Craig McNamara’s 450-acre Sierra Orchards is a diversified farming operation that includes field, processing, and marketing operations and produces organic walnuts and grape rootstock. Sierra Orchards is proof that an agricultural operation is able to be green without going into the red.
McNamara employs numerous conservation practices on his land, including: the use of pheromones, rather than pesticide, for pest control; cover crops to increase the health of the soil; hedgerows that create natural habitat for beneficial insects; and an irrigation system to create tail water ponds, which eliminate the return of sediment and chemicals into tributaries that lead to the San Francisco Bay.
“Craig has recognized that responsible stewardship of the land is an ongoing process, a management approach that demands a constant re-education process of change while maintaining the best farming traditions of the past,” said David Mas Masumoto, organic peach and grape farmer, in his nomination letter.
It is McNamara’s dedication to education that led him to found the Center for Land-Based Learning (CLBL), which is a statewide program that teaches high school students about sustainable agriculture. The program now reaches over 2,000 students a year across California. It also includes the “Farm on Putah Creek,” which is a portion of Sierra Orchards that McNamara has designated as an interactive demonstration site that attracts 2,000 visitors annually, including regional and statewide decision-makers, who engage in hands-on learning about sustainable agriculture.
“This integrated, sustained approach is what really makes Craig stand out,” said A.G. Kawamura, California Secretary of Food & Agriculture. “We have many outstanding conservation farmers in the state, but few have dedicated themselves so wholeheartedly to conservation agriculture and the education of our youth."