Agricultural programs geared for the youth is something that gives children knowledge about local farming, that’s why the Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors will continue to support a local farm program by the University of California but the length of that funding is still up to discussion for the next meeting when they vote to approve the funding.
On November 19, 2018, the IID Board of Directors approved three years of funding for the University of California Desert Research and Extension Center Farm Smart program in an increasing amount up to $100,000 in 2021. By letter dated October 6, 2021, Dr. Jairo Diaz, Director of the Holtville UC DREC, requested an additional four years of funding support for the Farm Smart program, proposing a 7.5 percent annual increase ($7,500 each year) to IID’s 2021 contribution. Dr. Diaz also indicates he anticipates making a new, yet-to-be-defined, funding request for 2023 to support a new regional research and learning center.
Dr. Diaz and his team made a presentation regarding the success of the Farm Smart program, which connects students, agriculture, and water through community education and engagement programs. This program is celebrating its 20th anniversary and has kept up with its programming despite the pandemic by holding weekly Zoom sessions and providing kits for students to grow gardens at home while remote learning.
IID’s prior funding contributions and Dr. Diaz’s four-year funding request, totaling $475,000. The $100,000 funding for FY 2020-21 has been included.
The UC Agriculture and Natural Resources school said in the presentation there is a need to connect students to agriculture and water.
“Without focused attention, it leads to unhealthy eating habits, limits higher education pursuits, reduces the motivation to work in the agriculture industry, and minimizes the understanding of our water resources,” Dr. Diaz said.
With over a century of experience in the community working to advance research and scientific discovery, enhance workforce development, and provide trusted educational resources, the University of California programs located in Imperial County are well-positioned to address these issues.
“Since the last funding request in 2018, we had over 35,000 participants in the Farm Smart program. We increased our collaboration with high school students and focused on career development,” Dr. Diaz said. “During the pandemic, we held a live vent on Zoom every Thursday and Friday. Through our digital efforts, we have reached different grades and repeat participants from all over Imperial County.”
They have distributed over 800 garden kits to residents to grow their gardens during the pandemic. In addition, the program also hosted the IV AG Tours for Teachers with IID to bring educators into the field among countless other activities.
“Our vision is to grow a strong and prosperous community, through program growth and facility enhancements to broaden impact and strengthen the research and extension mission. As we are providing our region’s youth with hands-on, experiential learning opportunities, we are dedicated to improving the health and lives of our region’s citizens,” Dias said.
Imperial Irrigation District has supported the University of California Imperial Valley programs for over 20 years. During this time, we have made significant progress in addressing the need of Imperial Valley residents.
The increased support from IID also spurred the University of California to commit $5.5 million to establish a new regional research and learning center for Imperial Valley. This center is anticipated to be developed over the next three years.
Director Alex Cardenas said he support the program but said he would like to see a budget plan included so the public can see where the money is going.
IID General Manager Henry Martinez asked the board to consider approving a one-year extension and then a three-year contract thereafter so they can protect their budget and justify to the public how they are spending the money.
Director Javier Gonzalez was against that idea and said he would prefer to give them the four-year deal arguing that the cost of living is going up and they need the money.