Fresno County UC Cooperative Extension small-scale farm advisor Richard Molinar and his assistant Michael Yang have received the UC Small Farm Program's 2000 Pedro Ilic Agriculture Award for outstanding educators.

Molinar and Yang have worked side by side for five years serving Fresno County's small-scale and family farms. Their research and educational efforts have focused on meeting the needs of Southeast Asian, African American and Hispanic farmers, who make up almost half of the county's small-scale producers. Molinar speaks Spanish and Yang speaks Hmong and Lao.

Molinar and Yang have an active research program both in collaboration with local growers and at the UC Kearney Agricultural Center. They are developing research-based data on specialty crop variety selection, cultural practices and harvest management. Crops under study include strawberries, medicinal herbs, blueberries, cherry tomatoes, edamame (vegetable soybeans), lemon grass and many others.

The duo is working closely with UC integrated pest management plant pathologist James Stapleton to study and promote the use of soil solarization as an environmentally safe and effective method of preparing soil for planting without the use of harsh chemicals like methyl bromide.

Molinar and Yang maintain an outreach effort that includes one-on-one consultations, field days, courses on a wide variety of topics - such as pest management, marketing, financing, etc. - and mass media communication.

In February 1998, Molinar and Yang implemented a bi-monthly 30-minute radio broadcast on Hmong radio KBIF 900. Since the radio program's inception, calls and visits by small-scale farmers to the UCCE office increased 800 percent.

Molinar and Yang also offered a seven-week ag training school to Southeast Asian farmers. Eighteen participants received certificates for attending five of the seven sessions.

"I'm happy this team won the award this year," said Desmond Jolly, director of the UC Small Farm Program. "They work well together and use a variety of educational methods and research to improve small-scale farming in Fresno County."