Califonia Bountiful

Farm transforms into classroom for city kids

Yolo County farm provides hands-on activities for students to learn about sustainable agriculture and natural resource conservation.

Owned by Craig McNamara, the Farm on Putah Creek supports a mix of organic walnut orchards, olive trees and various vegetables. What makes this farm so unusual is that it’s also the headquarters for the Center for Land-Based Learning, a non-profit organization that teaches kids about sustainable agriculture and natural resource conservation. Craig started this organization in 1993 because he believes it's his job to share his farmland with the next generation of decision makers.

“What we're really trying to do is help young people today become informed stewards of the environment, making the decisions of the future of where urbanization should take place,” Craig said. “The best thing I can do as a farmer is help them become the next generation of leaders and informed decision makers.”

Getting involved with decision-making is important to Craig, who grew up in a very political household. His father, Robert, was the former Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War. But Craig, who was raised in Washington, D.C., decided to pursue politics in a different way—through his passion for agriculture and environmental protection.

Fifteen years later, with that determination, the Center for Land-Based Learning now runs several hands-on programs, all aimed at high school students. In addition, as part of the learning experience, Craig partners with other farmers, schools, and public and non-profit agencies throughout California who all give these students an opportunity for an education they won't get sitting at a desk.

"I really enjoy farming and outdoors and everything that goes with it,” said 16-year-old Kristina Heflin. “This is a great way to get hands-on instead of just talking about it in the classroom. You get to come here and yank some weeds out of the ground and actually prepare your own lunch instead of buying it at the school counter."

Craig adds that the students always feel an incredible amount of pride from their accomplishments. And now, armed with new knowledge about our environment and the importance of agriculture, the students know they have the power to make big changes—in our society and in their futures.

For more information about the Center for Land-Based Learning, visit

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