Central Valley Farmers and Renewable Energy feature at the California Climate & Agriculture Summit

On February 28 I attended the fifth annual California Climate & Agriculture Network (CalCAN) Summit at UC Davis with my colleague and co-worker Kristin Berger.

CalCAN is a Sacramento and Sonoma County-based coalition that advances policy solutions at the nexus of climate change and sustainable agriculture.

Central Valley Farmers made a good showing at the Summit to share their experiences in implementing measures that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lead toward sustainability in other respects.

T&D Willey Farms, an organic farm in Madera was on one of the first panels to talk about current research on both climate mitigation as well as adaptation. T&D Willey is also the host of “Down on the Farm” a radio program hosted by Tom Willey on KFCF 88.1FM out of Fresno that frequently covers climate issues and other sustainability-related issues in the agricultural sector.

Energy issues, including Community Choice Energy, got a real workout at the breakout session “Net Energy Metering & What it Means for Farmers.” Terra Nova Ranch, located near the town of Helm in Fresno County discussed the challenges and ultimate rewards of deploying two solar arrays on their farm.

The issues discussed in the Energy breakout session are addressed in depth in a report shared at the conference: “Shining Brighter: Farmer Perspectives on California Renewable Energy Program.”

Also in attendance were representatives of the Burroughs Family Farm of Stanislaus County that features a wide range of sustainability practices including tracking solar arrays.

My colleague Kristin met growers from Northern California, the Central Valley, and the Central Coast, and learned the challenges faced from working leased land, owning and working smaller parcels of land and/or land located adjacent to developed areas, and growers identifying themselves as disadvantaged. She attended panels on California’s water efficiency, soil quality management, and farmland conservation incentive projects sourced from the newly available cap and trade money.  

California’s State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP) first three rounds of funding have produced savings of 12.2 billion gallons of water and 11,278 tons of CO2, or the equivalent of taking 2,374 passenger vehicles off the road. Another panel focused on soil health provided in-depth information about California’s Department of Food and Agriculture Healthy Soils Program and other related programs offered through state and federal agencies. A panel on farmland conservation projects organized by American Farmland Trust touted the “triple harvest” of climate protection, smart growth, and food security. 

A video of the plenary session, speaker bios and more is available from CalCAN online in a full recap of the Summit.

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