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Give the gift of sustainability this holiday season

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Located in one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world, Russell Ranch seeks to answer the question: Can we increase sustainability as we increase food production?

Harold McClarty wants to feed the world while teaching his grandson about the importance of giving back.

by Courtney S. Miller

While many grandparents will be giving a bike or doll to their grandkids this holiday season, Harold McClarty is giving his grandson, Reed, a more unusual gift.

Through the Adopt-an-Acre program at the Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis, McClarty recently made a donation to “adopt” an acre at UC Davis’ Russell Ranch Sustainable Agricultural Facility in honor of Reed McClarty, the youngest member of the McClarty family. McClarty, who is a prominent Central Valley farmer, said he made the gift because he wants to teach his one-and-a-half year old grandson and the entire McClarty family about the importance of agricultural sustainability while supporting a program that coincides with the family philosophy of giving back.

“Purchasing this acre is a legacy to Reed,” McClarty said. “We’re giving him something for the rest of his life.”

Harold McClarty with grandson Reed

Harold and Reed McClarty, December 2012. (Courtesy photo)

With McClarty’s gift to Reed, the family became part of a unique giving program which supports the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. The Adopt-an-Acre program gives donors the limited opportunity to adopt one or more of the 72 one-acre plots at the Russell Ranch Sustainable Agriculture Facility. Donations of $1,000 will allow donors to adopt an acre for a year. Donations of $10,000 or more will allow donors to associate their name with an acre in perpetuity. The goal of the program is to endow the Century Experiment, an exploration of the long-term impacts of various farming practices including crop rotation, and inputs including water, nitrogen, and other essential soil nutrients on agricultural sustainability. The Reed William McClarty acre at Russell Ranch will yield wheat and tomatoes, a favorite of Harold’s and a staple ingredient for Sunday McClarty family dinners during the summer.

The Russell Ranch is a unique 300-acre facility near the UC Davis campus dedicated to investigating irrigated and dry-land agriculture in a Mediterranean climate. Research conducted at the ranch will provide critical data that will help feed the world’s growing population while stewarding the environment. This research in agricultural sustainability is important since global food demand is expected to double in the first 50 years of this century.

McClarty believes in the importance of food sustainability as well, having implemented it into his own farming practices. His company, HMC Farms, adapted their growing and handling practices so that they are protecting the environment for present and future generations, and the communities they serve.

“Farmers are the stewards of the ground. The ground is the partner and how you live within that partnership is vital to continuing sustainability,” said McClarty. “You want to leave something for future generations, not just take it.”

Making an impact in the community continues to be a part of the family philosophy and parallels the company’s practice of sustainability. McClarty, who served as a UC Davis Foundation Trustee for six years, attributes his ability to give back to the success of HMC Farms.

“We’ve been very lucky and have worked really hard. Being philanthropic and giving back is a result of being successful,” he said. “We try to do more because it’s the right thing to do. Your philosophy permeates your operations and we’re setting an example for our families and our employees.”

McClarty added that he, and his wife Deborah ’78, wanted to give back to her alma mater because, “UC Davis is the best agricultural school in the world. We see the strong connection between UC Davis and healthy eating.”

The McClartys are grateful for the opportunity to give to UC Davis and are using their donation to educate future generations of the McClarty family and the community on the importance of sustainability.

“You get what you give and what you give back,” Harold McClarty said. “Leaving this legacy for Reed is the true definition of family.”