Taking the University to the People: University of California
Agriculture and Natural Resources Oral History Project

 
 
About the Project
Interview Transcripts
Timeline and History
Bibliography
Documents and Reports
Model Interview Guide
Relevant Resources

About the Project
Over the past 150 years The University of California, as a land-grant university, has provided scientific assistance and technology for the Golden State’s agricultural community and citizens in a system that past UC President Robert Dynes described as the “R, D & D” model (Research, Development and Delivery). By 2008 the University of California’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources included cooperative programs with Extension staff consisting of county-based farm advisors and campus-based specialists, administrators, staff, and scientists. At the time of the project’s inception over two hundred living retirees from ANR provided a wealth of institutional memory.  Most of these men and women had made positive contributions to the betterment of California agriculture and the environment and held valuable historic information necessary for future program development and policy decisions. In a collaboration bringing together the Bancroft Library’s Regional Oral History Office and the UC Office of the President this oral history project began. ROHO interviewers conducted video interviews with many of the retirees and all interviews were transcribed, lightly edited, web mounted, and archived at the Bancroft Library. These narrative stories illuminated the work and accomplishments of men and women who have given so much professionally and personally to the betterment of American agricultural science, technology, economics, farmer training, education, and labor relations for a sustainable agricultural economic future for California. Their unique story is one of university, field workers, interested citizens, and agricultural business people coming together to improve life for the citizens of California. These interviewed retirees have managed to combine academic training and research and deliver it to “real world” problem solving. In doing so they applied science-based knowledge to real life problems and delivered solutions and skills for application by citizens and farmers. This process of taking the University directly to the people is a unique occurrence in the university world.

Project Themes
History of a “Unique System:” California Exceptionalism
As part of the project interviewers will attempt to set up a contextualized history of ANR over the latter half of the twentieth century. The emphasis will be directed toward defining how and why the UC California experience and programs are different than and cutting edge compared to programs in most states. What has made California unique and exceptional? 

“Bringing Agricultural Science to the People”
As farm advisors, farmers, County Directors, Specialists, labor organizations, program representatives, office staff, home economists, area advisors, and scientists took their research, technology, programs and expertise to service recipients how successful were they in meeting the needs of intended audience?  Did they have a mission capable of delivering what the people wanted and how well did they predict future needs? Did they build relationships with individuals in the communities they served and, in many cases, lived?

“Responding to Crisis”
As in all things human we can never predict all that we need and plan effectively for man-made or natural disasters. Has ANR been able to effectively accommodate the crisis needs of farmers, agricultural businesses, farm laborers, the environment, sudden shifts in government budgets and policy, pests and diseases, safety, and education?

“Public and Private Partnerships”
Like most federal government departments and organizations the ANR navigated the sometimes widely divergent needs of businesses and weighed them against the concerns and desires of politicians and consumers.  As nineteenth-century populism turned into twentieth-century progressivism, politicians designed government programs to simultaneously regulate and provide opportunity for large corporations. Yet siding-up to businesses, with money and political clout, sometimes harmed relationships with workers, consumers, and other groups. This uneasy relationship grew as New Deal programs of financial, trade, and infrastructure support for agribusiness continued into the latter-half of this century. For this project it is necessary to ascertain how the organization negotiated value judgments to develop and proceed on projects. Was it a matter of business money buying political clout? Or in more recent times those with the best lobbyists. What voice did individual citizens and grassroots organizations have in the policy process? Like most social issues the answers are not simple and lie somewhere in the gray area of compromise and expediency.

Project Team
Victor W. Geraci, PhD: Project Director and Interviewer
Robin Li, PhD: Interviewer
Gerald Stone: Production Coordinator

Funding
The Agriculture and Natural Resources Oral History Project is a five-year project begun in 2007, funded through donations to the University of California Office of the President. Memorandum of Understanding.

Statement of Scholarly Independence
Although funded by individual donors, this project was planned and is being executed as an independent scholarly research project; individual interviewees are covered by UC Berkeley Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects guidelines that provide for sealing portions of interview transcripts at the discretion of the interviewee. While the research design and interviewing are independent of individual donors and the University of California Office of the President, we have been assisted by their staff and an advisory committee in identifying research themes and in selecting and locating potential interviewees.


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