Small farming systems account for nearly 10 million pounds of specialty crop production in California yearly, providing access to fresh fruits and vegetables across the state. In spite of California's historic drought which poses a challenge to the production of vegetable crops, as well as the socioeconomic barriers to participation, small farmers are at the helm of the small-scale specialty crop industry. The total acreage of specialty vegetables in Fresno County nearly doubled over the course of ten years (from 1994-2004), and by 2012 Fresno County's production of specialty vegetables totaled more than 12,600 tons and was valued at 9.6 million dollars (Fresno County Crop Report, 1994-2004 and 2012). Over half of small growers in Fresno County are of ethnic minority background, and most often are recent immigrant and refugee farmers who carry traditional growing methods of pest control from their country of origin. A growing number of farmworkers are also transitioning into being farm operators. These small-farmers add diversity to the landscape through their crops and their farming styles and scales, and most importantly provide a model for rural livelihood outside of the large-scale commodity crop production that keeps labor isolated and wages low.
CAFA believes that agricultural advancements in California cannot and should not happen without the participant voice of the most impacted members of the system. This means that socioeconomically disadvantaged growers must be consulted in the production of California agricultural policy. CAFA seeks to incorporate the voices of these small-scale growers in state policy-making and expand their opportunity to access the same programs, services, and markets as other producers.