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Our History

Turn-of-the-century origins

UC has supported off-campus research sites for more than a century. In the 1880s, UC Berkeley professor Eugene Hilgard established a 20-acre field station southeast of Tulare for variety tests and work on the reclamation of alkali soils. Kearney's origins go back to the turn of the 20th century, when prominent developer M. Theodore Kearney willed his 5,400-acre estate west of Fresno to the University for educational purposes. UC sold some of the land, generating revenue to establish the Kearney Foundation, which later would supply matching funds for a research center named in Kearney's honor.

In the early 1960s, the San Joaquin Valley was fertile ground for the expansion of agricultural science and technology. However, prominent San Joaquin Valley agriculturists knew that problems peculiar to the valley could “tarnish the bright potential of this unique farming area,” according to noted banker and agricultural economist Jesse Tapp (Reedley Exponent, June 2, 1965). Challenges included irrigation management, alkali soils, pests and diseases, evaluating new tree and vine varieties, and developing rootstocks with resistance to nematodes and disease.

In 1959 the Fresno County Farm Bureau took the lead in forming the San Joaquin Valley Fruit and Grape Station Trust, which collected contributions from farmers, fruit packers, agricultural suppliers and others. Gifts ranging from $2 to $10,000 amounted to $128,500 to match Kearney Foundation funds. After serious consideration of several sites, a committee suggested the Mosesian Ranch, a uniform alluvial plain with favorable sandy loam soil. UC consented and the 195-acre Mosesian Ranch, at the intersection of Manning and Riverbend avenues between the cities of Reedley and Parlier, was purchased on Aug. 12, 1962.

Officials broke ground nearly two years later on two houses, a laboratory and a building for machinery storage and equipment repair. A year later, on May 26, 1965, the Kearney Horticultural Field Station was formally dedicated. Visitors took tours to see research plantings of tea, grapes, peaches, plums, olives, nectarines, almonds, walnuts and other crop trials that were already under way.

The center steadily grew to accommodate new research needs, reflecting the region's rapidly expanding and changing agricultural economy. In 1985, the last 65 acres of land was purchased, bringing the total acreage to the present 330.


1962 UC purchases the 195-acre Mosesian Ranch

1964 Groundbreaking for two houses, an office, a laboratory and machine-storage and equipment-repair building

1965 Formal dedication of the Kearney Horticultural Field Station, May 26

1966 Additional 30 acres purchased

1969 $165,000 contract awarded to build a 97-by-100-foot building with 14 offices, laboratories and conference room

1970 New building is completed

1972 Added another 40 acres

1973 Added biological control unit with quarantine laboratory, one of five in the United States

1977 Capital improvements included five office-laboratory trailers, fruit and vegetable handling lab, volatile storage building, two greenhouses, one potting shed and one storage building

1985 Added parcel across Riverbend Avenue, bringing total acreage to 330

1986 Weighing lysimeters installed

1989 Dedicated new office and laboratory building

1992 Dedicated F. Gordon Mitchell Post Harvest Center

1999 Renamed the UC Kearney Research and Extension Center

2004 New greenhouse facility dedicated

2007 10 acres enter the three-year transition period needed to meet organic standards

2011 Renamed the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center