Are EDF and California Farmers on Same Page?
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor
The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) wants clean air and water, abundant fish and water life, a stable climate. California farmers want clean air and water, abundant wildlife, a stable climate with enough rain and snow for everyone, plus a good harvest so they can provide the nutritious food everyone needs to thrive. Are EDF and California farmers on the same page?
Meet Sara Kroopf, agriculture project manager with the Environmental Defense Fund’s San Francisco office. Kroopf’s expertise in agriculture economics, sustainable agriculture systems and corporate social responsibility, combined with her emphasis on building relationships with agricultural producers places her not only on the same page with California farmers, but on the same side of science.
Kroopf became interested in agriculture at an early age. “My best friend was the Dairy Princess,” she explained, “who has a thousand-head dairy facility in upstate New York. I think she is really the inspiration for my education and why I want to work in food and ag.”
Kroopf is amazed by California agriculture because it is very different. “The diversity,” she stated, “over 400 specially crops—is incredible! “I went to grad school at UC Davis because I had heard of the wonderful things that were out here, and I’ve stayed because I know there is a lot of innovation in California agriculture. It is the place to be.”
“I also spent some time working with a biopesticide company and learned about Asian Citrus Psyllid. So being in Kern County, learning about realities on the ground and the fight against the invasive Asian Citrus Psyllid, I think that was a good experience for me.”
Commenting on California farmers, Kroopf said, “I think we are doing a great job in California, and people don’t see that enough. I find myself in my urban community, now that I live in Oakland, California, trying to communicate about the realities of drought, the harsh realities that some farmers are seeing, but also the success and resilience of those communities. It is critical to have that dialogue at these times.”
Kroopf knows that farming should continue uninterrupted, “not only here, but in other places as well. Otherwise, we are not going to have a successful 2050 and feed the population. I mean, America has done a great job, historically; we have been feeding the world. But now it will become more challenging. I think we are up for the opportunity and like I said, California is leading the way.”
Kroopf commented about the flexibility of the California farmer to learn new things, such as a new way to apply fertilizer or conserve water, and the adaptability to take them on. “Having access to information is key. Historically, farmers didn’t necessarily know how much nitrogen to apply. And farmers always want to reduce the input application costs as much as possible. I know growers are not being fast and loose with their nitrogen, but there is always an opportunity to improve, and I see that in my own life. I think that is in all professions; farmers are not the only ones.”
Kroopf is quite bullish on California agriculture, even with the drought years. “Absolutely, I do hope farming continues here. The climate is right, and I want to be here, so I hope the drought doesn’t last too long.”
When asked about California farmers, Kroopf replied, “They are the smartest business people that I know. Someone once said, and I don’t know whom to quote, ‘farming is not rocket science, it is harder than rocket science.’ I honestly believe that. So of course, they are extremely intelligent. They deal with more variables in their work than pretty much anyone else.”