Thanksgiving at CalCAN: Reflecting with Gratitude

Posted on Wednesday, November 27th, 2019 by
Photo credit: Bonterra

We often associate gratitude as closely with Thanksgiving Day as we do turkey and cranberries, reflecting on where we’ve been, where we are, and where we are going. Looking back, I can see that it has been a big year for CalCAN’s efforts to advance agriculture’s climate solutions.

We marked our 10th birthday and hosted our 6th California Climate & Agriculture Summit that was attended by 400 people. We celebrated a big increase in the budget of the Healthy Soils Program, almost doubling over last year, as well as the launch of a game-changing technical assistance program to support farmers in three of the state’s Climate Smart Agriculture programs. Our influence in the state climate and agriculture policy arena continues to grow thanks to dedication of our staff and amazing network of coalition members, farmers and ranchers, advocates, community groups and scientists.

CalCAN Coalition Retreat 2019

We also had a big year in the media, with almost 30 stories and radio interviews featuring CalCAN staff, advisors, and partners. This media coverage was both national (e.g., Civil Eats and New York Times) and statewide, including the East Bay Times, the Fresno Bee and LA Times.

As I settle into my third week at CalCAN I can already think of many things in our work that I am not only grateful for, but also excited about, moving forward. Because I just started in the job, my perspective is limited, so I asked my teammates what they appreciate about the past year.

From Brian Shobe, our Associate Policy Director:

“I’m thankful for the farmers, ranchers and technical assistance (TA) providers who consistently speak out to tell policymakers how to improve policies and programs. This year, we witnessed unprecedented participation in public processes—from the two dozen TA providers whose public comments resulted in a dramatic improvement in the rollout of $2.1 million in new technical assistance funding to the more than 100 people who participated in a series of Healthy Soils listening sessions and called for much-needed improvements to the program. Their grounded knowledge and collective power are so vital to scaling up solutions!”

Emma Torbert and Rich Collins talk about the environmental benefits of the hedgerows at Collins Farm during a tour at CalCAN’s Summit (credit Tom Muehleisen)

This year, we did more than ever before to engage legislators in their districts through farm tours, meetings and events throughout the state. More than 200 farmers and ranchers signed on in support of increased funding for California’s Climate Smart Agriculture grant programs. Due to these and many other actions, Governor Newsom and the legislature dramatically increased funding for the Healthy Soils program to $28 million for the 2019-20 fiscal year.

Our Policy Director, Jeanne Merrill reflects:

“I’m grateful for the farmers and our allies who take time out of their busy schedules to attend district meetings, offer farm tours or come to Sacramento to elevate the climate solutions that agriculture has to offer. I’m also very grateful for our legislative champions, past and present, whose embrace of these issues has made all the difference in California leading the way on climate smart agriculture.”

Lauren Lum, our Campaign Organizer, echoed similar thoughts:

“Reflecting upon the last year, I would like to thank everyone who joined us in the Capitol or in the fields, who made calls or signed-on to support letters. I am grateful for our dedicated partners, farmers, ranchers, and advocates who inform our policy work to advance sustainable agriculture. With their help, we are building a movement for a more resilient future, one where farmers and ranchers have the support they need to adapt and mitigate climate change impacts.”

Almond farmer Jose Robles, one of many farmer climate leaders who engages with CalCAN as an advocate, spokesperson and model

 It is obvious to me how much CalCAN’s accomplishments depend on the involvement of many people with a diverse and wide range of perspectives and expertise. This theme ran throughout the reflections of all of my teammates, including our Executive Director Renata Brillinger, who said this:

“I am especially grateful for our funders who so generously keep our doors open and our committed staff paid. I also appreciate the wisdom of the farmers and ranchers and their leadership both on the farm and in the Capitol. We have more work to do together to make nature-based, biologically and culturally diverse, multi-beneficial farms and ranches the norm, and I’m inspired and honored to be part of that much-needed transition.”

Personally, I’m excited to be in a place where we continue to focus on agriculture’s unique position and potential to address the impacts of climate change. I’m grateful to be part of such a dynamic team and supportive network and I look forward to elevating resiliency and adaptation strategies, the incredible work of our farmer climate leaders, and opportunities for policy engagement. I invite you to join us as we head into 2020 and reach out to me at to share the work you are doing in the agriculture and climate change nexus. From all of us at CalCAN, Happy Thanksgiving!

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