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Small Farms, Big Future


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CASFS apprentice working at the UCSC Farm

CASFS apprentice working at the UCSC Farm Source: Source: CASFS

Climate change is upon us. The world’s water supply is shrinking. And increasingly, local, organic food is becoming more than just a fad or a luxury for wealthy foodies. On this edition, we go to California, America’s leading producer of fruits, vegetables, and dairy, to see some examples of how the nation’s agricultural industry is slowly but surely moving away from factory farms.


Joe Schirmer, Dirty Girl Produce owner and dry farmer; Juliet Christian Smith, Pacific Institute Senior Research Associate; William Friedland, University of California at Santa Cruz Professor Emeritus of Community Studies; Jim Leap, UC Santa Cruz Agro-Ecology Center Farm Operations Manager; John Fiscalini, Fiscalini Farms President and CEO; Brian Fiscalini, Fiscalini Farms General Manager; Mariano Gonzalez, Fiscalini Cheese Company Head Cheese Maker; Richard Machado and Christopher Montes, Cheese makers; Gary Peterson, Agriculture and Land-based Training Association (ALBA) Deputy Director; Karina Canto, ALBA agriculturist and farm incubator program participant; Efren Avalos, Avalos Organic farm owner and former ALBA participant.

Dry Farming–a Technique for a Water Scarce Future

It’s a historical quirk that the middle of a desert–California’s central valley–has been made into an artificial agricultural oasis. Farmers in the Central Valley are getting a sneak preview of what much of the country, and the world, can expect to see in the next few decades–increasing water scarcity. So how to handle a dry outlook ahead? To look into one idea, Making Contact correspondent Joaquin Palomino visited the nearby Central Coast growing region. The availability of water is a growing issue there, too. And a handful of farmers are finding new ways to make every last drop count.

A Waste-Free Dairy of the Future?

It’s estimated that dairy products make up a full 20% of our daily food intake here in North America. But with increased focus on cattle waste methane emissions as a factor in climate change, the dairy industry is facing intense scrutiny. Making Contact’s Rita Daniels takes us to one sustainable California dairy farm where solutions are being found… and where waste… as it turns out… makes all things possible.

Turning Farm Workers into Farm Owners

It’s well known that the people picking food all across the US are predominantly low-paid Latino migrant workers. It’s ironic that the workers caring for and picking our food, have the least say about how the farms themselves are run. But a non-profit organization in Central California is working to change that, with a dynamic program that turns farm workers into farm operators and owners. Making Contact’s Andrew Stelzer reports.

Special thanks to Tena Rubio who helped produce this piece.

For more information:

Pacific Institute

Oakland, CA

Center for Agro-ecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CAFS), UC Santa Cruz

California Agricultural Water Stewardship Initiative

Occidental, CA

Dirty Girl Produce

Watsonville, CA

Fiscalini Farms

Fiscalini Cheese

Agriculture and Land-based Training Association (ALBA)

Salinas, CA

Videos, Blogs, Articles, Links:

Anaerobic Digestion of Animal Wastes: Factors to Consider

Alternative Generation Options for Methane Digesters

Cow Power: Transforming Greenhouse Gases to Renewable Energy

California Small Farm Conference

Dry Farming



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