U.S. Rep. Sam Farr (D-Carmel) received the Champion of Science Award Thursday (November 7) at a UC Santa Cruz ceremony that highlighted his efforts to support research in sustainable agriculture and ocean sciences, two of UCSC's strengths.
The award is given by the Science Coalition, a consortium of 55 major public and private research universities, to recognize members of Congress whose actions and votes support basic scientific research at universities and national labs. Farr is one of more than 60 Congress members to receive the award since 1999.
Chancellor Blumenthal, who had nominated Farr for the award, made the presentation. During a brief ceremony at University House, Blumenthal thanked Farr for his support of science and UCSC over the years, calling the award akin to a "lifetime achievement award."
Blumenthal noted Farr's consistent support for UCSC's programs in organic agriculture and ocean and marine sciences. "Every university deserves to have a friend as good as Sam Farr," Blumenthal said, noting Farr frequently visits the campus often.
"There are a lot of votes here," Farr quipped.
Daniel Press, professor of environmental studies and executive director of the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, said Farr has been a friend of the UCSC farm and garden for more than 30 years and is "working to transform all organic agriculture." It's no coincidence that 30 percent of all commercial agriculture in Santa Cruz County is now organically grown, Press said.
First, as a member of the California Assembly, and later as a member of Congress Farr authored legislation for organic food standards, agricultural research, and food safety.
Gary Griggs, professor of Earth and planetary sciences and director of the UCSC Institute of Marine Sciences, thanked Farr for his "voice and votes for ocean sciences" noting the 24 marine science organizations in the Monterey Bay Area that employ 2,100 professionals with a combined annual budget of $300 million.
As a longtime member of the House Appropriations Committee, Farr has been an advocate of oceanic research, co-founding the House Oceans Caucus.
Farr spoke of his parents and his lifetime of curiosity as the motivation for his interest in science. "I'm fascinated by discovery," he said. He remembered discovering the solar system after his first visit to the planetarium in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park as an 11 year old.
Later, when his sixth grade class studied the planets his teacher praised the previous unremarkable student as her best and the first to know all the planets' names and order.
"That's was the day I decided to study science," Farr said. "Science has been my way of just being curious," he said.
Farr said the award was the most interesting that he has received and also praised UCSC for being on the cutting edge of research into subjects that matter for the future of the planet.