On April 1st, Governor Jerry Brown ordered California's first-ever mandatory water cutback, imposing a 25% reduction for cities and towns. And, as anyone in California (and throughout the United States and perhaps even the world) knows, the criticism over why the Governor didn't impose the same 25% mandatory reduction to California agriculture began in earnest.
In the last three weeks, there have been countless articles, pro and con, regarding agriculture's water use. There is debate ranging from the numbers (does agriculture really use 80% of California water? No. Once you take out environmental use - keeping our rivers flowing for endangered fish species, for example - the number is 41%) to how much water it takes to grow almonds and alfalfa, and whether the state should dictate what crops farmers are able to grow. What I appreciate more than anything about this defining moment in California's history is that the discussion has been raised, people are asking questions, and agriculture has the ability to talk about their reality on the ground. I was particularly impressed this week as the California rice industry proactively held a press conference to discuss the issues and their story.
I am very proud of the fact that the Center for Land-Based Learning
has been leading critical thinking exercises about agriculture and natural resource issues since 1993. We long ago recognized the need to educate high school youth not only about where our food comes from, but about the entire food system, from production to processing to storage and transportation. This is our FARMS Leadership Program
. Students hear from farmers and others whose livelihoods depend on agriculture. They hear first hand the specific impacts of issues such as water and air quality, land use, habitat restoration, species protection has on agriculture and the food available to us. Now more than ever, society needs education about agriculture production and the complex system that produces our food.
And what about the environment? Well, there are more than 395 students who have ideas for how to save water, improve habitat function, and educate others in the Sacramento region. The Caring for our Watersheds
finals competition took place this past weekend, with the top ten student teams presenting their project ideas to a panel of community judges. The first place winner, Brian Shan, from Mira Loma High School
in Sacramento, went home with $1,000 for his proposal to install faucet aerators on all the faucets at his school. Great idea! The contest, a partnership between Agrium
and Land-Based Learning, asks students to submit a proposal that addresses an environmental issue with a realistic solution. Any student who submits a proposal is eligible to receive funds to implement that project.
I invite you to learn more about agriculture, conservation, and the programs of the Center for Land-Based Learning by coming to the Farm on Putah Creek for our Open House
on May 3. Our staff and board will be on hand for farm tours, hayrides, education and games, and of course, we would love to hear your perspective on how the drought is impacting you.