Debt Deal Charts Course for Farm Bill Changes, Celebrate National Farmers Market Week, Key Role of Farmland in Smart Growth, and Innovative On-Farm Conservation

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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.


Setting the Course for a Sustainable Future in the San Francisco Bay Area

California-Story.jpgApproximately 40 percent of the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area is comprised of farmland, but in the last 18 years alone, 18 percent of the most fertile cropland has been lost. The Bay Area Agricultural Sustainability Project—a collaboration between American Farmland Trust, Greenbelt Alliance and Sustainable Agriculture Education—released these and other findings about the region’s farm and ranch land earlier this spring. The group will continue to evaluate agricultural viability and engage the community as they work to design an economic development strategy to strengthen the agricultural and environmental future of the Bay Area.


Stewarding Farms and Water in Illinois

Upper-Salt-Fork-at-Guage-at.jpgWe have been working with farmers and partners in Illinois to address natural resource concerns in central Illinois. The project, Stewarding Farms and Water in the Upper Salt Fork Watershed, focuses on conservation practices to reduce environmental impacts while producing profitable crops. On August 16, 2011, local farmers will participate in a tour showcasing participating farms.


What’s in a WIP?

WIP.jpgFarmers in the Chesapeake Bay are leading the way for protecting water quality, but they are just one of many players working to address water pollution in the bay. Maryland counties are developing detailed plans, known as Watershed Implementation Plans or WIPs, and they want farmers and other citizens involved in the conversation. A long-time partner with American Farmland Trust, Dr. Russell Brinsfield of the Harry Hughes Center for Agro Ecology is helping pilot counties as they embark on the early steps of this process. Read the latest Working Landscapes newsletter to get answers to your questions, find out what part you can play and how we can all support our local farms!


American Farmland Trust Welcomes Leah Mayor

Leah-Mayor.jpgWe recently welcomed Leah Mayor to our New England Office, where she will serve as the Working Lands Alliance Project Director and New England Project Manager. Mayor brings an extensive background in education and community leadership, as well as experience with sustainability initiatives focused on food and agricultural systems. Her work has focused on leveraging enthusiasm of a growing local foods movement to protect farmland, natural heritage and artisanal traditions. Mayor is also the founder and principal of Taking Root, an ecotourism initiative devoted to stimulating local economies, building community viability, and celebrating our connections to food and culinary history. Please join us in welcoming Leah!

Enjoy a Sundae on the Farm for Farmland Protection

Sundae-on-the-farm.jpgOn August 21, join the Working Lands Alliance for a fun-filled afternoon at Graywall Farms in Lebanon, Connecticut. Ice cream will be provided by The Farmer's Cow, a group of six Connecticut family dairy farms working for the future of the state’s family-run dairy businesses. Other activities will include farm tours and an opportunity to spend time with calves that will one day provide milk for The Farmer’s Cow ice cream. Space is limited, so please register in advance for the ice cream benefit.


Governor Cuomo Signs Environmental Protection Fund Awareness Act

Bowden-Farm.jpgAsk and you shall receive. Last month we encouraged you to contact Governor Cuomo and ask him to sign legislation to educate the public about projects paid for by the Environmental Protection Fund. He signed the bill on August 3 and it became law. Thank you for your great work! Money for the state’s Farmland Protection Program comes from the Environmental Protection Fund. Increasing awareness of the great projects paid for by the fund will help build support for increasing state budget dollars allocated to environmental and farmland protection.  

Big Apple Takes First Bite out of City’s FoodWorks Plan

greenmarket-august-2011-e-n.jpgOn July 28, the New York City Council voted to adopt legislation that enacts some key recommendations made in FoodWorks, its ground-breaking plan for a more sustainable food system. This “ground to garbage” plan, adopted last November, deals with everything from growing food to minimizing waste. The newly adopted legislation creates guidelines that encourage city agencies to purchase food produced in New York, excludes rooftop greenhouses from height restrictions, and requires the city to issue an annual food systems metrics report as well as create a searchable database of city-owned property to identify land that could be used for food production.

Regional Councils for Economic Development Convene Across State

Tomwithcows.jpgLast week, New York’s new Regional Councils for Economic Development began holding their first meetings. These councils are intended to coordinate economic development across New York. Each region will compete for up to one billion dollars in economic aid from the state. Agriculture has been identified by Governor Cuomo as one of the state’s key industries for economic investment. Food industry and agribusiness representatives have been appointed to all the councils from New York City to Western New York. Each council will write regional economic development plans by November with opportunities for public involvement.


Farmers Working for Clean Water

VA-BMP.jpgOur Mid-Atlantic Director, Jim Baird, recently paid a visit to a Virginia farmer in hopes of hooking the “slippery fish” of fertilizer. The visit revealed how a simple soil test and involvement in conservation programs, like the BMP Challenge, can not only help protect our  drinking water but also support a farm’s bottom line and help keep farmers on the land.


Food, in 100 Miles or Less

Puget-Sound-Foodshed-Study.jpgWe are busily preparing for the arrival of graduate students from the University of Washington who will begin research for the Puget Sound Foodshed Study in September. The study will look at food production and consumption within a 100-mile circle centered on Seattle. We're getting a jump on the study this summer by looking at supply chains—how food travels from the farmer to the processor to the distributor and ultimately to the consumer—for common food groups. Whole Foods and the PCC Farmland Trust have signed on as co-funders of the project.

Opportunities to Boost Farm Conservation Practices

Columbia-River-Orchard,-WA.jpgThanks to funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, we will be providing small grants in Washington this winter to farmers in two pilot watersheds (to be selected) for voluntary conservation projects. This revival of the Pioneers in Conservation grant program will be particularly focused on situations where a small amount of funding can result in significant gain, such as the replanting of streamside vegetation or livestock fencing in stream corridors. The grant program is being cosponsored by the Ruckelshaus Center of the University of Washington, which is looking at the program as a model for a voluntary stewardship program they hope to offer statewide in coming years.


Will Our Nation’s Fiscal Debt Add to Its Conservation Debt?

Debt-Ceiling.jpgThe deficit reduction plan recently passed by Congress and President Obama sets the tone for significant cuts across federal spending. “We do not know what these cuts will mean for farms, farmland and food since the immediate and longer-term cuts have not been fully mapped out for each area in the federal budget,” explains our president Jon Scholl. “However, it is clear that agriculture will need to do more with less.” Undoubtedly, there will have to be an evaluation of which programs should grow, shrink, merge or disappear. And thus far we've had little discussion or evaluation of what the future should hold for farm bill conservation programs - a vital process we risk losing if debt deal cuts are pushed forth too quickly."

Celebrate National Farmers Market Week

Farmers-Market.jpgTo kick off National Farmers Market Week, the USDA released an updated number of 7,175 farmers markets listed in its searchable directory. With 17 percent more markets than last year, the more than 1,000 new markets represent an unprecedented increase. Shopping at farmers markets is one of the best ways to support farms, farmers and local economies. Help support the farmers where you shop by casting your vote for your farmers market in the America’s Favorite Farmers Markets contest.

Farmland Plays Active Role in Smart Growth

city-on-the-horizon.jpgImplementing smart growth strategies can do a lot to protect farmland and open space. Directing development toward existing communities helps preserve open space and agricultural land on the urban fringe. But working lands are more than passive beneficiaries of planning; they are active contributors. From spurring economic growth and helping provide clean air and water, to supplying healthy food and mitigating the impact of development, a robust, regional-serving agricultural sector can have numerous positive impacts on the local level. Our work with the Greenbelt Alliance in the San Francisco Bay Area is facilitating the creation of an economic development and conservation finance commission to make agriculture a thriving enterprise in the region.

The Cutting Edge of On-Farm Conservation

Mary-and-Nelson-James-at-fa.jpgWe are always working on the next conservation idea to help farmers and ranchers protect the soil, provide clean water and clean air, and preserve wildlife habitat across America. To continue this move forward, we recently co-hosted a conference to work through the nuts and bolts of a new approach called “pay-for-performance conservation,” an approach that can deliver better environmental outcomes, do a better job of engaging farmers and ranchers, and make conservation programs more cost-effective.


Farm bill conservation programs are helping a young woman in Connecticut rebuild agriculture in her suburban community on property not farmed since her grandparents raised sheep.

An amendment passed to the Texas Farm and Ranch Land Conservation Program will allow counties to raise money for conservation easements. 

A group of local farmers in northern Virginia recently met to discuss the environmental and economic benefits of “mob grazing” pasture techniques.

The recently passed Missouri Farmland Trust Act now permits the state Department of Agriculture to access farmland donations and establishes affordable land leases for the next generation of farmers.

In New York, Governor Cuomo announced the "New York Fresh Connect Farmers' Markets" (FreshConnect) program, designed to help farmers by increasing the sale of locally grown food in communities and also to bring fresh food to underserved communities, improve nutrition education and help create local jobs.

One-day sustainable farming courses for women, by women, are being offered throughout the Midwest until mid-September.

Oregon’s Farm to School and School Garden Bill will authorize funding for pilot projects that reimburse school districts for sourcing food from within the state and that help support school garden teaching activities.

Farm, table and community are all closely connected at Sheppard Mansion in Hanover, Pennsylvania. Thanks to Chef Andrew Little, the restaurant and adjoining inn boast a 10,000-square-foot culinary garden that supplies 90 percent of the restaurant’s produce during the growing season, as well as a local foods market.

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service launched its newest version of the online Web Soil Survey. The site provides soil maps, properties and interpretations for more than 95 percent of counties across the country to aid farmers in planning.

The USDA is offering up to 75 percent reimbursement for organic certification. 2011 applicants from throughout the country must have received certification between October 2010 and September 2011.

Our No Farms No Food® message is now even more local and sustainable with our new 100 percent USA made hat and totebag. For online donations of $50 or more, you can fill a new No Farms No Food® recycled cotton totebag with delicious fresh and healthy food for years to come. Or by becoming a monthly donor by giving $20 or more each month, you will receive our No Farms No Food® hat and you won't receive another appeal for funds in the mail—helping us save paper and resources.

Time is running out to vote in the Great Barn Giveaway. Be sure to vote for one of three finalists—there is one in Connecticut, Michigan, and New Jersey—before the contest closes on August 15.

 Summer Sale on No Farms, No Food Bumper Stickers

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