- Author: Jeffrey P Mitchell
About fifty people gathered at the farm of Russ Lester just west of Winters, CA on a beautiful afternoon on the 5th of May for the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding for the California Farm Demonstration Network, a major undertaking by the University of California's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the University of California, Davis, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the California Farm Bureau Federation. The purpose of the MOU is to memorialize the agreement between these parties to collaborate in support of the planning, establishment, implementation, growth, and continuance of the Farm Demonstration Network that is dedicated to the increased adoption of conservation agriculture, soil health, and climate-smart systems in California. Its many goals all aim at the development of water-, climate-, and nutrient-smart systems for California's diverse crop production environments. Focus areas of the Network include, but are not limited to the following: participatory learning resulting in the adoption of improved management practices grounded in sound science- and experience-based principles, the public, voluntary showcasing of innovative systems developed by experienced farmer leaders, a program of farm demonstration evaluations that employ monitoring, data collection, and analysis of findings, and the use of proven, creative methods for sharing, discussing and communicating results and findings to scale-up even broader adoption of improved systems.
Signers of the Farm Demonstration Network included Secretary of the California of Food and Agriculture, Karen Ross, Dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at the University of California, Davis, Karen Buhr (for Paul Williams, President), Executive Director of the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts, Glenda Humiston, Vice President of the University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Carlos Suarez, California State Conservationist of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Paul Wenger, President of the California Farm Bureau Federation.
The signing ceremony program was emceed by Karen Buhr of the CARCD, Betsy Karle of UC ANR, Tony Rolfes of the NRCS, and Jeff Mitchell of the CASI Center. The process leading to the signing of the MOU was skillfully led by Catherine Montano, Director, Administrative Policies & Business Contracts of UC ANR with a Network Steering Committee that includes Buhr, Karle, Rolfes, Mitchell, along with Anita Brown and Zahangir Kabir of the NRCS, Wenger of the CFBF, Jenny Lester Moffitt of CDFA, and Kristen Murphy of the CARCD. This Committee, along with a new wave of partners, will begin work on achieving Network goals during the coming months. A copy of the MOU for the California Farm Demonstration Network is available at the CASI website.