American Farmland Trust Honors the Legacy of Agricultural Icon Rich Rominger - American Farmland Trust

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American Farmland Trust Honors the Legacy of Agricultural Icon Rich Rominger

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rich Rominger, a fifth-generation California farmer and agricultural icon, sadly passed away yesterday. To say he will be missed is an understatement. Rich was a husband, father, an accomplished farmer and all-around distinguished citizen. He was a leader in conservation agriculture and environmentally sound farming practices and served the United States and his native state of California at the highest levels of agricultural leadership.

Along with his wife Evelyne, Rich raised his family on the same farm where he grew up.  A.H. Rominger & Sons Inc. is now a 6000-acre family farming corporation run by Rich and Evelyne’s sons, Bruce and Rick, in Winters, California. It is a model of conservation agriculture, recently receiving the Aldo Leopold Conservation Award.

Rich served as Deputy Secretary of Agriculture under President Clinton from 1993 to 2001.  He headed the California Department of Food and Agriculture from 1977 to 1982. He also served as president of the Western Association of State Departments of Agriculture. In 2016, Rich was honored alongside his wife Evelyne of 69 years with the UC Davis Medal for their lifetime of achievements, Rich in agriculture and Evelyne for her advocacy for gender equality and social justice issues.

In California, Rich helped rescue and then rebuild the Department of Agriculture in the mid-70’s during Governor Jerry Brown’s first administration, then became one of the governor’s closest confidants during Brown’s administration. There is much to be learned from his style of leadership.

In addition to his civic appointments and farming life, Rich served two terms on AFT’s board, from 1986 to 1993 and from 2001 to 2010. His 17 years of service to American Farmland Trust and its mission is unparalleled. In 2010, he was awarded a Resolution of Appreciation by AFT’s board.

AFT’s leadership, board and staff were saddened by the news.

John Piotti, AFT president & CEO  

“I had the great good fortune of visiting with Rich and his wife Evelyne and members of their family on a trip to California soon after I came to AFT. Then, in 2018, at an event organized by California Secretary Karen Ross where I was presenting, Rich introduced me with one of the more heartfelt introductions I have ever heard, speaking passionately about his belief in AFT. He is remembered so fondly by AFT’s Board members and staff alike, all remaining grateful for his commitment to AFT’s mission and to the broader issues in agriculture and the environment. We are so very thankful for his service.”

Jay Winthrop, managing director of Douglass Winthrop Advisors, LLC; former AFT board chair (2001-2010); present member of AFT President’s Council  

“During my tenure on the AFT board, Rich and Evelyne were mainstays, ever gracious and always quick with a kind word and a wry smile. In board meetings Rich spoke softly and gently, always respectful of others’ views, and with an authenticity that made our meetings more substantive and productive. Rich’s modesty belied his towering achievements as a farmer, policymaker and leader. He was equally at home in the corridors of power in Washington as he was visiting a dairy farm in upstate New York. And while I learned a lot from him about the Farm Bill and the economics of running a farm in California, his enduring example for me was about living a full life, as a husband, father, farmer and public figure–and making it all look so easy. Knowing and working with Rich was among the high points of my association with the wonderful people at AFT, and I am forever grateful to have known him.”

Ralph Grossi, AFT board member and California rancher; former AFT president & CEO (1985-2008) 

“Except for Peggy Rockefeller, I don’t think we ever had a more dedicated, supportive Board member than Rich. His knowledge of the issues was unmatched, and he was more than willing to use his network to advance farmland preservation, land conservation, sustainability and more. To give you some sense of how he was regarded during his years in DC, near the end of the Clinton Administration, USDA named a wing of the Whitten Building after him– the Rominger Wing! But I think his legacy, which will grow over time, is rooted in his role as a mentor to so many, yours truly included. The agriculture policy landscape is dotted with those for whom he opened the door, made an introduction or cleared a path.

We will miss him.”

Kara Heckert, AFT’s California regional director 

“Rich was a loyal and fierce advocate for the protection of California’s farm and ranch land. A champion of agriculture in the state capitol and a tremendous bridge builder. He was a longtime supporter of AFT’s program and policy work here in California. We have deeply appreciated his unwavering support.”


American Farmland Trust is the only national organization that takes a holistic approach to agriculture, focusing on the land itself, the agricultural practices used on that land, and the farmers and ranchers who do the work. AFT launched the conservation agriculture movement and continues to raise public awareness through our No Farms No Food® message. Since our founding in 1980, AFT has helped permanently protect over 6.5 million acres of agricultural lands, advanced environmentally-sound farming practices on millions of additional acres and supported thousands of farm families.  


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