Coalition promotes sustainable practices
The California Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture (CASA) is one of 18 community-based projects encouraging adoption of more sustainable agricultural practices.
Funded in May 1993 by a 3-year, $2 million grant from the Kellogg Foundation, the California Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture (CASA) is working to develop more sustainable food and agricultural systems. The coalition is the largest of 18 community-based projects funded in Kellogg's Integrated Farming Systems initiative. The initiative is designed to encourage adoption of more sustainable production methods and create agricultural systems that revitalize rural communities by creating more economic security for small farmers, fair wages for farmworkers and establishing mutually beneficial ties between urban and rural residents.
The grant provides a unique opportunity for UC to collaborate with several innovative non-profit groups in California. Members of the coalition include the UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP), the UC Santa Cruz Agroecology Program, the Bio-integral Resource Center (BIRC), the California Institute for Rural Studies (CIRS), the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), the Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission (LWWC), Pueblo Unido, and the Rural Development Center (RDC).
CASA seeks to build agricultural systems that provide everyone with sufficient healthy food, create just and humane social relations and promote communities suited to the constraints of their natural environments.
During its first year, CASA pursued these goals by creating guides for reducing farm chemical use, introducing integrated pest management practices to wine grape and tomato growers, conducting a sustainable agriculture leadership training program, formulating strategies to enhance local food systems and to use sustainable agriculture as a community economic development tool, conducting a farmworker housing survey, developing a library of Spanish-language materials on sustainable agriculture, and supporting a community planning process in Santa Cruz County for sustaining agriculture in the face of environmental threats and urban development.
In addition, CASA has held roundtable discussions with pest control advisors, Cooperative Extension personnel, and agriculture education teachers. These groups have begun to develop specific action plans to move the state toward sustainability.
CASA members will also work directly with farmers to find better ways of growing crops with fewer chemicals, then marketing them. For example, LWWC is a local commodity commission, which helps its 650 wine-grape grower members adopt IPM and seeks markets for their products. CIRS is encouraging organic cotton production by forging an industry-wide coalition that links growers, marketers, environmentalists and pest control advisors.
CASA's steering committee also plans to expand its collaboration to benefit the wide range of California groups interested in sustainable agriculture. For example, it has allocated a portion of its funds to hire a coordinator for a statewide Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SAWG). Modeled after similar groups around the nation, the SAWG will promote sustainable agriculture policy alternatives and work to link existing groups more effectively.
Representatives of CASA meet regularly with representatives of the other projects to share ideas and strategies.