Private Grant Will Support New UC California Organic Institute

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The California Organic Institute will accelerate the development and adoption of effective tools and practices for organic farmers and those transitioning to organic farming. Organic strawberries pictured (photo by Mark Bolda, UC ANR.)

A $1 million endowment will establish the University of California’s first institute for organic research and education within the UC’s Agriculture and Natural Resources division (UC ANR), expanding the UC Cooperative Extension’s research and outreach capacity to target organic growers in California.

The California Organic Institute will accelerate the development and adoption of effective tools and practices for organic farmers and those transitioning to organic by building on the capabilities of UC ANR’s Cooperative Extension and Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program. Although organic is the fastest growing sector of the food economy, funding for research has lagged far behind support for conventional agriculture, according to a recent UC release on the announcement. Farmers interested in transitioning to organic or improving performance of their organic systems often lack the guidance they need to succeed.

Funding comes from a $500,000 endowment gift from Clif Bar & Company and $500,000 in matching funds from UC President Janet Napolitano. Recruitment for an institute director will begin in early 2020, with a search committee including industry representatives and partners. The director will work with a permanent advisory committee, Clif Bar, and UC ANR to launch the institute and recruit additional like-minded partners to support its long-term success. Once the director is selected a decision will be made on the location of the Organic Institute.

“California’s organic farmers already benefit from UC ANR’s pest management, irrigation and crop production research, and this partnership with Clif Bar will give UC more capacity to focus on challenges specific to organic farming,” said Glenda Humiston, UC vice president of agriculture and natural resources. “UC Cooperative Extension advisors work directly with farmers throughout the state so new organic farming techniques can be applied quickly.”

The California Organic Institute is Clif Bar’s third organic research endowment and the first in its home state of California, where the company sources several key organic ingredients. California has the most organic farms in the country. California’s nearly 3,000 certified organic farms grow crops on land that represents one-fifth of all U.S. certified organic land.

“The California Organic Institute will serve many of the organic producers we depend on for ingredients like almonds and figs, as well as farmers outside our supply chain,” said Lynn Ineson, vice president of Sustainable Sourcing for Clif Bar. “We recognize that the future of our food company depends on the ecological and economic success of organic and transitioning farmers.”

Ultimately, with the support of UC ANR and a constellation of partners, the California Organic Institute will be in a strong position to increase the performance of organic farming for improved stewardship of natural resources, the economic well-being of rural communities, and greater stability for the next generation of California farmers.

UC Agriculture and Natural Resources brings the power of UC research in agriculture, natural resources, nutrition and youth development to local communities to improve the lives of all Californians. UC ANR is a statewide network of UC researchers and educators who create, develop and extend knowledge on agricultural and natural resource management, youth development, family and consumer sciences, community and economic development, STEM and more. UC ANR collaborates with private and public stakeholders in all 58 counties. Clif Bar & Company is California-based manufacturer of organic foods and drinks, including CLIF® Bar energy bar and related family of products.

About the author

Marni Katz