"The State Fair has been recognizing California's best for over 160 years, and honoring Craig is in keeping with this tradition of excellence," said Rick K. Pickering, chief executive officer of the California State Fair. "His leadership on critical policy issues facing California's farmers, his passion to inspire the next generation of farmers, and his tireless dedication to responsible land stewardship, are samples of how he has positively impacted our great State for generations to come. California is a better place because of leaders like Craig McNamara."
"Craig is a uniquely visionary leader – someone who is highly deserving of this prestigious award. Beyond his deep commitment as a farmer and as president of the California State Board of Food and Agriculture, Craig has a passion to bring disparate parties together to focus on the big challenges of our time. He has demonstrated his understanding of the need to reach our next generation through the great work of his groundbreaking Center for Land Based Learning in Winters, which connects students to nature and agriculture and, in the process, helps to groom our future farmers and leaders. Again, my heartfelt congratulations to Craig. He’s an agriculturist for all-time." ~ Karen Ross
As the son of one of the most controversial figures in American history, Craig McNamara grew up in the presence of presidents and others who helped shape our world. Now, from his organic walnut farm in Winters, he’s shaping the future of our state by trying to feed the millions of Californians who don’t have enough to eat, and by nurturing the next generation of farmers. Oh, and by helping his son grow hops for really cool Sacramento craft beer.
"Farm Academy," a story about a training program for new farmers at the Center for Land Based Learning in Winters, California.
As president of the California State Board of Food and Agriculture, Craig McNamara is devoted to keeping the state's $37.5 billion farming industry alive. But with farmland rapidly disappearing and the average age of a farmer inching past middle age, it's an endangered profession.
In an effort to preserve California's leadership role as a global food producer, McNamara and his wife, Julie, in 1993 founded the Center for Land-Based Learning in Winters (Yolo County). The walnut grower took 40 of his own acres and converted it into a farm incubator, where students can get hands-on experience learning about sustainable agriculture and conservation.
We talked with McNamara about what he sees as the most important issues - from the next U.S. farm bill to genetically engineered foods - facing farmers and consumers in 2013. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.