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Arizona newspaper reports on brain drain to UC

The Arizona Star reported today that a lack of state financial support to the University of Arizona was a reason cited by the new dean of UC Riverside's College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, Thomas O. Baldwin, to come to California.

The Star article noted that the opportunity to become a dean is a major step up in Baldwin's profession, but that he said the recurring cuts to the UA's budget played a central role in his decision to leave.

"There's no doubt about it," he is quoted. "I've been at the UA for nine years and taken cuts for seven of them."

The newspaper said Baldwin is the latest UA loss to "brain drain" --distinguished faculty members moving to other institutions that offer more money and support.

"The University of Arizona is an absolutely phenomenal university with a world-class faculty and incredible students," Baldwin is quoted in the newspaper. "Everything is going the right way except state support."

The CNAS news release about Baldwin's new California appointment says he will be in his post beginning July 1.

The Riverside Press-Enterprise also ran a story today on UC Riverside's new dean.

Posted on Thursday, June 12, 2008 at 9:22 AM
Tags: new appointment (1)

Tomato salmonella outbreak stirs emotions

Frustration, depression and exasperation are conveyed in thousands of news stories and blog posts about the latest serious food-borne illness outbreak -- salmonella in fresh tomatoes. A Google News seach for "tomatoes salmonella" identifies more than 2,700 stories, many that will make farmers cringe. The San Francisco Chronicle ran an editorial titled "Killer Tomatoes." A headline in the Boston Herald says "Red scare intensifies."

Here is a sampling of reactions from the industry:

"Why in the hell can't they figure out where it's coming from and sanction that one producer?" - Madera County organic farmer Tom Willey quoted in the Fresno Bee.

"The industry has been extremely concerned and frustrated." - Ed Beckman, president of the California Tomato Farmers, quoted in the San Jose Mercury News.

"It's been blown into a level of hysteria." - Lucky Lee, vice president of sales for New York-based Lucky's Real Tomatoes, quoted in the Los Angeles Times.

Media are seeking comment from UC experts to try to make sense of the problem:

"Contamination of fresh tomatoes with polluted water is a big concern on Mexican farms." - Trevor Suslow, UC Davis postharvest pathologist, paraphrased in the Sacramento Bee.

"Hothouse tomatoes are grown indoors along the West Coast from British Columbia to Mexico. They are typically picked ripe, and then, without being washed, are immediately put into plastic containers labeled with codes that allow tracking all the way to the store shelf." -Jim Gorny, director of Postharvest Technology Research and Information Center at UC Davis, paraphrased in the Sacramento Bee.

"Statistically, the frequency of salmonella tainting tomatoes is low. But since the tomato is such a popular item, the chances are greater that salmonella scares will be associated with it." - Suslow, paraphrased in the Chicago Tribune.

Gorny expressed the feelings of many in the industry in an e-mail he sent that was later published on the blog Fresh Talk:

"With great sadness I've been following the recent Salmonellosis foodborne illness outbreak associated with tomatoes. From a regulatory perspective this current scenario is unfolding in manner so ominously reminiscent of the incident in September 2006 that it sends a chill up my spine."

Posted on Wednesday, June 11, 2008 at 11:11 AM
Tags: food safety (64)

The Web is great, but there are limits

Magazine article reading online is growing in popularity. According to Marketing Analytics, authoritative research firms (Nielsen and Mediamark Research Inc.) found that an average of 83 percent of visitors to the Web sites of 23 large-circulation monthly magazines access those magazines’ content solely online.

That may be true, but some things are lost in the online posting. One is a new gimic from the current issue of Newsweek magazine. Häagen-Dazs is running an ad embedded with flower seeds that can sprout as the linen-based paper decomposes, according to a brief in the Merced Sun-Star. The connection? The ad is part of a company effort to combat colony collaspe disorder of bees. As reported in this blog in February, the ice cream maker provided $250,000 for colony collaspe disorder research to UC Davis and Pennsylvania State University, and started a "Häagen-Dazs Loves Honey Bees” Web site at www.helpthehoneybees.com.

Now Newsweek readers can tear the Häagen-Dazs ad from the magazine and plant it in their backyards to grow wildflowers that make nectar for bees. But the online readers are out of luck.

Posted on Monday, June 9, 2008 at 8:41 PM
Tags: bees (57)

UC Davis couple fractures famous Shakespeare proverb

In his play, The Tempest, Shakespeare said, "Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows." If the Bard had met UC Davis plant pathology professor Pamela Ronald and her husband Raoul Adamchak, he might have written, "Love acquaints strange bedfellows." Ronald studies genetically altering plants and Adamchak is an organic farmer at the UC Davis certified organic farm.

Together the couple wrote a book, Tomorrow's Table, that today was featured in a Q&A style US News & World Report article. The authors believe the marriage of genetic engineering and organic farming is key to feeding the world's growing population, the article said.

Much more information on the book is in a UC Davis news service release, so I will close this short post with another proverb from Shakespeare: "Brevity is the soul of wit."

Posted on Friday, June 6, 2008 at 2:26 PM
Tags: GMOs (12)

UCCE advisor praised for ag tour

Calaveras County UC Cooperative Extension director and farm advisor, Ken Churches, was praised in a Union Democrat article published yesterday about the county's leadership program ag tour.

"Ken does a great job," the story quoted leadership program participant Bill Schmiett, the owner of Mountain Ranch Realty.

Churches took the new leaders to visit a variety of the county's agritourism destinations, reported staff writer Sean Janssen.

"Agriculture and agricultural tourism are a very significant part of the economic engine of Calaveras County," Churches was quoted. "Murphys, you can see, was built entirely around agricultural tourism. It's the diversity in agricultural tourism that makes Calaveras County a wonderful place to live."

The group visited California Cashmere, Al-Rafiq Farms, Rancho NC Alpacas, Calaveras Nursery, Trinitas Olive Oil and Golf Course and Twisted Oak Winery.

The photo with this post, which shows Churches in the early years of his tenure, is from the UCCE Calaveras Web site.

Posted on Friday, June 6, 2008 at 9:43 AM
Tags: agritourism (36)

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