Sonya Varea-Hammond, who for 20 years was the leader of the UC Cooperative Extension office serving agriculturally rich Monterey County, will retire June 29.

During her tenure, Varea-Hammond addressed agricultural economic development, biotechnology education and the ag-urban interface in Monterey County, in addition to serving as administrative leader for the county department. Another focus of her work was advocacy and marketing for Cooperative Extension. During a sabbatical leave in 2003, she researched and wrote the 40-page publication "Marketing Cooperative Extension at the Local Level," a guideline for Cooperative Extension directors that was distributed nationally.

Varea-Hammond conducted a research project with UC Cooperative Extension specialist Alvin Sokolow to identify best practices in establishing buffers at the urban-ag interface. The research report concluded with recommendations for all stakeholders at the urban-ag edge – farmers, neighbors and public policy makers. The Great Valley Center in Modesto published a synopsis of the study.  

She and Sokolow conducted another study that compared high- and low-conflict edges in four crop-growing communities in two counties. They co-authored an article for California Agriculture journal on the ag-urban conflict titled "California communities deal with conflict adjustment at the urban-agricultural edge."

Varea-Hammond is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara, with a bachelor's degree in Spanish and French. She earned an MBA. in marketing and management from the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Phoenix, Ariz.

Before joining UC Cooperative Extension, Varea-Hammond taught bilingual science and math classes, and English as a second language at Salinas Union High School District. She later administered the finances and served as personnel administrator for Boggiatto Packing Co. in Salinas.

"While successful at my controller's job, I had been searching for a way to make a broader difference, beyond my employer's company," Varea-Hammond said. "Being fortunate enough to be selected for the county director job, I have indeed had the opportunity to make a difference."

Varea-Hammond was a two-time appointee to the Monterey County Fair Board and was elected to four terms to the board of the largest local school district. As a member of the California Women for Agriculture, Salinas Valley Chapter, she designed and coordinated the production of 13 quilts, raising $40,000 for college scholarships.

During retirement, Varea-Hammond and her husband plan to move to Greenville, S.C.