Monday, October 26, 2009
I read Possessing the Secret of Joy, by Alice Walker, this weekend. I couldn't put it down. I was supposed to be writing a comparison paper on Italian poetry from the Renaissance. Instead I was reading a fictional account of a woman's struggle to cope with the emotional impact of female genital mutilation (FGM) or as some cultures call it "female circumcision." (FYI: I find the latter description to be too clinical to describe the ritualistic process of desexing female children)
I was mesmerized, haunted, and completely drawn into the pain of the main character. Yes, the practice is foreign to a Western white woman, and for that matter horrifying... but what amazed me was Walker's artistic weaving in of social and psychological issues to the act of FGM that come back to issues present in society today that plague even one such as myself.
FGM has taken up residence in my consciousness most recently because of my Women's Studies class I'm taking at UC Davis. I have found myself compelled to know more, to understand more, and to advocate for women where possible. What I did not expect (but I should have) was to come up against my own darkness in the process.
The next few months and the paper I hope to write about this journey should be ... interesting to say the least... enlightening, I hope... one step at a time.
This idea started from a pair of shoes... I just love my new Danskos... and have been wearing them everywhere. Then I thought what fun it would be to wear them with my purple striped socks that go up to my knees... and what better way to show of the socks than with a short black skirt... and then I thought, wow, I've been wanting to dye my hair black for a while too! The crowning touch was when Noah came up with the wings, though... it's a gauzy butterfly I've had in a box for years now... fantastic! I want to wear this every day!
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
I grew up in the Deep South, the daughter of a minister. I was taught the value of self-reliance, and that all people deserve respect and basic rights. I grew up under the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I firmly believed during those young years of my life that if I kept my head down and acted with integrity, others would treat me the same way. That philosophy seemed like the answer to the world’s troubles. If others would follow the same rule, then their lives would begin to change for the better. If I had never left my home town, I would probably still fit neatly into the mould that my upbringing created. I am sure that I push the minister’s boundaries now with my views of who deserves which rights.
Coming from these very conservative beginnings, it might seem that I am treading water in unfriendly seas. I believe I felt that way at first. However, the more I come to know people, the more their voices break into my sphere of understanding, the more I feel that we’re all bound together with an obligation to hold one another up.
In college, I met a young woman from Kenya who opened my eyes to the conflict in Sudan and the atrocities there. I saw what I had been sheltered from or oblivious to in my youth, the indiscriminate persecution of innocents. The more I became aware, the more I saw people pressed down, rights stripped, lives taken. At first I tried to reconcile this reality with the theories I had been taught growing up. Why couldn’t they just do the right thing and begin to see their lives turn right? I began to see that kind of black and white, cause and effect mentality was impossible. I realized that there are many people in the world who need someone to speak for and empower them, to give them hope and strength. I wanted to do something to make a difference.
Another theme that emerged in my life during college was feminism. Of course, this was not in its purest form, but I have always had a firm belief in self-reliance and the strength and power of women and this made an impression on people. I spent time encouraging the freshmen women on my floor during my senior year to pursue their passions and seek their self-worth in other places than the traditional gender roles lend themselves.
My life since college has been a slow emergence from the cocoon of sheltered self-centeredness. One step at a time, usually through the means I have available at the time, I have been coming out into the world with a desire to affect those around me. If at all possible, every day I reach out a hand to encourage or lift up the person next to me, no matter their gender or sexual orientation.
Last year, as a part of my job here at UC Davis, I was asked to write an article on women and wine for the university alumni magazine. I welcomed the opportunity to learn about the amazing women who are shining in this male-dominated field. As a result of that assignment, I realized that I have always had a passion for empowering women and a desire to celebrate our achievements. My goal in pursuing this certificate is to gain a solid base of theory to go with the rumblings and beliefs that stir in my spirit. I would like to write more about the power and presence of women in the world, and I feel that having a solid background in theory will help me gain perspective and credibility should my words come into question. I am hopeful that this certificate could offer me the beginning of that solid background.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Just stretching my typing fingers a moment before the day ends... I've been idle for so long, distracted by things that fill time but are not of value, I think.
A friend's blog offered me a moment to tap into my creative side again... naming chickens... my suggestions: Hester, Hepzibah, and Elphie. I like the name Hester. It's old in a trusty way.
The calendar has flipped over again and my mother is coming this weekend. I'm seeking center... peace... and somehow magic, too.
I hope your midweek day is going well.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Thursday was named for the god Jupiter, god of sky and thunder to the Romans. The old nursery rhyme says "Thursday's child has far to go."
That got me thinking. What day of the week was I born on? Was it one of those days that you're rushing through? A day no one cares to remember? I found this great website that will show you a calendar for any year from the years 1000 to 2100.
Tuesday's child is full of grace,
Wednesday's child is full of woe,
Thursday's child has far to go,
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child works hard for a living,
But the child who is born on the Sabbath Day
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Women in Wine
Cliquot is credited by some historians with developing an aging technique called riddling, which is still used today in champagne production to improve the clarity and quality of the wine.
Madame Pommery developed the driest and most popular forms of champagne — brut and extra brut — to appeal to English tastes and tap new overseas markets. In the process she transformed her small business into a world-renowned champagne house.
But as businesswomen and pioneers, they remained the exception to the rule — until now.
It’s a much different story today. By virtue of their passion, drive and diverse approaches to the business of winemaking, women have emerged as a defining force in California wine. And for many women in the wine industry today, a UC Davis education has been the key to their success.
“No center of higher learning related to wine has been more important for women than the Department of Viticulture and Enology at the University of California at Davis,” says Ann Matasar in her 2006 book Women of Wine, which looks at the contributions women have made to the industry throughout history.
The department was established in 1935, two years after the repeal of Prohibition. For 30 years, the grape growing and winemaking programs remained male domains.
In 1965, Mary Ann Graf became the first woman to graduate from the viticulture and enology department at UC Davis (majoring in fermentation science). When asked about this achievement now, she says, “It wasn’t that big a deal. In those days I thought that a college education was the key to getting a good job.”
The reality is that Graf, by blazing her own trail into the world of wine, left a path for other women to follow. By the early 1990s, nearly 50 percent of UC Davis’s viticulture and enology graduates were women. In the same way, Matasar says, UC Davis made it respectable for similar institutions elsewhere to follow its example of fostering women as leaders in the field. The Geisenheim State Research Institute in Germany, for example, hired Monika Christmann as head of its enology department in 1993, three years after UC Davis’ program named geneticist Linda Bisson as its first woman chair.
Today, there are many exceptional women in the business. The Wine Institute notes that about 15–20 percent of winemakers in California are women.
In the current market, their gender may give them an edge.
According to the Wine Institute, women purchase 57 percent of the wine consumed in the United States. For women, label design, bottle shape, and the winery philosophy rank just as high as wine quality, so wine industry marketing professionals have had to develop more savvy in their appeal to the female consumer.
Sonoma County winemaker Merry Edwards, M.S. ’73, finds that “women tasters are less inhibited in talking about wine and relating it to food, where men tend to get hung up on saying the right thing, using the right language.” And many female vintners are succeeding in creating and promoting wines that appeal widely to other women.
Of course, it hasn’t always been that way. Even with the power of knowledge and the passion of artistry behind them, some of the early female pioneers in the California industry found it hard to get a foot in the cellar door.
Edwards said she encountered gender discrimination repeatedly while pursuing a winemaking career.
“After gaining valuable experience at my first job, I still came up against the same discrimination I had encountered before I gained all that experience,” says Edwards. She found that the perception of women as the weaker sex worked against her, even when she had proved she could handle the physical aspects of the job. After making wines for a number of vintners, she now has her own label and pinot noir vineyards. In 2007, she opened Merry Edwards Winery in Sebastopol.
Zelma Long, who co-owns Long Vineyards in Napa Valley and also produces wine in Germany and South Africa under the Zelphi label, says she was less affected by gender discrimination. “My first 10 years in the industry, things were moving so fast that there wasn’t time to notice if there was any resistance to my being a woman.” In fact, she believes that being a woman was an advantage early on because she stood out in a crowd. After attending the master’s program in enology at UC Davis in 1970, Long began her career by interning with Robert Mondavi Winery. She loved the work so much that she has never looked back, going on to establish herself as a talented winemaker and mentor of other talented women in the industry. Among them was UC Davis alumna Diane Kenworthy ’86, a Sonoma County vineyard manager who in 1997–98 served as the first woman president of the American Society of Enology and Viticulture.
Women continue to create names for themselves in the industry by striking the right combination of premium products and well-targeted marketing.
Bisson says that, with time, even more women may be attracted to careers in the wine industry for its variety of roles — from viticulture to winemaking to marketing — and with its flexible hours during most of the year for family life. “It is fair to say that the glass ceiling has been smashed.”
Even Edwards notes that when she was working for Matanzas Creek Winery in Sonoma County, her bosses provided a nanny so that she could bring her son to work with her during the busiest parts of the year.
Today, at her own winery, she strives to maintain a family atmosphere even during harvest. “Every day we feed everybody a healthy lunch,” she says. “It keeps everybody together and keeps the energy focused on the winemaking.”
A new generation of female winemakers is also leading the movement to go green.
Edwards’ winery, located at Coopersmith vineyard in the Russian River Valley, runs largely on solar power. “The benefits far outweigh the cost,” she says. “There are a lot of good things happening with the green movement. I’m really happy to be involved.”
Sarah Cahn Bennett’s family winery, Navarro Vineyards in Mendocino County, is finding innovative ways to stay sustainable too — keeping a flock of miniature babydoll sheep to control vineyard weeds. The woolly vineyard workers, too short to damage the vines, reduce energy consumption.
Bennett, M.S. ’06, said she likes the complexity of her work as an enologist. “Good winemakers combine cerebral and physical skills. The wine industry is fun as well as challenging. It requires you to be a jack of all trades. Just when you get bored with one job, there is another completely different project to get involved with.”
In helping to run the winery, Bennett applies her business skills — a critical part of the job. The UC Davis Graduate School of Management now offers a week-long program for wine executives. Participation by women has risen from 20 percent to 31 percent of attendees over the last eight years.
Alison Crowe, an award-winning Napa winemaker and wine columnist who earned her bachelor’s degree in fermentation science and Spanish at UC Davis in 1999, participated in the GSM program in 2007, and taught a segment of the program in 2008 and 2009. “A solid foundation in business and management is fundamental to the success of wineries,” Crowe says. “The wine executives program provides perspective of the many facets of the wine business. Learning how each individual role adds value to the whole product helps foster a more supportive atmosphere in each winery.”
Crowe is now pursuing a UC Davis Master of Business Administration while working full time as a winemaker for Plata Wine Partners in Napa.
There are still relatively few women in top corporate positions in the wine industry, but increasing numbers of women own and operate small wineries. Boutique labels like Merry Edwards Wines and La Sirena (Heidi Peterson Barrett ’80) have become popular in recent years with consumers and wine critics. Smaller wineries, able to sell directly to consumers, are thriving, even as large wineries flood the market and mid-sized wineries get bought up by larger corporations.
“There are many more women in the business now than in the generation before,” Bennett says. “There is nothing in the business that makes it inaccessible for a woman.”
Zelphi Wine’s Long agrees, saying that, “as growth in consumption and higher-quality products continue to emerge, the industry will become more competitive and more diverse.”
And Bisson says UC Davis’ female wine pioneers deserve credit for breaking down those barriers: “There were a lot of talented people who hung with it, who knew they were making a quality product. They emerged as forces in their own right with wines that were so good people had to pay attention to them.”
Thursday, May 14, 2009
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Graduate students in agriculture put their passports to good use
The International Agricultural Development Graduate Group at UC Davis is really going places. IAD graduates are spread from California to the Horn of Africa, making a difference wherever they go.
“We have alumni placed all over the world, working
for the federal government, foundations, and many
nongovernmental organizations,” says program chair and plant sciences professor Richard Plant. “Our graduates are equipped with knowledge and skills that enable them to implement, facilitate, and manage programs in agricultural development, resource management, and rural life.”
The graduate group was created in the 1980s to prepare students for careers in agricultural and rural development around the world. The interdisciplinary program draws on the knowledge of 80 faculty members in 31 departments across the campus. The IAD master’s program, which admits 15–20 students annually, gives students an understanding of agricultural theory and application.
“Many of our students come with some experience, such as working with the Peace Corps or other organizations,” says Plant. “Many of them did not have an undergraduate background in agriculture, and only realized the importance of agriculture after their own experience.”
In addition to subject matter within agriculture and social sciences, IAD students learn about
development, leadership and management techniques, fundamentals of crop and livestock
farming systems, and agricultural economics.
For information about working internationally or for more training, check out the IAD Graduate Group online at http://iad.ucdavis.edu.
— Elisabeth Kauffman
Zachary Bagley spent time as an undergraduate studying links between wildlife conservation efforts and local poverty in Kenya. “This experience opened my eyes to issues related to both human well-being and wildlife protection,” says Bagley, now an IAD master’s degree student. “I chose UC Davis because of its positive reputation in the agricultural realm, its proven experience in the international arena, and its connections with the Peace Corps.”
Anna Petersons spent two years with the Peace Corps in the Republic of Niger, West Africa, helping the small rural community of Holloballe find solutions to its water needs. “I loved working with these small farmers in the middle of nowhere, but with only a bachelor’s degree, I knew I wasn’t qualified for a lot of jobs in agricultural development,” she said. “The IAD program has given me what I was looking for—a broader perspective on global agriculture.” Petersons began her master’s degree in the UC Davis IAD graduate program in 2007. Over the 2009 winter quarter she took some time off to work in India with a start-up company helping small farmers with drip irrigation. She returned for spring quarter to complete the master’s program.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
I mean, look at that face? What isn't there to love?
The latest cuteness on this adorable pup has to do with his efforts to win over my cats. Truth be told, Bangs and the nameless kitty hate the dog. I mean they HATE him. I often feel a little sorry for Tag. He is a gentle sort of pup. But occasionally he deserves their ire and derision. After this past weekend, though, he'll have to do something pretty heinous, like try to maul them, for me to think he deserves it.
We have a long hallway in our house. At the end, it turns a corner to the bathroom and the "cats' room," also known as our study. There's a baby gate up in front of the study so that the cats can retreat there and so that Tag can't go digging for buried treasure in the litter box. (Yuck!)
Sunday evening, the typical scene unfolds before my eyes. Bangs comes down off the cat condo in the living room and makes a sprint down the hall for the baby gate, puppy close behind. Instead of hearing the usual noise of a cat flinging itself over the gate, though, I hear... nothing.
Noah and I get up to investigate. What we find at the end of the hall amuses us. Bangs is crouched in the bathroom next to the toilet and growling. Tag is lying down outside the bathroom, nose on the ground and stretched out towards the kitty, sniffing.
Noah favors breaking up the incident, but I want to let it play out a little. I step over the puppy and into the bathroom to sit down next to Bangs. Noah stands in the hall next to Tag. Fifteen minutes or so go past in which Tag scoots close enough to sniff Bangs and gets growled and hissed back repeatedly.
Then something happens that neither Noah nor I could have expected. Tag gets up and walks away. Bored? We hear him go into his crate in the bedroom, presumably for a toy. When he comes back, I can't tell what he has brought with him. He walks straight up to Bangs and presents him with... a doggy biscuit! He is SO proud of this biscuit. He picks it up again, walks into the hall, puts it back down and barks at it, a playful puppy bark.
Noah and I are amazed. I take the biscuit and break it so that Tag can have some and Bangs can have some. Bangs sniffs interestedly for a moment but the biscuit's been in a dog's mouth so he's not about to actually consume it. Tag happily munches his part of the biscuit and then finishes Bang's untouched bit while Bangs looks on grouchily.
I can't stand it! It's so cute how much effort he made to make friends in that moment. Of course, half an hour later, he chased the cat back down the hall and over the gate again, Bangs's tail fluffed in terror... but he's trying. And I'm hopeful that he will succeed.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
This is the newest addition to the Kauffman family. Tag (Montague L Kauffman or MLK) is a joy, a bouncing baby collie full of energy and love and expressiveness. We have been greatly enjoying the time we spend with him.
We've also been greatly challenged. Patience and a fine tuning of communication skills and expectations are easy to wear thin when you get home from a long day of work, or when you are the only one who has been home to clean up after the puppy. Learning how he works and what he thinks and how to teach him the ways of life in a house as a well-behaved pup has stretched Noah and me more than I expected. I'm expectant that we will come out better people on the other end of this puppy stage of life.
Keep your eye out for Tag in the future. I have high hopes for this brilliant little fluff ball. Some good training and attention should make him into quite the performer! I'll keep you posted on his growth and progress.
This photo was taken on his homecoming day, February 7th, 2009. Tag was 9 weeks old.
Monday, February 2, 2009
For some time now... I'd say a good 4 months or so... I've been catching up with old acquaintances on Facebook. I'm utterly amazed at how many random people from my past keep cropping up in unexpected places. It's the miracle of the age of social media, I guess. (I could digress here, but I'm going to try to stay on topic.) I've been on Facebook a while now, and, as typical with any technology, now that the star is fast burning out finally the "main stream" is beginning to catch on to the trend. More and more people keep cropping up.
There are those I am so overjoyed to reconnect with, and those that I choose to ignore, and those that choose to ignore me. Whatever, be well and happy... we're all on to the next stage of life anyways.
And yet, I find that the more people I hear of, see through other friends' photographs, catch snippets of reminisces from... the more depressed I become. Out of the fog of my past comes this memory that... I HATED high school... I was MISERABLE, lonely, depressed, and had no self-esteem. I mean, I had friends... but I'm remembering how utterly uncool I was, how much of a fringe kid, how awkward and unaccepted. Even my best friends had better friends than me.
I'm not sure what kept me from really engaging in life during that time, but I think I spent most of my childhood in an imaginary world. I don't really have many memories, souvenirs of my past to look back on. What is so terrible about that now is that I'm reminded of it through my total absence in most of the pictures that my childhood friends are posting. Granted, there are still a few out there... pretty sure I'm not a vampire, I show up in photographs and can see myself in mirrors.
I find myself sad, wishing that I was a bigger part of someone's happy memories of their youth. And yet... I don't think I'm even a part of my own memories. My heart aches for the lost years of my life.
The thing is, so much has happened in my life since then. I moved across country. I came out of my shell and connected with myself and with others. I found a wonderful man who loves me for all the stupidness and awkwardness that is me. I'm by no means a person who loves myself and accepts all people no questions asked... but I'm closer than I was before.
So I'm disconcerted by the way that seeing everyone else remembering how fun high school was and what dorks we all were then makes me want to curl up in a ball and never speak to anyone again. We're all SO ON to the next phase in our lives. What is it that I'm not letting go of?
Friday, January 2, 2009
I wanted to share an article I wrote for the CA&ES Outlook Magazine (College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences alumni publication)
An earthy undertone
Viticulture and enology graduate helps a family winery go green
For Sarah Cahn Bennett, making good wine is a way of life.
Bennett grew up on her parents’ Navarro Vineyards winery in Anderson Valley, in Mendocino County, California. Her parents started the sustainable vineyard in the 1970s with the perfect Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay their main objectives. As their business grew, so did their selection of fine wines. Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Muscat Blanc joined the lineup, and children Sarah and Aaron became part of the Navarro team. After achieving a bachelor’s degree in business administration from St. Mary’s College, Bennett set her sights on a master’s degree in viticulture and enology at UC Davis.
“Sarah knew exactly where she was going to go, exactly what she was going to do,” said viticulture and enology professor Doug Adams.
Adams’ research into the development of tannins in the skins and seeds of red wine varieties was a good fit for her interests. Bennett and her fellow students collected wines from California, Oregon, and Washington and compared the phenolics of the wine, including tannin which is found in grapes and wine. Bennett then began to look at how that research could be incorporated into winemaking methods.
Bennett now applies this knowledge to Navarro’s selection of Pinot Noirs. Her research helps the winemaking process, and adds a scientific scale to taste and perception.
“We measure many of these wines so that we have real number comparisons between areas,” Bennett says. Other Anderson valley vineyards use the results of Bennett’s assay to articulate what makes wine from their region unique.
Part of what Bennett believes makes Navarro Vineyards special is its commitment to sustainability. Along with avoiding the use of herbicides and pesticides on their land, Bennett has introduced a flock of Babydoll sheep to the vineyard. These miniature sheep have been extremely effective in controlling unwanted plant growth beneath the vines. The sheep, too short to do any damage to the fruit or vines, clean out sucker shoots and weeds that would otherwise be very difficult to reach.
Bennett and her family believe that sustainability stretches further than the field. Navarro Vineyards is committed to employment practices that establish loyalty and a sense of ownership for their workers. All Navarro Vineyards employees are full-time members of the company with full benefits.
Bennett recognizes the advantages that her time at UC Davis gave her. “I feel like I now know a good portion of the people in the industry,” she says. “I always knew I wanted to be in the wine industry. UC Davis was the perfect opportunity to help make that happen.”
- Elisabeth Kauffman
Something happened this week that has been a long time coming, and something I never thought would actually come true in my life. If you know anything about me, you know I ride horses once a week. I have been riding for the past year. It has been a life-long dream of mine to work with/ride/enjoy horses on a regular basis. Once a week has been great... and I'm doing it even though we really shouldn't afford it... because I need to realize this dream... more than I need to save money.
Anyhow, my riding instructor has been telling me since the beginning that I should ride more than once a week if I want to improve my confidence and skill. Not an option for me, because to ride costs money and we're already outside the budget to do this as much as I do it. I finished explaining that to her for the 1 millionth time last week, and she said she'd get back to me... that money shouldn't be the issue.
When she got back to me, my riding instructor had found a way for me to ride 3 days a week a wonderful Morgan horse named Omega... in exchange for labor. Basically, I'll grain and water 6 horses every day I'm there to ride, and help with other projects or blanketing horses when necessary... an amazing opportunity! So I'm going to ride more... and (*torture of all tortures* said with dripping sarcasm) I'll have to take care of some other horses basic needs 3 days a week.
When I think about how I have always wanted just this kind of opportunity since I was 5 years old... and how it is here now... I can't believe how lucky, how truly blessed I am. How amazing to live a life where wishes really are horses and beggars really can ride...