The Humboldt County UC Cooperative Extension office has a new service for consumers and growers in the rural enclave. A Web site at redwoodag.com was designed to help local farmers find local markets for their products, according to a story posted today in Capital Press.
Written by Sacramento freelance writer Wes Sander, the story details the efforts of UCCE farm advisor Deborah Giraud, who received grants from the UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program to explore options for farm-to-institution marketing and to develop the Web site.
"This first season will be a tough one, until it evolves and catches on more," Giraud was quoted. "We will be working with (producers) to get their photos up, that kind of thing."
The story noted that the region's isolation, limited roads and high fuel prices give the northwest corner of the state a particular need to develop local markets for small scale farmers' products.
Officials looking for ways to eradicate light brown apple moth from California's Bay Area and North Coast seem to face skepticism of their every move. Aerial spraying of pheromones has been abandoned after opposition from residents in the infested areas. A story this week in the Contra Costa Times sheds doubt on a planned alternative program, releasing sterile moths to control the pest.
According to the article, UC Berkeley entomologist Andrew Guitierrez says the female light brown apple moth can mate several times in the one- to two-week period before laying eggs.
"Within a few days, 100 percent of them have mated, and they can mate up to five times. Most won't mate that many times, but all you need is a few who don't mate with sterile males, and the system doesn't work," Gutierrez was quoted.
Also, objections to plans to put pheromone-emitting twist ties in Sonoma Valley trees are being raised. CBS 5 ran a story on its Web site that said most of the 28 people who addressed the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors about the twist-tie program are concerned about the toxicity of the pheromone in the twist ties and the environmental and health consequences, especially to children.
The application of the twist ties within a 15-square mile area of the Sonoma Valley is on hold until the state Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determine whether there are endangered species living near a creek in that area.
The New York Times today ran a story that mixed irony with admiration for California's ubiquitous agricultural fairs. The irony was in descriptions of festivals in areas where the featured crop -- for example apricots in Patterson and garlic in Gilroy -- is celebrated, but no longer widely grown.
"In Gilroy . . . (garlic) is now grown on only about 500 acres. Half of the garlic sold in the United States now comes from China; most California garlic comes from the Central Valley, near Fresno," the story says.
The story reported that ag festivals still have an educational component, noting that UC Cooperative Extension informed fairgoers of mandarin's natural decongestant properties at the Mountain Mandarin Festival in Auburn, Calif.
In addition to the apricot, garlic and mandarin festivals, the story mentioned the Dry Bean Festival in Tracy, the Pear Fair in Courtland, the Stockton Asparagus Festival and the Castroville Artichoke Festival.
Another festival in the press today is the California Youth Fair, featured in a Contra Costa Times article. The story said the fair began as "Youth Fair 2000" by the Contra Costa County 4-H program. Organizers changed the name in early 2007 and formed a nonprofit organization to run it.
The article said the change was made to permit more children to participate. Minimum age has dropped from 9 to 5 and exhibitors no longer have to be members of 4-H, FFA or the grange.
As 323 active fires in California threaten more than 10,000 homes, commercial buildings and other structures, the Sacramento Bee today offered a small consolation. Even though air quality is poor and the state has already spent more than $100 million fighting blazes, the situation isn't really anything abnormal.
The Bee story, citing research by UC Berkeley environmental scientists that was led by Scott Stephens, said the amount of land burning pales compared to acreage consumed historically, before Europeans settled in California.
"The scientists estimated that an average 4.4 million acres burned annually in California before 1800, compared with an average 250,000 acres a year in the last five decades," the story says.
The smoke-filled skies are, in historical terms, unexceptional. The Berkeley researchers found that wildfires emitted on average 1.3 million tons of smoke particles a year in prehistoric California, compared with about 78,000 tons in 2006, the most recent year for which the data is available.
The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that trees killed by Sudden Oak Death are making the fire raging near Big Sur burn hotter, spread faster and loom more periously over firefighters. The story says hundreds of thousands of oak trees in the area have succombed to the disease caused by the fungus-like organism Phytophthora ramorum.
For the article, Times reporter Deborah Schoch spoke to UC Davis plant pathologist David Rizzo. He said SOD has "reached its apex" in Big Sur.
"You look in some of these canyons, and you'll see 70 percent, 80 percent of tanoaks are dead," Rizzo was quoted. "The thing with Big Sur that's making it so bad is that's probably the worst place in the state for dead trees."
On the bright side, Rizzo said the fire won't completely douse SOD research efforts in the area.
"Even though our plots are burning up, from a research perspective, that's something we can take advantage of," he is quoted. "Hopefully, we can use this as a learning experience, in a sad way."