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Lisa Vallen

UC Cooperative Extension Archive: Past, Present, and Future

Thu, August 2, 2018 3:50 PM

Things are heating up at the UC Cooperative Extension Archive! July marks the start of our $308,900 three year grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission for “A Century of Impact: Documenting the Work of the Cooperative Extension in California's Counties.” Over the next three years, we will appraise, process, and digitize historical material from 20 county offices, with the goals of:

  • Digitizing approximately 180,000 pages and 2,000 photographs from California Cooperative Extension reports.
  • Arranging and describing at least 100 linear feet of material from 20 county extension offices. (One banker box is the equivalent of a linear foot).
  • Creating a scalable demonstration project using the records to engage Merced County 4-H students in tagging and curating digital records.
  • Testing the use of natural language processing (NLP) tools to perform automated named entity recognition for use in creating controlled access vocabularies.
  • Developing a searchable interactive map of county information and digitized photos and documents.
  • Publicizing the project through events, such as the World Ag Expo and these monthly blog posts.

What have we been up to in 2018?

We have been busy this year, below is a brief overview of what we have been working on in 2018.

  • We had a booth at the World Agriculture Expo in Tulare, CA to promote the UC Cooperative Extension Archive.
  • We performed two site visits:
    • In April, I created an inventory for Stanislaus County Office, where I found an estimated 126 linear feet of archival material.
    • In May, I assessed 617 linear feet of material at Tulare County Office and found 208 linear feet of archival material.
    • Once the weather cools off, we will pack and ship the material back to UC Merced.
  • We hired a Digitization Coordinator, Kelsey Raidt, to help manage our digitization workflows for scanning and conversion of archival information resources and loading of digital objects and metadata in the library’s digital asset management system. Kelsey has her MA in History from Middle Tennessee State University, where she worked as a Graduate Assistant in the Albert Gore Research Center, and her BA in History from Arkansas State University. She comes to us from the Center of Military History at the JFK Special Warfare Museum as a Museum Database Technician. She previously has worked as an Archival Digitization Specialist for the Virginia Department of Vital Statistics. With Kelsey’s experience with digitization and archival processing and preservation, Kelsey will be a huge asset to the UC Cooperative Extension Archive.
  • We have been working with the California Digital Library and HathiTrust to provide access to UC ANR publications in HathiTrust.
  • We are almost finished digitizing the Ventura County and Merced County Annual Reports and have started digitizing Humboldt County records.
  • We completed processing of Fresno County and Santa Barbara County collections.

What’s in store for the rest of 2018?

We have an ambitious schedule planned for the rest of 2018, with our focus on:

  • Completing the appraisal and inventory for offices in San Joaquin County, Kings County, Kern County, and potentially San Diego County and Imperial County.
  • Uploading the rest of Merced County, Ventura County, and Humboldt County’s digitized content to Calisphere. Check the blog for announcements on when digitized content has been uploaded.
  • Completing and uploading collections guides for Fresno County, Santa Barbara County, and Madera County.
  • Performing archival processing and identifying items for digitization for Madera County and Tulare County.
  • Releasing videos on using the collections guides on the Online Archive of California and digitized content on Calisphere.

Join us next month for a video about how to use collections guides in the Online Archive of California.

Connecting Merced Agriculture to Yosemite National Park

Mon, October 30, 2017 9:55 AM

In 1926 Highway 140 construction was complete and it connected Merced to Yosemite National Park. During that time Merced’s farming community was facing some serious challenges. Merced County Agent John L. Quail writes in the narrative report for 1926-1927:

Many new settlers have been coming into the County during the past three years. For the most part, these people are entirely unfamiliar with the local climatic conditions and crops. The Irrigation District most recently completed has been settled largely by people who have developed land during a period of high costs... Many of those who have purchased land in the County during the past few years find that with the declining prices of farm products, their mortgages far exceed the sale value of their property. Many foreclosures have been made… This severe economic situation has had a marked influence on the Extension organization and has been a great hindrance to the extension program.

Quail and his fellow Farm Advisors had a potential solution to this challenge: market Merced’s products to Yosemite National Park. As Quail writes in the narrative report for 1926:

As is the case with other farming communities, one of the most serious problems which faces us is the marketing of our products. It is recognized that California’s Chief handicap lies in the great distance necessary to transport material to consuming centers. It is therefore high desirable that all local markets be developed to the utmost.

  Lying immediately adjacent to Merced County is Yosemite National Park which annually entertains many hundreds of visitors. During the past year, with the completion of a new highway, travel into the Valley increased 79%, and a total of 490,000 visitors spent an average of two days each in this area. The markets within the Park are controlled by a corporation to whom the government has given the entire concessions. The market for farm produce in this area has never been encouraged or developed. Even the employees of the Park order much of their material by mail. The visitors bring much of their material with them or pay exorbitant prices while in the Valley. If marketing facilities were improved, in all probability much more produce would be consumed and prices would be greatly reduced for the consumer and increased to the producer.



Quail then goes on to detail the work the Agricultural Extension Service undertook that year to establish a system to supply California farm products to Yosemite Valley.

It is unclear, without further research, if the Merced farm advisors were successful in marketing their products to Yosemite National Park. This summer, colleagues in the Digital Curation and Scholarship unit digitized annual superintendent reports from Yosemite National Park, and these will be accessible online later this year. Combing through the Cooperative Extension archives and those from Yosemite, scholars may be able to trace historic connections between agriculture in this region and the Park. If you would like to read more of this report or reports from other years please contact me at


“Flood!” and Other Interesting Finds from Humboldt Cooperative Extension Office

Mon, September 25, 2017 9:30 AM

I visited the Humboldt Cooperative Extension County Office in June and will preview a few items of interest I found. Thanks to the staff at Humboldt for all of their help in identifying where the historical material was located and providing some context for the material. We had numerous phone calls in which we discussed the project and how they use historical materials in the office. With their help, I was able to successfully meet my goal of creating an inventory and shipping about 35 linear feet of historical materials back to UC Merced. We will start processing this collection by the end of the summer and hope to have a finding aid posted by the end of 2017.


Remembering the 1964 Flood

After such a wet winter, looking through the Humboldt Cooperative Extension office material relating to the 1964 flood reminded me that even after years of drought it is easily possible for California to experience catastrophic flooding. The weather patterns we experienced in the past year are the same weather patterns that caused the Christmas flood of 1964. This flood impacted a large part of the western coast and hit Humboldt County extremely hard, causing 47 deaths and leaving thousands homeless. According to the California Department of Water Resources bulletin “Flood!: December 1964-January 1965,” the flood caused the following estimated damages in Humboldt County:

  • $13,850,000 in damages to homes, farm dwellings, and trailer homes
  • $26,500,000 in damages to total state highways, county roads, and bridges
  • $57,500,000 in total private and public damages

Among Humboldt’s materials, there are photographs that document the extent of the flood. Narrative reports from the Farm Advisors and Home Demonstration agents record the devastation they saw and their efforts to help the community recover. Emergency bulletins and radio transcripts detail the best way to salvage from the flood. This information is still a useful reference and an important reminder of the need to be prepared for flooding today.


A Snapshot of the Work of Home Demonstration Agents

In the 1920s, Cooperative Extension, at the time called Agricultural Extension Service, started holding “ traveling conferences.” Farm advisors across the state would meet and travel hundreds of miles to a series of stops where they viewed farms and other demonstrations on the work performed in that county. On April 28-30, 1930, Agricultural Extension Service held the first Home Demonstration Agents Traveling Conference, a conference solely for women with an attendance of 132 women from 39 different counties across California. Below is an excerpt from a report on the conference written by Loleta Van Duzer, Home Demonstration Agent in Humboldt County:

Our First stop was in Napa County… at 9:30 we arrived at the home of Mrs. F. Cuthbertson, who lives in a house built seventy years ago. This has been remodeled quite a bit to make the work easier but the old fireplace still stands, which was the first one built in Napa County. This lady with the aid of a pedometer found she was walking as many as fourteen miles a day to do her Saturday work. After the rearrangement of her kitchen and dining room the same amount of work could be accomplished by traveling two miles.

At the Salvador School, Mr. Baade, the farm advisor, explained how the landscaping was planned and the different ornamental shrubs selected and why planted in the different locations. He said we must not plant tall shrubs against our building but the small ones will have a place there and the larger ones away from the buildings. All were invited in the auditorium where we saw and listened to several demonstrations. The first was a demonstration of color applied to clothing. Each color was demonstrated by some article of dress worn by their members.

The health shoe demonstration was given by four girls in the 4-H club and was wonderfully carried out. Several pieces of homemade equipment were exhibited by the different ladies and the cost of each given. Service table on wheels which cut the preparation and serving time in half cost complete $2.25. High stool for ironing and many other uses which cost $1.35…

Just before lunch time we hopped from Napa into Solano County… Wonderful demonstration of good growth and development were put on by the children in the 4-H club. A color demonstration of eight years in the clothing project was also given in the hall…

[W]e were off again to the home of Mrs. L.C. Scarlett. This was a beautiful farm home but had been remodeled and with the aid of the Agricultural Extension Service as a guide had help select new furnishing and furniture. Another very old farm home was that of Mrs. C.E. Roberts where we heard the plans of changing and later all went through and saw the great improvement made. By this time the afternoon was well spent so we started back to Berkeley.


Quick Progress Updates

Merced County:  We will have a Collection Guide, also known as a finding aid, posted by the end of the September.

Ventura County:  In April, I packed and shipped to UC Merced 40 linear feet of material and we have started to process and identify items for digitization.

An Agricultural Centennial: Farm Bureau & Ag Extension

Mon, August 21, 2017 11:00 AM
Thu, August 17, 2017

On March 7, 1917 417 farmers in Merced county voted to start Farm Bureau and UC Cooperative Extension and by the end of 1918 they had 550 members in the County Farm Bureau and 42 members in the boys and girls clubs. Unfortunately, the 1917 Narrative Report has been lost, but the 1918 Narrative Report, written by County Agent J.F. Grass Jr., states:

The Annual Report of 1917 found the Merced County Farm Bureau only seven months old but well underweigh (sic) and in a good healthy condition. Many of its projects had been started but it was still to be seen how much was actually carried through to completion. This year allows another twelve months of development and we find it still in a very good health condition, with many fair sized accomplishments to its credit, and well on its way on some of the big problems facing the county, which are being taken up in a larger way than usual.

Join us on Sunday, August 20th for 4-H Picnic in the Park to celebrate the opening of the newest exhibit at the Courthouse Museum in Merced, An Agricultural Centennial: Farm Bureau & Ag Extension. This exhibit celebrates the centennial of the forming of Farm Bureau and UC Cooperative Extension here in Merced County.

Come view part of our archive on display and participate in hands-on activities such as woodworking, 4-H science experiments, sewing, and a maker lab. Enjoy food fresh off the grill and admire displays and presentations and learn about the history of UC Cooperative Extension and Farm Bureau in Merced County.


4-H Picnic in the Park

Time: 11 a.m. - 4 p.m

When: Sunday, August 20th

Where: 21st and N Streets


Agriculture in California

Tue, February 28, 2017
Last month we covered the purpose and importance of the UC Cooperative Extension Archives. This month I will give you an overview of agriculture in California and then focus in on the three counties we are working with: Merced, Ventura, and Humboldt.
As I discussed in my previous post, historically California has been a leader in agricultural production and research, and that development is documented in the records of the UC  Cooperative Extension. Today California remains the leader in agriculture and ranks as the number one producer of agriculture in the United States. In 2015, California sold over $47 billion in agricultural products, made possible by its 58 counties and over 77,000 farms. 

Fast Facts about California Agriculture

  • As of 2015, California is the number one producer in the U.S. of the following:
    • Fruit, tree nuts, and berries valued at over $17 billion
    • Vegetables, melons, potatoes and sweet potatoes valued at over $6 billion
    • Milk from cows valued at over $6 billion 
    • Cattle and calves valued at over $3 billion
    • Nursery, greenhouse, floriculture and sod valued at over $2 billion
    • Poultry and eggs valued at over $1.5 billion
    • Other crops and hay valued at over $1 billion
In the U.S., California is the sole producer of:
  • Almonds
  • Artichokes
  • Dates
  • Figs
  • Raisins
  • Kiwifruit
  • Olives
  • Clingstone Peaches
  • Pistachios
  • Dried Plums
  • Pomegranates
  • Sweet Rice
  • Ladino Clover Seed
  • Walnuts
  • Agriculture from California is exported all over the world. Approximately 26% of its agricultural volume is exported and is worth over $20 billion. The top five export markets for California are:
1.  European Union
2.  Canada
3.  China/Hong Kong
4.  Japan
5.  Mexico


Why Merced County?

Merced is ranked as the 6th top producing county in California. In 2015, Merced County generated more than 3.5 billion dollars in total value of production. The top five commodities from 2015 in Merced are:
Crops $ Amount (million) Ranking in CA % of State Total
Milk $856 2nd



$552 5th


Chicken $364 2nd 32%
Cattle and Calves $357 4th 7.9%
Sweet Potatoes $194 1st 89.9%


The main reason Merced was chosen as one of the pilot counties was because of its importance to the San Joaquin Valley and to California agriculture. Additionally, Merced County Cooperative Extension has the added benefit of being close to UC Merced, which has allowed me to become familiar with Cooperative Extension and their records without having to travel far.


Why Ventura County?

Ventura is ranked as the 8th top producing county in California. In 2015, Ventura generated more than 2 billion dollars in total value of production. Ventura’s top five commodities are:
Crops $ Amount (million) Ranking in CA % of State Total
Berries, Strawberries, Fresh Market $567 2nd



$259 1st


Berries, Rasberries $228 1st 48.4%
Celery $194 2nd 37.8%
Avocados $188 1st 47.2%
Ventura County was chosen to participate in the pilot program in part because UCCE historian Rose Hayden-Smith, who has worked with Ventura’s records, is a knowledgeable resource for this project! Cooperative Extension was established in Ventura in 1914 and the Ventura office has retained valuable historical records. There are also historical materials out at the UC Hansen Agricultural Research and Extension Center, which performs cutting-edge research as well as hosts education programs for the community. 

Why Humboldt County?

Humboldt County was included in the pilot as an office from Northern California and because it was the first Cooperative Extension office in California. The Humboldt office was established in 1913 before Congress officially authorized Cooperative Extension in 1914. Humboldt was also the first county in California to organize 4-H.
Humboldt is the 31st top producing county in California; the top producing county for timber and historically a leader in dairy production. The top five commodities from 2015 in Humboldt are:
Crops $ Amount (million)
Cattle & Calves, Unspecified $52

Nursery Products, Misc

Milk, Market, Fluid $42
Cattle, Milk Cows $16
Goat Cheese $12
*Data on Humboldt’s ranking in California and the percentage of state total is currently unavailable. 
I am looking forward to my first visit to the Humboldt office in May.

Where did I find this data?

This data I used in this blog post comes from the California Agricultural Statistics Review generated by the California Department of Food & Agriculture. I found the report on the United States Department of Agricultural (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). This site allows you to search for data by state, county, and by subject. This service also lets you view data in a variety of different ways, including as geospatial data and interactive maps. In addition to the raw data, you can also access state and county level publications, which was what I did. Here are some useful links to get you started: 
Thanks for stopping by this month!  Check back in March for my next post! 

Preserving 100 Years of Agricultural Resources: Creating the UC Cooperative Extension Archive

Thu, January 26, 2017

Welcome to the UC Cooperative Extension Archive blog.

My name is Lisa Vallen, I am the UC Cooperative Extension Project Archivist. I realize that not everyone is familiar with Cooperative Extension, so for this first post I’m going fill everyone in on the who, what, when, where and why of this special project!


Who is working on this project?

In 2015, the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the UC Merced campus signed a memorandum of understanding to launch the first phase of a project to preserve the history of the UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE). The Library’s Digital Assets unit is leading the project and I began my job as the project archivist in August 2016.

A little background about me:

I have my Masters of Science in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) with a concentration in Special Collections and Archives. While at UIUC, I worked in both Preservation and the Rare Book and Manuscript Library. I graduated from Lake Forest College with a BA in Art History and Politics.


What is UC Cooperative Extension?

The UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) was established in 1914 by the passage of the Smith-Lever Act with the purpose to develop and provide science-based information around agriculture, youth development and natural resources to local audiences. This was done by establishing a Cooperative Extension office in almost every county in California! UCCE is still active today, with 57 local offices throughout California. Their goal to serve as a “bridge between local issues and the power of UC research” has not changed. If you are interested in a more in-depth look at the history of UCCE, these articles by Rose Hayden-Smith here and here are a great place to start.


What is the UC Cooperative Extension Archive?

Cooperative Extension has been active in California for over 100 years and our belief is that these county offices hold a cache of information that can be extremely useful to researchers and the public. Currently, these materials are not very accessible to researchers and the public, as there is no inventory or organizational scheme. In this first year, while we are in our pilot program stage, we are focusing on three county offices: Merced, Ventura, and Humboldt. Our goal for this year is to create an inventory for the three offices, assess and identify materials of historical value, preserve and organize historical materials, and make these materials accessible to researchers and the public.


Why is archiving the UC Cooperative Extension materials important?

The county offices hold valuable materials that highlight the work and research done by the farm advisors. These materials run the gamut from annual reports between 1915-1970, research reports and trial data, to 4-H scrapbooks and photographs. These materials also cover a wide range of subjects from water rights and the development of irrigation districts, climate data, pest management, a wide variety of information about crops and trees, to youth development and nutrition. Our job is to ensure that the information contained within these offices will not be lost and will be preserved for future generations of researchers.


What’s next?

The first half of this year we will finish our inventory at the Ventura County Cooperative Extension office and begin organizing and re-housing materials from the Merced and Ventura county offices. I will also be making a trip up to the Humboldt County office to begin inventorying their materials.

I’ll be posting a new blog post once a month with updates on the project progress. You may learn about my trip to one of the county offices, get behind-the-scenes glimpses into our work and progress, or the 4-1-1 on interesting material that we have uncovered.

Stay tuned!

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