As we prepare to celebrate a “physically distanced” Independence Day (I do hope you enjoy some safe social connections), I'd like to take this opportunity to wish you a safe and relaxing holiday. I also want to thank you for your dedication, flexibility and commitment to excellence over these past few months of COVID-19 uncertainty and social unrest. We are a strong and vibrant organization and your work collectively contributes to a stronger, better and more resilient California. Many thanks for all you have done, and will do in the future; it is greatly appreciated by many!
Wishing you a happy Fourth of July!
Carefully resuming in-person activities
UC ANR issued Stage 2 Safety Standards on May 20. Since then, many California counties have begun to modify stay-at-home orders to allow for additional lower risk activities to resume under advanced Stage 2 of the California resilience roadmap. UC ANR's Stage 2 protocols are still in place, but like all organizations, we are working through the challenges of resuming some community programs while continuing to protect public health. Our Risk & Safety Services group has established a process to review plans with local ANR Directors. We're learning together and sharing best practices.
We're also monitoring COVID-19 trends in counties across the state. See our website for links to statewide and local information about COVID-19 cases and trends. As counties are opening up to more activity, some counties have experienced a rapid increase in COVID-19 infections over the past few weeks. When considering resuming ANR activities, we encourage ANR academics and staff to consider their local situation, in addition to the design and implementation of the programming.
With this background, we wanted to share a few examples of how ANR academics and staff have stepped up to devise creative solutions to implement programming, while maintaining safety.
Livestock shows and auctions – while most county or district fairs have been cancelled statewide, several fairs sought ways to complete youth livestock shows or auctions. These activities were considered critical because they contribute to the food supply and 4-H and FFA families have invested time and money in the raising of these animals and need an outlet to legally sell market-ready livestock. We have worked with county 4-H staff to review the plans for the shows and auctions, ensured approval by the local health officers, and looked for compliance with state orders. In most cases, 4-H was able to participate because these activities were designed to keep the groups as small as feasible and ensure distancing, good hygiene, and other protective measures.
Master Gardener activity – The statewide Master Gardener program has developed COVID-19 safety requirements for resuming activities in demonstration gardens, farmers markets and help desks, allowing these volunteers to gradually return to these activities, as appropriate.
Farmers markets – The Master Food Preserver program has also put out COVID-19 safety requirements for their volunteers' work at farmers markets.
UC Elkus Ranch has organized small, private farm tours of the ranch to give families a fun and educational opportunity to get outdoors and learn about environmental science, California history, animal care and agricultural programs. By keeping to small family groups and maintaining social distancing during the tours, Elkus Ranch staff have devised a way to transition their usual school tours into a unique outdoor family activity.
Hopland REC is hosting a group from the California Conservation Corps for onsite and virtual training. Because this group has been isolating already, its members represent a single cohort group, which reduces the risk of any one member introducing infection. HREC was able to plan the CCC's visit to minimize contact with any UC ANR staff and implement procedures for cleaning and disinfecting the facility before and after the group's program.
These are challenging times, but with proper planning, modification of normal practices, and a focus on safety, UC ANR is finding ways to resume some activities or embark on new methods of programming with our clientele.
Dohee Kim, advocacy liaison and media relations director at UCCE in Los Angeles, shared our COVID-19 community resources website with local legislators and supervisors. Staffers for recipients responded with comments including: "Thanks very much for passing this along, Dohee!” (Supervisor Sheila Kuehl's office); "Thanks so much, Dohee. The meal-finder map alone is incredibly useful. I will definitely be sharing that link. Food insecurity and housing insecurity are the top two concerns right now among households in our district that have experienced full or partial loss of income" (Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas' office); and "Thank you for thinking of us. I will share this information with the district office to distribute properly" (Assembly speaker Anthony Rendon's office).
The Statewide IPM Program has continued to partner with the UC Master Gardener program, providing training on integrated pest management and pesticide safety. Since the shelter-in-place order, Karey Windbiel-Rojas, associate director for Urban & Community IPM, and Elaine Lander, Urban & Community IPM educator, have trained more than 130 UC Master Gardener volunteers from four counties during live, online Zoom calls. They have successfully used the breakout room feature to conduct engaging “hands-on” pesticide label reading activities, ensuring UC Master Gardeners understand how to safely use pesticides and communicate pesticide safety to their clients.
We are pleased to announce that Ashraf El-kereamy is our new director of Lindcove Research & Extension Center. Ashraf will start his new duties on July 1, 2020, and continue to serve as a Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences at UC Riverside.
Elizabeth Grafton-Cardwell retires this year after 13 years as director of Lindcove REC, California's premier citrus research center. We are excited to have Ashraf in place to carry on the tremendous success attributable to the research performed at Lindcove. Ashraf brings a breadth of research, extension and leadership skills.
He has extensive experience with several commodities in research revolving around plant hormones, fruit ripening, plant nutrition, and the responses of different plant species to abiotic stress conditions.
Since February 2019, El-kereamy has served as a UCCE specialist based at Lindcove Research and Extension Center. His primary responsibility is citrus horticulture and developing a comprehensive citrus research and extension educational program. Prior to the specialist position, El-kereamy was a UCCE viticulture and small fruit advisor for Kern County, where he established a research and extension program serving the San Joaquin Valley table grape industry for four years. Prior to joining UC ANR, he was an assistant/associate professor in the Department of Horticulture at Ain Shams University in Egypt.
El-kereamy earned a B.Sc. in horticulture and M.Sc. in pomology from Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt, and a Ph.D. in agriculture with an emphasis in grapevine physiology and molecular biology from Toulouse University in France.
Ashraf said, “I am honored and very excited to be the director of Lindcove Research and Extension Center, which plays a crucial role in the California citrus industry. I am confident that, with the support of our industry, community and the University of California, we will build tomorrow's LREC as a center of excellence in research and extension. I am looking forward to leading LREC and providing our clientele with up-to-date technologies to cope with the challenges facing the California agriculture industry nowadays.”
Please join me in wishing Ashraf the best in his new position as the director of Lindcove REC.
L. Mark Lagrimini
Vice Provost for Research and Extension
With sales down dramatically at Asian markets and restaurants, crops on Southeast Asian farms have been left to wither away in the fields, reported Donald Promnitz in The Business Journal.
“I would say it's a 100% loss. I can't sell anything," said Chongyee Xiong, who used his earnings as a school groundskeeper to pay upfront expenses for his farm.
According to UC Cooperative Extension in Fresno, there were nearly 2,000 Asian farms in the San Joaquin Valley area in 2015. Roughly 70% of these were run by Hmong growers. The farmers typically produce crops they had previously cultivated in Laos — including Thai peppers, bok choy, snow peas and lemongrass. Some grow strawberries.
Farmer Chue Lee applied for loans through the federal Paycheck Protection Program, but found out he didn't have enough employees to qualify for aid. With a loss of about 70%, Lee may not be able to afford the lease for the two portions of land he has in Fresno County, which together amount to roughly 12 acres. Meanwhile, his own ability to access customers has been made more difficult by his wife's heart condition — which would make a Covid-19 infection devastating for her, the article said.
“Everything that we make, all that we're saving now is just like already out there and there's no help for us at all,” Lee said. “We tried to apply for all the releases, but there's nothing that fits into our category.”
UCCE ag assistant Michael Yang said there are also issues with technical literacy for the farmers. And without training with a computer, accessing aid online becomes nearly impossible. It increases the odds of losing everything.
“It's pretty tough when you come to a country where you have to relearn everything and the first thing you know is just farming,” Yang said. “And just bringing the clothes on your back is pretty much what you have.”
The University of California is committed to maintaining the highest standards of conduct in the fulfillment of its education, research, public service and patient care mission. The University's Whistleblower Policy provides multiple avenues for employees to bring forward concerns of potential employee misconduct. Faculty and staff are encouraged to bring forward concerns about possible improper governmental activity directly to their supervisor, department head, Locally Designated Official (LDO) or other appropriate university offices or officials.
The university established a systemwide, independently operated whistleblower hotline to receive calls or web-based reporting from faculty, staff, students or members of the public. The hotline allows for anonymous reporting. The hotline relays the reported concerns to appropriate university officials for processing. This hotline is staffed seven days a week, 24 hours per day and is capable of receiving reports in a number of different languages.
The toll-free number is 1-800-403-4744. Web-based reports can be made by accessing http://universityofcalifornia.edu/hotline. More information about the whistleblower process can be found on the UC Whistleblower website and on posters displayed in various employee areas.
The California Government Code requires every state agency, including the University of California, to annually distribute to its employees a message from the California State Auditor that provides an explanation of the California Whistleblower Protection Act. Please find the 2020 message attached.