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.

BioConsortia Invents the Future

BioConsortia Plans New Ag Bio Products

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Associate Editor

Marcus Meadows-Smith is with BioConsortia, a research and development biodiscovery company in Davis, Calif. He and his company have big plans to invent the future for Ag.

“The company was founded about 20 years ago in New Zealand and was funded by a U.S. private equity,” said Meadows-Smith. “We decided to globalize the technology, and I became the founding global CEO of the company as it was established in the U.S. about 1 year ago.”

The company in New Zealand is called BioDiscovery. For many years, it was a contract research company that was very successful in the microbial space, working with companies like Monsanto and Syngenta. Then Biodiscovery made a R&D breakthrough. “We have totally restructured the company so that the global headquarters and global R&D are now run out of the United States,” noted Meadows-Smith, “and the New Zealand company has become the subsidiary that handles complementary R&D functions.”

Meadows-Smith mentioned that UC Davis and surrounding areas such as West Sacramento are teaming with bioscience researchers. “It’s turning into a bit of a hub for microbial expertise with several of the big players. Obviously you’ve got UC Davis, which is always credited as being the number one U.S. agricultural university. I’ve heard that it is now the world’s best agricultural university, so it’s a great place to be.”BioConsortia Logo

“We’ve got an excellent team of scientists in Davis, and the historic team in New Zealand has a lot of experience. They’ve been working together now for about five years, so the R&D down there is really humming at a great pace,” said Meadows-Smith.

“We’ve been able to rapidly bring together a group of scientists in the U.S.,” said Meadows-Smith, “that have jelled. We have set up a series of experiments, and we’re putting discoveries together. It’s a very exciting time to be doing pure research in the lab.”

“The other very exciting progression for us is we have just planted our second year of field trials, having completed our first year of field trials in 2014–just after the company was established,” he said.

The company is biological- and microbial-based. “We are looking at teams of microbes to improve plant traits and increase plant yield . We are developing products for fertilizer-use efficiency, abiotic stress tolerance, and biotic stress,” said Meadows-Smith.

“Pests and disease control are important, as well as metabolite expression,” he continued. “We’ve identified teams of microbes that instruct or enable the plant to deposit more sugar. As you can imagine, this provides the double productivity benefit of increasing both yield per acre and sugar content per plant.”

“While getting the plant to have increased sugar deposited in its leaf structure is a good thing; but that is actually not our main focus,” Meadows-Smith said. “We look at all the crops we want to target and ask what are the biggest needs today?”

“Fertilizer, for example, is a significant cost for the grower, so fertilizer-use efficiency products, we believe, would experience a large demand,”  Meadows-Smith stated. “There are also concerns about fertilizer leaching into groundwater, so the more efficient you can make plant take up the fertilizer, the better,” he added. “And of course, living in California, we are acutely aware of the importance of drought, so we are working on that as well. We are hoping for a yield increase per acre for the grower in everything we do.”

“We are moving products down the pipeline as we speak,” he commented, “and, obviously, we want a large body of data to demonstrate to growers how to best use our products. We are looking for two years of good field trial results and then we’ll go through the registration process. So we are expecting to get our first product on the market by 2017.

“We are developing products that contain beneficial bacteria, beneficial fungi, and good plant colonizers,”  Meadows-Smith declared. “Some will colonize the root system, and some the outside of the plant. Still others, endophytes, that will actually grow through the plant tissue. Just as we humans have microbes in our guts to aid digestion, plants actually have beneficial microbes, bacteria and fungi growing within the plant tissue,” Meadows-Smith explained.

Meadows-Smith said BioConsortia’s revolutionary platform will take biologicals to the next level “by assembling teams of microbes that perform complementary functions; so while some microbes will enhance the root system, others will aid the root in nutrient uptake,” he said. “This will bring consistency and superior performance to the marketplace. It’s a very exciting time for the industry as a whole,” he said.

“We are looking to transform food production in a way that is sustainable, bringing benefits to the grower and feeding the world with nutritious, affordable food. That’s what we are in this industry for. These are very exciting times!” Meadows-Smith said.

Featured photo: Marcus Meadows-Smith, with Bio Consortia Scientists.

West Sacramento Urban Farm

By: Monique Bienvenue; Cal Ag Today Social Media Manager/Reporter

West Sacramento has its first urban farm in the Broderick neighborhood of West Sacramento: 5th & C St. Farm. What was once a vacant city lot is now a 2/3 acre farm growing over 50 varieties of vegetables, melons, flowers and herbs. Most of what is grown is almost never sold in stores. These crops are planted specifically for their flavor, picked when the produce is ripe and delivered the day of harvest.

Diversity, companion planting, crop rotation, lunar cycle planting, compost, and working with nature are the central values held by 5th & C St. Farms. All goods are grown naturally using 100% organic compost. The farm never uses any chemical fertilizers, insecticides or sprays. Sustainability, selling locally and providing people with nutrient dense, delicious food is what drives this farm.

Visitors and guests interested in seeing small scale agriculture thriving in the midst of a busy city are welcome to visit the farm. 5th & C St Farms is living proof that small scale farmers can make a difference in the local food system.

Bayer CropScience Offers Biologic ‘Serenade’ to Fight Pests

Serenade Offers Big Dividends to Growers Fighting Pests

By Kyle Buchoff, CaliforniaAgToday Reporter

 

In this new frontier of pest and disease controls with biological fungicides and insecticides, Dr. Jonathan Margolis, the Vice President of Biologics Research for Bayer CropScience at the company’s new West Sacramento Research Facility, recently commented on Serenade, a major biologics product used by many growers. “When I joined Bayer in 2005, I would never have expected that we would still be spending this much effort on fundamental basic research on understanding Serenade and its mode of action, and ultimately on improving it.”

“We’ve invested a tremendous amount of resources on characterization of the chemistry that’s produced by the microbe,” Margolis explains, “on understanding how it interacts with plants—the signals it exchanges with plants to stimulate their growth and turn on host defense responses. Even more importantly, we want to understand the fundamental genetics of the organism so, in the future, we can use physiological cues, nutrients and growth conditions to change the way it produces these biologic chemicals in terms of increased efficiently.”

The company states that Serenade is a fungicide and bactericide that stops harmful spores from germinating, disrupts cell membrane growth, and inhibits attachment of the pathogen to the leaf. Biologic applications target Botrytis, Sclerotinia, Xanthomonas, and Erwina on grapes, strawberries, leafy vegetables, potatoes, pome fruit and tree nuts.

(Featured photo source: “Enhancing Global Food Security, Facts and Figures 2012-2013 Bayer CropScience”)

 

Bayer CropScience Plans Further US Growth, Opens New R&D Site in California

Bayer CropScience sees a positive long-term market development in North America and is committing significant resources to spur further growth. “We see future growth driven by increasing and sustained demand from customers for improved seeds and innovative crop protection products,” said Bayer CropScience CEO Liam Condon at the September 3, 2014 official inauguration of the company’s new integrated R&D site in West Sacramento, California.

Liam Condon, CEO of Bayer CropScience
Liam Condon, CEO of Bayer CropScience

“We are investing heavily in R&D infrastructure such as laboratories, greenhouses and breeding stations as well as new production capacities and seed processing facilities,” Condon explained. He said that the company aims to grow faster than the U.S. market.

Bayer CropScience plans to invest close to US$ 1 billion (EUR 700 million) in Capital Expenditures (CAPEX) in the United States between 2013 and 2016, mainly to ramp up research and development and to expand a world-class product supply of its top crop protection brands. These expenditures are part of a global investment program Bayer CropScience started last year, with a total CAPEX for the period 2013 to 2016 of EUR 2.4 billion (approximately US$ 3.3 billion).

Consolidating and expanding R&D organization is key for Bayer CropScience

Bayer CropScience seeks to better leverage its full research and development capabilities by consolidating and expanding its global R&D organization. “Our integrated West Sacramento site represents a major step forward in our efforts to enhance our vegetable seeds and biological crop protection innovation efforts,” said Dr. Adrian Percy, Global Head of Research and Development at Bayer CropScience. “The investment into this state-of-the-art facility creates an environment where our researchers and experts can find the best possible conditions to discover solutions that growers across the globe can depend on to produce high-quality food in a sustainable manner.”

The new West Sacramento site, which also serves as the global headquarters of Bayer CropScience’s Biologics Business has the capacity to house up to 300 employees. The approximately US$ 80 million facility is situated on 10 acres of land and features a 100,000-square-foot building and a 35,000-square-foot pilot plant to support research and development of biological crop protection products, as well as a 30,000-square-foot Vegetable Seeds research building. The facility will also include a 2,000-square-foot greenhouse and five acres of nearby land for future greenhouse space.

Expansion of production capacities in the USA

Bayer CropScience's New West Sacrmento Biologic Facility (PAC)
Bayer CropScience’s New West Sacrmento Biologic Facility

In addition to building its R&D network in the USA, Bayer CropScience is also investing significantly in the production capacities of its crop protection products.

“Along with capacity expansions at our Muskegon, Michigan and Kansas City, Missouri sites, the construction of our new plant in Mobile, Alabama for the production of our herbicide Liberty™ will contribute significantly to our future growth plans,” stressed Condon, who pointed out that the increased production of Liberty™ will help U.S. growers fight weed resistance, a key challenge for U.S. farmers.

“The single biggest investment item in the USA is our planned capacity expansion of Liberty™ herbicide. This is a strong signal to the market as Liberty™ is the only nonselective herbicide that controls glyphosate-resistant weeds,” said Jim Blome, president and CEO for Bayer CropScience LP and Head of Crop Protection for the North American region. “Two-thirds of our planned investments in the United States between 2013 and 2016 are intended to expand our production capacities. This includes measures to further optimize our supply chain in order to increase flexibility and thrive despite market volatility,” Blome added.

Investments in Seeds business and U.S. infrastructure

Bayer CropScience is also investing constantly in its Seeds business. In June 2014, the company announced plans to expand its North American and global Seeds headquarters in Research Triangle Park (RTP), North Carolina. The RTP site has experienced significant operational growth in recent years, and approximately US$ 200 million will be invested through 2016. “The construction of greenhouses as well as the necessary infrastructure and land development represent our continued commitment to growth in RTP,” said Blome.

The overall RTP investment program includes further important projects, for example the construction of the Development North America facility dedicated to Crop Protection and Environmental Science research; renovations to Bayer CropScience´s North American headquarters, scheduled to be completed in 2015; construction of the 6,000 square-foot North American Bee Care Center; and the purchase of 70 acres of land to accommodate future growth, which includes a new 29,500 square-foot greenhouse.

Bayer CropScience also plans to invest approximately US$ 90 million in its Cotton Research and Development Laboratory in Lubbock, Texas. Founded in 1998, the company’s global cotton headquarters is focused on providing cotton growers with the products and solutions they need to meet the world’s growing demand for fiber. With a staff of around 120 experts, Bayer CropScience operates two breeding stations, a seed processing plant, a quality assurance lab, a seed warehousing facility, and a state-of-the art research and development lab.

Complementing this, the company also invested US$ 17 million in the expansion of its Memphis Research and Development site, bringing total greenhouse capacity to 76,000 square feet. Located in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, a world-class group of scientists, researchers, technicians and agronomists with a specialized set of skills is developing high quality cotton and soybean varieties as well as trait innovations. Their aim is to support Bayer CropScience’s growing global cotton and soybean seed businesses through molecular breeding and other innovative technologies.