September E-News: Calling on Congress for a Farm Bill Now and Winners Announced in the America's Favorite Farmers Markets Contest

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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. 

A Farm Bill Now: Good For Us All

Jon Scholl at Farm Bill Now RallyGood farm policy will be good for consumers, good for farmers, good for the environment and good for our country. Last week, American Farmland Trust President Jon Scholl joined farmers and ranchers, the leaders of organizations that represent them, and members of Congress to share this message and charge the House of Representatives to move forward with a new farm bill. The rallying cry was clear: We need a Farm Bill and we need one now! “Failure to finish the job and to finish it soon will risk losing all the good work, the carefully shaped compromise, and the improvements in effectiveness and efficiency in conservation programs that our leaders have wisely crafted,” explained Scholl. What’s at stake with any further delay in passing the next Farm Bill?

America Names Favorite Markets Announced in 2012 Contest

America's Favorite Farmers Markets ContestDrum roll please…Over the summer thousands of passionate farmers market shoppers cast their votes for the markets that they love. The thousands of voters, bloggers and media talking about the America’s Favorite Farmers Markets™ contest helped promote all farmers markets and went a long way in making a national splash about the importance of farmers markets and the family farms they support! The contest isn’t just about being number one; it is also a summer-long celebration of the critical role farmers markets play by helping to keep family farmers in business and farmland in agricultural production. And now, without further ado, the winners of the 2012 America’s Favorite Farmers Markets™ contest!


California Walnut Farmer Honored for Environmental Stewardship

california-walnut-orchard.pngA Yolo County farmer was recently honored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as the Sustainable Agriculture Champion. Russ Lester was recognized for his leadership in taking a whole-systems approach at Dixon Ridge Farm in Winters, Calif., including a biogas-powered generator fueled by walnut shells. “Russ’s innovative and thoughtful approach to agriculture is a model for how production and stewardship fit hand-in-hand,” says Ed Thompson, California Director at American Farmland Trust. Lester also serves on American Farmland Trust’s California Agricultural Stewardship Council.

Women Take a Leading Role in Farmland Ownership

Group of women landowners from IllinoisThe face of American agriculture is undergoing dramatic changes. As noted in this month’s Successful Farming, the greying of the farm population is increasingly putting farm and ranch land ownership in the hands of women. Nearly 50 percent of all farmland is in the U.S is owned or co-owned by women and, according to Iowa State University, it’s even higher for rented land where women hold 61 percent versus 39 percent owned by men. Female landowners tend to have different goals for their land—conserving their land and soils, having a diversity of crops and farm projects, protecting their families and contributing to the community. American Farmland Trust has been working with partners in the Midwest to inform and engage female landowners with critical issues surrounding land transition. “The next 10 years represent a significant window of opportunity for engaging women landowners in conservation,” explains Ann Sorensen, Director of Research at American Farmland Trust. “Effective outreach to women landowners can have significant impact on the nation’s soil and water quality, if we act now before the next wave of land transitions begins.”

New Publication Provides Guidance to Connecticut Municipalities on Livestock Agriculture

Connecticut Livestock Manual cover photoAs agriculture continues to grow and diversify in Connecticut, local officials are seeking information on how to address livestock in their communities. American Farmland Trust recently teamed up with Eastern Connecticut Resource Conservation and Development Area, Inc. and the University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension System to produce a new guide to help municipalities. The guide, Guidance and Recommendations For Connecticut Municipal Zoning Regulations and Ordinances For Livestock, funded by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in Connecticut, aims to educate municipal officials about zoning options for livestock and provides sources of expertise and assistance. The document can be viewed or downloaded at:

Regional Project Seeks to Foster Supportive Public Policy Environment

farmer-and-carrott-picking.pngA vibrant and viable food system in New England requires a supportive public policy environment. For this reason, American Farmland Trust is teaming up with the Conservation Law Foundation and the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group to identify the policy levers that will support improved farm profitability, expanded food production and the agricultural infrastructure needed to improve regional food resiliency. Drawing upon expertise and experience of leaders and practitioners across New England, this two-year project will focus on federal, state and regional policy arenas, analyzing policy barriers and gaps in five key areas and recommending where change is most needed, at what level and scale, and what kinds of advocacy might be most effective.

Nutmegger Cheese and Wine Festival, September 23

Nutmegger Cheese and Wine Festival logoThis weekend, join the Working Lands Alliance, a project of American Farmland Trust, for its first Nutmegger Cheese and Wine Festival, a fundraiser to help protect Connecticut's farmland and to support childhood education. The event will take place at the height of the harvest season to highlight some of Connecticut's artisanal products, including cheese, wine, ice cream, and bread. "The Nutmegger Cheese and Wine Festival is a triple win. It showcases the best of Connecticut cheese, dairy and wine, it benefits the ongoing efforts of Working Lands Alliance to protect our state's farmland, and it will help fund the Valley Initiative to Advance Health & Learning in Schools - a unique five school district partnership to improve nutrition and physical activity for kids," said Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy, who will be attending the event. "Set at Jones Family's Pumpkinseed Hill, one of Connecticut's beautiful and most productive farms, this is a truly extraordinary event." We hope you can join us! 

Registration Now Open: Harvesting Opportunities Conference, November 15

Harvesting-Opportunitiies-Conference-STD-attachment.jpgOnline registration is now open for our fall conference, Harvesting Opportunities in New York: Growing Local Food Economies and Protecting Farmland. Join farmers, elected officials, local food and public health leaders and concerned citizens to take a serious look at the potential to grow New York’s economy. Keynote speaker will be Verlyn Klinkenborg, New York Times editorial board member and author of The Rural Life. “This is a great opportunity to talk about strengthening connections between farmers and local consumers and protecting the land that is critical to farming,” says David Haight, New York State Director for American Farmland Trust. 

Successful Town Greenprint Program Granted 10-Year Extension

farm-photos-spring-2009-028A.pngThis summer the Town of Clarence, in Erie County, voted to extend the bond that funds its Greenprint Preservation Program another 10 years. The program, adopted in 2002, has put a $12.5 million bond to work conserving farmland and open space. To date just over half of the funds have been spent protecting a total of 1,236 acres, at a cost of $14.10 annually per property assessed at $100,000. Clarence credits the Greenprint Program for the town’s nearly 15 percent increase in property values next to conserved land and property tax rates that are 30 percent less than those in comparable towns in the region. “Continuing to protect farmland in Clarence makes fiscal sense, and preserves the town’s working farms which yield a variety of local farm products,” said Diane Held, Senior New York Field Manager for American Farmland Trust.

Governor Cuomo Holds Yogurt Summit

group-of-holstein-cows.pngLast month Governor Cuomo held a Yogurt Summit in Albany to discuss the rapid expansion of the yogurt industry in New York and  the vital role the state’s dairy farms play in this fast-growing market. “Dairy farming has long been the backbone of New York’s farm economy and provides scenic working landscapes,” said David Haight, New York State Director for American Farmland Trust.  “We commend Governor Cuomo and other state leaders for recognizing that farms aren’t just a part of our historical legacy, they are a critical piece of New York’s economic future.” 

New Thinking on Conservation Incentives for Farmers in the Puget Sound

salmon-in-river.jpgAmerican Farmland Trust’s recent success working with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and other partners in the Snoqualmie basin – where we are restoring nearly four miles of key salmon reaches - has stimulated a lot of interest in the role of voluntary conservation actions by farmers in Puget Sound salmon recovery and water quality initiatives. AFT staff has recently met with the Puget Sound Partnership and the Washington State leadership of NRCS to discuss ways to target incentives in key reaches, combine multiple programs to increase impact, and enlist communities of farmers and ranchers to lead local restoration and cleanup efforts. Congress currently has before it a Farm Bill that includes an innovative new program, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). RCPP will provide exciting new opportunities for public-private partnerships to address some of the greatest resource challenges on the land. We hope that Congress passes a final farm bill this year that provides opportunity for continued regional collaboration on priority areas such as the Puget Sound.

Farmland Forever and the Farmland 500

Washington State farmland and farmerA top-notch committee is coming together to advise American Farmland Trust’s Farmland Forever campaign, a multi-faceted effort to prevent greater loss of farmland in the Puget Sound region. Members include directors for many of the most important farm and environmental organizations in the Pacific Northwest. In addition, we are forming the Farmland 500 and mobilizing local members in important farmland protection issues in Pierce and King Counties. We expect to formally unveil the campaign and our new Farmland 500 website this fall. The first test for the campaign will be our success in securing additional funding for farmland easements in the 2013 Washington legislative session.

Farmer Participation in Environmental Markets

washington-farm-along-a-marsh.pngThanks to the help of three University of Washington graduate student interns over the summer, American Farmland Trust evaluated more than 400 farm and ranch properties in three watersheds to determine their potential to produce credits for emerging environmental markets for wetlands, water quality, and other resources. We are currently designing a web-based utility to identify parcels with strong potential to produce credits. According to Dennis Canty, American Farmland Trust's Pacific Northwest Director, “This tool will allow farmers to quickly identify their best opportunities to make money off new markets and restore the environment on their land.” AFT has also met with farm organizations in the three watersheds to enlist their help in organizing within farm communities to produce and market credits.

A Corn Maze for Conservation?

corn-field-in-shenendoah-valley-virginia.pngGuest agricultural blogger Dana Gochenour reflects on a late summer adventure through Virginia cornfields as a crop advisor for the BMP Challenge. Her mission: to collect samples of leaves from the base of growing ears of corn to check up on the health of plants in sample fields testing conservation practices. This information is just one of many pieces she uses to help inform farmers about how to meet the double bottom line of protecting the quality of water surrounding their farm while getting the most corn at the least cost. Read more about Dana’s trip through the “corn maze.” 

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