California Agriculture
California Agriculture
California Agriculture
University of California
California Agriculture

Current issue and featured articles

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April-June 2023
Volume 77, Number 2

Peer-reviewed research and review articles

California wine grape growers need support to manage risks from wildfire and smoke
by Emily Zakowski, Lauren E. Parker, Devon Johnson, John Aguirre, Steven M. Ostoja
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Wildfire smoke exposure presents a unique challenge for viticulture as it can result in mild to severe degradation in wine grapes.
California has experienced an increase in the size and severity of wildfires in recent years, with wide-ranging impacts to agriculture. The 2020 wildfire season was particularly catastrophic, causing billions of dollars in damage to the state's world-renowned wine industry. Wine grape growers and wine producers statewide were recently surveyed to better understand the wildfire informational resources available to producers, as well as the role wildfire risk plays in operational management decisions. The survey results show that the negative impacts of wildfires on wine production may be the result of wildfire smoke more than of the actual wildfires. We also show that managers do not always make operational changes, even when they perceive increased wildfire risk. Despite diverse sources of wildfire-related information and operational guidance, there is not enough information to effectively manage fire risk.
More jobs and less seasonal employment in California agriculture since 1990
by Zachariah Rutledge, Philip Martin
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Agricultural employment rose 10% from 1990 to 2020, with less seasonality but more use of contract labor.
Employment in California agriculture has increased over the past 30 years and has become less seasonal. There were an average of 404,000 farm jobs in California in 2020, 10% more than average employment of 367,000 in 1990. Meanwhile, seasonality, as measured by peak month employment divided by trough month employment, fell 22% over three decades, from 1.8 in 1990 to 1.4 in 2020. Most farmworkers have one farm employer a year, although that employer may be a labor contractor who moves workers from one farm to another. Most new workers in the California farm workforce are H-2A guest workers, the young and flexible Mexican workers who are legally authorized to work in the United States and who are often brought to farms by labor contractors. In the future, rising employment and declining seasonality, combined with an aging and settled farm workforce, may reduce farmworker migration and flexibility.
Urban agriculture in California: Lessons learned from an urban farmer workshop series
by Rachel A. Surls, Rob Bennaton, Gail W. Feenstra, Ramiro E. Lobo, Alda F. Pires, Jennifer Sowerwine, Julia Van Soelen Kim, Cheryl A. Wilen
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Evaluation of workshops offered to urban farmers highlights the need for training to achieve economic viability and access to land.
Urban farming is an important component of California agriculture, but lack of agricultural census data or common definitions makes it difficult to track and understand. In 2017–2018, a team of University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) researchers and extension professionals developed a workshop series for urban farmers in California based on results of a prior needs assessment. After conducting 16 workshops in the state's largest urban centers, the team evaluated what participants learned and how they put their knowledge into action. The evaluation highlighted urban farmers' ongoing challenges and found that economic issues such as profitability and land access are some of the greatest barriers for urban farming in California. An unexpected positive outcome was the opportunity for participants to network and meet other farmers. Urban farmers expressed the need for more opportunities for mentoring and building partnerships with other farmers and organizations. Evaluation results suggest that California's urban farmers may be more diverse than California farmers as a whole, and that they are often beginning farmers.
Recycled water could recharge aquifers in the Central Valley
by Sarah P. Gerenday, Debra Perrone, Jordan F. Clark, Nicola Ulibarri
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Recycling more wastewater can help recharge aquifers in suitable areas of the Central Valley.
Drawing out too much groundwater, or overdrafting, is a serious problem in California. As a result, groundwater sustainability agencies are considering using recycled municipal wastewater to recharge aquifers. In our study, we employ suitability mapping and the models C2VSimFG and Ichnos to identify appropriate areas for managing aquifer recharge with recycled water in California's Central Valley. The factors that influence suitability include soil properties, proximity to recycled water sources, and the residence time, or amount of time that recharged water spends underground. There are many suitable areas in the Central Valley that are immediately adjacent to water recycling facilities. However, adequate supply is an issue in most locations. Roughly half of the groundwater sustainability agencies in critically overdrafted basins of the Central Valley have enough potentially suitable locations to meet their recharge goals, but not all of them have access to enough recycled water. The methods demonstrated here can serve as tools for agencies considering using recycled water for aquifer recharge.
Youth participatory action research: Integrating science learning and civic engagement
by Steven M. Worker, Dorina Espinoza, Car Mun Kok, Sally Neas, Martin H. Smith
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Youth participatory action research provides a meaningful approach to science learning and raising critical consciousness.
Strengthening young people's scientific literacy and civic engagement are important educational goals for Cooperative Extension. We implemented youth participatory action research (YPAR) projects over three years at five schools. The YPAR approach integrates science learning and civic engagement by empowering youth, with the help of adult facilitators, to decide upon a community issue to research, design and implement their research, and then plan a service project based on research findings to address the issue. We explored young people's and educators' perspectives on which project elements influenced youth participation, examined opportunities for youth science and civic-related learning, and asked educators to reflect on their own learning and development. Using data generated from youth focus groups and educator interviews, we found that YPAR grounds science learning in young people's lived experience. It also provides a meaningful approach to science learning through raising young people's critical consciousness of community issues. YPAR may be used in other extension programs to increase motivation for deeper and sustained participation in learning experiences.

Early view articles

Adaptation and sustainability: Lessons from Central Coast organic farmers during the pandemic
by Joanna Ory, Alastair Iles, Patrick Baur, Federico Castillo
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Diversity in both cropping and marketing practices helped organic farmers meet pandemic challenges.
The challenges faced by organic vegetable farmers in California during the COVID-19 pandemic included uncertainty about food safety rules and best practices, availability of workers, and significant changes to their markets. When the pandemic began, we built on an ongoing interdisciplinary research project with organic vegetable farmers on the California Central Coast to track how those growers adapted to the crisis. We conducted surveys in April 2020 and January 2021 to determine impacts on farmers and how farm size, market channels, and management strategies influenced a farm's ability to adapt to and recover from pandemic-induced disruptions. We found that mid-sized farmers with flexible and diverse marketing channels could navigate changes from the pandemic with minimal losses and, in some cases, economic gains. By contrast, smaller farmers with limited resources, especially those with disadvantaged backgrounds and limited access to technology, experienced more drastic impacts, including lost markets, labor shortages, and increased childcare needs. The lessons learned can inform a transition toward more sustainable, resilient agroecological systems.
Exploring the challenges and benefits of online youth-led nutrition programs
by Yu Meng, Marisa Neelon, Nancy LePage, Brandon Louie, Nancy Erbstein
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When youth-led participatory action research programming went online, it became easier to schedule meetings, but participants' engagement was weakened.
Nutrition educators at the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) have been engaging low-income youth in youth-led participatory action research (YPAR) for several years. During COVID-19, these educators transitioned from in-person to online YPAR programming. Delivering the YPAR program online presented challenges but also fostered new strategies and provided benefits. This study assesses the challenges, strategies and benefits of online YPAR programming, and it examines future program implications from the perspectives of both nutrition educators and youth. Qualitative interviews were conducted via Zoom with eight nutrition educators who attempted to implement YPAR programming during the 2020–2021 school year. We used a retrospective Qualtrics survey to gain information from 54 youth participants. We found that online facilitation encouraged the innovative use of technology, which was especially important because it allowed teams to connect with each other during tumultuous times. This online format made meetings easier in terms of planning, documentation and logistics. However, the online format presented particular challenges, such as coping with internet and technology difficulties and trying to sustain authentic engagement among participants without in-person interactions. Consequently, 50% of nutrition educators and 45% of youth respondents said they preferred a mix of in-person and online meetings for future YPAR programming.
Schools provided healthy meals even during COVID
by Kaela Plank, Amanda Linares, Sridharshi C. Hewawitharana, Gail Woodward-Lopez
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Students who ate more school meals during COVID consumed more fruits and vegetables, but also drank more sugary drinks.
COVID-related school closures had a big impact on millions of children nationwide, many of whom rely on schools for healthy meals. An online survey of 3,297 fourth- and fifth-grade students in 67 California schools studied the dietary habits of schoolchildren during the pandemic. The results showed that students who ate one or two school meals a day had significantly higher intakes of vegetables, whole fruits, and 100% fruit juice, compared to students who did not eat school meals. Specifically, students who ate one school meal a day ate more beans and orange vegetables, while those who ate two school meals a day consumed a wider variety of vegetables, including beans and orange vegetables. However, children who ate one school meal a day drank more fruit drinks and flavored milks than those who did not eat school meals. Further, students who ate two school meals consumed more fruit drinks, flavored milks, and sports and energy drinks than those who did not eat school meals. Our findings suggest that, while school meals were an important source of fruits and vegetables during the pandemic, more needs to be done to reduce consumption of sugary drinks.
UC 4-H youth spread the facts — not the disease — during COVID-19
by Dorina M. Espinoza, Anne M. laccopucci, Marcel Horowitz, Roshan Nayak
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Teen “disease detectives” learned about epidemiology, including how to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and educate their communities.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for education in disease transmission and prevention. In response, the University of California 4-H Youth Development Program implemented a virtual epidemiology project, based on resources developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and collaborating agencies. The teenage participants were actively engaged in group lessons focused on epidemiology, immunology, vaccination, zoology, prevention strategies, related careers, and health communication. Surveys administered before and after the program showed an increase in knowledge about vaccinations and disease transmission and improved attitudes toward, and intentions to adopt, practices that reduce the spread of disease. They also showed increased self-efficacy and positive health behaviors (hand washing and mask use, and the intention to share what they learned in their communities). These findings contribute to the development of public health and epidemiological education programs for adolescents and programming that elevates youth as messengers of health information.
During COVID-19, Californians sought food security, connection and solace in their gardens
by Lucy Diekmann, Summer Cortez, Pauline Marsh, Jonathan Kingsley, Monika Egerer, Brenda Lin, Alessandro Ossola
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During COVID-19, many Californians gardened to bolster food security and relieve stress but struggled to access materials.
Gardening offers a range of benefits, from food production to social connection to improved mental and physical health. When COVID-19 struck, interest in gardening soared, but it was unclear whether and how gardens would deliver these benefits in the midst of a global pandemic. We analyzed survey responses from 603 home and community gardeners across California, collected between June and August 2020, to assess trends in pandemic gardening. Gardeners highlighted the importance of gardens as therapeutic spaces where they could escape the stress of the pandemic, and as safe outdoor places for socializing. The study also revealed people's concerns about food supply, along with an accompanying interest in growing their own food to increase food security and self-sufficiency. The pandemic posed challenges for home gardeners, though, with 62% struggling to access gardening supplies. These findings suggest the importance of providing garden space, resources, and support, especially to those populations with the least access to green space, so that gardens can serve as resources to improve community health, food security, and resiliency during future disasters.
How agritourism helped farmers during the pandemic
by Rachael Callahan
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California farmers mitigated some of the losses they suffered during the pandemic through direct-to-consumer sales and agritourism.
During COVID-19, California small farmers and ranchers suffered significant disruptions and shifts in the marketplace, marked by a loss in wholesale outlets and an increase in demand for direct-to-consumer sales. This study examines how agritourism operators responded to the challenges and opportunities created by the pandemic. In 2021 and 2022, in the midst of the pandemic, the UC ANR Agritourism Program held a series of trainings for California farmers interested in starting or expanding agritourism enterprises. Some of the key themes that emerged from the trainings were that farmers had to shift their operations to ensure social distancing and reduced crowd sizes, while at the same time, they experienced an unprecedented demand for direct-to-consumer sales and on-farm visits. Agritourism, in varying degrees, contributed to the resiliency of most of the participants in our study. Moving forward, it would be worthwhile for researchers, agricultural professionals, and decision-makers to examine equity in agritourism and agritourism's role as a risk-management strategy to help mitigate other types of disruptions in the future. Our findings also point to the need to provide farmers with technical assistance around e-commerce and sustainable business planning.


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