Last week, Javier Zamora of JSM Organics hosted Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-CA-20)’s Legislative Assistant Riya Mehta, Melody Meyer of Source Organic, Cassandra Christine of the Organic Trade Association, and CCOF policy staff for a tour of his farm in Royal Oaks, California. Zamora shared his story of success in an increasingly challenging market for small-scale organic growers and highlighted the challenges he and other growers face.
Mehta communicated Congressman Panetta’s continued support for organic and expressed a desire to seek policy support for both current and transitioning organic producers. Tour-goers also got a chance to see the success of on-farm research, non-profit partnerships, and state-funded grant programs firsthand, all taking place on Zamora’s farm.
Zamora started JSM Organics with just two acres in 2012 and has quickly expanded to close to 100 acres of berries, mixed vegetables, and cut flowers, which he sells to retail stores, farmers’ markets, wholesalers, and even schools. While Zamora has successfully scaled up his business and found reliable markets for his products, he still faces challenges such as labor availability, competition with larger growers, and difficulty navigating crop insurance.
Finding enough labor is a constant challenge for him, which is driven in no small part by a growing housing crisis in the area. The H-2A guestworker program is not a viable solution for him and other small farms, as they do not have adequate housing to meet the H-2A requirements for hosting guestworkers.
Partnerships and Solutions
Despite his challenges, Zamora has partnered with numerous non-profits, researchers, and even schools on projects that benefit both his organic farm and the organic community. Zamora is working with researcher Lisa Bunin on the production of organic strawberry starts, renting parcels of his ranch to graduates of the Agriculture & Land-Based Training Association, selling strawberries to a local school district, working to install a hedgerow with a CDFA Healthy Soils Grant, and hosting a Healthy Soils Demonstration Project. These partnerships are great examples of how farmers often take the lead on research, on-farm conservation, and supporting the next generation of organic growers.
The CCOF policy team participated in the tour as part of our process of developing policy recommendations as part of the Roadmap to an Organic California project for increasing organic acreage in California. As we advocate on behalf of organic growers, those transitioning to organic practices, and future organic farmers, we will continue to engage with our members, policymakers, and advocates to develop our policy platform.
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