The Characters

Ripe for Change
Produced by Emiko Omori and Jed Riffe

Directed by Emiko Omori 

Miguel Altieri, Ph.D. is a world authority on agroecology and the design of sustainable farming systems. He is a professor of agroecology at the University of California, Berkeley, and in various Masters Programs at universities in Spain, Italy, and Latin America. Altieri has published seven books, among them Agroecology; the Science of Sustainable Agriculture, and more than 200 papers in scientific journals. His research focuses on the development of alternative agricultural technologies for resource-poor farmers in developing countries and for organic farmers in the industrial world. Altieri is also looking at how biodiversity can contribute to the design of pest-stable agro-ecosystems.


Maria Inés Catalán is an organic farmer and entrepreneur. After eight years harvesting produce for minimum wage, Catalán made the transition to growing and marketing her own organic produce. With the help of an innovative program that provides agricultural and marketing training to farm workers, Catalán started her own business and now sells her organically grown vegetables at the Watsonville and Berkeley Farmers Market. As a Mexican immigrant, Catalán is committed to bringing healthy, nutritious food and food education to the large Mexican population who comprise most of the farm workers of California’s central valley. 


Claire Hope Cummings is an expert on environmental and federal regulatory issues surrounding agricultural genetic engineering. Cummings is a journalist who writes about the environmental, political, and cultural implications of how we eat. She has worked with Native Hawaiian groups for over fifteen years, produced and hosted a popular weekly radio show on food and farming for Pacifica Radio’s flagship station, KPFA-FM in Berkeley, California, and continues to report on agriculture and the environment for KQED public television in San Francisco. Cummings worked as an environmental lawyer for 20 years and served in the USDA’s Office of General Counsel. She has farmed in California and Vietnam, and was a 2001 Kellogg Foundation Food and Society Policy Fellow.


Paul Dolan is author of True to Our Roots: Fermenting a Business Revolution, and former president of Fetzer Vineyards. As president of Fetzer, Dolan transformed the commercial winery into one of the largest organic wineries in California. Not only are the 2,000 acres owned by Fetzer certified organic, the company has sworn to convert all of its 200 growers by 2010. With Dolan at its helm, Fetzer Winery took a stand for Measure H, the first local initiative banning Genetically Modified Foods in the nation. Dolan urges all businesses to commit to a “triple bottom line” approach to doing business, where corporate success takes into account not only profit and loss, but social and environmental impact as well.


Tyrone Hayes, Ph.D. is a professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. A fascination for frogs since childhood led him to his career in biology and herpetology. Hayes' research focuses on how genes and hormones regulate developmental changes in amphibians. Many hormones found in frogs are almost identical to human hormones, and Hayes explores how the study of frogs can yield benefits for human health and conservation, including using Reed frogs as a low-cost way to test for water pollution in developing countries. In particular, Hayes has focused on the impact of the potent endocrine-disrupting herbicide atrazine and its impact on environmental and public health. He attracted worldwide attention when his research demonstrated a significant correlation between atrazine in the environment and reproductive deformities in frogs. (Atrazine is commonly used to control weeds in corn and other crops, and is one of the most heavily used pesticides in the U.S.). Hayes has published several journal articles on the ecological effects of the herbicide atrazine on frogs and the link with humans. In 2004, Hayes was chosen as one of nine "visionary explorers" by National Geographic’s Emerging Explorers Program, which recognizes and supports uniquely gifted and inspiring adventurers, scientists, photographers and storytellers who are making a significant contribution to world knowledge through exploration. Hayes earned a degree in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology from Harvard University, and holds a doctorate in animal endocrinology from the University of California, Berkeley.


Richard Heinberg is a journalist, educator, editor, lecturer, and a member of the core faculty at New College of California, where he teaches the courses "Energy and Society" and "Culture, Ecology and Sustainable Community." Heinberg has been writing about energy resources issues and the dynamics of cultural change for many years. He is an award-winning author of several books, including The Party's Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies (2003) and Powerdown: Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World (2004). His Museletter was nominated for its "Best Alternative Newsletter" award by Utne Reader in 1993. Heinberg has lectured widely, appearing on national radio and television in five countries. His essays have appeared in The Futurist, Intuition, The Sun, Brain/Mind Bulletin, Magical Blend, New Dawn, and elsewhere.


David Mas Masumoto is a third generation farmer, growing peaches, nectarines, grapes and raisins on his 80-acre organic farm in Del Rey, part of California’s Central Valley. Concern for the fate of his Sun-Crest variety peaches and for a culture that has lost its connection to a more flavorful past, led Masumoto to become a writer. As an author, Masumoto has served as a columnist for the Fresno Bee and has written for the Los Angeles Times and USA Today. His books include Letters to the Valley, A Harvest of Memories (2004), Four Seasons in Five Senses, Things Worth Savoring (2003), and Epitaph for a Peach: Four Seasons on My Family Farm (1995). His writing awards include the Julia Child Cookbook award and the James Clavell Literary Award. Masumoto served on the James Irvine Foundation Board of Directors in 2002 and on the California Council for the Humanities Board beginning in 1994. He was Co-Chair for the Humanities Board from 1998-2001. Masumoto holds a degree in Sociology from the University of California, Berkeley and a Master's in community development from the University of California, Davis.

Marvin Meyers is an almond farmer who owns a diversified farming operation in Firebaugh, California. Meyers believes that while his six square miles of farmland may sound like a lot to city folk, it takes such scale to survive in a marketplace flooded by fiber from China and Egypt and grain from South America. Concerned about drought and impatient for “the politics of water to be solved,” Meyers developed and built his own water bank, where he could deposit water in wet years and make withdrawals in dry years. Meyers' groundwater recharge project has been such a boon to wildlife, he plans to develop the wildlife habitat in concert with the Nature Conservancy, the state Department of Fish and Game, and the Fresno County Department of Education, as well as develop an educational format for public outreach to show off the project's multiple beneficial uses. Meyers is a member of the California State Board of Food and Agriculture, and earned a Bachelor of Science degree from California State University, Fresno.


Richard Rominger is a California farmer of alfalfa, beans, corn, rice and other crops, near Winters, California. He headed the California Department of Food and Agriculture from 1977 to 1982 and served as Deputy Secretary of Agriculture under President Clinton from 1993 to 2001. During his tenure, he assisted the Secretary of Agriculture, Dan Glickman, in supervising the USDA, charged with a mission that included management of farm programs, conservation programs, domestic food assistance, research and education and other functions. As President of the Alumni Associations of the University of California, Rominger is serving as an ex-officio Regent for a one-year term beginning July 1, 2005. He was on the board of the American Farmland Trust from 1986 to 1993 and later in 2001. He has been active in a number of professional agricultural organizations concerned with soil and water policy, education, research and development, and was an advisor to several universities in California, including UC Davis and UC Riverside. Rominger received his bachelor's degree in Plant Science from the University of California, Davis.

Dru Rivers is an organic farmer and co-owner of Full Belly Farms, a 200-acre certified organic farm in the Capay Valley of Northern California. The farm produces a diversity of vegetables, herbs, nuts, flowers, and fruits year-round which are sold through a marketing cooperative to restaurants and directly to consumers through farmers’ markets and a 550-member Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Rivers and her team employ a set of strategies which allow the farm to integrate farm production with longer-term environmental goals. Her commitment to agricultural sustainability, year-round employment for farm labor, to creating awareness of farm realities and the importance of farms in the fabric of our society has not gone unnoticed. She and her husband have been honored with the 1999 Pedro Ilic Agriculture Award for outstanding farmers by the University of California Small Farm Program.


Will Scott Jr. is a Fresno farmer and President of the African-American Farmers of California. Scott makes the long drive every Saturday to the Mandela Farmers' Market in West Oakland, California, one of several innovative programs designed to bring more fresh food to poor, predominantly African-American neighborhoods, to sell his pesticide-free sweet potatoes, broccoli, greens, okra and purple hull peas. Black farmers in California make up less than one third of one percent of all farmers. As one of the few, Scott plays a vital part in the food security and cultural strength of the West Oakland neighborhood-- not only in making quality fresh food affordable and accessible to the community, but in being a role model to the predominantly African American residents who come to buy his produce. 


Alice Waters is founder, executive chef and owner of Chez Panisse Restaurant and Café, a world renowned food activist, and an author. At Chez Panisse, Water’s philosophy of serving the highest quality products, only when they are in season is practiced. Her eight books include Chez Panisse Vegetables, Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook, and the encyclopedic Chez Panisse Fruit. An advocate for farmer's markets and for sound and sustainable agriculture, she created the Chez Panisse Foundation in 1996. From this dedication, programs like the Edible Schoolyard were born that demonstrate the transformative power of growing, cooking, and sharing food. Among Water’s many board affiliations, she is an International Governor of Slow Food, a Visiting Dean at the French Culinary Institute, and Board Member of the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, and has served on the boards of The Land Institute, National Committee for Mothers and Others for Pesticide Limits. Among her many accomplishments Waters was recognized with Bon Appetit magazine’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000, the John Stanford Education Heroes Award in 1999, by U.S. Secretary of Education, Richard Riley, the Excellence in Education Award in 1998, by California Senator Barbara Boxer, and with the James Beard Humanitarian of the Year Award in 1997, for her advocacy of local and sustainable agriculture.


Stuart Woolf is Managing Partner of Woolf Farming Company, and president of Woolf Enterprises, a family-owned diversified farming and processing operation in Fresno County, California. From its 1974 beginnings primarily in cotton, the Woolf family farm now produces non-farm program crops, including processing tomatoes, garlic, onions, almonds, pistachios and wine grapes. The Woolf family also partners in a tomato processing plant, almond processor, ginning company and an irrigation related business. Woolf maintains that if domestic farm policy does not change, it will drive agricultural investments to China, India, Turkey, Brazil and others wanting to become "incubators" for agricultural growth. Woolf identifies the family farm as "early adopters and developers of new farm implements and technology" to improve efficiencies and quality. While he remains optimistic in the short term, looking to advances in information systems, electronics, seed varieties, and materials to better manage resources, Woolf is less certain about the future of farming in California. He is concerned that although the California and the U.S. enjoy some of the best natural resources, weather, land-grant colleges and extension services, marketing orders and a sound infrastructure, "policy makers appear to be less committed to agriculture’s future” – basic ag research and ag extension seem to be the first casualties in budget cuts.


©  2006 Beyond The Dream LLC