Cultivating Future Generations of Farmers
Center for Land-Based Learning Leads the Way to Inspire and Educate
their mission is to inspire, educate and cultivate future generations of farmers, agricultural leaders, and natural resource stewards. The Center for Land-Based Learning began in 1993 as the FARMS Leadership Program, founded by walnut farmers Craig and Julie McNamara, out of concern for what they believed was the disconnect between people, their food supply and the land. In 1998, Mary Kimball became the first employee and was instrumental expanding program offerings, which led to the Center for Land-Based Learning forming as a 501(c)(3) organization in 2001. Ms. Kimball continues to serve as Executive Director, overseeing the organization’s strategic direction and statewide leadership, and continue to envision a robust and sustainable agriculture in balance with an ecologically vibrant California. ASUCCESS STORY Farms Leadership made the difference for Cristal Verduzco. Cristal was in her junior year of high school and had yet to really consider her future. She was familiar with agriculture as she’d grown up playing in the fields while her mother, a farm laborer, worked nearby. “As a kid, I didn’t realize how hard she worked to support us. I didn’t notice until later how she was bent over picking peppers for hours; it’s incredibly hard work. She was a single mom making minimum wage. There wasn’t money for rent or food but we made it through. She did everything she could. You learn to be humble and to realize there are millions of people out there working the fields, harvesting our food.”
When Cristal heard about the FARMS Leadership Program, she was drawn in. Taking trips to orchards and engaged in restoration projects, Cristal felt her interest in agriculture deepening. Inspired by her time in FARMS Leadership, Cristal decided to pursue Ranch Management at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
“Getting involved with FARMS really sparked my passion for agriculture.”
Cristal completed a number of internships, graduating on time and landing first a job at Sara Lee Foodservice, home of national brands like Hillshire Farm, Jimmy Dean and, of course, Sara Lee cakes. She went on to spend the last three years at Driscoll’s berry growers – a period she refers to as “the best time in my life.” Growing her career at Driscoll’s, she is now Senior Forecast Manager for raspberries, and life has never been sweeter, due in large part to her time with the Center for Land-Based Learning.
Our work with Cristal is exactly in line with our mission: Connect youth to opportunity, a sense of purpose and the pathway to their future – and also the reverse: Connect the world to talented people who have the passion and know-how to help feed the planet.