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.
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.
“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.”
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”.
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.
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 weekly.
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.
WEST CONTRA COSTA UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT, Richmond CA – $50,000 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 program.
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.
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 Euronewsreports, 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.