Clif Bar purportedly is the largest funder of private organic research in the US, committed to creating endowed chairs at land-grant universities. An endowed chair is a special academic appointment that carries considerable prestige and demonstrates the strongest commitment on the part of a donor to a particular academic programme.
In 2015, Clif Bar awarded the first endowment to University of Wisconsin-Madison to focus on organic corn breeding. Since then, the company has awarded endowments to support organic grain breeding research at Washington State University (2018) and helped establish the University of California Organic Agriculture Institute (2019).
Today, more than 80% of all ingredients in Clif Bar products are organic or certified sustainable, and the company has purchased more than one billion pounds of organic ingredients since 2003.
“Clif Bar has been committed to investing in organic for nearly 20 years because we recognize the benefits for people, communities and the planet,” said Sarah Beaubien, senior director of Sustainability Impact at Clif Bar & Company.
“With agricultural research receiving less than one percent of public funding, this endowment programme is intended to fund the best and brightest minds to help drive the organics industry forward and meet the growing consumer demand for organic food.”
The $1m grant is the Californian snack producer’s fourth endowment and the second to be awarded to University of Wisconsin, intended to leverage a Morgridge Match opportunity and double the gift to $2m.
In 2014, John and Tashia Morgridge gifted $100m to the university, to be used to match smaller gifts from other donors who wished to endow a professorship, chair or distinguished chair. For example, this allowed the donor to give $1m to fund a $2m endowed chair, with a name selected by the donor.
Network support for organic farmers
Clif Bar’s endowment will support the work of Dr Erin Silva, a renowned expert in organic agriculture at the university’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.
Dr Silva’s research focuses on improving organic and sustainable cropping systems, with a special emphasis on organic no-till production and cover crops. She also directs the university’s Organic Grain Resource and Information Network (OGRAIN), which provides educational support to new, transitioning and experienced organic grain farmers.
Clif Bar’s $1m investment will go towards creating and supporting a multi-state network of researchers to guide organic farmers in becoming successful suppliers of quality food-grade organic small grains and seeds.
“Public/private collaborations are critical to drive innovation in agriculture,” said UW-Madison CALS Dean Kate VandenBosch.
“Funding from Clif Bar provides the flexibility for a talented, creative professor like Dr Silva to extend her work to larger audiences. This generous gift will allow Erin to increase the number of farmers she works with and grow the number of current students who can learn more deeply about organic agriculture.”