Richard Molinar and Michael Yang Named Pedro Ilic Outstanding Educators for the Year 2000
Molinar and Yang have an active research program both in collaboration with local growers and at the UC Kearney Agricultural Center. They are developing research-based data on specialty crop variety selection, cultural practices and harvest management. Crops under study include strawberries, medicinal herbs, blueberries, cherry tomatoes, edamame (vegetable soybeans), lemon grass and many others.
The duo is working closely with integrated pest management plant pathologist Jim Stapleton to study and promote the use of soil solarization as an environmentally safe and effective method of preparing soil for planting without the use of harsh chemicals like methyl bromide.
Molinar and Yang maintain an outreach effort that includes one-on-one consultations, field days, courses on a wide variety of topics, such as pest management, marketing, financing, etc., and mass media communication. In February 1998, Molinar and Yang implemented a bi-monthly 30-minute radio broadcast on Hmong radio KBIF 900. Since the radio program's inception, calls and visits by small-scale farmers to the UC Cooperative Extension Fresno office increased 800%. Molinar and Yang also offered a seven-week ag training school to Southeast Asian farmers. Eighteen participants received certificates for attending five of the seven sessions.
"I'm happy this team won the award this year," said Desmond Jolly, director of the UC Small Farm Program. "They work well together and use a variety of educational methods and research to improve small-scale farming in Fresno County."
The Pedro Ilic Agriculture Awards are named for the Fresno County small-scale farm advisor whose untimely death in 1994 prompted a decision to annually honor those who carry out his legacy of personal commitment to small-scale and family farming.
Yang developed a deep affection for Ilic when he served as the farm advisor's assistant from 1992 to 1994. "It is very exciting to receive this award," Yang said. "Pedro was dedicated to working with Hmong and Lao family farmers. I'm glad to have had the opportunity to learn from him."
Molinar, formerly a farm advisor in Alameda County, succeeded Ilic in the Fresno County post. "I never tried to fill his shoes," Molinar said. "I'm just trying to carry on the programs he started. It's nice to win this award, but the real honor is the opportunity to help Fresno County family farmers."