Planting Seeds - Food & Farming News from CDFA

Sustainable Pest Management Work Group: Learning from Innovators on California’s Central Coast

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross joined farmers, scientists and other colleagues serving on the Sustainable Pest Management (SPM) Work Group for a trip to the Monterey/Salinas region last week. The group used the trip as an opportunity to see pest management issues from the perspective of one of California’s most productive agricultural areas.

“The scope, scale and pace of agricultural production in this region, along with the integral roles of farm workers and community members here, makes this an ideal place to innovate, experiment and ultimately advance the science of pest management,” Secretary Ross said. “The expertise and the opportunities for innovation all come together here.”

The work group engaged in tours and conversations at a test plot for Driscoll’s Strawberry Breeding; a farm worker community; and Pinnacle Organic.

The SPM Work Group guides state agencies in creating pesticide alternatives and increasing research and education in organic pest management.

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California State Board of Food and Agriculture – August 3, 2021 Meeting Notice

California State Board of Food and Agriculture to discuss organic, regenerative and resilient agriculture on Tuesday, August 3, 2021 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:45 p.m.

GoToWebinar Meeting Link:
Webinar ID: 600-396-867

Interpretación simultánea (español) transmisión de audio: Marque: 844-460-0074

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USDA listening sessions to inform agency’s efforts to advance racial justice and equity

Mark Your Calendar: July 28-29

On July 28-29, USDA is hosting virtual listening sessions to collect testimony and information for its Racial Equity Commission. The group’s directive is to address systemic inequities and increase participation in USDA programs, services, committees and decision-making processes. CDFA Farmer Equity Advisor Thea Rittenhouse is scheduled to speak about the department’s Farmer Equity Report (English & Español) and issues particular to California agriculture.

How to Participate:

Sign up here to speak during the Zoom sessions:

July 28:
(7am-10am, 10am-1pm, 1pm-4pm Pacific / 10am-1pm, 1pm-4pm, 4pm-7pm Eastern)

July 29:
(4pm-7pm Pacific / 7-9pm Eastern)

Submit comments to the Federal Register here:

Submit comments by email here:

Deadline for comments in August 14 (it has been extended since the original Federal Register announcement).

Guiding questions:

  • If you have interacted with any agency at USDA, please describe that experience.
  • How can USDA remove or reduce barriers that underserved communities and individuals face?
  • What can USDA do to actively increase participation and engagement with underserved communities?

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Engaging youth to secure the sustainable future of food – from Morning Ag Clips

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization engages young people from around the world on the essential issue of sustainability

“The future of food belongs to the young people of today,” said  QU Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), at a side event of the 2021 UN High-Level Political Forum (HLPF), highlighting the importance of active youth engagement for a more sustainable food future for all.

The HLPF side event on youth and agri-food systems transformation, which was held (earlier this month), provided young people with the opportunity to propose and showcase their ideas and ongoing actions for making agri-food systems more sustainable and building back from COVID-19 in a dialogue with governments, youth groups and other stakeholders.

The event was organized with the World Food Forum (WFF), a youth-led movement and network of partners launched by the Youth Committee of FAO. The WFF aims to spark a youth movement to transform global agri-food systems and achieve the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), especially SDG 2 (zero hunger) and others under review in the HLPF 2021, such as SDG 1 (no poverty), SDG 10 (reduced inequalities) and SDG 13 (climate action).

“The complexity of our agri-food systems requires a coordinated, multi-sectoral and inter-generational approach,” the FAO Director-General noted in a video message recorded for the event. “We need to create an open and meaningful space for youth engagement, participation and leadership,” he said, adding that “today’s side event is an important milestone on this path.”

High-level participants

Other speakers at the event included Fabiana Dadone, Italy’s Minister for Youth Policies, who encouraged the building of dialogues with young people based on trust and the recognition of the value of their contributions, and Shamma bint Suhail Faris Al Mazrui, Minister of State for Youth Affairs of the United Arab Emirates, who highlighted the need to turn good strategy into action and put young people at the heart of it. For her part, Jayathma Wickramanayake, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, said young people and the solutions they bring matter more than ever in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, adding that it is time to invest in young people and place them in the centre of global systems.

A panel session brought together young people from across the world to discuss agri-food systems transformation. Alberta Pelino, Chair of Y20 and President of the Young Ambassadors Society (Italy), explained why the topic is important for young people like her: “We believe that young people can and must make an important contribution, as protagonists of the future we are building today. Their voices can represent a breaking point with the past for a more sustainable future.”

The discussions will inform an initial set of recommendations  and practical solutions from young people to global leaders  alongside information gathered from the ECOSOC Youth Forum in April 2021 and the results of an in-depth global youth survey.

World Food Forum

The WFF, officially launched in March 2021, currently provides an important platform for online consultations of global youth, in close cooperation with the UN Food Systems Summit.

It has been gathering ideas and actions for youth-led and youth-centered agri-food systems transformation through events like the HLPF side event. The outcome of these consultations will be presented to the UN Food Systems Pre-summit in Rome at the end of July (26-28 July).

The flagship event of the WFF will be a week-long celebration of youth-driven, sustainable solutions and innovative approaches for a better food future, taking place from 1 to 6 October of this year. Beyond 2021, the Forum will continue to provide a platform to engage and empower youth to transform our agri-food systems and help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, including SDG2 “zero hunger”.

Link to Morning Ag Clips

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“Grown to Be Great” — from California Grown

California leafy greens are among commodities featured in the “Grown to be Great” campaign.

The Buy California Marketing Agreement, also known as California Grown. is introducing a new digital media campaign, called “Grown to Be Great,” with the objective of inspiring consumers–especially those with a serious interest in cooking–to choose California specialty crops and share information about them on social media platforms.

The campaign debuted this month and will run for five months in California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada and Arizona.

California Grown–overseen by CDFA–was formed in 2001 and is dedicated to connecting consumers with the Californians who grow and produce their food. The Grown to Be Great campaign is funded in part by CDFA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.

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Learn about CDFA’s Citrus Pest and Disease Division at new web page

Oranges in a tree

CDFA’S Citrus Pest and Disease Division has a new web page with information about the division’s various activities, including the Asian Citrus Psyllid/Huanglongbing program. The division works closely with the The Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Committee, which was created to advise the Secretary and the California citrus industry about efforts to combat serious pests and diseases that threaten the state’s citrus crops. 

The page also features information about quarantines, biocontrol and treatment, and it includes links to a number of resources that citrus producers may find useful.

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CDFA Welcomes Michael Flores as new Deputy Secretary

Michael Flores was sworn in this morning by Secretary Karen Ross following his appointment by Governor Gavin Newsom as Deputy Secretary at the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Flores has been a Political Consultant since 2019. He was Senior Advisor for the California Correctional Peace Officers Association from 2005 to 2019. He served in multiple positions in the Office of Governor Gray Davis from 1999 to 2003, including Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Director of Administration. Flores was President and Commissioner of the California Fish and Game Commission from 2000 to 2007, Chairman of the Wildlife Conservation Board in 2001 and Chief of Staff for the Office of Lieutenant Governor Gray Davis from 1997 to 1999. Welcome to CDFA!

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California receives more than $1.4 million in USDA farm to school grants

A school garden at Bell Gardens Intermediate School in Los Angeles County.

Taken from a USDA news release

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $12 million in Farm to School Grants this year, announcing awards to 176 grantees, the most projects funded since the program began in 2013. More than $1.4 million of the funding is coming to California.

The USDA is also releasing new data demonstrating the recent growth of farm to school efforts nationwide. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of school districts and/or local entities responsible for school meals participated in farm to school activities during school year 2018-2019, more than half (57%) of which began within the past three years.

This year’s Farm to School Grants will help expand the access to fresh, local foods and hands-on agricultural learning for children across 45 states and the District of Columbia. The awarded projects will serve more than 1.4 million students at more than 6,800 schools. Grantees include schools, state agencies, non-profits, tribal nations, agricultural producers and groups, and – for the first time ever – institutions participating in the Child and Adult Care Food Program and the Summer Food Service Program.

The California recipients are as follows:

Boys & Girls Clubs of Oceanside (BGCO) -$50,000
BGCO will expand and revamp their existing community garden and use it as a resource for fresh produce
for Child and Adult Care Food Program and Summer Food Service Program meals.

Campo Band of Mission Indians, Campo CA – $47,950
The Campo Kumeyaay F2S Edible Garden Project will expand on current USDA programs by
supporting an opportunity for the Kumeyaay children and youth to learn the traditional ways of
growing food and managing the land, and building a garden ecosystem.

Community Action Marin, San Rafael CA – $97,864
Community Action Marin will expand its existing production farm add an additional school garden to a second agency early education campus. This project is part of the Community Action Marin’s Children and Family Services
strategy to ensure that the children in their preschool and childcare programs, and their parents,
are well nourished and able to build life-long healthy eating habits.

Community Bridges, Watsonville CA – $48,122
Community Bridges’ Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), in partnership with 100 Day
Care Home Providers, will pilot the Edible Garden Project benefiting low-income children in
California’s central coast and tri-county (Monterey, San Benito, and Santa Cruz) area.

Contra Costa Resource Conservation District, Concord CA – $45,535
The Contra Costa Resource Conservation District will implement its “Gills to Greens: Aquaponics
Systems for Urban Food Security” curriculum, which prioritizes serving 3rd-4th grade students
from underserved areas of Contra Costa County.

Healthy Day Partners, Encinitas CA – $94,695
Healthy Day Partners will grow the Straight 2 the Plate (S2TP) program in National City to advance
a commitment to farm to school programs nourishing students through healthy food and quality
education no matter the zip code or income level.

Imperial County Office of Education, El Centro CA – $48,627
Through its Agricultural Education Curriculum Development and Delivery Project, the Imperial
County Office of Education (ICOE) will help increase, expand, and improve access to high-quality
agricultural education programs in Imperial County.

International Rescue Committee, Inc., Sacramento CA – $50,000
Through the proposed Edible Garden Project, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in
Sacramento will work with four elementary schools in the San Juan Unified School District (SJUSD)
to develop and install four edible gardens, improving local food access and meeting community
nutritional needs.

Lodi Unified School District – $48,522
The Lodi Unified School District will purchase and construct an innovative and interactive greenhouse
at Plaza Robles Continuation High School. This project will provide students with a positive educational opportunity, building upon existing school gardening activities in the Lodi Unified School District to serve 159 continuation students.

Logan Heights Community Development Corporation, San Diego CA – $43,560
Logan Heights CDC will plan and execute an Edible Garden at its Future Achievers Preschool,
which annually provides STEAM education to up to 70 two- to five-year-old children.

North Monterey County Unified School District, Castroville CA – $97,638
Building on already successful partnerships, the North Monterey County Unified School District
(NMCUSD) Farm to School Expansion Project will increase the procurement of locally sourced
foods by scaling up the purchase of seasonal produce while leveraging efforts to expand educational opportunities for students.

Northern Valley Catholic Social Service, Redding CA – $44,002
The CalFresh Healthy Living program at Northern Valley Catholic Social Service will establish edible gardens within seven low-income elementary schools in Shasta County. Each garden will be made large enough to ensure a
consistent supply of fresh produce can be integrated into the menu and served to the students

Pasadena Unified School District – $99,018
The Pasadena Unified School District will expand the scope and depth of its current Farm to School
program in order to improve access to locally grown healthy foods for students in eligible schools
and to increase their knowledge of nutrition, food science, agro-ecology through curriculum
development, teacher training, and experiential learning opportunities during and after the
school day.

Planting Justice, Oakland CA – $99,496
Building upon the Oakland Unified School District’s (OUSD) movement toward healthier lunches,
Planting Justice will achieve hyperlocalization of the farm to school supply chain through Planting Justice’s East Oakland Neishi Farm’s production and distribution of leafy greens to OUSD lunch suppliers for preparation in Oakland public school lunches. Planting Justice will also partner with eight (8) schools in the District through pop-up green smoothie distributions, creation and maintenance of school gardens, and implementation of the Plant! Cook! Organize! curriculum.

Prepa Tec LA Middle School, Walnut Creek CA – $48,569
Alta Public Schools will participate in the Farm to School grant in order to bring a larger quantity
and variety of fresh produce to its students and families in the South East Los Angeles area. Alta
Public Schools will increase the use of fruits and vegetables in its breakfast, lunch and supper
menu, will implement salad bars at all campuses, and provide students and parents with culinary
workshops that will help families learn how to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into their
home cooking.

Schools in Action, Los Angeles – $36,361
As a School Food Authority, Schools in Action (SIA) would like to ensure that the Arts in Action
Community Charter Schools (A.I.A) widens its current approach to promoting nutrition education
and combatting food insecurity. This will be done through the procurement of local seasonal
vegetables and/or fruits and interactive lessons involving taste tests, presentations, and at-home
activities provided by a key partner.

Sierra Harvest, Nevada City CA – $98,518
The Free Range Kids project increases the availability of local foods in K-12 schools serving 10,000
students in rural Western Nevada County, CA. School meals will highlight new menu items and
increase students’ consumption of healthy foods through additional salad bars using locally
procured fresh fruits and vegetables.

Sustainable Solano Inc., Benicia CA – $46,235
Sustainable Solano will lead the “Markham Elementary Edible Garden Project” – the
development of a unique, distributed permaculture garden of raised beds and fruit tree guilds
across Markham Elementary School’s campus in Vacaville, CA. This project is a pilot for additional
sustainable school gardens across Solano County and will be accomplished in partnership with
the Vacaville Unified School District, Vacaville Public Education Foundation and Solano County
Office of Education.

The HEAL Project, Half Moon Bay CA – $71,226
The HEAL Project will deliver its award-winning garden based education programming, Intensive
Garden Program, to two local elementary schools. Additionally, the organization will develop a
school garden handbook, including planting guides, funding resources, and a 26-week curriculum,
to be distributed throughout San Mateo County.

Val Verde Unified School District, Perris CA – $100,000

Last year, the Val Verde Unified School District (VVUSD) partnered with the City of Perris to create
a Farm to School Framework and Action Plan. They will implement the VVUSD Farm 2 School
program in 16 of their K-8 schools. They will use the USDA funding for garden expansion and
modernization to increase their capacity for food growth, and purchase curricula to support
agricultural education across all of their K-8 schools.

In 2018 – 2019, the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) worked with Conscious
Kitchen to bring fresh, local, organic scratch cooked meals to a 536-student pilot at Peres
Elementary, a 100% free/reduced school. Kids loved the food, the program proved that the
district could cost effectively purchase local organic ingredients, significantly reduce waste,
provide a positive climate impact, create meaningful jobs, and engage students. In 2020,
WCCUSD launched a COVID response program further demonstrating the value and benefits of
buying local fresh products at scale, serving over 7 million meals to children in their communities
with over 75% with local fresh produce and shifting to over 50% organic products. The grant funds
will allow the district to create a roll out plan to bring the positive and delicious benefits from
these pilot projects to their students across the district when in-person meals return.

Yurok Tribe, Klamath CA – $99,976.00
The Yurok Tribe Environmental Program Food Sovereignty Division will create the food
production component of the Wautec Food Village and create corresponding garden and
traditional foods curriculum to support the Jack Norton Elementary School Farm to School

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CDFA continues collaboration and trade development with United Kingdom

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross met yesterday in Sacramento with the Rt. Honorable Liz Truss, UK Secretary of State for International Trade. The meeting provided an opportunity to discuss trade relations, climate and agriculture with an important trade partner for California.

The UK is California’s 11th largest trade destination. California’s agricultural exports to the UK add up to more than $455 million. Wine, tree nuts and dried fruit are the state’s leading Ag exports to the UK.

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World’s first underwater garden reopens – from the Good News Network

Nemo’s Garden off the coast of Italy.

By Andy Corbley

From the ancient rice terraces of Yunnan to modern vertical hydroponics, agriculture comes in many different forms. Now a group of Italian brainiacs have created the world’s first underwater garden for terrestrial plants.

Seaweed and kelp have been cultivated along shorelines for centuries, but in small submersible glass domes, pots of basil, lettuce, tomatoes, and even zucchini flowers, green peas, aloe vera, and mushrooms are growing like in any other home garden.

Called Nemo’s Garden, the project was launched by the Ocean Reef Group as a means to experiment with food supply diversity, should climatic changes make parts of Italy too dry to farm.

The large self-sustaining, totally-contained biospheres would in theory be scalable, and perhaps in the future might look like the underwater city from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.

The challenges inherent in growing plants underwater, given that they are normally at home in soil, was but one hurdle Nemo has had to overcome. The six air-filled greenhouses (or should that be bluehouses?) suffered major storm damage in October 2019, and before they could be fully repaired, COVID-19 had all the researchers sheltering in place.

Yet the team never gave up hope, as Euronews reports, and the months of abandonment did not harm the facility in any way. June 6th saw the garden fully-operational again, including their livestream where one can watch the plants literally grow.

The biospheres, which sit eight meters (26.25 feet) under the surface off the coast of Noli in Liguria, use solar energy for their minimal electrical needs, and evaporated seawater condenses on the glass of the ceiling which waters the plants. A diver swims under and up into the air pocket of the pod to harvest what’s ready to eat.

The project website says that increased pressure like that found under the ocean is actually beneficial to the speed at which plants can germinate, though they admit very little research has been published on the topic—after all, not so many people are currently trying to grow strawberries underwater.

The conditions create a really intense flavor in the vegetables, and also allow the plants’ environment to be completely controlled, with nothing impacting their life that the growers don’t want.

For now Nemo’s Garden is essentially a research lab, but if the idea were expanded, it’s expected to be able to reinforce food security for the peninsula, and the world.

Link to story on the Good News Network webpage

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