From the UC Blogosphere...
Three local newspapers in the state today added a few pieces to the mosaic that portrays the depth and breadth of the UC Cooperative Extension program in the media over time.
Ethnic newspaper reports on new Master Gardener
A community newspaper that serves a mainly African-American audience, the Los Angeles Wave ran a story about a new Master Gardener in South Los Angeles, Beverly Newton. A life-long gardener, Newton was a member of Los Angeles County's 2007 class of Master Gardeners.
“I knew two other people who had gone through the program and I went on their Web site to research the course,” Newton was quoted in the article. “The program taught us how to resource information in order to help other people garden, especially, in the area of growing food. They teach us about pest control, fertilizers, seeds, plants, every aspect of gardening.”
Chinese teens get a taste of America
The Solano Times-Herald made a nice feature story out of a 4-H international exchange program that brought a group of Chinese teenagers to Vallejo.
The Chinese visitors are trying some new foods, including hot dogs and pancakes, in their 4-H host families' homes.
"We don't know what's in it ... but it tastes good," Zhon Ying said.
Chino paper takes on statewide problem
The Chino News and Review ran a story about dairy farmers' efforts to protect water quality. "In a disturbing trend across the Central Valley," wrote reporter Katie Booth, "dairies have come under scrutiny for their wastewater runoff and effects on water quality."
The reporter spoke to UC Cooperative Extension dairy program representative Betsy Karle. Karle said the problem is being addressed across the state, according to the story.
The article said Karle grew up on a dairy farm, received her master’s degree from UC Davis in 2003 and has worked for the cooperative extension for 10 months. Regarding the three Orland dairies recently cited for wastewater runoff, she said they are "doing their best."
According to the story, Karle explained that infrastructure required of dairies is very expensive and profit margins are at a record low. “[Right now, we are] making sure dairy farms can operate in balance.”
The director of UC Cooperative Extension in Stanislaus County, Ed Perry, provided information to the county board of supervisors about agriculture's multiplier effect and its impact on the local economy, according to a Modesto Bee story by reporter Tim Moran
Moran's story was based on the presentation to the board of the county's 2007 Agricultural Crop Report, which says agriculture has a $2.4 billion commodity value, up more than 10 percent from the previous year.
According to the article, Perry said that agriculture's "multiplier effect" is more than three. Doing the math, that means the total impact of agriculture on the county's economy is more than $7.2 billion. The multiplier is generated, the story said, when the $2.4 billion in commodity value turns over in the economy three times as farmers buy equipment and supplies locally, crops are processed in local plants, and salespeople and processing workers spend their wages on food, housing and transportation.
Perry told the supervisors this economic engine "needs to be protected and enhanced."
Agricultural economics has prompted a lively online discussion on Steven Dubner's New York Times blog "Freakonomics." As of this morning, 71 comments had been posted, which combined with a lengthy Q & A add up to more than 13,000 words, some heated.
This post had its beginnings a week or so ago when Dubner invited his blog readers to send questions for the director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center, Dan Sumner. The blog post included 23 questions and answers touching on such hot topics as organic agriculture, local food production, obesity and farm subsidies. Dubner titled the discussion, "The Illogic of Farm Subsidies, and Other Agricultural Truths."
The blog post and comments provide a wealth of information and opinions. They also exemplify the growing popular interest in economics, for which partial credit goes to the book "Freakonomics," which Dubner co-wrote with University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt. Levitt was the substance, and Dubner the style. The book peaked at No. 2 on the New York Times best seller list.
With the popularity of agricultural economics in the Freakonomics blog, perhaps Sumner will become something of a regular.
Opening with what must be an old Irish idiom, Santa Rosa Press-Democrat reporter Meg McConahey said her subject, local gardener Tom Berger, was just a "wee shaver" when he began collecting gardening wisdom.
He "always remembered The Green Grocer's TV admonishment to Bay Area housewives: 'Do NOT buy tomatoes out of season,'" she wrote.
The story said Berger is part of a wave of new gardeners raising food for themselves. The article includes information from UC Cooperative Extension experts Rose Hayden-Smith, the 4-H Youth Development advisor in Ventura County, and Paul Vossen, a tree crops farm advisor in Sonoma County.
Vossen, the county's Master Gardener coordinator, said the program's Web site is getting more hits and the advice line more and more queries related to vegetable growing.
"I think a lot of people did it before, but they've expanded their gardens," Vossen was quoted. "People who have small plots have gone out and planted more."
Hayden-Smith said the interest in vegetable gardening plays into a national revival of the Victory Garden movement, where increasing food production was seen as bolstering national security by creating a more secure food supply.
"It's a different 'Victory' now," she was quoted. "In addition to the really concrete, positive things that gardens can provide to people right now, they can certainly help with a family's bottom line with high food prices. And what I'm trying to encourage is increased food security in communities by looking at the idea of school, home and community gardens."
The San Diego Tribune ran a feature yesterday that included advice from a diversity of experts on ways to save money. One of the story's segments had advice from Patti Wooten Swanson, the UC Cooperative Extension nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor in San Diego County.
The segment was somewhat counterintuitive. It suggested against buying in bulk. "If the food spoils faster than you can eat it, or the 'use by' date passes on medicine before it's used up, you've wasted money," the article says. On the other hand, cooking in bulk is a good idea, Swanson told the paper.
"You can save money and time by doubling or quadrupling soup or casserole recipes and then freezing them in individual containers for later use," the article paraphrased Swanson.
Other money saving ideas and the sources covered in the story:
- Take control of your budget - moneymagpie.com, a British Web site
- Shop with a list - a registered dietitian and nutrition instructor at San Diego State University
- Pay cash - Money magazine
- Bring your lunch - California Public Interest Research Group
- Entertain youself - ShopSmart, a sister publication to Consumer Reports
- Slow down (when driving) - U.S. Energy Department
- Turn on the (thermostat) timer - U.S. Energy Department
- Maximize your interest (on savings accounts) - author of “Get Out of Debt and Stay Out of Debt”
- Don't panic (but seek counseling) - Homeownership Preservation Foundation