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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.” This recommendation was motivated, not only by a desire to expand markets for California agricultural products, but also by the recognition that a healthy environment is the responsibility and in the best interest of every farmer and rancher.

According to Webster’s, stewardship is the “responsible management of something entrusted to one's care.” And in the case of California farmers and ranchers, that means about one-third of the land and three quarters of the developed water in the Golden State. How they care for that land and water, and the living things that occupy it, has a momentous impact on California’s environment and everyone who treasures it.

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. Integrated pest management, more efficient irrigation, nutrient management, rotational grazing and habitat restoration are among the environmentally beneficial management practices that have become increasingly commonplace.

This portfolio of case studies compiled by American Farmland Trust showcases some outstanding examples of environmental stewardship by California farmers and ranchers. It offers proof that agricultural producers in our state care about the environment and are taking affirmative steps to enhance it. It demonstrates the potential for building the California Grown brand among consumers who increasingly care about how their food is produced as well as about its quality and cost. And it provides information and inspiration to the thousands of other producers who must follow the lead of the farmers and ranchers in these case studies, if environmental quality is to become, in the words of Ag Vision, “an integral and prominent feature of the California brand.”

Edward Thompson, Jr.
California Director
American Farmland Trust

Farm and Ranch Case Studies

American Farmland Trust