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Water quality courses assist California's ethnic Chinese growers

The Issue

In 2005, the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board began an agricultural waiver program for water discharge, requiring farmers who irrigate to manage water quality. To earn the conditional waiver, growers had to complete a series of agricultural water-quality short courses. The courses were designed to help Central Coast growers manage potential non-point source pollutants on their properties. Courses were offered in English and Spanish. Ethnic Chinese growers, who operate a large number of Santa Clara County’s small farms, also needed access to water quality courses.

What Has ANR Done?

UC Small Farm Program advisor Aziz Baameur spearheaded an effort to deliver water-quality education that was culturally and linguistically appropriate for ethnic Chinese farmers. Working with the local water district, other Cooperative Extension advisors, local Farm Bureaus, regional Natural Resources Conservation Service and the UC Riverside Department of Environmental Sciences, he secured extra funding and technical language assistance. The Small Farm Program hired a translator to adapt printed course materials and fliers. With input from the ethnic Chinese agricultural leaders, Baameur designed classes that ensured the community's participation. ANR offered six water quality workshops - on pest control, irrigation, nutrient management, erosion management and farm plan development - to ethnic Chinese farmers on the Central Coast. Baameur offered workshops in a hands-on style, presented or interpreted in Cantonese, with Chinese-language course materials.

The Payoff

UC prepares underserved farmers to tackle critical water-quality issues

By offering the courses in Chinese, ANR provided previously underserved ethnic farmers with knowledge, skills fine-tuning and encouragement on water quality issues, with the renewed goal of cleaner water run-off and less water waste. An average of 64 farmers participated in each of the six workshops. Nearly 60 percent of attendees completed every class required to earn the waiver. The water quality courses turned what could have been a punitive approach to water-quality regulations into an educational opportunity for this sector of farmers. An improved working relationship with the area’s well-organized ethnic Chinese farmers has led to meetings on other agricultural topics. Feedback from 2008 regulatory visits will provide direction for next steps in water quality education for this specific community of growers.

Clientele Testimonial

“This information was really helpful to us... If they have some more workshops, I definitely would go." - Mike Lee, farmer
"They showed me how to check the water uniformity ... (and) to protect the soil. Also - this is common sense - they asked us to keep all the fertilizers or chemicals away from the well. It's a reminder, but that's information that is helpful too." - Sung Wook Lee, farmer


Aziz Baameur, UC Small Farm Program Advisor, UCCE Santa Clara County, (408) 282-3127, azbaameur@ucdavis.edu