California Agricultural Resources Archive

Preserving, organizing, and providing access to records of enduring value on California agriculture

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While Hollywood and Silicon Valley may dominate public perceptions of California, for the last half century California has led the nation in agricultural production and exports. California produces over 400 commodities, many of which are specialty crops not grown elsewhere in the country. California supplies a third of the food on Americans' tables.

Without a doubt, the University of California (UC) and its Agricultural Extension Service have had a key role in the development of California agriculture. Beginning in 1913, UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) farm advisors were placed in every county that formed a farm bureau and agreed to sponsor and support the work of the advisor. While arrangements have evolved, UC Cooperative Extension advisors continue to reside and work in all 58 California counties today.

In 2016, under an agreement with the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UCANR), the University of California, Merced Library began a project to archive, preserve, and provide access to UCCE historic records. Working with county offices, we have uncovered hundreds of linear feet of materials on crop research, agricultural production, technology, land use, socioeconomic development, 4-H and youth development, among other subjects. These materials offer a firsthand look at the changes in California communities over the past century, and at a face of California that has global impacts.

In addition to preserving and providing access to the records of county offices, we are working to surface and improve online access to publications and other information sources about California agriculture. The search tool we are developing on this site will include UCANR publications in Internet Archive, HathiTrust, as well as archival materials we have digitized.

With support from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, we will continue our work with county offices in the San Joaquin Valley as well as other regions of the state. Our aims include:

  • digitizing county reports and photographs
  • generating topical indices using natural language processing tools
  • engaging 4-H students in the curation of materials
  • developing digital story maps to enable discovery by location and time period

History of the Cooperative Extension Service

At the turn of the previous century, growing concern over the quality of life for rural Americans and the flight of young adults to rapidly developing cities prompted President Theodore Roosevelt to appoint a Commission on Country Life in 1908. Underpinning his charge and the report of the Commission in 1909 was a conviction that farmers were the foundation of the nation and that improving the conditions of rural America was vital to the welfare of the nation as a whole.

One of the direct outcomes of the Commission’s recommendations was the passage of the Smith-Lever Act in 1914, which established a national extension service to place the knowledge generated at land-grant universities into the hands of farmers and other rural citizens. The Agricultural Extension Service formalized and built upon existing efforts of land-grant universities to enhance the knowledge of farmers and apply scientific discoveries for improved agricultural practices.

The work of the Extension Service has encompassed more than improved agricultural practices; the first statewide director described the aim to impact broader “rural affairs” and “promote the social institutions of country life.” In the early decades, advisors worked within the community to organize: efforts during the first and second world wars; fire protection districts; improved road and infrastructure campaigns; hot lunch programs in schools; community beautification; and local economic outlook meetings. Home demonstration agents, later known as home advisors, taught rural women subjects ranging from food preparation and nutrition to healthy child development and home economics. Under 4-H, county extension offices have engaged youth in the county in projects to build knowledge and leadership skills.

Learn more:

Collection Guides

Collection guides (also known as finding aids) are available in the Online Archive of California. These provide an overview of the content in each county office collection and background about the office. We add detailed descriptions as well as links to digitized materials as they become available.

Project Team

Emily Lin, Project Director

Emily Lin, Project Director

Emily has overseen the development of digital collections and digital curation services at UC Merced since 2003. As Head of the Digital Curation and Scholarship unit at UC Merced Library, she partners with UC Merced faculty to digitize and electronically publish materials used for research and teaching, and to ensure the long-term stewardship of campus scholarly output. She has contributed to the creation of plans and policies for shared digital library services at the University of California system-wide level.

Kelsey Raidt, Project Archivist

Kelsey Raidt, Project Archivist

Kelsey has her MA in History from Middle Tennessee State University, where she worked as a Graduate Assistant in the Albert Gore Research Center, and her BA in History from Arkansas State University. She comes to us from the Center of Military History at the JFK Special Warfare Museum as a Museum Database Technician. She previously has worked as an Archival Digitization Specialist for the Virginia Department of Vital Statistics.

Alisak Sanavongsay, Applications Programmer

Alisak Sanavongsay, Applications Programmer

Alisak provides technical support for digital collections and web applications. He will provide support for applying Natural Language Processing tools to OCR text and for development of visualizations of digitized information. An experienced programmer, while at UC Merced he has co-developed improvements to Calisphere with California Digital Library colleagues.

Erin Mutch, Spatial Analysis Research Center Manager

Erin Mutch, Spatial Analysis Research Center Manager

Erin will advise the project on geocoding, geotagging, and developing a map-based interface to digital materials and information. She provides consultation on grant-funded research projects with a geospatial aspect.

Jonathan Wilcox, Digitization Coordinator

Jonathan Wilcox, Digitization Coordinator

Jonathan has a background in Art History, earning his BA from CSU, Dominguez Hills and received his MLIS from San Jose State University. He came to UC Merced from an internship with Curatorial Assistance, Inc. in Pasadena. There, he worked on conservation and digitization of glass plate and film negatives in the E. O. Hoppé Estate Collection.

Giovanni Alvarado

Giovanni Alvarado, Undergraduate Student Assistant


Maryam Bonyadi

Maryam Bonyadi, Undergraduate Student Assistant


Warren Sartor

Warren Sartor, Undergraduate Student Assistant


David Valles

David Valles, Undergraduate Student Assistant


Carolina Villa

Carolina Villa, Undergraduate Student Assistant


Additional Credits

Heather Wagner

Heather Wagner, Digitization Coordinator


Natalie Khoury

Natalie Khoury ('17)

Undergraduate Student Assistant

Esteffani Lemus

Esteffani Lemus

Undergraduate Student Assistant

Rae Anne Tamayo

Rae Anne Tamayo

Undergraduate Student Assistant

Marcus Ulloa

Marcus Ulloa

Undergraduate Student Assistant

Please contact us for more information.

Partners & Sponsors

We are grateful for the partnership and support of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources and our colleagues at the California Digital Library.

In November 2017 we were awarded a $308,900 Major Initiatives grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

Project partners include:


Financial support from our sponsors funds the staff and student assistants that make CARA possible. It funds the work of preservation, digitization, and community outreach to promote the use of the archive.


Giving to CARA will allow us to continue to expand our work throughout California, and to ensure the archive is sustained over the long term. Your contributions will increase our capacity to preserve, digitize, and provide access to the unique materials we are uncovering—resources yet to be tapped by students and researchers, that will generate new understanding and new scholarship.

Contact Us

Emily Lin
Head of Digital Curation and Scholarship
(209) 658-7146