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Raised up in Modesto farm country, Jon Holmquist took a shine to entomology at San Diego State in the 1970s. Jon hung his own shingle throughout the ‘80s as an independent Pest Management Consultant, counted among an emergent cadre of professionals focused on agroecology and biological solutions vs toxics. For some three decades Holmquist distinguished himself in viticulture, agronomy, and pest management with two of the world’s largest wine companies. Join “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey and Jon Holmquist in conversation.
Our Central Valley hosts the largest Hmong population in the United States, approaching 100,000. Fresno native Lilian Thaoxaochay, child of Hmong immigrant farmers, is a Small Farms Community Educator with UC Cooperative Extension. Lilian holds degrees in Asian American Studies, as well as Cultural and Medical anthropology from UC Santa Cruz and Stanford. Join “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey and Lilian Thaoxaochay discussing the Hmong diaspora and challenges of adapting tropical agrarianism to a semiarid landscape.
Landlubbers likely fail to appreciate that photosynthesizing organisms in Earth’s oceans supply half of the oxygen we breathe. Single-celled phytoplankton, a million of which can inhabit a teaspoon of sea water, draw as much carbon from our atmosphere as do all plants on land. What do oceanic and terrestrial life systems share and how are they interdependent? Join “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey and aspiring Oceanographer-Astrobiologist Patrick Monreal in conversation.
Most of us know more about the moon than North Korea. Reedley farmer Jennifer Deibert is an exception. As DPRK Program Director for American Friends Service Committee, Deibert’s delegations work with four North Korean cooperative farms and the Academy of Agricultural Sciences to raise productivity and implement sustainable agricultural practices, sowing peace through engagement. “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey and Jennifer Deibert explore farm life in North Korea.
Dr. Jennifer Pett-Ridge leads a team of 35 soil microbiologists, ecophysiologists, and biogeochemists at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Her team is tasked with gaining deep insight into how carbon cycles through life systems in Earth’s marine and terrestrial environments. Such knowledge is vital to crafting an effective national response to climate change. Join Pett-Ridge and “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey in plain English conversation.
Park Farming Organics might be the most well-known, least well-known organic farm in California. Scott and Brian Park’s 1,500 acres of rich black loam beside the Sacramento River grow tomatoes and grains that organic processors compete for. Scott’s straightforward organic soil management approach employs cover crops, compost, minimum tillage, then “getting out of nature’s way”. Join “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey and farmer Scott Park in conversation.
Among the pantheon of living philosophers who nourish our modern organic movement, novelist-poet-essayist Wendell Berry presides atop Mount Olympus. “Down on the Farm’s” 2023 Culture in Agriculture celebration will delve into the Kentucky bard’s extensive cannon of agrarian literature. Join Fresno City College emeritus professor of English John Moses and host Tom Willey tomorrow at 5PM, on Free Speech Radio KFCF 88.1FM to rekindle Wendell Berry love or to discover an extraordinary author for the first time.
UC Merced climatologist Dr. John Abatzoglou researches the impact of climate change on our American West. The water use efficiency of irrigators has often been exaggerated by Groundwater Sustainability Agencies here in the Central Valley. Dr. Abatzoglou demonstrates that, since 1980, a warming and drying atmosphere has caused all Western crops and forests to consume ever more water, and will continue doing so. Join “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey and climatologist John Abatzoglou in conversation.
A focus on chemical-free pest management, once centered at UC’s famed Division of Biological Control, spawned a cadre of independent advisors on California’s farms, most of whom are now retired. Pete Goodell PhD, UC Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Specialist and former president of the Association of Applied Insect Ecologists, recently ended a 35-year career in the field. “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey and Pete Goodell discuss the present state and future of pest management under a new generation of practitioners.
A featured reward of “self-independent” farmers is durable associations made with fellow cultivators. Just out of high school, Easton farmer Kenny Lucero soon mastered the rare art of growing Japanese eggplant. He also loved greenhouse work, making T&D Willey Farm’s annual vegetable transplants over three decades. Plant management skill ushered Kenny into his second career as a table grape grower. Join “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey in conversation with Kenny Lucero.
Madera’s Daulton Ranch, once encompassing 17,000 acres, hearkens to California’s Gold Rush era. On half that spread, neighbor Clay Daulton today grazes his own breeding stock, Yosemite’s mules and horses, and overwintering cattle from the Pacific Northwest. This significant agricultural enterprise has never relied on irrigation over its 170 years of operation, thriving on natural rainfall. “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey and Clay Daulton engage in a resource management conversation focused on Madera’s past and present.
“Biostimulant” joins the lexicon of crop fertility inputs as we begin to appreciate complex interplays between plants and soil microbes in delivering nutrition. How do biostimulants differ from familiar N-P-K fertilizers, do they work, or just more “snake oil” to pick a farmer’s pocket? Join “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey in conversation with pioneering agronomist Peter Aleman, owner of Bio-Gro Inc., Mabton, WA.
Author Liz Carlisle revisits our “Down on the Farm” front porch to discuss her just-published Healing Grounds: Climate, Justice, and the Deep Roots of Regenerative Farming. Liz argues that climate change demands not just playing number games with soil carbon but reembracing ancestral relationships with the land. One connection to such tradition is environmental scientist Aidee Guzman, whose research on San Joaquin Valley immigrant farmers’ soils and cropping systems features in the book. They join host Tom Willey in conversation.
UC Davis hydrogeologist Graham Fogg’s ‘Paleo Valleys’, buried along the base of our Sierra Nevada’s western slope, are a potential godsend to groundwater recharge-obsessed Central Valley communities. These ancient, buried riverbeds, dating from the last ice age, are cobble and gravel-filled to depths of 100 feet, can extend for miles underground, and have been proven by Fogg’s team to guzzle flood water as much as 100 times faster than surrounding land. Join Graham and “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey.
Veteran Fresno Bee and Bakersfield Californian journalist Lois Henry, now CEO and Editor of ‘SJV Water’, gets the drop on all South Valley water happenings. Our Sierra’s modest southern streams can flip from trickle to torrent from year to year. Waterscape scarcity compels California’s wily agricultural titans to sometimes collaborate, and sometimes clash. Join Lois Henry and “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey exploring mysterious machinations down yonder.
California law will soon transform all our kitchen scraps into black gold. Tulare’s New Era Farm Service, founded by a half-dozen maverick farmers in 1974, may be the state’s first and most enduring commercial compost operation, producing 100,000 tons of dairy manure compost annually. New Era’s just-retired President and CEO Doug Graham shares three decades of composting knowhow with “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey.
“First Time Home” is filmed and directed by Maderans Esmeralda and Heriberto Ventura with Washington State cousins, all second-generation Indigenous Triqui immigrant youth. Deputized to visit an ailing Oaxacan grandfather, the foursome traveled 3,000 miles overland, through an unknown country, ambassadors to an ancestral homeland and extended family they had never met. Join “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey in conversation with Esmeralda, Heriberto, and film producer Seth Holmes.
Chez Panisse restaurateur Alice Waters once described the plein air structure sheltering Fresno’s Vineyard Farmers Market as a ‘cathedral’. Why would a profit-minded developer dedicate acres of a major California city’s most valuable commercial property to fruit and vegetable vendors – for over 40 years? “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey will ask that question of Vineyard Farmers Market founder and owner Richard Erganian.
Nash Huber, reared on a 1940s Illinois family farm, found his way to the Pacific Northwest during the turbulent 1960s. Over the next half-century, reborn farmer Nash won a stellar reputation as a pioneering organic produce grower, seedsman and plant breeder, while driving permanent protection of thousands of farmland acres threatened by urban development. Join Nash Huber and “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey in conversation.
Every hard-working produce farmer loves to cuss the “middleman” for siphoning off potential profits, while supposedly doing “nothing”. However, our organic movement’s early days proved wholesaler-farmer relationships could be more symbiotic than predatory. Does harmony yet reign now that organic produce performs on the marketplace main stage? Join “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey and legacy organic wholesaler Heath & Lejeune’s David Weinstein in conversation.