News From the Farm | September 10, 2018

This weekend I want to share a few thoughts about farmland under threat because many of us from Full Belly Farm will be at the annual Yolo Land Trust event, called “Day in the Country,” on Sunday 9/9. We have been involved in this event for many years now with Full Belly owner Paul Muller doing a spectacular job of organizing several dozen restaurants, breweries, wineries and farms to attend and serve their favorite Yolo County-sourced dish to the guests.  The event is an important fundraiser for the Land Trust.

Owners of Nopa restaurant came from SF to participate in the Day in The Country.  They served a white gazpacho with salmon which was one of the favorite tastes at the event.

An average of 50,000 acres of California crop and rangeland are converted to other uses every year.  This is a sad loss for many reasons — Food and farming is part of California’s identity and history, and the Central Valley, with its Mediterranean climate, is one of a small group of incredibly productive agricultural regions that exist on the planet. Financially, agriculture is the only reason that many rural communities remain viable — and as agriculture becomes marginalized, so do all the people that depend on it.  With the increasing loss of habitat for wildlife, it is clear that farms are also an important place for birds, pollinators and other wildlife to find homes.

Research published in 2012 helped to turn around the dearth of public funding for agricultural land protection.  Led by Dr. Louise Jackson, a team of researchers at UC Davis found that urban land accounts for 70 times more greenhouse gas emissions per acre than cropland. Research in other parts of the country came up with similar findings, and the leaders of California’s climate programs soon realized that the more farmland that incrementally converted to urban land, the more greenhouse gasses would be emitted.

The result of these collaborations of activists, farmers, researchers and government agencies, was the Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with urban sprawl and rural ranchette development.  The California program is the first in the US that invests in farmland conservation for its climate benefits.  The program has protected over 80,000 acres in agricultural land since it was created in 2015. When compared to the 58,000 acres that were protected in the previous 20 years, it is clear that the program has made significant progress.

Of course, keeping agriculture vibrant and viable in California is not just a matter of protecting the land.  Other critical ingredients are farmers that want to farm and a public that wants farms to thrive.  While many CSA members think of their CSA membership simply as a way to enjoy fresh organic produce, the fact is that CSA programs, and the connections that they create between a farm and its public, may actually be an even more crucial part of farmland protection than anyone realizes. This is a shout-out to all of our CSA members — Thank You for the part YOU play in protecting California farmland!

Blessings on your meals.

—Judith Redmond

A beautiful altar of fruits, flowers and vegetables from Yolo County graced the Day in the Country.