The UC Food Observer chooses a handful of important stories for you to read as you finish your work week. On the menu, in no particular order: UC research helps drought-stricken avocado growers; blockbuster new UC research: most Americans could eat locally; a pasture-based rancher caught in the crosshairs; Mexican farm labor agreement in danger of unraveling; and a provocative opinion piece on agroecology and food justice.

In addition, several notable reports and research studies were issued; we’ve included those on the reading list as well.


1. New growing technique relieves drought-stricken avocado producers. Ninety percent of the nation’s avocado crop is produced in California. The majority of production occurs in San Diego County. Like other producers, avocado farmers have been challenged by the drought. But some new research trials being conducted by University of California farm advisor Gary Bender may offer some hope.

2. UC research: most Americans could eat locally. UC Merced professor Elliott Campbell and his research team have mapped the potential of America’s cities to source food locally. The results? An “unexpectedly large current potential” for productive farmland in and around urban and suburban areas. Campbell, a professor in the school of engineering, has published a study called “The Large Potential of Local Croplands to Meet Food Demand in the United States Opens a New Window.”

3. A pasture-based rancher is caught in the crosshairs. Agricultural producers often feel misunderstood by their non-farming neighbors and consumers. Joshua Rockford, a pasture-based rancher in upstate New York, was reported to animal control. Eventually, he was charged with 13 misdemeanor charges relating to animal welfare. Like an increasing number of producers, Rockford is responding by using social technologies to tell his story online. And there’s more.

4. A wage hike for Baja farmworkers may come unraveled. A tentative deal that ended a farmworker strike in Baja, Mexico may be unraveling. Last month, in an effort to end a crippling labor action that had slowed produce exports to the United States, the Mexican government “tentatively agreed to boost wages by footing part of the increased payroll costs.” But now, agribusiness owners are not supporting the deal publicly, and there are questions about whether the government is truly willing – or able – to subsidize the wages of farmworkers, who have received few labor concessions over the years. If the agreement falls through, there are concerns that unrest could result. And look for disruptions in food imports.

5. Opinion: Agroecology and food system justice critical to empowering people to feed themselves. In an opinion piece appearing in The Huffington Post, Lori Thrupp, Alistair Iles and Maywa Montenegro of the UC Berkeley Food Institute make a strong argument that the current framing of how to feed a world population expected to reach 9 billion is flawed. They argue that the way we’re thinking about the problem – “based on projections of aggregate food production, population growth, and consumption trends” – is an oversimplification and “almost inevitably leads to a singular focus on technology-driven solutions.”


Notable Reports and Research:

1. A team of UC Davis researchers has issued a preliminary analysis of a California drought economic impact study for 2015. Richard Howitt, Josue Medellin-Azuara, Jay Lund, Daniel Sumner – all from UC Davis – and Duncan MacEwan (ERA Economics) conducted the analysis. See the report.

2. UC Merced professor Elliott Campbell and his team have mapped the potential of America’s cities to source food locally. Access the report: The Large Potential of Local Croplands to Meet Food Demand in the United States Opens a New Window.

3. Can organic be profitable? University of Washington study says “yes.”

4. UN Environmental Programme report: Global community must eat less meat and dairy.