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4-H Cooking Throwdown

The 2nd annual 4-H Cooking Throwdown at the California State Fair took place June 22 and 24. Youth ages 9 to 18  had one hour to create a three-course meal with each course containing the designated "secret ingredient." The theme was "Fair Food Done Healthy."

All of the dishes were judged on originality, taste and the USDA's MyPlate standards. Healthy living is a major component of the 4-H Youth Development Program and this contest was introduced to help teach youth to cook and learn portion sizes.

On June 22, three junior teams composed of 9- to 13-year-olds competed. In Round 1, the secret ingredient was a hot dog. The Fat and Furious Team made a mini corn dog, a "speedy" Italian sandwich and a funnel cake with homemade whip cream and candied hot dog. The Blond, Brunette and Ginger Team made hot dog nachos, seafood stir fry and cinnamon chips with fresh creme and strawberries. The fresh cream was infused with hot dog. The food was very original and very tasty. The Fat and Furious won the round.

The Blond, Brunette and Ginger Team.
The Fat and Furious Team.

Action shots: 

Round 2 secret ingredient: zucchini 

The Cuisine Queens Team made a berry zucchini crepe, chicken salad, and a berry zucchini smoothie. 

The Cuisine Queens.

 

In the final junior round the secret ingredient was watermelon. Fat and Furious Team made a watermelon mint goat cheese appetizer, a wasabi bread crumb pork chop with a watermelon reduction sauce and fried watermelon for dessert. The Cuisine Queens made a fruit salad, fruit and beef kabobs, and a baked funnel cake for dessert. 

The Fat and Furious team were the junior champions.

July 24 was the senior competition of the State Fair 4-H Cooking Throwdown. Six teams competed for the champion title. The youth were between 14 and 18 years old. 

Round 1
The Cookin' Coyotes vs. The Culinary Ninjas
Secret ingredient:  berries. 

The Culinary Ninjas focused on the health aspect of the competition. They cooked a chorizo caramel apple appetizer, egg roll in a bowl as the main course and a mini churro for dessert. The Cookin' Coyotes made guacamole and chips for the appetizer, fish tacos with a fruit salad for the main course and a baked funnel cake with berry infused fresh cream. The Culinary Ninjas won the round. 

Round 2
Lamorinda Iron Chefs vs. Organic Fanatics vs. Clever Clover
Secret ingredient: broccoli 

The Organic Fanatics made a sweet and tangy yogurt sauce for a kabob appetizer, a veggie stuffed burger on a lettuce bun, and a baked funnel cake. They focused on creating a healthy, well-balanced meal. 

The Clever Clovers made baked potato chips, chicken and broccoli kabobs, and a dessert smoothie.

The Lamorinda Iron Chefs made zucchini and broccoli backed chips, a gyro with a broccoli sauce, and a chocolate, broccoli and avocado mousse. They focused on a tasty balanced meal.

The Lamorinda Iron Chefs won the round with the Organic Fanatics in 2nd and the Clever Clover earning 3rd place. 

Action Shots:

Final Round
Lamorinda Iron Chefs vs. Culinary Ninjas
Secret ingredient: dried seaweed 

The Lamorinda Iron Chefs made a seven-layer bean, salsa, seaweed, guacamole chip, chicken on a stick with a apple and onion slaw, and for a dessert a baked funnel cake with seaweed flakes in the batter and topped off with seaweed and strawberries. 

The Culinary Ninjas made a zucchini chip with seaweed hummus, a baked vegetable and seaweed pizza and a berry mouse pretzel cookie. 

Action shots:

Lamorinda Iron Chefs were the senior champions of the day.  They are eligible to represent California at the Texas State Fair in the National 4-H Cooking Challenge. The contest will be held during the State Fair of Texas in Dallas, October 7 and 8, 2014. The National Food Challenge will not only include a contest, but an educational day as well. More information can be found here: http://texas4-h.tamu.edu/nfchallenge 

Posted on Wednesday, July 30, 2014 at 10:52 AM

UC leads a long tradition of environmental stewardship in California

Stewardship: \ˈstü-ərd-ˌship: the activity or job of protecting and being responsible for something.

In 1862 the Morrill Act was passed to support and maintain colleges of agriculture and mechanical arts, including a later provision that included the donation of public land. As one of the first land grant Universities, the University of California was well positioned to manage agricultural extension across the state as part of the Smith Lever Act of 1915. Today, many people think of California agriculture as strawberries, broccoli and rice; but it is livestock and forestry that dominated California working landscapes in those early days.  

Farmer seeks assistance from UCCE farm advisor on the running board of a historic UC Cooperative Extension vehicle.
Research and extension efforts to improve forestry practices and range production throughout California have evolved over time. Research questions gradually changed over the last 100 years from a “how can we economically produce more” perspective to how can rangeland management practices improve ecosystem composition and function? How can extension programs be employed to educate stakeholders and help land managers implement change? How can we conserve working landscapes for biodiversity conservation in a period of rapid development? How can we assess and monitor management effectiveness?

This year, the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources celebrates 100 years of UC Cooperative Extension serving as a research and outreach partner in communities throughout California. For an interesting read on this rich history and the evolution of UC rangeland management perspectives, see M. George, and W. J. Clawson's The History of UC Rangeland Extension, Research, and Teaching: A Perspective (2014). Additionally, UC ANR California Rangelands Website includes a free Annual Rangeland E-book; current project descriptions, publications, and online learning modules: http://californiarangeland.ucdavis.edu/.

Maintaining and improving environmental quality on public and private land requires an informed strategy that encourages stewardship by land owners and community members. In present times, we face the challenges of managing land in the face of growing population, drought, invasive species, and climate change, just to name a few forces of global change. Out of necessity, our broader perspective on land management has shifted to one of “ecosystem stewardship” which is defined as a strategy to respond to and shape social-ecological systems under conditions of uncertainty and change to sustain the supply and opportunities for use of ecosystem services to support human well-being (Chapin et al. 2010). The stewardship framework focuses on the dynamics of ecological change and assesses management options that may influence the path or rate of that change. 

Tejon Ranch Conservancy California Naturalists help with a pipe capping project to keep small animals and birds from getting trapped (Photo: Scot Pipkin)
Using an ecosystem stewardship framework, the UC ANR's California Naturalist Program is building a statewide network of environmental stewards. The program is designed to introduce the public, teachers, interpreters, docents, green collar workers, natural resource managers, and budding scientists to the wonders of our unique ecology and engage these individuals in the stewardship of California's natural communities.

The California Naturalist Program uses a science curriculum which includes chapters in forest, woodland, and range resources and management, geology, climate, water, wildlife, and plants. Experiential learning and service projects instill a deep appreciation for the natural communities of the state and serve to engage people in natural resource conservation.

UC Berkeley's Sagehen Creek Field Station California Naturalists examine watershed maps (Photo: Jeannette Warnert)
Land management is the focus of many of the partnering organizations that offer the California Naturalist Program. For example, land conservancies and preserves are involved including, Tejon Ranch Conservancy, at 270,000 acres the largest contiguous private ranch in California; Pepperwood Preserve, a private rangeland preserve dedicated to conservation science in the Northern SF Bay Area; UC Berkeley's Sagehen Creek Field Station, a forested research station in the Sierra; UC Hopland Research & Extension Center, a rangeland research and education facility in California's north coast region; and the Sierra Foothill Conservancy, a non-profit land trust in the Western Sierra Nevada including Fresno, Madera, eastern Merced, and Mariposa counties. Land trusts are increasingly responsible for conserving working landscapes and open space across the state and often rely on a trained volunteer corps to steward these valuable landscapes. UC ANR is pleased to advance training opportunities for those actively managing these lands.

California Naturalists trained at these locations and more are involved in ecosystem stewardship, rangeland management, watershed restoration, and helping outdoor education programs that benefit the environment and people of all ages. Naturalists have donated over 13,000 hours of in-state service in the last three years. These types of stewardship opportunities are essential for the active adaptive management that both public and private lands need to ensure resilience and continue to provide ecosystem services that we all rely on. These trained environmental stewards are an important part of this growing community of practice who not only steward land but pass on critical knowledge about California's natural and managed ecosystems. 

Posted on Friday, July 25, 2014 at 11:59 AM

New advisors build of the scientific work of predecessors

Carol Frate, left, and Michelle Le Strange.
When new UC Cooperative Extension advisors come on the job, they aren't starting their programs from scratch. "We are a science-based organization," said Jim Sullins, county director for Tulare UCCE. Academic advisors document their work in reports and papers. "The next advisor can build on their (predecessors') experience, their results and observations."

Sullins was quoted in an article by Luiz Hernandez in the Visalia Time-Delta that focused on the retirements of two long-time Tulare County farm advisors, Michelle Le Strange and Carol Frate, who together represent nearly 70 years of service to farmers, landscape professionals and the public.

"Both Carol and Michelle have been very dedicated advisors, committed to their clientele, and driven to help resolve grower's problems, and helping the general public make informed decisions, based on science," Sullins said. "It will take a lot of adjustment with them not on staff.

Hernandez contacted Frate by phone from vacation in Olympia, Wash. A 36-year UCCE veteran, she commented on a research trial conducted in the 1980s in which she sought to determine how much damage an alfalfa crop sustained if irrigation stopped in the summertime.

"It has come in handy in drought" Frate said. "We showed alfalfa could withstand, survive" a water stoppage.

Le Strange, who completed 31 years with UCCE, said she became interested in food production following a trip to Mexico and Guatemala. She went to college at UC Davis and accepted her position in the San Joaquin Valley.

"We are here to help find solutions for local agriculture problems," she said. "I am proud of all the research I have done."

Posted on Thursday, July 24, 2014 at 1:50 PM

Get an 'A' in back-to-school nutrition

During summer break, healthy food and fitness often take a long vacation. For many, the vacation is ending and it's time to do some homework. Study these back-to-school tips for the start to a healthy school year. If you follow a balanced diet and stay physically active, there's no way you can't get an 'A' in back-to-school nutrition!

  • Don't skip breakfast! Studies show children who eat breakfast perform better in school.
  • If you pack a homemade lunch for your children, include a good balance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or fat free dairy products, and lean meats and proteins.
  • Provide new options! Pack exotic fruits like kiwi or allow your child to pick a fun new fruit or vegetable at the grocery store. They are more likely to eat their lunch if they helped prepare it.
  • Reinforce cleanliness and remind your children to wash their hands before they eat or pack a moist towelette or hand sanitizer in their lunchbox.
  • Physical activity and exercise are important and help improve a child's health. Children should be active for at least 60 minutes a day, and adults need to be active for at least 30 minutes a day. Make exercise a family affair and get the physical activity everyone needs! Go for a weekend hike, walk the dog together, or ride your bikes after dinner.

Try this quick and easy recipe for your child's lunch or mix it up and substitute a variety of their favorite vegetables instead.

Chicken pita pocket with spinach leaves and red bell pepper.
Chicken pita sandwich

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup baby spinach
  • 4 ounces cooked skinless, boneless chicken
  • 1/2 cup sliced red bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons low-fat Italian vinaigrette
  • 1 (6-inch) whole-grain pita, cut in half

Directions:

  1. Combine spinach, chicken, bell pepper, and vinaigrette in a bowl; lightly toss and mix ingredients.
  2. Cut the pita pieces in half.
  3. Using a spoon, fill each pita half with the tossed ingredients.
  4. Once assembled, lay them flat and pack them up for your child to enjoy during lunch.

Recipe source: http://www.health.com/health/recipe/0,,10000001983452,00.html

 

Posted on Tuesday, July 22, 2014 at 9:16 AM

California almonds are standing their ground

Almond prices are on track to beat an all-time high in 2014.
One way or another, most California almond farmers are managing to keep their orchards irrigated this year, reported Megan Durisin on Bloomberg.com.

In the article, Merced County farmer Bob Weimer said he added a 12th well to draw water from the aquifer for his thirsty trees. Many farmers have opted to leave fallow fields where annual crops like tomatoes, onions and garlic are usually grown in order to save water for almonds.

"The first thing we have to take care of is our permanent crops," said Dan Errotabere, who helps farm 960 acres of almonds in Fresno and Kings counties.

Durisin quoted David Doll, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor in Merced County, as saying that orchards need the most water during the warmest summer months, so they may not be able to hit the USDA's almond production forecast for 2014. Next year's crop will be at significant risk if the drought continues, Doll said. Farmers may not able to continue deepening wells and drilling new ones.

The article touched on the grave warning about groundwater depletion in California, which UC scientists shared this month in a special edition of California Agriculture journal that focuses on water efficiency.

There is some good news this year for almond farmers, however. Almond prices are currently at $3 per pound and the average price for the season may beat the all-time high set in 2006.

Posted on Monday, July 21, 2014 at 10:29 AM

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