A story about California's dry spring weather in the Sacramento Bee today cited two UC Cooperative Extension experts: natural resources advisor Glenn Nader of Sutter, Yuba and Butte counties; and rice advisor Chris Greer of Sutter and Yuba counties.
The article, written by Chris Bowman, said spring 2008 was the driest in California history and has produced the most flammable landscape fire forecasters have ever seen this time of year in the Sacramento Valley and Sierra foothills.
"The rest of fire season does not bode well," Nader is quoted.
"We have a long summer and fall to get through, and we just hope for less wind and cooler weather."
In addition to the fire hazards, the weather has created serious difficulties for area farmers. The absence of rain in April and May has resulted in a 40 percent to 50 percent decline in livestock forage on unirrigated pasture on the east side of the Valley and up to a 70 percent drop on the west side, Nader said, according to the story.
Rice farmers are also suffering. Bowman reported that Greer said he recently observed patches of plants in paddies drained temporarily for routine herbicide spraying. The dry wind killed them off.
The Santa Rosa Press Democrat noted in a story today that the Sonoma County Meat Buying Club, launched by UC Cooperative Extension early this year, is helping local residents interested in purchasing mainly local food.
The meat buying club supplies members with an assortment of local beef, pork and lamb in manageable monthly shipments of 7, 15 or 25 pounds.
“This way, people can have the local meat, but they don’t have to buy a whole lot of it,” the newspaper quoted UCCE livestock advisor Stephanie Larsen.
The story centered on a relatively new food movement, in which adherents are called "locavores." Many grow their own produce and, by definition, purchase food produced within a 100-mile radius, even if it costs more.
Reasons cited in the article to be a "locavore" are:
Preserve the open space of small family farms
Avoid the environmental costs of long-distance shipping
The Arizona Star reported today that a lack of state financial support to the University of Arizona was a reason cited by the new dean of UC Riverside's College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, Thomas O. Baldwin, to come to California.
The Star article noted that the opportunity to become a dean is a major step up in Baldwin's profession, but that he said the recurring cuts to the UA's budget played a central role in his decision to leave.
"There's no doubt about it," he is quoted. "I've been at the UA for nine years and taken cuts for seven of them."
The newspaper said Baldwin is the latest UA loss to "brain drain" --distinguished faculty members moving to other institutions that offer more money and support.
"The University of Arizona is an absolutely phenomenal university with a world-class faculty and incredible students," Baldwin is quoted in the newspaper. "Everything is going the right way except state support."
The CNAS news release about Baldwin's new California appointment says he will be in his post beginning July 1.
The Riverside Press-Enterprise also ran a story today on UC Riverside's new dean.
Thomas O. Baldwin
Frustration, depression and exasperation are conveyed in thousands of news stories and blog posts about the latest serious food-borne illness outbreak -- salmonella in fresh tomatoes. A Google News seach for "tomatoes salmonella" identifies more than 2,700 stories, many that will make farmers cringe. The San Francisco Chronicle ran an editorial titled "Killer Tomatoes." A headline in the Boston Herald says "Red scare intensifies."
Here is a sampling of reactions from the industry:
"Why in the hell can't they figure out where it's coming from and sanction that one producer?" - Madera County organic farmer Tom Willey quoted in the Fresno Bee.
"The industry has been extremely concerned and frustrated." - Ed Beckman, president of the California Tomato Farmers, quoted in the San Jose Mercury News.
"It's been blown into a level of hysteria." - Lucky Lee, vice president of sales for New York-based Lucky's Real Tomatoes, quoted in the Los Angeles Times.
Media are seeking comment from UC experts to try to make sense of the problem:
"Contamination of fresh tomatoes with polluted water is a big concern on Mexican farms." - Trevor Suslow, UC Davis postharvest pathologist, paraphrased in the Sacramento Bee.
"Hothouse tomatoes are grown indoors along the West Coast from British Columbia to Mexico. They are typically picked ripe, and then, without being washed, are immediately put into plastic containers labeled with codes that allow tracking all the way to the store shelf." -Jim Gorny, director of Postharvest Technology Research and Information Center at UC Davis, paraphrased in the Sacramento Bee.
"Statistically, the frequency of salmonella tainting tomatoes is low. But since the tomato is such a popular item, the chances are greater that salmonella scares will be associated with it." - Suslow, paraphrased in the Chicago Tribune.
Gorny expressed the feelings of many in the industry in an e-mail he sent that was later published on the blog Fresh Talk:
"With great sadness I've been following the recent Salmonellosis foodborne illness outbreak associated with tomatoes. From a regulatory perspective this current scenario is unfolding in manner so ominously reminiscent of the incident in September 2006 that it sends a chill up my spine."
Most California tomatoes are not yet ready to be harvested.
Magazine article reading online is growing in popularity. According to Marketing Analytics, authoritative research firms (Nielsen and Mediamark Research Inc.) found that an average of 83 percent of visitors to the Web sites of 23 large-circulation monthly magazines access those magazines’ content solely online.
That may be true, but some things are lost in the online posting. One is a new gimic from the current issue of Newsweek magazine. Häagen-Dazs is running an ad embedded with flower seeds that can sprout as the linen-based paper decomposes, according to a brief in the Merced Sun-Star. The connection? The ad is part of a company effort to combat colony collaspe disorder of bees. As reported in this blog in February, the ice cream maker provided $250,000 for colony collaspe disorder research to UC Davis and Pennsylvania State University, and started a "Häagen-Dazs Loves Honey Bees” Web site at www.helpthehoneybees.com.
Now Newsweek readers can tear the Häagen-Dazs ad from the magazine and plant it in their backyards to grow wildflowers that make nectar for bees. But the online readers are out of luck.
Honey Bee ice cream