October E-News: Congress Gets to Work on the Farm Bill and Opening New Markets Through Farm to Institution

Pennsylvania farm in fall at sunset banner

Welcome to the October issue of E-news. Click here to view a version of E-news on the web

Congress Gets Down to Work on Farm Bill: Key Conservation Vote Needs Your Help

farmer standing in harvested fieldHouse and Senate negotiators have begun work to reconcile their different version of the Farm Bill. The legislation represents the nation’s largest investment in private lands conservation. We need your help to keep a critical amendment in the bill.

American Farmland Trust and its partners were successful in amending the Senate bill to require compliance with USDA conservation standards before a farm can receive tax-payer subsidized crop insurance. The House, unfortunately, did not include this provision.

“The Senate proposal would provide taxpayers with the assurance that their money is not used to drain wetlands or erode soils,” said American Farmland Trust president and CEO Andrew McElwaine. “This is one of the critical issues in the 2013 Farm Bill.”

Lawmakers need to hear that conservation compliance is a priority. Contact your Members of Congress today and tell them to support relinking conservation compliance and crop insurance in the Farm Bill conference report.

Farm to Institution Programs Find New Markets for Northeast Farmers

ApplesEfforts to bring healthy food to individuals served by institutions such as schools and hospitals are on the rise, a growing movement celebrated each October by National Farm to School Month. American Farmland Trust is engaged directly with other agricultural, public health and economic development stakeholders to create state- and region-wide farm to institution networks in the Northeast—Farm to Institution New York State (FINYS) and Farm to Institution New England (FINE). “These programs are helping farmers find new markets for their products and building closer relationships between producers and consumers,” explains Julia Freedgood, managing director, Farmland and Community Initiatives, for American Farmland Trust. “Such opportunities ensure that farmers can make a living, as well as a life, on the land.”   


Clean Water and Wildlife Habitat Growing on California Farms

California field of romaine lettuceThe conservation practices that California farmers and ranchers use on a daily basis help protect water quality in streams and lakes, provide vital wildlife habitat, and contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. To highlight these benefits, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) recently compiled an interactive database of the many ecosystem services currently being produced in the state. The new database provides detailed information on nearly 400 farms implementing conservation practices across California. The database can be sorted by keyword, county, crop type and ecosystem services provided (such as pest control and nutrient management). “The new ecosystem services database released by CDFA is a fantastic tool for farmers looking for information on a variety of conservation practices,” explains American Farmland Trust’s Environmental Consultant, Steve Shaffer. “Examples of everything from efficient irrigation practices to building soil fertility are now at farmers’ fingertips with this database.” Read more

American Farmland Trust Honors Pennsylvania Farmer with Local Hero Award

Andrew McElwaine delivers Pennsylvania Farmland Hero AwardFranklin County farmer John Koons, Sr., was honored on October 10 with a Local Hero Award from American Farmland Trust and the Pennsylvania Farmland Preservation Association for his more than 60 years of dedication to his dairy farm, farmland preservation and land conservation. The award was presented by Andrew McElwaine, American Farmland Trust president and CEO, during a special celebration marking the 25th anniversary of Pennsylvania’s Farmland Preservation Program. "John and Doris Koons and their family represent the rock on which agriculture in the United State is built,” said McElwaine.  “Through his leadership, John Koons has set an example for other farmers to follow in preserving farmland, conserving soil and land and protecting Pennsylvania’s water resources.

American Farmland Trust Hires New Natural Resources Conservationist in Midwest

Jennfier FilipiakAmerican Farmland Trust has hired Jennifer Filipiak for the newly created Natural Resource Conservationist position in the Midwest region. The position is designed to support American Farmland Trust's activities in promoting conservation best management practices to farmers, increasing use of cover crops, developing environmental markets, encouraging farmland protection, and engaging women farmland owners in conservation. “Jen brings a wealth of experience to American Farmland Trust,” says Midwest Director Michael Baise. “She most recently led conservation programs promoting sustainable agriculture for the Illinois Stewardship Alliance. She has rich experience with The Nature Conservancy in Iowa managing watershed projects and supporting conservation with scientific planning expertise, project management and grant administration. We are lucky to have her on board.”  Filipiak holds a BS degree in biology and ecology from Northern Michigan University; and an MS in wildlife ecology from Southern Illinois-Carbondale. She begins her work with American Farmland Trust on October 21 and will be located in Bloomington, Illinois.

Celebrating School-to-Farm in Monroe County, Indiana

Monroe County, Indiana farm School TourJoe and Joyce Peden open their Monroe County, Indiana, farm to school children to see, feel, smell and taste agriculture. This annual family tradition started with Joe’s parents in 1952. This year 2,200 children from kindergarten to third grade came to the Peden farm over two days. Learning stations operated by 200 farmers, 4-H and Future Farmers of America (FFA) volunteers taught children about agriculture and food production. Children rode on hay wagons through a cow pasture, rode horses and brushed livestock, pumped water and shelled corn the old fashioned way—by hand. They observed a blacksmith making horse shoes and churned butter. American Farmland Trust's Midwest Director Michael Baise has volunteered at the event for more than 10 years. “This is likely the only experience these children will ever have on a working farm,” Baise said. “Several teachers commented that they came here when they were children and they appreciate the Peden family for providing this rare opportunity to experience agriculture.”

Partnering with Champaign County Soil and Water Conservation District Partner on Cover Crops

Illinois cover crop planeFarmers in the Upper Salt Fork watershed in Champaign County, Illinois, are planting cover crops this fall at an unprecedented rate. American Farmland Trust and the Champaign County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) offered to help with the cost of cover crop applications. Jonathon Manual, the local SWCD resource conservationist, reports that as of the last week in September more than 20 farmers had applied for the incentive covering nearly 2,100 acres with many more expected. “Jonathon is quite excited about the response to our offer to help cover application costs” said Mike Baise, American Farmland Trust's Midwest director. “He expects more farmers to apply soon, as there have been planes doing aerial applications for several days.” The project, Accelerating the Adoption of Cover Crops in Illinois, encourages the conservation practice in several Illinois counties. 

Farmers’ Eye View of Water Quality Trading

cattle on farm in the fallAre you curious about water quality trading and some of the issues agricultural producers face when considering whether to participate in these emerging markets? American Farmland Trust just updated its water quality trading resources and made several new publications available that look at water quality trading from agriculture’s perspective. These include an in-depth review of agricultural baselines, a shorter summary on agricultural baselines for policymakers and a summary of what American Farmland Trust has learned in listening sessions with agricultral producers about the barriers they perceive with water quality trading and how to address them. Also included in the new resources is a short paper on how and why producers adopt best management practices and a short overview of how nutrient pollution from farm operations is regulated (or not regulated) and why.   

American Farmland Trust’s Forums Examine Ways to Address Land Access and Affordability

Farmer and son in free stall barnKeeping New England farmland in farming and ensuring its availability for the next generation of farmers is the focus of two upcoming American Farmland Trust forums. Later this month, American Farmland Trust's Working Lands Alliance and other Connecticut partners will hold a day-long conversation to address one of the biggest barriers for new and established farmers—access to affordable farmland. In November, American Farmland Trust will convene its 80 Farmland Advisors for a two-day immersion in the topic, exploring how advisors can work with farmers and farmland owners on farmland transfer and tenure options. “If we want land to stay in farming,” notes American Farmland Trust’s New England Director Cris Coffin, “we need multiple strategies and a better understanding of what will motivate farmland owners to sell or lease land to a next generation farmer. By sharing information about what works and what more is needed, we can build New England’s capacity to keep farmland in farming from one generation to the next.”

Working Lands Alliance to Hold Annual Meeting on November 13

Working Lands Alliance logoPlease join the Working Lands Alliance for our Annual Meeting and Luncheon, which will be held on Wednesday, November 13th from 12 pm to 2 pm in the Old Judiciary Room at the State Capitol in Hartford, CT. This year's theme will be Celebrating 35 Years of Farmland Preservation in Connecticut, in honor of the 35th anniversary of Connecticut’s Farmland Preservation Program. This program was created in 1978 and was one of the first programs of its kind in the country. Enjoy Connecticut-grown fare and help us honor the legislators, individuals and organizations that have been instrumental in farmland preservation efforts this year. Tickets are $20 per person and can be purchased here. For more details, visit workinglandsalliance.org or contact Lisa Bassani at lbassani@farmland.org.

Harvesting Opportunity for New York Grown Beer, Wine and Spirits

Hops growing on New York State farmNew legislation that encourages brewing beer with hops and barley grown in New York is getting results! Governor Cuomo recently welcomed 14 newly licensed farm breweries. These breweries add a new dimension to the state’s burgeoning farm winery and distillery industry already creating product with New York grown fruits and grains. “Not only do these efforts benefit New York’s craft breweries, but they also help our agricultural sector to flourish. We want New Yorkers and visitors alike to ‘buy local’ and keep coming back for more,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo. Register online for American Farmland Trust's Harvesting Opportunities in New York  conference, November 20 in Albany, and join the discussion of how local communities can support further growth of this market in the conference’s Planning for Locally Produced Beer Wine & Spirits workshop.

American Farmland Trust’s New York Council Tours Farms in New York City Watershed

Geese at Hemlock Hill Farm in New YorkTo celebrate the Watershed Agricultural Council’s (WAC) 20th anniversary, American Farmland Trust’s New York Council took a farm tour led by Fred Huneke, chairman of the WAC board, and Craig Cashman, WAC’s executive director, who are also members of American Farmland Trust's New York Council. The group discussed this globally significant partnership between farmers and New York City residents to sustain agriculture and clean drinking water for 9 million people. “We knew anything we did on farms had to be science based,” Huneke, a retired dairy farmer who participated in the formation of WAC, told the group. “It had to be locally controlled and it had to be voluntary. At first a lot of people said it wouldn’t work. Today we collaborate with 93 percent of the farms in the watershed.” The tour included visits to Hemlock Hill Farm, a farm that was protected from development with funding from the state Farmland Protection Program, as well as Hilltop Hanover Farm.

Providing Locally Grown Food to New Yorkers in Need

New York FoodLink volunteersFoodlink, an emergency food provider in Rochester, New York, aims to build a hunger-free community fed by a sustainable regional food system. The Farm to Institution New York State Leadership Team, a partnership supported by American Farmland Trust, met at Foodlink headquarters last week to strategize about ways to increase the amount of New York grown food that is served by emergency food providers, colleges, hospitals, schools and other institutions. During the Buy Local track of the upcoming Harvesting Opportunities in New York conference, panelists will share innovative strategies for providing local, healthy foods to all New Yorkers—including citizens at greatest risk of hunger and malnutrition.  Speakers in these workshops will highlight ways that farmers market programs, such as FreshConnect, emergency food providers and other food outlets can improve the health of New Yorkers while expanding sales for farmers and food businesses.  

Soggy Saturday on Snoqualmie Farms

Snoqualmie tree plantingDespite steady hard rain, more than 50 volunteers turned out to plant trees on farms along the Snoqualmie River on September 28 during American Farmland Trust’s Snoqualmie Food, Farms and Forests Day. More than 1,200 trees and shrubs, many donated by local nurseries, were planted. Most of the crew stuck around for a pizza lunch at historic Camp Korey, a large dairy farm that is the former headquarters of the Carnation dairy empire. "The strong interest in the event by the volunteers, sponsors and landowners shows a huge commitment to conservation efforts on farmland," said Christy Carr, conservation program manager in the Pacific Northwest region.

Conservation Incentives for Pacific Northwest Farmers

Skagit Valley, Washington blueberry farm in fallAmerican Farmland Trust has been working for the last year on ways to increase the effectiveness of conservation incentives to meet water quality and habitat goals. In several pilot watersheds, American Farmland Trust staff has developed GIS-based tools to identify promising places in farm landscapes to invest in habitat and water quality projects, worked with other agencies and organizations to leverage funding in these areas and helped farmers access the funding programs. The result has been the restoration of more than 5 miles of rivers and streams. This fall, American Farmland Trust began work with The Nature Conservancy and other partners to scale up these efforts to the Puget Sound as a whole. "As long as they are treated fairly, farmers and ranchers tend to be very supportive of habitat and water quality projects on their land,” said Dennis Canty, American Farmland Trust’s Pacific Northwest director.

Who's Who in Washington State Local Food

Farmers-market-spread.pngAmerican Farmland Trust is starting a project to identify the organizations and agencies involved in the local food movement in Washington state. The diverse local food community includes groups focused on hunger and emergency food supplies, farmer recruitment and training, farmland protection, and many other related issues. The success of efforts to build a stronger local food system in Washington state hinge in large part on getting these independent organizations working together as a coalition, and the "Who's Who in Local Food" project aims to take the first step, identifying the players and their missions, goals and projects. Expect a publication on the topic this winter.

Farmland Protection Celebration a Success in Jefferson County, Wisconsin

Jefferson County, Wisconsin farmland celebrationOn October 4, more than 200 people came together at the first Jefferson County Farmland Easement Celebration to learn about farmland preservation, tour the farm and enjoy conversation, good food and a live band. The event, held at Rod Lea and Ned and Sarah Healy's Oak View Farm, celebrated the more than 1,000 acres of farmland in the county that have been protected by conservation easements. The Healy/Lea farm was the first to gain a conservation easement as part of the Wisconsin Purchase of Agricultural Easement (PACE) Program. “Oak View Farms was the perfect setting for a celebration of Jefferson County’s strong farmland preservation plan,” noted Bill Berry, American Farmland Trust’s Wisconsin field representative. “The conservation easement helped ensure that the Healy family will have an opportunity to buy the farm and remain in business without pressures to convert it to other uses.”

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