Last week I traveled to Tulare, California to attend the 49th Annual World Ag Expo, billed as the “largest annual outdoor agricultural expo in the world.” The venue is enormous, spanning over 2.6 million square feet of exhibit space. If you wear good shoes like I did, you can walk every square inch. There were more than 1,500 exhibitors. This year’s attendance broke records: 106,349 people visited over the course of the three-day event.

There were many things to see and do…and many people to speak with.

Speaking with people about their work is a big part of what we do at the UC Food Observer. (For much of the year, the UC Food Observer was an “I”; with the recent hire of assistant editor Teresa O’Connor, it’s now “we”).

It’s our first anniversary. We remain deeply in love with this work.

The UC Food Observer just marked its one year anniversary; we are charting an ambitious agenda for our second year. Some quick stats: we published about 650 blog posts our first year, earned an amazing (and growing) Twitter following and gained a loyal audience on Facebook. We spoke to some influential people whose names are household words…and to some people who are less well-known, but whose work we think is important and relevant. We strived to curate content that we felt would appeal to a wide-range of audiences and needs and to thoughtfully provide context and add value where we felt we could.

I/we traveled some really cool places – including to the 30th anniversary of Farm Aid, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, Oregon and more. We also revisited some places close to home, including the farms of Phil McGrath and Chris Sayer, which are located just a few miles down the road. We spoke with people working internationally. We’ve spoken with researchers across the range of the food system, discussed biotechnology and organics, nutrition and school lunch policy and more. We spoke with community-based organizations that are making their communities a better place, such as Food Forward and the L.A. Kitchen. Some of the best conversations we had were with community activists, early career professionals and those who’ve been around for a while. We’ve opined on issues ranging from ag/food literacy to food system reform as a national security issue. We’ve also provided historical pieces that demonstrate how the past can inform the present (and the future). It’s a pretty amazing sweep of work.

I thought about all of these things as I walked around at the World Ag Expo. And I also thought this: I have the job I always dreamed about.


What’s in store this year.

Near the end of the day, I was able to participate in a session with a dozen or so University of California experts from around the state who are working on a wide range of issues around food and agriculture. Their work is vital to UC’s Global Food Initiative, which seeks to harness the institution’s vast resources to address a compelling issue: how to sustainably and nutritiously feed the world’s growing population.

In upcoming months, we’ll be sharing information about the research of some of these folks within the context of larger issues. For example, we’ll be writing about sorghum: what it is, how it’s been used historically…and how this drought-tolerant, gluten-free grain may prove to be a crop we see more of in California. Jeff Dahlberg is a UC researcher specializing in agronomy (and sorghum), and he’ll be sharing information with us about his work. We’ll also be sharing some stories about Asian Citrus Psyllid, a pest that threatens California’s iconic citrus trees (whether they are located in urban backyards or commercial orchards in rural areas). We’ll be writing a big piece about chickens and a social network analysis project that helped some researchers identify ways to improve information exchange among those keeping backyard flocks. We’ll be writing about how climate variability is driving some changes in the kinds of grapes being cultivated in California. One clever researcher brought her applied research project with her to the World Ag Expo: bottles of wine for taste testing.

Look for some different content. Perhaps a podcast. Some video. A more emphatic presence on additional social platforms, including Instagram and Pinterest. And expect a new blog post every day. Later this spring, we’ll be providing an option to sign up to receive the daily blog directly.

For the rest of this month, we’ll be providing “wraps” of work we’ve produced in the last year, ICYMI, as well as some terrific interviews with some exciting people who will be sharing information with us about ag policy, food sovereignty and more.


We’re proud to be part of UC’s #GlobalFood Initiative.

The University of California’s Global Food Initiative (GFI) launched in July 2014. The systemwide initiative seeks to harness UC’s vast resources to tackle one of the most compelling issues of our time: how to sustainably and nutritiously feed the world’s growing population.

It’s an incredible and audacious initiative that’s already having significant impacts in the institution and beyond.

The intention of the UC Food Observer is not to serve as a channel for UC news, but rather to provide a platform that gathers and convenes conversations and to share the work of others. I love this aspect of it, because despite the challenges facing us, there is so much positive work happening. We strive to offer a balanced perspective on complex issues, to share information, connect people and organizations and again, to provide a public service.


We want to thank you.

We write and curate content with you in mind. Thank you for following us, for sharing your work with us, for sharing what we’ve written with others and for being present in our work. Many of you have emailed or called us to offer your encouragement and express appreciation for what we’re trying to do. We appreciate your kind words and your feedback…it inspires us and helps us to improve. The food system is a large and diverse space, not only in terms of the physical landscapes the work occupies, but in terms of the social space it claims. We’re glad to be here.


Editor’s Note: Today’s cover image is one of our favorites…it ran with a piece we wrote about Farm Aid and was taken on a smartphone. We like old farm equipment and we really like the juxtaposition of rural/urban themes in this picture. We also want to express deep gratitude to Peter H. King, who conceptualized the UC Food Observer and championed its creation; to UC Office of the President for supporting the vision and this unique work; and to the UCOP Marketing Communications team for providing expertise, encouragement and support on a daily basis. #GlobalFood