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2007 wrap up

UC Cooperative Extension made a number of appearances in the media as last year came to a close . . .

The Hanford Sentinel ran a feature story on Kings County UC Cooperative Extension nutrition education program manager Shonnon Gutierrez. "What we do is provide nutrition education curriculum for teachers in Kings County schools that qualify with 50 to 100 percent in the free or reduced lunch program," she said. In the story, Gutierrez conveyed her enthusiasm for her work: "It's a great job and everyone in the office is amazing," she said. "It's such a great place to work and Peggy Gregory is a wealth of information. It's a very supportive environment."

The Los Angeles Times reported on the spread of quagga mussels, which made their first appearance in the west about a year ago. The quagga doesn't make water unsafe to drink, but clogs up water delivery systems. Edwin D. Grosholz, an expert on invasive mussels and Cooperative Extension specialist at UC Davis, said, "There's nothing at all to limit their spread north to Northern California."

The Visalia Times-Delta ran a column by freelance writer Don Curlee about UC Small Farm Program director Shermain Hardesty's 12-year study on agricultural cooperatives. The 41 co-ops the researchers examined are doing quite well, the story said.

Capitol Press reported on the specialty crops seminar that took place in Davis in early December. UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor Richard Molinar gave a presentation on unusual crops. "These vegetables are actually better than many of the vegetables we learned about and are accustomed to our mainstream stores. Sinqua is just like squash, except in my opinion it is much, much better and has more flavor than regular squash like zucchinis," he is quoted in the story. "The Chinese eggplant is really, really good, much better than the American globe eggplant, which has a flavor kind of like paper."

A news release by Marketwire included a quote from UC Cooperative Extension nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor Connie Schneider. The story focuses on slimming down with milk. "One easy way to improve nutrition is to substitute low-fat or skim milk instead of high-calorie sugary or alcoholic drinks at meals," Schneider is quoted. "This easy step can help cut calories, boost nutrition and shed pounds."

Posted on Wednesday, January 2, 2008 at 10:59 AM

Long-legged story kicks off New Year

Happy New Year! One of my favorite media phenomena opened 2008 - stories with long legs. In the middle of last summer, the press widely covered UC Davis assistant professor Alyson Mitchell's research comparing organic with conventional tomatoes, as was reported in this blog on July 9. The San Francisco Chronicle tackled the topic on November 28, and their article was picked up today in the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch.

The Chron story said hardly a week goes by without a headline about research that shows organic tomatoes, corn or other fruits and vegetables contain more nutrients, especially vitamin C and other antioxidants. Mitchell's research comparing organic and conventional tomatoes showed the organic fruit contained 79 percent more of one antioxidant, and 97 percent more of another. Nevertheless, Mitchell cautioned that "organic" doesn't always mean "more nutritious."

"Where the tomatoes were grown, what kind of tomatoes they are, how ripe they were when they were picked, if they were kept cool or not, and how long they've been in the store all affect nutrient levels," the article says.

My prediction for the New Year . . . the media will continue to cover organic agriculture, even though the term appeared on a list of words that have been "banished," according to Lake Superior State University. Based on the comments on the page, the term may not be overused as much as under-understood.

Posted on Wednesday, January 2, 2008 at 9:32 AM

McClatchy story ends up in Missouri paper

Wire services make it interesting to see where UC Cooperative Extension experts might end up. This one's a little mysterious. If anyone can shed some light, please post a comment.

The Columbia Tribune in Missouri ran a McClatchy story yesterday that quoted UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor Glenn Nader. (McClatchy owns the Sacramento Bee, the Fresno Bee and other papers, but I couldn't find this story on any other Web site.)

The article is about efforts to get cattle to put on pounds while eating less. My first thought was the same as the article's writer, who said the premise "sounds like something out of a dieter’s nightmare." Anyhow, looking to spend less on cattle feed, producers are seeking animals with proven "feed efficiency."

The story said that researchers at UC Davis have found that some steers beat average feed efficiency by nearly 30 percent, though others have found improvements closer to 10 percent. Breeding bulls are now being marketed for their efficiency, not just their size and pedigree.

"We started realizing that there’s also the issue of how much feed does it take to get all those pounds, and maybe big isn’t better," Nader is quoted in the article.

Major cattle-feeding operations are installing electronic systems to monitor how much each animal eats and how much weight it gains, the story says. That information feeds into breeding programs aimed at producing more efficient cattle in subsequent generations.

During this joyous season, I would like to personally wish all my loyal blog readers poor "feed efficiency" as you celebrate the upcoming holidays and enter the New Year.

Next week, UC ANR will be closed. I will be back with more updates on the past, present and future of UC ANR news on Jan. 2.

Cattle feed
Cattle feed

Posted on Friday, December 21, 2007 at 10:22 AM

Writer seeks UCCE advice about cutting the grass

Writer Alison Rood knew where to turn when she wondered about pulling out her lawn and decided to write about it. Her column in the San Francisco Chronicle included expert advice from a UCCE master gardener and a UCCE horticulture advisor.

The picture of her backyard looked quite nice to me, but she lamented that the lawn no longer served a useful purpose. Rood contacted master gardener Sandy Metzger.

Metzger told Rood she replaced most of her own lawn with drought-tolerant perennials and ornamental grasses. "The hummingbirds, bees and other insects go crazy in the garden practically all year long," Metzger is quoted.

Horticulture advisor Katherine Jones also expressed misgivings about the wisdom of too much lawn.

"My opinion is that big lawns are great where water is plentiful, and small lawns are great where it isn't," Jones is quoted. "The kind of thing that I don't like to see in California and other dry locations is great expanses of lawn upon which no one treads except the mower."

Posted on Thursday, December 20, 2007 at 10:22 AM

Season of giving doesn't exclude UCCE

Considering the season, it is unsurprising that the media has chosen to cover two UCCE stories in which giving plays a key role.

The Napa Valley Register today covered a 4-H meeting in which the founder of a local community support group spoke. According to the article, Molly Banz created Molly’s Angels 13 years ago to help people in need.

4-H parent Molly Donohoe said she had been thinking about getting involved in the program for several years. When the family became involved in 4-H, she said, the idea took root.

“We love 4-H because the whole family is involved. It encompasses all the children," Donohoe is quoted in the article.

In Oakland, the Tri-Valley Herald covered the joy in the faces of children as they received seeds and a dose of enthusiasm designed to spark interest in gardening.

About half of Alameda County's public schools have instructional gardens, but school districts generally lack interest due to insufficient funding and manpower to maintain the gardens, according to Justin Watkins, coordinator for the University of California Cooperative Extension's School Garden Program and an Oakland Garden Advisory Council member.

According to the article, Watkins said it costs at least $2,000 to build a workable, basic school garden. After that, additional funds for maintenance, usually from fundraisers, a work force of teachers and volunteers, and donations of equipment and seeds, are necessary to sustain the garden.

For children in urban environments, especially in low-income areas where access to fresh produce is limited or non-existent, the gardens help bridge a disconnect from the origin of their food.

"A lot of the kids we work with don't know where food comes from," according to the executive director of Oakland Based Urban Gardens. "A benefit of school gardens is that they see the life cycle."

Posted on Wednesday, December 19, 2007 at 11:01 AM

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