From Forests to Farms: a Learning Journey with California Water Action Collaborative (CWAC)

One of the powers of collaboration is that it compels us to face others across our assumed differences, as we acknowledge an area of mutual concern or care. Its strength lies in the power of relationship to move the needle on something we need, something that sustains us. As we realize the limited nature of our resources and our ingrained ways of engaging them, we are compelled by those limitations to seek a new way.

In October 2018, the California Water Action Collaborative met in Fresno for its biannual member meeting. Since 2018, CWAC members, currently comprised of representatives from 12 NGOs and 17 corporations, have been discovering the power of collaboration between corporate and NGO partners to address California water challenges.

This fall’s meeting saw participants undertake a three-day learning journey to learn more about the state of California water– its perils and possibilities– and to work together to envision new pathways for water stewardship in California.

The learning journey, modeled after the Learning Journey methodology from Sustainable Food Lab, was designed to follow California water from forest meadow to farm, visiting a dam, an almond orchard, an onion processing plant, and a dairy along the way. Members piled onto a bus to see first-hand what California water looks like when it’s being stored in a meadow, diverted into a canal, or maintained in a groundwater recharge pond. One member voiced that they were especially struck by the realization of all of the different ways a reservoir could look.

We met farmers, foresters and plant managers who employ innovative stewardship practices to steward their own corner of California water. At each stop on the journey, we were invited by Genevieve Taylor, Lead Facilitator and Ag Innovations Executive Director, to question our assumptions about what we were seeing. This invitation to question instead of assume provided new avenues for conversation and creative thinking about the challenges and opportunities presented by California’s water limitations.

The CWAC learning journey was a vivid reminder of the importance of directly experiencing what we are advocating for, of meeting the people who are creatively engaging those limitations and possibilities every day. Members arrived to the meeting fully equipped with ideas, data, and information about the state of California water, but some had never visited a California orchard, dam, or meadow. Using the time in the tour bus between sites, they exchanged and discussed new information and perspectives on California water challenges and solutions.

CWAC Members emerged with a much more comprehensive understanding of water from Fresno’s forests to its farms, and of what they are working toward. And the conversations that were born on that tour bus have already given a spark to new initiatives for water stewardship within CWAC. For more information about our new projects, visit

CWAC is a platform which supports collaboration between NGOs and corporations to address our urgent water issues using cutting-edge science, innovative partnerships, and design thinking to forge solutions that meet this moment’s demands. Founded in 2015, it has become an exciting and impactful platform for change and innovation in the area of California water stewardship.