University of California farm advisors and specialists with a combined service of 250 years retired June 30, leaving rather large shoes to fill by incoming farm advisors, and a learning curve about agricultural systems in the Golden State that can be remarkably different than elsewhere in the United States.

The connection between the university researcher and the commercial grower is an important one as California farmers and ranchers continue to face production and other challenges.

At least seven of those advisors with a combined 212 years of service who retired at the end of the fiscal year (June 30) worked closely with Central Valley growers. They include:

  • Gregorio Billikopf (33 years) - labor management farm advisor in San Joaquin, Stanislau,s and Merced counties;
  • Alejandro Castillo (12 years) - dairy farm advisor, Merced County;
  • Carol Frate (36 years) - field crops farm advisor, Tulare County;
  • Michelle Le Strange (31 years) - vegetable crops and environmental horticulture advisor, Tulare County;
  • Larry Schwankl (28 years) - irrigation specialist, UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, Parlier;
  • Eric Mussen (38 years) - apiculture specialist, UC Davis; and
  • Joe Connell (34 years) - orchard and landscape horticulture farm advisor, Butte County. Connell most recently served as the UCCE Butte County director.