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Finding the Middle Ground Between Sustainability and Profitability

Recently Suzy Friedman, senior director of sustainable agriculture at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) – a partner of the Almond Board of California (ABC), wrote an op-ed titled: “There’s good reason to end the agriculture versus the environment fight”. As the California Almond community works continuously to improve its practices, many of her points resonate loudly with our farmers’ sustainability journeys.1

Friedman has worked with farmers for the entirety of her professional life, and while they often see her as an outsider, she and her colleagues at EDF work hard to find common ground. This means pursuing solutions that not only provide environmental benefits, but also are economically viable for farmers.

“To keep farming, growers need to be profitable,” states Friedman. With that, “from an environmental perspective, only those initiatives that make good business sense will get to scale and be truly successful.”

One of those initiatives is ongoing work in partnership with ABC. Through a USDA-funded pilot project, and based on years of almond industry-funded research, EDF is investigating how almond growers can fine-tune their nutrient management practices to gain access to greenhouse gas markets like those under California’s cap-and-trade program. By participating in this market-based system, farmers are financially incentivized to adopt farming practices shown to reduce climate change impacts from greenhouse gases.

In her op-ed, Friedman illustrates that point stating, “Sustainability and profitability can and must go hand-in-hand. For years, farmers have [said] that environmental initiatives cannot come at the expense of profits.”

The California Almond community is no different. Almond farms are businesses, many owned and operated by multi-generational family farmers who plan to pass down their farms to their children. But regardless of scope and scale, all know that being economically viable is an important component of success and sustainability.

Mike Mason, Chairman of the Almond Board, weighed in on alliances between farmers and environmental organizations in a recent video interview. “When farmers see those names [like EDF], they think ‘That’s the other side,’ but it is so obvious now that it’s not the other side,” said Mason. “We call them unconventional alliances. I think we need to change that because these are very conventional. These make all the sense in the world for growers to be a part of.”

To learn more about our partnership with EDF, see their Growing Returns blog posts listed below or our past entry.

Learn more about the California Almond community’s efforts across the spectrum of sustainability here.



1California Almond Sustainability Program definition: Sustainable almond farming utilizes production practices that are economically viable and are based upon scientific research, common sense and a respect for the environment, neighbors and employees. The result is a plentiful, nutritious, safe food product.