UCCE Advisors, Educators and Staff “Continue to Show UP!”

Sep 24, 2020

COVID-19 has highly impacted?under-served and vulnerable populations. The working poor, persons with disabilities, youth,  indigenous peoples, and seniors are struggling to cope.?During these challenging times, our Bay Area Advisers and Educators are continuing to work with local populations and partners by adjusting community programs to deliver value-based programming and methodologies across the entire region. In the words of our team member, Leah Sourbeer, “We Continue to Show?Up!”.?UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) is committed to continuing to provide our services to the communities we serve, keeping them resilient through these turbulent times. ? 

September Spotlight: Dr. Mary Blackburn

Dr. Mary Blackburn was inducted into the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (NEAFCS) Hall of Fame on Sept. 14. Dr. Blackburn graduated from Tuskegee University, with a Master of Public Health Nutrition in 1965. She continued her studies at UC Berkley and earned her doctorate in Human Nutrition and Health Planning and Administration in 1974. Dr. Blackburn joined UC Cooperation Extension in 1990 and is nationally renowned for her pioneering work delivering research-based nutrition and quality of life education to senior citizens, pregnant teens, and other vulnerable groups.  

Collaborating with a CalFresh Healthy Living, UC educator, and UC Master Gardener Program volunteers, she recently finished a gardening project designed to improve the nutrition, physical activity, and overall well-being of senior citizens living in affordable housing in Oakland. 

In her role on the?CalFresh Healthy Living & County Nutrition Action Partnership (CNAP) in?Alameda County?the team recently selected as the 3rd Place Regional winner of the?Community Partnership?award.?She has served in this role since 2006. 

September 2020 Team Highlights: 

CalFresh (Alameda,?Contra Costa,?San Francisco?&?San Mateo)?mature adult educators currently offer live or pre-recorded nutrition classes via Zoom and FaceTime from their homes. Participants are offered 2 options:?Eating Smart, Being Active,?or?Making Every Dollar Count. Our early Childhood Education educators are producing recorded nutrition lessons for teachers to use for distance learning.  

Our EFNEP team has led the way in food distribution events, including items such as diapers, sanitizers, masks, etc. and have spent numerous hours working at Food Banks and distribution sites. Other Educators are developing and conducting live remote courses, benefiting our communities. 

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Our UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County was recently selected as the 3rd place regional winner in the Search for Excellence (SFE) competition. The SFE celebrates and showcases the tremendous talents of UC Master Gardener volunteers from across the state. Our Contra Costa County's Gardening with Underserved Communities project?took second place and scored the highest out of all submissions in the area of?consistency with the?UC Master Gardener Program's Mission. Our Volunteers created a series of 18 focused gardening lessons that combine interactive talks with hands-on learning specifically designed for individuals with limited mobility, mental health issues (including addiction and PTSD), and language barriers. Topics include core lessons in vegetable gardening, such as soil and compost; how to care for plants; the role of pollinators; and IPM, plus optional lessons in propagation, succulents, etc. 

Andrew Sutherland, our Integrated Pest Management Advisor has just received a grant on “First investigations into the biology and management of an invasive cockroach species” for $56,913 from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, Research Grants Program. 

This project will use a combination of observational and lab studies to understand the biology and improve management of the three-lined cockroach,?Luridiblatta trivittata, a nuisance pest and invasive species in the San Francisco Bay Area, North Coast, and Delta regions of California. 

He also received $91,563 grant from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, Pest Management Alliance Program to renovate the UC research structure?The Villa Termiti?to enhance its use as an interactive training facility for video-based learning, online educational modules, and hands-on continuing education of licensed pest management professionals. 

Dr. Igor Lacanour Urban Forestry Advisor recently received a donation to launch a new program on houseplant gardening to reach a different audience from the traditional Master Gardener. His program will focus on individuals that do not have access to traditional gardens and want to grow plants in and around their home. 

Elkus Ranch
has transitioned from their traditional education of school children to offering private family tours. Our tours are guided by one of our knowledgeable educators, bringing you through our gardens, historic barns, and animal pens. Groups can feed our sheep while learning about wool processing, learn the different adaptations of predators and prey, view our impressive animal?bone collection, visit with our goats and miniature donkeys, and plant a seedling to take home. In addition, we are now offering an adventure day where participants can spend the day caring for our animals and gardens, making a nature-themed craft, going on hikes around the property, and so much more! 

In addition to the work done by our educators during this crisis, we have just hired Laura Vollmer, a new Nutrition, Family, and Consumer Sciences (NFCS) Advisor, serving UCCE San Mateo, Santa Clara & San Francisco. She will be focusing on low-income and economic urban disparities related to food and food systems, nutrition education, and relationships between food systems and environmental health for optimal nutrition and health outcomes. 


We have and will continue our work in all program areas to help and improve the lives of all people in our communities during this situation and beyond. Our websites provide access and links to a wide array of community resources in both English and Spanish. Areas include Agriculture, Nutrition, Youth Development, Gardening, Environment and Health and Wellness. It's the place to find practical and credible information about things to do and all things COVID.

By Frank McPherson
Author - Bay Area County Director