UC Cooperative Extension:
Integrating On-Farm Biodiversity for Agroecological Pest Management and Soil Health on Small-Scale Diversified Farms in the San Joaquin Valley
Desired Academic background: A Bachelor’s degree is desired, with coursework in biology, ecology, entomology, plant science, agricultural science, soil science, agronomy, or a related field.
Desired Primary Skills: The position requires excellent organizational skills, the ability to work independently, and good written and oral communication skills.
Secondary Skills: Field experience in agricultural settings, prior coursework or research experience in organismal or field biology, and experience working in a cross-cultural context are preferred but not required.
Openings: 0 of 1
Focus Area: Regenerative Agri-Food Systems
Climate Mitigation & Adaptation; Education & Outreach; Regenerative Agriculture
Education & Outreach
Goals & Needs
The UCCE Small Farms and Specialty Crops advisor and program staff assist small-scale and underserved farmers to thrive economically through extension support, training, research on specialty crops, and policy communication. Our work supports farmers of a diversity of cultures who operate a wide variety of farming operations, often with limited resources, and who provide culturally important specialty produce to restaurants, farmers markets, and wholesale markets throughout California. The small farms team at UCCE Fresno County consists of the Small Farms and Specialty Crops Advisor and 7-8 full-time and part-time staff conducting extension and research activities. Recent efforts of our program to promote climate smart agriculture practices through the Healthy Soils Program and a USDA-NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant have increased interest among small-scale farmers in adopting conservation practices such as compost application, cover crops, hedgerows, and windbreaks on their already diversified farms. In addition to the potential of these practices to sequester carbon, build soil microbial diversity, and reduce reliance on synthetic fertilizers, the on-farm biodiversity included in these practices can contribute to improved pest management through providing habitat for beneficial insects. Our ongoing research projects seek to maximize the benefits of these practices for pest management to promote nonchemical, agroecological practices and reduce pesticide use while supporting farmers to maintain their economic bottom line.
The GrizzlyCorps Fellow will assist small-scale, underserved farmers to experiment with on-farm biodiversity, such as adding hedgerows, windbreaks, cover crops, or strip cropping, and to integrate on-farm biodiversity with sustainable pest management practices. The Fellow will work directly with farmers to implement and evaluate practices contributing to enhanced pest management without the use of synthetic pesticides. Integrated pest management (IPM) methods will be a focus of the position, and the Fellow will gain experience in insect identification and monitoring, as well as in other IPM fields such as weed and disease management. The GrizzlyCorps Fellow will assist the small farms team with research on conservation and IPM practices, maintenance of on-farm demonstrations of practices, and monitoring on farms where practices have been implemented. The Fellow will also assist with small group trainings and workshops and contribute to efforts to inform policy to increase support for climate-smart conservation practices and agroecological pest management.
Capacity Building Projects
The GrizzlyCorps Fellow will work with the UCCE small farms team in Fresno and Tulare Counties to support farmers in increasing on-farm biodiversity and implementing climate smart or regenerative practices, as well as integrating these practices with additional integrated pest management (IPM) methods to improve pest management and provide additional economic and ecological benefits. While recommendations on some of these practices exist, there is a need to evaluate them locally for the climate, crops, and farming systems of small-scale farms in the San Joaquin Valley, so that farmers can be provided with high-quality, research-based information specific to their farms to support their implementation of agroecological and climate smart practices.
The Fellow will work with UCCE small farms staff and academics on several research and demonstration projects that emphasize participatory involvement and engagement of farmers, including:
1) planting, maintenance, and monitoring of hedgerows and windbreaks as habitat for beneficial insects;
2) release and monitoring of beneficial insects on farms incorporating non-crop biodiversity;
3) release and monitoring of beneficial insects on farms planting aphid-resistant varieties of Asian yardlong bean; and
4) evaluation of biosolarization with compost application for weed management on farms transitioning to organic. Additional projects to evaluate conservation practices integrated with nonchemical/organic pest management strategies may be identified depending on farmer needs and interests.
The most important desired outcomes of these projects are:
1) increased participation and engagement of farmers in on-farm evaluations of practices that increase both non-crop biodiversity and below-ground carbon storage and provide alternatives to pesticides and
2) localized recommendations for the small-scale and diversified farming communities in the San Joaquin Valley to optimize the additional benefits of these practices for pest management on their farms. Results of these evaluations will be developed into educational materials and shared with a wide audience of small-scale farmers in the San Joaquin Valley. These projects will increase the capacity of the UCCE small farms team to support farmers with research-based recommendations on the use of on-farm biodiversity to enhance pest management. This will provide essential resources for small-scale farmers interested in the transition to organic, as well as farmers interested in reducing pesticide use and implementing conservation practices for multiple benefits.
Organizational & Community Highlights
Fresno offers many of the benefits of a large city, within one of the nation’s most productive agricultural regions and within driving distance of some of California’s most well-known national parks. The local food scene includes restaurants providing a large diversity of cuisines, several farmers markets, and farm stands selling fresh produce, as well as an emerging craft beer scene with local breweries. The Tower District provides theater productions, independent movies, and other arts events. Fresno’s proximity to Yosemite and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks is a highlight. Backpacking options in the Sierras and recreational opportunities on the central California coast are both accessible in a two-and-a-half-hour drive, and the Kings River, Millerton Lake, and Shaver Lake provide local opportunities for kayaking and boating. Due to a recent increase in funding for several large projects, the number of UC ANR academics and staff supporting agroecological practices, organic agriculture, and local food production and marketing is growing. The GrizzlyCorps Fellow will join a group of recently hired UC ANR colleagues and nonprofit partners working to improve sustainable and local food production in the Fresno area.
The GrizzlyCorps Fellow will gain unique experience by working with small-scale farmers from a diversity of cultures who grow tropical, subtropical, and mainstream specialty crops such as jujubes, guavas, moringa, strawberries, blackberries, sugarcane, ginger, lemongrass, sweet potato, and specialty Asian vegetables. The small farms team strives to provide a collaborative and supportive work environment, with individual team members working both independently and on joint activities. We prioritize cross-cultural relationships with immigrant, refugee and other historically underserved farmers and design our programs to support their farming operations. Bilingual outreach and training for Hmong farmers relies on three decades of building trusted relationships in the Southeast Asian community.
The Fellow will have multiple opportunities to gain professional experience through ongoing projects in field research, conservation incentives programs, direct support of small-scale farmers through farm visits and trainings, and policy analysis and communication. Partnerships with community-based organizations will provide opportunities for cross-cultural learning and community engagement. The location of this position within the UCANR land grant research and extension system will also provide interaction with UC academics and staff with expertise in a variety of disciplines.