Posts Tagged: postharvest
Namesake of the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center’s postharvest center, F. Gordon Mitchell, died in February. He was 88.
Mr. Mitchell began his distinguished career with the University of California Cooperative Extension immediately following graduation from college in 1949. He was the viticulture advisor in San Joaquin County for eight years before taking a position as statewide pomology specialist at UC Davis in 1957.
During his career, Mr. Mitchell’s work resulted in an industry-wide change to rapid cooling methods, the improvement in fruit packing efficiency, and greater understanding among farmers about the requirements of produce during the postharvest time period. He worked primarily on plums, peaches, nectarines, cherries, pears, strawberries, applies and kiwifruit, however, during his 42-year career conducted research on virtually all pomological commodities.
Mr. Mitchell retired in 1991. When Dinuba farmer/packer LeRoy Giannini contributed funds to build the new postharvest laboratory at Kearney, he suggested naming the building after Mr. Mitchell. On Feb. 8, 1993, the facility was christened the F. Gordon Mitchell Postharvest center.
Emeritus UC Cooperative Extension specialist Jim Thompson of the UC Davis Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering said Mr. Mitchell worked tirelessly with the California agriculture industry to improve the market for the state’s fresh fruits and tree nuts.
“He developed the early concepts and standards for handling California Granny Smith and Fuji apples, kiwifruit, and pistachio nuts,” Thompson said. “When the tree fruit industry had questions about postharvest issues, their first phone call was to Gordon."
UC Cooperative Extension postharvest horticulturist Mary Lu Arpaia, who is based at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, counts Mr. Mitchell as a mentor and guidepost for her career.
“Sometimes the best things in life that happen to you are unplanned,” Arpaia said about taking a job in the UC Davis postharvest lab when she was a graduate student. “That job was with Gordon and that was serendipity. When I think back on that one event I know it was one of the most important events in my graduate career and subsequent adventures in life.”
Arpaia said Mr. Mitchell’s work with his colleagues with forced air cooling and packaging established him to be a leader, “albeit a soft spoken one,” in the field of postharvest handling.
Mr. Mitchell was a Davis resident for 55 years. The family obituary described him as a gentle and devoted soul who took great pride in his faith, family and career. Mr. Mitchell is survived by his sister, two sons, a daughter and six grandchildren.
Gordon Mitchell (left) with post harvest scientist Carlos Crisosto in front of the F. Gordon Mitchell Postharvest Center at Kearney.
UC subtropical horticulture specialist Mary Lu Arpaia, who is based at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, was one of four UC specialists who traveled to Sarajevo Oct. 24-28 at the request of local officials to present a condensed version of the UC Postharvest Technology Short Course. Nearly 100 participants from 11 countries attended the program, which included lectures and a field tour. Simultaneous translation was offered in Bosnian and Russian.
“To me it was a very interesting experience,” Arpaia said. “The participants were very engaged in the course and asked lots of questions that were spot-on in terms of sharing practical information. They were very keen to get information on the ‘how to’ and solving practical situations."
Mary Reed of the UC Postharvest Technology Center said interest in the short course was remarkable given that the first estimate from planners was for 25 participants.
“Interest just kept growing and growing as word got around,” Reed said. “Given the challenges of traveling in the region, acquiring visas, and obtaining agency permissions, the participants really had to overcome significant obstacles in order to attend.”
Arpaia said the four-days she spent with Eastern European farmers in an area that suffered bitter ethnic conflicts in the 1990s also made a profound personal impression.
“I had been aware of the war in the Balkans but never fully appreciated the impact of that war on people’s lives,” she said. “You can still see the physical scars of the war – mortar shell scars on buildings, burned and abandoned buildings – and, more dramatically, hear the angst of the people when they talked about those times. It is another example to reflect upon in terms of how lucky we are in the U.S. and that we need to forever be vigilant not to allow animosities to fester due to ethnicity, religion etc.”
UC Davis Postharvest Technology Center instructors to the Balkans Regional Postharvest Technology training: (L-R) Drs. Michael Reid, Elizabeth Mitcham, Mary Lu Arpaia, Marita Cantwell.