiata, tiny parasitoid wasps that lay their eggs on the backs of psyllid toddlers (a.k.a. nymphs).
Even as new technologies revolutionize farming, not everyone has access
(Sac Biz Journal) Emily Hamann, April 24
Technology could hold the key to solving growers' issues both around labor and water.
George Zhuang, a farm adviser with the UC Cooperative Extension, works with wine grape growers in the Fresno region, where machines have largely taken over the job of growing grapes.
“Most newly established vineyards go to 100% mechanization,” Zhuang said.
Amid rising costs and limited availability, farmers struggle to find enough workers
(Sac Biz Journal) Emily Hamann, April 24
…Wine grapes are known for being especially labor intensive. Grape harvesters have been commonplace in vineyards in the San Joaquin Valley for decades, but vines still needed maintenance, including pulling leaves and trimming shoots, by hand. Now that's changing as well, said Kaan Kurtural, viticulture specialist at the UC Davis.
…“We have a lot of consolidation in our business,” Kurtural said. “Vineyards are getting larger as farmers are getting old and their kids don't want to do this anymore, so they're selling their holdings.”
A Strained Food Chain
(Health in all Matters) Michael Joyce, April 24
COVID-19 has drastically disrupted the way food is produced, distributed, and available in the U.S. and around the world. The toll of the virus on those who plant, pick, buy, sell, and, at times, go hungry, is increasing. In this episode, we explore the vulnerabilities of a complex and interconnected food system and the inevitable bright spots along the way.
Guest: Daniel Sumner
Farmers face new challenges in their ongoing quest for water
(Sac Biz Journal) Emily Hamann, April 24
…“Almond trees are actually pretty resilient,” said Katherine Jarvis-Shean, a Sacramento-area orchard farm advisor with the University of California Cooperative Extension.
While the trees themselves can live through a drought year, insufficient water will reduce yields for the present season and seasons into the future, Jarvis-Shean said.
But this year growers can also rely on groundwater pumped from wells drilled into a patchwork of underground aquifers.
“One year with low precipitation is not a problem with groundwater,” Jarvis-Shean said. “The problem is if we continue to have dry winters.”
Protecting The Valley's Vulnerable Populations From COVID-19
(KVPR) Kathleen Schock, April 24
COVID-19 is disproportionately hurting vulnerable communities like seniors, ag workers and the homeless. To learn about efforts to protect these at-risk populations, FM89's Kathleen Schock spoke with Lisa Blecker, pesticide safety education program coordinator for the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Laura Moreno, chair of the Fresno Madera Continuum of Care, and Kristen Beall Watson, CEO of the Kern Community Foundation.
Too celebratory for a pandemic, California's farmed oysters and caviar lose their markets
(San Francisco Chronicle) Janelle Bitker, April 24
…California's aquaculture industry, which includes farmed trout, clams and mussels in addition to higher-end abalone and oysters, represents about $200 million in annual sales, according to Jackson Gross, an aquaculture specialist at UC Davis.
…“Are people willing to pay for a premium local product?,” Gross said. “They're doing that at restaurants, but they're getting the frozen stuff from the big chain stores.”
Stop stable flies from biting into profits
(Progressive Dairy) Julia Hollister, April 23
It only takes five stable flies biting on the front legs of a cow to reduce weight gains and milk yields, according to Alec Gerry, a University of California – Davis veterinary entomology specialist.
Gerry, who spoke at the 2020 Golden State Management Conference in Modesto, California, has been researching flies for over 25 years. His most recent studies are in collaboration with researchers at the Veterinary Medicine Teaching and Research Center in Tulare, California.
In The Quiet Of Sheltering In Place, Have You Encountered Wildlife Differently?
(KPCC ) Larry Mantle, April 23
As the quarantine continues, residents surrounding Griffith Park have shared that they're noticing more wildlife activity - hawk nests, deer in the hills, opossums on the roads.
According to the Los Angeles Times, some wildlife biologists are saying what's changed isn't animal behavior but our own. We finally have the time and the patience to notice the wildlife around us.
Oakland Schools Use Gardening to Help Families
(KCBS radio) Matt Biglar, April 23
Canned food... diapers... tomato plants?
As KCBS Radio's Matt Bigler reports, Oakland schools are helping families get food and supplies and also get into gardening.
The plant giveaway came out of the Contra Costa Master Gardeners spring fundraiser, which unfortunately withered and died this season.
“But with the shelter in place order, we were unable to hold our plant sale.” Dawn Kooyumjian said, they decided to donate their seedlings to nearly 50 organizations, including Oakland Unified.
“People are able to come, pick up their necessities that the school district is providing, and also take home a vegetable plant that will allow them to have a little bit of food security in their home.
The Great Potato Giveaway
(NPR) Stacey Vanek Smith, April 23
…Daniel Sumner is an agricultural economist at the University of California, Davis. He says the problem boils down to two things.
DANIEL SUMNER: How streamlined and specialized things are.
...SUMNER: The farmer will be linked directly to the restaurant customers and grow for that restaurant in San Francisco or New York City or somebody growing exactly the kind of lettuce that McDonald's needs for their hamburgers. That's been a great system.
Lockdown silver linings: For a Sacramento family, baby chickens bring meaning, solace
(Sac Bee) Diana Williams, April 22
…Imagine my delight in stumbling across a backyard chicken census online. It's overseen by Maurice Pitesky, a veterinarian and epidemiologist at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine-Cooperative Extension.
Pitesky's best guess is there are about 100,000 backyard flocks in California. Sacramento probably has about 11 percent of them, making ours the third-highest backyard chicken region in the state, behind Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Volunteer program donates over 30,000 plants to community gardens in Contra Costa
(KRON4) Omar Perez, April 21
A volunteer program donates thousands of vegetable plants to local undeserved communities in the Bay Area free of charge. Over the last few weeks volunteers for The Contra Costa Master Gardeners Program donated more than 30,000 plants to local school and community gardens.
…“Because of COVID-19 they were not able to have the sale so they quickly decided they would distribute the plants for free to local communities, elderly and schools,” Bay Area Program Director Frank McPherson said.
Coyotes, falcons, deer and other wildlife are reclaiming L.A. territory as humans stay at home
(LA Times) Louis Sahagun, April 21
Similarly, research scientist Niamh Quinn, who serves as human-wildlife interactions advisor for UC Cooperative Extension, said none of the five collared coyotes she is studying in the cities of Hacienda Heights, Roland Heights, La Verne and Chino Hills “have changed their behavior yet.”
“I do believe, however, that human behavior has been altered significantly by the lockdown in ways that are closing the gap between us and what's wild around our own homes — and that's great, up to a point,” she said.
She worries that animals may be pushed into closer conflicts with humans. “We have to interact with wildlife from a distance. That is because we still do not know all the diseases that, say, coyotes and rats carry with them.”
A century later, victory gardens connect Americans again
(AP) Kristin M, Hall, April 21
… Creating a victory garden now can be, as it was during World Wars I and II, a shared experience during hardship and uncertainty.
“World War I, to me, is a pretty stark parallel,” said Rose Hayden-Smith, a historian and author of “Sowing the Seeds of Victory: American Gardening Programs of World War I.” “Not only was there a war, but there was an influenza pandemic.”
… “So these gardening posters and food preservation posters would appear in literally dozens of languages,” said Hayden-Smith....“We don't have poster art, but we have Instagram,” she said.
Empty Grocery Shelves and Rotting, Wasted Vegetables: Two Sides of a Supply Chain Problem
(Inside Climate News) Georgina Gustin, April 19
"In terms of resilience and nimbleness, they seem to be able to pivot and figure out new supply chains quickly," said Gail Feenstra, deputy director of the University of California-Davis Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP). "They're always struggling because of the competition that comes from the global food system. It puts many of them at a disadvantage. But now that system is in complete disarray. It allows these regional food systems to emerge. They're the ones that are bringing relief to communities."
… "This is more than a dress rehearsal. This is it," said Feenstra, of UC-Davis, referring to the disruptions caused by the pandemic. "This is going to be here for a while and it isn't the last time this will happen. This is an opportunity for our policy makers to invest in small and mid-scale businesses."
Is your tree on death's door? Here's how to tell
(LA Times) Jeanette Marantos, April 19
Climate change, invasive species and even international trade are taking a serious toll on California trees. An estimated 150 million trees died during the drought that started in December 2011, according to Smithsonian Magazine, and the stressed trees that survived became more vulnerable to attack by a host of newcomer pests, said Philippe Rolshausen, subtropical tree specialist for the Cooperative Extension office at UC Riverside.
"There are lots of invasive pests everywhere because of global warming and the movement of plant materials in general," he said.
Fresh Produce and Milk Go to Waste Even as People Need Food Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
(KQED Forum) Michael Krasny, April 16
Even as food banks are seeing more demand than ever, some California farmers are dumping milk and letting produce rot. The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted how we eat and in turn, how food is distributed. The closure of many restaurants, venues, and schools is leaving many food suppliers with excess perishables. Meanwhile, retailers and food banks are scrambling to keep food in stock. We talk with experts about how California's food supply chain has been disrupted, how it's adapting, and what to expect in the months to come.
Guests: Dan Sumner, professor of agricultural and resource economics, UC Davis
Central Valley residents from Visalia to Sacramento look forward every year to the beginning of strawberry season in early April, when roadside strawberry stands operated by Hmong and Mien farmers open to the public.
These farms grow strawberry varieties such as Chandler and Camarosa that haven't traded flavor for shelf life – they don't ship or store well, but they are far sweeter than varieties usually sold in stores, and they reach their peak ripeness and flavor in the fields next to the strawberry stands.
As strawberry season opens this year, farmers are hoping that customers will still stop by the stands to pick up their fresh, seasonal strawberries, and also that they will observe 6-foot social distancing and other guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19. UC Cooperative Extension agricultural assistant Michael Yang and I were interviewed on a local news station to encourage Fresno residents to practice these guidelines while supporting local farmers.
To assist Fresno strawberry farmers, the UCCE small farms team in Fresno County developed, printed, and distributed signs for roadside strawberry stands reminding customers to observe social distancing and other safety practices, as well as guidelines for farm stands to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Versions of the signs were also developed for strawberry stands in Merced and Sacramento, as well as a general sign for local produce at any farm stand.
Signs and safety guidelines were printed with funding from the Western Extension Risk Management Education Center, and Michael Yang distributed large printed versions of the signs to all strawberry stands on the Fresno County Fruit Trail map in Fresno County. These materials have also been shared with UCCE small farms and food systems advisors as well as nonprofit and agency partners and county Agricultural Commissioner's offices, and they are available for printing on the UCCE Fresno strawberry website.
Even as Californians shelter in place to contain the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, nutritious food remains vital to the health and well-being of our communities.
“Eating fruits and vegetables is known to benefit our overall health and help our immune system,” said Lorrene Ritchie, director of the UC Nutrition Policy Institute. “At a time when we need to be especially vigilant about staying healthy, eating healthy is essential.”
Farms, farm stands and farmers markets are listed as “essential businesses” in the state shelter-in-place order because they are important parts of the food supply. Urban farms are included in this category. As large produce distributors struggle to switch from selling large quantities to restaurants, schools and institutions to supplying supermarkets, these small businesses may offer a better selection of fresh foods, and may be closer to homes and less crowded.
To help minimize exposure and risk of spreading of the virus, urban farms need to follow some key guidelines from the CDC , said Jennifer Sowerwine, UC Cooperative Extension metropolitan agriculture and food systems specialist in the Department of Environment, Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley.
UC Cooperative Extension has compiled a list of resources for farmers, community gardeners and other people working in the food system to ensure that they can continue supplying fresh, healthy and affordable food to Californians.
“Social distancing, heightened health and hygiene practices and cleaning and disinfecting reduce the risk,” said Sowerwine.
Although eating a nutritious diet can boost our immunity, the Los Angeles Times reported produce sales plummeted by 90% or more at Southern California produce markets after the statewide shelter-in-place rules went into effect.
“It's worrisome to see that sales of fruits and vegetables are dropping so sharply, but not surprising,” said Rachel Surls, UC Cooperative Extension sustainable food systems advisor for Los Angeles County. “As people shop during the crisis, they may be prioritizing groceries that can be stored for a longer time in the fridge or pantry. And they may be on a very limited food budget, even more so than usual, so they are likely prioritizing essentials like bread and rice and baby formula.”
To support farmers in California, the UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program created a directory at http://www.calagtour.org for consumers to find local farms to purchase produce directly.
For families who have lost jobs and income, the risk of food insecurity increases. Some families could supplement their food from gardens and urban agriculture during this crisis.
Consumers must practice safety, too, when visiting farmers markets and farm stands. UC Cooperative Extension small farm advisor Ruth Dahlquist-Willard explained, "Things like keeping the minimum six-foot distance from customers, not touching any produce that you're not planning to buy, leaving as soon as you've made a purchase and washing the produce when you get home would be some good guidelines."
The virus is thought to be spread mainly from person to person, however there is evidence that COVID-19 can last for days on hard surfaces, thus the need to ramp up good health and hygiene practices, social distancing and cleaning and sanitizing of surfaces.
University of California research and extension faculty have compiled a list of helpful fact sheets and resources for farmers, community gardeners and other food system workers to ensure fresh, healthy and affordable food for communities across the state:
- Food-related resources for consumers and members of the food industry for COVID-19
- on the UC Davis Food Safety website.
- Sowerwine's PowerPoint presentation Safe Handling Practices for Fresh Produce in a Time of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) for urban farmers.
- A set of policies and procedures for safe food handling at the farm during COVID-19 provides step-by-step instructions for applying new food and health precautions on the farm including checklists, standard operating procedures and signage posting guidelines for preventing the spread of infection.
- COVID-19 safety guidelines for farm stands.
- Handouts for safe food-handling at home that can be distributed to customers receiving food from the farm.
All of these resources are posted on the UC Urban Agriculture website at https://ucanr.edu/sites/UrbanAg.
“During this challenging time, I am heartened by the quick and thoughtful responses by many extension, grassroots and institutional efforts, including Community Alliance with Family Farm's COVID-19 Responses and Resources for California Family Farms, Mutual Aid organizations where groups of young, healthy and lower-risk people are bringing food and services to vulnerable people who shouldn't be in public at all, and Bayareafood.info that seeks to support local restaurants, farmers, and food systems workers as they weather this latest storm,” said Sowerwine. “Crisis can spawn innovation, and I am hopeful that through this, we will come out the other end with a more compassionate and resilient food system.”
Road side stands selling fresh strawberries and vegetables are opening up around the San Joaquin Valley, and are a excellent option for safe shopping, reported Dale Yurong on ABC 30 News in Fresno.
In keeping with social distancing guidelines, Yurong conducted remote interviews with UC Cooperative Extension advisor Ruth Dahlquist-Willard and agricultural assistant Michael Yang, who work closely with small-scale farmers in Fresno and Tulare counties.
Dahlquist-Willard suggested customers maintain a six-foot space from other shoppers at farm stands and follow other common sense precautions when purchasing the healthful fresh food by, "not touching any produce that you're not planning to buy, leaving as soon as you've made a purchase and washing the produce when you get home . . . . Similar to what we're seeing at farmers markets right now."
Some valley farmers have been selling their produce at farmers markets out of town and have noticed fewer people are out shopping, Yurong said. They hope more people will stop by the local farm stands, away from the crowded grocery stores, and pick up something straight out of the field.
"My farmers that go to farmers markets, even though the farmers market is still open, they only allow a few people at a time. You don't have a lot of customers walk by just like before," Yang said.
San Joaquin Valley strawberry stands were all expected to be open by April 10, Yurong said.