University of California’s Glenda Humiston wins 2018 California Steward Leader Award

580 200 Nadine Ono

University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Vice President Glenda Humiston accepts the 2018 California Steward Leader Award from Sonoma County Supervisor James Gore. (Photo Credit: Will Bucquoy/CA Fwd)

Glenda Humiston has always been involved in rural issues from her days growing up on a farm to her current position as vice president of University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

“I was really involved in the 1990s in trying to figure out how agriculture and environmental interests find common ground, as well as building bridges between rural and urban sectors,” said Humiston. “In the 2000s, I started focusing on economic development and sustainability. In my current job, I’m bringing all of those together around the reality that sustainability truly has to be a triple bottom line. We’ve got to develop ways for people, the planet and prosperity to all thrive and enhance the synergies between them.”

Humiston will be awarded the 2018 California Steward Leader Award at the California Economic Summit. She currently serves on the 2018 Economic Summit Steering Committee, as well the Action Team co-lead for Working Landscapes and co-chair of the Elevate Rural California initiative.

She has been involved with the California Economic Summit from the beginning, chairing the Access to Capital Action Team at the first Summit in 2012. To raise awareness of innovative options for financing projects, she founded and chaired the California Financial Opportunities Roundtable and was instrumental in producing the Access to Capital Guidebook, a widely used resource for small business owners, policy makers and financial institutions.

Humiston served as deputy undersecretary for natural resources and environment at USDA from 1998 to 2001 under President Clinton. She then managed the Sustainable Development Institute at the 2002 World Summit for Sustainable Development in South Africa and the 2006 World Water Forum in Mexico City. In 2009, Humiston was appointed by President Obama to serve as the California State Director at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Rural Development.

Adam Livingston of the Sequoia Riverlands Trust applauded Humiston for making rural California a priority. “Glenda has an instrumental role, not just in the Working Landscapes Group, but the fact that Working Landscapes are even being considered as a significant sector of the economy.”

He added, “The fact that rural issues are on the agenda, the fact that we’re talking about ecosystem services and the contributions that Working Landscapes can make in terms of meeting the Economic Summit’s million-acre feet of water goal, Glenda has done a tremendous amount to make that possible.”

Sonoma County Supervisor James Gore agreed. “Glenda is a powerful and relentless advocate for triple bottom line prosperity. She has championed and delivered in every position I have seen her in. As one of the co-chairs of the Steering Committee for the Economic Summit, she has ensured that working landscapes remains a driver for rural prosperity.”

“Glenda embodies what CA Fwd and the California Stewardship Network are all about: empowering regional hubs to own their own future,” added Gore, who served with Humiston at the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a presidential appointee under President Obama.

Her work on rural issues continues, “Our Ecosystems Services Team has done a fantastic job in highlighting the opportunities for ecosystem services to be a powerful policy instrument as well as a compensation instrument for landowners to ensure that the many benefits from ecosystem services are available to the general public,” Humiston said. She added that recommendations from last year’s Summit may be included in upcoming legislation.

As co-chair of Elevate Rural California, she is working on three main areas: biomass, rural broadband and water infrastructure. “We identified those issues at last year’s Summit and worked this year to identify where the opportunities were as well as options to pursue,” said Humiston. “We’re bringing that information to the Summit this year to get people to really rally around those three issues and move forward working on implementation.”

To support these initiatives, Humiston is working to enhance economic development efforts throughout the state by ensuring that the research and resources of the University of California is delivered to every single community in the state. UC Cooperative Extension is in 70 communities and serves all 58 counties; its mission is to conduct research and extend knowledge that supports food security, healthy environments, science literacy, youth development and economic success in a global economy. 

Humiston clearly loves her work. “I love the mission of the programs I oversee for the University of California. This work is critical as we seek solutions to the challenges we all face: climate change, invasive species, changing workforce demands, water management, and more.”

Her vision is really based on partnerships. “I also see great opportunity for increased collaboration between UC, CSU and the Community Colleges. Working together we can offer more robust support for innovation, regional industry clusters, new business opportunities and other aspects of local economic development; we can bring a lot of resources to the table. Working with the California Economic Summit allows us to leverage the resources of various regional initiatives as well as other sectors; this helps all the Summit’s efforts to be more successful.”

As for the award, Humiston is humbled. “It’s quite heart-warming to be selected by people I respect for something like that and certainly to be in the company of people who have won it in past years.” The previous recipients of the California Steward Leader Awards include former California State Senator Becky Morgan, California Emerging Technology Fund’s Sunne Wright McPeak and Van Ton-Quinlivan, vice chancellor of the California Community Colleges.

Humiston will be given the award on November 16 at the annual gathering of the California Economic Summit in Santa Rosa.


Nadine Ono

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