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Cal Ag Roots: Unearthing Stories of California's Agricultural Development


What is Cal Ag Roots?

The California Institute for Rural Studies (CIRS) and Project Director Ildi Carlisle-Cummins are teaming up to launch the Cal Ag Roots Project, which aims to put historical roots under current California food and farming change movements by telling the story of California agricultural development in innovative, useful and relevant ways.

Cal Ag Roots is designed to unearth stories about a vitally important segment of California’s culture and economy: food production.


There is deep knowledge about the structures, driving forces and key moments that have shaped California’s food system among recognized “experts” and those who have participated in the creation of CA farming, but this knowledge doesn’t always inform food movement work. Cal Ag Roots will share stories from this wide range of people, opening new lines of communication among



THANKS to 106 incredible Cal Ag Roots supporters who joined our recent crowd-funding campaign, we're thrilled to be able to invite you to participate in our first project:



The Docks to Delta project is part live storytelling event and part podcast series that reveals the agricultural history evoked by a landscape travelled by thousands of commuters every day—the one seen through the windows of the Capitol Corridor Amtrak train that runs from Oakland to Sacramento. Docks to Delta will amplify the voices of people who lived through and participated in key moments in California agriculture, highlighting stories that push listeners’ thinking beyond the usual historical narratives and policy debates.


Docks to Delta LIVE was a sold-out success! Photo: Cal Humanities

Please contact Ildi at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to be added to our email list or for more future event information.


The Docks to Delta podcast series will be launched in October, 2015 -- stay tuned for details! 


This project was made possible with support from Cal Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Visit www.calhum.org.

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Why launch Cal Ag Roots?


CIRS believes that shifting CA Ag towards social, economic and environmental justice requires a clear-eyed understanding of how and why the current agricultural system developed.


Without this knowledge of where we’ve been and what structures we are surrounded by, it is too easy to reinvent past failed solutions, unintentionally replicate injustices and misplace energy fighting the wrong battles.


How will Cal Ag Roots make an impact?


While Cal Ag Roots fills a critical need for education and dialogue on the history of California farming, this is not a historical project. Cal Ag Roots is forward-facing, action-oriented and designed to help food movement leaders understand key moments in California Ag history so that they can craft more informed strategies for change.


What is Cal Ag Roots creating?


A Story Hub that will equip food movement advocates with knowledge of key moments when it looked like the “jig was up” for California agriculture-as-usual. Stories will be told with photos, maps, podcasts and short, engaging written pieces.


Dialogues on Development which bring together food movement advocates to discuss how understanding key moments of Cal Ag history can root their work and inform their change strategies.


Field Courses which bring food movement leaders into the field to deepen their understanding of driving forces in

California farming while strengthening connections between sectors of the food movement.


Join the Conversation! Find out more about Cal Ag Roots by contacting Project Director Ildi Carlisle-Cummins at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Ask to be on our email list to stay tuned for updates!


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