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Posts Tagged: Morrill Act

A 'multi-million dollar food fight' heats up, plus other recent news coverage

Currently, GMO labeling is not required in the United States. Some manufacturers label foods that do not contain GMOs.
Alison Van Eenennaam, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Animal Science at UC Davis, commented on a KCRA news segment about Proposition 37, an initiative on California's November ballot that, if passed, would require special labeling on products that contain genetically modified ingredients.

The reporters called the proposition a "multi-million dollar food fight."

"All of the data that's come out from the American Medical Association and National Academy of Sciences have all agreed that the food products on the market today that are genetically engineered are safe," Van Eenennaam told the reporter

Polls show the 'Yes on Proposition 37' campaign  is "way ahead" of those who oppose the initiative, "but there's a long way to go until November," the reporter said.

Vision still pays dividends after 150 years
Sacramento Bee editorial

The Sacramento Bee editorial staff called the 1862 Congress of the United States one of the most productive in American history. One of the reason was it's passage of the Morrill Land-Grant College Act July 2, 1862. The act created the world's best system of public colleges and universities for people of modest means, the editorial said. Previously most Americans had no access to higher education. California took up the land-grant offer in 1864 and the University of California was born – at Berkeley – in 1868. Later, the University Farm would become UC Davis. The Citrus Experiment Station would become UC Riverside.

Building a better, tastier tomato
Lauren Sommer, QUEST Northern California, KQED

Lauren Sommer interviewed Ann Powell, associate researcher in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, about her finding that the gene that creates "green shoulders" in tomatoes influences the amount of sugar in the ripe fruit. Powell says now that they know about this gene, plant breeders could put it back in commercial varieties.

Bees need a hand, especially in drought
Debbie Arrington, Sacramento Bee

In honor of National Honeybee Day, the Sacramento Bee paid homage to the indispensable pollinator with information about the challenges it faces. Colony collapse disorder, drought and urbanization take their toll. There was some good news: "Bees got through the winter a little better," said Eric Mussen, UC Cooperative Extension specialist, apiculture. "This spring, we saw bigger, earlier and more swarms." However, nationwide, the hot dry summer has made it a tough year for honey production.

Posted on Tuesday, August 21, 2012 at 9:47 AM

NPR talks about land grant universities

Pete Goodell, UC Cooperative Extension advisor, sweeps a cotton field to monitor insects.
While visiting the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which is commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act, NPR's Talk of the Nation did a segment about land grant universities.

Sara from Fresno called into the show to explain the role of UC Cooperative Extension. She said:  "...we use the extension service to help us determine what kinds of things we can use to keep the crop healthy, not just pesticides, but how to check the crops and to make sure that they're healthy. They use independent research all the time to help us with this. And with the public funds just dwindling, we have a lot less independent research that go on and have to go on more of what the chemical companies are telling us."

When asked for an example, according to the show's transcript, Sara said: "Well, I'm looking at a cotton crop right now, and the farmer advisers, the cotton farmer advisors in California, helped us what the program called plant mapping, where we were able to take a look at what's going on with the plant even though we might have bugs out that could be damaging the crops."

Sandy Rikoon, professor of rural sociology at the University of Missouri, told listeners, "Many countries are trying to duplicate the extension system. Many countries have research, agricultural research, but what they don't have is that group of people who take the research and then take it to the people."

Host Neal Conan mistakenly said the California State University is one of the land grants and we have asked NPR to correct the online version to state that UC is California's land grant institution. 

Posted on Friday, July 6, 2012 at 11:56 AM

UC marks 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act

Los Angeles Times writer Patt Morrison moderated a panel discussion at the Morrill Act celebration.
At a gathering on the west lawn of the state Capitol on Monday, University of California President Mark G. Yudof called the Morrill Act, signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862, "A catalyst that transformed the United States." The legislation provided federal land to states to build universities that would extend to more Americans educational opportunities in agriculture and the mechanical arts. The act launched the University of California.

Los Angeles Times reporter Patt Morrison moderated a panel discussion at the event, and wrote a post about the Morrill Act sesquicentennial on the newspaper's Opinion L.A. blog today.

Morrison asked Abraham Lincoln, portrayed at the event by lanky Sonoma County teacher Roger Vincent, "President Lincoln - the opportunity for every American to go to college? Really?" He nodded.

"'What a snob,' I remarked," Morrison wrote in her post, a reference, she said, to former senator and former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum gibing at President Obama’s goal of making a college education available to all Americans.

When Lincoln was president, 50 percent of Americans were involved in producing food. A steady movement away from the occupation has created significant challenges and opportunities for the agriculture industry.

"Americans may be even more aware of what they eat, the panelists noted, with the growth of popularity of organic foods and health-conscious diets like First Lady Michelle Obama’s, but even less aware of where food comes from and how it gets from field to plate," Morrison wrote.

Yudof and UC Cooperative Extension advisor Rose Hayden-Smith, a historian and leader of ANR's Sustainable Farming Systems Strategic Initiative, made speeches. The texts of their presentations are linked below.

Posted on Wednesday, May 2, 2012 at 2:15 PM

Heirlooms, civic agriculture and a New Year's resolution

Heirloom tomato cultivars - which can be found in a wide variety of colors, shapes, flavors and sizes - may not be practical for commercial production, but add interest to home gardens.
On this Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, it’s nice to sit with a cup of tea and a seed catalog, dreaming about a spring and summer garden. For 2012, I’ve decided to focus on heirloom varieties for my home garden. Spoiler alert for my family: there are packets of heirloom seeds tucked in your Christmas stockings, with extras for Memere and Pepere (who are grandparents and also grand gardeners).

“Heirloom” is an interesting term, and like the word “sustainability,” it means different things to different people. Recently, I read The Heirloom Life Gardener, a book written by Jere and Emilee Gettle. The Gettles are the co-founders of the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company, which publishes a lush and incredibly informative seed catalog and has spun off a variety of gardening-related enterprises across the nation. The Gettles define heirloom seeds as being “nonhybrid and open-pollinated” and as usually having been in circulation for more than 50 years. Some heirloom seed types currently in use could have been found in Thomas Jefferson garden at Monticello. Some appear more recently, during the Great Depression, including the Mortgage Lifter tomato (who couldn’t use one of these in today’s economy?).

While reading the Gettles’ book, I began thinking once again about the relationship between land and the American character. I was inspired to pull some of my favorite books off the shelf and revisit them, to consider the notion of “civic agriculture.”

The term “civic agriculture” - coined by the former Thomas Lyson of Cornell - is used by some to refer to the movement towards locally based agricultural models that tightly link community, social and economic development. Models of civic agriculture include CSAs, farmer’s markets, roadside stands, urban agriculture, community gardens, and farm-to-school/farm-to-institution programs. I also argue that civic agriculture includes school and home gardens . . . any place where people seek to connect land to the development of community or as an expression of engagement or citizenship.

The civic aspect of agriculture is much older than the current local food movement; it hearkens back to our nation’s founding. The connection between land and democracy has always held real meaning in American culture. Jeffersonian ideals about the civic virtues and value of gardening and agriculture were prevalent and shaped American cultural and political life; the U.S. Department of Agriculture, created in 1862, was called “The People’s Department” by President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln once told a group of Wisconsin farmers that as long as Americans knew how to cultivate even the smallest plot of land, that the nation’s citizens would be free from kings and moneylenders, free from oppression of all sorts.

Federal legislation such as the Morrill Act (we will celebrate its sesquicentennial in 2012, and I'll be writing about that throughout the New Year) created America’s land-grant institutions, which still have as a primary purpose research and education in support of the nation’s agricultural producers. (Land-grant institutions through their Master Gardener programs also support home and community gardeners). The Homestead Act, also passed in 1862, and linked the cultivation of land to the protection of the Union and the expansion of democracy during the nation’s Civil War. You’ve heard this from me more than once: We were a nation of farmers at origin; we are still a nation of farmers at heart.

We farm, and we garden. Gardening links the myth and the practice of agriculture to one another. In practice, gardening is agriculture on a personal scale; it represents an individual's relationship to a specific piece of land. This is a kind of relationship worth investing in.

As the longest, darkest days of the year are upon us, as you celebrate the best things that family and hearth offer, and as you formulate your goals and hopes for the New Year, I hope that you’ll consider adding another resolution to your list: to embark upon a gardening activity, no matter how small, in 2012. Occupy the possibilities that gardens create at our homes, and in our communities.

Happy Holidays, and a Healthy and Prosperous New Year.

“A Garden for Everyone. Everyone in a Garden.”

Posted on Thursday, December 22, 2011 at 11:34 AM

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