Sustainable Farming Practices Must Have Buyer Support
Soil health building practices such as cover crops have been widely talked about, but not widely adopted by California farmers. Part of the issue may be further down the value chain with buyers and agribusinesses not setup to accommodate these regenerative practices. This according to UC Berkeley Agroecologist Dr. Tim Bowles.
Bowles… “If you're growing processing tomatoes, and you've got to hit that harvest date, but then you have a wet spring and you can't get a cover crop into the ground in time to plant your tomatoes to make that harvest date. Well that's another thing that I've heard a lot in terms of a barrier to cover crop any while I think we need to figure out ways to get the industry on board to have more flexible contracts so that these types of arrangements aren't barriers anymore. You know, there's things that need to happen at the farmer level, in terms of just figuring out the technical side of it, the agronomic side of it, what species can I plant that short-season that's going to grow fast, so I can get in there in the spring. But then we also have to think way beyond just that individual farmer, both in terms of what we can do in our public policy, and then how we pull the buyers in.”
Bowles also sites incentives at the farm level as one barrier to wider adoption of these practices.