Regenerative Agriculture & Resilience with CalCAN Advisor Cynthia Daley at CSU Chico

Posted on Friday, June 7th, 2019 by Amy Winzer
Cindy Daley (center) shows the soil conditions to animal Science majors Kate Carlson, 22 (left) and Clint Lundell, 24 (right) in the dairy cows pasture at the CSU Chico University Farm. (Jason Halley/University Photographer)

Cynthia Daley is the Director of the Center for Regenerative Agriculture & Resilient Systems at California State University Chico. Below is an excerpt of an interview with Cynthia about her work and her involvement with CalCAN.

CalCAN depends on two Advisory Councils to inform and advance our policy work. The Councils are comprised of growers, agriculture professionals, researchers, agricultural and environmental experts. Cynthia serves on CalCAN’s Science & Technical Advisory Council, made up of some of the state’s leading researchers and agricultural professionals working on climate change and agriculture.

More about Cynthia Daley

Cynthia Daley was raised on a farm in Illinois and has been involved in the livestock industry in California for the last thirty years. She is now the Director for the Center for Regenerative Agriculture & Resilient Systems at California State University, Chico.

Cynthia is also the founder/supervisor for the Organic Dairy Program at the University Farm. She teaches sustainable agriculture within the College of Agriculture, working on initiatives that promote agricultural practices that sequester carbon, build soil, and improve on-farm economic viability.

CSU Chico’s Center for Regenerative Agriculture & Resilient Systems

CSU recently moved to formally establish the Center on campus, signifying more robust institutional support for what was previously the Regenerative Agriculture Initiative on campus. The Center is an interdisciplinary partnership supported by the College of Agriculture, College of Natural Sciences, and College of Communication and Education. Through it, the University will invest in research at the University Farm, offer degree programs in the field of regenerative science and agriculture, and create engaging curriculum across disciplines.

“Agriculture is uniquely poised to provide an economically feasible, ready-to-roll solution to atmospheric CO2 levels and the devastating impacts of global warming,” Cynthia Daley said. “It’s a new age. We all need to become very conscious of our soil, our soil resources, and how we build soil biology. And that’s what the Center is all about.”

​The Center’s focus is on research and education to support farming practices that sequester carbon by feeding the soil food web, keeping the soil covered and minimizing disturbance and erosion.include minimizing soil disturbance (like no-till/low-till), managed grazing, compost and manure application, green manure crops, cover cropping, and crop rotation.

Interview with Cynthia

CalCAN is grateful for Cynthia’s collaboration. We recently asked her a few questions. See her responses below.

What brings you to your work/motivates you to do what you do?

Cynthia: The knowledge that those of us in production agriculture hold the key to a feasible and ready-to-roll solution to the climate crisis. It requires a change in the way we farm. But more specifically, it requires a change in the way we “think” about how we farm and ranch.

When did you become interested in the nexus of agriculture and climate change?

​Cynthia: Fifteen years ago when I was given the University’s conventional dairy to manage, it was plagued by red ink, poor health, waste management challenges and questionable animal welfare practices. I went on a fact-finding mission for a more ecologically-friendly solution. In 2006, we transitioned the dairy to pasture-based, organic production system.

Did you have an “aha!” moment that led to work on these issues?

​Cynthia: It was a gradual process. We received bizarre backlash from some people in our community when we transitioned the dairy to organic, whereas we were expecting all our friends, family and alumni to be supportive and excited about the innovation, growth and economic viability of the program. I also recognize that we have little time, and that conventional farmers respond negatively to the word “organic.” So, we are meeting farmers where they are and just focusing on the practices that will improve their farm’s equity and profitability.

How is working with CalCAN meaningful to you?

​Cynthia: CalCAN focuses on the policy work that needs to happen to make regenerative farming practices part of our “new normal.” Several measures have been game changers in this regard, the latest of which is the Alternative Manure Management Program (AMMP), the State Water Efficiency & Enhancement Program (SWEEP) and the Healthy Soils Initiative.

What is your hope for the future? What is your vision for our collective success?

​Cynthia: I envision a world where farmers receive adequate return on their investments—or parity—while building their soils and sequestering carbon. Where family farms are economically, socially, and ecologically viable at any scale. A world where farmers are valued and recognized as the solution to our climate crisis and get paid for the carbon they sequester from the atmosphere.

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