Catching Up with CALS April 5, 2017
Dean's Message — Changing Ag
One of the enjoyable things about being involved with agriculture is it is an industry based on constant change.
At the field scale, crops are always growing or the harvest is at hand. Or farmers have to plan the next season’s plantings. Or ranchers are moving their herds, anticipating market opportunities or riding out a rough spot.
Watching agriculture’s changes can often be surprising.
One of those moments caught my attention recently when Brian Oakey, Idaho State Department of Agriculture deputy director, reviewed the state’s organic agricultural production trends.
A key point: The number of Idaho farmers, ranchers and product handlers with organic operations jumped to 312. Certified operations rose 28 percent between 2014 and 2016. Idaho ranks seventh nationwide in acres devoted to organic production.
Why? Several factors are at play: market demand for organic food, depressed commodity prices and growth in value-added processing of organic products by companies including Amy’s Kitchen, Clif Bar and Sorrento Lactalis, among others.
Market demand may be the driver here — there is not enough supply to meet the demand production certified as "organic." As long as this is the case there will be more and more growers willing to provide the product.
Organic barley production rose 57 percent from 2014-15. Dry beans jumped 130 percent and milk cow numbers in certified organic operations rose 207 percent.
What does all this mean to CALS? We need to pay attention to changing times and respond by making sure that our research remains relevant and our education offerings prepare graduates for future changes.
We are in good shape, but there may be a need to expand our focus in this area. Our established curriculum offers degrees in sustainable cropping systems and sustainable food systems. And CALS students learn by operating the Soil Stewards organic farm.
I also visited Dennis Pence in Sandpoint and learned more about his Sandpoint Orchard, which is one of Idaho’s certified organic operations.
With 68 heirloom varieties of apples, it will be an interesting place to visit again in the fall to sample varieties like the Spitzenburg (Esopus), reputedly Thomas Jefferson’s favorite, to the white pearmain, a variety that dates back to the 1200s.
One of the Sandpoint Orchard’s missions is education about organic and sustainable production for students and the community. We are essentially in the same business. More effective partnering between the university and private operations like Sandpoint Orchard may be a win-win for both.
MICHAEL P. PARRELLA
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
By the Numbers
107 undergraduates and 6 graduate students are majoring in CALS Agricultural and Extension Education department offerings, including 51 undergraduates in agricultural education and 48 in agricultural science, communication and leadership.
Our Stories — FFA Event Teaches Members, CALS Students
More than a quarter of Idaho’s 4,545 members of the FFA organization are gathering in Twin Falls this week for the State Leadership Conference.
Some 30 CALS undergraduates will be along for the ride, part of an annual effort by the University of Idaho to help organize and coordinate the event. Most of the UI students are registered in Agricultural and Extension Education 498, a class directed by AEE Department Head Jim Connors.
The high school FFA members will compete in career development events and leadership development as part of their school’s agriculture education programs.
In the department’s March newsletter, The Hoot, Connors noted that this year is the centennial of the passage by Congress of the Smith-Hughes Vocational Education Act.
“How could anyone have ever guessed that agricultural education instruction and the FFA organization would have grown to its current state and influence millions of students over the past century?” Connors wrote.
The state conference is the group’s largest FFA gathering of the year. The faculty from Moscow who gather for the conference include Connors and professors Kat Wolf, Jeremy Falk and Kasee Smith.
Falk will receive the President’s Mid-Career Faculty Award April 25 in recognition of his scholarship, teaching and engagement. Wolf received the university’s mid-career award last year.
The FFA state event offers high school students opportunities to learn by preparing to compete in the career development events and during actual competition. They also learn from speakers who address them and by working together as delegates to consider issues facing society.
UI students’ participation in FFA events offer experiences that are important to their education, Falk said.
“They learn how to get the events done. It’s not just about planning the events during the semester. It is also about planning and running the events,” Falk said.
“Their experiences here are just unmatched by anything that we could offer in the classroom,” he added.
Moms' Weekend Green Thumb Classes Offer Growth Lessons
Vandal moms and students can get their hands dirty this Moms' Weekend with the UI Plant and Soil Science Club’s Green Thumb events April 22.
The events give students and their mothers a chance to cultivate some gardening skills by creating hanging flower baskets, transplanting spring bedding plants and choosing the best plants for their homes.
Green Thumb 101 at 10 a.m. focuses on hanging baskets and plant selection and care. Green Thumb 201 at 1 p.m. focuses on hanging baskets and plant pests in house plants.
“The club has done Green Thumb events now for probably four years,” said Bob Tripepi, who serves as the club’s faculty advisor. “It’s gotten a little bigger each year. It usually sells out, and even oversells.”
The Plant and Soil Science club also puts on a few plant sales every year. The proceeds fund field trips for club members. This year they plan to visit Boise to learn about operations in big and small agriculture companies. Past trips have included Seattle, Portland and the Butchart gardens in Victoria, British Columbia and Vancouver Island last year.
Club sales also help fund scholarships and charities including Christmas for Kids and the Whitman County Humane Society. Sales cover club expenses and other activities.
Club members gain valuable experience in growing and selling plants for the Green Thumb sessions and the succulent and poinsettia sales every spring and fall.
“Poinsettias are a little more finicky,” Tripepi said. “They grow well, but you have to know what you’re doing.”
Students have been ahead of the curve with succulents, which have gotten very popular nationally, Tripepi said. “They’ve been growing them for a number of years. Recently they’ve been producing and selling a lot more.”
Faces and Places
Shirley Luckhart received the Entomological Society of America Pacific Branch’s Medical, Urban, and Veterinary Entomology Award during the group’s annual meeting Tuesday, April 4, in Portland. With her are CALS Dean and ESA President Michael Parrella and UI University Distinguished Professor and ESA Pacific Branch President Sanford Eigenbrode. Luckhart, who has been a member of the UC Davis faculty, is joining the UI faculty next month to direct the Center for Health in the Human Ecosystem with Ed Lewis.
- April 3-6 — University of Idaho Extension Annual Conference. Burley, ID.
- April 5-8 — Idaho FFA State Leaders Conference. Twin Falls, ID
- April 7 — Scholarship Luncheon
- April 14 — Small Farm Cultivating Success Workshop. Light refreshments provided. $20 registration fee, plus $5 for every additional family member or farm partner. Location TBD, Weiser, ID. Register online. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 208-287-5900 for more information. 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
- April 21 — Moms' Weekend
- April 21 — Margaret Ritchie Distinguished Speaker Series during Mom's Weekend. Ag Sci 106. 3-4:30 p.m.
- April 21 — Moms' Weekend Wine and Cheese Gala to benefit the Dean's Excellence Fund. $25. RSVP at 208-885-9056 or online. Shuttles from the VandalStore starting at 4 p.m. All ages welcome. Best Western Plus University Inn. 4-6 p.m.
- April 22 — Margaret Ritchie School of Family and Consumer Sciences Alumni Brunch. RSVP. University Inn Best Western, Gold Room. 10 a.m.-noon.
- April 22 — Ritchie Fashion Show. $8 tickets available at the door. Vandal Ballroom. 4-6 p.m.
- April 24 — CALS Awards Banquet. RSVP by April 17 or email Anna Pratt email@example.com. Bruce M. Pitman Center Vandal Ballroom. $8 for students, $18 for non-students. Reception, 5-6 p.m. Dinner and awards ceremony, 6-8 p.m.
- April 28 — UI Engineering Expo. Bruce M. Pitman Center. 7 a.m.-4 p.m.
- May 12-14 — Washington FFA Conference. Pullman, WA
- May 13 — Commencement
- June 7-8 — Idaho FFA Career Development Events. Moscow, ID
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