Author Archives: Evan Wiig

The Farmers Guild Expands to the Sierra Region!

Tim Van Wagner & Leo Chapman

Tim Van Wagner & Leo Chapman

Next Thursday evening, Nevada County will carry on a long legacy of agricultural community-building with the launch of a brand new Farmers Guild!

Over a century ago, Grange Halls emerged all over California to serve the growing farming community. Three of these halls still stand in Nevada County today. The county has changed a lot since the Gold Rush, but the miners of the past and the new tech workers who call the Sierra foothills home today have one thing in common: they all must eat.  And, in order to eat, you still need farmers.

Robbie & Deena, Sweet Roots Farm

Robbie & Deena, Sweet Roots Farm

Welcome Living Lands Agrarian Network (LLAN). Founded by Leo Chapman in Nevada City a few years ago, this organization formed to provide mentorship for a new generation of farmers. Their distinctive model is a combination of cooperative sustainable agriculture education, resource sharing, community partnerships and celebration around the food they grow.

From this movement arose a popular series of Soup Nights, aimed at bringing together their whole community (consumers and producers) in the name of local food, both grown and shared.

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Farmland Access in the 21st Century ~ Recap from Agrarian Trust Symposium in Berkeley, CA

Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 8.32.00 PMThree months after Congress passed a new Farm Bill authorizing nearly one trillion dollars over the next decade to support US agriculture, a symposium convened in Berkeley to grapple with the same challenges that the Farm Bill aims to confront: the rising age of the American farmer, loss of farmland, food security, public health, and more. The overwhelming conclusion of this past weekend’s gathering: the new reforms proposed by Capitol Hill hardly scratch the surface.

For one weekend only, agricultural activists and thinkers such as Joel Salatin, Wes Jackson and many more farmers, advocates and industry veterans in the audience came together for Our Land: Farmland Access in the 21st Century, coordinated by the new Agrarian Trust.

Rather than propose new subsidies, food stamps or crop insurance for commodity farmers, the Symposium dug deep, deconstructing the anthropological origins of agriculture, the historical pressures of capitalism on our food system, and proposing that new policy atop existing structures can do little to abate the global trends that threaten our food, economy and environment.

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The Central Coast Kicks Off New Farmers Guild!

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Wilder Ranch, Santa Cruz

We’re excited to announce that on Tuesday April 29th, at 6pm, the Central Coast of California is launching their first monthly Farmers Guild gathering! Hosted by the Live Oak Grange hall in Santa Cruz, please join us for the evening to meet area farmers, enjoy great food and take part in the development of a new resource-sharing hub for the Central Coast agricultural community.

Delicious potluck at the North Coast Guild in Sebastopol

Delicious potluck at the North Coast Guild in Sebastopol

After watching other Farmers Guilds spring up around the northern part of the state, a group of farmers south of the Bay began to wonder whether they could do the same for their own community – the agricultural neighborhood that includes the diverse farmland of Watsonville, Gilroy, Salinas and beyond.

“I feel that there is so much to be gained by putting producers in contact with their community,” says Dave Kowalek, a large animal veterinarian new to the Central Coast who is looking to tap into his new food and farming community. “The sharing of ideas, support and equipment can be so vital to many sustainable-scale agricultural endeavors.”

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Labor & Worker Safety Series: Pt 1 ~ Cultivating the Future: Joel Salatin’s Tips to Turn Interns Into Full-time Farmers

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Joel Salatin with the chickens of Polyface Farm

With the popularity of our Water & Drought Management series, we’re excited to announce our next two-month series of blog features about Labor & Worker Safety. The series will be a mix of practical toolkits created by our partners and stories and new tips from Cooperative Extension advisors, labor specialists and attorneys, experienced vegetable and livestock farmers, and newer farmers developing a labor force.

To kick off the series, we’re starting with tips from Joel Salatin, of Polyface Farm in Virginia, about turning interns into successful farmers. Joel works hard to cultivate a sense of excitement and leadership in his interns, not to mention provide a supportive and fair work relationship.

Read on about Joel’s intern program, which he shared at the recent first annual Permaculture Voices Conference in Southern California, and why he thinks a more nurturing introduction to the farming world will help beginning farmers stay the course and eventually succeed in their own operations.

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Celebrating the Farmers Guild ~ Guild-Raising 2014!

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This Saturday, February 15th, Sebastopol, CA will host the first annual Guild-Raising. For one day, the newest wave of farmers and ranchers here in Northern California, will descend upon the Sebastopol Grange hall to interact, share resources and celebrate a fast-growing movement we call the Farmers Guild. The Guild is a network now stretching from Mendocino to Marin, Sacramento to Sonoma, Yolo County and beyond!

For this particular gathering of the Guild, these typically local farmer-to-farmer alliances will open their doors to the entire food and farming community: chefs, grocers, agricultural advocates, land-owners and more. The Guild-Raising festivities (and the Guild movement itself) reflects a new paradigm in food and farming: as food awareness grows and communication technologies sharpen, we’re watching as the walls between producer and consumer crumble, the conduits between a farmer’s crop and the consumer’s plate multiply, all while the ability to obtain information, find resources and connect with fellow farmers becomes easier than ever. All this movement explains the proliferation of the Guilds and such is the reason for throwing a party!

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10 Practical Tips for the New, Aspiring Farmer!

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This year’s Nevada County Sustainable Food & Farm Conference brought together the tried and true of sustainable agriculture, alongside the newest wave of young agrarians, ready to get their hands dirty in order to feed us.

The crowd was a blend of those with decades of experience, including Denise Willey of T&D Willey Farms and Rich Johansen of Johansen Ranch, both of whom were farming organically before most Americans even had heard of the term. There were also those who had just faced the trials and tribulations of their first season, like Jeremy Mineau of Super Tuber Farm and Tim Van Wagner of First Rain Farm.

The weekend catered to the new and experienced farmer, but during my time at each of the workshops, a series of lessons began to emerge for the new, aspiring farmer. Here are several of the practical lessons worth passing on to the next crop of beginners.

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Farm Hack Davis ~ Highlights from a Creative, DIY Weekend

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Visualization of an open-source food distribution website

Farm Hack is a community-driven movement that brings farmers together with engineers, builders, welders, architects, software designers, and other skilled non-farmers to develop, document and build accessible, appropriate technology for more resilient agriculture. It’s based on the principles of sharing, open publication, and the evolution of design.  And, the recent Farm Hack Davis - the first in Northern California – booked up completely weeks before the actual event!

Cross-pollination was the word of the day! And not just among the one group collaborating to design an innovative new apiary. Another group was crowded around big sheets of paper sketching blueprints for a small-scale grain elevator, while another was devising a new website to connect farmers to local markets. From theoretical to practical, this day was about tapping into a wide diversity of creative ideas, to create tangible solutions to many on-farm challenges.

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