Nutrition, Family and Consumer Sciences
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Nutrition, Family and Consumer Sciences

UC Food Blog

New labor laws factored into UC cost studies for table grape production

Flame Seedless
To help table grape growers make decisions on which varieties to grow, the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' Agricultural Issues Center has released four new studies on the costs and returns of table grapes in the Southern San Joaquin Valley. The studies on different table grape varieties are each based on a 500-acre farm with vineyard establishment on 40 acres.

The studies focus on four table grape varieties. There are two early maturing varieties, Flame Seedless and Sheegene-21, that begin harvest in July, one mid-season maturing, Scarlet Royal, and one late maturing, Autumn King, which begins harvest in October. The studies estimate the cost of establishing a table grape vineyard and producing fresh market table grapes.

“Labor costs are expected to rise with reduced labor availability, increases in minimum wage rates and new overtime rules that went into effect in 2018,” said Ashraf El-kereamy, UCCE viticulture advisor in Kern County and co-author of the cost studies.

“We included detailed costs for specialized hand labor of certain cultural and harvest operations.”

Sheegene-21
The sample costs for labor, materials, equipment and custom services are based on January 2018 figures. A blank column, titled “Your Cost,” is provided in Tables 2 and 3 for growers to enter their own estimated costs.

“The new California minimum wage law will gradually decrease the number of hours employees can work on a daily and weekly basis before overtime wages are required. There are additional stipulations for overtime wages and scheduling of work that are part of the new law,” said Daniel Sumner, director of the Agricultural Issues Center. 

Input and reviews were provided by UC ANR Cooperative Extension farm advisors, specialists, grower cooperators, California Table Grape Commission and other agricultural associates. The authors describe the assumptions used to identify current costs for table grape establishment and production, material inputs, cash and non-cash overhead. A ranging analysis table shows profits over a range of prices and yields. Other tables show the monthly cash costs, the costs and returns per acre, hourly equipment costs, and the whole farm annual equipment, investment and business overhead costs.

Scarlet Royal
The new studies are:

  • “2018 - Sample Costs to Establish and Produce Table Grapes in the Southern San Joaquin Valley – Flame Seedless, Early Maturing”
  • “2018 - Sample Costs to Establish and Produce Table Grapes in the Southern San Joaquin Valley – Sheegene-21 (Ivory™), Early Maturing”
  • “2018 - Sample Costs to Establish and Produce Table Grapes in the Southern San Joaquin Valley – Scarlet Royal, Mid-season Maturing”
  • “2018 - Sample Costs to Establish and Produce Table Grapes in the Southern San Joaquin Valley – Autumn King, Late Maturing”

All four table grape studies can be downloaded from the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics website at http://coststudies.ucdavis.edu. Sample cost of production studies for many other commodities are also available at the website.

Autumn King
For additional information or an explanation of the calculations used in the studies, contact Donald Stewart at the Agricultural Issues Center at (530) 752-4651 or destewart@ucdavis.edu.

For information about local table grape production, contact UC Cooperative Extension viticulture specialist Matthew Fidelibus at mwfidelibus@ucanr.edu, UCCE viticulture advisor Ashraf El-kereamy in Kern County at aelkereamy@ucanr.edu, UCCE entomology advisor David Haviland in Kern County at dhaviland@ucdavis.edu, UCCE weed advisor Kurt Hembree in Fresno County at kjhembree@ucanr.edu, or UCCE viticulture advisor George Zhuang in Fresno County at gzhuang@ucanr.edu.

Posted on Tuesday, April 17, 2018 at 8:40 AM

NPI study finds that prices for fruits and vegetables may be higher in low-income neighborhoods

Shoppers purchasing fruits and vegetables in stores located in low-income neighborhoods in California may pay more for those fruits and vegetables than shoppers in other neighborhoods, according to a study that examined prices in a large sample of stores throughout the state.

Published online in March 2018 in the journal Public Health Nutrition, the study, conducted by researchers at UC's Nutrition Policy Institute, involved more than 200 large grocery stores, 600 small markets, and 600 convenience stores in 225 low-income neighborhoods (where at least half of the population was at or below 185 percent of the Federal Poverty Level) and compared observed prices to purchased price data from chain grocery stores in the same counties during the same months.

Shoppers purchasing fruits and vegetables in stores located in low-income neighborhoods in California may pay more for those fruits and vegetables than shoppers in other neighborhoods, according to a Nutrition Policy Institute study that examined prices in a large sample of stores throughout the state.

The study found that produce prices for the items examined (apples, bananas, oranges, carrots and tomatoes) were higher in stores in low-income neighborhoods than the average prices of those items sold in stores in the same counties during the same month. Fruits and vegetables for sale in convenience stores in low-income neighborhoods were significantly more expensive than those for sale in small markets or large grocery stores. Yet even in large grocery stores the study found prices in the low-income neighborhoods to be higher than average county grocery store prices during the same month.

“Americans eat too few fruits and vegetables to support optimal health, and we know that dietary disparities among socioeconomic groups are increasing,” said study author Wendi Gosliner. “This study suggests that one important issue may be fruit and vegetable prices — not just that calorie-per-calorie fruits and vegetables are more expensive than many unhealthy foods, but also that there are equity issues in terms of relative prices in neighborhoods where lower-income Californians live.”

Additionally, the study examined the quality and availability of fruits and vegetables in stores and found that while less than half of convenience stores (41 percent) sold fresh produce, even fewer (1 in 5) sold a wide variety of fruits or vegetables, and few of the items that were for sale were rated by trained observers to be high quality (25 percent for fruits and 14 percent for vegetables).

“This study suggests that convenience stores in low-income neighborhoods currently fail to provide access to high-quality, competitively priced fresh fruits and vegetables," said Pat Crawford, nutrition expert and study author. “A healthy diet can prevent disease and reduce health care costs in the state. States need to explore new ways to help ensure that families, particularly those living in low-income neighborhoods where convenience stores are the only food retailers, have access to healthy, high-quality foods that are affordable,” Crawford added.

The study also found that convenience stores participating in federal food programs (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [SNAP] and/or the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children [WIC]) were more likely to sell fresh produce and to offer higher quality and a wider variety of fruits and vegetables than stores not participating in either program.

The study was conducted under contract with the California Department of Public Health. Funding is from USDA SNAP. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Posted on Wednesday, April 4, 2018 at 9:05 AM
Focus Area Tags: Family Food Health

What's that in your cornmeal?

You're thinking about making Grandma's Southern Cornbread.

You head for your pantry. You remember that six months ago you purchased a bag of cornmeal from a local supermarket and that you immediately emptied the contents into a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid.

You open the airtight jar and notice something strange. It's moving. Moving? Moving? Yes! It's crawling with a transparent carpet of dozens of nearly microscopic critters.

What? First, what are they? If you're like me, you grab your camera--in this case, a Canon EOS 7D with an MPE-65mm lens that can magnify an insect five times its life size--and click the shutter. 

You post the photo on BugGuide.Net and request an identification.

The entomologists all agree: They're booklice, Liposcelis bostrychophila.

  • Class Insecta (Insects)
  • Order Psocodea (Barklice, Booklice, and Parasitic Lice)
  • Suborder Troctomorpha
  • Family Liposcelididae (Booklice)
  • Genus Liposcelis
  • Species bostrychophila (Booklouse)

These Liposcelis bostrychophila, or "psocids" (pronounced "so kids"), are common pests in stored grains. They're usually unseen because they're about a millimeter long--about the size of a speck of dust--and are transparent to light brown in color. They're also wingless, but can they ever crawl!

Fact is, their name, "lice," is misleading. These tiny insects are not lice; they are not parasitic. And they're everywhere. They feed on flour, cereals, grits, molds, fungi, papers, books, pollen, dead insects and the like. In fact, you've probably unknowingly eaten them--or parts of them--in your pancakes, your oatmeal or maybe even your chocolate birthday cake.

Entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the butterfly-moth collection at the Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis, took one look at the photo and commented:  "They're pretty thick in there!"

"Booklice can be scavengers and often feed on the bits of mold or fungi that grow on damp materials," Smith explained. "Very old, neglected food stuffs are also subject to them, and the key to prevention is to use food materials reasonably quickly and not store them for years, store them in a nice dry location and in airtight containers."

"They very well could have been in the food already when you bought it, but they're so common that you probably have some roaming around in the house all the time, just looking for something good to eat. They'll feed on dead bugs in window sills, stale pet foods, etc."

If you're worried about what's in your cornmeal, flour, oats, biscuit mix, cake mix and other stored foods, you can pop the contents in your oven at about 120° for a half hour, and then transfer them to an airtight container, Smith says.  "Your food should be okay--albeit perhaps containing a few dead booklice. We had them in an old bag (paper) of rice one time, and in several packages of cornmeal mix that were forgotten in the back of our cupboard."

A UC Davis colleague said he's seen them crawling in his flour, but his wife made pancakes from them anyway. No issues. No problem. "Just protein!" he chortled.

And from another colleague: "I once had an entire case of instant grits. The grits were completely factory-sealed in unopened plastic bags. I opened the bags and the grits were poured into hot water, but they would not sink and mix with the water.  Instead the grit floated on the top of the water. I opened a second bag and looked at the grits under my stereo microscope. Each and every grain of grit had two or three little six-legged creatures standing on each grit. These creatures were 100 percent transparent, the only color was in their bodies which was the same color as the grits they were eating. I opened every 100 percent factory-sealed bag, and every bag was contaminated in this matter."

"There is nothing new about insect contamination of grain products," she added. "Another personal experience was a biscuit mix. For no particular reason, I sifted the biscuit mix while making the batch of biscuits. After sifting several cups of biscuit mix, in the sifter screen there were 4 worm-like creatures about the diameter of a standard pencil and about an inch long. These worms were 100 percent transparent, each filled with the white biscuit mix. "Consider we all eat insects, spiders, and urine and feces of all sorts of animals."

We live in world where we all eat bugs, whether we know it or not. Sometimes we may not want to know!

Statistics indicate that the average American unknowingly eats one to two pounds of insects a year.  But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration "has very specific tolerances for the amount of residue in food stuffs," said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis.

Want to know what the action level is? Check out this FDA document.

And the next time, you're yearning to make Grandma's Southern Cornbread, you might want to check for bugs first. Or maybe not. You might not want to know!

 

Posted on Tuesday, April 3, 2018 at 9:38 AM
Focus Area Tags: Family Food Pest Management

Got backyard chickens? Get their eggs tested for free

People who raise poultry outdoors are encouraged to have their eggs tested for environmental contaminants.

Californians who raise poultry outdoors are invited to get their eggs tested for contaminants.

To find out if harmful substances on the ground that are eaten by birds get passed along in the eggs they lay, Maurice Pitesky, UC Cooperative Extension poultry specialist at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, is providing free egg testing.  

“We're trying to understand the connection between the environment that backyard poultry are raised in and the eggs they are producing,” Pitesky said.

For more information about how to package and ship eggs, visit http://ucanr.edu/eggtest.
Pitesky's colleague veterinary toxicologist Birgit Puschner is testing eggs for different types of contaminants, depending on the county the eggs are from.

Eggs from counties recently affected by wildfires will be tested for chemicals, building materials and heavy metals that may have been carried in the smoke and ash. Pitesky and Puschner are also looking for lead and PCBs in eggs from certain regions of the state.

The UC Cooperative Extension poultry specialist will share individual egg results with each poultry owner. At the end of the study, all of the results will be summarized and made available to the general public. 

Pitesky describes the project in a video produced by CropMobster for UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources. Watch the video at https://youtu.be/3ZlytlUIS3I.

For more information about the study and how to package and ship eggs, visit http://ucanr.edu/eggtest.

Residents in Sonoma County may drop off eggs at the UC Cooperative Extension office at 133 Aviation Blvd Suite 109 in Santa Rosa. The UCCE office in Sonoma County is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. 

 

Posted on Wednesday, March 28, 2018 at 5:50 PM
Focus Area Tags: Environment Food

Urban farming workshops start soon in Sacramento and San Diego

Are you an urban farmer in the Sacramento or San Diego region? Are you a gardener thinking of selling some of your produce to neighbors, restaurants or at a farmers' market? Are you part of a non-profit organization growing and distributing food in your community? If so, you are invited to join other urban farmers at one or more of four low-cost full-day workshops starting soon in both the Sacramento and San Diego regions, offered by UC Cooperative Extension and local partners.

Learn more about the workshops, as well as the 2017 workshop series' held in the Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay Area regions, at ucanr.edu/sites/UrbanAg/Urban_Ag_Workshops.

If you're growing more food, herbs, flowers or fiber than your family or organization consumes, and if you are selling or otherwise distributing the excess, and if you are growing in or at the edge of a city or town, then you are one of an increasing number of urban farmers. Urban farms are often very small scale, commercially marginal and operated by beginning farmers. They can be operated by individuals, families, non-profit organizations, schools or colleges, or by other groups. Research shows that successful urban farms can bring social, health, environmental and economic benefits to local communities, including improved access to healthful food.

A UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) team recently assessed the needs of urban farmers around the state, and found that they struggle with production, business, and marketing challenges, many of which are specific to the urban context of their farms. Additionally, many urban farmers are unaware of agricultural regulations, city zoning and permitting rules, food safety, soil quality issues and pest quarantines.

To help new urban farmers get started effectively, and to help more experienced urban farmers improve their skills and profitability, the UCCE team is offering a series of four urban agriculture workshops in each of the Sacramento and San Diego regions. These communities have recently put policies in place to encourage urban farming, and many residents are getting involved. The workshops will be held at urban farm sites and will include farm tours and discussions with local urban farmers sharing challenges and success stories.

The 2018 workshop series starts March 16 in the Sacramento area and March 23 in the San Diego area.

Workshop #1 will cover urban farming legal basics, including types of urban farm enterprises, zoning issues, soil testing, required permits and licenses, and an introduction to key local resources such as the Agricultural Commissioner and UCCE staff.

Workshop #2 will cover marketing and business management for urban farms, including business planning, record keeping, market channel options, and an introduction to labor laws and risk management.

Workshop #3 will be about production considerations for urban farmers, focusing on water management, integrated pest management (IPM), and soil contamination/soil improvement.

Workshop #4 will cover pre- and post-harvest food safety practices, using CDFA's Small Farm Food Safety Guidelines.

Cost: Each workshop is $20 for a full day of expert speakers, participatory exercises, lunch and refreshments. Each workshop will be a one-day event. Urban farmers and future farmers, and others who are interested can take one, several, or all four of these workshops. 

Registration is open. Space is limited, so please sign up early.

San Diego registration: http://ucanr.edu/sdurbanag2018

Sacramento registration: http://ucanr.edu/sacurbanag2018

More UC ANR urban farming resources: ucanr.edu/sites/UrbanAg/

For more information:

San Diego Series: Mary Redlin, Southern California Coordinator, mvredlin@ucanr.edu, (562) 900-3041

Sacramento Series: Penny Leff, Northern California Coordinator, paleff@ucanr.edu, (530) 752-5208

 

Posted on Monday, March 5, 2018 at 2:47 PM
  • Author: Penny Leff
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture

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