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Outreach Projects Span State

Radio stations, bus tours, and agritourism are just three vehicles that the Small Farm Program uses to reach small farmers throughout California. The following are snapshots of three outreach programs undertaken by the Small Farm Program.

Advisors Make Inroads On The Radio

In the late 1990s, radio certainly can't be called high-technology communication. But Small Farm Program farm advisors Manuel Jimenez and Richard Molinar have found that it's still one of the best ways to get information out to the people they serve.

As part of the Small Farm Program's outreach efforts, Jimenez and Molinar work with small-scale farmers in Tulare and Fresno counties, respectively, helping them sustain their small businesses with information on crop production, pest control, labor management, fertilization, harvesting, and marketing. They make personal visits to farms and answer questions on the telephone. While articles, newsletters, and even a site on the World Wide Web are part of their communication efforts, they say nothing works like radio.

Jimenez drives to Fresno once a month to answer listener questions on Stella Romo's live call-in talk showComentarios y Entrevistas (Commentaries and Interviews) on KGST. On the program, he's known as "Se–or Agr—nomo," ("Mr. Agronomist") and he's considered an expert on everything agricultural.

Because of his success reaching Hispanic farmers on the radio, Jimenez is looking for more air time. He is now coordinating a new special program on Radio BilingŸe, a public radio station in Fresno that reaches small-scale farmers and farm workers throughout California, and in parts of Texas and Mexico.

While Jimenez directs his programs to Spanish speaking farmers, Molinar's radio service targets Fresno County's Hmong farming community. Every other Monday evening, his assistant Michael Yang, fluent in Hmong and Lao, can be heard on Fresno radio station KBIF 900 AM. The 30 minutes of air time is purchased by the Small Farm Program and the USDA's Farm Service Agency.

"Half of the material we present is from the Farm Service Agency, covering such issues as loans and the non-insurable crop program. The other half provides information we wish to extend to the farmers, on such topics as pesticide use and safety, nematode control, disease problems and effective cultural practices," Molinar said. Yang always reserves part of the program for call-in questions.

"When strawberries were ready, we got many calls," Yang said. "With the & wet weather, people had problems with botrytis and rot. We explained about the products that help the problem and what they should be doing for the safety of workers and themselves."

Molinar and Yang have offered radio listeners free pH and salinity soil testing. A number of farmers have taken them up on the offer, including one who was wondering why he was having trouble getting anything to grow.

In this case and many others, radio has proved to be an effective way to reach small-scale farmers - many struggling unnecessarily with problems University research has already solved - and provide them practical information and counsel from the UC Small Farm Program advisors.

Multi-Agency Farm Tour

"Models for Success" farm tour, held for the first time on Feb. 24, 1998, used a unique approach to raise awareness among Spanish-speaking farmers about the services they can receive from agencies. A bus filled with tour participants, including 31 growers, visited three small farms and the Rural Development Center. Each site on the tour showcased a different agency, and participants were introduced to farmers already working with these agencies in areas including crop production, marketing, soil conservation, farm management, and financial assistance. The tour was conducted in Spanish, with simultaneous translation in English. At each site, the farmer and agency rep described what kinds of problems the agency had helped the farmer solve. "Growers light up when hearing from other growers, and they asked lots of questions," says Monterey County Cooperative Extension Director Sonya Varea-Hammond, who participanted in the tour.

The tour group also stopped at the Watsonville and Salinas Cooperative Extension offices. There the participants viewed a bilingual video on what Cooperative Extension does, heard from the agricultural commissioner, and picked up informational literature from the agencies involved.

The "Models for Success" tour is a project of the Joint Agencies Outreach Committee, a voluntary group organized by Cooperative Extension that has been meeting since 1995. The tour was sponsored by Cooperative Extension in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, the Small Farm Program, the Farm Service Agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Resource Conservation District of Monterey County, the Rural Development Center, and the California Latino Agricultural Association.

Two Small Farm Program farm advisors, Richard Smith, Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties, and Ramiro Lobo, San Diego County, participated in the tour. Ramiro Lobo helped evaluate the program's effectiveness by interviewing 15 growers who agreed that the tour was a productive use of their time. All of them said they would participate again.

Small Farm Center and Partners Launch Agri-Tourism Project

Agri-tourism is one alternative for improving the incomes and potential economic viability of small farms and rural communities. Some forms of agri-tourism enterprises are well developed in California - including fairs, festivals, etc. Other possibilities offer potential for development.

To aid in this development, the project "Adding Value to Agriculture - A Collaborative Approach Based on Agricultural Tourism," will allow those involved to develop organizations of growers, marketers, and community representatives to formulate visions, develop strategies, and begin to develop agri-tourism enterprises. These enterprises will add value to agriculture and rural products, and will create markets for them.

Funded by a grant from the USDA's Fund for Rural America, project principal investigators, collaborators, and cooperators include Desmond Jolly, director, Small Farm Program; Angela Moskow, postgraduate researcher, Small Farm Center; Diane Wallace, county director, UC Cooperative Extension, San Diego County; Ramiro Lobo, farm advisor, UC Cooperative Extension, San Diego County; Scott Parker, program representative, UC Cooperative Extension, San Diego County; Lourdes Gonzalez, president, California Latino Agricultural Association; Linda Harris, Cooperative Extension microbiologist, Department of Food Science and Technology, UC Davis; and Michael Dimock, principal, Sunflower Strategies, Sonoma.

Planned project activities include the development of a working group in agri- tourism, a resource center for information and literature, and county based workshops and meetings.

The project's advisory committee includes Vashek Cervinka, formerly with California Department of Food and Agriculture; Peter Graff, director, Center for International Trade, Gavilan College; Tom Lease, National Program Manager, California Trade and Commerce Agency's Division of Tourism; Paul Vossen, farm advisor, UC Cooperative Extension, Sonoma County; and Garth Veerkamp, farm advisor, UC Cooperative Extension, Placer-Nevada counties.