International scholar with California farm roots to head UC sustainable ag programs

Thomas Tomich, a California-trained agricultural economist with a doctorate in food systems research, has been selected to lead UC Davis' new Agricultural Sustainability Institute and the statewide UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP). In connection with his appointment, he has been named professor and first holder of the UC Davis W.K. Kellogg Endowed Chair in Sustainable Food Systems.

Tomich is currently global coordinator of the Alternatives to Slash-and-Burn (ASB) Programme, which is hosted by the World Agroforestry Centre, headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya. Tomich will be based at UC Davis and will transition to his new duties in January 2007.

The new Agricultural Sustainability Institute draws together several UC Davis campus programs and numerous faculty members whose research and teaching interests span a broad array of disciplines including plant and animal sciences, pest and disease sciences, natural resource conservation, food science and nutrition, economics, sociology, education, agricultural environmental policy and community development.

"We are fortunate to have attracted a person of Tom Tomich's caliber to assume this new and exciting position both at the Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis and with the statewide sustainable ag program," said Neal Van Alfen, dean of the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. "He brings an international perspective and an appreciation of California agriculture to his new position, and shares our vision for establishing UC Davis and the UC system as an international hub for research and training in sustainable agriculture."

"Sustainable agriculture continues to be an important priority within UC," said Richard Standiford, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) associate vice president. "Tom's leadership at SAREP will provide important links with all three ANR campuses and the county Cooperative Extension programs."

SAREP, a UC ANR statewide program, is housed at UC Davis and provides leadership and support for scientific research and education and outreach on sustainable agricultural systems for farmers, farmworkers and consumers.

Tomich, a native of the Sacramento Valley, said he looks forward to re-establishing contact with California growers and other statewide stakeholders including consumers and nonprofits.

"I'm delighted and honored to be taking the job at UC Davis and in the UC system, and also glad to be returning to my family's farm roots in Northern California," said Tomich, who brought apricots, peaches, plums and figs from his father's farm in Orangevale (northeast of Sacramento) when he signed the UC offer earlier this month.

"The UC system, and the Davis campus in particular, can play a central role in developing the scientific foundations for sustainable agriculture in California and for the planet," he said. "To me, sustainability means a healthy bottom line for farmers, thriving rural communities, wholesome and nutritious food, and a healthy environment."

Winters farmer Richard Rominger, a former director of the California Department of Food and Agriculture and former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture who served on one of the stakeholder committees that selected Tomich, says he is glad to have him back in California.

"I respect and admire Tom Tomich's wonderful way of doing business," said Rominger. "Tom grew up on his family's farm, and has had extensive experience working throughout the world with farmers, ranchers and their communities to develop a sustainable way of life. He is extremely well suited for this new position."

In his 12 years with the World Agroforestry Centre, Tomich has worked with the ASB Programme's long-term collaborative partnerships in the Amazon, Congo Basin and Southeast Asia to raise the productivity and income of rural households without increasing deforestation or undermining the environment. As ASB's global coordinator since 2000, his key responsibilities have been the scientific leadership of ASB's 80 institutions and 250 scientists; strategic planning, fundraising and global information outreach; and producing scientific work including a World Bank project on the value of biodiversity.

Tomich received his bachelor's degree in economics from UC Davis, and master's degree and Ph.D. from Stanford University's Food Research Institute in agricultural production economics, and food consumption economics and human nutrition. Before heading to Kenya, he was the principal economist working on natural resource policies for the World Agroforestry Centre's Southeast Asian Regional Research Program. During the previous 10 years, he was an associate at the Harvard Institute for International Development, and a lecturer at the J.F. Kennedy School of Government and the economics department at Harvard University. He has been a visiting scholar at Columbia University's Earth Institute and the Research School of Pacific Studies at the Australian National University, Canberra. Tomich is the author or co-author of more than 130 scientific papers, books, policy briefs and training materials.

His appointment was facilitated by a gift of $1.5 million from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which established an endowed chair to support UC Davis' Agricultural Sustainability Institute.

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.