Anr adventures – agriculture and natural resources blogs

Despite taking a vacation, I’m tied to the clock this week; a tidal clock. Activities revolve around the water level. While a bit frustrating to have to plan so carefully even on vacation, without attention to the clock, we would have missed the fowl fly ins and boating with the dolphins. We’d also find ourselves stuck in the mud with the gators, or waiting out in the river for the marsh to fill. I find it normally helps to know what the desired outcome is in order to adequately plan the strategy to achieve the outcome. That’s not to say there weren’t surprises along the way. We went looking for the brown pelican, and unexpectedly encountered the roseate spoonbill in addition to the pelicans. En route, we went off the beaten path, on an unplanned path, and came upon what claims to be the smallest church in the U.S. (non-denominational).

It only seats 12 and there’s no A/C, but cute nonetheless, and a nice stop along the way. We’re out of season for the manatees in the rivers, but otherwise this is a great place for a Master Naturalist.

A friend sent me this article by the founder of Squarespace from the current issue of Southwest’s magazine. I’m not sure if it was sent to me because I often read the magazine or because it is so fitting. I am guilty of always wanting to define the performance criteria and then establish design criteria. But, what other way is there? Just do what one has always done? Design something without any consideration of the performance needs? Clearly I need to think about this a bit more.

The big lesson in the article is that “what made you successful in the past isn’t necessarily going to make you successful in the future”. Often that can be difficult to accept, particularly when one enjoys the way things have been. But it’s difficult to ignore the wisdom in that statement. Thus, like any organization or business, we need to continue to evolve to meet current needs and wants. That means different programming, in different ways, and to different audiences. While this isn’t a bad thing, it is uncomfortable at times. I often think about the TED talk that proposes “life begins at the edge of your comfort zone”. I have a long list of TED talks to watch but that’s one I like to go back to every now and then.

Because I happened to be on a Southwest flight last week, I flipped through the magazine. In addition to that article by the CEO of Squarespace, a few other things stood out. First, was a piece about Southwest’s commitment to and support of STEM education for youth. Once again, I found myself wondering if the company has a grant or scholarship program available and how the 4-H program might partner with Southwest. The other thing that stood out was a quote that I don’t remember exactly but it was to the effect of the following.

We are still wrestling with the budget. As a result funds for Program Teams, CE Specialist and AES funds to work with CE Advisors, and program support dollars have not yet been released. It’s a challenge to find the funds to cover the shortfall and minimize the impact it has on people while leaving the division in a position to better weather the future. We can’t do it without causing pain and discomfort but in this case, failure is not the path to success.

Reality has set in that I need to spend more days at a desk in front of a screen or on the phone. Ughhh. As a result, I spent the weekend trying to catch up; I’ve long since decided there’s no point in thinking I can get ahead. I worked on an MOU to address feedback received, drafted several communications that will still need some more detailed follow up, cleaned out the Inbox a bit by responding to emails, gave some thought to next week’s WebANR, and wrapped up some notes from the 2-day meeting last week that addressed some outstanding items on the REC 6-year financial plan. Ahhh, to be new again and have a short ‘to-do’ list.

Speaking of new, we had some new academics start last week. Annemiek Schilder started on August 1 as the UCCE Ventura County and Hanson REC Director, headquartered in Ventura County. Also on August 1, Nathan Caeton began as the new CE 4-H Youth Development Advisor, based in Redding, with programmatic responsibilities in Shasta, Tehama and Trinity Counties. Previously, Nate was the 4-H program specialist in those counties. Tomorrow, Maggie La Rochelle starts as the Area 4-H Youth Development Advisor, based in Half Moon Bay, with programmatic responsibilities in San Mateo and San Francisco Counties. Please welcome Annemiek and Maggie to UC ANR and congratulate Nate on his new position!

There are 43 more prospective ‘new UC students’ now, as a result of the UC ANR 4-H Latino Initiative 3-day Juntos Summer Academy that was held at UC Merced. High School students from Riverside, Orange, Kern, Santa Clara, Merced and Sonoma counties had the opportunity to experience college life. They lived in the dorms, ate in the college cafeteria and attended workshops on scholarships, financial aid, admissions, essays and a students’ panel. The students heard from two very motivational Latino keynote speakers, who spoke about their experiences as Latino youth attending college and how they overcame obstacles to graduation. With the economic support of National 4-H and New York Life , the Juntos program includes: (1) family workshops and monthly check-ins, (2) afterschool 4-H club meetings, (3) one-on-one success coaching and access to college and community mentors, and (4) summer programming through 4-H camps, college-campus visits, and other educational conferences.

Many were busy this weekend dealing with fires. Several affected by the Mendocino complex fire are still out of their homes. Now that it is in Colusa County, I’m wondering how that will impact our visit to Colusa UCCE tomorrow. The trip to Lake County UCCE, scheduled for Tuesday, will be rescheduled. While I’ve visited with some of the Lake UCCE group before, this will be my first visit to the Colusa UCCE office.

I left the ASABE meeting today to head back west. I decided to test my luck along the way by assuming I could jump on an earlier flight back to SMF in time to make a Southwest connection to SoCal. No such luck. Ultimately, I had to pay a change fee and my arrival airport in order to make an early morning meeting tomorrow. Fortunately, I was able to cancel a Southwest flight and get a refund so it’s almost a wash. So was this bad luck? Maybe not – my original flights were delayed to the extent that, at best, I was only going to make it to SFO tonight. Either way, I need to take a different approach to travel planning, perhaps planning ahead a bit more.

What I really enjoyed about the session was that the speakers were challenging the status quo, despite processing not being a primary driver in water or energy use nor food waste. The conversations focused on the fact that science hasn’t challenged the long-standing practice of storing frozen food at -18C through out the cold supply chain, despite the fact that a tremendous amount of energy could be saved if key points in the chain could deploy -15C. The science behind current used best info available at the time, but that science is now outdated. Another discussion centered around energy use to prepare food in the home. Home prep the is biggest user of energy in life cycle for food, begging the question of whether or not we should prepare food at home? That’s some creative thinking I could really get behind! And one speaker proposed the food processing water use could be drastically reduced, by as much as 75% for clean in place (CIP) processes. Who knows, we may have new recommendations forthcoming in our nutrition and food preservation programs.