UC Farm Advisor Reaches Out to Urban Edge Small Farmers
by Susan McCue, editor, Small Farm News
"I started this research for the ethnic minority growers in my area, to give them something else to grow," says de la Fuente, who serves UC Cooperative Extension, Santa Clara County, and has been a valuable member of the Small Farm Workgroup since July 1996. With a doctorate in plant pathology, she carries out her educational and applied research-based programs to assist commercial agricultural producers endangered by an ever-expanding urban environment Ñ Silicon Valley.
A respected member of the mushroom industry, de la Fuente recently received an honorarium professional membership to the American Mushroom Institute (AMI) for her contributions to the mushroom industry in California.
De la Fuente's research requires field work that would not be possible without her recruitment of 25 master gardener volunteers, who assisted with her chile pepper project by tending the chile pepper fields as if they were their own. The volunteers planted seeds, cared for the green house, transplanted, harvested, and collected trial data. On Chile Field Day, they assisted de la Fuente in displaying the chile peppers atop crisp white tablecloths, and contributed chile pepper-laden pot luck dishes for lunchtime sharing.
Her fellowships and short courses have taken her to the Netherlands, Mexico, and Honduras, where she expanded her cultural and technical horizons. Fluent in English, Spanish, and French, Maria de la Fuente brings to her small scale farming clientele a multicultural and scientific background that will help them thrive and prosper on the urban fringe.