Ag Center Director Retires

June 30, 2009 8:12:19 PM PDT
The lack of water has forced many farmers to retire once-productive land on the valley's west-side.On Tuesday many in the Ag community celebrated the retirement of the head of the University of California Kearney Ag Center in Parlier.

Fred Swanson was treated to a grand send-off at the ag center. Swanson obviously made a lot of friends in the farming community during his 26 years as the center's director. Swanson said, "The idea was to put Kearney on the map and really develop this research center into a world-class facility."

Grapes are the top crop in Fresno County, the nation's top ag county. Farmers say the crop's emergence wouldn't have happened without the work of Fred Swanson and fellow farm advisor Pete Christensen in the 1970's. Swanson recalled, "That was the heyday of the grape boom. Many of these growers had never grown grapes and not really been exposed to viticulture and so it was a challenging period of time but it was an exciting period of time."

The Kearney Ag Center grows 45 different crops on 330 acres of land. Researchers from UC Berkeley, Davis and Riverside help farmers determine which varieties would work best in their area and how to deal with pests and disease.

Selma grower Bill Chandler said, "They're usually able to answer or help try to solve some of our problems. So we can come out here and they'll do things here that I can't afford to do at our place."

Chandler has known Swanson for 50 years. Fred prefers to share the credit in overseeing the center's massive growth. Swanson said, "My responsibility was to try to carry out this vision and go forth with new buildings and new facilities and add land to make it possible for these to be attracted and come down to conduct research at Kearney."

Friends took time to poke fun at Fred Swanson but he'll get the last laugh on a fishing boat somewhere.

Currently 100 researchers are working with the Kearney Ag Center on projects dedicated to sustaining agriculture in California.

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