Nov 17, 2020
Grimmway/Cal-Organic donates $5 million to Cal Poly for organic farming research

Grimmway Farms, owner of Cal-Organic, has made a $5 million donation to Cal Poly to expand organic farming and soil health research.

According to a news release, Cal Poly will expand its emphasis on applied research in organic production and soil health by providing a unique, collaborative platform for academia, industry and government from across California and beyond to come together to advance the organic industry.

Announced Nov. 13, the partnership between Cal Poly’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences and Grimmway will establish a unique learning model that will enable research and innovation across disciplines, focusing on real-world issues that directly impact the state’s $10 billion organic industry. The Grimmway Farms donation will be used to launch the Center for Organic Production and Research on campus, as well as build the Grimmway Farms/Cal-Organic Soil Health and Sustainability Laboratories to provide research and teaching opportunities in topics related to healthy soils, water and air.

Grimmway is the largest producer of carrots in the world, while its Cal-Organic division produces a wide array of vegetables, including potatoes.

The need to increase focused efforts on organic research and create pathways for students to enter the industry is clear. The organic industry is one of the fastest growing agricultural segments in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. This emphasis on organic production and research is of particular importance in California, which accounts for 40% of all organic production in the nation.

Nationally, consumer demand for organic products continues to grow — sales of organic fruits and vegetables in the U.S. reached $18 billion in 2019, up nearly 5% from the year prior.

“With this commitment, the families and Grimmway Farms/Cal-Organic are affirming our belief that agriculture is the economic and cultural cornerstone of our future,” said Brandon Grimm, grower relations manager and co-owner of Grimmway Farms and Cal-Organic. “Our company has been a leader in innovative and advanced farming practices since my father and uncle founded the company 51 years ago. Today we take the next step to build on that legacy by investing in vital organic and soil health research.”

Cal Poly is uniquely positioned to drive these initiatives forward with its polytechnic educational model and more than 10,000 acres of land for hands-on research and learning. Cal Poly’s location on California’s Central Coast surrounded by a diverse number of specialty crops that are the foundation of the state’s agricultural production, as well as the university’s strong ties with industry, gives students and faculty the opportunity to work directly with companies such as Grimmway Farms and other top producers in the organic industry through internships, research collaborations and more.

The new Center for Organic Production and Research will serve as a hub for students to work with experts from across the industry to develop solutions to the most pressing issues related to organic production and agriculture. Research of soil structure and biodiversity, nutrient cycling, carbon sequestration, water quality, composting and organic matter and technology innovation will be at the forefront of the new Center for Organic Production and Research. The new Grimmway Farms/Cal-Organic Soil Health and Sustainability Laboratories will be located in Cal Poly’s planned Plant Sciences Complex.

A national recruitment for a director to lead the center will begin in 2021. Cal Poly’s model for the new Center for Organic Production and Research will emulate its demonstrated success with the Cal Poly Strawberry Center (, a collaborative partnership focused on increasing the sustainability of the strawberry industry through research and education that addresses the needs of the $3.5 billion industry.

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