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UC Food Safety

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Food bloggers visit the birthplace of integrated pest management

The San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta is considered by local farmers to be the birthplace of integrated pest management, said Cathy Hemly of Green and Hemly farms on Randall Island.

"A group of pear growers, working with ag extension, came up with IPM," Hemly said.

Hemly shared the IPM history during a tour of the delta for the International Food Bloggers Conference (IFBC), held over the weekend in Sacramento.

Food bloggers gather for lunch under an ancient sycamore tree at the Elliott Pear Farm.

Hemly said about 50 years ago, pear farmers were faced with growing pest resistance to the pesticide glutathione, which was used routinely to control coddling moth.

"Growers got together with a team of UC scientists. They were the NASA engineers of their day," Hemly said. "We had to figure out a better way to monitor pests. The growers and the university got that started."

An emerging technology, confusing male coddling moth by releasing pheromones into the air, was showing promise. Protocols for using pheromone confusion were developed with the pear industry, Hemly said.

Harvested pears.

The relationship with the pear industry and UC Cooperative Extension continues to this day. The IFBC tour visited the  Randall Island pear farm of Richard Elliott and family. Son Rich Elliott said the family attends UC Cooperative Extension advisor Chuck Ingels' pear research meeting every year. Another son, Ryan Elliott, said fireblight is the biggest disease problem they deal with on the farm.

"Chuck Ingels comes by," Ryan Elliott said. "We learn a lot from him."

IFBC ended yesterday, but the organizers announced the conference will be back in Sacramento, scheduled for Sept. 29 - Oct. 1, 2017.

Farmer Richard Elliott, center, chats with food bloggers.
Ryan Elliott, left, and Richard Elliott, are the newest generation of farmers at the Elliott Pear Farm.


Posted on Monday, August 1, 2016 at 8:12 AM

Endive provided a career-long challenge to Rio Vista farmer/entrepreneur

Farmer Rich Collins is passionate about endive production.
There is just one commercial producer in California of endive, a missile-shaped French-Belgium sprout from a chicory root that boasts culinary versatility, but lacks popularity. Endive (pronounced on-deeve) adds a bitter bite to salads and stir-fries and its white leaves make little boats to hold other ingredients for dainty hors d'oeuvres.

The biggest challenge for an endive producer, said entrepreneur Rich Collins, is marketing a product unfamiliar to most Americans. On average, U.S. consumers eat four leaves of endive a year; in France per consumer consumption is about 8 pounds a year, and in Belgium double that. Collins spent this morning touring about 50 food bloggers who are in Sacramento for the International Food Bloggers Conference around his endive operation so their increased awareness of this specialty vegetable will translate to greater appreciation among their readers.

Collins was introduced to endive in 1978 while working as a dishwasher in a Sacramento restaurant. The owner said he paid $4 a pound for imported endive and challenged Collins to grow it in California. Collins went to Europe as a "horticultural vagabond," he said, to learn the ropes. Back in California, Collins began producing endive in 1982, and never stopped.

"It took 10 years to learn how to grow endive in California," Collins said. "It's not an easy crop to grow."

The primary pest concern is bacterial or fungal problems since the sprouts are forced in a warm, moist environment. Early on, Collins got help from Robert Kasmire, UC Cooperative Extension post harvest specialist at UC Davis. A portrait of Kasmire hangs prominently in the California Endive Farms facility in Rio Vista.

"He helped me out quite a bit," Collins said.

Today, the company he built supplies 50 percent of the U.S. endive market. The California Endive Farms ships its products weekly year-round to Trader Joes and Whole Foods markets.

For Collins, however, it's now time to retire. He sold California Endive Farms to the grandson of one of his production mentors in France, but he won't be leaving agriculture.

This week, Collins sat down with UC Cooperative Extension specialist Jeff Mitchell to plan his retirement on a 200-acre farm he and his wife own near UC Davis. Mitchell is chair of the UC Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation Center, which promotes the use soil care practices to improve carbon sequestration, reduce dust emissions, save water and increase yield in agricultural production systems. The practices can include no-till and minimum tillage farming, cover cropping, enhancing the diversity of above-ground species and underground soil biology, surface residue preservation, and compost applications.

Currently Collins grows 30 acres of asparagus and allows four young farmers to use space on the property to get started in agriculture.

"We now want to get in the realm of soil development," Collins said.

Endive sprout from chicory roots in a dark, warm room.

Endive can be used to make attractive appetizers.
Posted on Friday, July 29, 2016 at 7:47 PM

Food bloggers see innovative olive oil production system in Capay Valley

Farmer Chris Steele, owner of Capay Valley Ranches.
More than 400 food writers have converged in Sacramento for the first International Food Bloggers Conference to be held in the California capital. The event began with an excursion for about 45 of the foodies to Capay Valley Ranches, where the focus was on production of premium extra virgin olive oil.

The writers heard about innovations in olive oil production that have allowed California producers to minimize labor costs and maximize yield and quality by establishing super-high-density orchards. Farm manager Joe Armstrong led a farm tour, explaining amendments that had to be added to the soil before planting, the configuration of the trees in hedgerows and an irrigation system that permits application of water to the trees exactly when it is needed.

A graduate of California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, Armstrong said he choose a career in agriculture precisely because of the new technologies that make the field more efficient and productive.

"That's why I have a passion for farming," Armstrong said.

Ranch owner Chris Steele, who has farmed in Capay Valley his entire life, recognized how such innovations are brought to the farm.

"We couldn't do this without the UC system," he said.

UC Cooperative Extension advisors and specialists have worked alongside farmers to adapt the new super-high-density orchard systems. The idea was conceived in Spain and introduced into California in the 1990s. Successful use of high-density olive farming requires careful variety selection; finessed pruning, fertilization and irrigation practices; and understanding the cost-and-return for adept decision-making. This month, UCCE scientists released a new cost-and-return study specifically for farmers to use when planning new olive orchards under the super-high-density planting configuration.

Capay Valley Ranch farm manager Joe Armstrong displays almonds for a food blogger to photograph.
Super-high-density olives planted in hedgerows for mechanical management.
An old-school olive orchard.
Posted on Thursday, July 28, 2016 at 7:17 PM

NPI applauds Smart Snacks for schoolchildren

Melon and plums are packaged for schools. New USDA rules call for snacks served at school to meet nutritional standards similar to those required of school meals.

With an eye on reducing childhood obesity and improving overall health for children, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the final rule for snacks at schools. The rule made final on July 21 includes requiring snacks served at school to meet nutritional standards similar to those required of school meals.

Lorrene Ritchie, director of UC ANR's Nutrition Policy Institute applauds the USDA for their recently final Smart Snacks in School rule, which complements the nutritional improvements made to school lunches and breakfasts through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

Offering more healthful foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains in schools can benefit overall diet quality.

Creating school environments that offer more healthful foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains can also influence the way children eat at home and away from school.

“No single setting has the potential to influence the nutrition of more children than schools,” said Ritchie.

“Research – conducted by our Nutrition Policy Institute and others – has demonstrated that the healthy school foods and beverages consumed by children have a positive impact on their overall diet quality,” she said.

USDA also now requires any food or beverage that is marketed on school campuses during the school day to meet the Smart Snacks standards. Children are a target market for many foods and beverages that contain low nutritional quality and high calories that contribute to excess weight. To be advertised on a school campus, foods and beverages must meet the same Smart Snack standards for items sold or served by a school, according to the new Local School Wellness Policy rule.

“We are starting to see a leveling of child obesity rates in some places and changes to the school food environment are essential to furthering this progress,” said Ritchie.

Providing a consistent source of nutritious food at school will help the approximately 6.2 million California K-12 students develop healthy eating habits for life.

To read more about the federal changes to school food requirements, read the USDA news release at


Posted on Tuesday, July 26, 2016 at 9:52 AM

How to make something sweet even sweeter

There's still time to enter your honey in the Good Foods competition. Beekeepers across the country are invited to do so. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey, they say, is the "soul of a field of flowers."

It's more than that if you're a beekeeper. It's your pride and joy.

Whether beekeeping is your livelihood, your leisure activity, or something you do to help the declining bee population, that byproduct of your bees--honey--can also be an opportunity for bragging rights.

Entries are now being accepted for the nationwide honey competition sponsored by Good Food Awards.

If you're one of the nation's beekeepers, there's still time to enter your honey, says contest coordinator Amina Harris, director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center.

The deadline to do so is Sunday, July 31. The four subcategories are Liquid and Naturally Crystallized, Creamed, Comb, and Infused Honey.  

The contest is divided into five regions--East, South, North, Central and West--with seven or more states assigned to one region, Harris says.

  • West: California, New Mexico, Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada, Hawaii and Alaska.
  • North: Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota and Minnesota
  • Central: Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky
  • East:  Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Maryland and West Virginia
  • South: Virginia, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Texas

"Finalists from each region are selected on a tasting day in September," Harris explains.  "They are vetted according to criteria on this page. Winners are selected during the fall months and announced at the end of the year. The awards will be presented in mid-January."

Harris says there are more than 300 unique types of honey in the United States. The Good Food Awards will showcase honeys most distinctive in clarity and depth of flavor, produced by beekeepers practicing good animal husbandry and social responsibility. The honey can come from hives located in numerous places, from rooftops to fields to backyards.

Last year's top awards went to:

To enter the competition, access this page:

The Honey and Pollination Center is affiliated with the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science and the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. For more information, email Harris at

Posted on Wednesday, July 20, 2016 at 10:15 AM

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