UCCE Sonoma County
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UCCE Sonoma County

Posts Tagged: Horticulture Innovation Lab

‘Local’ farm inspiration from half a world away

Farm advisors: They're the local hand on the long arm of the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR). They apply cutting-edge research to problems facing their farming neighbors, often adapting practices and research results to local conditions. UC ANR Cooperative Extension advisors provide locally adapted science to local farmers.

So it might come as a surprise that some farm advisors got their start in agriculture nowhere near their backyards or their neighbor's fields. In fact, more than a few farm advisors fell in love with helping farmers while they were overseas.

Mark Lundy, UC ANR CE advisor in Colusa-Sutter-Yuba
Take Mark Lundy, for example. As the UCCE agronomy advisor in Colusa, Sutter and Yuba counties, Lundy works with farmers on field crops such as tomatoes, alfalfa, wheat, sunflower, beans, and an assortment of other vegetable crops. At a recent meeting for tomato growers, he presented about tools that might help farmers better apply fertilizers, with sensors adjusting recommendations for each individual field. Does it get more “local” than that?

But as a UC Davis grad student, Lundy traveled to Malawi for a few weeks to help extension agents there teach farmers modern tomato-growing practices — as part of a Trellis project with the Horticulture Innovation Lab.

Lundy wrote about his experience in Malawi recently on the Feed the Future website. He describes setting out, eager to put “book learning” to practical use, and eventually realizing how valuable local knowledge can be for agriculture. While in Malawi, Lundy worked with a local agronomist named Chimwemwe:

“Seeing Chimwemwe's extension program in action underscored to me that agriculture is simultaneously (even paradoxically) a global and a local enterprise. Many of the fundamentals of cropping systems do apply broadly across diverse agricultural landscapes, which is what permitted the productive conversations and collaboration between us. Nevertheless, there is no substitute for a nuanced understanding of the particular contours and constraints of any given region or farm.”

Though Lundy had years of formal education in agronomy, he witnessed how Chimwemwe's relationships and local understanding made him a “sharper tool” when it came to helping local farmers.

“Observing Chimwemwe in action inspired me to leverage the regionally specific knowledge I had gained about California agriculture during my graduate education and try to become a similarly sharp tool in my own backyard,” Lundy wrote.

You can read the rest of the article, “How a Global Trip Inspired this Californian to Focus Locally” on the website for Feed the Future, the U.S. government's global hunger and food security initiative. The initiative brings American ingenuity and expertise to bear in the global fight against hunger. Several agricultural research programs at UC Davis and UC Riverside fall under the banner of Feed the Future — including the Horticulture Innovation Lab, led by UCCE specialist Beth Mitcham.

Author: Brenda Dawson

As a graduate student, Mark Lundy (back, left) worked with Chimwemwe (second from right) and colleagues in Malawi on a tomato production project with the Horticulture Innovation Lab.
As a graduate student, Mark Lundy (back, left) worked with Chimwemwe (second from right) and colleagues in Malawi on a tomato production project with the Horticulture Innovation Lab.

Smiling group in African tomato field

Posted on Tuesday, May 12, 2015 at 7:39 AM

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