From re-introducing ancient crops to understanding the ecological benefits of working landscapes in California, these recent food and agriculture stories should not be missed.
Ranching Cattle in California
It may be hard to believe but ranching is the number-one land use in the state of California. Working ranches occupy roughly 40 million acres and provide valuable ecological benefits, explains Sheila Barry, Livestock Advisor and Director of Santa Clara County for University of California Cooperative Extension.
More than 30 public agencies in Northern California use grazing to manage open space lands, and approximately 40 percent of the entire state is grazed by livestock annually. Grazing controls non-native annual plants and maintains grasslands. This reduces the risks of catastrophic wildfires, enhances habitats for many native plants and animals, protects water quality and maintains open space.
Farmer Chris Sayer Speaks Out
This fifth-generation farmer grew up working on Petty Ranch, a farm his family has operated since the 1870s in Ventura County…and which he now manages. In this lyrical guest post, Chris Sayer writes about his work:
“I am often told that I am lucky to work with nature. I am indeed fortunate to work outside in a beautiful tree-filled place. But the truth is that I don’t work in nature, even though I am surrounded by natural processes. I work in the field of applied natural science, and to me that is even more rewarding.”
Take a Moment for Millets
You may not have heard much about millets yet. But a team of UC Berkeley scientists and California farmers is working hard to change that.
This ancient grain appears to have a bright future as a nutritious food alternative. Consider:
This diverse family of grains is gluten-free and often contains lower carbohydrate content than rice, corn or wheat, as well as higher levels of protein, fiber and minerals, such calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and iron.
Read more about the Millet Project.
The Growth of Student Food Activism
There’s a growing appetite for learning and activism in food systems, explains Dr. Ann Thrupp in this guest post. The executive director of Berkeley Food Institute at UC Berkeley writes:
“Thirty-five years ago, when I was an undergraduate student, there were virtually no formal study opportunities and extremely limited practical training opportunities for young people interested in sustainable agriculture.
Today, there are approximately 400 education and training programs offered across the country that address sustainable agriculture and agroecology. At least 50 university and colleges nationwide also have student farms or gardens that enable hands-on education and research.”
Q&A with Mark Van Horn
The UC Davis Student Farm started nearly 40 years ago, and Director Mark Van Horn has been involved in some capacity for three decades.
This working farm serves as a classroom and living laboratory for more than 300 UC Davis students each year. It provides produce for a CSA, Dining Services and campus food pantry. Van Horn tells us:
“That’s why the things we do stick… they come out of students’ own motivation. They are things they want to learn, changes they want to see happen in what they are learning or learning about. A lot of what they want to learn about is how to create a better food system.”
Meanwhile, A Hat Tip to California 4-H
Mexican youth are getting access to hands-on educational experiences from a new partnership with UC ANR and California 4-H.
Lupita Fábregas, UC Cooperative Extension 4-H Youth Development advisor and assistant director for 4-H diversity and expansion tells us:
“The wonderful educational opportunities available to California youth are now being offered to a group of children in Mexicali. And that program will be a model for the rest of Baja California and Mexico.”
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