At Lundberg Family Farms, we have an independent streak a rice field wide...
In 1937, our founding fore-farmers—Albert, Frances, and their four young sons—left Nebraska in the wake of the Dust Bowl. They saw how short-sighted farming techniques stripped the land of its topsoil. So, when they moved to California, they decided to do things differently by working in partnership with nature, not against it.
In the 1940s, Albert Lundberg realized that incorporating rice straw into the fields after harvest would promote soil health and protect air quality long before a 1991 act was passed to curb the practice of burning it. In 1969, his four sons—Eldon, Wendell, Harlan, and Homer—planted their first organic crop: 76 acres of organic short grain brown rice. And in the early 1970s, Homer helped pioneer efforts to establish California Certified Organic Farmers, the first certification body of its kind three decades before national standards were implemented.
It can be easy to assume that sustainable farming practices have always been celebrated. However, our founding fore-farmers were pioneers in every sense of the word. The organic movement was still in its early days when they started farming. Many farmers laughed at their efforts because they were so cumbersome and time-consuming. Others said they were a bit unconventional. But here’s the thing: Our family has never been afraid to blaze the trail toward a brighter, more sustainable future. And while our sustainability efforts may start in the fields, our farming practices are only the beginning.
At the time, we purchased approximately 4,800 MWh per year of California wind-derived, Green-e certified Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), the largest renewable energy commitment by an agri-business and enough to supply 100% of our operation’s total energy needs.
But at Lundberg Family Farms, we’ve never been known to settle, and offsetting our operations wasn’t enough. So when Pacific Gas & Electric’s Self Generation Incentive Program offered us an opportunity to take the next step and invest in our own energy production, we jumped! After all, building a solar facility felt like the next logical step in making a tangible commitment to renewable energy—and a “natural” fit with our founding promise to work in partnership with nature.
In 2005, we installed our first self-generation system: a ground mounted solar array!
It took about five months from start to finish, plus a few additional months to test, troubleshoot, and connect to the grid. However, with more than 1,400 photovoltaic panels covering an acre just south of our Drying & Storage Facilities, we began to reap the benefits of a solar harvest: the equivalent amount of energy required to drive a car almost 30 million miles. The estimated impact on the environment? Reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 11,828 tons over 25 years, which is comparable to planting 133 acres of trees. Closer to home, we estimated the panels would provide all of the energy needed to run the fans and augers at our Drying & Storage facilities, or about 10% of our company’s total energy use at our Richvale-based operations.
Since solar panels were still relatively new at the time—Pacific Gas & Electric completed installation of the first grid-supported photovoltaic system in 1994—there was a lot of curiosity and excitement surrounding our installation. So we invited the local community out to the farm to see and celebrate our solar harvest!
We named that first system “Stars Solar Array” after the Stars Dryer Facility it powers. However, at Lundberg Family Farms, we don’t stop at the stars—we shoot for the moon! So we continued to add to our on-site generation.
Today, we have six separate arrays totaling 1.9 MW!
Our most recent system was installed in 2019 and comprises three separate projects at our Snacks Facility, Drying & Storage Facility, and Administration Building.
Together, they generate the equivalent amount of energy required to drive a car approximately 44 million miles. The estimated impact on the environment? Reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 24,660 tons over 25 years, which is comparable to planting more than 1 million trees. Closer to home, they increase our on-site generation by more than 200%—bringing us from 10% to more than 20% of our total energy needs. This not only helps us reach our goals of increased on-site generation, but also contributes to California’s policy of increasing renewable energy resources to 50% by 2025 and 100% by 2045. Plus, it earned us our third Green Power Leadership Award from the US EPA!
While we’re proud of the strides we’ve made, we’re not done.
Within the next five years, we hope to add another MW to our system, increasing our on-site generation by 50%. As we move closer to 100% on-site generation, we continue to offset the rest of our energy needs with RECs, which also help create a market for renewable energy projects in which clean, green, and renewable energy can financially compete with lower-priced fossil fuels.
It’s all part our founding promise to work in partnership with nature. Does that make some people think we’re a bit unconventional? Sure. But at Lundberg Family Farms, we’ve always had an independent streak a rice field wide. And doing things our way—sustainably at every step—allows us to keep growing together for generations to come. Because we’re not just cultivating basmati rice, jasmine rice, arborio, or wild rice. We’re cultivating a healthier world from the ground up.