Isao Fujimoto, lecturer emeritus of Community Development and Asian Studies at UC Davis, has been named the 2014 recipient of the Eric Bradford and Charlie Rominger Agricultural Sustainability Leadership Award for his commitment to California agriculture, rural communities, and social change.
The prestigious award, given each year by the Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis, will be presented at a ceremony at UC Davis on April 23. The keynote speaker will be Navina Khanna, a UC Davis alumna and leader for food justice in California.
The Bradford–Rominger award honors individuals who exhibit the leadership, work ethic and integrity epitomized by the late G. Eric Bradford, a livestock genetics professor who gave 50 years of service to UC Davis, and the late Charlie Rominger, a fifth-generation Yolo County farmer and land preservationist.
Former students describe Fujimoto as a prophet and “energizer bunny of social change.”
“Isao began advocating for more socially just and environmentally sustainable forms of agriculture over 40 years ago,” said Mark Van Horn, director of the Student Farm at UC Davis. “At the time, it made him quite unpopular in some quarters, but he remained true to what he knew was right.”
In his early days at UC Davis, Fujimoto used the campus’s signature red, double-decker buses to transport children of farm workers to school when public bus service was cancelled. The incident sparked conversation about the need for the university to focus on California’s rural communities, and led to creation of the Community and Regional Development Graduate Program at UC Davis in the mid-1970s.
Fujimoto was also instrumental in starting the Asian American Studies program on campus, and was mentor to many students who have become sustainable agriculture leaders in their own right. Throughout the 1970s, Fujimoto’s home served as a local hub for community activism, with projects such as the Davis Food Co-op and the Davis Farmers Market starting out at his kitchen table.
“He has helped countless students understand the world around them and clarify their personal values and principles,” Van Horn said. “Most importantly, his actions have provided lessons and inspiration for those wanting to act upon their values and principles to bring about positive change in the world.”
Like Eric Bradford, Isao Fujimoto is a respected mentor and a consensus builder. Like Charlie Rominger, Fujimoto has consistently stood up for his beliefs, regardless of their unpopularity, and has done so with a kind heart and humble nature.
“The kind of commitment and sense of responsibility that Eric and Charlie had is a pretty remarkable trait,” Fujimoto said. “I find this award set up by the Bradford and Rominger families as a pretty significant marker of change in terms of broadening the scope of agriculture to include being conscious of the environment and using agriculture as a tool for building community.”
Fujimoto will receive the award at the annual Bradford–Rominger Agricultural Sustainability Leadership Award Ceremony which begins at 5 p.m. in the Multipurpose Room at the Student Community Center at UC Davis. Khanna’s keynote speech will address, “Claim Your Superpower: Meeting the Moment for a Winning Food Movement.” On April 24, Khanna will meet with UC Davis students to further discuss leadership in the food movement.