It’s been 30 years since John Pehrson retired as a University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) citrus specialist, but he left such a lasting impression on the citrus industry that his work is still revered today. Pehrson was gifted at translating University of California (UC) research and offering practical solutions to help growers better manage their resources and improve citrus yields during his 38-year UC career.
Pehrson is an “encyclopedia of practical and scientific knowledge about citrus,” said Beth Grafton-Cardwell, emeritus UCCE citrus specialist and a former colleague of Pehrson. “He developed expertise not only in soils, but also rootstocks, citrus fertility, irrigation and entomology.”
To honor Pehrson’s contributions to the citrus industry, growers and associated industry members gathered at the University of California Lindcove Research and Extension Center on Oct. 16 to dedicate the center’s administration building as “John E. Pehrson Hall.”
The 94-year-old Pehrson, who attended the event with his proud family, said he was always eager to go to work as a citrus UCCE advisor and specialist, “and I want you all to know that I appreciated the help I had in both the university community and with the industry, and with you growers that are here tonight to recognize me.”
Pehrson joined UCCE as a farm advisor in 1953 for Orange County, moved to Tulare County as a citrus advisor in 1966, then became a subtropical horticultural specialist at Kearney Research and Extension Center in 1980. He transferred in 1982 to the Lindcove Research and Extension Center, where he worked until his retirement in 1991.
Citrus grower Tom Dungan said Pehrson was a big part of the success of growers. “He loved to come out and help you with your problems,” said Dungan. “Talk about a dedicated guy; I’ve never known anyone in the industry that was as dedicated as John Pehrson.”
In 1994, the California Citrus Quality Council presented Pehrson with the industry’s most prestigious prize, the Albert G. Salter Memorial Award.
“John was an excellent farm advisor and horticultural specialist because he would study the groves, study the literature, run experiments in the San Joaquin Valley and collaborate with other researchers,” said Grafton-Cardwell. “But he also highly respected the practical knowledge of the growers and worked with early adapters of new technologies, helping to advance them.”
In addition to growers, Pehrson’s UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) colleagues also benefited from his knowledge and concern for the industry, Grafton-Cardwell said. “I was one of them, as I came on board in 1990 a year before John retired. John saw that I was new to citrus and took me under his wing … I appreciate that he took the time to give me guidance on the best way to conduct a citrus trial and gave me confidence in field work that I then carried on with for the next 30 years.”
UC ANR Vice President Glenda Humiston thanked guests for raising over $100,000 to name the building John E. Pehrson Hall, saying, “By honoring John and recognizing his accomplishments, you have also invested in supporting the next generation of researchers, allowing us to continue to explore, experiment and develop practical solutions through applied research.”
“I am honored to have my work recognized in this fashion,” said Pehrson. “I wish to say that I enjoyed my life as a farm advisor; I really did. I would call it a life of purpose.”
Source: UC Davis
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