Announcement Strategic Growth Council Appoints Inaugural California Agricultural Land Equity Task Force Members


The California Strategic Growth Council has unanimously and enthusiastically appointed twelve inaugural members of the California Agricultural Land Equity Task Force, which will develop policy recommendations to equitably increase access to agricultural land for food production and traditional tribal agricultural uses. Established by California’s State Legislature last year, the Task Force will meet every quarter over three years and submit a full report of policy recommendations to the State Legislature and Governor by January 1, 2026.

Historically, women and people of color in California have been blocked from stable access to land and other resources necessary for successful farming, a legacy that persists today. A recent study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows only 37 percent of all farmers in the California are female and only nine percent are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). In 2020, the California Department of Food and Agriculture found that such farmers and ranchers often lack stable access to land, which negatively affects the long-term sustainability of their businesses. Equitably increasing stable access to agricultural land in California will promote farmers’ economic resilience, a robust food system in the state, and healthy natural and working lands.

Task Force Appointees expressed their enthusiasm and aspirations for the new initiative. "I'm excited to bring an Indigenous voice, body, and spirit to this task force. The Gidutikad Band of Northern Paiutes have been in the States of California, Nevada, and Oregon for thousands of years, we have some things to share,” said Appointee Lawrence Harlan, Treasurer, Fort Bidwell Indian Community Council.

The Task Force will have 13 regionally diverse members, including native and tribal liaisons, a land trust representative, individuals with expertise in issues affecting socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers, an individual with expertise in agricultural land acquisition and finance, a State Board of Food and Agriculture member, a farmworker representative, a beginning farmer, the California Department of Food and Agriculture Farm Equity Advisor, and an individual from the new California Department of Food and Agriculture BIPOC Farmer Advisory Committee.

“I am excited, first and foremost, to be in a space where there is strong representation and leadership of native and tribal liaisons. I look forward to engaging in strategic and intentional dialogue to ensure that areas related to land equity and land and resource access include the voices and expertise of farm workers and small farmers who preserve sustainable agricultural practices and traditions,” said Appointee Irene De Barraicua, Director of Operations and Communications, Líderes Campesinas.

“It is vital to ensure CA Tribal Nations have access to these opportunities and an active partnership with the state can continue to be established. I will do my best to honor the land, water, ancestors, and next generations within these collective processes,” said Appointee Emily Burgueno, Head Seed Keeper, Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel.

“I’m honored to be sitting at the table to be able to interweave tribal ecological knowledge and cultural stewardship and bring representation to unheard voices. I look forward to equitably increasing access to traditional tribal agricultural uses, and agricultural land for food sustainability over the next three years…. I welcome all input and look forward to embarking on this journey,” said Appointee Cheyenne Stone, Land Steward, Registered Tribal Member, and Land Assignment Committee Member, Big Pine Paiute Tribe.

“Increasing democratic land governance is a tool against disenfranchisement, and a necessary foundation for environmental justice,” said Appointee Dorian Payán, Director of Holistic Land Relations and Co-Director, Radical Real Estate Law School at the Sustainable Economies Law Center. “The Land Equity Task Force is a step towards repairing the harms of the past as a way to secure our future.”

In November 2022, SGC staff initiated a two-month public nomination process for the California Agricultural Land Equity Task Force. SGC received 41 eligible nominees. Through consultation with a six-member advisory committee, SGC selected the following individuals to serve on the Task Force.

Photo of the California Agricultural Land Equity Task Force Members.

California Agricultural Land Equity Task Force Members

Native and Tribal Liaisons

Nominee: Cheyenne Stone, Land Steward, Registered Tribal Member, and Land Assignment Committee Member, Big Pine Paiute Tribe

Geographic Representation: Big Pine Paiute Tribe / Statewide

Cheyenne Stone is the Co-Chair of the California Alliance of Family Farmers Policy Committee. Cheyenne has experience voicing advocacy for sustainable agriculture in California and advocates for state and national policies to create more resilient family farms, communities, and ecosystems. Cheyenne is a registered tribal member of the Big Pine Paiute Tribe and runs a small farming operation on the Big Pine Paiute Tribe reservation. Cheyenne has worked with non-profits, tribal governments, and county governments regarding equity-centered community concepts, development, and implementation of various federal and state programs. Cheyenne also serves on the Big Pine Paiute Tribe's land assignment committee.

Nominee: Emily Burgueno, Head Seed Keeper, Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel

Geographic Representation: Kumeyaay Land/San Diego County/Imperial County/Northern Baja CA Mexico 

Emily Burgueno is the Head Seed Keeper of the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel. Previously, Emily worked as a Cultural Resource Manager, where she was a liaison for the Kumeyaay Nation and several agencies and institutions throughout San Diego. Emily is also active within three of the four Kumeyaay subcommittees, which specialize in the repatriation of Kumeyaay ancestors, Land conservation and stewardship, and Heritage preservation. Emily actively advocates for revitalizing cultural burning by facilitating burns on the Reservation and providing consultation with federal agencies to support their understanding of cultural burning. Emily actively consults with federal agencies on plant restoration, land conservation, and cultural competency.

Nominee: Lawrence Harlan, Treasurer, Fort Bidwell Indian Community Council

Geographic Representation: Fort Bidwell Reservation

Lawrence Harlen is the former Chairman of the Fort Bidwell Indian Community of the Fort Bidwell Paiute Indian Reservation, a federally recognized tribe. Lawrence is a Councilman on the Fort Bidwell Indian Community Council and was recently appointed the Tribe's Inter-Tribal Buffalo Council Delegate.  Lawrence has over twenty years of work experience in finance and serves as Associate Director of Finance at a Federally Qualified Health Center in San Jose, California. Lawrence holds a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics with a minor in policy studies from Syracuse University and a certificate in financial planning for UC Davis Extension.

Farmworker Representative

Nominee: Irene de Barraicua, Director of Operations, Líderes Campesinas

Geographic Representation: Statewide

Irene de Barraicua is Director of Operations at Líderes Campesinas. This statewide advocacy organization supports and coordinates campesinas (women farmworkers) to become agents of change and be a more effective unified voice. Irene also serves on the advisory board for a land access study in Sonoma County, which works to assess the needs and desires of farmworkers regarding workforce development. Irene has contributed to various research studies regarding farmworkers and documented firsthand testimonies to better understand farmworker needs. Irene’s work focuses on representing and advocating for policies that address inequities and gaps such as food insecurity, low-quality foods, food deserts, and lack of access to various resources, including funding.

Beginning Farmer

Nominee: Nathaniel Brown, Owner/operator, Brown Sugar Farm 

Geographic Representation: Sacramento / Bay Area

Nathaniel Brown is a beginner farmer in the Sacramento area with extensive personal experience with unstable land tenure and ways to overcome challenges accessing land. Nathaniel is the founder of Brown Sugar Farms, which offers veggie boxes, eggs, bouquets, classes on natural farming and agroforestry (food forests), and volunteer and work-trade opportunities in the greater Sacramento area.

Land Trust Representative

Nominee: Dorian Payán, Director of Holistic Land Relations and Co-Director, Radical Real Estate Law School at the Sustainable Economies Law Center

Geographic Representation: Central Coast, Bay Area, North Bay, Central Valley 

Dorian Payán is the Director of Holistic Land Relations and Co-Director of the Radical Real Estate Law School at the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) in Oakland, California. The organization offers pro-bono and low-bono support to community-based organizations dealing with - among many other things - legal issues related to land acquisition. All SELC clients are Black, Indigenous, and people of color. Before SELC, Dorian was a full-time farmer and land steward, managing a 35-acre organic vegetable farm affiliated with the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at UC Santa Cruz.

Agricultural Land Acquisition and Finance

Nominee: Liya Schwartzman, Senior Program Manager, California FarmLink

Geographic Representation: Sacramento, Central Valley, Central Coast, Bay Area

Liya Schwartzman has been working in partnership with farmers on behalf of California FarmLink since 2010. She has supported hundreds of farmers and ranchers accessing land, securing strong tenure agreements, exploring financing, and facilitating farmland and business succession plans. Liya also directs farmers to a variety of resources from FarmLink, its partners, and service providers nationwide. She is a frequent speaker at workshops and conferences on topics of importance to beginning and retiring farmers and ranchers.

Issues Affecting Socially Disadvantaged Farmers or Ranchers  

Nominee: Lorena Iniguez, Owner/Operator, Ebby’s Organic Farm 

Geographic Representation: Central Coast 

Lorena Iniguez has been a farmer in Santa Barbara County for more than 40 years. Despite growing food ethically, efficiently, and profitably for their community, Lorena – like many small and micro-scale farmers – has been unable to access permanent land or a farm loan. Lorena brings valuable perspectives based on her lived experience with the extra challenges and disadvantages of being an organic and natural micro-scale family farm – bad weather, fires, drought, and low commodity prices – that make it too risky to take on a big mortgage to buy land.

Issues Affecting Socially Disadvantaged Farmers or Ranchers

Nominee: Nelson Hawkins, Founder, We Grow Urban Farm

Geographic Representation: Greater Sacramento

Nelson Hawkins holds over 12 years of farming experience and is the founder of We Grow Urban Farm in West Sacramento. Nelson is in the process of acquiring land and can speak directly to the barriers faced by beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers. At We Grow, Nelson produces a large variety of seasonal fruits/vegetables and makes them accessible to low-resourced communities directly and at their summer farm stand, as well as supplying local restaurants, food distribution programs, and the Yolo Food Bank. Nelson also provides work opportunities for local youth to learn about sustainable food production and help run their seasonal community-supported agricultural program.

Nominee: Ruth Dahlquist-Willard, Ph.D., Small Farms and Specialty Crops Advisor, University of California Cooperative Extension, Fresno and Tulare Counties

Geographic Representation: Central Valley

Ruth Dahlquist-Willard is the Small Farms and Specialty Crops Advisor for UC Cooperative Extension in Fresno and Tulare Counties. She coordinates an extension program supporting small-scale, diversified, and socially disadvantaged farmers through individual extension support, bilingual outreach and training in Hmong, Lao, Spanish, and Punjabi, research on small-acreage specialty crops, and policy engagement. Ruth holds a Ph.D. in Entomology from the University of Idaho and the Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza (CATIE). Her collaborative policy efforts have resulted in several changes to regulatory and incentives programs, including revised reporting requirements for the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program for small-scale and diversified farms and improving access for limited-resource farmers to California Department of Food & Agriculture’s (CDFA) Climate Smart Agriculture programs. She has served as a co-chair of the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UCANR) Small Farms Workgroup. Ruth is currently the co-leader of the Diversified Farming and Food Systems Program Team.

California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Farm Equity Advisor

Nominee: Thea Rittenhouse, CDFA Farm Equity Advisor

Geographic Representation: Statewide 

Thea Rittenhouse joined the California Department of Food and Agriculture in 2018 as the first Farm Equity Advisor. Her career has been dedicated to working with farmers, farmworkers, and sustainable agriculture projects in different capacities. She received a Master’s Degree from UC Davis in Community Development, specializing in Food Systems. Most recently, she was a sustainable agriculture specialist with the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA). She taught workshops for farmers in English and Spanish, co-developed the Latino Farmer Conference, and created farm business resources for beginning farmers and ranchers.  She was raised on a farm in the Midwest and is the co-owner of an organic farm in Yolo County.

State Board of Food and Agriculture Member

Nominee: Doria Robinson, Agricultural Industry Member, California State Board of Food and Agriculture; Executive Director, Urban Tilth

Geographic Representation: Statewide 

Since 2008, Doria has been executive director of Urban Tilth, which works to build a just local food system by, in part, educating, training, and hiring community members to grow their own edible gardens to provide healthy foods to the community. The nonprofit operates over a half-dozen school and community gardens, including the North Richmond Farm. In 2022, Doria became the first Urban Agriculture representative and the first Black Woman to serve on the California State Board of Food and Agriculture. Doria is a member of Cooperation Richmond, Richmond Our Power Coalition, Climate Justice Alliance, U.S., Food Sovereignty Alliance, and the Richmond Food Policy Council.

TBD (pending CDFA BIPOC Farmer Advisory Committee recommendation) 

Task Force Position: CDFA BIPOC Farmer Advisory Committee member