UC ANR expands role and reach of its sustainable agriculture program

May 7, 2020

UC Agriculture and Natural Resources) will be welcoming the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP) back to its direct oversight effective July 1, 2020.

“This change in management will enable closer collaboration between SAREP and the other statewide programs and institutes administered by UC ANR, while also expanding our current affiliation with the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) to other campuses and partners,” said Glenda Humiston, University of California vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

Humiston also announced that Gail Feenstra, who has been serving as acting director since October 2019, has been appointed director of SAREP, effective July 1, 2020.

Since 1986, SAREP has supported scientific research and education to advance agricultural and food systems that are economically viable, sustain beneficial ecosystem services, and enhance the quality of life in local communities. Moving forward, California farms and food systems face an ever-larger set of challenges: shifting consumer demands,invasive pests, climate change, additional regulations, lack of access to labor, and more. The need for new technologies, better systems and effective problem-solving is greater than ever.

“UC ANR envisions positioning SAREP to serve as a much broader umbrella of sustainability, addressing all aspects of the triple-bottom-line: people, planet and prosperity,” Humiston said. “To accomplish this, SAREP will provide leadership and support to several promising initiatives and will facilitate our ability to capture synergies among them. Those include agritourism, ecosystem servicesregional food systems, community and economic development and more.”

Judith Redmond of Full Belly Farm said, “The SAREP program provides an opportunity for UC scientists and researchers to integrate their attention across the disciplines of social science, environmental science, and agricultural economics.  The challenges facing down California's farmers and farmworkers today demand no less — those challenges are converging from different directions and should not be addressed without attention to long-term sustainability.”

In addition to working with farmers, SAREP partners with community organizations including the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) and the California Climate and Agriculture Network (CalCAN), a statewide network of sustainable farmers and ranchers and allied organizations, agricultural professionals, scientists and advocates.

“The UC SAREP program was a groundbreaking effort to bring the research and education needs of organic and conservation-oriented agriculture to the foreground within our University of California system,” said Jeanne Merrill, CalCAN policy director. “By bringing SAREP back to UC ANR, we hope to see that program flourish as a statewide program that addresses the latest needs of farmers and the environment, including agricultural solutions to climate change.” 

CAFF executive director Paul Towers said, “SAREP's next chapter is exciting, strengthening sustainable agriculture research and more deeply connecting it to farmer needs across the state. Achieving our shared vision of a fair and resilient food and farming system is no small feat. So it's great to have an initiative focused on connecting the dots.”

Feenstra, who joined SAREP's staff as a writer in 1989, has spent her career encouraging interdisciplinary research and outreach that span the supply chain from farm to fork. She helped to initiate UC ANR's work in farm-to-school research and extension and was one of the first researchers with her SAREP team to evaluate farm-to-school procurement data rigorously. From projects that focus on small and mid-scale farms to food hubs to food systems assessments to food policy councils, Feenstra is interested in uncovering the economic development potential of coordinated supply-chain stakeholders and opportunities for building relationships between farmers, consumers and communities. 

“I am excited to be part of a stellar SAREP team working more closely with UC ANR colleagues and community partners on strengthening resiliency of regional food systems and supporting economic and social justice for all people – from farmers and farmworkers to food system workers to consumers,” Feenstra said.

Feenstra earned an Ed.D. in nutrition education from Teachers College, Columbia University in New York City, and a B.S. in dietetics and nutrition from UC Davis.

“Our sincere thanks go to UC Davis CAES and Tom Tomich, who has served as SAREP director since 2007, for their leadership and support of the program,” Humiston said.

As part of the transition, the SAREP team will relocate from the UC Davis campus to the UC ANR building at 2801 Second Street in Davis, Calif. The move is planned to be completed by July 1, although timing may be impacted by ongoing shelter-in-place orders.


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