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New agriculture center opens in Stockton

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Posted: Wednesday, August 20, 2008 10:00 pm

It may not be in Lodi, but everything ag-related in San Joaquin County except the Farm Bureau is now located in a single building.

The 55,000-square-foot building is located around the corner from Stockton Metropolitan Airport and named after the late county Supervisor Robert Cabral. The center was just recently completed and is now home to the agricultural commissioner's office, animal control, weights and measures, the U.C. Cooperative Extension, the county's Office of Emergency Services and the Emergency Operations Center.

"It's one-stop shopping for the ag community," Agricultural Commissioner Scott Hudson said.

The building and parking lot cost from $16 million to $17 million, not counting underground infrastructure, county spokeswoman Karen McConnell said. A grand opening and dedication will be held Sept. 11.

The U.C. Cooperative Extension helps farmers with diseased crops, researches soil and water samples, organizes 4-H programs in the county and assists local residents who want to plant garden in their yards.

The Agricultural Commissioner's Office is involved with regulating farmers, and the OES coordinates responses to natural disasters like floods and earthquakes.

The OES office regulates businesses that use chemicals.

While the three offices were in Stockton, they weren't close together. The Agricultural Commissioner's Office was on East Hazelton Avenue south of Highway 4, the OES was in the county courthouse on East Weber Avenue and the Cooperative Extension was on South Wilson Way.

"We like it a lot," said Debbie Montano, an office assistant at the U.C. Cooperative Extension. "It has a nice feeling to it. It's in a much nicer part of town."

(Marc Lutz/News-Sentinel)

Hudson said he hopes the U.S. Department of Agriculture, now off March Lane, will move into the county Agricultural Center.

Although it is in Stockton's southernmost reaches and is quite a drive from the Lodi area, Hudson said that county officials chose the site off Arch-Airport Way because it is centrally located in the county and has easy access to Highway 99.

The San Joaquin Farm Bureau Federation, a private organization, would love to move next door to the Cabral Center, but high construction costs have put a crimp into the Farm Bureau's plans, Executive Director Bruce Blodgett said.

Farm Bureau officials hope to explore the idea again, Blodgett said.

The Cabral Center's entrance takes you to a view of 12 elaborate depictions of farms throughout the county. The photos range from 6-by-6 feet to 8-by-16 feet.

The works of art were produced through a volunteer effort by the Stockton Camera Club, which took 1,000 pictures of farmland throughout the county between January and April, said Mick Canevari, director and field crops adviser for the Cooperative Extension.

One of the main attractions for the agricultural center is the Evelyn Costa Conference Room, which can seat 500 for meetings, events and training, Hudson said. It can be divided into three rooms. If the OES needs the space while responding to a disaster, the Costa room can be used.

The center also includes a large kitchen, three classrooms and two stories of office space, Hudson said.

New phone numbers

The Robert J. Cabral Agricultural Center is located at 2101 E. Earhart Road, off Arch-Airport Way, in Stockton.

Each agency housed in the center has new phone numbers. They are:

  • Agricultural commissioner: 953-6000.
  • U.C. Cooperative Extension: 953-6100.
  • Office of Emergency Service: 953-6200.

    Grand opening

    The grand opening celebration for the Robert J. Cabral Agricultural Center will be held from noon to 2 p.m. on Sept. 11. Tours of the center will be provided and the OES will be set up as if a natural disaster is taking place.

    Source: San Joaquin County

Near the front door is a demonstration garden where residents can learn about gardening techniques, Hudson said.

One of the U.C. Cooperative Extension office's functions is to help farmers with their crops.

"A farmer will call and say, 'I've got a problem with my crop,'" said Mick Canevari, the U.C. Cooperative Extension's director for San Joaquin County and field crops farm adviser.

A Cooperative Extension employee would then go to the ranch, cut off a piece of the plant and bring it back to his office to perform tests on the plant and see what's wrong with it, Canevari said.

For example, Lodi's Joe Grant, a tree crops farm adviser, spent Wednesday analyzing a Lockeford walnut plant that had dark markings on the tip of its leaves. Grant said he gets one to two dozen calls per day from farmers facing a problem.

The OES office isn't terribly spectacular in appearance. Most of it consists of office cubicles, but there is a room with 12 cubicles with phones and radios than can be used when disaster strikes.

The OES regulates about 2,500 businesses that use hazardous substances like large volumes of cement, fuels and oil, said Art Bentley, a hazardous materials specialist supervisor.

The OES also regulates dry cleaners and establishments like soda machines, which use carbon dioxide, Bentley said.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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