BFI News

Our Year in Review

We’re celebrating another successful year, thanks to our hardworking staff and the support of our community of scholars, researchers, students, and community partners. Here are just a few highlights from 2023.

December 19, 2023

By Austin Price

Welcoming New Staff

We welcomed new members to our team this year! Most recently, agricultural economist Federico Castillo joined our staff as Project Scientist focused on farm labor in California and beyond. At BFI, Federico will be leading the UC-Mexico Farm Labor Research Cluster (more information forthcoming). This summer, ab banks became BFI’s Agroecology and Wellness Coordinator. A farmer and healer, ab facilitates experiential learning opportunities at the Oxford Tract and other student farms on campus. At the very beginning of this year, we welcomed Francisco Benítez as BFI’s first Project Scientist. Francisco is based in Parlier on a dual appointment with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources to research the transition to sustainable agriculture in the Central Valley.

Advancing Food Justice Through Senate Bill 1000 

In May 2022, BFI faculty directors Charisma Acey and Susana Matias launched a research project evaluating Senate Bill 1000, the California law that incorporates environmental justice into city and county land use planning. This year, the research team began disseminating the first phase of its research. In September, BFI published the report Planning for Food Justice outlining recommendations for city and county planners to better advance food justice through the law. The research team also released a SB 1000 database and took their research on the road, first at a lecture at UC Center Sacramento and then at a community luncheon in Richmond.

Building the Organic Ag Workforce

Early this year, BFI received $325,000 from the US Department of Agriculture with help from California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) to focus on organic workforce development over the next five years through the USDA Transition to Organic Partnership Program. In the first few months of this project, we hosted a Food Systems Career Fair, Resume Review Night, and various field tripsto meet local professionals, with a particular focus on supply chains and technical assistance. We’re gearing up for our second career fair this upcoming February and working with the Haas School of Business to develop coursework on values-based supply chains.

Evaluating California’s Farm to School Programs

BFI is a lead evaluation partner for the California Farm to School Incubator Grant Program, administered by the California Department of Agriculture. As of 2022-23, California has made the largest investment of any state in the country in farm to school programs by allocating approximately $100 million over three years. As part of an Evaluation Team, BFI is taking part in measuring the success of the state’s project and sharing results with the public, school officials, students, and policymakers. We also attended the California Farm to School Conference this year in Palm Springs.

Calling for Just and Equitable Agriculture Technology

Agriculture technology is developing at a rapid pace, often without critical input from farmers and farmworkers. This year, as part of our Just and Equitable Ag Tech program, BFI hosted roundtable discussions, events, and field trips dedicated to fostering a critical, nuanced perspective on ag tech among our community of researchers, students, and industry professionals, to put small farmers, farmworkers, and rural communities at the forefront of their research and interventions. For example, in November, BFI staff took eight UC Berkeley students to Parlier, California, to volunteer at the Small Farmer Tech Expoorganized by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and Community Alliance with Family Farmers.

Pointing the Farm Bill Toward Racial Equity and Justice

Earlier this year, BFI teamed up with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund and American University’s Center for Environment, Community, and Equity and Antiracist Research Policy Center to host “Pointing the Farm Bill Toward Racial Justice: A Summit & Briefing” in Washington, DC. Farmers, scholars, and advocates met for two days to discuss the Farm Bill as a vehicle for equity. We then took that discussion to a public briefing on Capitol Hill. Five UC Berkeley graduate students attended the summit. BFI also offered a Farm Bill Seminar at UC Berkeley during the spring semester, which saw guests like Congresswoman Barbara Lee and USDA Farm Service Agency Administrator Zach Ducheneaux.

Thank you, supporters, for a successful year!

As we reflect on the past year, we appreciate the generous help of our new and ongoing financial supporters. We want to send a special thank you to the Hellman Foundation, Stupski Foundation, the 11th Hour Project, CS Fund, the Epstein/Roth Foundation, and all of our individual donors for investing in BFI’s mission and programs. We also want to thank the USDA Transition to Organic Partnership Program, Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative, and the CDFA Farm to School Initiative for supporting our research and student programs. Finally, a special thank you goes to the organizations within the UC system who support our staff: the Wellness Fund, the UC Global Food Initiative, UC Alianza MX, and many others. We appreciate your support of our work!

As part of your year-end giving, please consider supporting our efforts in research, policy, education, and community engagement to shape a just farm and food system.