To build sustainable food and farming systems through policy advocacy and on-the-ground programs that create more resilient family farms, communities, and ecosystems.
CAFF’s core values form the foundation on which we conduct our programs and activities. The values support our work, how we interact with each other, and how we fulfill our mission.
We recognize that all farms and communities benefit from healthier and more resilient agroecosystems, particularly in the face of climate change and loss of biodiversity. We provide information and resources to meet farmers where they are and support them according to their unique circumstances so that they may become better land stewards.
JUSTICE & EQUITY
We recognize the historic and lasting inequities in the California food and farming system. In order to achieve justice, we believe farmers of color, and other historically oppressed people, including immigrant, indigenous and women farmers, should have the opportunity to create and participate in a food and agriculture system that aligns with their needs, values, identities, knowledge systems, and communities. We commit to advancing racial, gender, and environmental justice in our larger systems, as well as in our own workplace because it is morally right and this diversity yields enhanced creativity, problem-solving as well as system-level resilience and wisdom.
We are rooted in the real-world needs of working farmers and see farmers of diverse backgrounds as knowledge holders. We offer opportunities for cross-pollination and provide practical resources that help farmers succeed as small businesses, local food providers and land stewards. We remain a resource hub for tools, events, and tips that they can apply directly in their day-to-day operations to be the best farmers they can be.
We promote a fair economic system that uplifts farmers’ dignity and gives them the freedom to make individual choices that meet the needs of their land, farm, families, and communities. We believe excessive corporate power undermines the prosperity of individual farmers, our communities, and the health of our democracy.
The future of farming rests on optimizing farms for farmers and recognizing the daily challenges they face in growing food, rather than maximum yields or output, which minimizes farmers and their communities and leads to extraction. Our programs and policies are guided by the expressed concerns, needs, and aspirations of farmers. Listening to and including farmers directly in decision-making is essential to advancing policies and programs that address their needs.
STRONG LOCAL COMMUNITIES
We believe vibrant communities, anchored by strong local food economies, offer an antidote to concentrated corporate power. Our staff, board, and chapters aspire to strengthen relationships in their own backyards as part of the fabric of local communities, and allow the organization to remain connected to, informed and enriched by the diversity of California peoples.
Click on the buttons below to learn more about our Board of Directors, Advisory Board, staff, and the other members of the CAFF team.
Founded in 1978, the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) is a California-based nonprofit that builds sustainable food and farming systems through local and statewide policy advocacy and on-the-ground programs in an effort to initiate institutionalized change. Our programs address current problems and challenges in food and farming systems, creating more resilient family farms, communities, and ecosystems. We work to support family farmers and serve community members throughout the state, including consumers, food service directors, schoolchildren and low-income populations with the aim of growing a more resilient, just and abundant food system for all Californians. This timeline highlights some of our accomplishments and efforts to support California family farmers.
- Founded in Yolo County, California, as the California Agrarian Action Project (CAAP).
- Organizes demonstrations and sit‐ins in support of farmworkers in dire economic straits because of unemployment. The job loss is due to the use of the mechanical tomato harvester.
Files landmark suit against the University of California for using taxpayer dollars in the creation of technologies that benefit only large farms and hurt small farms and farm workers. Known as the Research Priorities (or ”Tomato Harvester” or “Mechanization”) Lawsuit.
Organizes pesticide poisoning victims who help write and lobby for a slate of pesticide legislation that remains the toughest in the nation, including:
- The Birth Defects Prevention Act, which requires mandatory testing of pesticides for potential to cause mutagenic/birth defects and chronic health effects.
- The Right to Know Act, which allows the public to review pesticide safety studies.
- The Pesticide Contamination Prevention Act, which restricts groundwater contaminating pesticides and requires pesticide manufacturers to test their products for soil penetrability and groundwater intrusion.
To promote ecological agriculture, helps organize the Ecological Farming Conference (EcoFarm), which has been held annually since then.
- Publishes the first National Organic Directory, allowing vendors and farmers in the fledgling organic foods industry to find each other.
- Organizes first statewide conference on pesticides and politics.
Helps organize the California Small Farm Conference (and continues to play a major role in the annual conference)
- Spearheads an organizing effort to create funding for sustainable agriculture research at the University of California. Senate Bill 872, which creates the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP), passes in 1986.
- Organizes first statewide conference on pesticides and water quality.
- Co-founds the Toxics Coordinating Project.
- Helps pass Proposition 65, which requires labeling of and disclosure about cancer‐ and birth defect‐causing chemicals.
- In response to 1978 Research Priorities Suit, the University creates the Small Farm Center and hires Spanish‐speaking Coop Extension agents, and the Fair Political Practices Commission requires that professors reveal personal financial interests that may involve conflict of interest with their research. (Around the country, other land grant university reform groups model their campaigns on ours.)
- Launches campaign to compel the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to limit federal water subsidies to corporate agribusiness. In a federal lawsuit, we successfully argue for tightened loopholes so that taxpayers are not subsidizing corporate windfalls and family farmers see the benefits intended by the law.
- Our Farmers for Alternative Agricultural Research sparks the idea of providing support services to farmers working to reduce chemical pesticide and fertilizer use on their farms.
- Founds Lighthouse Farm Network
- Hosts first tour of farms managed with reduced‐pesticide practices for top UC scientists and administrators.
- Establishes the Rural Water Impact Network (RWIN) to protect water for use in rural communities.
- Launching of CAFF’s Biologically Integrated Orchard Systems (BIOS) program.
- Inaugural issue of "Farmer to Farmer," a magazine highlighting the best sustainable agriculture growers and practices.
- A longtime advocate for the rights of farmworkers, was the only agricultural organization to support a bill to allow undocumented workers to access California driver’s licenses.
- Led a coalition that secured $40 million over three years for grants to help farmers reduce off-farm drainage. CAFF also sponsored legislation to make it less burdensome for farmers with salt-laden lands to adopt innovative irrigation practices that leach salt from soil and restore soil health.
- Unique among ag organizations, supported local efforts to restrict the use of genetically modified organisms in crops, especially when they could contaminate neighboring crops.
Sponsored legislation to create a statewide Farm to School program in the Dept. of Education. Although the bill was vetoed, it led directly to the legislature including Farm to School funds in the state budget.
Was the only California farm organization to support AB 32, the 2006 landmark legislation that made California a world leader on climate change. While others were denying climate change, we saw not only climate change’s threat to agriculture, but also the opportunity for farmers to adopt practices that reduce and sequester carbon.
Launches Food Safety program to provide comprehensive food safety technical assistance and information to farmers across California.
Sponsored successful legislation to expand the ability of farmers to sell their products at on-farm stands.
Became a founding member of the California Climate & Agriculture Network (CalCAN), a statewide coalition that advances state and federal policy to realize the powerful climate solutions offered by sustainable and organic agriculture. CAFF staff helped draft and lobby for the first bill ever to provide funding for farming practices to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases in agriculture and sequester carbon in soil and plants. After two years of negotiations with CDFA and the legislature, that bill, signed by Governor Brown, created the Healthy Soils Initiative at CDFA.
Promoted “cottage foods” by permitting foods deemed to be non-potentially hazardous to be produced in a home kitchen and sold at direct markets.
- The Farmers Guild is founded, a new grassroots network of local coalitions where farmers gathered to share resources, talk shop and give voice to sustainable agriculture, especially new and young farmers. (would later merge with CAFF)
- Supported CSAs by enacting laws that standardized rules to make it easier for single farms, or a small group of farms, to sell their products through CSAs.
Was the only agricultural organization to support the landmark Groundwater Sustainability Management Act (2014), which requires local agencies to adopt and implement long-term groundwater management plans to prevent overdraft. Since its enactment, CAFF has pushed for follow-up legislation to prevent a “land rush” of deep new wells, often by out-of-state farmland investors, before the GSMA takes full effect.
- Co-sponsors SB-367, a bill promoting climate-friendly agricultural practices. The bill proposes a dual impact: producing climate benefits while better preparing farms to manage the effects of drought and climate change
Expands Farm to Hospital work, partnering with San Francisco and Sacramento-area hospitals to increase local produce purchasing and awareness
- Launches Climate Smart Farming Program, building on policy work and focusing on outreach to family farmers
- Champions two climate-smart farming bills that passed through the State Legislature and were signed into the law by Governor Jerry Brown: Senate Bill 859 reforms the Department of Food and Agriculture’s Environmental Farming Program and establishes the Healthy Soils Program at the California Department of Food and Agriculture, which will provide financial incentives and technical assistance to farmers who adopt climate-smart farming practices Assembly Bill 1613 appropriates $7.5 million from the state’s cap-and-trade program revenues to support the Healthy Soils Program.
- Officially merges with The Farmers Guild, to create a unified voice for sustainable agriculture in California and to support a new generation of farmers
- Responds to the tragic North Bay Fires by organizing relief efforts, emergency food recovery and raising over $300,000 to provide to impacted farmers, farmworkers and resilience efforts. These resources would be extended to survivors of later wildfires around California.
Food Safety program continues to provide comprehensive food safety technical assistance across California. Since 2007, CAFF’s Food Safety program has reached nearly 3,000 growers and helped over 250 farms develop farm food safety plans.
- Takes on stewardship of the California Small Farm Conference, a educational gathering that has moved around the state since the early 1980s, offering workshops, demos, panels, and networking opportunities for farmers, ranchers, local food advocates and more.
- Partners with technical assistance groups from across the nation to develop a CSA Community of Practice so they can more easily share marketing innovations and other best practices
- Develops "The Farmers Beet" podcast
- Revises and releases "Hedgerows for California Agriculture: A Resource Guide for Farmers" originally published in 2004
- Hosts "The Good Food Showcase," the first northern California trade show focused on bringing together sustainable growers and producers with buyers, food service and other community advocates.
- The teams behind the California Small Farm Conference and The Farmers Guild Raising join forces to present one Conference in 2019.
- Updates and adds new resources to the California Agricultural Water Stewardship Initiative (CAWSI) website
- Hosts the Small Farm Tech Expo at Shone Farm, an event designed to showcase what’s possible for technology in small-acre and sustainable agriculture
- Provides backbone support to the California Food and Farming Network (CFFN)
Establishes the CA Family Farmer Emergency Fund to support farmers acutely impacted by COVID-19 and wildfires, with an emphasis on supporting farmers of color
Launches the CA Farm Directory, an online portal for local consumers, food buyers, and businesses to find farms and their products throughout the Golden State
- Releases new logo (see "About Our Logo" section below)
The State Water Board adopts an amendment to compost regulations, making it way for easier legal on-farm composting
Engages in Racial Equity work with Adele James Consulting & Coaching
Selected 2021 'California Nonprofit of the Year' by Senator Sydney Kamlager
Hosts first Week of Action, a series of virtual meetings with state legislators, designed as an opportunity for farmers, land stewards, and ranchers to share their stories, ideas, and concerns
- Relaunches the Biologically Integrated Orchard Systems (BIOS) program (originally launched in 1991), with six demonstration sites located in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys
About Our Logo
The colors symbolize water (the West’s most precious resource) and the California Poppy (adapted to perennial patterns of drought and flood by way of a vast and deep root structure).
Behind the farmer rises the sun, agriculture’s renewable energy, with birds flying up from a diverse ecosystem thriving symbiotically with our own species’ pursuit of abundance.
The farmer stands upon the land, living soil illustrated by two hands clasped together in cooperation, for that third (sometimes overlooked) word in our name: Community Alliance with Family Farmers.
Since our beginning, CAFF has been a partnership forged between farmers and their communities: neighbors, farmworkers, chefs, social justice advocates and anyone working to help build a better food and farming system.