UC system will establish its 1st organic research institute

Emma Drake/Staff

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Clif Bar and UC President Janet Napolitano have each donated $500,000 to fund the California Organic Institute, which will be dedicated to organic research and education.

Headed by the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources division, or UC ANR, the institute will be the first of its kind in the UC system. According to UC ANR Associate Vice President Wendy Powers, the primary goal of the institute is to promote the development and adoption of techniques for more efficient organic farming.

“President Napolitano is committed to supporting a healthy California stemming from agriculture of all kinds: large, small, traditional and organic,” said UC Office of the President spokesperson Sarah McBride in an email.

Napolitano’s endowment supports the goals of the UC system’s Global Food Initiative to utilize UC resources to promote and advance sustainable and equitable food security, according to McBride.

The institute will expand on the work already done through UC Cooperative Extension and UC ANR’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, according to a UC ANR press release.

“The funds the president authorized will support organic food production research and best practices in California and beyond, as well as foster agricultural innovation to address pests, weeds, drought and similar challenges in organic farming,” McBride said in an email.

UC ANR’s research in pest management, irrigation and crop production has already helped organic farmers, said Glenda Humiston, UC vice president of agriculture and natural resources, in the UC ANR press release. 

Humiston added that this new establishment will allow UC researchers to hone in on more specific issues related to organic farming while UC Cooperative Extension advisers and California farmers work together to accelerate the process of introducing new techniques into the organic farming industry.

“UC ANR (and) Clif have shared goals,” Powers said in an email. “Members of each partner knew each other … and began talking about how we could work together in a more formal manner.”

A search committee composed of industry representatives and partners will begin recruiting a director for the institute this year, according to the UC ANR press release. Clif Bar, UC ANR and an advisory committee will then work with the director on launching and further recruiting for the institute.

While the institute is not a physical entity, the elected director will develop the establishment through collaborations and determine how the funds will be used, according to Powers.

“Clif has an established reputation in supporting research and cooperative extension through (partnerships) at other land grant institutions,” Powers said in the email. “This is a first in that the Institute will continue to expand with other partners and leverage the initial investments by Clif and UC.”

Emma Rooholfada is the lead research and ideas reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @erooholfada_dc.