Hi! I’m back after a sabbatical and a summer well spent with family, friends, writing and such. I’ll be producing two blogs a week, generally on Mondays and later in the week (Thursday or Friday). I’ll also be posting regularly on Twitter and Facebook. On the blog you can expect newsy posts with links, an occasional Q&A and/or historical commentary about food and agriculture (since I’m an historian), or a book review. It’s nice to be back.

California Climate Assessment Report

A new assessment released by the California Natural Resources Agency on Monday detailed the threats facing the Golden State as a result of #climate #change. A website portal providing a range of tools and regional/technical reports can be reached by clicking here. There will be volumes written about the findings of this fourth assessment, but an excellent first take is found in today’s Los Angeles Times, penned by Tony Barboza, Bettina Boxall and Rosanna Xia. Access it here.

A number of UC ANR scientists contributed in substantial ways to the assessment. Learn more here. There is much that individuals and communities can do to engage and increase resiliency. One positive example? The UC California Naturalist program has launched a UC Climate Stewards Initiative that prepares individuals “to communicate and engage in local solutions to advance community and ecosystem resilience.”

Cooperative Extension Adapts to a Less Agricultural America

For over a hundred years, the Cooperative Extension Service (CES) in each state has been critical to supporting the nation’s agricultural sector, as well as serving families and communities through a range of programs, including 4-H and Master Gardener. In this terrific piece – appearing in the Washington PostDean Fosdick explores the ways in which the CES network is “adapting, expanding its rural focus into cities and suburbs too.” #goodread

History Notes: Learn more about the history of Cooperative Extension by reading A century of science and service.”


Farm Labor History

Gustavo Arellano is a terrific writer and he hit it out of the park with this piece for NPR Food. “When The U.S. Government Tried To Replace Migrant Farmworkers with High Schoolers” explores the little-known history of a U.S. government effort to recruit high schoolers “to replace the hundreds of thousands of Mexican agricultural workers who had labored in the United States under the so-called Bracero Program.” Especially resonant given the current farm labor situation. This is a #mustread.


In 2016, I interviewed Professor Mario Sifuentez from UC Merced about his book, Of Forests and Fields: Mexican Labor in the Pacific Northwest. The book documents the stories of those who labor, often invisibly, to feed us; it remains one of my favorites. In it, readers can learn more about the Bracero program, which brought millions of guest workers from Mexico to labor in America’s fields, forests and canneries. Dr. Sifuentez, the son of migrant farmworkers, told me this:

“The beginning of the book was when I was working in the fields. My parents were migrant farmworkers and I worked in the fields with them. My mom used to tell me in Spanish, “the pencil weighs less than the shovel.”

I hated farm work. I was told that if I didn’t want to do this kind of work, that I needed to study. So at a young age I was often in the library, reading books. I wanted to do something other than working in the fields. My parents made fun of me, but it wasn’t something I was cut out for.

They were the last generation to do farm labor. My dad later got a job doing road construction and my mother worked in food processing plants for Ore-Ida. When they stopped working in the fields, we stopped moving around. I found my groove in terms of being a student…I knew that was what I wanted to do.”

My colleague Faith Kearns – who writes The Confluence for UC ANR’s California Institute for Water Resources – recently interviewed Dr. Sifuentez about water issues in California’s Central Valley. It’s a wonderful piece; read it here.

History Notes:

This was not the first attempt to find “alternate” farm labor sources in the U.S. During World War I, nearly 20,000 women – many of them “recruited” from colleges – joined the Woman’s Land Army of America to help alleviate the nation’s agricultural labor shortage. Some of them used their work in the agricultural sector to press for suffrage. Learn more here.


I’ll be back Thursday. Have a great week!