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Small Farms Community Educators

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 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. 

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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 socially disadvantaged 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 disadvantaged farmers and researchers to identify and address the most pressing concerns, provide technical assistance, and supporting aspiring farmers by creating pathways and resources.