"We did this at two locations every year and had three other locations with 15 to 20 sacks,” he noted.

"A sack of potatoes is an ungainly thing to move because the contents move as you pick it up,” he observed. "The amazing thing is I still have a good back.”

"I worked with every color of potato you can imagine,” said Brittan, who shares a plant variety patent for a fresh white potato. With knowledge acquired from years of evaluating potato varieties, Brittan was part of a group of potato experts that advised McDonald's on the best chipping variety to make into french fries.

In 1995, he earned a master's degree in vegetable crops at UC Davis, doing his thesis on the effects of salinity on processing tomato production. "My family thought that was really funny because I didn't like to eat fresh tomatoes,” Brittan said. 

Brittan coordinated processing-tomato research, evaluating tomato varieties to select those that make the finest tomato paste. 

"There's a reason why California is a world leader, producing more than one-third of the tomato paste in the world and UC Cooperative Extension is it,” Brittan said with pride.

As he reflected on his career, Brittan said, "With UC, I've had the ability to work with so many different people and have an impact on many different things.”

Brittan authored or co-authored 16 peer-reviewed articles, 58 non-peer-reviewed articles and five cost-of- production studies. In addition, he's studied garlic, onions, bell peppers, artichokes, asparagus and sweet potatoes, crops that aren't commercially grown outside of California. When growers were losing over a million ears of corn to ear rot, he began screening the plant material and losses to the disease consequently dropped from 30 percent to less than 2 percent.

Yolo County grower Rominger lamented the loss of Brittan's expertise.

"He was always available,” Rominger said. "If we had questions we could call him up. Those are the kind of people Cooperative Extension is losing to retirement. They provide a lot of information for farming.

"The extension service is really valuable. It's one reason we have outstanding agriculture around California and the U.S.  It's something we don't want to lose.”

Brittan has been granted emeritus status so he may continue small grains research, but is keeping his options open for retirement activities. Although agriculture has provided his living, Brittan said he may pursue his interests in photography and mass transit trains.