As a community organizer focusing on sustainable agriculture, Reggie Knox has become a kind of Renaissance Man of sustainable agriculture, working with a remarkable number of organizations serving farmers. He currently works with California FarmLink, helping keep the state’s farmland in agricultural production while connecting farmers with technical and financial assistance as well as affordable land. He coordinated the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) Lighthouse Farm Network, connecting a statewide network of growers, advisors, researchers, and other agricultural professionals interested in reducing pesticide use; he eventually became CAFF’s state program director. He worked with California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) on national standards development.
Knox grew up in Davis, California, and spent summers in the Sierra Nevada, where he developed enthusiasm for natural history. As a child he worked in a backyard plot with his father; in high school, he created an extensive garden with some friends as an independent study project. As an undergraduate at UC Santa Cruz, Knox became interested in the intersections of agriculture and community development when he took a course with prominent California agriculture scholar Bill Friedland on the economics and politics of United States agriculture. He double-majored in earth science and community studies.
Knox’s early farming experiences began during his senior year in college. Various internships and jobs connected him with influential local farmers such as Frances Corr and Dennis Tamura of Blue Heron Farm, Sam Earnshaw and Jo Ann Baumgartner of Neptune Farms, and Mark Lipson of Molino Creek Farm. He interned with Lipson in the offices of CCOF (a position that eventually became a paid job), and with the Natural Resource Conservation Service (then called the Soil Conservation Service).
Knox also conducted a ten-month field study in France, working with a regional natural park. A Rotary Foundation scholarship took him to Sri Lanka to do agricultural research and consulting. He spent six months in Japan, including a visit to Masanobu Fukuoka’s model no-till grain farm. He attended an International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) conference in Burkina Faso, traveled in Northern Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Botswana, and consulted for AID in Madagascar.
This interview with Reggie Knox, conducted by Sarah Rabkin in her Soquel home on December 8, 2008, reveals some of the ways in which these varied experiences and influences have informed Knox’s current work, contributing to his efficacy as an agrarian community organizer.