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University of California
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California Farm Demonstration Network forms to foster farmers’ innovation

NRCS regional soil health coordinator Kabir Zahangir uses a rainfall simulator to spray water over trays of different soils to show how on-farm management practices affect soil health.

Innovation is key to keeping California farmers globally competitive. On May 5, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, California Farm Bureau Federation, California Association of Resource Conservation Districts, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, UC Davis and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources signed a memorandum of understanding to better connect the state's farmers with each other and with science-based information sources to assure the sustainability of the state's agricultural systems.

The scarcity of water, fossil fuel use, carbon emissions, groundwater quality, labor cost and availability, air quality and loss of soil fertility are some of the challenges to the long-term viability of farming in California.

“What we are striving to accomplish with the California Farm Demonstration Network is to create a means for farmers to learn, to discover and to innovate,” said Jeff Mitchell, UC Cooperative Extension cropping systems specialist, who is leading the effort. 

The MOU was signed by Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture; Paul Wenger, president of the California Farm Bureau Federation; Ron Tjeerdema, associate dean of UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences; Karen Buhr, executive director of California Association of Resource Conservation Districts; Carlos Suarez, state conservationist for USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service; and VP Glenda Humiston.

In Glenn County, the farmer-driven effort has provided the opportunity for local farmers to share innovative practices and hold honest discussions about opportunities and challenges related to these systems.

“The collaborative effort of the partners presents the opportunity to leverage resources based on local needs and increases the likelihood that innovative agricultural practices will be adopted sooner than they might have been without the networking opportunity,” said Betsy Karle, UC Cooperative Extension director in Glenn County.

With the California Farm Demonstration Network, the organizers hope to create more opportunities to connect local people, showcase existing farmer innovation, engage in new local demonstration evaluations of improved performance practices and systems, evaluate the demonstration practices, and share information with partners. They also hope to expand and connect other local farm-demonstration hubs throughout the state via educational events, video narratives and a web-based information portal.   

Read more about the ceremony in Mitchell's blog post //


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