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Fostering inclusive and sustainable agricultural innovation in California’s Central Valley
Brookings
2024.05.29
For the Central Valley region, agriculture is both a lifeline and environmental risk. California’s Central Valley is a nationally significant agricultural region that supplies 25% of the United States’ fruits and nuts despite comprising only 1% of its farmland. Not surprisingly, agriculture is a key economic driver in the area, accounting for 14% of gross domestic product, 17% of jobs, and 19% of revenue in the San Joaquin Valley alone (the region’s southern half). However, growing water shortages, the quickening pace of climate risks and disasters, ongoing threats of farmworker displacement from technological innovation, and persistent patterns of racial and geographic inequity threaten the Central Valley’s position as a global leader in agricultural production.
Advancing an inclusive cluster initiative requires intentional work to build trust and secure buy-in from workers, industry, and residents. This case study explores the design and implementation of the F3 Coalition’s ag-tech cluster strategy, including research and innovation through new university-industry-community partnerships, support for local farmers and food entrepreneurs, and the deployment of an industry-approved ag-tech certificate program across seven regional community colleges for upskilling incumbent farmworkers. It offers lessons on how economic and community development leaders can effectively build trust, overcome historical harms, and bolster inclusive and resilient economies, particularly in regions grappling with new technological innovations as well as longer-standing tensions between workers and industry.