Clean Water and Wildlife habitat growing on california farms
As the clock ticks closer to Thanksgiving, it’s a popular time to recognize farmers for the fruits, vegetables, meats, grains and dairy products they produce throughout the year. However, it is also important for the public to understand the significant environmental benefits farmers also produce by using conservation practices on their land. These practices help protect water quality in streams and lakes, provide vital wildlife habitat, and contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
In order to showcase both the environmental and economic benefits of implementing these conservation practices on California farms, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) recently compiled an interactive database of the many ecosystem services—defined by the CDFA Environmental Farming Act Science Advisory Panel as “the multiple benefits we gain from farming and ranching”—currently being produced by California farmers and ranchers. The new database provides detailed information on nearly 400 farms implementing conservation practices across the state. 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.”
In California, American Farmland Trust is working to increase the adoption of Beneficial Management Practices (BMPs) that yield the ecosystem services profiled in the CDFA database. We work closely with CDFA, the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), and farm and ranch organizations across the state to promote BMPs that meet the “triple bottom line” of farm profitability, environmental sustainability, and community responsibility. American Farmland Trust’s recent work includes:
- Ag Vision Stewardship Case Studies: These soon-to-be-released case studies compliment the CDFA database by providing a more in-depth look at the environmentally-beneficial agricultural practices being used by California family farmers and ranchers.
- BMP Adoption: American Farmland Trust supports the direct adoption of conservation practices on California farms through our yield guarantee program, the BMP Challenge. We also recently published a report with recommendations for increasing the use of improved irrigation and nutrient management practices among California’s many specialty crop farmers.
- Conservation Practices Resource Guide: American Farmland Trust recently completed an update to this easy-to-use guide for growers who want to learn more about NRCS conservation practices. The guide is web-linked so that growers can just click on a crop/resource combination—for example almonds/air quality—to pull up the conservation practices that are the most applicable.
- Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops (SISC): American Farmland Trust is a member of the SISC (http://www.stewardshipindex.org/) which recently released its first suite of working metrics that provides a uniform method of measuring environmental performance on farms growing fruits, nuts, and vegetable crops.
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P.O. Box 73856
Davis, CA 95617