MISSION

To build sustainable food and farming systems through policy advocacy and on-the-ground programs that create more resilient family farms, communities, and ecosystems.

VALUES

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.

ECOLOGICAL STEWARDSHIP

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.

PRACTICAL SOLUTIONS

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.

economic fairness

ECONOMIC FAIRNESS

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.

farmer icon

CENTERING FARMERS

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.

TEAM

Click on the buttons below to learn more about our Board of Directors, Advisory Board, staff, and the other members of the CAFF team.

HISTORY

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.

1978

California
 Agrarian 
Action
 Project 
(CAAP)
  • 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.
1979
The Mechanization 
Lawsuit

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.


1980-1985
Pesticide
 Legislation

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.

1982
Ecological
 Farming
 Conference

To
 promote 
ecological 
agriculture, 
helps 
organize 
the 
Ecological
 Farming
 Conference (EcoFarm),
 which 
has 
been
 held 
annually 
since 
then.


1983
National
 Organic
 Directory
  • 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.
1984
California
 Small Farm
 Conference

Helps
 organize 
the
 California
 Small Farm
 Conference 
(and continues 
to
 play 
a 
major 
role 
in 
the
 annual 
conference)

1985
SAREP and Policy Work
  • 
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.)
 
1989
Federal 
Water 
Subsidies Campaign
  • 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.

1991
Lighthouse 
Farm 
Network and RWIN
  • 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.

1993
BIOS and "
Farmer 
to 
Farmer"
  • 
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.

2004
Farmworker Rights, Off-farm drainage, and GMOs
  • 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. 
2005
Farm to School

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.

2006
Climate Change

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. 

2007
Food Safety

Launches Food Safety program to provide comprehensive food safety technical assistance and information to farmers across California.

2008
Farm Stands Legislation

Sponsored successful legislation to expand the ability of farmers to sell their products at on-farm stands.

2009
CalCAN

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. 

2012
Cottage Foods Legislation

Promoted “cottage foods” by permitting foods deemed to be non-potentially hazardous to be produced in a home kitchen and sold at direct markets. 

2013
Community Supported Agriculture
  • 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.
2014
Groundwater Sustainability Management Act

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. 

2015
Farm to Hospital
  • 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

2016
Climate Smart Farming
  • 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.
2017
The Farmers Guild and the North Bay Fires
  • 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.

2018
40th Anniversary
  • 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.
2020
Values in Action
  • 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

2021
California Nonprofit of the Year
  • 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

CAFF_Seal_color_2020

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.