CDFA and the Office of Farm to Fork join in celebration of National Farmers Day

I love farmers #nationalfarmersdayCDFA and the Office of Farm to Fork join the rest of the country in celebrating National Farmers Day today. Here are some interesting facts about our farmers and ranchers:

  • There are roughly 3.2 million farmers in the United States—that’s less than 2 percent of our population.
  • Ninety-nine percent of farms are family-owned, and account for 89 percent of agriculture production.
  • The average American farmer grows enough to feed 165 people!
  • USDA’s latest Census of Agriculture found that 25 percent of farmers were “new and beginning” – meaning they had been operating their current farm for fewer than ten years. (But we need lots more new and beginning farmers!)
  • And there are 969,672 women farmers in the United States – that’s nearly 1/3 of all farmers.
  • Farmers are tech-savvy. Satellites, GPS systems, and other new solutions are helping today’s farmers get the most of every acre, drop of water and seed they plant.

***Cross-posted from CDFA’s Planting Seeds Blog***


California dairy kicks off #SealsForGood milk drive

 Child holding glass of milk. Text on Poster:Feed a Childhood with Milk

TRACY, Calif. — Milk is one of the most-requested staples at food banks, but among the least donated. On average, people served by food banks receive the equivalent of less than 1 gallon per person per year. To help fill this gap and support families in need in areas affected by hurricanes Harvey and Irma, California dairy farm families launched the Seals for Good social media challenge, which will provide up to 4,000 gallons of milk to families and children struggling with hunger.

“It is important to California’s dairy farm families to help ensure access for all to nutritious milk and dairy foods. The need is especially acute with so many families affected by the recent hurricanes,” said John Talbot, CEO of California Milk Advisory Board and Real California Milk. “Products like cheese, butter, yogurt, cottage cheese and ice cream with the Real California Milk seal are available throughout the U.S., which makes the Seals for Good campaign an easy way for people to support the people in need with just a simple social media post.”

Social Media Challenge: Post a photo of a dairy product (cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, butter, ice cream) showing the Real California Milk seal on Facebook or Instagram using the hashtag #SealsForGood.

Timing: Kicks off September 25, 2017 and runs through December 31, 2017

Donation: For each qualifying post, $5 – representing a gallon of milk – will be donated to the Great American Milk Drive (up to $20,000 total) through Feeding America to provide vouchers for fresh milk to families in need in Florida and Texas.

“Providing fresh milk to people in need is always challenging, but it’s especially difficult for food banks during times of crisis,” said Nancy Curby, SVP of Corporate Partnerships & Operations at Feeding America. “Feeding America is grateful for the ongoing support of the dairy industry, and it’s wonderful to see our partners step up to help people when they need it most. We know that giving our network the ability to distribute fresh milk will help relieve some stress for families in disaster-affected areas as they work to rebuild.”

Each year, more than 46 million people, including 12 million children, are served by Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization. It has a nationwide network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs.

Visit for more information on the Great American Milk Drive.

***Cross-posted from Morning Ag Clips from October 1, 2017***

CDFA’s Secretary Karen Ross helps kickoff the State Employees Food Drive with a farm-fresh produce donation

Karen Ross holding bundle of carrots and chard at farmers market

Secretary Karen Ross visited the Capitol Mall Farmers’ Market to kickoff the State Employees Food Drive on the final Thursday market of the season. The CDFA Office of Farm to Fork organized the fresh produce drive, encouraging state employees to purchase produce at the market and donate it to Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services.

Chard, bouquet of flowers, tomatoes, corn

Ross made several trips through the market and donated over 20 pounds of produce, including apples, tomatoes, melons, and sweet corn. She also helped designate September as Farm to Food Bank Month, recognizing the year-round need for donations.

Fresh produce donations are a triple win; they help provide healthy foods to those in need, create viable farms, and support the local economy. Throughout the market’s duration on September 21st, nearly 400 pounds of produce was donated. This is a great start to reaching the goal of 800,000 pounds of food for the 2017 State Employees Food Drive.

Visit the California State Employees Food Drive website for more information on giving.

October is Farm to School Month

Girl covering eyes with apples

October is National Farm to School Month and we are off to an amazing start! Secretary Karen Ross of the California Department of Food and Agriculture signed a proclamation designating October as Farm to School Month in California last week. CDFA and the Office of Farm to Fork recognize the importance of farm to school programs in the state as a way to support California’s farmers, school children, and the economy.

Farm to School Month provides an opportunity to show all of the great work being done as well as how anyone – students, parents, nutrition professionals – can get involved and make changes to advance farm to school in their local communities. Join schools hosting farm to school activities, like Natomas Unified School District who will  take students out to visit a local farm or Oroville schools participating in local Crunch events, where students simultaneously bite into local apples to show their support for healthy, seasonal foods.   

Farm to school enriches the connection communities have with healthy food, local producers, and nature by changing food purchasing and education practices at schools and preschools. The most recent USDA Farm to School Census reported that 55% of California schools participate in farm to school activities. This represents over 3.4 million California students, or approximately half of all K-12 students.There are numerous long-standing and emergent farm to school programs throughout the state and the California Farm to School Network aims to inspire, connect, and educate both old and new.  To learn more, check out the California Farm to School Network and the National Farm to School Network.


California farmers and ranchers celebrate Farm to Food Bank Month by giving back to their communities – over 245,000 pounds of California Grown foods donated to Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County and the OC Food Bank

Mark Lowry, Director of the Orange County Food Bank, Secretary Karen Ross of CDFA, Sue Sigler, Executive Director of the California Association of Food Banks, Nicole Suydam, CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County, and AG Kawamura, Co-owner of O.C. Produce and former California Secretary of Food and Agriculture

Mark Lowry, Director of the Orange County Food Bank, Secretary Karen Ross of CDFA, Sue Sigler, Executive Director of the California Association of Food Banks, Nicole Suydam, CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County, and AG Kawamura, Co-owner of O.C. Produce and former California Secretary of Food and Agriculture recognized California farmers and ranchers giving back to their communities through donations.

Irvine, September 29, 2017 – Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County hosted an event on Friday, September 29th to shine the spotlight on California farmers and ranchers who support organizations leading the way in contributing healthy California-grown products to food insecure populations.

Lundberg Family Farms

Lundberg Family Farms made the generous donation of 82,000 pounds of rice products for the event.

Over 245,000 pounds of California-grown and produced foods were donated to the food banks for the event including 5 truckloads of mushrooms from Monterey Mushrooms, 200 Foster Farms whole turkeys, 2 truckloads of rice products, including 2 pallets of Orca beans from Lundberg Family Farms representing 82,000 pounds, 1 truckload of pears from Rivermaid Trading Company representing 40,000 pounds, ½ truck load of stone fruit from Venida Packing representing 20,000 pounds, ½ truckload of apples from Prima Frutta Packing Company, 1 truckload of citrus from Wonderful Citrus representing 40,000 pounds, 5 bottles of olive oil from the California Olive Oil Council, 15,700 pounds of potatoes from Veg-Fresh, one pallet of watermelons from Yosemite Fresh, 2 pallets of Frieda’s assorted produce, 21,000 pounds of Coman Hamburgers, and 14,000 pounds of Driftwood Dairy Milk. The food was divided between Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County and the Orange County Food Bank, and ended up on the tables of food insecure Orange County residents.

Secretary Karen Ross of CDFA, Steve Linkhart, and Sue Sigler

Secretary Karen Ross of CDFA, Steve Linkhart, and Sue Sigler of the California Association of Food Banks discuss the process of receiving donations from farmers and ranchers.

The event featured an address from Secretary Karen Ross of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, who commended the farmers and ranchers who donated for their commitment to improving the lives of Californians. She also announced the news that Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. had released a proclamation that declares September as Farm to Food Bank Month, addressing the need for donations throughout the year. Remarks were also made by Nicole Suydam, CEO of Second Harvest of Orange County, Sue Sigler, Executive Director of the California Association of Food Banks, and OC Produce Co-owner and former California Secretary of Food and Agriculture, A.G. Kawamura who donates product, as well as time to Second Harvest.

Nearly seven years ago, the California State Board of Food and Agriculture set an ambitious goal – work with the state’s farmers and ranchers to double contributions of fresh foods to food banks; from 100 million pounds to 200 million pounds annually. While this goal was met earlier in 2017, there are still many Californians who face hunger daily. By highlighting individual farmers who give back regularly and organizations who effectively distribute donations, the generosity can inspire others in California to do the same.

USDA Awards Office of Farm to Fork $3.9 Million in FINI Funding

Daikon radish

SACRAMENTO, August 7, 2017 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded CDFA a Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grant of $3,944,573 to fund nutrition incentives at Certified Farmers’ Markets throughout the state.

Along with partners at the Ecology Center, Wellington Square Farmers Market, Napa Farmers Market, and North Figueroa Foundation, the grant will help fund the California Nutrition Incentive Program (CNIP), which is set to begin this summer. The program, administered by CDFA’s Office of Farm to Fork, will address food insecurity and access to fresh fruits and vegetables among low income Californians while simultaneously supporting and expanding markets for California farmers.

CNIP will offer nutrition incentives to CalFresh Shoppers at 339 certified farmers’ markets and mobile markets throughout California. For every CalFresh benefit dollar they spend, CalFresh shoppers will receive an additional dollar that can be spent on fruits and vegetables at the market, within set parameters. Any CalFresh shopper can benefit from the program simply by spending their benefits at participating Certified Farmers’ Markets. The incentive is intended to encourage CalFresh shoppers to purchase healthy food and empower them to increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables.

CNIP builds on the successful eight-year old California Market Match program, led by Berkeley-based Ecology Center, which received a two-year FINI grant in 2015. CNIP emphasizes innovative marketing and outreach efforts to attract more CalFresh shoppers to farmers’ markets, expansion to new markets, and the testing of different technologies to make it easier for farmers’ markets to continue offering incentives.

“CDFA is thrilled to be selected for a federal FINI award” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “The program is a triple win for California – it supports the health of our low-income shoppers, our farmers, and the local economy.”

The California Nutrition Incentive Program is made possible through a robust public-private funding structure—including the FINI grant, state general funds, SNAP-Ed (the federally funded nutrition education program for SNAP and SNAP eligible consumers) funds, and local partner support, including private donations, grants and in-kind contributions. CNIP was created by Assembly Bill 1321 (Ting) in 2015 and was provisionally funded when the Legislature appropriated $5 million for the program in 2016, contingent on receiving matching federal funds. This state funding enabled CDFA to apply for the FINI grant. The Department is exploring a second phase of the program next year and will apply for additional matching funds.

Partners were chosen through a competitive grant process, to implement the program and include programs at the Ecology Center – California Market Match Expansion and Innovation Project; Wellington Square Certified Farmers’ Market Incentive Festivals; North Figueroa Association – Market Match of Northeast Los Angeles; and the Downtown Napa Farmers’ Market Token Match Program.

More information on the California Nutrition Incentive Program can be found at

Farm-to-School: getting nutritious food to the students who need it most

Intersection of Farm Avenue and Fork Street

This story is cross posted from the CDFA Planting Seeds blog. 

The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) Office of Farm to Fork was created with a mandate to increase access to healthier, California grown foods by supporting sales to school programs. The office has focused considerable effort on the Farm to School movement.

Statistics of California farmer markets

In addition to assisting in the creation of a model multi-school-district buying collaborative, the Office of Farm to Fork has paved the way for school districts to connect with California farmers and procure fresh wholesome food. The principal accomplishment under this mandate is the California Farmer Marketplace.

Statistics of California districts and food activities

The Farm to School effort enriches the connection communities have with fresh, healthy food and local food producers by changing food purchasing and education practices at schools and preschools.

The average school district spends 15% of their budget on local products. School districts in California are focusing their purchases from local producers on the following types
of food:

  • 80% fruits
  • 76% vegetables
  • 54% milk
  • 20% meat or poultry

Office Releases a Farm to School Stakeholder Survey

Healthy Lunch: Salad, low fat milk, strawberries, taco and grapes
The CDFA Office of Farm to Fork is conducting a survey of the California Farm to School Network (CFSN) to help grow and advance the movement.

The Stakeholder Survey will help the Office understand how CFSN can better facilitate connections and collaboration amongst California’s farm to school leaders. It only takes 10 minutes and respondents will be entered to win a free registration to the 2019 conference! You have until Sunday, July 16th to complete the survey at:

CFSN is a statewide initiative that aligns farm to school efforts, shares resources, and brings stakeholders together, continuing California’s leadership in linking California farms to K-12 schools, early childhood education providers, and post-secondary institutions. CFSN is made up of farm to school leaders throughout the state, so we want to get feedback from as many stakeholders as possible and your voice matters!

Take the Survey Now!


Office of Farm to Fork will be the California Farm to School Network Lead, with support from a USDA Farm to School Grant

Children holding carrotsThe California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) Office of Farm to Fork is pleased to announce that they are one of 65 USDA Farm to School grantees spanning 42 states and Puerto Rico receiving support this year through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm to School Grant Program. The Grant Program is part of USDA’s effort to better connect school cafeterias and students with local farmers and ranchers.

“Increasing the amount of local foods in America’s schools is a win-win for everyone,” USDA Secretary Perdue said in announcing the Farm to School grants. “Our children benefit from the fresh, local food served in their meals at school, and local economies are nourished, as well, when schools buy the food they provide close to home.”

CDFA’s Office of Farm to Fork (Office) received the USDA Farm to School Grant to support its new leadership of the California Farm to School Network (Network). The Network is a “one-stop shop” for everything related to Farm to School in the state of California. As a communications hub and a convener across many organizations and regions in the state, the Network will align Farm to School efforts, share resources, and bring farmers, schools, distributors, and practitioners together. The Office was also selected as the 2017-2019 National Farm to School Network California Core Partner and looks forward to participating in national farm to school efforts.

The Network originally started in 2013 and led by the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute (UEPI), and LifeLab. As the new Network lead, the Office looks forward to strengthening the already robust movement built by these organizations and all farm to school stakeholders throughout California. Through this transition, the Office will continue partnerships with CAFF (which will lead procurement efforts), UEPI (which will lead early childhood education work), and Lifelab (which will lead school garden efforts).

The USDA Farm to School Grant recognizes the Office’s leadership in the farm to school and farm to early care and education movements, and will provide new opportunities for the Office to continue building capacity and support for farm to school programs in California. In the coming months the Office looks forward to hearing from farm to school stakeholders in California and sharing new resources and tools to further advance the movement.

Together, the Office and the many farm to school practitioners in California will support the development of new information and resources, grow awareness of farm to school benefits, and provide vision for the growth and evolution of the program.

Wrapping up the Farm to Fork Ambassadors

Handful of dirt

As Archi’s Institute for Sustainable Agriculture students finish up the intense 6 week course, many prepare for the next steps after the program – presenting their business plan to potential investors, thinking out the final details of their business, and reviewing the vast amounts of information they have absorbed over the program. For their final blog post Farm to Fork Ambassador’s share their thoughts as they make this big step and prepare to start off their farming career.

Alyssa Ponce

Alyssa Ponce Farm to Fork Ambassador
Karen and Colin Archipley pose with Alyssa Ponce, Farm to Fork Ambassador, after completing her capstone presentation at the San Diego Farm Bureau.

In our last week at Archi’s Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (AiSA) we focused on developing a detailed business plan to prepare for our presentations for the Farm Bureau. We also completed and became certified in ServSafe Food Safety Program for Managers.
At the Farm Bureau Outreach event 30 people attended, watched and critiqued my business model and included any additional notes that can benefit me in the future. Every survey I received back provided great feedback and believed my business model is surely to succeed. It was a great experience and definitely provided insight of what I must do to get my farm out there and an idea of what I need to do if my farm needs financial assistance. I also realized when you have a certain amount of time to present to people you want to get the best information and make it as short as possible to get the point across. I’m thankful for everyone that showed up and provided assistance to help my farm become successful.
Servsafe was an intense course but provided useful information on how to properly handle food and how to ensure you’re doing it correctly. This is especially useful in the farming industry when handling food. By ensuring servsafe compliance you can ensure your business won’t fall into an outbreak and make you an easy target for lawsuits. We covered everything from the importance of food safety, good personal hygiene, time and temperature controls, preventing cross contamination, receiving and storing food, Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point and other food safety regulations. This class has tons of information I plan to continue learning as I complete my course to ensure proper handling of food. This will come in handy when I create daily task guides for employees and audits.
For our final field exam, it included the different types of hydroponic medias, how to check the greenhouse by shutting down and checking PH and PPM, how to properly clean the filter, restart the system, check for leaks and/ or clogs and how to troubleshoot if problems continue. It also included how to work with a fertigation loop in a greenhouse. We discussed how to assemble fertigation in working order, identify each role of the sprinkler valve, bypass, venturi valve and how to operate it. And lastly, we had to identify the main ingredients in compost tea, identify all working part of a tea brewer and learned how to calculate ingredients for different gallon brews.
For all final tests, I received an A and I feel confident I know how to set up and manage a green house facility ranging from a small 100 plant site greenhouse to a 5,000-plant site greenhouse. After the course on my own time I plan to further my research into how to make a great business plan, servsafe requirements and guidelines, hydroponic medias and different types of compost methods.

Joe Laguna

Getting to work in a greenhouse environment showed me the many aspects and considerations to choose from. The different crops and benefits of growing organic put a new prospective on it for me. I have always grown naturally and now I know the things we can add to the soil to grow organically. I really enjoy growing in many different methods, mediums and being able to grow organically makes food taste so much better and the nutritional benefits that go along with that.

Dara Morgen

CDFA Office of Farm to Fork Ambassadors
Michael Lupacchino and Dara Morgen after presenting their business plans to local farmers at Archi’s Institute for Sustainable Agriculture.

As we reach the end of this course and are then off to begin our own individual farming businesses, I plan to get in contact with Jessica Molina in order to identify potential alternative lending opportunities. Additionally, I will use the material from this week’s reading assignment to evaluate and determine which type of business will be the best fit for my needs. Moreover, and as stated in previous assignments, I will continue to try and identify key areas unique to my starting business so that I can set myself apart from other farming businesses. From this week’s reading material, I can begin thinking about whether it makes sense to obtain the USDA’s organic certification.
I plan to use the information learned this week to begin working on my business plan. I will continue researching a few of the operational costs associated with owning and operating a small sustainable farming operation. I will then use this information along with the “Liveplan” software to help construct a working business plan that I can use to present to the panel during this week’s schedule.

Michael Lupacchino

I chose the bitter melon for my business plan because I see the potential for economic benefit for the farmer. By targeting niche neighborhood and businesses that use the bitter melon, one can make this plant a profitable crop. Because I’m Filipino, I know how hard it is to find a constant supply of fresh bitter melon in commercial supermarkets in the United States. Bitter Melon is a niche crop that requires a niche consumer, but there is a growing Asian demographic in this country. Okinawans and Filipinos love this plant. The best way and most common way to prepare bitter melon is by frying the leaves and bitter melon with eggs.

Recipe for stir fried bitter melon with egg
Figure 1: Recipe for Bitter Melon with Egg is one of the many examples in how to prepare bitter melon.

This post is part of a series featuring Farm to Fork Ambassadors from Archi’s Institute for Sustainable Agriculture. Students chosen by the Office of Farm to Fork share their stories and the journey many like them are taking to create a new career path in farming after leaving the military in three blog posts here on Tales from the Field. Many of the students are exploring niche markets in California by developing business plans to grow less traditional fruits and vegetables or to support often overlooked populations.

May is CalFresh Awareness Month

Salad with corn, tomato, lettuce, carrot and spinachCalifornia has the largest Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in the nation. Our state’s farmers and ranchers are proud to play a critical role in reducing hunger and improving health. Throughout the month of May, our state is highlighting the importance of providing nutrition assistance to low income households through the CalFresh Program.

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) is encouraging counties to focus CalFresh Awareness Month activities on alleviating childhood hunger and enrolling eligible families in CalFresh through partnerships with the Women, Infants, and Children program, school meals, First 5, and Medi-Cal.

These partnerships are the critical foundation in developing coordinated plans to connect children to all available nutrition and medical services. CDSS is also encouraging counties to continue to increase overall program participation by supporting public and private partnerships that work together to reduce food insecurity in our state.

Together we can increase the number of families that receive assistance to purchase the food they need and improve the health and wellbeing of children.

For information on agencies in your community that provide CalFresh Outreach application assistance please see the list on the CalFresh Outreach website.

Thanking Sue Sigler, CAFB for helping farmers double contributions to food banks

Sue-Sigler-Proclamation-CAFB-2017CDFA Secretary Karen Ross capped her luncheon address at the May 1 session of the California Association of Food Banks (CAFB) conference in Sacramento by presenting a proclamation to CAFB Executive Director Sue Sigler. Several years ago during a presentation before the California State Board of Food and Agriculture, Sue helped plant the seed that grew into the goal of doubling farmers’ contributions to California food banks, from 100 million pounds of food per year to 200 million. In 2016, the state board’s goal was achieved: 214 million pounds of food donated by California farmers to food banks across the state. The proclamation acknowledges the role of Sue and her organization in facilitating those donations, from identifying communities in need to arranging transport from the farmers’ fields.

***This piece is cross-posted from CDFA’s Planting Seeds Blog***