Lessons on Farmland Protection from a Natural Disaster, Testing Farm Bill Knowledge, and Dining Out to Save Farms

American Farmland Trust
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Welcome to the September issue of E-news. Click here to view a version of E-news on the web. Can't wait until next month's E-news? Check out our Farmland Report blog.


Why Is a Bullet Train Threatening Irreplaceable Farmland?

CA.jpgAfter nearly a decade planning for a high-speed “bullet” train from Southern California to the San Francisco Bay Area, serious questions are being raised, including the threat to the incomparable and irreplaceable farmland in the San Joaquin Valley. The decision on a right-of-way and the release of an environmental impact report on the project shed light on how, if executed as planned, the resulting loss to California agriculture could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Among the other impacts of the project, the right-of-way will take thousands of acres of prime farmland out of production and hundreds of farms will be cut in half by train tracks protected by high fences that have been likened to the Great Wall of China.


Not Your Grandfather’s Tractor

MD.jpgEverything’s up: corn prices, algal blooms and regulatory pressure. “Precision agriculture” is one way farmers can grow a profitable crop on a thin margin while keeping fertilizer out of streams and rivers. On a sunny day on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, farmers, agricultural advisors, local agencies and non-profit staff gathered to learn about auto-piloting equipment with pinpoint precision that allows farmers to collect real-time data on crop harvests, map the most fertile areas of their fields and set up their own on-farm experiments from the comfort of their tractor cabs. We took part in the Mid-Atlantic Precision Agriculture Field Day for farmers from all six Bay states and Pennsylvania to promote these new farm management tools that help farmers keep their costs down and the water clean.


Farmland ConneCTions: A New Guide for Land Leasing

AConneCTions.jpgccess to land can be a major obstacle to young and veteran farmers alike. Leasing farmland from towns, institutions and land trusts provides an opportunity for beginning and expanding farmers to embark on new farm ventures or grow their farm businesses. Whether five acres or 100 acres, leased land can help keep farms thriving while creating jobs and providing local food. To help landowners and land seekers think through farm leasing and develop successful lease arrangements, we developed a new guide along with the University of Connecticut called Farmland ConneCTions: Leasing Farmland in Connecticut. Two upcoming webinars on the guide will cover tenure options, practical and legal considerations in drafting a lease, community farms and risk management options.

Celebrate the Community Preservation Act in Boston on September 27th

Berkshire,-Mass.-farm-in-fa.jpgThe Community Preservation Act (CPA) has been instrumental in helping Massachusetts communities protect farmland and other open space. On September 27th, we'll join other advocates at the State House in Boston to celebrate the act’s 10th anniversary and encourage lawmakers to act on House Bill 765, which allows communities that have adopted the CPA to continue to receive an annual minimum distribution of state matching funds. We will also recognize 10 individuals who have been significant contributors to the success of the program, including Bob Wagner, our Senior Policy and Program Advisor, who has been deeply involved in CPA efforts in his home town of Hatfield, Massachusetts, and around the Pioneer Valley.

Staff Changes in Our New England Office

Ben-Bowell.jpgAt the end of August, we said goodbye to our New England Field Representative and Working Lands Alliance Project Director Ben Bowell, who left to travel around the world with his wife, Amber. Ben was instrumental in countless New England Office projects, including state-wide policy initiatives, planning for agriculture work, research projects and coalition building. We are pleased that Leah Mayor has joined our office and will serve as WLA Project Director and New England Project Manager. Leah has an extensive background in education and community leadership as well as experience with sustainability initiatives focused on local food and agricultural systems.


Help for Farmers Affected by Tropical Storms

TAfter-Irene.jpghe recent tropical storms Irene and Lee devastated crops, swept away barns and drowned livestock in New York. At the federal level, a bipartisan group of senators and congressmen introduced the Post-Irene Emergency Farm Aid Act to authorize $10 million in emergency funds for farmers. Last week, Governor Cuomo announced a $15 million Agricultural and Community Recovery Fund to help rural communities that were affected. Darrel Aubertine, Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Markets, has taken the first step by releasing $5 million from the Agricultural and Community Recover Fund to begin the rehabilitation of farmland damaged by the flooding. “The land is the farmer’s greatest resource,” said Aubertine. “This funding will help farmers who have had their land devastated by Hurricane Irene recover.”

Tell Regional Economic Development Councils Agriculture Is Important to New York’s Economy and Food Security

NYC.jpgNew York’s newly formed Regional Councils for Economic Development held their first meetings last month. These councils are coordinating economic development efforts across New York and are competing for up to one billion dollars in state economic aid. Each council will create a regional economic development plan to be submitted in November. Governor Cuomo has encouraged the public to participate in public forums and other work of the regional councils. We need to get out there and make sure the regional councils understand that investing in the business of agriculture is critically important to both our economy and our food security!

Saratoga Farmers Market, You’re Number One in New York!

Saratoga-Farmers-Market-pic.jpgThe Saratoga Farmers’ Market in Saratoga Springs, New York, placed first in the state and second in the nation in the medium market category in our America’s Favorite Farmers’ MarketTM contest. The market was founded in 1978 and has grown from a small group of local farmers to more than 50 local vendors set up two days a week during the summer under permanent pavilions. In the winter, the market continues to offer a wide variety of local fresh products at the Division Street School. The market prides itself on being a local, producer-only market.


What Can a Natural Disaster Teach Us About Farmland Protection?

Flooded Field.jpgAlong the East Coast, the final toll of farm and food dollars lost from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee continues to add up. As Bob Wagner, our Senior Policy and Program Advisor, explains, “The unprecedented flooding is a reminder of the value of farmland beyond the food and fiber it provides by serving as a natural ‘sponge’ to absorb and filter water.” The farms and forests once located upstream from severe flooding may have already been replaced by development; however, states throughout the region are recognizing the value of farmland and taking measures to ensure it is protected.  

Quiz.jpgGearing Up for the 2012 Farm Bill

The budget process underway in Washington is likely to change the course of federal farm policy. Amid this climate, the current farm bill is set to expire, offering both challenges and opportunities. A smart farm bill will provide the greatest benefit to communities by keeping farmers and ranchers on the land and in business while helping them be good stewards of our working lands. Join us in preparing for the 2012 Farm Bill negotiations by testing your knowledge of federal farm and food policy.

NALS11-009.jpgLeading Thoughts on Saving Working Lands

Along with Farm Foundation NFP and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, we've released a summary of major themes from agricultural thought-leaders, which emerged from the National Agricultural Landscapes Forum earlier this year. Findings include expanding market-based solutions, planning for agriculture and addressing food security.

Announcing America’s Favorite Farmers Markets™

AFFM.jpgIn the 2011 America's Favorite Farmers Markets™ contest, more than 94,000 people across the country cast their votes for the markets they love! Customers submitted comments about why they appreciate their market and what it means for their community, local farms and farmland. In its third year, the contest promotes the economic and social value of farmers markets in communities along with the need to recognize that we must have local farm and ranch land to grow fresh, healthy and local food. And the winners are….

Seeking Farm-Friendly Restaurants for 2nd Annual Dine Out for Farms™

DINEout.jpgEnrollment is now underway for our second annual Dine Out for Farms™ week in October. This nationwide event is a great opportunity for restaurants to celebrate delicious food and the people who grow it while raising funds to protect farmland. Joining leading restaurants around the country is Mike Isabella, who appeared on season six of Top Chef and was the runner-up on Top Chef All-Stars. "Working with local farmers supports their business and the economy, hopefully making it affordable for more Americans to eat locally sourced, fresh and healthy food," said Isabella,  chef and owner of Graffiato. Help us recruit your favorite farm-friendly restaurant and enter the running to receive a free No Farms No Food® hat.


In New Jersey, a new program is finding ways to preserve farmland, support the economic health of farms and protect the environment by paying farmers to grow sunflowers.

The Gathering Waters Conservancy of Wisconsin is holding their annual Land Conservation Leadership Award Celebration on Thursday, September 29.

New Jersey’s Governor Christie brought together bipartisan support to pass legislation providing $90.6 million in grants to counties, towns and nonprofit organizations to preserve farmland and add money to state-initiated land conservation.

An advertising campaign in Boston, Massachusetts, allows commuters to access an interactive map of state farm and agritourism destinations through a Quick Response (QR) code.

On September 27, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture is hosting a forum to address both the current status and future direction of agriculture.

Rappahannock County, Virginia, is hosting its third annual county-wide farm tour on September 24 and 25.

BJ’s Wholesale Clubs are featuring fresh, local produce in their Northeast locations through a “Farm to Club” program.

The Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working group is hosting a working conference, It Takes a Region, from November 11 to 12.

The 12th annual Ohio farmland preservation summit, Farmland Preservation: We Mean Business, will be held on Thursday, November 17. Among the keynote speakers is our president, Jon Scholl, who will address considerations for the 2012 Farm Bill.

September has been declared “Farm to School Month” in Minnesota by Governor Dayton.

Lake County, Illinois may soon be home to a local food learning center.

The National Good Food Network is offering a variety of upcoming webinars on topics such as “Technology for Good Food” and “Two Revolutionary Tools for Beginning Farmers.”

Registration is open for the 2011 Slow Money National Gathering, coming to California in October. The program features a number of sessions focusing on regional food systems and local food sheds.

Take action today to protect funding for the federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities, which provides support for organizations across the country working on critical smart growth initiatives.

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