Can Local Food Really be Cheaper?, In California the Glass Is Half Full, The Farm Bill Is Coming and More

American Farmland Trust
American Farmland Trust

E-News January 15, 2010

Welcome to your first edition of E-news in the new year! Click here to view a version of E-news on the web. Can't wait until next month's E-news to hear more about farms, food, and the environment? Don’t forget to check out our Farmland Report blog where we will be posting regular updates about our work across the country and in the nation's capital. 

New York

No Farms No Food Rally in Albany, March 15th

No Farms No Food 

Neither farms nor food received much attention in Governor Paterson’s State of the State Address on January 6th, but we are fighting to get the legislature to make New Yorkers’ most basic need—locally grown food and the farms that produce it—a priority. A letter focusing on farm and food issues from American Farmland Trust and signed by 47 farm organizations, food advocates, environmentalists and communities landed on the Governor’s desk to kick off the New Year.

Join American Farmland Trust to tell legislators about the importance of farms and food to all New Yorkers at our No Farms, No Food Rally on March 15th. RSVP soon to participate! Contact our New York Office at (518) 581-0078 Ext. 302 or

NYALT Completes Its First Farmland Protection Project

 New York Masters Farm

Dairy farmers Jim and Marcia Masters permanently protected their 244-acre family farm last month. “My family has lived here for generations,” said Marcia. “Every winter the farm comes alive with the sound of kids sledding and the smells of baking from the kitchen. It’s a great place to raise a family.”

New York State’s Farmland Protection Program funded the purchase of development rights to the farm, located in the town of Marcellus in Onondaga County. The easement is the first to be acquired by the New York Agricultural Land Trust, which was founded by farmers and others engaged in agriculture with assistance from American Farmland Trust.

‘What are the most important steps New York should take to protect farmland?’ 

 New York Cut Grass

We asked this question and two-thirds of you responded, ‘Develop a strategic plan for the future of farming’ as the highest priority for New York. Over half of the survey respondents also want the state to help counties and towns make strategic planning a priority at the local level. Many stressed that the best way to protect farmland is to keep farms profitable, recommending that the state tackle the issue of milk pricing and provide tax relief for farmers.

There's still time to weigh in! Tell us what you think the right direction is for protecting farms in New York.


Become a Member of Working Lands Alliance

Working Lands Alliance Logo 

Help us keep agriculture a vital part of Connecticut’s economy and natural beauty, while retaining the family farms that provide healthy, local produce for families throughout the state. To coincide with our 10th anniversary, Working Lands Alliance, a project of American Farmland Trust, is launching a new membership drive and has set a goal to reach at least 300 dues-paying members by summer 2010. Please consider becoming a founding member of Working Lands Alliance—YOUR voice for farmland preservation in Connecticut! Learn about the benefits of WLA membership

New England

Hannaford Supermarkets Joins New England’s “Keep Local Farms” Dairy Initiative

 Keep Farms Local

A Northeast grocery chain has become the first retailer to join forces with the New England Dairy Promotion Board and New England Family Dairy Farms Cooperative to bring the concept of “fair trade” milk to consumers. Hannaford's 71 stores will promote the benefits of local dairy farms—including stewardship of the region’s farmland—and offer shoppers an opportunity to directly support dairy farmers through the “Keep Local Farms” dairy campaign. Cris Coffin, American Farmland Trust’s New England Director, is excited by the Hannaford announcement: “Educating shoppers about the value of our region’s dairy farmers will hopefully encourage them to donate to the campaign and help farmers receive a better price for their milk.”   

Budget Gap May Impact Vermont Farm and Forest Program

 Vermont Farm in the Snow

Changes to Vermont’s" Current Use" Program—which helps promote the use of land for agriculture and forestry are likely to be considered early in the 2010 legislative session. In response to a challenge by the legislature to find ways to produce $1.6 million in savings or revenues through the program in FY2011, seven statewide farm and conservation organizations developed recommendations that are likely to form the basis for legislation debated this year. Recommendations include increasing the program’s dwelling exclusion for certain landowners, which would raise the needed state revenues.


Pennsylvania Farmland Protection Milestones

Strasburg, Pennsylvania farm

Way to go, Pennsylvania! In 2009, Pennsylvania residents protected over 21,500 acres of farmland on 232 farms. That brings the state’s all-time total to 425,000 acres of protected farmland, with significant all-time milestones crossed in four counties: Berks, Bucks, Franklin and Lancaster. Pennsylvania's farmland protection success illustrates what can be accomplished when governments, non-profits and active citizens work together to save the land that sustains us.

Chesapeake Bay

Pennsylvania Farmers Improve Health of the Bay

Water Quality Trading Credit Ceremony 

What if three farmers could neutralize the water pollution caused by 67 suburban homes? That's exactly what the Lancaster County farmers enrolled in our BMP Challenge did last year when they prevented more than 900 pounds of fertilizer from flowing off their farms into the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation estimates that the average household in the watershed releases 14 pounds of nitrogen into the Chesapeake every year—so each farmer was able to offset the nitrogen pollution footprint of several cul-de-sacs! Plus, thanks to the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection's Nutrient Trading Program, the farmers’ efforts generated "certified nutrient trading credits" worth over $4,700, which our Mid-Atlantic Regional Director, Jim Baird, donated to the Lancaster Farmland Trust.

Main Stories

Washington Growers Go Natural Thanks to Spanish-language Education

Jesus Limon at his fruit Orchard

On the outskirts of Wenatchee, a city in the heart of central Washington where golden hills surround endless miles of fruit orchards, a large apple-shaped sign reads, “Apple Capital of the World.” In a region that ships over 100 million boxes of apples a year around the nation and the world, education has been the key to helping growers—especially the valley’s many Latino orchard employees and managers—reduce their use of pesticides. Grower Jesus Limón, who worked his way up the ranks at a fruit company in order to purchase his own Wenatchee Valley orchard, participated in an American Farmland Trust-supported and EPA-funded program that teaches growers in Spanish about integrated pest management. “You get hooked on it,” Limon says about the natural techniques for identifying and eliminating orchard pests.

In California the Glass Is Half Full

San Luis Reservoir with Low Water Levels

California is experiencing its third straight year of drought. Reservoirs are dangerously low and the snow pack in the Sierra Nevada, where winter precipitation accumulates to fill those reservoirs in spring, is half of what it should be. On the horizon, climate change is likely to put even more pressure on agriculture in a state that depends almost entirely on irrigation.

Find out how we are helping to address the water crisis facing California agriculture through California Agricultural Vision, the Sustainability Index for Specialty Crops and the state's own BMP Challenge project.

Can Locally Grown Food Be Cheaper?

Farmer Selling Vegetables from a Truck 

After examining Iowa-grown vegetables, eggs and meat, a new study from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture concludes that local food does in fact have very competitive prices compared to non-local super-market varieties. According to the center's Rich Pirog, “We found that during peak season, produce items at farmers markets were very competitive and in several cases lower than prices for the same non-local items found at supermarkets.” And locally owned businesses involved in food, or "Community Food Enterprises," are becoming an increasingly important part of the local food and economic development picture. 

The Next Farm Bill Is Coming

U.S. Capitol building 

With the 2008 Farm Bill just behind us, the next farm bill might seem way over the horizon. But House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) says he’ll be holding 2012 Farm Bill hearings this March, and expects more focus on a revenue-based safety net for farmers. 

Around the Country

Remember the sweetness of summer and bite into a snack that supports America’s farmland. Peeled Snacks® is donating 10% of sales from their American Farms Sampler of delicious dried cherries and apples to American Farmland Trust.

New York Department of Agriculture and Markets and the Farmers Market Federation of NY will host a Food Stamp Summit for Farm Direct Marketers on January 27th.

A major grocery chain has joined forces with the New England Dairy Promotion Board and New England Family Dairy Farms Cooperative to bring the concept of “fair trade” milk to consumers, offering the opportunity to directly support dairy farmers through the "Keep Local Farms" dairy campaign.

Pennsylvania farmers from Lancaster County helped improve the health of the bay by preventing fertilizer from flowing into the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay.

The Farmers Market Coalition provides a calendar of winter learning for farmers market managers.

Edible Communities will be convening their first Edible Institute, described by Edible Communities website as a “gathering of influential writers, thinkers, and eaters from around the country.” The Edible Institute 2010 will gather on January 28th in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

St. Lucie County, Florida, is holding educational workshops this week to discuss how land use will affect the future of the area’s economy and quality of life. Bob Wagner, Senior Policy and Program Advisor to American Farmland Trust, will be a featured speaker at the Western Land Workshops and will provide insight into economic development tools for sustaining agriculture.

Registration and hotel deadlines are coming up this week for the New Partners for Smart Growth conference, to be held in Seattle, Washington, from February 4 to 6.

Confused about climate change? We recently commissioned a team of Kansas State University (KSU) researchers to complete an analysis and comparison of six key economic studies that looked at the effects of the House clean energy bill on farmers and ranchers.

Get a taste of the Flavors of the Seasons collection of 2009 recipes from Farm Fresh News and our magazine, American Farmland.

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