Posts Tagged: global food initiative
Sustainability. Food justice. Research to action. These were the themes discussed April 13–14, 2018, as emerging food leaders throughout the UC system gathered in San Diego for a tour titled “The Rooted University: Bridging food system changemaking on and off campus.”
The trip brought together nearly two dozen 2018 Global Food Initiative Fellows, all of whom are working on projects that advance the mission of the UC-wide Global Food Initiative. This strategic initiative was started in 2014 by UC President Janet Napolitano to align the university's research to develop and export solutions — throughout California, the United States and the world — for food security, health and sustainability. The initiative funds student-generated research, related projects or internships that focus on food issues. All 10 UC campuses, plus UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, participate in the program.
“We need to start thinking of the interconnectedness of our research, and begin to implement place-based solutions that take into account the environment, food-security, and sustainability,” said UC San Diego professor Keith Pezzoli as he welcomed the GFI fellows. Pezzoli, who leads the UC San Diego Bioregional Center for Sustainability Science, Planning and Design, hosted the GFI fellows for the weekend. Pezzoli and his team led the fellows to multiple campus and community-based projects that are implementing collaborative, innovative solutions that advance food security, environmental sustainability and economic prosperity. GFI fellows were tasked to think of their projects critically and use the trip to gather ideas and inspiration for their own projects and in their work as future food leaders.
This year's GFI Fellows are working on projects that range from addressing food security and basic needs on UC campuses, to capturing the culture of eating through film, and from efforts to connect water salinity to crop yield, to creating energy-generating agricultural covers.
The trip started with tours of UCSD-based projects that implement research and student and civic engagement to create closed-loop food systems and create opportunities for innovation. Ellie's Garden, located in between UCSD campus dormitories, exemplifies sustainable gardening practices. The garden, which composts food waste from on-campus restaurants, was established to utilize the space in between dormitories in a more efficient way.
“By using food waste from campus restaurants to create compost that then helps develop fresh food for students, this garden is taking the food system into the entire campus. With this example, we're really walking the talk on campus,” Pezzoli said.
Triton Food Pantry
The GFI fellows then visited the Triton Food Pantry, which was established in 2015 following the launch of the Global Food Initiative. The pantry provides UCSD students with greater access to healthy foods, including grains, proteins, and fresh fruits and vegetables. The pantry also helps to enroll students into CalFresh, a federally funded program (formerly known as "food stamps") that provides cash aid to low-income individuals who need food assistance. On average, Triton Food Pantry serves 600 students per week. In the 2016-2017 academic year, 10,000 student visits were logged overall.
Roger's Community Garden
Fellows then headed to Roger's Community Garden, a student-run garden that offers land to students, staff, faculty and alumni to grow herbs, flowers, fruits and vegetables and conduct student-led research. With projects ranging from hydroponics, aeroponics, and anaerobic digestion, the UCSD students who work in the garden come from different majors and different backgrounds, but are united in their love for food and gardening.
“The garden allows us to take scientific innovation and reduce it down to something that is scalable and easy,” said a UCSD student involved in Roger's Garden.
Dinner with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources - advising California for 150 years
The first day of the trip ended with a presentation by and dinner with advisors from UC's Agricultural and Natural Resources. Ramiro E. Lobo, small farm and agricultural economics advisor for UC Cooperative Extension in San Diego County, gave the GFI fellows basic information about the farming landscape in San Diego County and introduced the five UC ANR Strategic Initiatives. Lobo, who specializes in agricultural economics and marketing, talked about the challenges of farming in San Diego and the future of agricultural economics.
“San Diego,” Lobo said, “has the one of the highest prices of agricultural water in the world. The majority of our farms are small, specialty crop farms. So now, many growers and shutting off the water and letting their land dry up.”
In order to combat these issues and drive sales, Ramiro helps farmers market their products and share their stories.
“We're moving towards a ‘value-based' model of marketing,” said Lobo. “I help farmers figure out what their personal farming stories are and help share those stories with the public, a model that's really helping to drive sales.”
Fellows then enjoyed dinner with ANR advisors from throughout Southern California and discussed student-led topics related to food security, water quality, federal food programs and research ethics. With areas of work ranging from water quality to crop science, and from federal food programs to agricultural tourism, conversations were rich and varied as ANR advisors answered students' questions and shared their expertise.
“It was so interesting to hear the ANR advisors' perspectives on their particular issues. Also, I was really inspired by the wide range of expertise and backgrounds present among the advisors. Each one brings their own unique perspective to the work, and I enjoyed learning how each of their focus areas connected,” said GFI Fellow Mackenzie Feldman, an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley.
Ocean View Growing Grounds
The second day of the trip kicked off with a tour of the Ocean View Growing Grounds (OVGG), a project of the Global Action Research Center that operates on a 20,000-square-foot property in southeastern San Diego. In partnership with UC San Diego and the Global Food Initiative, the OVGG has established a community garden, two food forests and a Learning/Action Research Center developed with local neighborhood residents. The OVGG also hosts the Neighborhood Food Network, a group of residents interested in growing and distributing food. Through this network, San Diego residents build dynamic neighborhood hubs that revolve around increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
Jacobs Center and Kitchens for Good
Fellows then enjoyed lunch with Kitchens for Good, a nonprofit catering service that aims to break the cycles of food waste, poverty and hunger through innovative programs in workforce training, healthy food production and social enterprise. Kitchens for Good is located within the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation, a “creative catalyst and incubator” that partners with residents, local leaders and organizations, as well as regional and national investors, to revitalize southeastern San Diego, a culturally diverse yet under-served area that is prime for investment and transformation.
“We don't just want to teach residents how to fish, we want to teach residents how to buy the lake that the fish swim in,” said Bennett Peji, Jacobs Center's senior director of marketing and community affairs.
Since its inception, the organization has revitalized a nearby creek, built a metro station with the second-highest amount of traffic in the county, constructed a low-income apartment complex and built a shopping mall that includes the first full-service grocery store in the community. In a community where the high school has a 50 percent dropout rate, the Jacobs Center has had a transformational impact.
“After this trip, I am full of new ideas, energy and confidence that can I make a difference. I now know I need to find the right partners and keep believing that solutions to food justice and environmental sustainability are possible,” said Holly Mayton, GFI Fellow and PhD student at UC Riverside. “My thoughts and ideas are really falling into place, and I am creating a new framework for action and results.”
UC Berkeley graduate students Kristal Caballero, Elsbeth Sites and Sonya Zhu are the GFI fellows who will work with ANR academics and staff to address the issue of how to sustainably and nutritiously feed a world population expected to reach 8 billion by 2025.
The GFI fellows are part of a group of 50 UC graduate and undergraduate students working on food-related projects at all 10 UC campuses, UC Office of the President, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and UC ANR.
The GFI fellows gather for lectures, field trips and networking events. Last spring, UC ANR hosted the fellows on a tour of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River delta region to learn more about the relationships between food, farming and the environment.
The 2017-18 GFI fellows:
Kristal Caballero of San Jose is a graduate student at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health. Working with UC ANR's Strategic Communications team, Caballero will focus on community outreach and education to educate the public about nutrition, food security, federal food programs, food waste, childhood obesity prevention and related subjects. She will use a variety of communication tools to publicize the results of Nutrition Policy Institute research on nutrition and food issues and to inform policymakers.
Sonya Zhu of Iowa City, Iowa, is a graduate student at the UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy. At the Nutrition Policy Institute, Zhu will conduct a secondary analysis of the Healthy Communities Study (HCS), an observational study of more than 5,000 children ages 4 to 15 years recruited from 130 communities across the U.S. in 2013-2015. She will be examining the effect of household food insecurity on children's dietary behavior and physical activity.
UC Global Food Initiative student fellows from University of California campuses throughout the state gathered for a springtime field trip in the Central Valley to learn more about the relationships between food, farming and the environment.
The day-long tour, hosted by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, began at a farm that is maintained to support wildlife in the breezy Sacramento-San Joaquin River delta region. The GFI fellows also viewed a habitat restoration project at LangeTwins Winery then watched freshly harvested cherries being processed at Morada Produce's packing plant. They wrapped up the day with a tour of a demonstration garden and a discussion of nutrition education at the UC Cooperative Extension office in Stockton.
UC President Janet Napolitano, who, along with UC's 10 chancellors, launched the Global Food Initiative in 2014, met with the 17 fellows for lunch at LangeTwins Winery.
“We started the Global Food Initiative several years ago with the goal of creating a pathway to a sustainable, nutritious food future for the planet. A small, modest goal,” Napolitano said, adding that she is excited to learn about the fellows' projects.
The GFI fellows are working on projects that range from raising awareness about food production to analyzing the effects of climate change on pollination, and from efforts to make soils safe for growing food in urban areas to using food waste to fuel batteries.
UC Merced senior Ever Serna's GFI project is to educate his fellow college students about where food comes from, before it gets to the grocery store.
“The tour gave me a deeper understanding and appreciation about how food is developed and grown,” he said. “I think when I eat vegetables and fruits, I'm going to be more conscious of what I eat now.”
Reid Johnsen, a third-year Ph.D. student in agricultural and resource economics at UC Berkeley, Global Food Initiative fellow for UC ANR, and participant in the Graduate Students in Extension program, is working with UC Cooperative Extension in Sonoma County to study ranchers' preferences for different payment structures for conservation easement to compensate them for the ecosystem services provided by their land.
“To be able to see agriculture in action makes such a difference to me, to see the way the crops are produced and the variety that's out here,” said Johnsen. “The diversity of crops was not something I was aware of before coming on this trip.”
“I thought it was interesting to see a lot of different agricultural production systems,” said UC Santa Barbara senior and campus GFI ambassador Bryn Daniel, who works with student activists on student food access and housing security issues.
In addition to learning more about food production, the outing gave the fellows an opportunity to network with peers from other campuses.
“That's what I liked about today's meeting, just meeting everybody and getting these fantastic connections,” said Ryan Dowdy, a third-year Ph.D. student at UC Davis who is converting food waste into energy-producing microbial fuel cells.
“I think this program, and especially the fellowship, is really important for young scientists who dive into this really huge subject of global food,” said Claudia Avila, a graduate student at UC Riverside who studies trace metals in urban agricultural soils.
Best kept secret
In welcoming the UC GFI fellows, Glenda Humiston, UC vice president for agriculture and natural resources, said, “I have a feeling a lot of you aren't familiar with our division. As I travel around the state to different campuses, I keep being told that we're the best kept secret, which I personally do not think is a good thing."
She explained that agricultural research has been part of the University of California since the land-grant institution's beginning in 1868 in Oakland. UC ANR has researchers on the Berkeley, Davis and Riverside campuses and UC Cooperative Extension advisors in the county offices, she said, adding, “Here in California, our advisors have very robust research programs.”
Farms are wildlife habitat
Michelle Leinfelder-Miles, UC Cooperative Extension delta crops advisor, introduced Dawit Zeleke, associate director of conservation farms and ranches for The Nature Conservancy, who explained why he farms 9,200 acres of corn, triticale, potatoes, alfalfa and irrigated pasture to enhance foraging habitat for sandhill cranes and other wildlife on Staten Island. The Nature Conservancy partners with UC Cooperative Extension along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, California Department of Water Resources, Oregon State University, UC Merced and UC Davis to study the relationships between agriculture and natural resources.
The Pacific Flyway for migrating birds passes over the delta. “Eighty percent of waterfowl depend on agriculture for food,” Zeleke said. After wheat harvest, they flood the fields. “You should see it in September, October, November and December. Thousands of birds, ten thousand cranes use this place for habitat.”
Lodi region is zin-ful
En route to lunch, Paul Verdegaal, UC Cooperative Extension viticulture advisor for San Joaquin County, described the Lodi region's wine industry. There are about 750 growers, many of which are small family operations. While 10 to 15 acres used to be typical vineyard size, most have 100 acres to be sustainable and one family member works at an outside job.
“Agriculture is a tough job and there is no guaranteed income,” Verdegaal said.
About 40 percent of the zinfandel in California is grown in the Lodi region, but there are several wine grape varieties planted.
Pointing out the bus window to a vineyard interplanted with a crimson clover cover crop, Verdegaal said, “We do see interest in using as few chemicals as possible and using techniques of the integrated pest management program.”
After eating lunch at LangeTwins Winery in Acampo, the GFI fellows took a tour of the winery with the fourth- and fifth-generation owners, Randy Lange and Aaron Lange. The Langes are founding members of the Lodi Rules Program, which helps growers produce grapes and wines in a manner that is environmentally respectful, socially sensitive and economically sound. They pointed out an array of solar panels covering the grape press room that provide electricity. The Langes are planting native plants around the winery to reduce sedimentation, improve water quality and restore wildlife habitat along the Mokelumne River.
Bing is king of cherries
When the GFI fellows visited at the end of April, sweet cherry harvest had just begun in Bakersfield area orchards, and cherries were being packed and shipped in San Joaquin County.
“Hemmed in by rain to the north and heat to the south, cherry season is only eight to 10 weeks long,” said Joe Grant, emeritus UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor for San Joaquin County.
“While the Bing variety is still the mainstay of the California cherry industry because of its excellent eating and shipping quality,” said Grant, “acreage of other high quality and earlier-maturing varieties has increased in recent years to lengthen the harvest season. But Bing is still king.” Asked about the effects of climate change on cherries, Grant explained that warmer temperatures are reducing the number of winter chilling hours, which cherries need.
The fellows saw the hand-picked fruit being processed for packing at Morada Produce, a family farm in Linden that also grows walnuts, peppers and onions.
“Keeping produce cold is key to maintaining quality,” said Scott Brown, Morada's production manager, as the fellows watched fresh, cold water rain down onto the freshly picked sweet cherries. The leaves and stems floating to the top were removed as the red clusters glided in the water to the cluster cutter, which gently separated the clusters into individual cherries. Gently conveyed through the plant in flowing water, the cherries were sorted by size and quality at the highly mechanized facility. Air ejectors spit out rejected fruit, so only 70 percent makes it into a packed box.
“Fruit picked on Monday is packed Tuesday, then shipped to Korea, Japan, Australia and other export markets to be eaten by Friday,” Brown said.
The fellows were fascinated to see the steps taken to ensure high-quality cherries are cooled, sorted and packaged for shipping to stores and consumers.
“It was just so much more complicated than I knew,” said Jess Gambel, a third-year Ph.D. student at UC San Diego who is studying the effects of climate change on bee pollination in squash plants.
The tour wrapped up at the UC Cooperative Extension office in Stockton, with a discussion about how UC CalFresh and the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program help low-income Californians attain adequate nutrition and food security, followed by a tour of the demonstration garden maintained by the UC Master Gardener Program volunteers.
“There are more pollutants in urban runoff than in ag runoff,” said Karrie Reid, UC Cooperative Extension landscape horticulture advisor in San Joaquin County. Reid described how she and the UC Master Gardeners work with home and community gardeners to reduce pesticide and water use, and noted that a Water Use Classification of Landscape Species plant list, based on UC research, is available to help gardeners choose landscape plants.
“As a soil scientist, I really appreciated the recurring emphasis on soils as the foundation for agriculture,” said a fourth-year Ph.D. student at UC Berkeley and GFI fellow with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “From talking with The Nature Conservancy farm operator about how they were conserving carbon in those soils and doing wetlands management to hearing about special properties of the sandy loam soil in this part of the county, and talking with the Master Gardener folks about soil contamination issues.”
This is the third class of GFI student fellows. The undergraduate and graduate student fellows, representing all 10 UC campuses plus UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, have helped further UC's Global Food Initiative efforts to sustainably and nutritiously feed the world's growing population by working on food-related projects and raising awareness of this critical issue.
Did you know that a banana tree is not really a tree? It's a giant perennial bulb that grows to maturity in less than a year, producing one flower that becomes one huge bunch of bananas. I learned this fact last month from banana growers while visiting the home of organic bananas, the Dominican Republic.
I was invited by a US AID Farmer-to-Farmer project to spend a couple of weeks as a volunteer in the Dominican Republic, primarily to work with the Banelino Banana Cooperative. Banelino is a banana production and exporting company comprised of approximately 320 mostly small-scale banana producers in the northwest section of the country, near the border with Haiti. All producers are certified, or seeking, organic, fair trade, or Global Gap certifications.
Eighty percent of the bananas grown by Banelino are certified organic, and most of them are fair trade certified. The primary export destination for Dominican Republic organic bananas is Europe.
The growers have been impacted by climate change problems, including strong winds, more frequent and intense droughts and record high temperatures. My assignment, based on my work as UC Cooperative Extension Agritourism Coordinator, was to help Banelino assess the potential for successful agritourism development to diversify their income and carry them through hard times.
Like farmers all over the world, the Banelino banana growers have a story to share with visitors. Part of the story is the fascinating revelation of the annual growth cycle of the banana plant; the other part of the story is about the community. I learned the true meaning for the words "fair trade." With the premium, or the added income, that Banelino receives by selling in the fair trade program, the company is able to provide schools, clinics and other social programs for the banana grower and banana worker families. We visited schools and talked with teachers, seeing primary grades classes smaller than most California classes, with children engaged in learning. We visited a school for special needs students, paid for through the Banelino fair trade income, that was so modern and well-equipped it would be the envy of most California special education teachers. It had a colorful art room and a fully equipped, small-scale bakery with mixers and ovens for a training program for the older youth.
Also, like other farmers around the world, Banelino growers have a challenge developing a program to attract paying visitors to tour the farms and learn their stories. They will need to create signs and brochures in multiple languages for their visitors. They will need to work with a local marketing professional to develop a website and social media marketing campaign. They will have to analyze their costs and price their tour so that they don't lose money in the efforts. They will need to connect with the local tourism community and get included in visitor guides and tourism maps. They will need to offer familiarization tours to travel agents, tour leaders and hotel staff to entice them to refer tourists from the all-inclusive beach resorts three hours' drive away. They will have to work with their local hotel association to create an attractive itinerary for visitors to the region - enough attractions to keep guests overnight in hotels - to justify the three-hour drive.
Like farmers everywhere who are considering agritourism, the Banelino banana growers will soon be part of the hospitality industry. They have a wonderful story to share of a hard-working and warm-hearted community. Please look them up if you visit the Dominican Republic.
Dedicated growers and research support from the University of California have made avocados a California success story. As part of the UC Global Food Initiative, which is channeling UC resources toward sustainably feeding the world's growing population, the California avocado experience can help alleviate food insecurity and poverty overseas.
Two UC Cooperative Extension specialists found a way to do that in Tanzania, Africa, where 69 percent of the population live below the poverty line and 16 percent of children under 5 are malnourished. In March 2017, UCCE biocontrol specialist Mark Hoddle and UCCE subtropical crops specialist Mary Lu Arpaia traveled to the east African nation to help growers there with their fledgling avocado industry.
In the late 19th Century, German missionaries introduced avocados to Tanzania when it was colonized by this European nation. Germany lost influence over the African country following World War I, but huge non-commercial avocado trees still thrive in the landscape.
Recently, attempts at commercial production growing the popular Hass variety are gaining momentum.
With proximity to a European market hungry for fresh avocados, Rungwe Avocado Company planted 250 acres of the Hass variety in the southern highlands around Mbeya near Lake Malawi, which establishes the border of south western Tanzania with Zambia and Malawi. In order to grow production to a level that would make the export to Europe practical and to support rural residents with a viable business option, approximately 3,700 small landholder farmers, known as outgrowers, were recruited to grow avocados. They manage small plots with as few as 20 trees to larger acreage with more than 200 trees, with participating farms ranging in elevation from 1,200 to nearly 6,000 feet.
However, this fledgling industry is experiencing production challenges, prompting the company to contact UC Cooperative Extension. UC faculty, specialists and advisors have conducted research on Hass avocados for decades in California and worked closely with growers to extend information that has supported the development of an industry with high-yielding trees producing premium fruit valued at more than $400 million per year.
“One of the aims of the Global Food Initiative is to deploy UC's best research and extension practices to address the key challenge of improving food production,” Arpaia said. “That's why we went to Tanzania.”
Hoddle and Arpaia visited growers, extension technicians, packing house managers and logistics experts. They identified production, pest management and fruit handling challenges faced by the avocado industry.
“The situation in Tanzania is quite different than California, and also different compared to Central and South America, where we have also worked on avocado production issues,” Hoddle said. “But we identified familiar issues that affect management for which there are solutions.”
Hoddle examined the Tanzanian avocado trees and fruit, and collected insect specimens. He said the insect damage was minimal at the time of the week long visit.
“That surprised me because of the insect biodiversity in Africa,” he said. “There was little evidence of heavy leaf feeding. There was some evidence of fruit damage caused by insect feeding on the skin, but they don't seem to have fruit boring weevils or caterpillars that we commonly see in parts of Mexico, Central and South America.”
A critical issue is extending entomological information to the outlying farmers to improve their ability to identify and manage beneficial insects and crop pests.
“They don't have the magnifying loops, collecting vials and insect boxes that we regularly use for insect identification,” Hoddle said. “I showed them my Leatherman tool, which can be used to open up fruit and look for damage. They need these basic tools.”
A post-harvest expert, Arpaia was able to identify ways to improve picking, handling, storage and shipping practices that would result in top quality fruit arrival in Europe.
The two scientists produced a report, which emphasized the need to provide outlying growers with basic equipment and agronomic information.
“We want to help them be better avocado farmers so the crop can be a greater contributor to the country's economy,” Arpaia said. “Boosting this industry will also give people all over Tanzania the opportunity to add nutritious avocados to their diets.”