Center for Sustainability

Center for Sustainability

Agriculture for Tomorrow

A College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) Program

Cal Poly landscape

Stewards of Tomorrow

Preparing leaders in sustainability through education, research, outreach, and operations.

To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves.

  —Mahatma Gandhi



Agriculture for Tomorrow

Agriculture is one of the most significant human interactions with the environment. Worldwide, the food and fiber sector manages more land than any other industry. Agriculturists thus have both a unique opportunity to make meaningful contributions to planetary sustainability by implementing practices that enhance the vitality of natural and human communities in the long-term. Balancing ecological and economic imperatives can be a challenge, but innovative approaches to land and resource management that support the triple bottom line of people, planet and prosperity are growing – and they are inspiring young people. We work to foster the understanding and adoption of these new approaches through education, research and community-building.

“The CAFES Center for Sustainability advances sustainable food and agriculture systems through the Cal Poly College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences.”

Our stakeholders recognize the importance of many factors that are becoming increasingly important to agriculturists and resource managers in meeting the needs of future generations. Over the years, guiding principles, approaches and tools that have inspired and characterized our work have included: 

  • Holistic and systems thinking
  • Ecological and carbon literacy
  • Promotion of soil, ecosystem and human health
  • Certification systems – notably the USDA national organic program
  • The use of sustainability assessments, metrics and monitoring frameworks
  • Sustainable management practices – especially in soil management and pest control
  • Facilitation of regional foodshed relationships and partnerships
  • Navigation of an increasingly complex regulatory framework
  • Cross campus (interdisciplinary) collaboration
  • Student, producer and consumer education

The above considerations inspire the Center’s work. For more about our current activities, please go to: ACTIVITIES


The CAFES Center for Sustainability was formally recognized in 2010. In 2008, the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) convened faculty and staff for a strategic visioning session to identify priorities for the college. Sustainability emerged as one of eight themes:

CAFES prepares leaders in sustainability through education, research, outreach,
and through modeling sustainability in its operations.

A key objective identified by the college regarding this priority was the establishment of the Center for Sustainability. The founding of the center involved a dynamic collaboration of college stakeholders from all departments, with the goal of creating a clearinghouse for existing sustainability efforts within the College, and to provide more focused support of new ones. The effort was led by the Sustainable Agriculture Resource Consortium (SARC), founded in the fall of 2000. SARC originated as a grass-roots student project, which had been successful in developing curricula and staging scores of conferences, seminars and events on sustainability topics. The new Center built upon previous SARC efforts.

The Center for Sustainability is a college-wide “auxiliary unit” within CAFES and is unique in that it is truly interdisciplinary. As with most centers and institutes at Cal Poly, the Center is self-funded and does not rely on state support.


The Center for Sustainability is staffed by a director and program manager under the supervision of the college dean. The Center’s external advisory board includes fifteen industry leaders who are recognized for incorporating sustainability into business, policy and education. For more about who we are, please go to: PEOPLE 


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