Bugs Never Bothered Retired Agricultural Commissioner – Times-Herald


While not typical of most little girls, Benicia’s Susan Cohen Grossman kept a scorpion, mice, and cockroach as pets. But then, the recently retired Solano County Agriculture Commissioner is atypical in several ways.

It is not uncommon, for example, for Cohen Grossman to carry a dead insect in his purse.

“When I was Chief Ag, I wore a sniper with glassy wings (damaging the vine), so I could explain what people should be looking for,” she said in a recent conversation. She explained this by pulling a folded piece of paper from her purse containing the carefully crushed remains of another insect.

“These are carpet beetle larvae,” she said. “Isn’t that interesting? ”

Cohen Grossman said she also found the insects important and beautiful.

“They are among the most widespread creatures in the world, and entomology is a very applied branch of biology, and insects are very valuable to our ecology, so I know I will always have a job,” he said. she declared.

Born in Los Angeles some 50 years ago, Cohen Grossman was the third of Abby and Harry Cohen’s four children. The Cohens remained married until they separated by Harry’s death in 1993.

Hers was an almost American childhood of Leave it to Beaver, with the typical pet dog and suburban home, she said.

“I had the classic childhood. Two parents. They were together. I graduated from high school early and went to college, ”Cohen Grossman said.

With a name like Cohen, she said, it was impossible to avoid her Jewishness growing up, although she wasn’t always happy about it.

“There was a time in my teenage years that I rejected him,” she said. “Then in college, I realized it was in my being, in my name, in my heritage, in my face, in my dad. That it wasn’t going to go away no matter what I did.

Cohen Grossman said she has gradually come to embrace this reality.

“I was looking for something intellectual and finally realized that I could find it in Judaism. But it took me many years to reconnect with my community, ”she said.

Cohen Grossman is now president of the Hadassah Local, the Zionist Organization of Women of America, and an active member of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

A lifelong nature lover, Cohen Grossman said that when she rode a bicycle as a child, she always headed west because that is where nature is.

“The west was where the beach was, so that’s how I always went,” she said.

Cohen Grossman said he discovered the beauty of the insect world in a college-level biology class.

“I remember working with fruit flies under a dissecting microscope, and they were beautiful. Fascinating. A work of art, ”she said.

Cohen Grossman said she always knew she would be happier if her career involved the outdoors, so she obtained degrees in entomology and public administration from San Jose State University.

His first field job was for the Wyoming Forest Service, during a summer break. She said she then took a job with the United States Department of Agriculture at a Utah biology lab to catalog bees that pollinate alfalfa fields.

She was accepted into the Agricultural Leadership Fellowship Program, through which she met Peter Uberoth and Richard Nixon and traveled across South America.

Cohen Grossman returned to California and was hired on a state Food and Agriculture Department project to eradicate Dutch elm disease, which is transmitted by a particular beetle.

“We first trapped the beetles with sticky traps, but then we designed a live trap that was even better and helped us understand how the disease had spread,” she said.

“I have to travel. I have been to the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore. It was great. Such an adventure, “Cohen Grossman said, adding that she” had also visited several other countries, overcoming a “terrible fear of flying” to do so.

Cohen Grossman worked in Salinas for 10 years, working his way up the ranks of Lettuce Inspector to Senior Assistant Commissioner of Agriculture for Monterey County. She has also served on an agricultural advisory committee, interacting with farmers and others on the production side, and advising county supervisors on agricultural matters.

“You learn in farming that everyone relates to everyone and that helps you deal more positively with people who can be difficult,” she said.

In 1989, Cohen Grossman became Solano County Agricultural Commissioner and Sealer of Weights and Measures. She stayed 16 years.

She met her six-year-old husband, Benicia’s financial planner Larry Grossman, a dozen years ago, and took root.

“I was pretty excited to be in Solano County. I loved the idea of ​​being in a farming environment and having easier access to the Bay Area. There is everything, city, countryside, snow, water, within a reasonable distance.

Marriage is okay with her, she said.

“It calmed my life. Living with someone helps you learn the art of compromise,” she said.

Recently, Cohen Grossman resigned her post as Commissioner of Agriculture and became a writer for the Education and Publishing Program on Integrated Pest Management in Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of California, where she just finished editing a book on pesticide safety.

It’s not really on the outside, but it’s the second best thing, she said.

“In my office, two windows and I’m on the farm,” she said. “I go for walks. I keep a bicycle.

Cohen Grossman is a member of California Women for Agriculture, the Vallejo / Benicia branch of the American Association of University Women, and the Rotary Club. She works on projects to eradicate polio and facilitate world peace.

Cohen Grossman said that when she was not “actively building a community,” she tried to slow down and enjoy the butterflies.

“There are a million ways people can contribute to their community,” she said. “This phrase ‘shalom bayit’ – ‘a peaceful house’ – is all about communication. You come to a point when you realize how precious life is. Larry and I are in that phase where we are really trying to enjoy life. It is “a very good time”.

– Email Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at [email protected] or call 553-6824.

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