UCCE Creates Ag Education Chair in Southern California

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chairUC President Janet Napolitano has approved the formation of a $1 million endowment to create the UC Cooperative Extension Presidential Chair for Agricultural Education in Orange County. Half the endowment was donated by the Orange County Farm Bureau; Napolitano matched the contribution through the presidential endowment fund.

The Orange County Farm Bureau is housed at the UC South Coast Research and Extension Center in Irvine. The two organizations have worked together closely since their formation more than 100 years ago.

“What Orange County Farm Bureau and the UC president’s office have created will fund agricultural education activities in Orange County and the surrounding region for decades to come,” said UC ANR vice president Glenda Humiston. “This is a way for us to make sure the resources we need are there and that they’re targeted for the needs identified by individuals at their local areas.”

President of the Orange County Farm Bureau, Mark Lopez, said the formation of the endowment will help the organization meet its goals.

“In our rapidly urbanizing county, the Farm Bureau is seeking to cement a legacy of ag in Orange County, and invest in the development of future leaders for agriculture,” Lopez said. “This donation, and the formation of the Presidential Chair for Ag Education, is directly in line with the mission of Orange County Farm Bureau.”

Director of the South Coast REC, Darren Haver, who is also a UC Cooperative Extension water resources advisor, holds the chair. He and his farm bureau colleagues will initially use the funds to expand an agricultural leadership program for Orange County youth.

FARMS Leadership, offered cooperatively with the Center for Land-Based Learning and California Polytechnic State University-Pomona, includes monthly sessions of classroom teaching, field trips, and hands-on learning to familiarize students with nutrition, water quality, wildlife-human interaction, gardening and food preservation. The program has been open to ag students in Orange County for about five years.

“There are only five high schools in Orange County that have agriculture programs, serving about 70 kids in all,” Haver said. “With this new funding, we will be able to reach beyond the ag kids and involve students interested in math and sciences, but don’t know much about agriculture.”

Humiston said she hopes that partnerships like this one can be formed across the state.

“This is a way for us to make sure the resources we need are there and that they’re targeted for the needs identified by individuals at their local area,” Humiston said.

In announcing the establishment of the presidential endowment funding in 2014, Napolitano said it is imperative for UC to develop new models of philanthropy that recognize and honor the interests of donors while helping UC address its long-term funding needs.

“By supporting these endowed chairs, donors will be creating a lasting legacy at the university – one that will benefit many generations to come,” Napolitano said.