MESA: Multicultural Exchange Program for Farmers

Lauren Augusta realized the need for sustainable agriculture exchange while working at a conventional agriculture training program, where she observed the detrimental effects of agrochemicals on the land and farmers’ health. “I loved the idea of cross-cultural exchange, but I ultimately couldn’t defend the agricultural model my old program promoted,” she says. “I was increasingly alarmed by the unjust and disconnected farming practices I witnessed.” Read more

Organic Pioneers Reflect on 40 Years of CCOF

At a number of farmers markets in California, California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) signs are a familiar sight, assuring shoppers that the farm’s practices meet national organic standards. This year, CCOF celebrates its 40th anniversary, having grown from a small grassroots coalition of farmers to the largest organic certifier in the United States.

“A small group of people who are committed to making things better can do an amazing amount,” says Grant Brians of Heirloom Organic Gardens, who currently sits on CCOF’s board and is the only original CCOF member remaining. Other founding members include Jerry Thomas, who started Thomas Farm in 1971, and Warren Weber (pictured above on a horse-drawn plow) of Star Route Farms, the oldest continuously certified organic grower in California.

Organic standards have come a long way since the 1970s, thanks to the efforts of such pioneering farmers. Read more

Growing a New Crop of Farmers

The California farming community is facing a demographic crisis. The average age of a California farmer is 58, and nearly 20 percent of them are 70 or older. As these farmers approach retirement, California needs to train new ones if we are to continue to feed our country and keep a healthy rural economy in the decades ahead. And with farm internships in California subject to strict labor laws, opportunities to get a hands-on farming education have become even fewer.

To help meet this need, the Center for Land-Based Learning in Winters, CA recently launched the California Farm Academy (CFA) to train beginning farmers in specialty crop production. Read more