Ildi Cummins

Ildi Carlisle-Cummins


Ildi is currently directing a project called Cal Ag Roots, which is supported by a Switzer Leadership Grant, at the California Institute for Rural Studies. Cal Ag Roots is designed to put historical roots under current food systems change work in California, so that movement leaders can use knowledge about the development of CA farming to inform their strategy.

Ildi studied California agriculture at UC Davis, using a variety of disciplines from history and geography to economics and ecology to understand the unique patterns of development of food systems in California. By studying methods of producing, harvesting, packing and distributing food in her home state, Ildi looks at agriculture’s influence on landscapes, community structures and economies. Because of the size and power of the food system in California, Ildi believes that understanding the history of agriculture and the dynamics that have shaped the industry’s development is critical to charting an effective course for the sustainable food movement. She is interested in understanding how we created our current food system in order to help to retool the system so that it protects and improves the environment, rebuilds local economies and strengthens communities.

Over the past fifteen years, Ildi has been working on the front lines of the community food systems movement, leading projects that attempt to shift California agriculture towards sustainability. Before heading back to school, she ran the Farm to School Program for Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), connecting school food services across California with locally-grown produce and teaching children about agriculture. For four years, she was President of the Board of an award-winning school garden organization called Life Lab Science Program before stepping in to co-direct the organization in 2010. She took a leadership role in the Central Coast Nutrition and Fitness Collaborative which brings together leaders to address community food and nutrition issues, serving as chair for a two-year term. On the national level, Ildi has participated in the School Food FOCUS Initiative, working with one of the largest school districts—Oakland Unified-- to transform school food systems.

Throughout her work in the community food systems movement, Ildi’s approach emphasizes partnership and bridge-building.

Fellow at a Glance

Fellowship Year:
Academic Background:
University of California Davis, MS
Current Position:
Cal Ag Roots Project Director
UC Davis
Sustainable Agriculture and Food Policy
Currently Working On:
Cal Ag Roots: Unearthing Stories about California Agriculture
1808 Bay St
Santa Cruz, California 95060
(831) 345-2109

A vibrant community of environmental leaders