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Local Farms and Food
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Shortening the Distance From Farm Gate to Dinner Plate

Corn harvestAs America’s leading advocate for farm and ranch land conservation, we support all entities that champion farms, farmers and farmland.

While the consumer movement promoting sustainable, localized food production and consumption systems burgeons, the critical role of securing the local farmland to produce local food is often overlooked—afterall, it’s not local food without local farmland.

In California, we're researching the possibility to feed the residents of San Francisco exclusively from the farms located within 100 miles of the Golden Gate Bridge. Thanks to the Mediterranean climate and high quality farmland, local farms should be able to produce most food consumed in the Bay Area. Unfortunately, due to the economic forces that local farmers cannot control, these farmlands are some of the most threatened in the country.

This threatened California “foodshed” is the main focus of our efforts with local partners to evaluate consumption patterns and assess the potential for local farms to supply high-quality food to the city. We are looking for strategies that encourage local production/consumption cycle while assuring the food’s affordability.

Ames, Iowa, Farmers' MarketWe're also working with the Office of Farmland Preservation in Burlington County, New Jersey—located near New York City and Philadelphia. Even though the county boasts a strong agricultural economy and is nationally recognized for its innovative farmland preservation program, local farms and food are threatened by the rapid land development that strains production.

The main challenge in New Jersey is the fact that the land-use authority rests in the hands of townships and boroughs. While the county has some “power of the purse,” it lacks regulatory authority. In attempt to create a model for the region, American Farmland Trust is working with three townships to eliminate barriers by creating a model ordinance that supports local food production/consumption cycle.

Besides having farm fresh food on our tables, why support local food?

  • Increasing the percentage of food grown, processed and consumed locally provides significant economic benefits to a region.
  • Local production, distribution and consumption of food—especially fruits and vegetables—gives consumers greater access to fresh and delicious foods.
  • Closing the gap between local production and local consumption of food can increase profitability for producers.
  • Local food systems promote sustainable agricultural management practices and natural resource conservation.
American Farmland Trust