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Director's Column: Jolly Reappointed UC Small Farm Program Director

by Jeannette Warnert, public information representative, University of California

Desmond Jolly delivers the dinner keynote presentation at the Second National Small Farm Conference in St. Louis, Missouri, October 1999.
Desmond Jolly delivers the dinner keynote presentation at the Second National Small Farm Conference in St. Louis, Missouri, October 1999.
UC Davis agricultural economist Desmond Jolly has been appointed to a second five-year term as director of the state-funded UC Small Farm Program, which provides research-based information and counsel to California's small-scale farmers.

"Dr. Jolly is an internationally recognized expert on small farm issues, with a deep understanding and appreciation of the many challenges and barriers facing California's small and limited resource growers," said UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Associate Vice President Henry Vaux, who announced the appointment. "I'm pleased that he agreed to serve a second term."

Small-scale farms, defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as farms with annual gross sales between $1,000 and $250,000, number nearly 60,000 in California and represent $2.3 billion in annual production. The UC Small Farm Program includes the UC Small Farm Center based in Davis, which serves as a clearinghouse for small-scale production information. The center's staff responds to the needs of farmers, marketers, farm advisors and government agencies by conducting conferences, publishing materials and maintaining a library of journals, books and scientific reports.

The UC Small Farm Program also reaches into communities with full-time farm advisors based in Fresno, Tulare, Santa Barbara, San Benito, San Diego, and San Joaquin counties. They develop and implement education programs and conduct research on fruit and vegetable varieties, pest control methods, cultural practices and irrigation strategies best suited for small-scale farmers in their localities.

During his five years at the helm, Jolly has maintained the program's role as an important source of technical information and has made additional efforts in the arena of farming issues and public policy.

"We're now more involved with issues like pesticide safety, resource management, food safety, and encouraging and facilitating diversified farm enterprises to include things like agricultural tourism, value-added production and marketing," Jolly said.

"We've tried to improve the accessibility of the USDA and the Land Grant system to small farmers. I think we've had some measure of success there."

In 1997, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman appointed Jolly to the National Commission on Small Farms. The commission held hearings in farming communities nationwide and submitted a report to Glickman in 1999 titled "A Time to Act," which contains the most significant policy recommendations made to the Clinton Administration on small-scale, family farms.

Jolly now sits on the National Advisory Board for Research, Extension, Economics and Education, the top research and education advisory board for USDA. The board looks at the USDA's range of research and education activities and makes recommendations for policy and funding priorities.

In the coming years, Jolly said he will continue to focus efforts on a diversity of activities. Initiatives promoting food safety, agri-tourism and value-added enterprises will be at the top of the Small Farm Program's agenda. In addition, Jolly said he plans to continue working with public policy makers.

"I would like to have our state's policy makers get a sense of what contributions small, family farms are providing California, and determine how the legislature and local governments can facilitate the sustainability of these farmers," Jolly said.