Legacy farmER of the Year: Janet Czarnecki, Redwood Roots Farm
Through passion, skill, hard work, and a generous spirit, Janet Czarnecki turned Redwood Roots Farm of Bayside, CA into a true community hub. She engaged her CSA members and provided mentorship to new and curious farmers. Sharing her knowledge, tools, and even field space for those needing a jump start, it’s because of her that many new farmers went on to start their own farms. Janet ran the farm for 24 years until her recent retirement. But wanting to pass on her legacy, she worked with 3 of her mentees, assisting them in raising capital from the community that she helped build to purchase the farm, launching the first worker-owned cooperative CSA on the north coast. Her legacy lives on in how they now care for that land and each other.
NEW FARMer OF THE YEAR: Chris Fields, Fields Family Farm
Chris Fields is not just a farmer, he is a board member of the African American Farmers of California where he’s helping support the continuation of the legacy of African Americans in California agriculture. He is also on the CAFF Policy Committee and a member of Black Farmers Rising, a burgeoning statewide Black Farmer and Food Activist organizing group. On top of all this, Chris is also a pastor and is active in the community, working with a foster care facility to develop gardens where youth can find peace and develop healthy lifestyles around food and the outdoors. In just a few years, Chris has shown that even a new farm can have a lasting impact. We look forward to watching that farm and his impact grow!
CLIMATE SMART FARM OF THE YEAR: Sarah Silva, Green Star Farm
This women-led 85-acre pasture-based farm in Sonoma County, CA is proof that, when tended thoughtfully, livestock can coexist with a biologically-rich ecosystem. Sarah Silva has been innovating at Green Star Farm since 2008, using predator-friendly techniques, holistic management, and rotational grazing to improve soil health, sequester carbon and grow a thriving microbiome. All while producing top-notch eggs, chicken and pork! Sarah uses a background in science together with a thoughtful approach to appropriately-scaled technology to ensure the health of her animals remains the top priority. Sarah is a powerhouse and we’re thrilled to honor her as the 2024 Climate Smart Farmer of the Year!
FARM ADVOCATE OF THE YEAR: Mireya Gomez-Contreras, Esperanza Community Farms
As the Co-Leader of Watsonville-based Esperanza Community Farms, Mireya Gomez-Contreras is working to promote justice by growing food and connections. Her farm offers subsidized CSA boxes to low-income people of color who qualify for SNAP benefits. More recently, Mireya has been working to grow the Farm-to-Cafeteria movement in her community, bringing more locally-grown and organic foods to public schools where students also get to visit her farm and see up close where their food comes from and how it’s grown. If that weren’t enough, she’s been instrumental in supporting the new 9 Organic Farm Co-Op to connect more small organic farmers of color with markets. We can’t wait to see what she does next!
THE ‘PETE PRICE’ FARM POLICY ADVOCATE OF THE YEAR: Assemblymember Steve BennetT
Assemblymember Steve Bennett, who represents Ventura County, has been a big champion for our farm communities across the state, from farmworker support to prescribed grazing infrastructure for CalFire’s Wildfire Prevention Program. When budget cuts threatened key programs essential to small-scale farms, he fought to keep them, including the Farm to Community Food Hub program, the Urban Agriculture Program, and the Beginning Farmer & Farmworker Training Program. All while also pushing for over $25 million in winter storm relief for small and underserved farmers. Bennett authored the Regional Farmer Equipment & Cooperative Resources Assistance program and a bill protecting small farms from being sued by large corporations over water rights. Thank you, Asm Bennett for your unwavering commitment to a fair and equitable food system.
FArmers market champion of the Year: Erin Tormey, Coastside Farmers Markets
Erin Tormey is a tireless advocate for farmers’ markets and agricultural sustainability. Herself a farmer, Erin is the founder and operator of Coastside Farmers’ Markets, an endeavor she began in 2002 in Half Moon Bay and Pacifica. There, she has been a champion for programs that support lower income residents such as the Senior and WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, CalFresh and MarketMatch. Erin is a founding partner and Steering Committee member of the California Alliance of Farmers’ Markets. Her accomplishments can’t possibly fit here, but it’s clear that Erin has not only been a longtime champion for farmers markets, but continues to push the boundaries of what those markets can do for their communities.
Food business of the year: Three Forks Bakery & Brewing Co.
Three Forks Bakery & Brewing Co is a small-town restaurant with a big impact. Since their inception and throughout their recent transition to new ownership, Three Forks has been dedicated to truly sourcing as many locally-grown and organic products as possible, building a strong and lasting bridge between the farm and plate for Nevada County. They are well known and loved by the local farming community and it’s our hope that more restaurants follow their lead, recognizing that even a neighborhood eatery like theirs has the power to affect positive change in our food system by simply focusing on what’s important, close at hand, and on the real people who make up their local economy.