Congressmember Sam Farr

Cultivating a Movement

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Read the full text transcript (PDF) of the oral history with Sam Farr.

287 Congressmember Sam Farr. Photo by Tana Bulter.

United States Congressmember Sam Farr, one of the political heroes of the sustainable agriculture movement, was interviewed by Ellen Farmer on August 23, 2007. A fifth-generation Californian, Farr was born in 1941. He is the son of California State Senator Fred Farr, who sponsored a law requiring toilets in the fields for farm workers, as well as other landmark environmental legislation.

Sam Farr began his career in public service in 1964, in the Peace Corps in Colombia. Before his election to the House of Representatives in 1993, Farr served for twelve and a half years in the California State Assembly. In 1990, Farr authored the California Organic Standards Act, which established standards for organic food production and sales in California. This piece of legislation became one of the models for the National Organic Program’s federal organic standards. Farr now serves as co-chair of the National Organic Caucus in the House of Representatives, and worked with organic policy activists to increase support for organic farming research in the federal Farm Bill.

Recognizing the contributions of the UC Santa Cruz Agroecology Program to the field of sustainable agriculture, Farr secured a line item for the program in California’s higher education budget. Speaking before the 110th Congress on October 4, 2007 (in remarks entered into the Congressional Record), Farr said, “Since entering Congress, I have worked hard to share the story of the UC Santa Cruz Farm's important work with my colleagues. Congress has responded with a total of over $3 million in direct appropriations to the UC Santa Cruz Farm since 2000 to assist with its important research and extension work with the rapidly expanding organic farming sector. Indeed, the UC Santa Cruz Farm’s influence has been far-reaching, inspiring many sustainable agricultural programs at other universities, including UC Riverside, Cal Poly, and USDA’s Agricultural Research Service.”

Ellen Farmer had some previous contact with Sam Farr through her graduate studies in public policy at California State University, Monterey Bay—a program with which Farr has close associations. She interviewed Farr at his office in Santa Cruz.

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