Jesus Valencia is now the University of California Cooperative Extension vegetable crops farm advisor for Fresno County, transferring from UCCE's Stanislaus County office.

Valencia began his career in agriculture on his father's 200-acre vegetable farm in Michoacan, Mexico. When he was 10, Valencia began migrating with his family to the United States during the summer months to work as a farm laborer.

“We had no choice. Prices were low in Mexico, so we were losing money all the time,” Valencia said. “At the end of the summer I would count the days till I could return to school in Michoacan.”

Valencia said it wasn't all bad. “Sometimes it was fun, working in Washington and Oregon with my uncles, living under trees or in tents and bathing in streams and rivers.”

To the surprise of his nine siblings, the arduous migrant labor of his youth sparked an interest in agricultural science. Valencia studied plant science at San Joaquin Delta Community College and in 1983 joined the UC Cooperative Extension staff in Fresno County as an assistant to now-retired vegetable crops advisor Don May.

Valencia pursued bachelor's and master's degrees in plant science at California State University, Fresno. Shortly after graduation in 1989, he was named vegetable crops farm advisor in Stanislaus County.

Valencia worked with large- and small-scale farmers growing tomatoes, bell peppers, melons, sweet corn, squash, green beans, spinach, peas, dry beans, sugar beets, and many other vegetables. He made it a priority to quickly identify and solve problems that threatened the livelihood of Stanislaus County growers.

During his 12 years at UCCE in Stanislaus County, Valencia worked on vegetable crop irrigation, nutrition, plant pathogens, insects, weeds, variety selection, and other issues.

Valencia accepted the Fresno vegetable crops position effective Oct. 1, 2001. In Fresno County, Valencia is working with growers, pest control advisers and managers of some of the world's largest vegetable farms. Fresno County is the leading vegetable producing county in the state, both in terms of acreage and total gross revenue. The county ranks No. 1 in production of processing and fresh market tomatoes, cantaloupes, honeydew, garlic, and onions.

He can be reached at (559) 456-7553, jgvalencia@ucdavis.edu.