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Sustainable agriculture at the University of California: knowledge, technology, and development for the benefit of whom?
As the limitations of ‘organics’ manifest and sustainability continues to elude California, the subsidies that demarcate the scope of sustainable agriculture need to be examined. This case study looks at research and development in sustainable agriculture at the University of California, (UC), focusing on how research and development decisions are made, who is included in making them, and who benefits from them. Using grounded theory, data was gathered through internet research, document analysis, and interviews with key informants at UC’s most important sustainable agriculture research centers: the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, (SAREP), in Davis; the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, (CASFS), in Santa Cruz; and the Agroecology Research and Training, (ART), Laboratory, in Berkeley. There are significant differences between these centers in terms of decision-making processes, research orientations, and development outcomes. SAREP is structured around meeting the needs of a select set of clients, (i.e., industrial farm operators, corporate processors, and transnational distributors), and decision-making is closed to the public. CASFS and ART, in contrast, are structured around meeting the needs of California's diverse communities and unique ecosystems: they engage with communities in need of agri-food development through open forums and partnership models. This study finds that UC undermines the work of agroecology, while its support for sustainable agriculture is nominal.