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Profiles in Stewardship


How California Farmers and Ranchers are
Producing a Better Environment
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Over the past several decades, California farmers and ranchers have made tremendous progress at reducing the environmental impact of food production, even as they have increased production itself to unprecedented levels. This portfolio of case studies compiled by American Farmland Trust showcases some outstanding examples of environmental stewardship by California farmers and ranchers.

A few years ago, a strategic planning exercise by state agricultural leaders, called California Agricultural Vision: Strategies for Sustainability, charted a course for the future of agriculture in the nation’s leading farm state. One of its key recommendations was that the industry should “affirmatively pursue the goal of making environmental stewardship an integral and prominent feature of the California brand.”

The farmers and ranchers profiled here are leading the way toward that ambitious but crucial goal. Their environmentally beneficial farming practices demonstrate the potential for building the California brand among consumers who increasingly care about how their food is produced as well as about its quality and cost. What remains is for other producers to follow the example set by these outstanding stewards, and for government and the public to give them the support and understanding they need to meet the challenge.



Report Preface
Read about AFT's Other Environmental Projects in California

Farm and Ranch Case Studies

Alameda County

Koopmann Koopmann Ranch, Land and Wildlife Conservation
After nearly being forced to sell the 850 Koopmann Ranch in the 1990s because of intense real estate development in the Bay Area, Tim Koopmann saved his family’s land by implementing a variety of conservation practices that have decreased costs and increased efficiency. Read More

Butte County

cummings Capay Farms, Pollinator Services
As Chairman of Project Apis, Dan Cummings coordinates research to assure critical pollinator services are sustained by a healthy bee population. Read More
Lundberg Lundberg Family Farms, Wildlife Habitat
Lundberg Family Farms pioneered organic rice production in the 1960s and continues to utilize practices like nitrogen fixing green manure cover crops and crop rotation that care for the soil, wildlife, air, and water. Read More

Colusa County

Wise Acre Wise Acre Farm, Whole Farm Conservation
Mary Fahey views her farm as part of a community sharing a watershed, guiding her whole farm approach using sustainable farming practices and native plantings to encourage habitat restoration and improve water quality. Read More

Fresno County

Motna Red Rock Ranch, Water Stewardship
John Diener demonstrates every day that with proper stewardship, poorly drained, salt-affected lands can be made highly productive and sustainable through a system he developed called Integrated On-Farm Drainage Managment. Read More
Sano Sano Brothers Farms, Conservation Tillage
By using conservation tillage and cover cropping in their processing tomato production system, the Alan Sano and Jesse Sanchez know that soil quality is key to sustainable productivity. Read More
terranova Terranova Farms, Groundwater Management
Going beyond conventional water conservation technology, Don Cameron is now demonstrating the ability of actively farmed ground to also serve as an area of groundwater recharge by capturing and storing flood flows. Read More

Glenn County

Vogt Three Creeks Ranch, Grazing Management and Biodiversity
By extending his conservation ethic beyond his own ranch onto adjoining federal lands, Chet Vogt demonstrates environmental improvements through highly managed cattle grazing and other techniques. Read More

Humboldt County

Hackett Howe Creek Ranch, Land Conservation and Biodiversity
Fifth generation ranchers Jill and Steve Hackett used a conservation easement to reduce their tax rates and permanently protect their 3,640 acre farm. Read More

Kern County

Andrews Andrews Ag, Irrigation Drainage Water Management
After buying 1,200 acres of cotton and alfalfa in 1998, Michael Andrews has transformed the farm into a diverse fruit and vegetable operation using an Integrated On-Farm Drainage Management program to improve the water and soil quality. Read More
hafenfeld Hafenfeld Ranch, Land Conservation and Biodiversity
Bruce Hafenfield—under threat of losing his ranch through an eminent domain lawsuit—saved his century old farm by using two innovative conservation easements that linked well-managed farmland with the preservation of wildlife habitat. Read More
Motna Tezozomoc, Organic Farming and Social Justice
Losing their Los Angeles urban farm to development in 2006 provided the opportunity for the South Central Farmers Health and Education Fund to establish an 80 acre farming cooperative, producing organic food and training new farmers. Read More

Kings County

Giacomazzi Giacomazzi Dairy, Conservation Tillage
Dino Giacomazzi is a land conservation pioneer and a fourth-generation dairy farmer who has used conservation tillage practices on his 900-acre farm to reduce air pollution. An informative blog and social media handles earned him the 2012 Leopold Conservation Award. Read More

Marin County

Straus Straus Family Creamery, Dairy and Creamery Sustainability
Recycling and reuse of water and cow manure provide the foundation of the Straus Family's sustainable milk production and processing. Read More

Mendocino County

Fetzer Fetzer and Bonterra Vineyards, Soil Conservation and Biodiversity
Bonterra is currently the largest producer of certified organic wine grapes in the U.S. and the number one seller of organic wines made in the U.S. Read More

Merced County

Burroughs Burroughs Family Farms, Combining Stewardship Practices
The Burroughs family own and operate California Cloverleaf Farms, Vista Almonds, B and B Pastures and Full Circle Dairy—all in California’s Central Valley—producing all organic cheese, milk, almonds, free-range eggs, and, their most recent venture, olives. Environmental sustainability is the family's number one priority. Read More
Borba Dairy Central, Nutrient Management
Bob Borba raises about 1,500 animals on 510 acres which meets and even exceeds all environmental regulation and shows the potential for the dairy industry to be stewards of our natural resources. Read More
foster Foster Farms, Environmental and Humane Leadership
Founded in 1939, Foster Farms is now a fourth generation, family owned and operated poultry operation working with approximately 140 ranches located in California and the Pacific Northwest who promote recycling and reuse, increase energy efficiency, reduce and eliminate waste, and improve air quality.Read More

Monterey County

Motna American Farms, Water Management
On 9,300 acres in the Salinas Valley, Farm Manager Israel Morales is helping American Farms save water by using a system of wider-permanent beds, minimum tillage, and permanently placed sprinkler pipes. Read More
Motna V6 Ranch, Grazing Management and Biodiversity
By placing a conservation easement on 17,000 acres and using Holistic Management, Jack Varian and his family manage their ranch as nature intended. Read More
Work Ranch Work Ranch, Combining Stewardship Practices
Wildlife friendly watering troughs are just one of the unique features the Work family employs to enhance wildlife on their ranch. Read More

San Benito County

Morris T.O. Cattle Company & Morris Grassfed Beef, Holistic Management
Joe and Julie Morris use natural cycles and sustainable practices in their Holistic Management system to raise cattle, sustain grasslands and sequester carbon. Read More

San Joaquin County

Ramos Eduardo Ramos, Water Stewardship
By transitioning from furrow to drip irrigation on his Thompson seedless grapes, Eduardo reduced his water use by 34 percent. Read More
Vino Farms Vino Farms, Renewable Energy
Vino farms uses a multi-pronged approach to incorporating renewable energy into their winegrape growing operation. Read More

San Mateo County

jacobs Jacobs Farms, Organic Farming
With 300 acres of crops and an additional one million square feet of greenhouse space, Jacobs Farm has become one of the nation’s leading organic herb growers with 60 varieties of common and specialty herbs and edible flowers. Read More

Santa Barbara County

Motna Medrano Farms, Water Management
By working with Cachuma Resource Conservation District, Sergio Medrano continues to integrate new conservation practices to continuously improve his economic and environmental performance on his fruit and vegetable farm. Read More

Santa Clara County

Adragna Adragna Farms, Water Management
With the help of local partners, farmer Vito Adragna and his wife Lucy are using conservation practices to save water and reduce costs on their 24-acre walnut farm in Gilroy. Read More

Santa Cruz County

Driscoll John Eiskamp, Groundwater Management
Driscoll’s grower John Eiskamp is a sixth generation berry farmer that is using irrigation technology to increase the efficiency of the farm’s water usage.     Read More
Live Earth Live Earth Farms, Pollinator Habitat and Biodiversity
Live Earth Farm is a 75 acre farm producing a diverse selection of organically grown orchard and row crops in Santa Cruz County. Read More
Live Earth High Ground Organics, Water Management
Stephen Pedersen and Jeanne Byrne grow a variety of certified organic fruits and vegetables at their farm in Watsonville, California. Read More
Ponce Ponce Produce, Nutrient and Irrigation Management
This small acreage, diversified farmer recently implemented soil monitoring to precisely apply water and nutrients to his crops, saving money and protecting the environment. Read More
Balbas Reiter Berry Farm, Groundwater Recharge
Dan Balbas is a producer for Driscoll’s who uses conservation practices like biological pest control and developed a groundwater banking project on his farm. Read More
Suncrest Suncrest Nursery, Water Conservation
Jim Marshall's innovative approach to water management reduced the nursery's water use by more than 50 percent, allowing the expansion of their production of drought tolerant native plants. Read More
swanton Swanton Berry Farms, Meritocratic Organic Farming
Starting with a four acre half-organic, half-chemical strawberry farm in 1983, Jim Cochran has worked tirelessly for the past 30 years to prove that organic strawberries can be commercially successful. Read More

Solano County

Dixon Dixon Ridge Farms, Renewable Energy
Dixon Ridge Farms—owned by the Lester family that has farmed in California since 1883—is a certified organic walnut farm and processor based in Winters, California. Read More
McNamara Sierra Orchards, Pest Management
Hedge rows and cover crops not only provide habitat for beneficial insects in Craig McNamara's organic walnut orchard, they also protect the water quality of the adjacent creek. Read More

Somona County

Benzinger Benzinger Family Winery, Biodynamic Farming
Mike Benzinger has been farming 85 acres of grapes, using biodynamic growing techniques, in Sonoma County with his family since 1981. Read More
Singing Frogs Singing Frogs Farms, Pollinator Habitat
The Kaisers rely on native pollinators for their small diversified farm, so they encourage crucial on-farm habitat for pollinator populations. Read More

Stanislaus County

Mapes Ranch Mapes Ranch, Wildlife Habitat
By placing a habitat conservation easement on a portion of their diversified farming operation, Bill Lyons, Jr. and his family provide a winter home to the Aleutian Canada Goose. Read More

Sutter County

BSB BSB Ranch, Water Quality
Gene and Lukbir Bains are brothers who have been using Best Management Practices—such as the use of cover crops—for over a decade on their 350 acres of peaches, prunes, and walnuts. Read More
Motna Montna Farms, Wildlife Habitat
Al Montna's vision led to the first wildlife friendly agricultural easement in California allowing the family rice farm to provide both food and wildlife habitat in perpetuity. Read More

Tehama County

Burrows Burrows Ranch, Diverse Land Uses
A holistic management decision-making process—developed by owners Bill and Kay Burrows—converted the ranch from a cattle operation to a diversified cattle, agritourism, carbon sequestration, and land conservation business. Read More

Ventura County

limoneira Limoneira, Combining Stewardship Practices
Limoneira Company grows a variety of fruit and nut crops on nearly 8,000 acres in Southern California using solar energy to supply one-third  of the farm’s energy and efficient irrigation methods to decrease water usage. Read More

Yolo County

Full Belly Full Belly Farms, Holistic Management
Full Belly Farms—which produces certified organic vegetables, herbs, nuts, flowers, and fruits in the Capay Valley—use a number of exemplary sustainable agriculture practices that strengthen their operation. Read More
Durst Tule Farms, Conservation Tillage and Dry Farming
Fritz Durst farms sustainably using only the limited rain that falls on his ground by using no-till farming methods. Read More


Read about Environmental Stewards in Other States

American Farmland Trust