Farmer & Rancher Climate Leaders: The Faces Behind Climate Smart Ag Funds

In a series of newly-published profiles, we share the stories of more than 30 farmer and rancher climate leaders harnessing state climate investments to enact on-farm climate solutions. Read their stories here.

Farmers and ranchers throughout California—on more than 750 farms in more than 50 of California’s 58 counties—are spearheading innovative projects, supported by state cap-and-trade funds, to reduce greenhouse gases and/or sequester carbon on their operations.

“When this opportunity came around, I hopped on it. This system will be better for my crops, better for water quality and will make me a better farmer in the long run.”
– Jerry DaSilva, Manuel DaSilva Dairy in San Joaquin County, AMMP Participant

Jerry DaSilva’s family has been dairying at his farm for more than 40 years ago, since he was a toddler. Jerry planned to upgrade his manure handling system but did not previously have the financing. With an Alternative Manure Management Program grant, he will now cut methane emissions (a potent greenhouse gas), reduce nitrate leaching into groundwater, more efficiently use water, and spread the majority of his manure onto his fields as a valuable fertilizer. The AMMP project improvements will also require less labor and reduce logistical hassles of management operations. Read Jerry’s story here.

“We can reduce our carbon emissions and fertilizer applications and save water at the same time. It’s a win-win-win.”
– Sandi McGinnis-Garcia, McGinnis Ranch in Watsonville, Healthy Soils Program Participant

After her father retired from farming in 2015, Sandi McGinnis-Garcia took over management of McGinnis Ranch along with her niece Sara Evett. Due to high development pressure in the area and the thin financial margins of farming, her father was tempted to sell the farm upon retiring. Sandi and Sara, both determined to keep the land in farming, took advantage of at the opportunity to apply for a Healthy Soils grant in 2017, which will help them maintain a financially viable farming operation as they transition to certified organic management. Sandi sees the soil-building techniques they’ll implement with their grant—amending with compost, cover cropping, and planting a hedgerow—as a strategy to reduce their long-term dependence on costly amendments while also enriching their soils (that are so sandy, she says it’s like walking on a beach) and sequestering carbon. Read full story on McGinnis Ranch here.

In addition to AMMP and Healthy Soils Program grantees, we also tell stories about the farmers, ranchers, and land trusts behind two other programs: the State Water Efficiency & Enhancement Program & Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program.

Read stories of farmers and ranchers leveraging state funds for important shifts toward climate-beneficial agriculture.

Technical Assistance Accelerates More Robust Adoption of Climate Smart Practices

“We couldn’t have done the application without help from the University of California Cooperative Extension.”
– Pao Yang, diversified Asian vegetable and herb farmer in Fresno County, SWEEP Participant

For a number of these farmers like Pao Yang (read his story here), Sandi and Sara at McGinnis Ranch, and others, access to state Climate Smart Agriculture grant funds would not have been possible without the support of technical assistance providers like Resource Conservation Districts, University of California Cooperative Extension, and non-profit organizations such as the Community Alliance with Family Farmers, National Center for Appropriate Technology, and Fish Friendly Farming.

For others, like Jackson Family Wines in their partnership with Sonoma RCD, their projects would not be nearly as ambitious, robust, or implemented in such a scientifically rigorous manner.

“The state’s support for [the Healthy Soils Initiative] could be pivotal for California agriculture by improving both public understanding and offering examples of success to growers. This kind of thinking, that is proactive, rather than reactive, is exactly what we need from our policymakers.”
– Julien Gervreau, Director of Sustainability at Jackson Family Wines

Read the stories of other farmers and ranchers who partnered with technical assistance providers, including Sonoma Mountain Institute, The Pauma Band of Luiseño Indians, Quaker Oaks Farm, Robles Farm, W.H. Latimer Properties, Xiang Pao Her and Pao Ly.

Scaling Up Climate Solutions with Policy

Policy is an integral tool in mitigating and adapting to our climate crisis, and California’s Climate Smart Agriculture programs exemplify this. Many of the farmers we interviewed told us that the cost-share grant programs have enabled them to implement entirely new practices or immediately fast-track long-term plans to save water and energy, sequester carbon, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, build soil health, and otherwise make their operations more economically viable and environmentally sound.

With more than 77,000 farms and ranches in California, less than one out of 100 operations are utilizing state climate investments. With California’s unique context of ambitious climate-related goals and policies, we have an opportunity to rapidly scale up climate solutions—and we will depend on the leadership of farmers and ranchers for the unique, powerful agricultural climate solutions at their fingertips.

Are you a Climate Smart Agriculture grantee and want to share your story with us? Drop us a line at info@calclimateag.org.

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