California 100

Evaluating the Future of Agriculture and Food Systems in California

More than two-thirds of the nation’s fruits and nuts and a plethora of other food products are now produced in California, with an additional $21.7 billion of food exports sent overseas. However, pressures such as a changing climate, limited natural resources and expanding fire seasons continue to grow – making it imperative to evaluate the sustainability of the state’s food systems.

Anastasia Telesetsky, a professor in the Natural Resources Management and Environmental Sciences Department, is evaluating those challenges with the goal of paving a sustainable path forward. She recently received a $90,000 grant to participate in California 100, an ambitious statewide initiative to envision and shape the longterm success of the state. Telesetsky, alongside Catherine Kleier, associate dean in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences, is assessing the future of agriculture and food systems in California.

The California 100 initiative, developed by the University of California and Stanford University, is engaging researchers focused on 13 key priority areas such as agriculture, advanced technology, health and wellness, and transportation and urban planning – all issues that will potentially shape California’s leadership in the coming century. In all, 18 centers and institutes across the state are participating – with Cal Poly as the only university within the California State University system selected to participate.

“We are thrilled to add Cal Poly’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences to the California 100 family,” said Karthick Ramakrishnan, executive director for California 100. “We cannot talk about the future of California without understanding the critical role agriculture will play in our economy and our position as a global leader.”

The findings of each area of study will be presented in the fall to the newly formed California 100 Commission, comprised of 26 multigenerational, transformative leaders with diverse backgrounds and expertise. The findings will then be shared with the public and later tested through deliberative polling exercises and engagement sessions directly with Californians in 2022.

Telesetsky, who joined Cal Poly in 2021 and is an environmental lawyer with an expertise in food policy relating to commercial marine fisheries, will evaluate current facts, origins, and future trends that food systems will play in California’s next century. “California, the nation’s largest producer of food, will face tremendous challenges in the years to come ranging from wildfire to drought," Telesetsky said. “We will explore the past, present, and future of California’s food systems and consider potential future scenarios for California’s food production systems. This process will help determine what investments we need to make as a state.”

Working through the lens of economic, social, and environmental drivers, the project will explore existing conditions around California food production, historical drivers in California agriculture and commercial fisheries, and emerging trends in California food, including the rise of alternative proteins, increased automation in fields, and an aging cohort of medium to large farm food producers. A group of 20 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in Telesetsky’s “Contemporary Issues in California Agriculture” seminar during the winter quarter will assist in conducting interviews with agriculture and food production stakeholders.

Telesetsky and Kleier will then put forward a series of scenarios and policy recommendations to ensure a sustainable future for California food systems to be shared with the California 100 Commissioners. The research will be complete by the summer of 2022, with the ultimate goal of the findings leading to a set of policy alternatives for the future of California.

The research is being coordinated by Henry Brady, director of research for the California 100 Initiative and former dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California Berkeley. “We are excited to work with our research partners that are international experts in their issue areas,” Brady noted. “We will not only develop a comprehensive knowledge base on various policy issues, but we will also offer actionable recommendations for our intergenerational and expert California 100 Commission and the larger public to consider.”


About the California 100 Research Grants


California 100 is a new statewide initiative being incubated at the University of California and Stanford University focused on inspiring a vision and strategy for California’s next century that is innovative, sustainable, and equitable. The initiative will harness the talent of a diverse array of leaders through research, policy innovation, advanced technology, and stakeholder engagement. Along with research on agriculture and food systems at Cal Poly, California 100 is sponsoring a total of 15 research projects focused on the following issue areas:

Advanced technology and basic research
Arts, culture, and entertainment
Education and workforce, from cradle to career and retirement
Economic mobility and inequality
Energy, environment and natural resources
Federalism and foreign policy
Fiscal reform
Governance, media, and civil society
Health and wellness
Housing and community development
Immigrant integration
Public safety and criminal justice reform
Transportation and urban planning


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