August E-News: Historic Agreement to Support Farmers, Protect Water; Top 20 State Leaders in the America's Favorite Farmers Markets Contest


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Welcome to the August 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. 

Groundbreaking Agreement Will Protect Water and Help Farmers

ohio-farm2.jpgOn August 9, American Farmland Trust and our partners in the Ohio River Basin marked a historic moment. Leaders from state agencies in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky signed the nation's first interstate water quality trading pilot trading plan. The signing initiated a first-of-its-kind project bringing together three states to work to improve water quality and help keep farms thriving. “This trading plan is a win-win for utility companies, agriculture, and ultimately, consumers and the environment,” said AFT President Jon Scholl. “For farmers, water quality trading creates opportunities to work within their communities to implement conservation practices that improve water quality and protect and enhance valuable farmland soils.” Learn more about water quality trading pilot project and what it means for farms and farmers.

Announcing the Top 20 Markets in the 2012 America’s Favorite Farmers Markets™ Contest

Mother and son at farmers marketAmerican Farmland Trust recently launched an online leaderboard revealing the top 20 farmers markets that are leading the America’s Favorite Farmers Markets™ contest. The board tracks up-to-the-minute standings during the final month of voting, which closes at midnight on September 3. During National Farmers Market Week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture also announced the number of farmers markets listed in its National Farmers Market Directory has increased by 9.6 percent over the past year, from 7,175 markets in 2011 to 7,864 in 2012. “The continued growth in farmers markets is terrific for family farmers and everyone who enjoys buying fresh, locally-grown food,” said American Farmland Trust President Jon Scholl. “Farmers markets play a critical role by helping to keep family farmers in business and keep farmland in agricultural production.” Help support the farmers where you shop by casting your vote for your farmers market in the America’s Favorite Farmers Markets™ contest.


Working to Minimize Farmland Loss in Stanislaus County

California orchard and encroaching developmentIn many counties across California, prime farmland surrounds rapidly growing cities, setting the stage for a dramatic showdown between the need to develop land for residential and commercial uses and the need to protect the state’s remaining agricultural resources. In Stanislaus County, the sixth largest farm producer in the state, this contest is coming to a head as the cities, the county and the Local Area Formation Commission are all debating policies that will affect the balance. Explains Ed Thompson, California Director at American Farmland Trust, “The most important thing we can do to conserve farmland in this situation is to encourage more efficient development that gets a higher 'yield' of people, jobs and economic growth for every acre taken from agriculture."

A Shared Vision: Survey Seeks to Public Input on the Future of Farmland

Orchard in CaliforniaThe San Joaquin Valley is California’s leading agricultural area – responsible for more than $20 billion in annual food production—and also one of the fastest-growing. Since beginning regional planning in the Valley in 2005, the Councils of Government (COGs), representing eight separate counties, have come together to lead a process to develop a strategy for future urban growth called the San Joaquin Valley Blueprint. To complement the Blueprint, the COGs are now undergoing a “greenprint” process to plan for the future of farmland, habitat, floodplains and other open lands in the Valley. The recently launched Greenprint Survey will gather perspectives on important issues from residents across the region. If you are from the San Joaquin Valley, we hope you devote a moment to take the Greenprint Survey and share your ideas about how to protect Valley farmland and other resources

Inaugural Nutmegger Cheese and Wine Festival to Take Place September 23

Nutmegger Cheese and Wine Festival logoCalling all cheese lovers! The Working Lands Alliance, a project of American Farmland Trust, will proudly host the inaugural Nutmegger Cheese and Wine Festival, a fundraiser to protect Connecticut’s farmland and to support quality childhood nutrition. The festival will be held on Sunday, September 23 at the Jones Family Farms in Shelton. It will feature samples of Connecticut’s best cheeses and wines, vineyard tours, hayrides, cheesemaker talks and book signings. “Connecticut offers an incredible and diverse food culture that represents the bounty of our farms, farmland, and artisanal traditions,” says Leah Mayor, Working Lands Alliance project director and New England project manager for American Farmland Trust. “Over the last 25 years, we’ve seen an increased interest in local foods, and the Northeast is quickly becoming a leader in producing delicious artisanal and farmstead cheeses.” Find out more on the Working Lands Alliance website.

Harvesting Opportunities Conference, November 15, Albany

Harvesting Opportunitiies ConferenceJoin farmers, elected officials, local food and public health leaders and concerned citizens at the Harvesting Opportunities Conference. “It’s a great opportunity to talk about growing New York’s economy by strengthening connections between local farmers and local consumers while protecting  land critical to farming,” says David Haight, New York State Director for American Farmland. Verlyn Klinkenborg, New York Times editorial board member and author of The Rural Life will be keynote speaker. Conference tracks include: Buy Local: Growing Local Food Economies; Support Local Agriculture and Protect Farmland in Your Community; and Spread the Word about Local Food Economies and Protecting Farmland. 

Supporters Gather in Saratoga Springs to Discuss Land Access for the Next Generation of Farmers

Jon with farmers in New York ceremonyAmerican Farmland Trust supporters gathered in Saratoga Springs recently to discuss the importance of farmland access for the next generation of farmers. “New York’s farmers over age 65 manage 1.2 million acres of farmland,” said David Haight, American Farmland Trust’s New York State Director. “Reports show access to affordable farmland is one of the biggest obstacles facing young farmers.” Third-generation dairy farmer Stuart Ziehm shared the story of how his family, working with the Agricultural Stewardship Association, protected their farm. His parents used the funds they received in exchange for the development rights to transfer the farm to their three sons. 

New York Farmers Markets Double in Number Since 2000

Two women at farmers marketAccording to a report released on August 11 by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, the number of farmers markets in New York City and across the state has increased dramatically. “Farmers markets boost local economies and promote a sustainable food system,” said DiNapoli at a press conference at Manhattan’s Union Square Farmers Market. Regional farms benefit significantly from the increase in markets. “Creating more economic opportunities for farmers is critical to stopping the loss of farmland that has plagued New York for decades,” said David Haight, New York State Director for American Farmland Trust who spoke at the press conference.

Connecting Farmers with Environmental Markets

Farmland near Walla Walla, WashingtonAs part of our USDA-funded project to develop a tool to rapidly assess the potential to produce environmental credits from farms, our environmental markets team has recently identified 70 farms in the Nooksack River basin in northwestern Washington that have excellent prospects for producing wetland, water quality, and other credits. Our next steps are to link farmers with potential credit sellers and to replicate the assessment in the Snoqualmie and Walla Walla watersheds. We hope to simplify procedures for farmer involvement in emerging environmental markets throughout the Northwest. 

Gearing Up for Farmland Protection Work in Oregon

Oregon farmlandOregon has excellent statewide land use planning that provides a high level of protection for farmland (a recent Sightline article addressed this topic). However, the state has not used conservation easements on farmland to any great extent. American Farmland Trust is pursuing funding sources to hire an intern in Oregon this fall to investigate the use of conservation easements to protect farmland. We plan to work with land trusts and the rest of the conservation community on ways to increase the use of conservation easements on farmland—particularly on the urban fringe—as added insurance against land conversion.

Mitigating Farmland Loss in Whatcom County, Washington

Washington lavender fieldsThe Whatcom County Council is pursuing an ambitious policy to keep 100,000 acres of farmland permanently available for agricultural use. Their success depends in part on finding ways to mitigate for the loss of farmland associated with urban development, road building or other land use activity. AFT has signed on to help the Council evaluate farmland mitigation techniques used elsewhere in the United States and to develop a program that works for the county. Whatcom ranked among the top three counties for farmland protection programs in the Puget Sound, based on the American Farmland Trust’s report, Losing Ground, released earlier this year. 

 Going Into the Field with Virginia’s Dairy Farmers to Improve Water Quality

Virginia barn and corn fieldTo provide assistance to farmers testing on-farm conservation practices through the BMP Challenge™, American Farmland Trust has tapped two all-star graduates of the Virginia Tech Dairy Sciences Program – Rosemary Liskey and Dana Gochenour.  Along with staff from the Virginia Department of Conservation Resources and the National Resources Conservation Service, they are helping dairy farmers utilize soil tests to optimize fertilizer use. When not milking her dad’s cows and showing her own flock of pure-bred sheep, Gochenour is also a freelance writer for the regional publication, Lancaster Farming. This year, she’s helping Jim Baird, Mid-Atlantic Director at American Farmland Trust, tell the story about farmland protection, conservation and other issues in Virginia through a monthly blog series for The Farmland Report. This month, learn more about Dana and learn about the BMP Challenge in Virginia. Stay tuned for more in the coming months. 

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