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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Innovative Engagement + Active Collaboration: Small Fruits

By Dr. Gary Gao
Professor and Extension Specialist

This year has been quite challenging in many ways; COVID-19, obviously, is one of those. As you read this article, I hope it finds you healthy and that conditions are improving where you live. COVID-19 is an invisible enemy and we need to work together to defeat it. 

Another challenge in 2020 was the crazy weather. Fruit production can be quite dependent on weather conditions and spring frost and freezes did hurt some of the fruit crops. Fortunately, some crops came through well, considering what has happened this year. As we try to put the 2020 in rearview mirror, here are some things we have learned and done.

  • Remote Learning can be quite effective. Admittedly, I was not that excited about using this tool known as Zoom initially, but quickly realized that remote learning would be around for a while. With some serious training, I learned how to use it effectively. We hosted a Fruit Research Update with Live Q&A. More than 90 people had registered for the class. A few of them attended the program live while others watched at their leisure as an “on-demand” option. Overall, it was a success. We will keep tweaking our programs to make our future programs more engaging. Our upcoming programs will include the annual Fruit Pruning Workshop, as well as a Blueberry School and Bramble School.
  • OSU’s Farm Science Review went virtual this year as well. I gave a presentation on blackberry production that went very well. I heard the entire program was quite successful. I, like all of you, do miss the interactions with growers, gardeners, colleagues, and friends.
  • OSU Master Gardener State Conference was offered online too. I gave a presentation on raspberry production in the home gardens. Master Gardener volunteers have a special place in my heart; they are very eager to learn and help.

On a more personal front, I have been serving as a University Senator for about two years now. It has been very interesting to attend the senate meetings to learn about the operation of The Ohio State University. As a part of my university senator duties, I served on the Committee for Evaluation of Central Administration. We evaluated Kris Devine and her office last year. Ms. Devine is the Vice President of Operations and Deputy Chief Financial Officer. Here is her website:

I was quite impressed by their achievements and all of the work that went into what they do. Our committee also made a few suggestions in a committee report on behalf of the faculty council and the university senate. For the year 2020-2021, we will be evaluating Ms. Stacy Rastauskas, Vice President for Government Affairs. Here is her website: I am chairing this panel and looking forward to this important task.
If you need to reach me, e-mail is the best way, as I check it regularly. My address is With questions through e-mail, I can give you a more detailed and educated answer. Cell phone works well too. I can always give you a call the conventional way. Another way to connect is to schedule a virtual farm visit using Zoom. I have done quite a few of these already, and they have been fun and informative. Call or email me if you would like to schedule one.

In the meantime, stay healthy and safe!