California Association of Resource Conservation Districts Funds Four Specialty Crop Technical Assistance Hubs Grants

People stand in a loose circle in a field listening to speaker

The grant project seeks to expand and strengthen the California Farm Demonstration Network, a project partnership that also includes the California Department of Food and Agriculture; Natural Resources Conservation Service; University of California at Davis; University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources; and the California Farm Bureau Federation.

SACRAMENTO, CA, August 17, 2020 The California Association of Resource Conservation Districts (CARCD) is pleased to announce the award of four Specialty Crop Technical Assistance Hubs grants. Four organizations will receive $35,000 each to create or expand hubs. An additional $5000 per project will go to farmers as stipends for their participation. These will consist of agricultural technical assistance providers developing a series of farmer-to-farmer demonstration events showcasing the most locally relevant conservation practices. Demonstration events will be structured in a farmer-to-farmer style for knowledge and experience sharing, keeping the farmers’ expertise at the forefront in order to provide trusted and applicable information and peer support to farmers. While small, the grants will have real impact, helping specialty crop farmers weather challenges of COVID-19 and strengthen the resilience of their farms to an unpredictable future climate.

Grantees include the Sutter County Resource Conservation District, Farmer Veteran Coalition, the Tulare County Farm Bureau, and the Community Alliance with Family Farmers. Counties that are involved in these hubs include: Solano, Yolo, Sacramento, Colusa, Yuba, Sutter, Tulare, Kings, Madera, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Read more about their projects below: 

  • The Yuba-Sutter Specialty Crop Technical Assistance Hub will be based in Yuba and Sutter Counties, providing services to the entire Northern region. Specialty crop growers in the region will have access to technical assistance for a variety of climate resilience strategies, with special focus for Punjabi speaking growers, an underserved socially disadvantaged group. Services will also be available in Spanish and English. Specialty crops highlighted include peaches, prunes, walnuts, almonds, commercial nursery, vegetable seed, processing tomato, and dry beans, among others. Demonstrations will cover compost application, water efficiency, cover crop plantings, hedgerow installation, and whole orchard recycling. Partners in the hub include Sutter County Resource Conservation District, Yuba County Resource Conservation District, and Evans Agricultural Consulting.
  • The mission for Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) is to mobilize veterans to feed America, and to cultivate new generations of farmers and food leaders in tandem with developing meaningful careers for ex-military farming families. The Farmer Veteran Coalition will reach out to military veteran farmers in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, and provide education that emphasizes regional specialty crop production such as celery, peppers, hemp, wine grapes, strawberries, raspberries, lemons and avocados. The initiative will address challenges that interfere with adoption of climate-beneficial on-farm conservation practices, which begins with utilization of current farming techniques amid contemporary challenges, such as the COVID-19 health crisis. 
  • The Valley Farm Bureau Specialty crop Hub and Rural Education (SHARE) program has been formed to serve as a regional, innovative network of specialty crop growers in Tulare, Kings and Madera counties. With over 824,000 cumulative acres in specialty crop production, and 6,350 farming operations, these areas hold a large demand for demonstration sites that are easily accessible for producers to witness innovative technologies and farming methods at work in their own geographical region. SHARE’s mission will be to aid interested producers from first inquiry to project adoption and include recruitment of producers to participate as future demonstration sites. Demonstration practices will include advanced irrigation systems with fertigation, sensors and automation, organic nutrient sources and nutrient cycling, soil health projects, drone IPM implementation and remote sensing.
  • Led by the Community Alliance with Family Farmers, this project seeks to establish a regional Technical Assistance Hub within the Sacramento Valley to increase climate resilience and natural resource conservation among nut-tree cropping systems through the adoption of conservation farming practices. The Sac Valley Technical Assistance Hub will offer demonstration events as well as technical assistance and extension resources to both English and Spanish-speaking nut tree growers with particular focus in Solano, Yolo, Sacramento and Colusa Counties. They will demonstrate conservation practices including but not limited to cover cropping, compost and hedgerows. The Technical Assistance Hub partner network includes Dixon, Solano, Yolo and Colusa RCDs as well as Sacramento Valley UC Cooperative Extension, the National Center for Appropriate Technology. 

“CARCD is proud to expand the California Farm Demonstration Network with this grant targeting our state’s specialty crop farmers,” said Karen Buhr, executive director of CARCD. “We were thrilled with the response we got when we requested proposals from across the spectrum of agricultural technical assistance providers in the state, not just resource conservation districts. Each proposal demonstrated the commitment to serve farmers in a way that is creative and farmer-led. It is the farmer-led aspect of these projects that is a priority of the Network and we are happy to facilitate that peer discovery through this funding opportunity.”

The projects are getting underway, and will be completed by the spring of 2022.