The below are remembrances of Pete Price, long-time CAFF board member, who passed away late September of 2020.
“I was on the CAFF board with Pete before I started working for CAFF, so I spent 20 years listening, strategizing, and arguing with him. My cluttered email inbox has thousands of emails from him. I sent him my policy report for the CAFF board the day before his accident and we had recently worked together to determine CAFF’s position on Proposition 15. Here are a few thoughts that have occurred to me:
Pete would often show up for a meeting at Glide Ranch on his bike, having ridden from his house in Sacramento, a 24-mile jaunt each way with a lot of wind. “A chance to get a little exercise,” he would say.
Pete was an English major in college and he would edit anything you wrote, always for the better. He was particularly adept at writing legislative bill language. CalCAN in particular leaned heavily on him for bill language. One of his favorite phrases was “including, but not limited to,” which left open future possibilities for things you hadn’t thought of.
Pete was not a shrinking violet and could get worked up and bark quite loudly. One time we were having a meeting with another lobbyist and he and Pete were on opposite sides of the table. As the discussion went on they got louder and louder and were finally shouting at one another. I came to think that this was an important quality for a lobbyist.
Though Pete was an environmental lobbyist and helped to start Green California, he always cautioned us to keep CAFF independent between the mainstream agricultural groups on the one hand and the environmental groups on the other. He didn’t like that the Farm Bureau tried to label CAFF an environmental group just because we promoted sustainability or organic farming.
Pete’s long association with the Legislature tended to narrow his view of what constituted policy work. For years the CAFF policy committee reviewed bills and took positions on them and little more. One time I asked him what we should do about implementing the legislation we passed. He looked at me strangely and said “Implementation? We just pass the bills, someone else has to implement them.”
Pete would say over and over “If you want to have a conversation in Sacramento, introduce a bill.” The very existence of the bill would force people to take positions on it and flush out opposition that you could then deal with going forward. We used this approach to great effect with CalCAN, running bills that sometimes took years to pass, or, as in the case of mitigation of development on farm land, never passed, but led to something else, in that case the Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program.
Pete often complained that not enough money was raised for CAFF from the public. Then when the board was asked to do such fundraising, he would protest that he didn’t know how to do that. But one time he had a house party at his home in Sacramento and invited many people that he knew from his work. People showed up like Brian Dahle, a Republican legislator from the north of the state, and Jim Collin, the longtime staffer for the Assembly Agriculture Committee, as well as a variety of environmentalists. It was a typically eclectic group of people influenced by Pete.
After he turned his lobbying firm over to Justin Malan, he went to work for the Assembly Speaker again, this time John Perez. Pete would later say that he really respected Perez and enjoyed working for him.
And after his last stint in the Legislature he went to work for Waste Management. He said he had always wanted to see what it was like to work for a corporation. I asked him if he had to do a lot of lobbying and he said no, he had a lobbyist working for him, “a real bulldog.” But I was in a meeting during this period and someone rather bitterly remarked that your bill could be up in committee and Pete Price would sit in the back of the room and raise his little finger and that was the end of your bill. I never asked him if he enjoyed this power.
After he retired from Waste Management, he continued to volunteer for CAFF and CalCAN. He loved to study legislative bills and offer advice, and he particularly loved to bring his English skills to rewriting our inept bill language. We relied on him a lot and probably abused his generosity, but he made an invaluable contribution to creating a more sustainable agriculture in California and he will be sorely missed.”
Dave Runsten, CAFF Policy Director
“Pete Price had a vast impact on CAFF and our movement’s ability to navigate Sacramento policy-making circles. His passion, fervor, and contributions of time and talent as a CAFF board member benefitted farmers and farm advocates throughout California. It was an honor to work alongside him.”
– Gary Peterson, Development Director, 1999-2004
“I was the Membership & Communications Director in the mid-2000s and worked under Lee & mostly Dave Runsten as ED. I worked with Pete to edit his Policy Updates for the newsletter (with Karen van Epen) and to convert the important legal & policy updates into membership or recruitment letters to help fund CAFF activities.
I have a very specific association with Pete that comes up in my life & makes me think of him each time. I tried to edit out the term “bright line distinction” from one of his Policy updates in newsletter, and he had to explain to me that it’s a legal term that has a specific meaning. I couldnt just take it out of the sentence because I thought it was confusing – it would change the meaning entirely to delete it.
He took the time to explain legal terms & how policies are made, how lobbying works and how legislative changes actually happen. I was in my 20s & found it so generous of him to offer me this casual education on how political life actually worked.
I think of him every single time I hear the phrase “bright line”. I remember for a quick moment that i tried to take out this phrase & that i got an elegant correction that lodged bits of law in my brain, far before I ever needed it. I live & work in Canada now, where I frequently read & interpret legislation on privacy as part of my job, and I am grateful for Pete’s generous spirit for these small, completely uncondescending lessons that he gave me.
I know that this is a very tiny offering for so large a person as Pete. I feel really grateful to know him & learn from him, and I guess it’s a bit beyond me to express that right now, except for this small tidbit of language that has reminded me of Pete on a regular basis for the past 12 years
Hello to all of you. I miss you & I’m so sorry to Pete’s family, including his CAFF family.”
“My name is Adrienne Alvord and I worked at CAFF from early in 1995 to the end of 1999. I started at CAFF by coordinating a water program and became policy manager at the beginning of 1997. I actually was the one, under Judith’s leadership and enthusiastic endorsement, who hired Pete to be CAFF’s lobbyist in February or March. My recollection is we paid him about half his going rate, but he wanted to help us. In my time he helped steer us to a couple of groundbreaking legislative and budgetary victories that really put both CAFF and sustainable AG on the map in Sacramento, and it grew from there. He was an amazing mentor and a constant friend and contributor to CAFF from that time onward. His contributions to sustainable AG were many and significant. Not sure I have it in me to write anything more personal at this time, but if I can assist in ways to honor him please let me know.”
“Not only the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), but the California Climate and Agriculture Network (CalCAN) and sustainable agriculture on the broadest of scales, lost a devoted and diligent advocate with the passing of Pete Price. I am so grateful for having known and worked with him.
Well before, throughout my ten years on the CAFF board of directors from 2007-2017, and until now, Pete Price was a constant. A constant source of thoughtfully reviewed proposed legislation, a constant monitor of political trends, and a constant, unwavering voice of objective analysis on any issue that came before us. All of his policy reports were presented as a professional, not surprisingly, because he was in fact a retired CA legislative analyst.
What a rare and refreshing pleasure to work with Pete. He served as vice president while I was board president from 2009-2014. Pete could be described as serious in demeanor, focused on the work at hand. To that end, we worked well together as he supported my efforts in keeping board item discussions limited to their scheduled time allocation, a task not often easy with highly passionate CAFF board members. His usual seriousness made it even more endearing when he cracked the very occasional joke. He found modest humor in referring to me as “Pres” given that it was a play on my name.
Pete, your spirit and dedication to the mission of sustainable agriculture will be profoundly remembered and gravely missed.”
“At times those Board Discussions would seem to go on and on with no apparent resolution. Other times there would not be enough of a discussion warranted by the import of an issue that need our attention. Quite often in each of these circumstances Pete would say something or guide the discussion in a direction that would move us in a meaningful direction. CAFF like all organizations and seemingly most especially non-profits has had its ups and downs, times where its energy becomes incredibly directed and focused and other times where its energy has become dispersed and uncoordinated. At times like these Pete was able to step in and help maintain CAFF’s focus on its essential mission while helping our organization to reach out and grow into a new role and way of being. All of us with a stake in CAFF owe Pete Price an enormous debt of gratitude. Bon Voyage my friend.”
Porter Creek Vineyards
10yr+ Board member, 5ys Vice President
“I am very saddened to receive this news. I served with Pete on the CAFF board for a few years (2003-05 I think). My memories of Pete are around the conference room at CAFF where the board meetings were held. Pete was knowledgeable, prepared and always pushing for CAFF to be more engaged in food and farm policy.”
I only knew Pete for a short period of time but I knew from our first exchange at a CAFF board meeting that he was kind. The look in his eyes when in conversation with anyone clearly showed his willingness to listen intentionally- even to someone like me- a mere grant writer for CAFF. I had no sway, no power, and yet, he listened to me as if I was important. He immediately made me feel comfortable in a world that was new to me. He was empathetic. He had a wry sense of humor. I am sure these characteristics were essential to his success. I only wish I had known him better. I am so sad at his loss. I know many of us involved in sustainable agriculture are feeling bereft. I wish only peace for Pete’s family and mourn with his friends.
Santa Fe, NM
I was Executive Director and then a Board member at CAFF for many years and through that entire time, Pete had our back — Holding us steady on the need to fundraise for policy work; scoffing at our overly earnest and unrealistic strategic plans; talking through the difficult staffing decisions; bringing thorough and insightful reports on legislation to every single board meeting; asking difficult questions during financial reports. I called him over the years to discuss everything from the new logo, feedback for an Executive Director or an article in the newsletter — and he was always honest and straightforward. He was a constant. He believed that our big umbrella was the way to make change — He wanted us to reach out beyond the organic farming world so that we could have an impact on agriculture across the whole state. He was a realist but an idealist at the same time. One time when we were emailing back and forth about Food Safety regulation, we were both getting irritated about the push back. At the end of an email I said, “Don’t get mad!” He wrote back right away and said, “I’m not getting mad, I’m getting even!”
He and Susan were members of our Full Belly CSA for at least a decade and they worked with me at the Hoes Down Harvest Festival Gate for several years. He was a true soldier for change and hero. Thank you Pete.
Judith Redmond, Full Belly Farm