Posts Tagged: Monica Cooper
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.”
ASEV's Invasive Pest Webinar Series Starts June 3
(Wine Business) May 30
… The invasive pest webinar series will include:
June 3: Impact of the New Invasive Pest, Spotted Lanternfly, in the Northeastern Vineyards by Heather Leach (The Pennsylvania State University, University Park) at noon – 1:00 p.m. (PDT)
July 2: Fruit Flies and Their Role in Causing Sour Rot by Megan Hall (University of Missouri, Columbia) at noon –1:00 p.m. (PDT)
October 22: Lifecycle Modeling and the Impacts of Climate Change by Gwen-Alyn Hoheisel (Washington State University, Prosser) at noon – 1 p.m. (PDT)
November 12: Invasive Species Response: Lessons from the European Grapevine Moth Collaboration Program by Monica Cooper (University of California, Cooperative Extension, Napa County) at noon – 1 p.m. (PDT)
UC Davis sponsoring COVID-19 symposium
(Woodland Daily Democrat) May 30
… Statewide Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño, based in the UCD Department of Entomology and Nematology, is scheduled to share her expertise on bee venom, one of the possible COVID-19 treatments suggested by researchers but not yet investigated.
… Among those asking questions will be Jennifer Cash, the newest faculty member of the UCD College of Biological Sciences; Fred Gould, a National Academy of Sciences member; UC Cooperative Extension adviser Surendra Dara; and University of Brasilia graduate student Raquel Silva.
Gardens Have Pulled America Out of Some of Its Darkest Times. We Need Another Revival.
(Mother Jones) Tom Philpott, May 29
The first great national gardening mobilization came two decades later, scholar Rose Hayden-Smith writes in her 2014 book Sowing the Seeds of Victory: American Gardening Programs of World War 1. Building on a Progressive Era push to install gardens in public school yards as an educational tool, President Woodrow Wilson tapped the Bureau of Education, with funding from the War Department, to launch the US School Garden Army shortly after sending troops to intervene in the European conflict. “A Garden for Every Child,” its slogan promised. “Every Child in a Garden.”
The School Garden Army was just one of several national programs that “encouraged Americans to express their patriotism by producing and conserving food,” Hayden-Smith adds. Wilson also promoted a civic gardening boom through the Committee on Public Information, which hired writers, artists, scholars, and advertising professionals to create marketing campaigns to promote school, home, and community gardening.
More scientists joining UC Cooperative Extension
(Daily Democrat) Jim Smith, May 29
Four staff research associates will join the ranks of UC Cooperative Extension scientists in the coming months to support nut crop advisors conducting critical research in walnut, almond and pistachio production.
The California Walnut Board, the Almond Board of California and the California Pistachio Research Board together have provided about $425,000 to cover annual salaries, benefits, travel and equipment for the new UC Cooperative Extension staff. Under the terms of the agreement, the new positions will be funded annually for up to three years, pending available funds and success of the program.
Tree Nut Industry Provides Funding for more UCCE Researchers
(Ag Net West) May 29
The California tree nut industry is helping to provide funding for four new research associates who will become part of the UC Cooperative Extension system. The addition of the new personnel is being made possible by the California Walnut Board, the Almond Board of California, and the California Pistachio Research Board who have contributed a total of $425,000 in funding support. Collaborations like this are one of the many ways that the UC system is able to support important agricultural research through alternative funding methods.
Modoc County continues to see zero coronavirus cases
(Action NewsNow) Ana Marie Torrea, May 28, 2020
…Next month, the Modoc Junior Livestock Auction is planned for June 8 to June 12. Action News Now reached out to the U.C. Cooperative Extension which oversees the auction. A representative tells Action News Now that they've already made significant changes to the event.
The event's Facebook page says it is working to follow state guidelines by increasing seating and sanitation.
Gardens Have Pulled America Out of Some of Its Darkest Times. We Need Another Revival.
(Mother Jones) Tom Philpott, May 29
…The first great national gardening mobilization came two decades later, scholar Rose Hayden-Smith writes in her 2014 book Sowing the Seeds of Victory: American Gardening Programs of World War 1. Building on a Progressive Era push to install gardens in public school yards as an educational tool, President Woodrow Wilson tapped the Bureau of Education, with funding from the War Department, to launch the US School Garden Army shortly after sending troops to intervene in the European conflict. “A Garden for Every Child,” its slogan promised. “Every Child in a Garden.”
Women Taking the Reins at Marin's Family Farms
(Marin Magazine) Christina Mueller, May 27
…The two sisters, who grew up on the family ranch but no longer live there (Melissa lives in Novato, Jessica lives in Bend, Oregon), were looking to re-establish their connection to the family's West Marin land. After attending a University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) and MALT agricultural summit 15 years ago that focused on helping the next generation of Marin ranchers figure out how to sustain small family farms, the sisters started researching, digging into their family history to learn what Angelo and subsequent generations of Poncias produced. Cattle, dairy and potatoes kept appearing at the top of the list. With the help of the Tomales Regional History Center, they found an old Petaluma Argus Courier newspaper advertisement where their grandfather posted about the potato varietals he was working with. One of those varietals was known as the Bodega Red.
San Joaquin County cherries withstand ‘spotty' rain losses
(Ag Alert) Kevin Hecteman, May 27
… Rain gauges around the area showed 0.19 to 0.52 inch fell during this year's May storms, according to Mohamed Nouri, a University of California Cooperative Extension orchard advisor in San Joaquin County, with cherries in the Escalon area being among the most affected
… Temperature plays an important role in the rate of cherry fruit cracking, Nouri said; more water is taken up when the temperature is warm following rain, causing the cherry to expand and split.
Table grape industry promotes viticulture research
(Farm Press) Lee Allen, May 27
…Another of the presented research subjects involved remote sensing for nutrient content detection. Ali Pourreza of the University of California Cooperative Extension was one of the presenters.
“Future agricultural and food production systems must make better use of limited resources to ensure farmers can economically produce more high-quality food while minimizing impact on the environment,” Pourreza said. “An effective nitrogen (N) management plan involves monitoring vine N status, currently accomplished by collecting plant tissue samples for lab analysis.
Houston Wilson Named Presidential Director for the Clif Bar Endowed Organic Agriculture Institute
(Cal Ag Today) May 27
Houston Wilson has been named the Presidential Director for the University of California's Organic Agriculture Institute, which was established in January 2020 with a $500,000 endowment by Clif Bar and a matching $500,000 endowment from UC President Janet Napolitano.
(Move Your DNA) Katy Bowman, May 26
… First up, I am talking to Dr. Rose Hayden-Smith. She is an author, educator, and advocate for a sustainable food system. She is University of California emeritus. Dr. Hayden-Smith leverages the power of social technologies in her research as a historian, to tell stories, share information, start conversations, and engage with a wide range of people interested in the food system. She believes in the power of gardens to transform the world. And I first interviewed Rose in 2018 and I'll be sharing parts of that interview, where we discuss gardening, how to get started, the history of Victory Gardens, as well as garden movement tips. But I wanted first to get Rose's take on our current situation, and what she thinks about how things are changing.
California Nut Industry Funds 4 New Extension Researchers
(Growing Produce) David Eddy, May 26
Four staff research associates will join the ranks of University of California Cooperative Extension scientists in the coming months to support nut crop advisors conducting critical research in walnut, almond, and pistachio production.
Specialty grant to examine impact of integrating animals in crop rotations
(Farm Forum) May 24
…“Fresh produce growers and their advisors will benefit from learning about the impacts of integrating livestock grazing with winter cover crop management on soil health including soil organic matter, nutrient cycling and reduced nitrate leaching, and potential food safety risks discovered in this project to make decisions on adoption, management, and environmental benefits of WCC in annual vegetable systems,” said Alda Pires, University of California Cooperative Extension specialist and lead principle investigator in the study.
ABC30 salutes Michael Yang on Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
(ABC30) Aurora Ortiz Diaz, May 22
ABC30 salutes Michael Yang on Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
Yang is a former Hmong refugee who came to the United States when he was ten years old. He has worked for UC Cooperative Extension's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources for 26 years.
Yang says, "I'm a certified pesticide safety trainer, I speak Hmong, Lao, and English." Yang connects with local Southeast Asian farmers when he visits their farms in the central valley. "Fresno is a nice place to grow everything. We're the number one ag county in the nation."
Project explores livestock grazing impacts on organic crops
(Feedstuffs) May 22
…“Fresh produce growers and their advisors will benefit from learning about the impacts of integrating livestock grazing with winter cover crop management on soil health, including soil organic matter, nutrient cycling and reduced nitrate leaching and potential food safety risks discovered in this project to make decisions on adoption, management and environmental benefits of winter cover crop management in annual vegetable systems,” said Alda Pires, University of California Cooperative Extension specialist in the University of California-Davis (UC-Davis) School of Veterinary Medicine and principle investigator in the study.
Leafy Green Growers Will Survive COVID-19
(Growing Produce) Carol Miller & Frank Giles, May 20, 2020
…“The lag in adjusting to the situation is mostly a two-month window for a crop like lettuce,” says Richard Smith. Smith is a University of California Vegetable Crop and Weed Science Farm Advisor at the Cooperative Extension in Monterey, Santa Cruz, and San Benito counties.
…“Companies varied in their level of exposure to this market that just collapsed,” Smith says. “Some were more exposed than others. Given other issues with the food distribution system, in general, some growers think that they may be 30% overplanted.”
The Underlying Importance of Improving Broadband Expansion
(AgNet West) Brian German, May 20
The University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) continues efforts to assist rural Californians in gaining access to high speed internet. UC ANR has spearheaded multiple initiatives that have driven development in underserved areas of California to provide better coverage in rural communities. Vice President of UC ANR, Glenda Humiston noted the importance of providing broadband internet to rural, agricultural communities will become even more critical moving forward.
Hard-fought industry wins 'evaporating' under new budget reality
(Agri-Pulse) Brad Hooker, May 20
… Roschen was also disappointed by a 10% cut to the current budget for the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Division.
(Brooklyn Reader) Erin DiCaprio, May 19
Wear a mask, but skip the gloves. Don't sanitize the apples. And if you are older than 65, it's probably best to still order your groceries online.
As a food virologist, I hear a lot of questions from people about the coronavirus risks in grocery stores and how to stay safe while shopping for food amid the pandemic. Here are answers to some of the common questions.
The Conversation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TICHjPLwcIY https://theconversation.com/heres-how-to-stay-safe-while-buying-groceries-amid-the-coronavirus-pandemic-138683
New bioinsecticide promises help with tree nut pests
(Farm Press) Tim Hearden, May 19
….“Based on what I hear from some growers and the biopesticide industry data, there has been a steady increase in biopesticide use,” said Surendra Dara, a University of California Cooperative Extension entomologist.
These 5 foods show how coronavirus has disrupted supply chains
(Nat Geo) Sarah Gibbens, May 19
… “What we have is a low-cost and efficient system that allows for huge variety and attention to individual tastes,” says Daniel Sumner, an economist at the University of California, Davis.
“A dairy farm has milk coming out of the cow into a tank. That milk must be pasteurized and packaged, meeting lots of food safety standards,” says Sumner.
Individual farms generally can't afford the equipment necessary to process milk on site without raising prices significantly. “Nowhere is a dairy farm suited to send milk directly to a store,” Sumner says.
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.