A New Voice at CDFA for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers

A photograph of CDFA Secretary Karen Ross with the department's new Farm Equity Advisor Thea Rittenhouse. The two are standing in Capitol Park with the dome in the background.

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross (right) welcomes the department’s new Farm Equity Advisor Thea Rittenhouse.

From Karen Ross:  It has been fun to welcome Farm Equity Advisor Thea Rittenhouse to the CDFA team this week!  Diversity is the strength of California agriculture.  It is made up of multi-generational families and first-generation beginning farmers and ranchers of every size and ethnic background growing almost 400 different crops.  We want to be sure every person engaged in farming and ranching knows about CDFA programs and that our operations reflect the full spectrum of California agriculture.  With her experiences in farming and teaching with a focus on underserved communities, Thea is just the person to lead this new CDFA endeavor.

From Thea Rittenhouse:  I am thrilled to be joining CDFA as the Farm Equity Advisor, and to be the person to spearhead the implementation of the 2017 Farm Equity Act.  The Farm Equity Act ensures that CDFA includes socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers in the development, adoption and implementation of programs and policies.

As a female farmer here in California for the past six years, I understand the challenges that socially disadvantaged farmers face as well as the opportunities and resources that exist to help them.

In addition to running a farm business, I have also dedicated much of my career to working with underserved and socially disadvantaged farmers, ranchers and farmworkers in California.  My experiences providing technical assistance, teaching workshops, and organizing conferences for underserved farmers has allowed me to deepen my understanding of the many different people who are involved in agriculture in California. I am most excited to be able to combine these experiences and my firsthand knowledge of farming to implement effective programs and policies that increase access to resources for all farmers in California and ensure that socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers’ voices are included and represented in policies and programs.  I look forward to establishing stronger connections between the farming community and CDFA and ensuring positive and long-lasting effective programs that serve all farmers in California.

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