The University of California system’s first-ever institute for organic research and education will be established in UC’s Agriculture and Natural Resources division (UC ANR) with a $500,000 endowment gift from Clif Bar & Company and $500,000 in matching funds from UC President Janet Napolitano.
The California Organic Institute will accelerate the development and adoption of effective tools and practices for organic farmers and those transitioning to organic by building on the capabilities of UC ANR’s Cooperative Extension and Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program. Although organic is the fastest growing sector of the food economy, funding for research has lagged far behind support for conventional agriculture. Farmers interested in transitioning to organic or improving performance of their organic systems often lack the guidance they need to succeed.
"California’s organic farmers already benefit from UC ANR’s pest management, irrigation and crop production research, and this partnership with Clif Bar will give UC more capacity to focus on challenges specific to organic farming," said Glenda Humiston, UC vice president of agriculture and natural resources. "UC Cooperative Extension advisors work directly with farmers throughout the state so new organic farming techniques can be applied quickly."
The California Organic Institute is Clif Bar’s third organic research endowment and the first in its home state of California, where the company sources several key organic ingredients. Clif Bar is not alone in sourcing from the state, which has the most organic farms in the U.S.: California’s nearly 3,000 certified organic farms grow crops on land that represents 21% of all U.S. certified organic land.
"The California Organic Institute will serve many of the organic producers we depend on for ingredients like almonds and figs, as well as farmers outside our supply chain," said Lynn Ineson, vice president of Sustainable Sourcing for Clif Bar. "We recognize that the future of our food company depends on the ecological and economic success of organic and transitioning farmers."
Recruitment for an institute director will begin in early 2020, with a search committee including industry representatives and partners. The director will work with a permanent advisory committee, Clif Bar, and UC ANR to launch the institute and recruit additional like-minded partners to support its long-term success.
Ultimately, with the support of UC ANR and a constellation of partners, the California Organic Institute will be in a strong position to increase the performance of organic farming for improved stewardship of natural resources, the economic well-being of rural communities, and greater stability for the next generation of California farmers.