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Emily Lin

Merced County Cooperative Extension Tours CARA

Fri, December 20, 2019 8:00 AM to Mon, January 20, 2020 11:55 PM

On Thursday, December 12, 2019 the UC Merced Library hosted a visit from the Merced County Cooperative Extension office. As our work archiving and digitizing the historical records of the office nears completion, we invited the staff as well as the retired advisors who had been involved with the initiation of CARA to learn about the progress and outcomes of the project. The visit was an opportunity for the Cooperative Extension staff, some of whom had not previously been on campus, to tour the library as well as to see the archives and our digitization process.

Merced County Cooperative Extension staff tour the archives

The visit was also a valuable opportunity for the UC Merced Library staff to learn more about the work of Cooperative Extension in Merced County and its history. In addition to Maxwell Norton and Richard Mahacek, two emeriti who have been involved in steering the project since its pilot phase, we were delighted that three other farm advisors emeriti whose names have become familiar to us were in attendance: Bill Weir, Lonnie Hendricks, and Robert Scheurman.

Merced County Cooperative Extension Farm Advisors 

UCCE Merced current advisors and emeriti, (back, left to right): Maxwell Norton, Richard Mahacek, Lonnie Hendricks; (front, left to right): Bill Weir, Robert Scheurman, Scott Stoddard, Russell Hill.

County Director Scott Stoddard introduced the Merced County Cooperative Extension staff and provided an overview of current programs. We learned that the three top vegetable crops in the county are sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and cantaloupe melons (yes, melons are included among "vegetable crops"). The staff and emeriti, meanwhile, took interest in the library’s new furniture on the fourth floor, our scanning equipment, and the records we have collected from other counties. They also engaged in animated discussion to figure out what was in this photo now available on Calisphere, identified as “A.E. Montgomery”: 

According to the discussion, this appears to be a fig tree—possibly a fig orchard grown by A.E. Montgomery—based on the pruning performed, the thin skin of the tree, and the fact that figs are somewhat sensitive to cold (the “teepees” in the background could have been used to protect the trees from cold and frost).

If you would like to learn more about the history of agriculture in Merced County, this 1958 report provides a view of top products and trends in the middle of the last century, as well as some poetry and political commentary/humor mixed in:

CARA and Agricultural Education at the World Ag Expo

Thu, February 21, 2019 12:00 PM to Fri, March 1, 2019 6:00 PM

UCANR Welcome Table at WAE 2019“Do you want to test your knowledge of California agriculture?” we asked visitors at the World Ag Expo last week. Young and old, students and seniors, teachers and parents, journalists and farmers, the confident and the hesitant, drew near and took part in our quiz game. Their task? To match three pictured items to the appropriate California county: Humboldt, in the North; Merced, in the Central Valley; and Ventura, in southern CA. As some participants guessed lemons in Humboldt, avocados in Merced, and timber in Ventura, we prompted them to consider regional geography and climate.

When we revealed the answers, visitors learned about the Klamath beetle, introduced by UC Cooperative Extension advisors and entomologists in Humboldt in the 1940s to combat a weed that had taken over 150,000 acres of rangeland and posed a danger to grazing livestock. The solution employed by UC scientists was the first, and highly successful, case of using a biological control against an invasive species in the state. They also learned that Humboldt County is the leading producer of timber in California, and has historically been an important producer of livestock and dairy products.

Lompoc Ornamentals & Row Crop Pest Management ProjectParticipants learned about the significance of sweet potato production in Merced County, as well as figs, and tomatoes, introduced by Italian immigrants. They learned that Ventura is the leading producer of lemons in the state, and of the value of avocados and nursery plants produced there. Given that many were not aware of the range and scale of agriculture across California, we directed them to CARA, to explore the history and research involved in the development of agriculture in the state.

We were delighted we had the opportunity to be part of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources presence at the Expo, and to help promote the work of UC Cooperative Extension, which has had such historic impact on the state. One school teacher from the Central Valley was so taken by our game that she wanted to share it with her students. As CARA develops, we want to continue and expand this kind of community engagement, so people can know and appreciate what grows here.

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