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Latest News in Parlier, CA

Fresno State receives $4M in state funding for new mobile health units

The year was 2015 and the Fresno State mobile health unit was rolling into its very first location in Parlier, California – a small town southeast of Fresno with a population of just over 14,000. Parlier would be the first of hundreds of stops the mobile health unit would make in its first seven years, benefiting thousands of residents in rural and underserved communities along the way.The mobile health unit’s humble beginnings is a story about more than just helping others – it’s about how a community came tog...

The year was 2015 and the Fresno State mobile health unit was rolling into its very first location in Parlier, California – a small town southeast of Fresno with a population of just over 14,000. Parlier would be the first of hundreds of stops the mobile health unit would make in its first seven years, benefiting thousands of residents in rural and underserved communities along the way.

The mobile health unit’s humble beginnings is a story about more than just helping others – it’s about how a community came together for a greater purpose.

With $4 million in state funds secured by Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula, there will now be opportunities to grow the mobile health program even further. With the funding, the university will expand the mobile health unit program to include the purchase of two brand new, state-of-the-art mobile health units, bringing the future of health education at Fresno State to the forefront.

“I was proud to advocate at our state capitol and help secure $4 million in state funding for Fresno State’s mobile health unit,” Arambula said. “Through the mobile health units, future generations of students will be able to understand what our community needs, what some of our unincorporated areas are like and what some of our immigrant communities face. The poverty that we have right here in the San Joaquin Valley can only be experienced when you’re actually out in the community. I’m grateful that these investments will allow our students to understand the community that they will have the honor to serve.”

For the past seven years, the School of Nursing at Fresno State, has been operating the mobile health unit out of an RV on loan by the Fresno County Office of Education Migrant Education Program. It currently houses two individual exam rooms, as well as storage space for medical equipment and other technology. Free health care screenings, diabetes and blood pressure checks and health education, as well as flu and COVID-19 vaccines are provided by the nursing students on hand, both inside and outside of the unit.

To respond to the growing needs of the clinical program over the years, it was necessary to also expand the services and equipment needed to effectively serve the community, said Dr. Kathleen Rindahl, director of the mobile health unit program and associate professor in the School of Nursing.

With that in mind, the new mobile health units are expected to have enhanced features, including an interior space that can be modified to accommodate different program or clinical needs. Walls within the unit are designed to allow added space and can be folded to fit either one large exam room or two private exam rooms for mass vaccine clinics or health screenings. An added bonus – the new ADA-accessible mobile units will be entirely solar powered and also include a private restroom.

Since the start, the mobile health unit has been a program largely for and supported by communities within the Fresno County region. The mobile unit has visited a variety of sites around the region, from local parks and recreation areas, to nonprofits and community centers, to churches and schools. It is a true community effort, according to Rindahl. She said the impact on both the members of the community and the students gaining clinical experience has been immense.

“Our students are making a huge impact in our communities, but that’s not the best part about the mobile health unit program,” Rindahl said . “It’s the impact our communities are making on students. Anybody can read in a book about underserved populations or health disparities or limited access to rural areas. But our mobile health program gives our students firsthand experience on these health disparities within the Central Valley.”

To date, over 18,000 community members in over 270 unique sites around Fresno County have received free health care services, including those in rural areas where health care access is often limited.

Rindahl said the mobile health unit would not be possible without the partnerships formed between Fresno State and community organizations, health care systems, faith-based churches and local leaders.

This was never more apparent than in spring 2021. Although the COVID pandemic was still affecting a large part of the world, students and faculty were ready and willing to serve the local community. In partnership with Arambula, the Fresno County Department of Public Health, Saint Agnes Medical Center and local organization Cultiva la Salud, nursing students were able to administer over 8,000 COVID vaccines at pop-up vaccine clinics throughout the Valley.

“I was there on the frontlines rolling up my sleeves with many nursing students as we faced this pandemic together,” Arambula said. “From places like Del Rey and Laton, to Biola and Cantua Creek, where they don’t have access to health care services. I was so proud to work alongside the students as we administered thousands of vaccines.”

In addition to the purchase of the new mobile units, funds will also provide stipends for nursing students, who currently provide their own transportation to sites, sometimes traveling up to 70 miles round trip.

The launch of the new mobile health units will also impact the university in other ways.

“With Dr. Arambula’s support and his investment in Fresno State, we will take our mobile health program to the next level,” said Fresno State President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval. “Additionally, and just as importantly, our College of Health and Human Services will be able to involve faculty and students from other disciplines in this important work, thereby creating inter-professional experiences, experiential opportunities and high-impact practices for a greater number of students and faculty.

With two mobile health units, we will be able to multiply the benefits of our community in very significant ways. Over 3,500 students have provided almost 20,000 hours of service-learning since 2015. Imagine what is going to happen in five years with two additional mobile health units.”

While nursing students represent a majority of the volunteers on the mobile health unit, students from other health and human service fields have also played a crucial role, including students majoring in social work, athletic training, physical therapy and public health among others. It is expected that this collaborative learning opportunity will expand across campus to educate more students from various disciplines beyond health and human services.

The two new mobile health units are anticipated to hit the road in January 2023. To stay connected on the latest dates, visit the mobile health unit website.

Billions at stake for Measure C renewal, Fresno County’s largest plan for local transportation funding

Days before the November midterm election, Marianne Kast, a volunteer with the Fresno League of Women Voters, is knocking on doors in central Fresno to campaign against Measure C. Voters will decide whether to renew the half-cent sales tax to fund transportation over the next 30 years.“Hi, good morning,” Kast said, greeting a man who answered the door. “Can we count on your ‘no’ vote?” Kast is part of a team of volunteers for the ‘No on Measure C’ campaign, which has mobilized to reach v...

Days before the November midterm election, Marianne Kast, a volunteer with the Fresno League of Women Voters, is knocking on doors in central Fresno to campaign against Measure C. Voters will decide whether to renew the half-cent sales tax to fund transportation over the next 30 years.

“Hi, good morning,” Kast said, greeting a man who answered the door. “Can we count on your ‘no’ vote?” Kast is part of a team of volunteers for the ‘No on Measure C’ campaign, which has mobilized to reach voters for months.

Historically, the sales tax has won strong public support with voters first passing it in 1986 with 57 percent approval. That first version funded mostly highway construction. Then in 2006, voters renewed the tax for another 20 years, approving it with 78 percent support. That renewal provided about $1.5 billion in repairs to local roads and streets.

With the current tax set to expire in 2027, voters will decide whether to extend it through 2057. Over that 30-year span, Measure C is expected to raise nearly $7 billion. Kast said it’s a lot to take in.

“I think the details on this particular measure are overwhelming for most voters. I mean, we’re talking about billions of dollars,” Kast said.

Supporters say it will fund the maintenance of existing roads and sidewalks to keep up with Fresno County’s growing population. But opponents argue it doesn’t do enough to fund public transportation or climate-friendly solutions. In order to pass, Measure C needs to win support from two-thirds of voters.

The plan on how to divide the funds came under fire back in July when it went before the Fresno Council of Governments, which represents Fresno County’s 14 incorporated cities plus one representative for the rest of the county. That same day, the City of Fresno proposed a change to give more funding to the incorporated cities, at the expense of the county. Many community members demanded more time for public input, but the revised plan was approved on a vote of 11 to 4.

Alma Beltran, mayor of Parlier, served on the council and supported the plan. “We've been left behind for too many years,” said Beltran, who believes the tax will benefit rural communities like Parlier.

Beltran said that currently, her town doesn’t receive enough money to fix roads such as Manning Avenue, the main corridor connecting Parlier to Highway 99. This stretch of roadway takes a heavy beating from big trucks and other vehicles.

“We just get $500,000 a year that we can try to stretch it to cover certain small areas and that's not really enough,” Beltran said.

With the new Measure C proposal, Parlier would get $2.3 million a year and Beltran said the guarantee of future tax revenue would allow the city to borrow or “bond” funding for transportation projects as soon as next year.

“With this plan, I call it the people's plan. Not the Fresno plan, but the people's plan because it's for all us commuters that are out there that are going to have the safe roads that we need,” she said.

Fresno County would get more than a billion dollars in funding over the 30 year life of the measure.

Fresno County Public Works & Planning Director Steve White said the bulk of the measure money would be spent toward road maintenance, mainly things like patching potholes.

And the county has a lot of ground to cover. Out of all the counties in California, Fresno County has more miles of county-maintained roads than any other: 3,478 miles.

Under the new version of Measure C, the county would have more money available to help improve roads in three-dozen unincorporated communities, listed as “Priority Communities” in the county.

“So, with the new measure that paradigm will shift and be able to have more funding to be able to do more for them, to go in and do a complete road repair and the like, versus just pothole patching,” White said.

Another change with the new measure would allow existing sidewalks to be repaired, although building new sidewalks would still require other sources of funding.

But opponents like Marianne Kast said the measure doesn’t do enough to plan for projects outside of roads, like public transportation for the region’s growing population.

“We have many residents who have poor or lacking public transportation and that is really a major need. We’re the fifth-largest county in the state and we basically have very little in terms of public transportation,” Kast said.

Under the new measure, about 12 percent of the revenue - or $812 million - is dedicated to public transit. But each city would decide how it wants to spend those funds, rather than have communities across Fresno County work together on public transit.

Just over half of the revenue, $3.5 billion would go to repair and maintain streets. It’s a plan that Kast says fails to address many needs.

“We're collecting a lot of money. Who is actually gonna benefit? Will it be people who have cars? Will it be trucks? Will it be industrial developers? Who is it and who needs it? And I feel that the people who need it, need more of a voice,” Kast said.

If Measure C fails to win support on Tuesday, voters would have two more election cycles to consider extending the tax before it expires in 2027.

Animal shelters say they're 'beyond capacity' as more people give up their pets due to soaring inflation

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Many animal shelters across the US are "filled to capacity or beyond" according to Best Friends Animal Society.

Amid surging inflation and rising economic anxiety, more pets are being given up and adoptions are "lagging way behind," it said.

The Casper Humane Society in Wyoming told Insider it felt forced to close the list of animals waiting for a place after it became "too overwhelming."

The shelter, which takes in both pets and stray animals, generally looks after around 100 animals at any given time — including about 60 cats and 40 dogs as well as other "assorted small critters" like rodents and reptiles.

Craig Cummings, director of the Casper Humane Society, said his team has noticed a bump in the number of pets being abandoned. He said it has been forced to operate above capacity all year, and there are over 100 dogs and at least 200 of cats waiting for a safe home.

"We receive calls on a daily basis from owners that can no longer afford to keep their animals, and people who are being displaced from their housing," he said.

Surging prices and widespread housing insecurity are putting pet owners in a tricky situation.

According to estimates from the ASPCA, it costs $1,391 annually to own a dog, and $1,149 to own a cat — and soaring inflation has made pet care even pricier.

Shelters, facing their own surging costs, are struggling to pick up the pieces.

Cummings spoke to Insider in early November when it was 26 degrees Fahrenheit (–3 degrees Celsius) outside and snowing in its base in Wyoming.

Cummings said: "The animals currently in our shelter are fortunate. They have a safe and warm place to stay — and they have people that care about spending time with them even when the weather's not the best."

He worries about what will happen to pets when shelters are full: "Owners feel helpless when all the shelters are full and there are no resources for them. They often resort to rehoming on social media, which can be dangerous, or abandoning their animals with hopes that they will survive and find a new family."

"Now that winter has arrived in Wyoming, the chances of pets surviving outside alone is minimal."

Shelters' struggles aren't just about space. Soaring prices are stretching their limited funds.

The Cat House on the Kings, a no-kill shelter in Parlier, California, is currently grappling with both declining donations and declining adoptions.

Tammy Barker, the shelter's assistant director, told Insider: "When the economy is struggling and people are unsure of their financial stability, they don't donate to nonprofits like The Cat House on the Kings."

The shelter has rescued 1260 cats and kittens so far this year, but it's worried about the future. Barker said: "We're not sure how long we can continue if donations don't pick up."

In the face of a likely recession in 2023, the outlook is bleak. "We will have to turn away animals that depend on us for survival," said Barker.

Pet owners who are struggling financially could check if nearby offer support to help them keep their pets at home.

Julie Castle, chief executive officer of Best Friends Animal Society, said some shelters have started to provide "pet food pantries" to give out food.

"The pandemic kickstarted a wave of these donation-based pantries, finding a silver lining in an otherwise tumultuous time," she said. "Sometimes a bag of pet food makes all the difference between keeping a dog or cat in its home, or someone having to make the agonizing decision to surrender their pet to a shelter."

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Wineries Embrace Worms in the Fight to Conserve Water

Laura Díaz Muñoz, winemaker and general manager at Ehlers Estate in Napa Valley, is passionate about worms. They factor deeply into the notable focus on sustainability at Ehlers, a 130-year-old, certified-organic, family-owned property. It all begins with water.“We...

Laura Díaz Muñoz, winemaker and general manager at Ehlers Estate in Napa Valley, is passionate about worms. They factor deeply into the notable focus on sustainability at Ehlers, a 130-year-old, certified-organic, family-owned property. It all begins with water.

“We’re installing a new water treatment system that uses worms to process the wastewater, and I’m really excited about it,” Díaz Muñoz says. “It will allow us to treat all the wastewater we use in our facility without chemicals and produce water that’s clean enough to irrigate the vineyards and the landscaping.”

Indeed, Diaz Munoz is one of many winemakers and growers in California and throughout the West who are discovering that worms make a surprisingly effective ally in the quest to buttress winery operations against climate change.

At Ehlers, the unusual process comes courtesy of Chilean environmental engineering startup Biofiltro, a pioneer of vermifiltration—aka worm-based biofiltration—in the form of the company’s patented Biodynamic Aerobic System (BIDA). Harnessing the digestive power of millions or even billions of earthworms together with beneficial microbes, the system removes up to 99% of contaminants without the need for chemicals, Biofiltro claims.

Feeding on the grape skins, seeds, sugars and other organic compounds in winery gray water, the worms generate nutrient-dense worm castings, a rich source of fertilizer. Best of all, the worms work their magic in a matter of hours with little energy required, unlike the most common rival system, aerobic filtration ponds, which typically draw power from the electric grid to pump and circulate the water.

The Down Low on Vermifiltration

BioFiltro’s process isn’t unique. Vermifiltration has been around since the early 1990s, when researchers in Chile began studying and promoting it as a low-cost, low-tech method to treat agricultural wastewater and sewage. However, the method only began to gain traction internationally in recent years, and while a few small companies provide similar systems in New Zealand, India and elsewhere, BioFiltro is currently the only company with offices and projects in the U.S.—and certainly the only one with a specialization in the wine industry. (Biofiltro also has more than 190 installations up and running around the globe, at dairies, waste haulers and facilities for processing meat, milk and other foods.)

“My company was contracted to do an analysis of the technology as an independent third party and I was impressed,” says wastewater specialist Ron Crites, the chief engineer for the environmentally-focused Brown & Caldwell Engineers. “They do a good job, and they’re very efficient and sustainable.”

Crites, who is also the co-author of the wastewater treatment guide Natural Wastewater Treatment Systems, adds that he’s impressed with the adaptability of the technology. Each individual system is optimized for the type of waste and level of treatment that a given winery, dairy or other agricultural customer requires. “It really is a green technology,” he says.

Five years ago in Mendocino, the sustainable winery Fetzer, a certified B corp and proponent of regenerative wine growing, installed the first BioFiltro BIDA system in the U.S. to treat 100% of its wastewater. “We specifically chose California as a [U.S.] landing point because the state has some of the strictest air and water-quality requirements in the world, and we wanted to demonstrate how our system performed under these requirements,” says Mai Ann Healy, BioFiltro’s Chief of Impact and Sustainability Officer.

Since then, nine wineries in California, Oregon and Washington have installed worm treatment systems, with at least ten more operations in the pipeline.

Worm Water Takes Wineries by Storm

Spread across five acres at the sprawling Parlier, California, facility of O’Neill Vineyards, what appear to be 12 Olympic-sized swimming pools are in fact sunken beds filled with worms. BioFiltro’s largest winery system to date, unveiled in September 2020, it’s capable of processing more than a million gallons of wastewater a day, and up to 80 million gallons a year.

“We try to take advantage of new innovations, and we chose the BIDA system because their worm filtration process is 100% natural and because of its low-energy requirement compared to similar systems,” says Phil Castro, O’Neill’s Senior Director of Winery Operations.

The O’Neill Vineyards system can treat up to 1.15 million gallons a day during peak harvest, but BioFiltro’s “wriggle rooms,” as they dub their modular systems, come in multiple sizes, the smallest treating just 500 to 750 gallons a day. This makes the systems appealing to smaller wineries, many of which have been quick to adopt worms in their facilities.

A newcomer in the Carneros region, Sleeping Giant Winery is one of the most recent adoptees, having just installed one of Biofiltro’s box modules in April. Another strong proponent of worm water, Frey Vineyards in Mendocino, began treating 10,000 gallons of its gray water a day in 2019.

Looking Toward the Future

With all but one of the past 11 years classified as drought years, and with 2020 and 2021 on record as the second-driest two year-period in California since record-keeping began in 1895, it’s no wonder that concerns about water are top of mind for growers. After all, vines aren’t the only things that need water. The entirety of the wine production process is water intensive. Water footprint studies show that it can take as much as 120 liters of water to produce just one glass of wine.

At Ehlers, Díaz Muñoz believes the BIDA system will be a key component of the winery’s strategy for coping with drought and rising temperatures, as well as efforts to serve the growing number of visitors who come to savor the winery’s vintages in the high-ceilinged stone tasting room.

“Water is the number one resource that we need to be concerned about, that’s for sure, and we want to make sure that the water that goes back into the soil is the best quality possible,” Díaz Muñoz says.

“It’s not just about farming, there’s the social aspect of being a good steward of the land and member of the community. At the end of the day, we’re pumping groundwater and we all need to do our share to conserve it and make sure it lasts.”

Dahlberg named National Sorghum Foundation chairman

LUBBOCK, TEXAS, US — Jeff Dahlberg, PhD, a veteran sorghum industry researcher who previously spent two decades with the National Sorghum Producers (NSP) and United Sorghum Checkoff Program, has been appointed chairman of the National Sorghum Foundation, succeeding Larry Lambright, who served as chairman for the past three years.“We are thrilled to welcome Jeff back to Team Sorghum,” said Tim Lust, chief executive officer of the ...

LUBBOCK, TEXAS, US — Jeff Dahlberg, PhD, a veteran sorghum industry researcher who previously spent two decades with the National Sorghum Producers (NSP) and United Sorghum Checkoff Program, has been appointed chairman of the National Sorghum Foundation, succeeding Larry Lambright, who served as chairman for the past three years.

“We are thrilled to welcome Jeff back to Team Sorghum,” said Tim Lust, chief executive officer of the National Sorghum Producers. “He has dedicated his life to the research and development in the sorghum industry, and I can think of no better person to lead the National Sorghum Foundation as it continues its support of industry research and education and investment into future sorghum leaders.”

Dahlberg’s career in the sorghum industry began while he was a volunteer agricultural extension agent with the US Peace Corps in Niger from 1980-84. While in Niger, Dahlberg became intrigued by a very drought-tolerant crop grown by subsistence farmers—sorghum.

Dahlberg has worked as the research geneticist and sorghum curator at the US Department of Agriculture Research Service Tropical Crops and Germplasm Research Center in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. For more than 20 years, he worked as the research director for NSP and the United Sorghum Checkoff Program, and during this time, he served for two years as the president of the Whole Grains Council. Dahlberg recently retired as director of the University of California Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier, California, US.

“I look forward to continuing the work that Bruce Maunder and Larry Lambright started with the Foundation,” Dahlberg said. “The Foundation gives us the ability to support research, but more importantly to help identify the next generation of sorghum research and policy leaders through our support of scholarships. Identifying and helping students as they work toward degrees that support sorghum farmers and research is critical to the success of sorghum as it takes its place as an important cereal crop that can thrive under ever changing climate challenges.”

During his tenure as Foundation chairman, Lambright drew on a strong education in crop science and more than 50 years of experience as a sorghum breeder.

“We are incredibly grateful for Larry’s service to the National Sorghum Foundation,” Lust said. “He has volunteered countless hours for the betterment of the sorghum industry and has continually invested into the future of young adults who have a passion for the crop. We wish him all the best.”

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