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

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

Reg Gomes image with cow
Model Interview Guide

This is a working document designed as a starting point for interviewers who are developing interview guides specific to individual interviewees.




General Background:  What were the factors that formulated your decisions to enter the Agricultural Natural Resources field?

  • Family; Grandparents, parents, siblings
  • Where grew up… geographic identity
  • Early mentors--- friends, family, educators
  • Education --- elementary, high school, trade schools
  • College education --- fields of study, coursework, academic mentors, degrees, fields of research
  • Publications
  • Family --- spouse(s) and children
  • Community involvement

Professional life: What are your specialty field in ANR and what positions have you held, including all staff, academic, and administrative?

  • In a chronological manner please describe your career --- positions held, when, where and accomplishments.  Are there areas that were not as successful that you would share with us?
  • What were your areas of specialty research and subsequent publications?
  • What areas/specialities have you “taken to the people.” Please describe these areas and projects in detail. What were the issues that faced development and delivery of the project goals?
  • Remember to collect any CV and Biographical information about interviewees… including but not limited to documents and photographs.

Defining the institution and role of ANR

  • Describe the service role of ANR in general and your division and position in particular.
  • How has ANR been effective and what have been its downsides?
  • Define and describe specific projects and programs that you have been involved with.
  • How well have business, government and university worked together or contradicted each other?

The Organizational Structure of ANR

In a change over time fashion, describe ANR as an organization. What was the organization like when you entered the field and how has it changed over time? Historically this topic deals with the issue of “state-building” and how the federal government developed policies and bureaucracies to manage national resources and promote capitalist development of an infrastructure that promotes a market economy.

  • Have interviewees provides a personal overview of ANR in the last half of the twentieth century. This could provide the context for a basic history of the organization, its leadership, and development of programs. The documentation of the evolution of programs and the organic adaptation to ever-changing rural and urban needs as America swung from being an agrarian nation to a county where less than one percent of its people are actively involved in agriculture.
  • Have interviewees provides a personal overview of  the Farm Bureau in the last half of the twentieth century..
  • Describe the institutional evolution and reorganization of ANR’s mission from being production driven to an environmental and sustainable focus.
  • The development of statewide Research and Extension Centers.
  • The development of mentoring leadership programs and the roles for advisors and specialists.
  • Contextualizing the “blessing and curse” of how ANR is funded.
  • How have numerous internal and external forces affected the restructuring and reorganization of ANR?
  • Describe the resulting bureaucratic structure that managed the large UC system spread across numerous campuses and what was the resulting conflict of interests between individual units, statewide needs and federal mandates?
  • Has ANR met the diverse needs of businesses and their consumers?
  • Has ANR effectively negotiated the needs of academics, specialists, agents, farmers, and consumers?
  • Since the 1960s ANR has professionalized its workforce and for many “old-timers” created an underlying “feeling” that ANR staff employees were the stepchildren of the UC faculty senate academics. Did this occur and did it affect you position?

The California Story: Adaptation to change and California Exceptionalism

Sub Theme: Responding to Crisis.

The UC response to ever changing societal issues. This would include, but not be limited to, the environment, youth, seniors, labor, and community building.

  • California’s uniqueness in concentrating on the research-extension continuum.
  • Can you share any specific case stories that reflect the continuum of UC ANR responses to ever-changing public needs?
  • Can you illuminate the unique situation whereby advisors are required to do applied research while at the same time providing practical expertise and the latest in current research?
  • Do you stories to share that help develop the story of how researchers must be at the leading edge of agricultural research and technology and yet be able to provide farmers of California with the scientific tools to manage and financially succeed on future farms?  IE. IPM, Rangeland management, water quality, sustainability, global markets, political action, labor issues, and social and economic stability of farm families and farm communities, nutrition, urban programs.

Sub Theme; “Bringing Agricultural Science to the People”

  • What has been the role of advisors in localizing information to meet local needs and conditions of their communities?
  • Can you share some examples of how ANR has built relationships with individuals and the community?
  • Has ANR been successful in meeting the needs of a multiculturally diverse population?

University of California ANR in the historical context of the nation and the world:
“Public and Private Partnerships:”

Like most federal government departments and organizations ANR has 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, domestic and foreign 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.

  • What has been the role of the Farm Bureau in ANR’s programs?
  • What has been the role of the University--- as a Land-Grant college --- in implementing public and governmental policies and laws during depression, wars, urban decay and societal changes?
  • What has been the role of the government in developing agricultural public policy?
  • Describe the adaptation of ANR to the ever decreasing number of farms and increasing size of agribusiness?
  • What has been the role of agribusiness in all the UC and state/federal government policies?
  • Has the governmental provided policies that insure a healthy, safe, and stable food supply?
  • Has the relationship and power of agribusiness bought political clout?

Historic Periodization: Quick reference for developing interview guides.
(See Historic Timeline)

1865 to 1908

Era of Federalism and the need of the United States to feed its newly developing industrial urban centers teaming with immigrants. Political responses to Populism … to Gemeinschaft and Gesselschaft tensions.

  • Gilded Age and Captains of Industry wrestle political power from agriculture as the nation shifts its population and political energy to urban centers
  • Organizations --- Grange, Agricultural Societies, State Boards of Agriculture, Farmer’s Alliances
  • Federal response was land-grant colleges--- Morrill Act, Hatch Act, Extension programs, Farmer’s Institutes, Farm Youth Clubs, Demonstration Farms, Demonstration Trains, lectures

1908 to  1915

Progressive ideology marries agriculture with the free market economy---Agribusiness takes hold.

  • Federal Response; 1908 TR Commission on Country Life to save and modernize rural life, formation of the Association of American Agricultural Colleges and Experiment Stations, Smith-Lever Act to federally funded education programs and agents
  • Business collaborations --- Southern pacific and UC with CA State Board of Agriculture sponsor Demonstration Trains (Ala Olivier Zunz’s Matrix)
  • California Response; 1913 Farm Bureau, birth of active ECOP (Extension Committee on Organization and Policy)

1916 to  1930

War Crisis (WWI) finds new uses for the newly established bureaucratic AG infrastructure. 

  • Federal Response; Emergency Food Production Act gives Congressional funding for farm advisors, monetary incentives for increased production, New Extension Specialists, home demonstration agents used to teach health and safety during the influenza outbreak, USDA made a separate Agency with a Director
  • California response; established agency with numerous FTE, 568 Farm centers, publications,
  • UC response; founding of Giannini Center and publish “Agricultural Outlook.”


1930 to 1940

Farm Crisis during the Great Depression

  • Federal Response; Use of AG Bureaucracy to administer the AAA and relief to the rural communities of America, National Extension Homemakers Council, Soil Conservation programs, Cooperative Extension becomes the world’s largest agency serving adults.

1940 to 1945

Agricultural Extension reacts to the crisis of providing food for a war torn world.

  • Federal response; Executive Order 9280 gives the Secretary of Ag responsibility to insure safe and continuous food supply, Emergency Farm Water Supply Project, Emergency Farm Fire Protection Act, Emergency Farm labor Project, Extension Programs oversee Victory Garden Programs, training for blackouts, war bond sales, fire prevention
  • California response; Women’s land Army, 125 farm labor offices, British Home garden Program

1945 to 1960

Agricultural Extension serves as a model to free world to prove Cold War superiority of our system… agribusiness comes of age.

  • Federal response; Extension staff help administer the Marshall Plan, rural development programs,
  • California response; Golden Era for the California Extension Service, state doubles funding and staffing, expanded research for scientific farming and agricultural technology, program shifts to business programs, mechanization, efficient increased production, goal to feed large urban centers, Asilomar Staff Conference theme “Agricultural Extension in Fast Changing Times” theme

1960 to 1969

Agriculture Extension called upon to facilitate the Great Society.

  • Federal response; New family and Consumer Services, radio, TV documentaries, new Smith-Lever Amendment funds resource and community development, farm safety, urban gardening, pest management, migrant worker issues, Economic Opportunity Act to combat urban poverty with “multipliers,” 196presidential commission “The People Left behind” to help rural poor, expanded Food and Nutrition Education program (EFNEP) administered by Extension Home economics staff
  • California response; California land Conservation Act, UC masters Ag mechanization (cotton, tomato, sugar beets), Governor Reagan cuts Extension funds and staff by 10 percent.

1970 to 1980

Era of Environmental Concern and Financial Crisis as State and federal Government turns responsibility for agricultural issues slowly over to local, private, and business concerns… a la “Silent Spring” and Santa Barbara Oil Spill

  • Federal response; Title IX of the 1970 Agricultural Act makes community development a national goal to address inflation, employment, technological change, ethnic diversity and nutrition, congressional 4-H funds, Small farm program to help specialized small-scale agriculture,
  • California response; UC becomes center for new environmental studies, From Agricultural Extension Service to California Cooperative Extension (UCCE), 90 percent of state is urban, staff for farm labor relations,
  • Farmer’s response; California Farm Bureau forms FARM PAC


1980 to 1987

Crisis --- sold to the highest bidder.

  • Federal response; Federal law encourages universities to patent discoveries (Bayh-Dole Act), Food Security Act amended Smith –Lever to fund applied research, Federal Transfer Act forces government agencies to collaborate with private companies,
  • Sate response; UC Davis Calgene conflict of Interest case, federally funded Small Farm Center, reorganize Cooperative Extension Service) new era and less funds), new affirmative action officer,
  • Farmer response; CFBF founds Agricultural Education Program

1987 to 1990s

Crisis --- the environment, sustainability

  • Federal response; research funds down to 2% of CA budget,
  • California response; master’s gardeners program, hire sustainable specialist,
  • UC Response; campus based specialists made part of academic departments, 1998 alliance with Swiss Novartis

New Millennium

Crisis; Planning for the future food supply needs and rural needs in a global community.
Theme “Precision Agriculture,” Genetic Engineering, Transgenic versus Organic, Biologically Integrated Farming Systems (BIFS), Agricultural Industrial Cluster Centers, Food Safety and Security

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