Food and Farm News - October 16, 2019

Farms provide more agritourism opportunities


Pumpkin patches are popular destinations this time of year, but there are other ways for people to get a taste of the countryside and experience agriculture. Farms that open their doors to the public are increasingly offering overnight lodging, farm-to-table dinners and events, and workshops to attract visitors and generate more tourism revenue. These offerings often showcase the farm's property and what it produces.  


High-severity wildfires may indefinitely alter California's forests


A new study says California's increasingly intense fires may erase some of the state's forests indefinitely. Scientists found that five to 10 years after a high-severity burn, many forest stands had converted to shrub fields with low diversity of plant species. Authors said current fire trends could prevent forest recovery in large portions of the Sierra Nevada landscape, and suggested the expansion of forest thinning and prescribed burning as management tools.


Underserved and veteran farmers to benefit from $16.2 million in USDA grants


The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it will issue $16.2 million in grants to provide farmers, ranchers and foresters who are socially disadvantaged or veterans with training, outreach and technical assistance. Grants are awarded to higher education institutions, nonprofits and community-based organizations to reach historically underserved communities. The program has awarded 484 grants totaling $119.5 million since 2010.


New robotic arm aids workflow, safety in university lab


There's a new worker in Fresno State's citrus processing laboratory: It's a robotic arm designed to move and arrange boxes of produce. The automated arm has a nearly 7-foot reach and a 150-pound payload capacity, and can also be tasked with inspection, packaging and machine tending. The lab and equipment are used for an industrial technology course that emphasizes citrus processing line operation, safety and maintenance.