Vol 27, No. 3
Farm Advisor Update
Probably one of the most successful things the two previous County Directors, Terry Salmon and Valerie Mellano, accomplished was the restructuring of our office to include a presence in North County located in county office space in San Marcos (UCCE SM). The value of having a North County office space was immediately apparent due to the number of walk-in clientele, the proximity to agriculture, and the close contact with the Department of Agriculture Weights and Measures (AWM).
As County Director for this last year, I have been faced with exceptional budget challenges due to a host of things, including but not limited to increased operational costs, loss of Advisors due to retirements, and new costs associated with space in county buildings. Unfortunately, budgets across the state are such that no new funding will be available to assist with all the increased costs. Therefore, it is essential that a few changes are made in our office that will allow us to assist our clientele without the loss of too many staff or too much space, and one of those cost cutting measures must include relinquishing UCCE SM.
When I first arrived in the UCCE San Diego (UCCE SD) office as a new Advisor (2005), it was quite a chore to drive south to the UCCE SD office located in Kearny Mesa, pick up a government vehicle, then drive back up north to make field visits, back to UCCE SD to drop off the vehicle, then back north to go home. Following the move to UCCE SM, the benefits were immediately apparent. Nearly every workday in UCCE SM office a homeowner, a landscaper, farmer or ornamental producer would come in with a question or sample, and it was very satisfying to be able to immediately assist them with their problem. I can say that it was a great benefit to me to be able to move to and work from UCCE SM. That’s why it is so hard to be the one to make the decision to relinquish the office.
Although our budget crisis and the office closure is unfortunate, I look at it as an opportunity to make significant structural changes in our office to better assist all of the clientele we serve in San Diego County. Additionally, once we are on better financial footing, we will begin a search for more affordable space in North County. The relationships we built in the AWM office will still be there and only a phone call away.
The prospects for replacement of retiring Advisors looks good, but with the new Cooperative Extension structure of multicounty partnerships, we will have access to even more expertise. For instance, a new face I am hoping you will see more often is that of Carmen Gispert who is based in Riverside County. She is dedicated to developing a presence in San Diego County, and we are going to provide workspace for her in our office. Carmen’s area of expertise is wine and table grapes as the Area-wide Viticulture Pest Management Advisor. We have already begun to populate a web page with her information on our UCCE San Diego web site. With the new popularity of wine grapes in San Diego County, this new coverage will greatly assist vineyard growers and PCAs in the county, and one of her first goals is to develop a Viticulture School, much like Gary Bender’s Avocado School.
Lastly, kudos to the Center for Applied Horticulture Research and one of your members, Ken Altman, for recognizing the value of having UCCE in North County and providing some of our UCCE staff with temporary workspace. It is not possible to thank him enough for the opportunity. In general, we at UCCE have been the beneficiaries of space, time, supplies, plants, orchards, equipment, funding, and much more from farmers in San Diego County. It is greatly appreciated.
I look forward to the new Advisors we will be hiring soon and the revitalization of our office. Regardless of the situation, I am confident that we will continue with our great relationship with the Farm Bureau and in our ability to service the farming community.