CIRS Blog about Rural California

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Starting in childhood, we are encouraged to make wishes during the holidays. As kids, these are usually for gifts. As an adult, I find myself wishing for more substantive things. OK, every once in a while I wouldn't mind seeing a new pair of hiking boots waiting to be unwrapped. But at this time of year, my wishes are not necessarily for myself.

After all, I've got more-than-adequate food and shelter. And I also have a great job. As the vice president of strategy for Bon Appetit Management Company -- a food service provider committed to a sustainable future for us all -- I get to work on issues that are important to me and to make changes that I think are meaningful.

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in Farm Labor 2967 0
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Interviews with female farm workers were conducted by Vallerye Mosquera and Luis Magana in 2011. The stories below were excerpted from three of these interviews and edited by Gail Wadsworth for posting here.

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in Farm Labor 7704 0
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By Julia Freedgood of American Farmland Trust and Christine Fry of ChangeLab Solutions. Cross-posted from the Healthy Farms, Healthy People Coalition.

We’ve all heard the drumbeat from nutrition experts: Eat more fruits and vegetables. We know this advice is good for our health. But what does it mean for our land—and for the farmers who grow food on our land?

With obesity rates at epidemic levels, easier access to fruits and vegetables is important, especially in low-income neighborhoods where healthy options can be hard to find. But ramping up demand for affordable produce means stepping up production, which means more demand on land and water.

How we use these resources will affect our environment and communities for years to come. We need to find new ways to protect both human health and the health of our land long into the future.

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in Agriculture 7836 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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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 4250 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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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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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 11910 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 21076 0
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How would US fresh fruit and vegetable producers respond to higher labor costs?  Case studies suggest that there would be labor-saving mechanization in commodities such as raisin grapes and higher prices in strawberries.  Weather is the single most important factor affecting fresh fruit and vegetable trade, but labor and transportation costs also shape trade patterns.  Affluence created a demand for fresh fruits and vegetables year-round, and new seeds and better storage enabled producers to supply commodities year round.  Rising wages can prompt labor-saving mechanization instead of rising imports.  Vegetables are far more mechanized than fruits— about 75 percent of US vegetable and melon tonnage is machine harvested, but less than half of the fruit tonnage.  There was significant interest in mechanization in the 1960s and 1970s, when the end of the Bracero program and the rise of unions led to rapid increases in farm wages.


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in Farm Labor 20168 0
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