Author Archives: Olivia Maki

Member Spotlight: Mark Tollefson of Fairview Gardens

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This week in our Member Spotlight, we are heading south to Goleta, CA to meet Mark Tollefson, the Executive Director of Fairview Gardens. Fairview Gardens is a non-profit educational farm 100 miles north of Los Angeles.

Mark originates from Alberta, Canada and comes from many generations of farmers. He is a chef, owned his own restaurant, and has been a survival skills instructor. He is the past Executive Director of another non-profit – Wilderness Youth Project, and has traveled worldwide, including helping open an international high school in New Zealand, and building a sustainable agriculture organization in Belize.

Since the late 1800’s the land in and around Fairview Gardens has been used for agricultural purposes and rests on some of the richest topsoil in California. In 1997, the farm manager, Michael Ableman purchased the farm with a group of local activists, formed a non-profit and placed it in the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County. Today, the farm runs a robust CSA program, farm stand, hosts classes for adults and children, camps, and tours.

Read on as Mark talks about his views on wilderness, urban communities, and how places like farms can be the pillar of a community.


FarmsReach: Wow, that is a broad background! What inspired you to begin working for Fairview Gardens?

Mark Tollefson: Being a non-profit education farm, Fairview Gardens offered me the perfect foil to be able to blend my talents and passions into one place.

While I was working with youth and adults in wilderness settings, I realized that I could help them effect powerful transformation in a very short time. Then we would get back to our camp or vehicle and they would open a bag of Doritos potato chips.

I realized that not only do we have a huge disconnection between people and nature, we have an even bigger disconnection between people and food.

If we were lost in the wilderness, the first things we would do is find shelter, water, and then fire. These three things would need to be accomplished in the first 3 – 5 days. After that, 80% of our time would be spent gathering food.

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FarmsReach Policy News Roundup

On the FarmsReach Newsroom page we post a variety of timely news stories from around the country, every day. 

For those who are too busy to track all the latest headlines, we’ve decided to give you a distilled roundup of the latest policy updates affecting farmers in California.

Feel free to visit our Newsroom to get the latest stories or if you like, you can “Like” us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter to access even more great information. Otherwise, we hope you enjoy our digest of the latest updates!


Historic Groundwater Bill Passed in CA

Last month, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a trio of bills to set in motion statewide regulation of CA’s underground water sources in response to the devastating effects GWcanal1000from this three-year drought. Since CA’s founding, water has been considered a property right and this is the first time that groundwater will be managed on a large scale. However, in spite of the new restrictions, it might take decades before CA’s most depleted basins recover.

Many agricultural interests are opposed to the Bill, including the CA Farm Bureau Federation, under the grounds that it will harm food production. However, other agricultural interests are pleased because the bill allows the water to be managed locally, which means individual counties can monitor water use. Learn more about this bill.

The Farm to Fork Movement in CA is Sprouting Office Space

la-me-pc-gov-brown-signs-farm-to-fork-measures-001Last month, Gov. Jerry Brown signed seven pieces of legislation referred to as the “Farm to Fork Bills”, including the creation of the Office of Farm to Fork within the CA Department of Food and Agriculture.

The bills have been collectively described as coordinating efforts to encourage fresh food access and identify under-served areas for new farmers markets, and other non-profit food delivery operations. Additionally, included in these bills is a state review of neonicotinoids, which may play a role in the decline of bee populations. There will be an evaluation period of these neonics and control measures will be taken if needed to ensure they do not harm bees, and affect the pollination of CA’s food crops. Learn more about this bill.

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Member Spotlight: Kelly Osman of Oz Family Farm

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Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County

This week we are featuring Kelly Osman of Oz Family Farm located in the Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County, California. Kelly is a fourth generation California rancher who, with the help of her husband and kids, started the farm in 2003 after being inspired by their kid’s 4-H program.

While rabbits may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about a ranching operation, Kelly knows the value behind a good product and finding unexpected ways to find profit in everything (think manure!).

Read on to learn about how Kelly started the operation, her family’s ranching roots on the California coast, and the lucrative benefits of having “bunny gold”.

FarmsReach: How many years have you been raising rabbits?

Kelly Osman: Nearly 10 years. We began rabbits when our kids started 4-H in kindergarten. It has always been a family business. The kids started us out, I fell in love with the rabbits and we all grew together: our family, the kids themselves, and our business.

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Global Warming & CA’s Food Crisis ~ Adaptation Strategies for a Secure Future

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In 1895 a Swedish scientist discovered the greenhouse effect. At the time, the concept of trapping gasses in the atmosphere (creating global warming) was thought to be an ideal development for preventing the next Ice Age. Today, this perspective is very different. What we now call climate change is having far reaching negative effects on the planet’s agricultural resources. Temperature affects crop yield, soil moisture, pest population and disease prevalence, all of which hinder agricultural production.

In May, the Giannini Foundation hosted a one-day conference in Sacramento called “Climate Change: Challenges to California’s Agriculture and Natural Resources.” I attended the conference and spent the day surrounded by scientists, policy makers, and educators, learning about the implications that climate change will have on California food production.

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