CIRS Blog about Rural California

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The Great Valley Center released a report on the air, land and water in the San Joaquin Valley in July 2012 that emphasized the need to further improve air quality, preserve and enlarge water resources, and adopt green technologies to support sustainable San Joaquin Valley growth. San Joaquin Valley air quality is improving, but the "easy" or less costly reductions in emissions have already been made.

The report analyzed grant programs that subsidized the replacement of older cars and tractors with newer ones, but did not analyze whether subsidized replacement programs were the best way to use limited tax monies to improve San Joaquin Valley air quality.

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in Rural California 9622 0
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Originally published by CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture)

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America is blessed with some of the world’s most productive farmland, yet 40% of our food goes uneaten, according to a recent report by the National Resources Defense Council that analyzes food waste from farm to table to landfill. Among that waste, approximately 7% of planted fields are never harvested. With one in six Americans lacking a secure supply of food, how can this be?

There are many reasons that crops go unpicked: market prices are too low to justify the costs of harvest labor and transportation, produce is too ripe or doesn’t satisfy cosmetic criteria imposed by retailers, or farmers wind up with more crop than the market demands in a given season.

Eight years ago, Marin Organic, an association of Marin County organic farmers dedicated to promoting local and sustainable agriculture, witnessed this problem on a tour of Fresh Run Farm, where visitors saw a field full of unharvested zucchini. Farmer Peter Martinelli explained that he couldn’t sell much of the crop because markets had precise aesthetic standards and wouldn’t purchase squash that was crooked or too big.

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in Agriculture in the Community 10971 0
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This article was originally published on Aug. 9 on the McClatchy Newspapers website.

A major fertilizer producer from California’s San Joaquin Valley who pleaded guilty to fraud charges this week ran into what appears to be a newly aggressive federal effort to crack down on organic-farming cheaters.

Once one of the largest organic-fertilizer operators in the Western United States, Bakersfield resident Kenneth Noel Nelson Jr. faces prison time and a big fine after his guilty plea to four counts of mail fraud. The 59-year-old businessman will be sentenced in early November.

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in Organic Agriculture 10434 0
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Originally published on the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet blog.

 

Agriculture employs more than one billion people worldwide—about 34 percent of global workers—making it the second-largest source of employment globally. Yet agricultural workers remain one of the most marginalized, oppressed, and exploited groups in the world. According to a report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Labor Organization (ILO), and International Union of Food, Agriculture, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco, and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF), the global agricultural workforce is “among the most socially vulnerable; the least organized into trade unions; employed under the poorest health, safety and environmental conditions; and is the least likely to have access to effective forms of social security and protection.”

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in Farm Labor 9632 0
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Originally published by CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture)

As the nation grapples with the worst drought in decades, the USDA added more than 218 counties to its list of natural disaster areas, bringing the total to 1,584—more than half of all US counties. Farmers in the Midwest and Great Plains have been the hardest hit, but the drought is a growing reality for farmers across the country, including California. While the Secretary of Agriculture won’t comment on the drought’s link to climate change, it’s at the forefront of everyone’s mind, and as global warming unfolds, knowledge of dryland agriculture will become increasingly valuable.

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in Farm Labor 4249 0
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This is the first in a six part video series speaking with Larry Kleinman, Secretary-Treasurer for the Northwest Treeplanters and Farmworkers United (PCUN) about the plight of farmworkers in Oregon, and across the country. PCUN shares its ideological roots with the United Farmworkers Union (UFW), but it’s a separate organization whose base is concentrated in the Oregon counties of Marion, Polk, and Eastern Clackamas, south of nearby Portland.

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in Farm Labor 5845 0
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There are many issues related to California’s Central Valley that have been in the news recently. Topics such as social justice, farmworker health and labor conditions, immigration and its role in labor fluctuations/shortages, how pesticides are affecting drainwater and the health of people and animals living in the Valley and the ability of lawmakers to shift the future of agriculture in the country. This post is a collection of these issues. Hopefully this will be an opportunity to learn more about a topic you were unaware of, or a chance to learn more about issues currently influencing the region.

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in Rural California 8892 0
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WASHINGTON - The egg producers and animal rights advocates who once battled over animal housing in California see a new farm bill as a chance to put an unusual alliance into action. If lawmakers agree, the bill would phase in the first national standards to include larger cages for egg-laying hens, stricter egg labeling and limits on ammonia buildup.

The farm bill, though, remains a work in progress for which 198 Senate amendments await action, any one of which could alter the legislation’s direction. Nor it is clear that the proposal for national henhouse standards, written by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, will last long enough to get a vote.

“I won’t bring it up if it’s going to lose,” Feinstein said.

Spanning 1,010 pages, the Senate’s farm bill, now being debated, gives skeptics and supporters alike plenty to chew over. Self-styled reformers can attack subsidies and home-state lawmakers can seek regional advantage.

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in Farm Bill 4230 0
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This year, California’s long-anticipated cap-and-trade program goes into effect. The ground was laid for the program in 2006 when Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act, the country’s most comprehensive climate protection policy. Under the law, California will reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

After much debate, legal challenge and a ballot measure attempting to stop it, beginning this year the first steps of implementing cap-and-trade will get underway with full implementation beginning in January 2013.

Under cap-and-trade the largest polluters of GHGs are required to “cap” and subsequently reduce their GHG emissions through a combination of renewable energy production, energy efficiency and related measures. Alternatively, polluters can partially meet their obligations by purchasing additional “allowances” (aka permits to emit GHGs) or by buying “offset credits” on the carbon market from other entities that are voluntarily reducing their GHG emissions.

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in Climate Change 4284 0
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"Valley of Shadows and Dreams" documents the conflicting reality for people living in California's Central Valley. Photographer Ken Light and author Melanie Light began the project in 2006, during the housing boom that swept through the region, and their reporting continued throughout the recent economic crisis that is still affecting millions of people in the state. The Lights uncover the experiences of the often forgotten people who work and live in the valley and their pursuit of the California Dream. The Rural California Report interviewed Ken and Melanie Light about their project.

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(Image by Ken Light)

Valley of Shadows & Dreams, Heyday, 2012

Photographs By Ken Light & Text by Melanie Light

Forward by Thomas Steinbeck

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in Rural California 8450 0
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The poverty of the Central Valley of California and the abundance of the region’s agriculture is a conundrum. Even though there has been a decrease in community-based access to healthy food, and a rise in chronic disease in the heartland of the state of California, and the nation, we are beginning to see people and agriculture coming together for the good of both.

The exciting change arising in the Central Valley, honoring our agricultural roots and reinventing our regional economy, has been led by the smart growth investments of Smart Valley Places, with support from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation. These buds of change are blossoming into a new triple-bottom-line Central Valley economy that honors the environment, equity and economics. Environmentalists, supporters of the organic movement, and advocates for social justice, are not the only ones talking the regional food system talk anymore. The Fresno Business Council, the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley and regional cities are choosing smart growth and healthy communities and realizing that the Central Valley, a place with the capacity to feed the nation, can also feed our region. Institutions (such as schools, hospitals and city and county governments) are looking at their ability to access healthier, affordable local food, and the ability for local purchasing to drive their economies home.

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in Rural Health 17352 0
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The National Young Farmer’s Coalition recently released a report showing that the nation’s young and beginning farmers face tremendous barriers in starting a farming career. Building a Future With Farmers: Challenges Faced by Young, American Farmers and a National Strategy to Help Them Succeed surveyed 1,000 farmers from across the United States and found that access to capital, to land, and to health insurance present the largest obstacles for beginners. Farmers rated farm apprenticeships, local partnerships and community supported agriculture (CSA) as the most valuable programs to help beginners.

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in Organic Agriculture 28835 0
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The San Joaquin Valley is the agricultural powerhouse of the United States and California. California accounts for an eighth of U.S. farm sales, largely because it produces high value fruit and nut, vegetable and melon, and horticultural specialty (FVH) crops such as nursery products and flowers. Over three-fourths of the state's $37 billion in farm sales in 2010 were crop commodities, and almost 90 percent of the $28 billion in California crop sales represented labor-intensive FVH commodities.

About half of California's farm sales and farm employment are produced in the eight-county San Joaquin Valley with four million residents that stretches from Stockton in the north to Bakersfield in the south. The leading U.S. farm county is Fresno, which had farm sales of almost $6 billion in 2010.

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in Rural California 11296 0
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By Gail Feenstra*, David Visher*, and Shermain Hardesty**

A recent study by University of California researchers examines factors that influence the development of emerging distribution networks embedded in values-based supply chains.  Included in the study are financial considerations, government regulations, industry business practices and entrepreneurial factors.  The study looks at five values-based supply chains in the California produce industry to draw out insights, best practices and conclusions.

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in Heat Risk 15669 0
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By Gail Wadsworth and Vallerye Mosquera

With funding from University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, CIRS is partnering with Dr. Michael Rios and Vallerye Mosquera from UC, Davis, and Luis Magaña from the Organizacion de Trabajadores Agricolas de California, to complete a community-based risk assessment tool for heat stress.  This tool is unique in that it is focusing on the risk of heat stress to farmworkers within their communities.  In other words:  off the farm.

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in Farm Labor 14262 0
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The Salinas Valley, in Monterey County, with dark, rich soils highlighted by contrasting rows of greens invokes a picture perfect image of California agriculture. It has been nicknamed "the salad bowl of the United States," and grows an abundance of fresh greens and fruit. Despite this seeming abundance, the Salinas Valley is not a stranger to poverty and hunger. 

Monterey County is the third highest grossing agricultural crop producing county in the US, with sales of more than $4 billion in 2010. Despite this agricultural bounty, Monterey County has the highest rate of adults in food insecure households out of all California counties, with a ranking of 58th in the state. There are approximately 51,000 individuals, or 49% of adults, in this county with incomes lower than 200% of the Federal Poverty Level who are food insecure.

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in Food Insecurity / Food Deserts 29687 0
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Danielle Boule, George Hubert, Anna Jensen, Alannah Kull, Julia Van Soelen Kim, Courtney Marshall, Kelsey Meagher and Thea Rittenhouse


This report was prepared by a team of graduate students at UC Davis in the spring of 2011 for the Yolo Ag and Food Alliance (AFA). The objective was to examine the plausibility of creating a food hub in Yolo and Solano Counties. To achieve this, the UC Davis research team explored recent trends in food hubs across the country and conducted a food system assessment of the two counties to provide a context for how and whether a food hub might be situated.

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in Rural California 11909 0
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Although most of us have probably participated in agritourism at some point in our lives, not everyone may be familiar with the meaning of term agritourismOne source defines agritourism as “a commercial enterprise at a working farm, ranch or agricultural plant conducted for the enjoyment or education of visitors, and that generates supplemental income for the owner.”  Agritourism encompasses a diverse range of activities such as farm tours, festivals that celebrate regional crops, farm stands, school group field trips, on-farm weddings, farm stay bed and breakfasts, vineyard wine tastings, picking fruit at a u-pick operation, culinary events, and farm classes etc. In addition, agritourism can include attractions that have little or nothing to do with food production but that offer entertainment such as hay rides, petting zoos, pumpkin patches, Christmas tree farms, and concerts.

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in Agritourism 21075 0
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