Find a Farm or Ranch to Visit - California Agricultural Tourism Directory
California Agricultural Tourism Directory
University of California
California Agricultural Tourism Directory

UC Food Blog

Q&A: UC ANR's Doug Parker talks drought

Recently, the UC Food Observer caught up with one of California's foremost experts on water: Doug Parker of the University of California. Parker is the director of the University of California's Institute for Water Resources. The mission of the institute is to integrate California's research, extension and education programs to develop research-based solutions to water resource challenges. The institute has recently launched a blog, The Confluence.

Doug Parker
As director, Parker works with federal, state and local agencies to guide academic expertise toward finding solutions to California's water challenges. He brings together local, state and federal stakeholders to identify issues and sources of political and financial support for water-related research. Dr. Parker is vitally concerned about improving the understanding of the complexities surrounding California and water, and to that end, he also serves as a key spokesperson on the state's water issues. 

Prior to joining UC, Parker worked on water quality issues related to the Chesapeake Bay as an associate professor and extension specialist in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of Maryland. An economist by training, he earned his Ph.D. in agricultural and resource economics at UC Berkeley, and was on faculty there as an extension specialist. He holds bachelor's degrees in economics and environmental studies from UC Santa Barbara.

 

Q: Governor Brown recently issued an executive order that will restrict urban water usage by 25 percent. How do you see this being enforced across the state? What might enforcement mechanisms look like?

A: The State Water Resources Control Board will set restrictions for each of the over 400 water districts that serve residential consumers in the next month. The 25 percent reduction is meant to be a statewide average for urban users, and the actual reductions will be based on per capita water consumption in 2013. So, areas that are already conserving water will not be asked to reduce as much as the largest water users, who will have to make bigger reductions.

To meet the reductions, individual water districts will each have to draft a plan of how they will bring consumers in their district into compliance. This may include restrictions on outdoor water use and pricing structures that greatly increase costs to large water users and monetary fines. In essence, the reductions are not solely aimed at individual users, but will be made by a combination of reductions by homeowners and industrial and commercial users.

In terms of enforcement, the State Board can fine water districts that are out of compliance up to $10,000 per day. Before fines are enforced, the board will engage the water district to try to help figure out how they can meet the goals.

 

Q: How much is this going to hurt the average person? What kinds of changes will individuals have to make?

A: The average person will most likely need to reduce outdoor water use, such as landscape watering, and increase conservation measures indoors as well. The easiest way to meet the water reductions is to reduce or eliminate outdoor watering. The governor's order calls for a voluntary, incentive-based program to remove 50 million square feet of turf. Many homeowners may want to consider replacing turf with drought tolerant landscaping. There will also be programs for water efficient appliances like dishwashers and clothes washing machines, and low-flow shower heads. In general, I don't see major changes for the average person, particularly if they've already been conserving and cut outdoor watering, but they will need to take action and be more mindful of their water use.

 

Q: Increasingly, the narrative of California's water problem has taken on a divisive tone that pits agriculture versus urban users, Northern California against Southern California, etc. Is there any perspective you could offer that might make people realize water issues are shared issues?

A: I find it rather disturbing that some people see this as an urban vs. agriculture issue. The California Constitution states that water belongs to the people of the state. It is our water to use for the benefit of all Californians. I myself am happy to be able to cut back on my water use so that it can be used to grow food. What greater use of water do we have? It is inconvenient and perhaps aesthetically unpleasing to have a brown lawn, but compared to food production and food insecurity, the impact on my own life seems pretty minor.

In addition to growing food, the agricultural sector supports jobs in many of our most needy communities. The agricultural water restrictions in 2014 were estimated to have cost the agricultural sector over 17,000 jobs and a loss of over $2 billion. We expect those numbers to increase in 2015.

In the urban sector the drought has had very little impact on jobs or income. In the landscaping industry it remains unclear what impact the drought is having or will have. Reductions in turf irrigation may reduce the need for mowing and other uses of labor. But an increase in turf removal and replacement with drought-tolerant landscaping will lead to an increase in landscaping expenditures and labor.

The thing that I try to keep in mind is that it's all of our water, and we're all in it together.

 

Q: What happens to California agriculture in the next few years? What might the industry look like 20 years from now? What kind of cropping patterns might we see?

A: I think agriculture will reassess their perception of how secure their water supply is. For those that are seeing large cuts in water allocations, future planting decisions may be more conservative. We may see a decrease in permanent crops to increase flexibility in response to water shortages, though this may be balanced by the fact that things like almonds continue to yield a high value and if you are already reducing crops, keeping the most valuable ones is a rational decision. We will continue to see increases in efficiency, whether through irrigation technology or management of irrigation. We will also see increased investment in surface and groundwater storage to increase resiliency.

 

Q: Historically, is this drought a bump in the road or a harbinger of things to come?

A: All droughts are a bumps in the road and all droughts eventually end. But, I think we are more used to the speed bump type of drought that slows us to 25 mph. This one is a bit more severe and we probably need to take it down to 5 mph and do some serious long-term planning. Climate models predict that we will see an increase in the frequency and severity of drought. We need to start preparing for this drought to last a few more years and for future droughts as well.

 

Q: What resources would you recommend people seek out for information on a practical level? What about resources for those who might want to dig deeper?

A: The University of California has many resources to help homeowners, businesses, landscapers and farmers adapt to the drought. Many of those resources can be found on our webpages.

 

Q: What policies do we need in California to make sure we are able to more effectively respond to these types of crises in the future? What kind of infrastructure would help us more effectively meet our water needs?

A: I think this drought has brought to light the critical importance of groundwater as a resource to lessen the impacts of drought. California passed historic groundwater legislation in 2014 that will ensure this resource is available to us in future droughts. We need to work now to implement this law as quickly as possible. The law's timeline is very generous but I believe that communities that work to accelerate the timeline will greatly benefit from such efforts.

Rose Hayden-Smith is a UC ANR advisor who writes as the UC Food Observer. The UC Food Observer is your daily serving of must-read news from the world of food, curated by the University of California. Visit our blog, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

This article first appeared on the UC Food Observer.

Posted on Wednesday, April 15, 2015 at 8:35 AM

New study focuses on food safety practices on small and medium-size farms

Food safety study looks at farms that raise livestock and grow fresh produce.
To improve food safety, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources studies every link in the food chain, from producers' farms to consumers' kitchens.

A new UC study is looking at small to medium-size farms, both organic and conventional production, to identify on-farm food safety practices that are specific to farms that raise livestock and grow fresh produce. These are farms that sell their products directly to consumers at farm stands and farmers markets or through community supported agriculture (CSA).

“Much of the produce food-safety research in recent years has focused on large commercial farms,” said project co-leader Michele Jay-Russell, microbiologist and program manager at the Western Center for Food Safety at UC Davis. “In this study, we hope to identify best practices that may be unique for smaller operations and to share this information with the farmers.”

The 12-month study is being conducted on commercial farms in Northern California, from the Shasta Cascade region down to the Central Valley, including the coast. Fecal-borne pathogens can be spread to fresh fruits, nuts, and vegetables through animal intrusions, or indirectly through contaminated water or soil. The researchers are looking for the best practices that prevent pathogens from contaminating fresh market tomatoes and leafy greens such as lettuce and spinach.

“Raising livestock and growing fresh produce together for the local community presents certain opportunities and challenges from a food safety perspective,” said Alda Pires, UC ANR Cooperative Extension urban agriculture and food safety specialist in the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis, who is leading the project with Jay-Russell, who is liaison to the Western Institute for Food Safety and Security.

“Our research aims to identify practical, scale-appropriate approaches that reduce risk from pathogens, while maintaining sustainable and economically viable family farms in Northern California,” said Jay-Russell, who has a small dairy goat herd in the Yuba Foothills.

Researchers will visit participating farms to collect samples of their produce, water, compost and livestock feces to test for bacteria. Farmers will be asked to complete a short survey about farm management practices. The testing is free and the farm identities are confidential.

“We anticipate publishing our results, without revealing farm names, next year and sharing the findings with the agricultural community through workshops and trainings,” said Pires, who grew up on a small family farm in Portugal.

A USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) multi-state grant is funding this study and a similar study in the northeast – New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware – looking at microbial food safety issues potentially unique to small and medium-scale farms. The results of that study have been published in the International Journal of Food Microbiology and Applied Environmental Microbiology.

For more information about this food safety study, contact Alda Pires, UC ANR Cooperative Extension urban agriculture and food safety specialist, at (530) 754-9855 or apires@ucdavis.edu.

Posted on Wednesday, April 8, 2015 at 8:49 AM

6 ways local officials can encourage urban farming

City Slicker Farms' community market farm in Oakland
We know that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is key to a healthful diet, but not everyone has ready access to a grocery store or can afford to buy fresh produce. One approach to the problem is to bring the farm closer to people's homes by making it easier to grow food in backyards and on vacant urban land.

To find out how to help people who want to grow food in their communities in California, Rachel Surls, a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension advisor, and several UC ANR colleagues interviewed urban farmers as part of a statewide study of urban agriculture needs.

Surls, who specializes in sustainable food systems in Los Angeles County, and her colleagues identified several common challenges that UC ANR and local governments could address to cultivate a more urban agriculture-friendly environment.

In an op-ed published March 24 in the Sacramento Bee, Surls listed the following six things that local officials could do to encourage urban farming:

  1. Rob Bennaton, UC Cooperative Extension advisor, helps urban farmers test soil in Alameda County.
    Make zoning and regulatory information accessible
  2. Develop a transparent process for use of city-owned land
  3. Create an urban agriculture incentive zone
  4. Update zoning to make it urban-ag friendly
  5. Make water accessible while promoting efficient use
  6. Provide guidance and support for soil testing and remediation.

There seems to be growing interest in cities encouraging urban farming. For example, last year Oakland updated its city codes to allow planting of community gardens in most zones of the city without obtaining a special permit. San Diego has made it easier for residents to keep chickens and bees in their backyards. The Sacramento City Council recently voted to allow residents to farm on urban lots and sell produce they grow at farm stands. And now, Santa Clara County is considering tax breaks for property owners who allow crops to be planted on their unused parcels. 

Urban farmers told the researchers that UC ANR could help by providing educational materials on topics such as pest management, water management, design of community urban agriculture projects and soil testing and remediation.

To begin providing the public with information about urban agriculture, UC ANR has created a website at http://ucanr.edu/urbanag. Visitors to the website will find science-based information on raising crops and livestock, selling farm products and links to policies for farming in a backyard, at a school or a community garden.

“Many urban farmers are beginning farmers so the website offers basic information on planting, pests and irrigation, and on navigating local laws and regulations that impact farming,” said Surls. “But the website is also intended to be a resource for policymakers who are making decisions that impact local farming in their cities.”

For the latest information about urban farming, visit http://ucanr.edu/urbanag and follow @UCurbanag on Twitter.

Cities can allow residents to farm on city-owned vacant lots and entice property owners to lease their land for gardens in exchange for reduced property taxes.

 

The University of California Global Food Initiative aims to put the world on a path to sustainably and nutritiously feed itself. By building on existing efforts and creating new collaborations among UC's 10 campuses, affiliated national laboratories and the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the initiative will develop and export solutions for food security, health and sustainability throughout California, the United States and the world.

 

Posted on Monday, March 30, 2015 at 10:52 AM

Monkey bread: It's more fun than a barrel of....

Banner publicizing the Solano County 4-H Presentation Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The skills learned in the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources 4-H Youth Development program last a lifetime, but in the case of a really good, quick-and-easy recipe for Monkey Bread, the skills last but the bread doesn't.

Okay, who ate the last piece? Umm, when will you be making more?

Maya Farris, 9, a second-year 4-H'er, may be fairly new to 4-H but she knows how to make a good batch of “Monkey Bread.” A member of the Pleasants Valley 4-H Club in Vacaville, she won a showmanship award at the Solano County 4-H Project Skills Day with her “Monkey Bread” entry and then went on to enter the project—and wow the judges—at the Solano County 4-H Presentation Day.

We watched folks line-up for a sample of her monkey bread at Project Skills Day, and then watched her expertly answer questions from judges at the Presentation Day.

Before we give you the recipe, first, a little bit about Maya. She's one busy 4-H'er. Her current projects are baking and bread making, arts and crafts, rabbits, poultry, goats and crocheting. She learned how to make monkey bread from her baking and breadmaking project. She thoroughly enjoyed the recipe, as did her family and friends.

The Farris family is sold on 4-H. “4-H has really helped Maya become focused and experience different activities that she may not have otherwise tried,” mother Rayita said. “4-H is definitely a family affair; her older sister is also involved in 4-H and in many projects.”

The monkey bread recipe is a five-ingredient recipe, perfect for busy days:

Monkey Bread Recipe
Prepared by Maya Farris,
Pleasants Valley 4-H Club, Vacaville

1 can refrigerated biscuits (16.3 oz)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup melted butter

Mix sugar and cinnamon in a large ziplock bag and set aside. Cut each biscuit into quarters and place in zip lock bag, a few at a time. Shake to coat and place pieces in a greased 8" loaf pan. Combine melted butter and brown sugar and pour over the coated biscuit pieces. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool 5 minutes, then turn over onto a serving plate. Serve warm. 

Pleasants Valley 4-H Club is one of 12 4-H clubs in Solano County, with a total of 500 members. The program is a non-profit youth educational program administered by the UC Cooperative Extension. More information about the Solano 4-H program is available from Valerie Williams, Solano County 4-H program representative, at vawilliams@ucanr.edu or on the web at  http://cesolano.ucdavis.edu.

Meanwhile, what do you know about monkey bread? Actor Robert Duvall couldn't get enough of it. Kids grab it and pull it apart like toys after Christmas. Nancy Reagan served it in the White House. Texan Anne King created a legend.

One of my Texas relatives gifted me with Tom Perini's Texas Cowboy Cooking cookbook which includes Anne King's famous Monkey Bread recipe. Robert Duvall wrote the foreword to the book after enjoying Tom Perini's cooking in between scenes of the Warner Brothers' 1995 movie, “Stars Fell on Henrietta.”

Duvall starred as a destitute wildcat oilman who lands in the town of Henrietta, Texas, during the Depression. Duvall thinks there's oil — aka black gold, Texas tea — on a poor cotton grower's farm. He convinces the farmer to go for broke. Director James Keach filmed the Clint Eastwood-produced movie near Buffalo Gap, Texas, which just happened to be near the Perini Ranch Restaurant.

“After Clint Eastwood and I ate our first meal there, the cast and crew returned for dinner as often as we could,” Duvall writes in the foreword. Guess you could say they took a'likin' to the restaurant. They loved the “good eats,” including Monkey Bread.

Anne King of Albany, Texas, rose to fame (maybe not fortune) with Monkey Bread and shipped it all over the country. It's also called a pull-apart bread or bubble bread because of the layers of dough squares or rolled balls baked together in a tube or bundt pan. 

No one really knows how “monkey” became part of the name. Maybe someone was just monkeying around or figured the bread resembled the monkey puzzle tree. Then again, there's a fruit called “monkey bread” from the baobab tree or monkey bread tree. Nancy Reagan helped popularize the odd-sounding bread in the 1980s when she served it in the White House.

Here's Anne King's famous Monkey Bread recipe from Tom Perini's Texas Cowboy Cooking book.

Monkey Bread
By Anne King

1 cup scalded milk
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup mashed potatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
One 1-ounce cake of yeast or 1-1/2 packets of dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
3 eggs, beaten
6 cups flour
1/2 cup butter

Mix together the hot milk and shortening. Add the potatoes, salt and sugar. Set aside to cool to lukewarm. Dissolve the yeast in the water, and add to the potato mixture. Add the beaten eggs. Add 5 cups of the flour, 1 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. Turn out the dough onto a floured board. Sprinkle the dough with 1/3 cup flour. Knead the dough thoroughly, adding a little more flour if the dough is sticky. Place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise for 2 hours. 

Melt the butter in a shallow bowl. Roll out the dough on a floured board into a rectangular shape to a thickness of about 1/2-inch. Cut into 2-inch squares. Dip the squares into the melted butter and arrange in the bottom of a tube pan (bundt cake pan). The squares should overlap slightly. Continue to add layers until the dough is used up. Set aside to rise again until double in size, about an hour. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. Loosen the sides of the monkey bread rings with a table knife. Turn out the monkey bread and let guests pull apart the squares to serve themselves. You may bake in smaller pans, just be sure to reduce the cooking time slightly, maybe 15 to 20 minutes. Makes 1 large loaf.

Texas Cooking (www.texascooking.com) offers a version of Monkey Bread with cinnamon. It's shaped into balls instead of squares and is made with cinnamon and pecans. This bread can be mixed in the traditional manner, by hand, or in the dough cycle of your bread machine.

Monkey Bread
Texas Cooking

2-1/4 teaspoons (1 package) active dry yeast
4 cups white flour, plus more for kneading if needed
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup warm milk
3/4 cup warm water
3 tablespoons melted butter, divided
1 egg, at room temperature, lightly beaten
1 cup toasted pecans, finely chopped (see Note, below)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2/3 cup light brown sugar
5 tablespoons butter, melted

Lightly grease a 10-inch tube, 9-inch springform or Bundt pan. In a large bowl, combine the yeast, flour, salt and sugar, making a well in the center. In a separate container, stir together the milk, water, 2 tablespoons melted butter and egg. Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture, and stir together to form a soft dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic. Place dough in a bowl that has been lightly sprayed with vegetable cooking spray. Brush dough with remaining 1 tablespoon melted butter, and cover with waxed paper or plastic wrap.

Let rise in a warm place for 45 to 60 minutes, or until doubled in size. While bread is rising, mix together the toasted pecans, cinnamon and brown sugar. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently for two minutes. Divide dough into 30 equal pieces. Shape pieces into balls. Dip each ball into the melted butter, then roll in the pecan mixture. Place in prepared pan. Do not pack pieces together, but leave some space between the dough pieces. Sprinkle any remaining pecan mixture and melted butter over the dough pieces. Cover with waxed paper or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes. Bake in a 375 degree preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes. Bread should rise well above the top of the pan and be golden brown. Cool on wire rack.

Second-year 4-H'er Maya Farris, 9, of Vacaville, answers questions about her monkey bread display at the Solano County 4-H Presentation Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Second-year 4-H'er Maya Farris, 9, of Vacaville, answers questions about her monkey bread display at the Solano County 4-H Presentation Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Second-year 4-H'er Maya Farris, 9, of Vacaville, answers questions about her monkey bread display at the Solano County 4-H Presentation Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Friday, March 20, 2015 at 8:22 AM

Seven ways to eat green on St. Patrick's Day

Chugging green beer and savoring a green milk shake aren't the only ways to eat green on St. Patrick's Day. UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) nutrition expert Patti Wooten Swanson has a plan for celebrating the holiday that revelers won't regret the next morning.

Wooten Swanson is the nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor for UC ANR Cooperative Extension in San Diego County. She manages the county's federally funded Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, in which staff members visit schools and community sites to provide lessons on healthy eating to low-income families and children.

Wooten Swanson offers the following seven-step plan for eating green on St. Patrick's Day:

1.

For breakfast, sauté chopped spinach, kale or Swiss chard in a little olive oil, then add a beaten egg to make scrambled eggs. Dark green vegetables are among the most healthful of vegetables, Wooten Swanson said. They are low in calories and high in vitamin C, folate, vitamin K, iron and dietary fiber. “If you eat vegetables at every meal, including breakfast, you can get in the recommended amount each day,” Wooten Swanson said. The USDA's dietary guidelines recommend adults eat 9 to 13 servings of fruit and vegetables each day, with most of those being vegetables.

2.

Mid-morning snack, grab a green apple. Not all apples are red; you'll find several green varieties in grocery stores just right for St. Patrick's Day. Light green Golden Delicious apples are sweet, plentiful, inexpensive and easy to find. Granny Smith apples are deep green, tart and very crunchy. Granny Smith are often used for apple pie, but are also great to eat out of hand. “Put a little peanut butter on apple slices to get some protein,” Wooten Swanson said.

3.

At lunch time, prepare a crisp salad with a blend of romaine lettuce, baby kale, spinach or mixed greens. For crunch add sugar snap peas, slices of green bell pepper and pieces of celery. Artichoke hearts, avocado and healthy green goddess dressing add gourmet flair. To make the dressing, blend 2 green onions, ½ green jalapeño pepper, 2/3 cup Greek yogurt, ½ cup cilantro, juice from 1 lime, ½ cup olive oil, salt and a teaspoon of sugar or honey. (Recipe adapted from Oklahoma State Extension.) “When you put a lot of different green ingredients in your salad you get a lot of different nutrients,” Wooten Swanson said. “Many of us eat the same thing every day – like an iceberg lettuce and tomato salad. But with a variety of ingredients, you get all kinds of nutrients, it tastes better and is more fun to eat.”

4.

For an afternoon snack, blend a green smoothie. Put a handful of green leafy vegetables in the blender with non-fat yogurt or almond milk. Add half a banana and any kind of fresh or frozen fruit. For a colder smoothie with a thick consistency, add a few ice cubes before blending, Wooten Swanson said.

 

 

5.

Cabbage and corned beef are traditional St. Patrick's Day foods, but Wooten Swanson has suggestions that are greener, healthier and just as festive. Mix cooked spinach fettuccine noodles with prepared basil pesto (made with olive oil), fresh spinach leaves and green olives. Add cooked chicken and some feta cheese. “The meal will offer a balanced blend of whole grains, vegetables, protein and dairy,” Wooten Swanson said.

6.

A healthful and simple green drink to accompany meals is cold tap water with a squeeze of lime. “Water is the best drink for everyone – adults and children – anytime of day,” Wooten Swanson said.

 

7.

For desert, there's no reason to punish your body with sugary green jello shots. Treat it right with a healthy and delicious green desert. “I layer non-fat Greek yogurt and kiwifruit. Sprinkle pistachios and drizzle a little honey on top,” Wooten Swanson said. Kiwifruit are high in vitamin C and pistachios are rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids. Both are great sources of antioxidants.

Of course, eating a green diet shouldn't be limited to St. Patrick's Day. “Once you start enjoying these green vegetables and other healthy foods, you'll probably want to eat a lot more,” Wooten Swanson said.

An initiative to maintain and enhance healthy families and communities is part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025.

Author: Jeannette Warnert

Posted on Tuesday, March 17, 2015 at 6:41 AM

Next 5 stories | Last story

Webmaster Email: paleff@ucdavis.edu