Listening to California Farmers on National Farmers Day - American Farmland Trust

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Listening to California Farmers on National Farmers Day

As the nation celebrates another National Farmers Day on Oct. 12, AFT wants to pay recognition to the more than 77,000 California farmers and ranchers, who feed the country by elevating their voices. Please enjoy some of the stories they’ve shared with us in recent years. 

Protecting Farmland in Merced County 
Riverdance Farms sits on the Merced River
Riverdance Farms lies on the Merced River that flows south from Yosemite, California.

“Riverdance is a special place, and we have visitors who come here to find peace in nature. We wanted to protect it for the future. We need more rural communities, which are disappearing. … This small farm along the lower Merced River should always be an open space that is growing healthy, diverse crops and being a haven for wildlife.” 

Cindy Lashbrook of Riverdance Farms about her newly funded 74-acre agricultural easement, which is part of AFT’s San Joaquin Valley Land and Water Strategy

The funds for Riverdance Farms easement were made available through the California Strategic Growth Council’s (SGC) Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program (SALC), administered by the Department of Conservation. 

Preventing Wildfires in Sonoma County 
The Ranch at Bodega's cows graze foothills at sunset
The Ranch at Bodega in Sonoma County, CA.

“If we want to encourage healthy ecologies, we absolutely need to use the tools of prescribed fires and grazing animals.

If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that our food system is not as strong as we would like.

Grazing animals can provide food during times of the year when there isn’t a crop growing season.” 

Algeo Che Casul, seventh-generation rancher at The Ranch at Bodega, about how he‘s applying his 2022 Brighter Future Fund grant from AFT and partners. 

Stewarding the Land in San Luis Obispo County 

“My connection to the land is very deep – it’s why we do what we do. The meat and wool are kind of a byproduct of the system we’re trying to cultivate. We got into livestock because of the amazing benefits it has for the land. That’s really our focus – creating regenerative rangeland, healthy soil, and healthy communities.” 

Kelsey Karol of Outlaw Valley Ranch told AFT’s Women for the Land team after a Learning Circle. 

Providing Local Foods in Santa Barbara County 
Motley Crew Ranch is run by Marko and Cassidy Alexandrou
Marko and Cassidy Alexandrou of Motley Crew Ranch in Lompoc, CA.

“Local farms are the backbone of our community and are capable of feeding everyone locally when the supermarket supply chains break down. It is imperative to prepare for the next crisis by bolstering support for local farmers, and by relying more on local products rather than imported goods.”  

Marko Alexandrou of Motley Crew Ranch explains how AFT’s Brighter Future Fund helped his family ranch during the pandemic. 

Supporting Food Sovereignty in Orange County  

“Our farm is not just a farm. It is a gathering space for community members, an educational center, and an organizing space for farmer justice. Since its inception, CRECE’s primary goal has been to end food apartheid in Santa Ana and communities of color throughout Orange County and beyond. We remain committed to building solidarity and capacity within our communities to determine how we grow our food, who grows it, and the way it is grown.” 

Abel Ruiz of CRECE describes how AFT’s Brighter Future Fund helped him serve his community during the pandemic in 2021 and build economic viability into his small urban farm. 

Selling Healthy Produce Directly in Santa Maria 
Cortez Family and kids are a third-generation-run farm
Cortez family members in Santa Maria, CA.

“We do not sell to packing houses or coolers because we want to focus on direct sales to customers. Our farm is so small that we do not have large enough quantities to sell to these companies.

Plus, we already have an established clientele who look for our produce weekly. They like the fact that we do not use harmful pesticides, only organic fertilizers.” 

José Cortez of third-generation Cortez Family Farms describes the challenges and opportunities for small-scale farmers on leased land in a historic drought. 

Whether its stewarding our agricultural resources with earth-friendly growing practices or providing healthy foods that sustain the nation year-round, all of us at AFT salute the hard-working California farmers and ranchers throughout our state today and every day. 

About the Author
Teresa O'Connor

California Communications and Outreach Manager

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