Category Archives: News & Events

Inaugural CA Farmer Educator Summit: Overview & Resources

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On September 9, 2016, UC SAREP and FarmsReach co-hosted the inaugural CA Farmer Education & Support Services Summit in Sacramento.

Over 30 farm education organizations of California were represented in the day-long strategic meeting. With the help of facilitators Gigantic Idea Studios, participants collectively identified priorities and key action items to improve collaboration and efficacy across the California sustainable agriculture sector. (The Summit built on outcomes from the 2015 strategy meeting co-hosted by FarmsReach and MESA.)

More online resources will be released in the coming months summarizing details of the inaugural Summit.  In the meantime, below are key resources and priorities that were identified.

Sincere thanks again to Rabobank for their assistance with the Ecosystem Map and Chart, and the USDA-NIFA funded Growing Roots project for their assistance with facilitation costs. The Summit was primarily funded by the California Department of Food & Agriculture (CDFA), Specialty Crop Block Program.

Resources: Who’s Who

Note: These are “living documents.” You can always access the latest versions in our shared Google drive.

If you would like to add your organization to the Directory, Map or Chart, please complete the Farmer Educator Network survey. UC SAREP and FarmsReach will periodically post updated versions of these resources at the links above.

New Google Group

In a Communication Survey conducted during the Summit, participants expressed a desire for a shared list-serve, so we have set up a Google group for Summit participants.  Other California organizations that would like to join the conversation are welcome to request to join!

In-Person Regional Networks

The strongest need we heard – whether for program impact or collaborative fundraising – was for stronger in-person regional connections among organizations.

For those wanting to get started in your region, check out: Developing & Running a Farmer Education Network, the How-to Guide from CASFS (also stored in our shared Google drive).

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Top 15 Priority Focus Areas Identified

These priorities can also be viewed in a separate 15 Priority Focus Areas document.

A) Build capacity for the collective movement.

  • Create a “backbone team” to coordinate strategies we together prioritize.
  • Broaden stakeholders governing the movement and bring NEW and minority voices to the table and/or go to them directly.
  • Strategically communicate/translate diverse values (and impact metrics) to funders, policy-makers and farmers themselves.

B) Build capacity for measuring collective impact.

  • Explore common metrics of impact that balance economic, social, cultural and political factors.
  • Share data collection online tools.
  • Establish participant-driven metrics of success.

C) Foster relationships, communication and collaboration (prevent duplication of effort & reinventing the wheel).

  • Coordinate more in-person regional meetings among organizations.
  • Continue state-wide strategy sessions, possibly: Expand FEN meeting at EcoFarm, schedule pre/post-CA Small Farm Conference meeting, and/or continue annual Summits each year.
  • Include funders in discussions.

D) Build capacity for organizations’ INTERNAL operations.

  • Get training in cultural competency and outreach.
  • Share organizational personnel for operations that can be done remotely (e.g., accounting, bookkeeping, etc.)
  • Take time to hire and train more diverse staff and boards of directors.

E) Build capacity for organizations’ EXTERNAL operations (strategic, high-impact farm education & support services).

  • Create more/better programs for non-English speaking farmers.
  • Share best practices in delivering technical assistance, especially culturally appropriate assistance.
  • Establish a shared online platform to connect geographically isolated farmers and to post/archive farmer training materials for CA.

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Additional Priorities Identified

  • Identify opportunities for political advocacy and change.
  • Research and analyze fundamental farm viability for different farm sizes and diverse markets.
  • Help farmers to self-organize.
  • Create new programs to prepare farmers for larger-scale operations.
  • Identify strategies to influence large-scale operations to adopt more sustainable practices.

Collaborative Fundraising Strategies

Below is a synthesis so you can take action in your region as soon as you’re ready!

Assumes:

  • Engaging farmer feedback throughout the process. Ideally, farmers’ needs guide programs, which then guide where to access funding.
  • Funders are educated on meaningful metrics; there’s a common language and straight-talk among farmers, organizations and funders.

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Suggested Steps:

  1. Reflect honestly on your own organization’s strategy, capacity, core competencies.
  2. Have regular in-person meetings with other regional organizations (can switch to phone later). Need for in-person, authentic relationships among organizations to build trust.
  3. Reach out to and include complementary organizations outside of ag to fill gaps and provide professional development (e.g., economic and community development organizations, local food policy councils).
  4. Reflect as a group about roles and core competencies. Could be done with a survey, followed by discussion. Make adjustments and re-alignments as necessary.
  5. Divide load of researching funding opportunities via “fund-seeking team” or committee. Consider potential for more capacity grants (e.g., for shared HR, research or identifying best practices), targeting new audiences (e.g., socially disadvantaged farmers), or reaching larger/different funders or grants when applying as a group.
  6. Co-develop the grant proposals from the start (not last minute!).  Allow time for collaborative thinking. Place realistic value on service you provide.
  7. Develop new collaborative fundraising strategies from new sources:
    • specific, local donors to serve specific, local farmers
    • commodity boards, industry groups, private sector (while not compromising values)
    • collaborative online/physical fundraising day or month (like Big Day of Giving)
    • retail stores for e-script
    • fundraising from farmers market shoppers
    • new NGO-for-profit partnerships

 Many thanks to all who participated in the Summit!  Stay tuned for the upcoming online resources with more details.

If your CA farmer organization hasn’t already done so, please fill out the  Farmer Educator Network survey.  UC SAREP and FarmsReach will periodically post updated versions of these resources at the links below.

Quick links:

Revisiting Your Agritourism Strategy for Increased Income

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Hoes Down Fest – Guinda, CA

Are you one of the thousands of California farmers and ranchers who invite the public to your land to shop at your farm stand, pick their own fruit, taste wine, stay the night, learn a skill, enjoy a festival, or tour your operation?

It’s no secret that many family farms supplement their income by getting jobs off the farm or setting up agritourism programs.  In fact, of the commercial farms that had positive farm income, only 77% of their total household income came from farm operations (USDA Economic Research Service).

As farmers and ranchers learn more about the diverse types of agritourism programs that fit their specific location, operation, assets or preferences, the U.S. continues to see an ongoing increase in the number and types of agritourism offerings for the general public. And, most importantly, we see an increase in the number and types of farms that are expanding their customer base and improving their bottom line.

Agritourism Lunchtime Webinars & Online Conversations

Starting May 19th, the UC Small Farm Program is hosting five, free practical webinars – designed especially for those with some type of agritourism program already set up.  (Those who don’t yet have an agritourism program are still welcome! We suggest reviewing the FarmsReach Agritourism Toolkit resources first.)

Every two weeks, we’ll start with a live webinar sharing lessons about an important theme for successful agritourism programs (which will be immediately archived for convenient access).  Between webinars, we’ll continue the conversation online in FarmsReach with the webinar presenters and other experts answering questions and moderating discussion so that anyone involved in California agritourism can easily share ideas, ask questions of others, and get help.

To follow the conversation online, join the new Agritourism Group in FarmsReach.  Soon, all the presenters will be “on call” in the Group, ready to answer your questions before and after the webinars take place.

SCHEDULE – all webinars will be 11am-12pm PT:

Join us!  Webinar registration is required, but there is no charge for the webinars. After you register, you will be emailed the link to join the webinar.

If you are not able to join the webinars, you can email us your questions at any time to have the presenters answer them in the online Conversations.  And, be sure to join the new CA Agritourism group to get notified when the archived webinars are posted!

Background & More Resources

The UC Small Farm Program has been working for more than fifteen years with UC Cooperative Extension advisors and others to develop resources and connections for California agritourism operators. Their popular Agritourism Intensive workshop series have been offered in eleven different counties.  The UC agritourism website hosts useful factsheets and research.  Their online agritourism directory and calendar helps visitors find farms and ranches to visit. And, their monthly California Agritourism newsletter helps share news and resources for the agritourism community.

FarmsReach is hosting the new CA Agritourism group, and also offers an Agritourism Toolkit and online Conversations forum for information-sharing among the agricultural community.

Together, we hope to nurture the statewide agritourism conversation, and welcome your insights and questions!


Hitting the Books: THE Reading List from Agrarian Elders

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Attendees of the second Agrarian Elders (& “Youngers”) Gathering in Big Sur, 2016. (Full list at bottom.)

Revised and reprinted with permission from Jim Gerritsen of Wood Prairie Family Farm.

The first Agrarian Elders Gathering was held in Big Sur two years ago.  The event captured the attention of the New York Times, and talented Noel Vietor created a masterful chronicle of the wisdom and ideas shared, which spanned the following topics:

  • Scale And Quality: How Large Can An Organic Farm Be?
  • How Small Farmers Survive And Thrive In A Co-Opted Market
  • Finding The Sweet Spot
  • The Challenge Of Certifying “Organic”
  • Regulation: The Burden Of Getting Big
  • The Limits Of Corporate Funded Scientific Agriculture
  • Honoring Observation And Intimate Participation With Nature
  • Is There A Perpetual Agriculture?
  • The Organic Farm As Organism And Ecosystem
  • How Monsanto Bought 10,000 Years Of Seed-Saving Power
  • The Crisis Of Participation
  • “Too Soon Old & Too Late Smart” – The Challenge Of Retirement
  • Succession Strategies That Succeed
  • Giving The Land A Voice
  • Community Education – A Natural Strength Of Organic Farming

There is great conscious of the critical need to generationally pass along knowledge. Therefore, this year’s Agrarian Gathering was re-constituted to bring together a dozen of the Elders along with a dozen Youngers selected for their leadership qualities from among the next generation of organic farmers.

As preparation for this Agrarian Elders Gathering, the well-known Eliot Coleman of Four Seasons Farm on the coast of Maine, took it upon himself to create and distribute a reading list for Elders to study ahead of time.

Eliot’s collection of pertinent articles and studies is nothing short of stunning.  We share with you Eliot’s treasure trove below.


Eliot Coleman’s 2016 Agrarian Elders Reading List

Note: “Some of these articles were included, not because I thought they had merit, (Nathaniel Johnson, Tamar Haspel, and Forbes are all shills for the Dark Side) but because I thought our discussions would be more focused if we were up-to-date on what the other side was saying.”
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What are we doing? Why are we organic farmers?
Motivation? Inspiration? Goal? Wider picture? Long-term expectations?
It has been said that organic farmers “are the last beacons of light, the last autonomous independent examples of human beings who have not been co-opted by the system. Organic farmers are the only force preventing the total takeover of the food system by artificial, industrial thinking.”
Campaign For Real Farming: Key Ideas for Enlightened Agriculture
Campaign for Real Farming: How Farming Can Lead the World Out of Its Current Mess
Sustainable Food Trust: How To Farm Properly

Sustainable Soil Fertility: How best to achieve it?
Mixed Farming – Livestock plus field crops, vegetable crops, fruit, etc.
Fertility Without Fertilizers – Green manures, cover crops, crop rotation?
American Society of Agronomy: Sod-based Rotations
NY Times: Farmers Put Down the Plow for More Productive Soil
USDA: Are Some Crops Synergistic to Following Crops?

Organic Fertilizers – biological? mineral? foliar? sources? Sustainability index?
The Atlantic: Amish Farmers Reinventing Organic Agriculture

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CA Farmer Survey: Preliminary Results & Invitation to Participate

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This post is Part 2 of 2 re: “A Year of Learning.”  Also see Part 1: “Sobering, Inspiring Results from Agriculture Organization Strategy Session” posted July 29, 2015.

Thank you to everyone who has already completed the short Farmer Survey over the past several months. Below are the preliminary results.

If you haven’t taken the survey yet, please share your thoughts!  Your opinion matters, and it only takes about 10 minutes.  Plus, there’s one last $250 prize for respondents.  (Congratulations Steve Fitch of Pocket Creek Farm for winning the first of two prizes!)

Background: On January 21st, folks from FarmsReach CommunityMultinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture (MESA)Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF)Center for Land-Based Learning (CLBL)ATTRA/National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT)UC Cooperative ExtensionFarmer Veteran CoalitionSustainable Agriculture Education (SAGE)Rogue Farm CorpsFull Belly FarmNorth Coast Opportunities (NCO), and Ag/Tech Mixing Bowl came together to design new, shared tools to more effectively serve small- and medium-scale California farmers and ranchers. The original context was educational curriculum for farmers, and MESA and FarmsReach had invited the primary organizations that offer these services in California.

Better understanding farmers needs and preferences was one of many priorities. (For more details on the convening, see Sobering, Inspiring Results from Agriculture Organization Strategy Session.)

Preliminary California farmer survey results are below:

* New questions were added to the survey based on initial farmer responses. Results will be shared once we collect more data.  If you already took the survey and wish to submit your responses to these new questions, you may do so here.

Farmers:  We invite you to take the survey.  It takes less than 15 minutes, and you could win $250!


Acreage

Percentage of respondents with different farm acreage. For context, below is the USDA’s report on farm size and cropland distribution.

 

Farm Size Distribution

This USDA graph included for context only. The data has nothing to do with the CA farmer survey.

Sales Channels

Percentage of respondents selling through each channel.

 

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Sobering, Inspiring Results from Agriculture Organization Strategy Session

This post is Part 1 of 2 re: “A Year of Learning.”  Also see Part 2: “CA Farmer Survey: Preliminary Results & Invitation to Participate” posted October 4, 2015.

On January 21st, FarmsReach Community, Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture (MESA), Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), Center for Land-Based Learning (CLBL), ATTRA/National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), UC Cooperative Extension, Farmer Veteran Coalition, Sustainable Agriculture Education (SAGE), Rogue Farm Corps, Full Belly Farm, North Coast Opportunities (NCO), and Ag/Tech Mixing Bowl came together to design new, shared tools to more effectively serve small- and medium-scale California farmers and ranchers.  The original context was educational curriculum for farmers, and MESA and FarmsReach had invited the primary organizations that offer these services in California.

Shared GoalsIn the months that followed, I met individually with many of the folks above as well as other agriculture organization leaders to dig deeper into obstacles and opportunities in our shared sustainable agriculture ‘movement’, specifically regarding farm technical and business assistance.  Realizing there is no standard language to describe this farm focus, we started using the term “Farm Education & Support Services”.

A summary of the sobering results is below. Overall, there is consensus that many fundamental components for our collective success are lacking, resulting in a disconnect among farmers, organizations, and funders; duplication of effort; lack of strategic focus in fundraising and program development; insufficient organizational capacity; few explicitly shared metrics of success; and a general feeling of “dysfunction” among various organizations.

And yet, of all the groups in the convening above, all but two expressed a willingness to work together in some form of a collective impact framework to systemically improve our effectiveness and impact. (If your agriculture organizations is interested, please contact me.)

We are planning to review the results of our co-designed Farmer Survey before deciding on next steps.  So, a lot more to come.  (Please do share the Farmer Survey with your networks if you haven’t already.  Later, we’ll post the results for everyone here.)


Sustainable Agriculture Movement ~ “Farm Education & Support Services” Goals: Results of January Convening

Movement Needs

From literally hundreds of ideas to Improve Connections & Collaboration, Increase Quality & Quantity of Farmer Learning, and Improve Effectiveness & Impact, five distinct categories emerged.

Within each, I’ve summarized the group’s proposed areas for improvement.

 

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Your Input Needed (and Great Chances to Win $250) ~ Guidance for CA Agriculture Organizations & Industry Ecosystem Maps

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Terra Firma Farm, Winters CA ~ taken with Droid Turbo phone

View the preliminary results of the Farmer Survey, posted October 4th, 2015.


The current FarmsReach platform launched in 2013 with the ethos of “Driven By Community”.  Now we are asking you, our active and opinionated community across CA (and beyond), what would be most valuable to YOU?

Farmer survey results will be shared with over a dozen partner organizations so that we can collectively better serve your needs.

Organization survey results are being used to create new, shared Ecosystem Maps, showing where and what we all are working on across California, and Funding Maps, showing where funding is currently available — and needed.

Please take 5-10 minutes to fill out our survey, and win one of two $250 prizes!  The first prize will be chosen from the first 250 members to complete the survey. The second will be chosen from all who complete it over the next few weeks.

Farmers: click here!
Organizations: click here!

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The California Climate & Agriculture Network (CalCAN) Hosting 4th Climate & Ag Summit!

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Participants visit with Bruce Rominger at the 2014 conference

Our partner, the California Climate & Agriculture Network (CalCAN) is organizing its fourth California Climate & Agriculture Summit in Davis, CA on March 24 & 25, 2015! CalCAN is a coalition of the state’s leading sustainable agriculture organizations and farmer allies that come together out of concern for the impacts of climate change on California agriculture and to find sustainable agriculture solutions.

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Summit workshop 2014

At this year’s Summit, you will hear about the latest science, policy and practice related to climate change and sustainable agriculture in California. This is a great opportunity to get together and share knowledge and experiences with a diverse group of participants, including farmers and ranchers, researchers, policymakers, advocates and agriculture professionals.

The Summit begins on March 24th with farm tours in Yolo County starting at Rominger Brothers Farm with a focus on water conservation. Next at Yolo Cattle Co., you will learn about grazing management and native grass restoration. And lastly at Hedgerow Farms, you will see a variety of hedgerow and riparian plantings, and learn about their role in climate resilience. Lunch at Yolo Cattle Company is included in the price of the farm tour.

IMG_0935On March 25th there is a full day of plenary, workshops and poster presentations. The day begins with a keynote address by Craig McNamara, owner of Sierra Orchards and Chair of the California State Board of Food and Agriculture, followed by a panel of farmers sharing their experiences in coping with the drought. More speakers, poster presentations and workshop sessions will fill the morning.

After a healthy and delicious catered lunch, the Summit will continue into the afternoon with more workshop sessions and poster presentations. To conclude this unique event, attendees are invited to a wine and cheese reception to cross-pollinate and mingle with all of the attendees. For more info on the day’s events, check out the full program.

This is a wonderful conference and an incredibly important issue. If you’re thinking of attending, earlybird registration goes until Feb. 7th, so get your tickets now!


For more information or questions about the Summit, contact: summit@calclimateag.org.

Interested in learning more about the impact of climate change and land development on agriculture? Check out our Farmland & Estate Planning Toolkit for more resources.

If you have questions or words of wisdom about climate change and agriculture, visit FarmsReach Conversations and post a question or comment!

If you have other great resources to share, get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.

Free Drought-Focused Soil Nutrient Management Series Offered by UC SAREP, FarmsReach, and Sustainable Conservation

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Below is the press release announcing our partnership with UC SAREP and Sustainable Conservation to hold a series of virtual field days on the topic of Soil Nutrient Management in Times of Drought.


Davis, Calif. – November 10, 2014 – From November 2014 until January 2015, the University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Program (UC SAREP), FarmsReach, and Sustainable Conservation are hosting a free, online drought-focused soil nutrient management series for farmers in California and beyond.

“Farmers and ranchers have to continually adapt their management of soil nutrients to changing conditions,” says Aubrey White, UC SAREP’s Communication Coordinator. “Adaptation during this extreme drought presents a new challenge for growers and researchers alike. A forum dedicated to the issues farmers will face next season is an opportunity to share resources, research, and ideas for success.”

Kicking off on November 17th, the Nutrient Management Solutions Series will offer the agriculture community:

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Grocery Delivery Service Instacart Partners with FarmsReach for Delivery from Local Farmers Markets

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NOTE: The East Bay farmers market deliveries pilot has been suspended, and Instacart and FarmsReach are conducting a feasibility study of deliveries from farmers markets from the San Francisco urban center.

Below is the press release that went out today announcing our partnership with Instacart.  Exciting times!


San Francisco, Calif. – September 11, 2014Instacart, the only service that can deliver groceries from multiple local stores within an hour, announced today that it has partnered with FarmsReach, a platform for small and medium-scale farms to access the products, support and services they need to be successful.

Instacart will begin delivering groceries from Farmers Markets in San Francisco’s East Bay and plans to expand beyond that area soon.

Initially, Instacart will be delivering from Farmers Markets on:

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Birth of a New Nonprofit Organization: the Farmers Guild!

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Last summer, with a shared vision, FarmsReach and the Farmers Guild joined forces to better connect the agricultural community in California. At that time, there was just one Farmers Guild in Sebastopol, which brought together anywhere from 20-50 farmers for a casual monthly potluck. FarmsReach had also recently launched its online platform to build stronger connections between both farmers and partner agricultural organizations.

Since then, both the Farmers Guild and FarmsReach have grown tremendously together.

With the help of FarmsReach’s funding and supportive online community, as well as the donated time and space by Guild member volunteers and Grange Halls, the Farmers Guild has expanded to six more regions, stretching from Mendocino to Nevada County to Santa Cruz – with more to come.

We first highlighted Evan Wiig, the founder of the first Farmers Guild and co-organizer of each of the new Guilds, back in September. Now it’s with great excitement that we announce the formation of the new Farmers Guild nonprofit organization in which he will serve as Executive Director.

Evan has been an infectious speaker and inspiring community organizer for the Farmers Guild and FarmsReach while we have worked together. Below I talked briefly with Evan about his plans for the Guilds going forward!

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