Driving north through rural Davis, Jullianne Ballou noticed a series of signs on Pole Line Road with compelling messages. The missives all had a climate awareness theme, with catchy phrases: “Orchards capture carbon,” and “What a climate bargain.” Another proclaimed “Race to net zero.”
“I thought the signs were incredibly effective because I wondered where I could learn more,” she says. Ballou, who later accepted a position as associate director of strategic initiatives for the UC Davis Institute of the Environment, was renting a farmhouse on the land that featured the signs, a 9,000-tree almond orchard owned by Mike Russell, a former UC Davis professor and part-time farmer.
The timing was fortuitous for Russell, who had been trying to get the university engaged in student climate projects for a while. “With Jullianne on the property, that made things much more workable because we could talk easily,” he says.
The idea of using public art to pictorially display the impact of climate change began with Russell and neighbor Steve Shaffer, both veterans of the Yolo County agricultural community. The pair used the 1950s Burma-Shave signs as inspiration for their own.