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Posts Tagged: Michael Yang

UCCE ag assistant Michael Yang is a lifeline for Hmong farmers

Long-time UC Cooperative Extension ag assistant Michael Yang broadcasts a weekly "Hmong Agriculture Radio Show," providing a crucial connection for immigrant farmers with ag information and services, reported Jessica Kutz in High Country News.

“His voice is really important,” said Ruth Dahlquist-Willard, UCCE advisor to small-scale farmers in Fresno and Tulare counties.

During his one-hour broadcast on KBIF radio, Yang plays traditional Hmong folk music, reads through market prices for Asian vegetables, provides timely farming advice, pesticide safety and labor information, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration updates. He started the program about 30 years ago.

“A lot of farmers said we need to be aware of what is going on,” he said. “So I talked to my boss and we were able to get some grants to help the radio announce agriculture (information) to the small farm community.” 

The article said Yang first tried to connect with the Hmong community by going door-to-door, but farmers were distrustful of government meddling. With their radios turned to programming in their native language, farmers listen openly.

UCCE agricultural assistant Michael Yang, left, and Van Thao snack on freshly picked melon during a field visit.
Posted on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 at 9:25 AM
Tags: Michael Yang (9)
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture

Rainy winter is good news for Central Valley strawberries

Abundant rainfall in January and February 2019 bodes well for the forthcoming Central Valley strawberry season, reported Reuben Contreras on ABC Channel 30 Action News in Fresno.

Contreras interviewed Michael Yang, small farms and specialty crops Hmong agricultural assistant with UC Cooperative Extension. 

"We need the water as much as we can right now," Yang said. He said the rain will add to the groundwater supply most farmers use to grow their crops, plus it will make the strawberries sweeter.

Cool weather is also welcome.

"Strawberries need cool weather but in the summer, the hot weather with the variety strawberries will not survive the heat," he said.

In the San Joaquin Valley, strawberries are picked from late March to early June. If the wet weather pattern established in January and February continues through the spring, that could spell trouble for strawberry farmers. Wet strawberries can rot in the field.

The rainy winter means sweet strawberries are on the way, says UC Cooperative Extension small farms and specialty crops Hmong ag assistant Michael Yang. The photo shows Yang with an Asian melon in summer 2018.
Posted on Friday, March 1, 2019 at 2:57 PM
Tags: Michael Yang (9), strawberries (24)
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture Food

February 2019 news clips

Above average rainfall in February benefits strawberry crops in the Central Valley

(ABC 30) Reuben Contreras, Feb. 28

…Above average rainfall in February will help this year's harvest last through October. 
"It looks like it is in full bloom right now and it looks like it is going to rain. So we need the water as much as we can right now," said Michael Yang, University of California Cooperative Extension. 
He works with small farms and specialty crops in the Hmong community, including a strawberry field in Northeast Fresno near Willow and Behymer. 
Yang said the rain will add to the groundwater supply most farmers use to grow their crops plus it will help make the strawberries sweeter. 

https://abc30.com/society/above-average-rainfall-in-february-benefits-strawberry-crops-in-the-central-valley/5161437/

Ventura County Helps Keep Farming Alive in Southern California

(KCET) Teresa O'Connor, Feb. 27

…Connecting the community to the food system is vitally important for the health of individuals and the survival of local farms, according to Rose Hayden-Smith, Ph.D., who is the editor of the UCFoodObserver.com, an online publication for the University of California (UC). A long-term county resident, Hayden-Smith was previously sustainable food systems initiative leader for UC's Ag and Natural Resources division.

“Everyone eats: everyone is a stakeholder,” says Hayden-Smith. “I would like people to be engaged with the food system, and to advocate for positive change. Think about where your food comes from and ask critical questions about the supply chain. Meet people who are involved in producing, processing, distributing and preparing the food you eat. Honor them with questions about and interest in their work.”

https://www.kcet.org/shows/la-foodways/ventura-county-helps-keep-farming-alive-in-southern-california

Gene-edited animal creators look beyond US market

(Nature) Heidi Ledford, Feb. 20

…It isn't always easy to pick up a research project and move it to a different country. About ten years ago, difficulties finding funding for his research drove animal geneticist James Murray to move his transgenic goat project from the University of California in Davis to Brazil. The goats were engineered to produce milk that contained lysozyme, an enzyme with antibiotic properties. Murray hoped that the milk could help to protect children from diarrhoea.

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-00600-4

Newly discovered nematode threatens key crops

Peach root-knot nematode-infected almond tree in a two-year-old orchard. Photo by Andreas Westphal

(Farm Press) Logan Hawkes, Feb. 20

“The arrival of this nematode (Meloidogyne floridensis) in California is a little surprising — it has the potential to infect many of California's economically important crops,” says UCCE Kern County Advisor Mohammad Yaghmour. “Root samples had been collected from an almond orchard in Merced County last year, and confirmed at the California Department of Food and Agriculture's (CDFA) Nematology Lab as M. floridensis.”

Yaghmour facilitated the second discovery of the nematode in a Kern County orchard a month after the first was uncovered in an almond orchard in Merced County.

https://www.farmprogress.com/tree-nuts/newly-discovered-nematode-threatens-key-crops

Ag Innovations Conference and Trade Show returning to Santa Maria for third event

(Santa Ynez Valley News) Mike Hodgson, Feb. 19

The Ag Innovations Conference and Trade Show will return to Santa Maria for its third event, this time focusing on biologicals, on March 5. The deadline for discounted early registration is next week.

… Considering the growing interest in biologicals and the demand for sustainably produced food, organizers selected topics on biocontrol agents, biostimulants and botanical and microbial pesticides and fungicides for the third conference, said organizer Surendra Dara, UC Cooperative Extension adviser for entomology and biologicals.

“The use of biocontrol agents, biopesticides, biostimulants and other such tools is gradually increasing in our efforts to produce with sustainable practices,” Dara said.

https://syvnews.com/business/agriculture/ag-innovations-conference-and-trade-show-returning-to-santa-maria/article_a8b9804e-46de-5938-a664-f646d51fa0c1.html

Almond Update: Orchard Recycling Research Showing Strong Results

(AgNet West) Taylor Hillman, Feb. 14

Orchard recycling research has been going on for over 10 years. UC Cooperative Extension Advisor Brent Holtz has been leading the project and said they continue to see positive results. There is an expense that comes with the practice but Holtz said their longest trial is making that cost back in added production.

http://agnetwest.com/almond-update-orchard-recycling-research

NASA tech helps agriculture

(Hanford Sentinel) Julissa Zavala, Feb 13,

…In keeping with the expo's theme, “Harvesting Technology,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine visited the International Agri-Center in Tulare and spoke about how technology originally developed for space exploration is now being repurposed and used to improve numerous aspects of agriculture around the world.

…The measurement, also taken with LIDAR, can be used to calculate precise irrigation needs of plants and crops. Bridenstine said this pilot program, in partnership with the University of California Cooperative Extension and other agencies, is only being used in California.

https://hanfordsentinel.com/news/local/nasa-tech-helps-agriculture/article_def7a974-938d-55cb-966f-f3e603dc942a.html

UC Davis, wine industry cultivate relationship

(Fruit Growers News) Robin Derieux, Feb. 13

Under the hot summer sun of the San Joaquin Valley, just south of Merced, Miguel Guerrero of The Wine Group is trying a new high-wire act. In collaboration with University of California-Davis Cooperative Extension, Roduner Ranch vineyard manager Guerrero is experimenting with Cabernet Sauvignon vines and other varieties elevated by a single wire at 66 inches – plantings that are 2-3 feet higher than the traditional winegrape canopy.

…“The beauty of the high-wire system is that the fruit zone is really defined – a solid wall of grape clusters – and the pruning machine can just zip right alongside the vines,” said Kaan Kurtural, a UC Davis Cooperative Extension viticulture specialist. “We can carry more crop, and with mechanical leaf removal, we get that sun-dappled exposure that feeds the fruit. Less leaf cover means the vines require less water, and the grape quality is much better.”

https://fruitgrowersnews.com/article/uc-davis-wine-industry-cultivate-relationship

There's Still So Much We Need To Learn About Weed—And Fast

(Wired) Matt Simon, Feb. 11

… But late last month, UC Berkeley opened the Cannabis Research Center to start tackling some of these social and environmental unknowns. With its proximity to the legendary growing regions of Northern California, the center can start to quantify this historically secretive industry, measuring its toll on the environment and looking at how existing rules affect the growers themselves. The goal is to create a body of data to inform future policies, making cannabis safer for all.

… So for the past few years Van Butsic, codirector of the Cannabis Research Center, and his colleagues have been sifting through satellite images to pinpoint those unaccounted-for farms. “We have an army of undergraduates who look at high-resolution imagery and digitize how big the farms are, how many plants we can see,” Butsic says. Because cannabis plants love light, growers usually keep them out in the open. The researchers still miss many trespass growers, however, who tend to hide their plants in the brush to avoid detection.

https://www.wired.com/story/theres-still-so-much-we-need-to-learn-about-weed

Cultured meat: Good or bad, promise or peril?

 (Agweek) By Jonathan Knutson, Feb. 11

…To Alison Van Eenennaam, University of California-Davis Extension specialist in animal biotechnology and genomics, proponents of cell-based meat are "overhyping the environmental benefits" and providing an incomplete, misleading case for it.

https://www.agweek.com/business/agriculture/4568613-cultured-meat-good-or-bad-promise-or-peril

Broomrape Weed Spreads Quickly

(AgNet West) Taylor Hillman, Feb. 8

By the time you see broomrape weed in your fields, it may be too late. There has been a resurgence of broomrape reports over the last decade in California. Retired UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor Gene Miyao said although the parasitic weed is far from widespread, it could become so quickly. “The seeds are very small, the growth is primarily underground until it starts sending up shoots and then it very quickly starts setting seed,” he said. “A single seed attached to a tomato plant may send up half-a-dozen shoots, and each shoot might have 1,000 seeds or more.”

http://agnetwest.com/broomrape-weed-spreads-quickly/

New CA Bill Aims to Help Prepare Farmers for Extreme Weather, Changing Climate

(YubaNet) CalCAN, Feb. 7

The state and University of California have made significant investments in research to better understand agriculture's unique vulnerabilities and adaptation strategies to a changing climate, including in the state's recently released Fourth Climate Change Assessment. But not enough has been done to translate climate risks to the farm level and assist farmers in adapting to climate change.

…The bill would also fund trainings for technical assistance providers and agricultural organizations. According to a 2017 survey of 144 University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources staff, 88% of respondents believe it is important to incorporate climate change information into farm extension programs, but only 43% actually do. Respondents cited a lack of access to climate information relevant to farmers and expressed interest in education on technical tools and information resources.

https://yubanet.com/california/new-ca-bill-aims-to-help-prepare-farmers-for-extreme-weather-changing-climate/

Top administrators from UC ANR visit Imperial Valley

Imperial Valley Press

They were also briefed about UCCE and DREC projects, accomplishments and barriers by the directors, county advisors and CES representatives.

https://www.ivpressonline.com/news/local/agriculture/top-administrators-from-uc-anr-visit-imperial-valley/article_27a72db4-2a80-11e9-ac25-03956b66b2b4.html

Drought concerns loom for California farmers, ranchers despite recent rain

(KSBY) Dustin Klemann, Feb. 6

Even with the onslaught of rainy weather, the U.S. Drought Monitor states San Luis Obispo County and Santa Barbara County remain in a moderate drought.

On Wednesday, the UC Cooperative Extension held a workshop in Solvang titled “Weather, Grass, and Drought: Planning for Uncertainty.”

“Leave it to a drought workshop to bring the rain,” Matthew Shapero joked. He is a livestock and range advisor for UCCE.

Shapero pointed out a call he received questioning the monitor's accuracy on a local level.

“He said ‘I really don't think the drought monitor accurately reflects what I am seeing on the ground.'”

… “We Californians are constantly accused of not having seasons. We do,” said Dr. Royce Larsen, an advisor of the UCCE. “We have fire, flood, mud, and drought. That's what we live with. And it's getting more and more so every year.”

https://ksby.com/news/local-news/2019/02/06/drought-concerns-loom-for-california-farmers-ranchers-despite-recent-rain

California legislators honor Summit's Steward Leader Award Winners

(California Economic Summit, Feb. 5

Monday, February 4 was a red-letter day for stewardship in California. Not only was the California Legislature celebrating the Chinese Lunar New Year and “National Wear Red Day” as a symbol of support for women's heart health, but members of both houses also paused to recognize Glenda Humiston and Paul Granillo as recipients of the California Economic Summit's 2018 Steward Leader Awards.

http://caeconomy.org/reporting/entry/california-legislators-honor-summits-steward-leader-award-winners

Revealed: how big dairy pushed fattier milks into US schools

(Guardian) Jessica Glenza, Feb. 4

…A nutritionist for the University of California called the idea that chocolate milk could help athletes “preposterous”.

“Milk is a very healthy beverage, it's got protein, calcium, vitamin D – there's a reason we are mammals and grow up drinking milk,” said Lorrene Ritchie, the director of the Nutrition Policy Institute at the University of California. “There's nothing about adding chocolate to it that's going to help an athlete.”

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/feb/03/revealed-dairy-lobby-fat-milk-trump-sonny-perdue

California's water paradox

(Morning Ag Clips/The Conversation) Faith Kearns and Doug Parker, Feb. 4

These days, it seems everyone is looking for a silver bullet solution to California's drought. Some advocate increasing supply through more storage, desalination or water reuse. Others propose controlling demand through conservation or restriction of water use by urban and agricultural users.

https://www.morningagclips.com/californias-water-paradox

Camp Fire: When survival means shelter

(Mercury News) Lisa Krieger, Feb. 2

“We have to talk about it, as a community, to reduce vulnerability – especially for citizens who don't drive,” said Scott Stephens, co-director of UC-Berkeley's Center for Fire Research and Outreach. “In the Camp Fire, people didn't die because they wanted to stay. They had to stay. All of a sudden, the fire was at their front door step.”

For Australia's policy to work in California, residents must be physically and mental trained, said wildfire specialist Max A. Moritz with UC's Division of Agriculture & Natural Resources. In Australia, which conducts formal training,  “there is active participation from homeowners … so both homes and people are better prepared.”
https://www.mercurynews.com/2019/02/02/wildfires-when-survival-means-shelter/

 

Posted on Thursday, February 28, 2019 at 6:25 PM

Hmong farmers getting help from UC Cooperative Extension to weather the drought

UCCE advisor Ruth Dahlquist-Willard (right) demonstrates how to evaluate soil moisture with a soil sampler. In the center is UCCE Hmong ag assistant Michael Yang. Ka Xiong
After the Central Valley Hmong Agriculture radio show last week, the phones at the UC Cooperative Extension office in Fresno County were buzzing non-stop with farmers anxious to apply for state grants to improve irrigation systems and energy efficiency. Michael Yang, UCCE Hmong agricultural assistant, has hosted the one-hour show each Tuesday afternoon on KBIF 900 AM for 19 years.

“Sometimes we don't see the farmers that often. They are busy on the farm,” Yang said. “But when they hear something (important) like this on the radio, they show up.”

UC Cooperative Extension office staff - including UCCE advisor Ruth Dahlquist-Willard, Yang, part time staffer Xia Chang, Fresno State student volunteer Sunny Yang, and research assistant Janet Robles from Fresno State's Center for Irrigation Technology – are working with small-scale and socially disadvantaged farmers one-on-one to line up the necessary paperwork and information to submit successful grant applications. (Read more about UC staffer Xia Chang, millennial Hmong farmer.)

“We helped eight farmers submit applications in the last two rounds, and seven received grants,” Yang said. “The money is significant.”

The grants allowed the farmers to make improvements in energy efficiency and water savings, Dahlquist-Willard said.

“This can make a huge difference for the profitability of a small farm,” she said.

The application requires energy bills from the previous growing season, a pump test and a plan for redesigning the irrigation system to result in reduced water use and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

“There are a lot of calculations to do,” Yang said. “It's very complicated, and no one is available to help underserved farmers.”

While assisting farmers with applications for other programs is not usually part of UCCE's extension efforts, the small farms program in Fresno County has identified this form of assistance as crucial to the success of small-scale and minority-operated farms.

Help with the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP) grants is one in a series of outreach efforts for Hmong farmers spearheaded by Dahlquist-Willard since she was hired in 2014 to work with small-scale farmers in Fresno and Tulare counties. After just two weeks on the job, she was invited to an emergency meeting with the National Hmong American Farmers and USDA's Farm Service Agency to address the challenges faced by Hmong farmers as groundwater levels continued to drop during the drought.

“Wells were starting to dry up. Some Hmong farmers were reportedly calling suicide hotlines,” Dahlquist-Willard said. “We knew we had to take action.”

Dahlquist-Willard and her staff began researching programs that could offer the farmers financial assistance. They identified a free PG&E rate analysis, which could help the farmers choose the best electric rate for their irrigation practices to minimize charges. They searched for financing to deepen wells for farmers who had difficulty qualifying for existing USDA loans. And in 2015, they began helping farmers with applications for the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program.

The dire circumstances also prompted Dahlquist-Willard to commission a survey of Hmong farmers to see how they were impacted by the drought. Documenting their plight would be useful in seeking support. The survey was conducted in conjunction with outreach efforts with Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board and Jennifer Sowerwine, UCCE Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley. The survey was funded with a grant from the USDA Office of Advocacy and Outreach and with support from UC Agriculture and Natural Resources via Sowerwine.

Sixty-eight farmers were interviewed by phone or in-person. Twenty-two percent said their wells had dried up, and 51 percent reported a decreased water flow.

“For the ones with dry wells, it could be $20,000 to $50,000 to drill a new well,” Dahlquist-Willard said. “A lot of them cannot get access to loans.”

To deal with irrigation water limitations, some farmers told interviewers they reduced acreage or changed the time of day they irrigate. Some stopped farming all together.

“One farmer told us he was irrigating his crops with his domestic well,” Dahlquist-Willard said.

Energy efficiency programs turned out to be very important for this population of farmers. Eighty-seven percent said their utility bills increased during the drought. As a result, UCCE has been promoting PG&E programs for energy efficiency as well as the SWEEP program.

The survey also showed the power of radio in reaching the Hmong farming community. Eighty percent of the survey respondents said they were regular listeners to Michael Yang's Central Valley Hmong Agriculture radio show.


 Xia Chang: Millennial Hmong farmer

Xia Chang works with a Hmong farmer on making changes to energy billing.
Xia (pronounced “sigh”) Chang, 26, was hired in 2015 to use his Hmong language skills in collecting survey responses for UCCE. Chang was born in Thailand, and immigrated with his family to the U.S. four years later. His father cultivates Southeast Asian vegetables along with a second job at Red Lobster. Many of the nine children in the family help out on the farm.

Chang attended college, but his financial aid was depleted before he earned a degree. In addition to part time work with UCCE, Chang is now farming.

“Last year we expanded our farm from 4 acres to 14 acres, with a new three-year lease,” Chang said.

The family's many technical agricultural questions led to Chang's frequent visits to the Cooperative Extension office, and ultimately to his being hired to help conduct the Hmong farmer survey.

“I spend a lot of time speaking Hmong on this job,” Chang said. “I've had to learn a lot of new vocabulary.”

He said he's also learning a lot about new farming techniques that he wants to apply on the family farm. However, there are obstacles.

“My dad is not open to new ways because he is afraid it would not be as successful,” Chang said. “But, in everything you do, you learn.”

Chang is now looking into a career in plant sciences. He is working with Dahlquist-Willard and Kent Daane, UC Cooperative Extension biological control specialist based at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier, testing integrated pest management techniques in Southeast Asian vegetable crop production. In time, Chang plans to return to Fresno State to complete a degree in agriculture.

Posted on Monday, July 25, 2016 at 10:44 AM

Strawberry season opens in the San Joaquin Valley

San Joaquin Valley strawberry season is about two weeks early.
Strawberries in the central San Joaquin Valley are ripening about two weeks earlier than normal in 2015, reported Robert Rodriguez in the Fresno Bee. The story was localized and also used in the Merced Sun-Star and Modesto Bee.

Normally strawberry season starts in early April, but in the Fresno area Rodriguez found a dozen roadside stands already selling the springtime favorite.

Rodriguez spoke to Michael Yang, an agricultural assistant with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension in Fresno County. Despite warmer temperatures and a shortage of water for some growers, the overall quality of the crop looks good, Yang said.

“You may see that on some farms where the growers have had trouble getting enough water,” Yang says. “The fruit may not size up, but that sweet taste will still be there.”

Most of the region's growers produce Chandler or Albion strawberries, two cultivars that were developed by University of California researchers.

Merced Sun-Star reporter Ana Ibarra interviewed UC ANR advisor David Doll, who said the strawberry industry in Merced is small but important. According to Doll, the success of this year's strawberry season will be mainly dependent on the heat. Just as the heat accelerated the season, it also can be cut short if the high temperatures continue, he said.

Posted on Monday, March 23, 2015 at 1:29 PM
Tags: David Doll (26), Michael Yang (9), strawberries (24)

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