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UC working to replace ranks in wake of retirements

Tim Hearden
As another wave of retirements is set to hit the University of California Cooperative Extension, officials say they're working diligently to try to replenish their crop of advisors and specialists.

Capital Press

DAVIS, Calif. — University of California officials are “trying as aggressively as we can” to “rebuild the footprint” of Cooperative Extension as another wave of retirements is set to hit this week, a Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources leader says.

More than a half-dozen academics will retire June 30 after decades of service to the Cooperative Extension in the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys.

Since the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year, 33 advisors and 17 specialists have retired from the extension, said Bill Frost, an Ag and Natural Resources associate vice president.

But at the same time, the division has hired 35 extension advisors and 18 specialists to take their place, and in many cases the outgoing experts have been training their proteges, Frost said.

“What we’re trying to do is hire new people so they can interact with folks before they retire and transfer some of that knowledge,” he said. “The trade off for us is we’re losing a lot of institutional memory and a lot of expertise … but we’re getting young, talented people with lots of energy and new ideas coming forward.”

Among the valley professionals who are leaving:

• Gregorio Billikopf, a labor management farm advisor in San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Merced counties, is retiring after 33 years. His extension and teaching efforts focused on employee selection, wage structures, interpersonal negotiation skills, conflict resolution and mediation, according to a news release.

• Carol Frate, a Tulare County field crops farm advisor, is ending her 36-year career. She has conducted extensive research on the production of alfalfa, dry beans, sugarbeets and corn, according to the release.

• Michelle Le Strange, a vegetable crops and environmental horticulture advisor in Tulare County, is retiring after 31 years. Le Strange is an accomplished advisor in vegetable crop production, turfgrass and ornamentals, and weed management, the release states.

In addition, the campus here is losing Eric Mussen, a nearly 38-year apiculturist who has become the bee industry’s go-to expert. Mussen has been working with his replacement, Elina Nino, who comes from North Carolina State University.

“She’s a very, very competent research scientist,” Mussen said recently. “That’s going to be more important for her than it was for me. Emphasis is now being placed more heavily on grants and research even in extension than when I arrived here.”

Frost said the university has actually stopped the gradual decline in its numbers of cooperative extension advisors and specialists. The extension service has about 180 advisors, down from a peak of 390 about 20 years ago, and its 110 full-time-equivalent specialists are down from more than 200 two decades ago.

He said the Cooperative Extension’s budget will remain flat under the new budget signed by Gov. Jerry Brown.


UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources: http://ucanr.edu

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