Eighteen New California Farm Academy Graduates!

Eighteen New Farmers Graduate from California Farm Academy


By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director


The California Farm Academy, a part-time, seven-month, beginning farmer training program run by the Land-Based Learning, graduated 18 new farmers on Sunday, September 18, 2016.


With more than 250 hours of classroom and field training behind them, these enterprising graduates were honored by notables such as Karen Ross, secretary, California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA); Craig McNamara, president and owner of Sierra Orchards, as well as president of the California State Board of Food and Agriculture; Sri Sethuratnam, director, California Farm Academy (CFA); and Mary Kimball, executive director, Center for Land-Based Learning, based in Winters California.

new farmers graduate from California Farm Academy beginning farmer training program run by the Land-Based Learning.
Eighteen new farmers graduated from California Farm Academy’s beginning farmer training program run by the Center for Land-Based Learning.


“The impetus of our program,” said Christine McMorrow, director of development for Land-Based Learning, “is the need for more farmers as the current ones age out. According to the USDA, over 700,000 new farmers will be needed in the next 20 years to replace those who retire.


CFA teachers, farmers, academic faculty and staff, and agricultural, natural resource and business professionals, teach CFA students basic production agricultural practices; crop planning; soil science; pest management; organic agriculture; irrigation and water management; marketing; ecology and conservation; obtaining loans, insurance and permits; farm financials; human resource management; risk management; farm safety; regulatory compliance and problem-solving.


McMorrow stated, “These folks have been with us since February, following a rigorous application process. A lot of these folks either have land they have dreamed of farming but did not know how to put it into production. Some of them come from farming families, but they wanted to get involved in the family business on their own. They may have been in a different career and now want to do something new or different. Perhaps they haven’t studied agriculture or they have not seen much agriculture other than what their family does, so this is an opportunity for them to learn and to explore a new business idea.


“We only take people who are serious about production agriculture. This is not a program for somebody who thinks, ‘I’ve got an acre in my backyard and I really want to grow something.’ While that’s a cool thing to do, the academy is not for those people.”


“Our graduating farmers, who range in age from their late 20s to early 50s, each wrote a business plan and presented it to folks within the agriculture industry,” said McMorrow. “They also planted some of their own crops on a farm in Winters.


McMorrow elaborated, “These new farmers have been able to create their own networks, having made contact with more than 40 different folks within the agricultural industry throughout the time they spent with us. These networks include local farmers around Yolo County, Solano County, Sacramento County, and other regions, and will help our graduates realize their dreams.”


California Farm Academy (CFA) We grow farmers

“This is the fifth class that has graduated,” explained McMorrow, “and mind you, these folks are doing lots of different things. Some of them already have their own land, some are going to work for someone who has land, some will work other farmers, and some will go into a food-related business.”


“Still others will stay and lease small plots of land from us,” McMorrow commented, “to start their own farming business. Beginning farmers face huge barriers to getting started, the biggest of which is access to land, capital and infrastructure. So, to get their farming businesses started, California Farm Academy alumni are eligible to lease land at sites in West Sacramento, Davis and Winters at a very low cost.”

The Center for Land-Based Learning exists to cultivate opportunity.

For the land.

For youth.

For the environment.

For business.

For the economy.

For the future of agriculture.

El Capitan Achievement Celebrated with California Sparkling Wine

Iron Horse Vineyards 2010 Ocean Reserve Blanc de Blancs
Iron Horse Vineyards 2010 Ocean Reserve Blanc de Blancs

Sonoma County native Kevin Jorgeson and his climbing partner Tommy Caldwell celebrated their achievement of scaling the Dawn Wall of El Capitan with California sparkling wine. Their feat has earned them admiration and cheers from all over the world, so it was only natural that they celebrate with a local delicious beverage.

The featured wine is the Ocean Reserve Blanc de Blanc from Iron Horse Vineyards – whose sales help promote the National Geographic’s Ocean Initiative. Joy Sterling, CEO of Iron Horse Vineyards, is also a member of the California State Board of Food and Agriculture.

According to the winery, in the spirit of supporting ocean conservancy, best food pairings focus on seafood, the beverage was deemed a “best choice” on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch® program. Iron Horse Vineyards is located in the gentle rolling hills of the Green Valley appellation within the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County, California.

World Food Day: Hunger is a Matter of Food Access, Even at Home

By Laurie Greene, California Ag Today Editor

“It is encouraging to see World Food Day observed today, a designation made possible by the inspiring work of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,” says California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross in a statement released TODAY.

The goal of World Food Day is to eradicate hunger. Ross explains the world produces enough food to feed everyone; the ongoing problem is food access.

Globally, reports University of California, Davis, over 800 million people today suffer from malnutrition and hunger, nearly 15.9 million children in the U.S. struggle daily to get proper nutrition and approximately 18% of residents in this region lack regular access to food. Ross states, “In California, almost four million people are food insecure; they could not afford enough food at least once in the previous year.

World Food Day Logo

CDFA addresses access issues daily through its programs. Ross explains that CDFA’s Certified Farmers’ Market program has helped increase the number of markets statewide, providing communities with fresh, nutritious food directly from farms. Many of them now accept CalFresh cards used by California’s low-income families to obtain nutritious food. Likewise, CDFA’s Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program helps provide these foods to needy senior citizens.

CDFA’s Office of Farm to Fork connects school districts with local farmers and also helps teachers provide quality nutrition education to their students. Ross says, “I was very pleased to see these efforts play a role in bringing a truly exceptional honor this week to a group of Contra Costa County students – they were invited to the White House garden to meet First Lady Michelle Obama and help harvest vegetables for the White House kitchen!”

CDFA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program provides USDA Farm Bill funds, nearly $20 million in 2014, through a competitive grant process for some specialty crops projects. Projects includ programs in Chico and Sacramento to improve access through community gardens for low-income residents and educational opportunities in both nutrition and urban production.

The California State Board of Food and Agriculture and CDFA collaborate to generate donations to state food banks. “We declare each December as Farm-to-Food Bank Month,” Ross comments, “and ask our farmers and ranchers to make a donation or a pledge.” Last year, donations exceeded 127 million pounds of food, and this year’s goal is 200 million pounds.

Ross continues, “We want to thank our partners at California Grown for its commitment to the food bank effort with its “Snap a Selfie” Program.” California Grown donates a pound of food to California food banks for every #cagrown selfie—a photograph of the CA Grown logo or anything grown or produced in California and is posted with ‘#cagrown’ in the posting on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook by end of this month. 

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations established World Food Day on October 16, 1981, the anniversary of the organization’s founding in 1945.

The 2014 World Food Day theme – Family Farming: “Feeding the world, caring for the earth” – has been chosen to raise the profile of family farming and smallholder farmers. World attention will focus on the significant role of family farming in eradicating hunger and poverty, providing food security and nutrition, improving livelihoods, managing natural resources, protecting the environment, and achieving sustainable development, in particular in rural areas.

The UN General Assembly has designated 2014 “International Year of Family Farming.” This is a strong signal that the international community recognizes the important contribution of family farmers to world food security.

Eight days after World Food Day, held every October 24th, “Food Day” organized by the Washington, D.C.-based, nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), aims to unite Americans to celebrate and enjoy real food and to push for improved food policies. “Real Food, Just Food”is the 2014 slogan.

Sources: CDFA, UC Davis Dateline, FAO of the UN, CSPI

California agriculture needs groundwater reform

By Miles Reiter; The Monterey Herald

Miles Reiter is a member of the California State Board of Food and Agriculture and chairman and CEO of Driscoll’s, a leading supplier of fresh berries.

Reliable groundwater supplies in California are essential to the health and well-being of all Americans. Much of the food consumed in the United States, including about half of the fruits and vegetables, is grown in California. Without an improved management system of groundwater in the state, California’s agricultural capacity will become smaller and unreliable. The healthiest elements of the nation’s food supply will become highly variable in availability and cost, with some items almost disappearing entirely.

California’s groundwater resources are in jeopardy. They have been steadily declining throughout much of the state for many years, with current declines at rates never seen before. Along the Central Coast, where I live, groundwater makes up over 80 percent of the water supply. As a result of extraction in excess of replenishment, we are experiencing increased saltwater intrusion into the groundwater and general declines in water quality throughout the area. If this trend is not halted, we simply will not be able to provide the healthy food, jobs and economic vitality that go with a sound agricultural infrastructure.

If we are to protect California’s agricultural capacity, we must do a better job of protecting our groundwater. The solution needs to start at the local level. Four years ago, before the current drought started, our community in the Pajaro Valley around Watsonville was concerned about declining groundwater levels and saltwater intrusion. Local landowners and growers, the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County and other groups joined together to launch a forward-thinking and action-oriented public/private partnership called the Community Water Dialogue.

Our mission was to solve the valley’s water problems. Our goals from the beginning included protecting the valley’s agricultural capacity, deploying diverse strategies that would require costs and sacrifices by all to restore the aquifer, and recognizing that we needed to solve our problems on our own and could not rely on outside fixes. We deployed a number of water-saving strategies that have made a difference.

We have a long way to go to a sustainable valley, but pumping in 2013 was more or less the same as the amount pumped in 2008, despite a series of very dry seasons. Our efforts have not been easy, and not without long and passionate debate about the right approach. There will undoubtedly be decisions in the future that will be difficult and often painful.

I strongly support managing our precious groundwater resource through a combination of local management operating within the context of statewide objectives and support. We must recognize that significant change in the way we utilize our groundwater is needed. When half-measures and partial fixes were adopted in the past, they have not worked. It is time that California adopts a comprehensive, long-term plan that will protect this resource against overuse and future droughts. Local agencies need tools and the authority to effectively manage their groundwater.

Those who want to maintain the status quo argue that sustainably managing our groundwater will reduce our agricultural economy and devalue land. I have absolutely no doubt that we will do far greater damage to our economy and our communities if we fail to act. The result of inaction will mean running out of groundwater, worsening subsidence, and increasing saltwater intrusion.

My family has farmed California’s incredibly rich Central Coast for nearly 150 years. Groundwater depletion threatens the future; however, our local efforts to address this issue give us a chance to save productive farmland and the communities that depend upon it. Similar situations exist throughout the state. It is critically important that the state create a structure in which these local efforts are supported and empowered with the clear objective of stabilizing our groundwater resource. We need action from our lawmakers — now more than ever.

California State Fair Announces 2014 Agriculturalist of the Year

For over 160 years, the California State Fair has showcased the progress and advancements of the State’s agricultural industry. The extraordinary contributions of many individuals and businesses committed to advancing our robust agricultural industry has resulted in growing public interest. In celebration of these accomplishments, the California State Fair annually presents a series of prestigious awards.

The California Exposition and State Fair Board of Directors unanimously approved the nomination of Craig McNamara as the 2014 Agriculturalist of the Year.

“The State Fair has been recognizing California’s best for over 160 years, and honoring Craig is in keeping with this tradition of excellence,” said Rick K. Pickering, Chief Executive Officer of the California State Fair. “His leadership on critical policy issues facing California’s farmers, his passion to inspire the next generation of farmers, and his tireless dedication to responsible land stewardship, are samples of how he has positively impacted our great State for generations to come. California is a better place because of leaders like Craig McNamara.”

California Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross also praised McNamara, “I wish to offer my congratulations to my colleague and friend Craig McNamara for being named Agriculturalist of the Year by the California State Fair. Craig is a uniquely visionary leader – someone who is highly deserving of this prestigious award.  Beyond his deep commitment as a farmer and as president of the California State Board of Food and Agriculture, Craig has a passion to bring disparate parties together to focus on the big challenges of our time. He has demonstrated his understanding of the need to reach our next generation through the great work of his groundbreaking Center for Land Based Learning in Winters, which connects students to nature and agriculture and, in the process, helps to groom our future farmers and leaders. Again, my heartfelt congratulations to Craig. He’s an agriculturist for all-time.”

The Agriculturalist of the Year award is presented to an individual who has contributed extensively, in a professional capacity, to California’s agricultural industry. Award criteria stipulates this individual must have demonstrated leadership and clearly represented the industry over a number of years in one or more of the following areas: finance, government, production agriculture, education, labor, research, communications, trade and public service.

“I am honored and humbled to receive this recognition,” said honoree Craig McNamara, President of the State Food and Agriculture Board. “Todays farmers face daunting challenges but the opportunities available to us have never been more robust or promising. Our state is fortunate to have visionary leaders and informed citizens who care deeply about the future of our farms and our food.”

The Agriculturalist of the Year Award will be presented to Craig McNamara at the annual State Fair Gala held on Friday, June 27th, 2014. To learn more about ticket and sponsorship opportunities, contact Linda Hunt at lhunt@calexpo.com.  

To learn more about Craig McNamara, please click here to see his biography.

PASSING THE HOE: Farmer Training

Beginning Farmer-Training Program Accepting 2014 Students


The Center for Land-Based Learningdedicated to creating the next generation of farmers and teaching California’s youth about the importance of agriculture and watershed conservation, is getting ready for it’s third California Farm Academy class beginning in February 2014. The Farm Academy still has a few spots available.

The California Farm Academy, a one-of-a-kind beginning farmer-training program, was established to inspire and motivate people of all ages, especially youth, to promote a healthy interplay between agriculture, nature and society through their own actions and as leaders in their communities.

Admission requirements include:

  • A strong desire to become a specialty crop farmer
  • A commitment to participate in 7-10 hours of training per week, and
  • Transportation to attend classes near Winters, CA and at other nearby locations.
  • Some previous experience with farming is preferred. Classes and activities are conducted in English.


The program provides approximately 270 contact hours from Feb. 11th to Sep. 13th, 2014, including classes, hands-on experience, one-on-one consultations, farm visits and field trips. Printed curriculum materials are provided, as are the necessary machinery, tools and supplies for the activities. Partial tuition assistance may be available for admitted applicants who demonstrate financial need.
Another CLBL program, FARMS (Farming, Agriculture, and Resource Management for Sustainability) Leadership Program, provides innovative, hands-on experiences to urban, suburban and rural youth at working farms, agri-businesses and universities. Participants develop leadership skills and learn about agriculture practices that contribute to a healthier ecosystem, and connect to agricultural, environmental, and food system careers.
CLBL envisions a world where there is meaningful appreciation and respect for our natural environment and for the land that produces our food and sustains our quality of life. CLBL Founder, Craig McNamara was awarded the 2012 James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award. He is also President, California State Board of Food and Agriculture.