Humiston to be honored as 2018 California Steward Leader at California Economic Summit

Nov 9, 2018

Glenda Humiston has always been involved in rural issues from her days growing up on a cattle ranch to her current efforts to connect rural communities to more resources as University of California vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

In recognition of her contributions to sustain California as a place to create and thrive and to bestow to future generations, Humiston will be presented the 2018 California Steward Leader Award by California Forward and the California Stewardship Network at the California Economic Summit in Santa Rosa on Nov. 16. She currently serves on the 2018 Economic Summit Steering Committee and is the Action Team co-lead for Working Landscapes and co-chair of Elevate Rural California.

“I was really involved in the 1990s in trying to figure out how agriculture and environmental interests find common ground, as well as building bridges between rural and urban sectors,” Humiston said. ”In the 2000s, I started focusing on economic development and sustainability. In my current job, I'm bringing all of those together around the reality that sustainability truly has to be a triple bottom line. We've got to develop ways for people, the planet and prosperity to all thrive and enhance the synergies between them.”

She has been involved with the California Economic Summit from the beginning, chairing the Access to Capital Action Team at the first Summit in 2012. To raise awareness of innovative options for financing projects, she founded and chaired the California Financial Opportunities Roundtable and was instrumental in producing the Access to Capital Guidebook, a widely used resource for small business owners, policymakers and financial institutions.

Humiston served as deputy undersecretary for natural resources and environment at USDA from 1998 to 2001 under President Clinton. She then managed the Sustainable Development Institute at the 2002 World Summit for Sustainable Development in South Africa and the 2006 World Water Forum in Mexico City. In 2009, Humiston was appointed by President Obama to serve as the California State Director at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Rural Development.

Working landscapes a significant sector of the economy

Adam Livingston of the Sequoia Riverlands Trust applauded Humiston for making rural California a priority. “Glenda has an instrumental role, not just in the Working Landscapes Group, but the fact that Working Landscapes are even being considered as a significant sector of the economy.”

He added, “The fact that rural issues are on the agenda, the fact that we're talking about ecosystem services and the contributions that Working Landscapes can make in terms of meeting the Economic Summit's million-acre feet of water goal, Glenda has done a tremendous amount to make that possible.”

Sonoma County Supervisor James Gore agreed. “Glenda is a powerful and relentless advocate for triple bottom line prosperity. She has championed and delivered in every position I have seen her in. As one of the Co-chairs/Steering Committee for the Economic Summit, she has ensured that working landscapes remains a driver for rural prosperity.”

“Glenda embodies what CA Forward and the California Stewardship Network are all about: empowering regional hubs to own their own future,” added Gore, who served with Humiston at the U.S. Department of Agriculture as presidential appointees under President Obama.

Her work on rural issues continues. “Our Ecosystems Services Team has done a fantastic job in highlighting the opportunities for ecosystem services to be a powerful policy instrument as well as a compensation instrument for landowners to ensure that the many benefits from ecosystem services are available to the general public,” Humiston said. She added that recommendations from last year's Summit may be included in upcoming legislation.

Biomass, rural broadband and water infrastructure

As co-chair of Elevate Rural California, she is working on three main areas: biomass, rural broadband and water infrastructure. “We identified those issues at last year's Summit and worked this year to identify where the opportunities were as well as options to pursue.  We're bringing that information to the Summit this year to get people to really rally around those three issues and move forward working on implementation.”

To support these initiatives, Humiston is working to enhance economic development efforts throughout the state by ensuring that the research and resources of the University of California are delivered to every single community in the state. UC Cooperative Extension is in 70 communities and serves all 58 counties; its mission is to conduct research and extend knowledge that supports food security, healthy environments, science literacy, youth development and economic success in a global economy.   

Humiston, who joined the university in 2015 and clearly loves her work, said, “I love the mission of the programs I oversee for the University of California. This work is critical as we seek solutions to the challenges we all face: climate change, invasive species, changing workforce demands, water management and more.” 

Vision based on partnerships

Her vision is really based on partnerships. “I also see great opportunity for increased collaboration between UC, CSU and the Community Colleges," she said. "Working together we can offer more robust support for innovation, regional industry clusters, new business opportunities and other aspects of local economic development; we can bring a lot of resources to the table. Working with the California Economic Summit allows us to leverage the resources of various regional initiatives as well as other sectors; this helps all the Summit's efforts to be more successful.” 

As for the award, Humiston is humbled. “It's quite heart-warming to be selected by people I respect for something like that and certainly to be in the company of people who have won it in past years,” she said.

Previous recipients of the California Steward Leader Award include former California State Senator Becky Morgan, California Emerging Technology Fund's Sunne McPeak and Van Ton-Quinlivan, vice chancellor of the California Community Colleges.

Humiston will receive the award on Friday, Nov. 16, at the annual gathering of the California Economic Summit in Santa Rosa.


By Pamela Kan-Rice
Author - Assistant Director, News and Information Outreach