Beth Teviotdale, who became the University of California's first woman agricultural Extension specialist 30 years ago, retires in June, and will be installed president of UC Cooperative Extension's Fresno County Master Gardener volunteer program in July.
Teviotdale earned a bachelor's degree in botany at Pomona College in Claremont, and master's and Ph.D. degrees in plant pathology from UC Davis. In 1974, she took the position as UC Cooperative Extension plant pathology specialist at the UC Kearney Research and Extension Center in Parlier.
“I was in a man's world, but I never carried a feminist chip on my shoulder,” Teviotdale said. “For the most part, I was warmly welcomed and included, and my colleagues and growers were very helpful and supportive. As I look back now, I realize that a lot of people also were testing me. I just thought that's the way things were. After a while, they stopped asking those questions and accepted me.”
Teviotdale's research and teaching focused on diseases of deciduous fruit and nut crops and olives. Because plant diseases do not recur year to year, each season brought different disease challenges. She has worked on shot hole, ceratocystis canker, hull rot, scab and alternaria leaf blight of almond trees, deep bark canker, crown gall and blight of walnut trees, rust of prune trees, olive knot and leaf spot of olive trees, brown rot of stone fruit trees, and scab and fireblight of apple trees.
“I've spent a lot of time in orchards with farmers and farm advisors, diagnosing plant diseases and helping find solutions,” she said.
Over the years, Teviotdale has considered teaching her forte.
“The teaching was my creative expression,” Teviotdale said. “I enjoyed the research. I was interested in understanding how things work. But I was much stronger on the teaching side. I loved thinking about the best way to approach the presentation of material.”
Teviotdale's teaching skills will be put to use in her new post as president of Fresno County Master Gardeners. The Master Gardener program includes 180 volunteers, predominantly local gardening enthusiasts who have been screened and trained by UC Cooperative Extension scientists.
The Master Gardener volunteers answer gardening questions that come into a telephone hotline, teach gardening classes, consult with gardeners and maintain a one-acre demonstration garden at the northeast corner of McKinley and Winery avenues in Fresno.