Posts Tagged: Surendra Dara
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.”
How coronavirus is affecting the food supply
(Spectrum News) Jennifer Rufer, May 15
…Daniel Sumner, Executive Director of the University of California Agricultural Issues Center at UC Davis, tells Inside the Issues the meat shortage is a direct result of COVID-19. Because workers are typically in such close quarters, some are getting sick. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 3 percent of workers in 100 meat processing plants have tested positive for the coronavirus, which, Sumner said, could mean the production won't be as robust as it used to be.
He said one of the bigger disruptions to the industry has been the impacts on cowboys and farmers who only provide one product.
“If you're a pig farmer, that's what you've got. The pigs are ready to go. So, everyday that you keep that hog, a 300 lb. hog, ready to go, you're losing money,” he said. “The same with cattle that are ready to go and there's no place to put them. That has shown in the price of cattle, and the price of hogs collapsing.”
The Surprising Backstory of Victory Gardens
(JSTOR Daily) Madeleine Compagnon, May 15
…Cultivating the earth as a response to moments of crisis dates back over a century, but not just as a relaxing activity. During World War I, writes Rose Hayden-Smith, a major Victory Garden movement promoted the idea of gardening as a civic duty. The goal was to increase food production on the home front, under the reasoning that the conservation of resources on the home front was key to victory on the battlefield. Garden propaganda was “striking in its use of military imagery,” according to Hayden-Smith's article. Poster campaigns often depicted “regiments” of women and children as “soldiers of the soil,” marching alongside U.S. troops.
Revised Budget Features Significant Cuts to Close $54 Billion Deficit
(AgNet West) Brian German, May 15
…In his summary describing the state's economic position moving forward, Governor Newsom highlights federal assistance as playing a sizable role in structuring California's budget. Several reductions have been proposed if the state does not receive sufficient funding from the federal government, such as a 10 percent reduction in support for the University of California system. The UC Office of the President, UC PATH, and the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) would experience a decrease of more than $34 million in funding. New initiatives that were highlighted in the January budget, including the nearly $170 million in general funds for supporting a five percent UC base increase, have been now been withdrawn. The revised budget also eliminates another $3.6 million that would have supported a five percent base increase for UC ANR.
$50 ribeye to go? Expect higher meat prices at Bay Area grocery stores and restaurants – (SFChronicle) Esther Mobley, May 14
…But while the supply of beef and pork in the U.S. has been down 10-15% in recent weeks, there is no long-term threat to the nation's meat supply, and already “it's creeping back up,” said Daniel A. Sumner, director of the University of California Agricultural Issues Center.
However, meat prices are also creeping up, and customers nationwide should expect their favorite cuts to be 10-20% more expensive than normal, Sumner added. In the Bay Area, the consumer price index for meat, poultry, fish and eggs rose 10.4% from February to April, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, compared to 5.5% for all types of groceries.
UCCE sounds alarm on looming insect threat
(Farm Press) Jeannette Warnert, May 14
… “Spotted lanternfly is a major threat to apples, grapes, stone fruits, roses, landscape trees and the timber industry,” said Surendra Dara, UC Cooperative Extension entomology and biologicals advisor in San Luis Obispo, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. “The agricultural industry and the public need to be looking out for this insect to prevent its migration and establishment in California.”
How to protect your home from disasters amplified by climate change
(Science) Mary Caperton Morton, May 13
…When it comes to climate-driven natural disasters, fires are as frightening as floods. In 2017 and 2018, California wildfires killed 147 people, burned 3.5 million acres and destroyed over 34,000 structures in two of the worst fire seasons on record. And wildfires are expected to become more severe across the West, says Max Moritz, a wildfire specialist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “Warming temperatures are melting snow sooner and drying out vegetation so that we're already seeing longer fire seasons and more available fuel.”
…In densely built areas, the houses themselves can fuel fires. “You've probably seen aftermath photos where a fire has swept through a town and all the homes have burned, but there are still trees standing and green vegetation,” Moritz says. “That's what happens when the homes themselves are the fuel. It's not a land management problem where you should have cleared more. You can't thin the fuels because the homes were the fuel.”
Vine mealybug a menace in Monterey County
(Farm Press) Lee Allen, May 13
Larry Bettiga is urging growers to keep an eye out for vine mealybugs.
As the University of California Cooperative Extension Viticulture Farm Advisor from Monterey County observes, mealybugs are spreading leaf roll virus from site to site along the Central Coast.
Larry Bettiga is urging growers to keep an eye out for vine mealybugs.
As the University of California Cooperative Extension Viticulture Farm Advisor from Monterey County observes, mealybugs are spreading leaf roll virus from site to site along the Central Coast.
New UC studies outline costs of producing irrigated pasture in the Sierra Nevada foothills
(YubaNet) May 12, 2020
Two new studies on the costs and returns of establishing and producing irrigated pasture in the Sierra Nevada Foothills have been released by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' Agricultural Issues Center. Ranchers in Nevada, Placer and surrounding counties may find the cost estimates useful for planning.
USDA announces food distribution program, but will it help farmers?
(NPR Marketplace) Jasmine Garsd, May 11
…Now the U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced that starting this week, the Farmers to Families Food Box Program will begin distributing $1.2 billion in surplus food to communities across the country. Professor Daniel Sumner of the University of California, Davis, says the program aims to assist those who might not be covered by other programs, like food stamps. “They are homeless or they're not eligible in other ways. One of the attempts here is to get food to the poorest, most vulnerable people.”
Covid19 Pandemic Panic Gardening
(Food Chain Radio) Michael Olson, May 9
Guest: Missy Gable, Director University of California Master Gardener Program
4-H members embrace new communication technology
(Desert Review) Kayla Kirby, May 8
Imperial County 4-Hers have taken to the internet to connect with other members, leaders, and the community to share their experiences and current practices at home.
According to Program Director Anita Martinez, people think 4-H has gone dark after showing their animals at the fair. Martinez said that couldn't be further from the truth.
“During this time of year, everyone thinks 4-H is over because the fair is over. But this is when all of the other activities, projects, and events are going on,” said Martinez.
Vineyard Mechanization: Quality at a Distance
(Wine Business) W. Blake Gray, May 8
…"Vineyard size has increased in California due to consolidation," said S. Kaan Kurtural, associate specialist for cooperative extension viticulture at UC Davis Department of Viticulture & Enology. "Mean acreage is approaching close to 260 acres. It's hard to get to all these vineyards in a normal amount of time. The cost of labor has gone up: $15 an hour plus benefits, recently. Also, people don't want to work in vineyards anymore. And vineyards are a rural industry, not close to population centers. People have to be driven from populated areas."
California Pistachios, Walnuts: Leaf-Out Problems – What's Going On?
(Ag Fax) Katherine Jarvis-Shean, May 8
Since mid-April, many advisors up and down the Valley have been receiving calls about unusual leaf-out in pistachio and walnut. The Sacramento Valley has certainly been experiencing this.
California rice growers challenged by ammonia availability
(Farm Press) Todd Fitchette, May 7
…The good news for rice growers is they have choices. University of California rice Extension specialist Bruce Linquist compared aqua-ammonia to a granular urea fertilizer and found both performed similarly in terms of yield and nitrogen uptake. "To get these results, you must make sure that the urea is applied to a dry soil before flooding and it be managed so that it gets incorporated below the soil surface before planting (or banded as you do with aqua)," writes Linquist in the UC Rice Blog.
Calif. ag shows strains under virus, shutdowns
(Farm Press) Tim Hearden, May 6
…Glenda Humiston, vice president of the University of California's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said the increased reliance on web-based working, communication and education emphasized the need for improved rural broadband internet service. The university is considering installing signal towers at its Cooperative Extension offices and facilities that growers can access for automated field work, she said.
“We've known for years that rural areas are not well served,” Humiston said. “California is a leader in emerging technology … but the reality is a big chunk of California is still underserved or unserved (by broadband).
“We are having some luck in developing public-private partnerships,” she said, “but the reality is public investment is going to be critical for this.”
Welcome to the Age of Digital Agriculture
(Growing Produce) David Eddy, May 6
Growers have traditionally relied on scouts to get the information they need to make decisions. But there are a couple of problems with that. First, the data gathered isn't always 100% reliable. Second, labor costs are rising – that is, if growers can even source the increasingly scarce labor they need.
Researchers at the Digital Agriculture Laboratory at the University of California, Davis, are trying to change that. Dr. Alireza Pourreza, a University of California Cooperative Education Specialist of Agricultural Mechanization, is leading a project to employ remote sensing for nutrient content detection in table grapes.
Potential for meat shortages may go away sooner than later
(KTVU) Tom Vacar, May 6
…To avoid meat hoarding, many grocers are limiting purchases. UC Davis Professor Daniel Sumner is a renowned agricultural economist.
"As consumers, we're probably gonna pay a little more and/or another way the stores will say, 'Well, we don't want to raise our prices too much, so you'll only buy two packages,'" said Professor Sumner.
Coronavirus has shut down numerous meat packing facilities causing a shortage. Beef, pork and chicken farmers are paying a huge price. "Those folks are in trouble because they've got big supplies that can't get processed," said Sumner. As closed plants slowly reopen to workers, it will not be business as usual.
"You give them their social distance at work, that means you have to slow down everything. You have fewer people on the line. It all goes slower," said Sumner.
To assure a reliable supply, much of the nation's wholesale meat is purchased far in advance of delivery at a price determined by the futures market. With tens of millions of layoffs, supply and demand are uncertain.
"So the slaughter people are saying, 'We're not gonna pay much for those pigs three or four months from now.' And the farmer says, 'Well, in that case, it's not worth putting a whole bunch of corn and soybeans in them,'" said Sumner.
… For now, this problem seems to be short-lived. "I certainly wouldn't encourage anyone to say, 'Well, we're running out of meat.' because we're not." said Professor Sumner.
COVID-19 exposes U.S. meat supply's dependence on a few large plants
(Marketplace) Mitchell Hartman, May 6
…We've got plenty of cattle and hogs, but there's a hold-up slaughtering and butchering them with big plants shut down, says University of California, Davis, agricultural economist Dan Sumner.
“We're processing 20% or 30% less meat than we would have done a year ago,” Sumner said.
…But Sumner says industry consolidation hasn't made meat supplies more vulnerable to the virus.
“There's no particular reason to think that it's more likely to hit a large plant outside of Sioux Falls than 20 or 30 small plants circled around Sioux Falls,” he said.
Food Availability is ‘Not the Thing to Worry About' During Pandemic
(AgnetWest) Brian German, May 4, 2020
Of all the issues that have arisen related to the coronavirus pandemic, food availability should not be a concern. Domestic agricultural production continues to progress, despite complications within the supply chain while it adjusts to market changes. However, Agricultural Economist at UC Davis Dan Sumner explained there may be concerns moving forward as it relates to consumer purchasing power and eating trends.
“Higher-end items will struggle. The ones that people eat as sort of a splurge, well there will be less of that going on. Whether that's eating out, food away from home, more people packing a sandwich rather than eating at the café, going out to dinner less often, those sorts of things,” Sumner told AgNet West. “Then on food at home; ‘less steak and more hamburger,' if I can put it that way.”
Is Integrated Pest Management the future of Agriculture?
(Fresh Fruit Portal) Thomas Grandperrin, May 5
Since its formalization as a term in the late 1960s, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a strategy that has been adopted in most parts of the world. Surendra Dara, who is an entomologist with a specialization in microbial control and IPM currently working as a University of California Cooperative Extension Advisor, is one of its most active promoters.
Food Chain Radio) Michael Olson, May 2,
Guest: Doug Fine – Dr. Ellen Bruno Cooperative Extension Specialist, UC Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics & Co-author: “The Coronavirus and The Food Supply Chain”
Farm City Newsday Friday, 05-01-20
(Farm City Newsday) Brian German, May 1
…DANIEL SUMNER: If you think of middle-income people where one of two earners in a family are out of a job, well, that really takes a hit. It doesn't mean you don't eat, but what it does do is change what you eat. Higher end items will struggle. The ones that people eat as a splurge, well, there will be less of that going on. Whether that's eating out or more people packing a sandwich rather than eating at a café or going out to dinner less often. On food at home, less steak and more hamburger. All of this will shake out into farm prices, as it always does, and no one has strong projections yet.
Strikingly beautiful with a striped yellow abdomen and ruby red and black polka dot wings, the spotted lanternfly's esthetic appeal belies its destructive nature.
“Spotted lantern fly is a major threat to apples, grapes, stone fruits, roses, landscape trees and the timber industry,” said Surendra Dara, UC Cooperative Extension entomology and biologicals advisor in San Luis Obispo, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. “The agricultural industry and the public need to be looking out for this insect to prevent its migration and establishment in California.”
Native to China, spotted lanternflies were first introduced into the United States in 2014 when their presence was confirmed in Berks County, Penn. They have since established populations in New Jersey, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware and Maryland. Spotted lanternflies are little more than a nuisance in their native range because they evolved along with controlling factors – such as predators and microbes – that achieved a natural balance. But when they arrive in new territory, the pest multiplies quickly and ravages plants.
While quarantine, management and research aim to control the pest where it has already taken hold, Dara is amplifying warnings of the pests' dire potential in agriculture-rich California and its ability to clandestinely hitchhike across the country. He held a webinar in May that attracted 130 participants from across California and the West, created a video, and posted articles in his eJournal and the Journal of Integrated Pest Management about current distribution, pest detection efforts and management strategies.
Inch-long adult spotted lanternflies have a nearly three-inch wingspan. Like giant aphids, the immature and mature stages of the pest suck sap out of plants and trees, depleting nutrients and reducing plant vigor, Dara said. While feeding, they emit waste sugars that cover plant leaves and invite fungi to grow black sooty mold, a coating that inhibits the plants' photosynthesis.
“SLFs can kill the host,” Dara said. “However, some survive because, when the plants start to die, the pest goes away to search for a healthier host, giving the plant the opportunity to recover.”
In the eastern U.S., residents say spotted lanternflies affect their quality of life and ability to enjoy the outdoors. The pest covers trees, swarms in the air and their honeydew can coat decks and playground equipment.
Spotted lanternfly movement is aided by females' ability to lay their nondescript egg masses on smooth surfaces of natural and human made objects, such as packages sent from distribution centers, long-haul trucks, railroad containers, recreational vehicles and automobiles.
“The egg masses are covered with a waxy gray-brown coating that looks like a splash of mud,” Dara said. “You may not notice it.”
Studies are underway to determine SLF egg-laying preferences.
Another concern for California in the face of a potential SLF infestation is the abundance of tree-of-heaven, itself an exotic pest from China and spotted lanternflies' favorite host. Tree-of-heaven – with roots, leaves and bark used in traditional Chinese medicine – was brought to California by Chinese migrant workers during the Gold Rush. Its tendency to grow rapidly and multiply quickly has resulted in its designation as a noxious weed.
Tree-of-heaven does offer a potential control strategy should SLF come to California. Landowners can remove 85% of tree-of-heaven specimens in a grove, including all the female plants. The remaining 15% of tree-of-heaven will be irresistible to spotted lanternfly. The insects will congregate in the trees, which may be treated with systemic insecticides to kill the entire population.
This is just one potential spotted lanternfly control strategy that could be part of an integrated pest management program. Other potential options Dara shared in his webinar and other communications are:
Traditional biocontrol. A parasitic wasp introduced into the United States in 1908 to control gypsy moths also appears to parasitize SLF eggs. Research may permit the introduction of other harmless natural SLF enemies from the pest's native range.
Microbial control. Naturally occurring fungi or those available as biopesticides can bring down SLF populations.
Mechanical control. Sticky bands placed on tree or vine trunks will trap the pest as it moves about.
Outreach. Communicate widely the concern about egg mass transport so people will inspect packages and vehicles and destroy egg masses.
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.”