UC Agriculture & Natural Resources News
You've heard of the California Bear Flag, the one with the grizzly bear" right? It's lettered with "California Republic." But have you heard of the "other" bear flag that's on a hooded sweatshirt at the Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California, Davis? It's lettered with...
Entomologist/artist Charlotte Herbert Alberts wearing a red hooded sweatshirt: front view showing the Bohart logo and a tardigrade face. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Back view: Entomologist-artist Charlotte Herbert Alberts shows the Bohart Republic's bear flag, the water bear, that is. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Bohart associate Emma Cluff cuddles a tardigrade stuffed animal. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The wonderful NCCC Gold Seven team have been working at HREC for the past 3 weeks, they have been so helpful - all the HREC staff will be so very sad to see them go! In this blog post we learn a little about the team members and get an overview of the work that they have been involved in, the interviews were conducted by Hannah Wood, the media lead for the team.
As the AmeriCorps NCCC team stationed at the UC ANR Hopland Research and Extension Center, we've had plenty of projects to keep us busy! In the three weeks we've been volunteering here, we've helped repair fence lines previously burnt in the River Fire, were put in charge of some daily barn chores, helped build infrastructure for upcoming research projects, assisted with K-12 educational programs, cleared brush, helped tidy up the place, and sometimes worked closely with the sheep (tagging, paint branding, raising bummer lambs, and giving vaccines).
Although the work was daunting at times, and the weather was never perfect, we were thankful to be working and living on this beautiful property right alongside the welcoming staff and their families. We learned loads of information about California seasons and climates, lambing, the important research projects going on, Northern California ecosystems, wildlife in the area, and wildfire mitigation and recovery. And the baby lambs made our days brighter… even with rainy skies!
I've asked a few of my fellow Corps members some questions about their personal experiences at the UC ANR Hopland Research and Extension Center… and here's what they said!
Q: What was your favorite part of volunteering at HREC?
I enjoyed learning a ton from the very knowledgeable HREC staff. Their welcoming attitude enabled us to get a firsthand experience of what living and working at a research extension center entails. We worked with each and every person on staff and they all showed us the details and unique experiences of their work duties, while also being very open and friendly toward us.
-Jared Gasper: 19 yrs old, from Nebraska
Q: What has made your experience at HREC?
I liked getting insight into the life of a shepherd and seeing the day to day responsibilities of working on a ranch. I also really enjoyed learning about all the research projects! Overall my time here has been extremely educational and useful for developing myself and my interests, specifically when working with the Forest Advisor for Mendocino Lake and Sonoma counties on post fire vegetation plot surveys.
-Dariel Echanis: 18 yrs old, from Vermont
Q: What's it like living at the HREC?
I think we all can say it's been extremely comfortable living and working on the HREC campus. We were very cozy in the dorm house, and enjoyed going for hikes and doing physical training on our off time.. which included beautiful views of course! Hannah Bird made us feel right at home with her caring and immediate attention, giving us fresh lamb meat, welcoming us into her home for dinner, and making sure we were always having new and exciting experiences:)
-Hannah Wood: 22 yrs old, from New York State
Q: What was it like as the Team Leader coordinating daily projects with the staff?
The staff at HREC are all incredibly helpful and organized so I had a really great experience working with them. I never had trouble getting into contact with anyone and every member of the staff was happy to answer questions. The team got to work with a number of staff members who all had diverse bodies of knowledge and we learned a lot from them! Working at HREC has been a wonderful experience for me and for the team.
-Jessi Hagelshaw: 22 yrs old, from California
Q: What was it like volunteering on the weekends with the Ukiah Animal Shelter?
It was really rewarding! It was good to see that none of the animals we worked with before Christmas break were still there when we returned in January. I'm glad we got a chance to help out and I would love to do more work with animal shelters in the places we'll work at in the future.
-Alex Faeth: 22 yrs old, from New Jersey
Q: How was it working with the K-12th graders that came to HREC to learn about sheep?
Working with the school children was a great experience. The weather was cold and wet a lot of the days we did field trips but the teachers and students were enthusiastic to hike the property, which in turn, energized the staff and volunteers!
-Danny Zoborowski: 24 yrs old, from New York State
Q: Anything you'd like to say to the HREC and Hopland/Ukiah communities?
HREC's hospitality was great. The entire staff was welcoming and helpful, the dorms are nice and cozy, the land is beautiful, and it is a great place to hike... or just roam. Thank you HREC staff!
-Amir Corbett: 20 yrs old, from Pennsylvania
Amir and Alex show the "bummer" or adopted lambs to the K-12 students.
Hard work on the hill!
All the Americorps Gold Seven team worked so hard rain, snow or shine!
Clearing brush, to be prepared for future fire was one of the key tasks that the team helped HREC with.
Identification. Collaboration. Camaraderie. The scientists and butterfly/moth enthusiasts who gathered Saturday, Feb. 9 for the Northern California Lepidoptera Society meeting in the Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California, Davis, did all that: identify specimens and...
Lepidopterists (from left) Paul Johnson, Jerry Powell and Bill Patterson discuss butterfly species. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
UC Davis entomology student Gwen Erdosh chats with Bohart associate Greg Kareofelas (left) and Christopher Jason, new UC Davis graduate in environmental science. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Dick Meyer, who holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Davis, clarifies a butterfly question with hobbyist Jeff Baier of Napa. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Butterfly conversation with (from left) John DeBenedictus, Val Albu, Bill Patterson and Christopher Jason. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Jerry Powell, emeritus director of the Essig Museum of Entomology, examines a specimen under the microscope. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
John Lane (left) and Larry Allen discuss specimens. At far right is Bill Patterson. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Kelly Richers (left) and Jerry Powell are key members of the Northern California Lepidopterists. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Engrossed in conversation are (from left) Max Klepikov, Jim Detla, John DeBenedictis and Jerry Powell. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Rosser Garrison (left) retired from the California Department of Food and Agriculture and co-author of a dragonfly book, talks dragonflies with Greg Kareofelas (center) and Christopher Jason. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Engaged in conversations (from left) Joel Hernandez, Dick Meyer and Christopher Jason, all who received degrees from UC Davis. At far right is Jerry Powell, emeritus director of the Essig Museum. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Author Lawrence "Larry" Allen shows his book to Christina Cunha (far left) of Modesto and her daughter, Madison Cunha, a self-described "aspiring entomologist." (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Bill Patterson (left), who holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Davis, and entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the butterfly-moth section at the Bohart Museum of Entomology. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Don Miller (left), professor at Chico State University and butterfly hobbyist and ecological restorer Jeffrey Caldwell share knowledge. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the Bohart Museum's collection of butterflies and moths, shows morpho butterflies. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
In a growing number of communities, food policy councils (also called “food system alliances”) have emerged to address gaps in local policies that focus on food. Most communities have transportation, housing or land use policies, but food policies are frequently missing. Food policy councils (FPCs) are an important way to bring community members together with local government to promote the social, economic and environmental health of local and regional food systems.
Food policy councils are made up of representatives from many sectors in the food system, including farmers, distributors, retailers, food service operations, government agencies (like public health, county social services and county agriculture departments), and community organizations that work in the food system. Some FPCs also develop close partnerships with county-based UC Cooperative Extension to help facilitate their work.
FPCs support a variety of food and agriculture-related policies and programs, including healthy food access, land use planning, regional food procurement, food waste, food and economic development, local food processing, and regulations related to urban farming or community gardening, to name a few examples.
A brief history of food policy councils
FPCs emerged in the late 1980s as the sustainable agriculture and food/nutrition movements began to pay more attention to community food systems. Early FPCs were created through resolutions of local government bodies (Clancy et al 2008). At that time, they tended to be embedded within government, much like a planning commission or a social service commission. As the local food movement began to rapidly expand in the 2000s, many local activists and organizations began to create FPCs as a way to bring together a more diverse group of food system stakeholders. These newer generation FPCs were typically organized outside of government as a non-profit organization or community coalition. Studies of FPCs, including our own, find that they take very diverse organizational forms and tackle widely varying issues, which means that generalizations about their goals and outcomes are difficult to make. This may be quite appropriate however, given the enduring FPC goal of tailoring food policies to the specific characteristics of particular places.
A UC ANR research project is looking at how FPCs work
While FPCs are increasingly on the radar of those trying to promote food system change, we still don't have much recent documented evidence about the actual work of FPCs (though see Harper et al. 2009, Fox 2010 and Borron 2003). In response, a team of UC Cooperative Extension researchers (Clare Gupta, Julia Van Soelen Kim, Dave Campbell, Jennifer Sowerwine, Gail Feenstra and Kate Munden-Dixon) began a comparative study of 10 California food policy councils in 2016. We wanted to know this: what are the networks and relationships that FPCs are a part of? And how do these networks and relationships influence what a FPC is able to achieve? As UCCE researchers ourselves, we were especially interested in understanding the nature of relationships between FPCs and university researchers, including UC Cooperative Extension.
To answer these questions, we interviewed more than 60 FPC members from food policy councils across California. We asked them about the work they were doing within their councils, their relationships with other players in the local food system, and the way they find information relevant for their council's priorities. We also led focus groups with members exploring the same questions. In addition, we analyzed documents produced by and about FPCs. We also engaged in “participant observation” — researcher lingo for the process of engaging with groups and individuals as a way to learn first-hand about what they do. Lastly, we combined the stories we heard from our interviewees with numerical data from a survey of nearly all of California's known FPCs. We hoped by doing this to develop a better picture of FPCs' strategies for gathering relevant information, networking and creating impact.
Our Research Findings
A full report of our findings can be found on the UC SAREP website, but here we share some key takeaways and strategies for FPC success:
- Respondents see information sharing as the most valuable FPC activity. It encourages collaboration and shifts participant thinking towards a more holistic view of food policy work.
- Members who are “knowledge brokers,,” including Cooperative Extension advisors, are connected to many different knowledge sources and are able to draw on these different sources to provide data and information that match their council's needs.
- Real-life experiences are often as compelling with policy-makers as statistics. FPCs cite the value of integrating information from numbers (i.e. quantitative data) and stories (i.e. qualitative data).
- There is no one-size-fits-all approach to FPC membership. Some FPCs view food system change as a process that involves a broad and inclusive consortium of stakeholders. They try to bring stakeholders with diverse values together (i.e., a “big tent” approach). Other FPCs emphasize attracting allies who share core values and a commitment to advocacy on behalf of food systems change (i.e., a “small tent” approach).
- Small sub-groups within FPCs can achieve significant policy change. A targeted sub-group of the FPC (i.e. working group; task force, campaign) can work with key allies to push forward a particular policy priority—the entire council does not necessarily have to be entirely involved.
- Effective FPCs have strong leaders. These leaders have deep experience and connections in the community and a good feel for the nuances involved in effective political organizing.
Overall, we found that the work of FPCs at the local and state level is making a significant difference in our state, providing a meaningful way to pursue food systems policy and change. Our recent article in the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems and Community Development specifically highlights how local government and FPCs collaborate to shape food policies and programs in different local contexts. Stay tuned for more results from our work.
We would love to hear from you about whether our findings resonate in your own food policy council, or if you have ideas for next research steps.
Want to get involved in local food system policy-making? Join a food policy council! See reports by Food First or Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future's Food Policy Networks for additional information.
Clancy, K., Hammer, J., & Lippoldt, D. (2008). Food policy councils-past, present, and future. In Remaking the North American Food System: Strategies for Sustainability (pp. 121-143). University of Nebraska Press.
Borron, S.M. 2003. Food Policy Councils: Practice and Possibility. Congressional Hunger Center Hunger-Free Community Report.
Fox, C. 2010. Food Policy Councils: Innovations in Democratic Governance for a Sustainable and Equitable Food System. Los Angeles Food Policy Task Force unpublished report.
Harper, A., Shattuck, A., E. Holt-Gimenez, Alkon, A., and F. Lambrick. 2009. Food Policy Councils: Lessons Learned. Food First: Institute for Food and Development Policy.
San Joaquin County UC Cooperative Extension in Stockton maintains pesticide-free roses as one of two trial sites in California for the American Rose Trials for Sustainability, reported Angelina Dequina in the Daily Titan. The other California location is at California State University, Fullerton.
Since 2012, the American Rose Trials for Sustainability has conducted scientific research to determine the best rose cultivation techniques for gardeners in each region of the U.S. The roses in the trial plots are grown with minimal care; the only inputs are water and compost. The San Joaquin County roses are maintained by UC Master Gardeners in the UCCE Learning Landscape, which beautifies the Robert J. Cabral Agricultural Center and features a series of small, themed, climate-appropriate gardens.
The Learning Landscape is used for educational Open Garden Days and to teach a variety of workshops for landscape professionals. The public is welcome to stroll the gardens seven days a week during daylight hours. The facility is at 2101 E. Earhart Ave. in Stockton.
Project lead Karrie Reid, UCCE San Joaquin County environmental horticulture advisor, said the rose trials are integral to the marketing of rose cultivars, according to the Daily Titan article.
Once the two-year trial ends, the trial gardens may keep the roses they planted.