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Bilingual Community Educators


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Lilian Thaoxaochay
UCCE Fresno County
Farm Advisor: Ruth Dahlquist-Willard, PhD
Fresno Office Phone: (559) 241-7515 
Email: lilthaox@ucanr.edu 
Languages: English and Hmong

Lilian is a first-generation Hmong American born and raised in Fresno, CA. Her family has farmed in the Central Valley for over 30 years. 

Lilian completed her MA in Cultural Anthropology at UC Santa Cruz and has a BA in Medical Anthropology and Asian American Studies from Stanford University. Her previous research experiences include racial/ethnic health disparities, cultural competency in medical education, and oral histories as political protest. Her current research interests include the history of Hmong agriculturalists in Southeast Asia throughout the 20th century, refugee farming in California, and the futures of small-scale grower families in the Central Valley. 

She is the Small Farms Community Educator at the UC Cooperative Extension Small Farms and Specialty Crops Program in Fresno County. Lilian has worked on both COVID19 safety and prevention outreach, and soil health and conservation practices for Southeast Asian growers previously. In her new role with the team, she looks forward to fostering collaborations between farmers and researchers to identify and address additional concerns and issues.


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Vong J. Moua
UCCE Merced, Stanislaus, and San Joaquin Counties  
Modesto Office Phone: (209) 525-6800  
Email: vmoua@ucanr.edu 
Languages: English and Hmong  

Vong was born and raised in Merced, California where he grew up working on family farms. Exposed to agriculture in his early teens, he has over 13 years of hands-on experience planting, harvesting, and selling produce directly to consumers at farmers’ markets. 

While spending his weekends and some evenings on the farm, he spent the weekdays pursuing his education. He received his Associate’s degree in Agriculture Business from Merced College in 2019 and transferred to California State University Stanislaus, where he will complete his Bachelor’s Degree in Agricultural Economics in December 2021. While attending Stanislaus State, Vong obtained a position as a Student Intern with University of California Cooperative Extension Merced County in 2020. There he worked directly with C. Scott Stoddard, Merced County’s Director and Farm Advisor for Vegetable Crops and Soils. Starting as a Student Intern, Vong worked his way to become a Student Assistant and then a Lab Assistant, both contributing to his background and knowledge in agriculture. His time there familiarized him to other areas of the agriculture industry such as production of large-scale commodities, research in agriculture, and extension efforts to farmers.  

Currently, Vong is the UCCE Small Farms Community Educator based in Modesto, California and is responsible for assisting the San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Merced Counties. His duties include working with community organizations to provide resources and assistance directly to historically underserved farmers.


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Darlene Ruiz
UCCE San Diego County 
Farm Advisor: Ramiro Lobo 
San Diego Office Phone: (858) 822-7872 
Email: druiz@ucanr.edu  
Languages: English and Spanish 

Darlene is a first- generation Mexican American born and raised in small towns near Modesto, CA (Patterson, Westley, Vernalis). Her family has farmed and sold produce at local markets/ farmers markets in the Central Valley for over 15 years. She comes from a family of farmers from Michoacan, Mexico who have farmed for decades and considers it an influential part of her roots.  

Darlene obtained a B.S. in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior with a minor in Chicana/o studies from the University of California, Davis. While at UC Davis, she traveled abroad to Oaxaca, MX to gain cross cultural experience in the healthcare field through an internship doing clinical rotations at hospitals and Centro Rehabilitacion Internacional Teleton (CRIT), as well as public health brigades and visiting local parteras (midwives) and curanderas (traditional healers). She gained cultural competency and learned more about bi national health issues. This experience further ignited her passion for community education and addressing health disparities to achieve more equitable healthcare access and healthier communities. After being involved with her family's small farm and working in roles such as Administrative clerk for USDA ARS, Administrative Assistant for CA Statewide 4-H office, 4-H Latino Initiative Community Education Specialist, Resource Recovery Technician for Salinas Valley Recycles (waste reduction and composting education), and Clinical Research Coordinator for the UC Davis Health: Center for Reducing Health Disparities; she decided to combine her passions and unique skillset by completing a Master’s in Agricultural Education at California Polytechnic State University,  San Luis Obispo. Her focus and interests include small farm diversification strategies, sustainability, agritourism, soil health and food access/ equity.  

She is currently the Small Farms Staff Research Associate at UC Cooperative Extension Small Farms Program in San Diego County. In her new role, she looks forward to fostering collaborations between historically underserved farmers and researchers to identify and address the most pressing concerns, provide technical assistance, and supporting aspiring farmers by creating pathways and resources.  


Cici Cui
UCCE Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Benito Counties 
Farm Advisor: Aparna Gazula
San Diego Office Phone: (408) 282-3110  
Email: czcui@ucanr.edu
Languages: English, Mandarin, and Cantonese

Cici Cui is a fluent Mandarin and Cantonese speaker with a background in agricultural engineering, economics, and statistics. Their dedication to sustainable agriculture and community engagement stems from hands-on experience at the Grace Garden at Davis United Methodist Church. Cici's expertise in data analysis, educational material design, and community workshops makes them a valuable asset in supporting small-scale, diversified, and historically undeserved farmers. Additionally, their impactful involvement at the UC Davis Pantry, included guiding individuals in accessing essential resources, demonstrates their commitment to community support. Joining UC ANR in San Martin, CA, Cici is committed to leveraging their skills to empower local farmers and promote sustainable agricultural practices.


Jiana Choi
UCCE Riverside and San Bernardino Counties
Farm Advisor: Hung Doan
Riverside Office Phone: (951) 955-0170 
Email: jchoi@ucanr.edu
Languages: English and Korean

Jiana was born in Seoul and raised in a small city in Korea. She completed high school and college in the US as an international student. Her agricultural background comes from her ginseng farmer grandparents, but her love for farming started during her college years. Jiana completed her B.S. in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems with emphasis on Food and Society at the University of California, Davis. Exploring her academic career, she was drawn to how food connects people to nature, people to culture, and people to people, and discovered a heart for agriculture. She found her passion in food security within communities while interning and working at the UC Davis Student Farm as a coordinator in its food justice program. Her experience in producing, gleaning, and distributing fresh produce to student and local communities during COVID-19 has broadened her perspective on the importance of agriculture in our society. As a Staff Research Associate with the UC ANR Small Farms Network in the Inland Empire region of California, Jiana connects with underserved small-scale farmers and empowers their communities through technical assistance and support.

Phillip Fujiyoshi, Ph.D.
UCCE Yolo, Sacramento, and Solano Counties
Farm Advisor: Margaret Lloyd, Ph.D.
Riverside Office Phone: 530-666-8143 
Email: pfujiyoshi@ucanr.edu
Languages: English and Spanish 

Phillip was born and raised in Santa Maria, California, and received his bachelor’s degree in biology at MIT.  His academic knowledge of Spanish transformed into bilingual proficiency thanks to life experiences such as living with Spanish roommates, participating in a tree-planting brigade in Nicaragua, and setting up a Spanish-speaking household with a Nicaraguan partner.  The Nicaragua trip also sparked his lasting interest in agriculture, leading him into doctoral studies in agroecology at UC Santa Cruz.

After graduating, Phillip performed molecular assays, contributed to phylogenetic studies, and led a spore-trapping field study in a lab studying grapevine trunk diseases.  In addition, he pursued outside interests in agriculture, including winning an individual grant to study cabbage aphid behavior, pursuing informal cover crop trials in a community garden plot, volunteering on the UC Davis Student Farm, and offering agronomic advice to growers at the farmers market.

As a UCCE Small Farms Extension and Research Associate, Phillip supports historically underserved farmers by providing them with financial and agronomic technical assistance, and he makes extension materials available in Spanish.

Thank you to CDFA for supporting bilingual technical assistance!
Small Farms Community Educators are part of the California Underserved and Small Producers (CUSP) Grant Program in partnership with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). Created in 2021 with funding from the California State Legislature, CUSP is designed to facilitate direct assistance to individual small and mid-scale and socially disadvantaged/historically underserved farmers and ranchers including technical assistance in applying for economic relief grant programs, assistance with business planning and marketing strategies, and extension support with specialty crop production, regulatory compliance, and sustainable and climate smart agricultural practices.