Editor’s note: Archie Jarman joined the Horticulture Innovation Lab team as its new program officer, just in time to participate in the program’s annual meeting in March. He brings a wealth of international experience to this position, which includes coordinating the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s Regional Centers around the globe. Here is a brief interview to introduce you to Archie and his background. We hope you have a chance to meet him soon!
Question: Tell us about your background. How did you come to work for the Horticulture Innovation Lab?
Archie Jarman: By winding road. I worked for the fire service, which is a great career, and made some lifelong friends, but I had the international travel itch. So I studied International Social Welfare at Columbia University and also interned at the Millennium Villages Project with a focus on whether safety net programs improve childhood nutrition domestically and abroad. After graduating, I then worked at Arcadia Biosciences, Inc., as coordinator and then as project manager with excellent teams for their USAID-funded projects. The projects are aimed at improving the abiotic stress tolerance of rice and wheat in Africa and Southeast Asia and incorporated capacity building. The position at the Horticulture Innovation Lab seemed ideal in that I have strengths that could be beneficial for the program, but it also provided a lot of challenges for me to improve my weaknesses and learn. I am thankful it worked out! Very happy to join the team.
Can you tell us more about the projects and crops you were working with at Arcadia Biosciences?
Elizabeth Mitcham, director of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Horticulture and a UC Cooperative Extension specialist in postharvest biology for the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences, represented the DryCard during the competition.
How do you see dryness? Solar drying is a simple way for smallholder farmers to preserve their harvest, but knowing when food is dry enough to store is complex. UC Davis researchers invented a low-cost, easy-to-use tool that farmers can use to measure food dryness, called the DryCardTM.
In developing countries, mold growth on dried foods is a pervasive problem, which can mean postharvest losses for farmers and unsafe foods for consumers. When mold grows it reduces the market value of dried foods, meaning less income for farmers. But moldy foods can also contain toxins that suppress the immune system, increase disease rates, and cause lifelong stunting in children.
Trip to market inspires a solution
Improving the postharvest drying process for smallholder farmers is something UC Davis scientists Michael Reid and James Thompson think about often. As UC Cooperative Extension specialists, Reid and Thompson have a history of working together in California and around the world on postharvest technologies, including a design for a more efficient solar dryer.
Last summer Reid led a Horticulture Innovation Lab workshop in Tanzania to provide training in postharvest handling of fruit and vegetable crops. The class visited the local market and tested the moisture content of some of the dried foods for sale. They found huge variation between the moisture contents of dried foods — over half were insufficiently dried and susceptible to mold.
What is the role of trust in our food system? In the United States, our trust in food is often implicit. We can generally trust that the fruits and vegetables we buy at a grocery store or farmers market are safe to eat — and we are often free to shop without even thinking about that trust.
Between farmers and agricultural scientists too, trust often plays an important role. If you’re a farmer, you need to be able to trust that investing your time or money in a new technique or in attending a workshop will indeed improve your business.
But it can be easy to forget that trust is a critical first step in many of these agricultural relationships.
Editor’s note: After this original announcement, two changes were made to student assignments and are reflected below.
The Horticulture Innovation Lab team has selected nine graduate students to support Trellis Fund projects in Africa and Asia in 2017.
Through their work on the Trellis Fund projects, the graduate students will apply their agricultural expertise to support local organizations as they work together to help smallholder farmers better grow fruits and vegetables.