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.

Continue Reading →

NYFC Report: Conservation Tools Providing Young Farmers Access to Farmland

rural-urban

This blog first appeared on the Seedstock website on November 21, 2013. Seedstock is a company focused on innovation and sustainability in agriculture. Through the use of a variety of tools, including the news, an informational blog and live events, the company promotes agricultural start up companies, university research, urban agriculture initiatives, and farmers employing innovative new techniques and approaches.

Written by Missy Smith.

Recently, the National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) released Conservation 2.0: How Land Trusts Can Protect America’s Working Farms. The report finds that a primary threat to new farmers is acquisition of protected farmland by non-farmers who allow it to go fallow. To gather research for the study, the NYFC interviewed 200 U.S. land trust leaders. One-quarter of those surveyed said they have witnessed a decline in production at conserved farms resulting from non-farmers purchasing land at prices with which farmers cannot compete.

Continue Reading →

New CDFA Report: Climate Adaptation Strategies for CA Agriculture

calbehot_almondtrees

This blog first appeared on the California Climate and Agriculture Network (CalCAN) website on October 8, 2013. CalCAN is a coalition that works to advance policies to support California agriculture in the face of climate change. With programs in Farmer Education & Outreach, Network Building and various Policy Initiatives, CalCAN plays a leading role in responding to the climate crisis by reducing our carbon footprint, and helping to ensure the long-term viability and security of our food and farming system.

Written by Dru Marion, CalCAN intern, Fall 2013.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) recently released a new report outlining recommendations for agriculture’s ongoing adaptation to climate change. The report was based in large part on the input of a Climate Change Consortium comprised of stakeholders from the California agriculture community, including CalCAN.

In a related and broader effort, the California Natural Resources Agency is preparing to release an update to their 2009 Climate Adaptation Strategy, which covers several sectors including agriculture. They are conducting a series of public workshops to gain public input on the updates; a schedule for January can be found here.

Continue Reading →

Business Succession: Planting the Seeds for an Abundant Future

Corse-1-2-family-pic

This article first appeared in the spring 2013 issue of Certified Organic Magazine.

Certified Organic Magazine is a quarterly publication from California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). Geared towards organic enthusiasts, this information-packed publication includes feature articles, client spotlights, certification news, advocacy updates, producer resources/tips and events.

Written by Jay Silverstein, partner at the business and accounting consulting firm, Moss Adams.

Whether retirement is near or far, thinking about who will take the reins and lead your farm into the future isn’t easy, but it’s especially relevant these days. According to the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), approximately 70 percent of U.S. farmland will go on the market in the next 20 years as the nation’s farmers age. Without a succession plan, many family-run farms are likely to go out of business, be bought by larger farms, or get turned over to real estate developers or other purchasers for nonagricultural use.

Continue Reading →

Farm Bill 101 & Action Needed Now

Screen Shot 2013-09-19 at 10.10.23 AM

The Farm Bill is a 1001-page proposal that covers food, farming, nutrition, and land use, and is one of the primary tools for the US government to address issues that affect public health, climate, land and water. It’s drafted and hopefully passed through the House and Senate, and on to the President to sign every 5 to 7 years.

However, the days are limited for Congress to enact a new farm bill before the Sept. 30 expiration of current programs. For those paying attention, that Sept. 30, 2013 deadline was originally Sept. 30, 2012. Congress failed to complete its task last year, passing an extension in the early hours of Jan 1. 2013.

So, here we are – two years later – with no reform to outdated farm subsidies and funding stripped from nearly a dozen critical programs that help farmers and communities.  Programs that create jobs, invest in our next generation of farmers, and help farmers and communities build a more sustainable future.

Continue Reading →

“Free Money!” ~ Q&A with NRCS Soil Conservationist, Ben Garland

Every week, we’ll be spotlighting a FarmsReach Featured Farmer or community Member.  Our Featured Farmers are brimming with great ideas and knowledge to share with the farming community, and our Members comprise a mix of farmers, ranchers, Extension Advisors, nonprofits, and more.  

Last week’s North Coast Farmers Guild monthly meet-up was another great night of delicious food, fun conversations and valuable connections.  After dinner, we heard from two presenters, one of which was Ben Garland, Soil Conservationist (and funder) at the Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS).

ben

The NRCS grants funds to farmers and ranchers for a wide variety of uses – all of which support healthy ecosystems and long-term sustainability.  Last year, the CA NRCS offices had $3.5 million to grant to organic or transitioning farmers, but only $3 million was used.

Continue Reading →

“Elon Musk Throws Farmers for a Hyperloop” – Alternatives to High-Speed Rail

This holiday week, we take a break from our Featured Farmer Spotlights to share some high-tech news excerpted from the Upstart Business Journal.  Elon Musk, co-founder of Paypal and Tesla Motors, revealed his plans for a $6 billion solar-powered alternative to the projected $68 billion High Speed Rail Project to go through prime California farmland.

Elon Musk's Hyperloop plans coast far above valuable farmland.  TED/James Duncan Davidson

Elon Musk’s Hyperloop plans coast far above valuable farmland.
TED/James Duncan Davidson

Elon Musk revealed the details of his plans for his Hyperloop—the air-powered pod in a tube that might someday connect Los Angeles to San Francisco and, if successful, would totally disrupt other transportation sectors, even as it leaves farmers nearly untouched.

The Hyperloop is designed to link large cities less than 1,000 miles apart that drive high amounts of traffic between them. So while the link between California’s two most prominent cities is the first choice, the concept could suitable for other large sister cities like New York and Washington D.C., or New York and Boston.

Continue Reading →

Featured Farmer Spotlight: John Bauer of Santa Cruz Seed & Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Every week, we’ll spotlight a FarmsReach Featured Farmer. Our Featured Farmers are brimming with great ideas and knowledge to share with the farming community. Feeling a spark of curiosity? There’s no question too simple or tough. Ask a question or add a Conversation and we’ll be sure it’s answered within a day or two.

Screen Shot 2013-08-19 at 7.34.37 PM

John at Eco-Farm 2013

This week, we’re featuring John Bauer, produce farmer of 25 years, advisor to many(!) farmers in California, owner of Santa Cruz Seed, and seed sales consultant for Johnny’s Selected Seeds.  He is a busy man!  Here are his answers to our Q&A survey we captured over a sunny lunch in Half Moon Bay.

Continue Reading →

California Farmland Protection: Reality or Wishful Thinking?

Last week, in the beautiful Napa Valley, the American Farmland Trust and Napa County Farm Bureau hosted a statewide conference – the first of its kind – to address the question: Is farmland conservation a reality, or simply wishful thinking? The intention was to “highlight the successes, define the obstacles, and explore new directions for conserving California agricultural land.”

The 200-person event sold out weeks in advance, bringing together many long-time stakeholders who have worked for decades on farmland issues: advocates, land trusts, government agencies, Farm Bureau members, nonprofit organizations and farmers themselves.  It seemed nearly every agriculture county in the state was present to learn how we can address the frightening reality of losing 30,000 acres of the most fertile agricultural land each year.

Continue Reading →