New AFT Underserved Farmer Outreach Program Kicks Off in California

Last week in Salinas, California —affectionately known as the nation’s salad bowl—American Farmland Trust launched a new initiative that will provide hands-on training to underserved farming communities across six regions of the state.  

Supported by a grant from the USDA, AFT’s Underserved Farmer Outreach Program brings together underrepresented farmers, new farmers, socially and economically disadvantaged farmers, and farmers whose primary language is not English to participate in a discussion around sustainable and economical agricultural practices, emphasizing regionally specific knowledge. In the last agricultural census, 19of California producers identified themselves as people of color. The data also showed that farmers of color tend to own less land, make less money, and receive less government support than their white counterparts. 

The inaugural workshop was held Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019, at the Agriculture and Land-Based Association in Salinas. The event was organized through a partnership with ALBA, the Farmer Veteran Coalition, and AFT. It brought together a diverse group of farmers—including some veteran and Latino farmers—to learn about best practices in agricultural water management and conservation. 

As technical experts on irrigation and soil health, Shaun Richards and Laura Murphy from the Resource Conservation District of Monterey County gave a thorough presentation on different irrigation models focusing on sprinkler irrigation systems. The presentation was followed by a field demonstration of the wind fighter sprinklers where participants had a chance to see how this technology works and discuss its effectiveness compared to similar systems. Attendees also tested the sprinkler shields that help divert the water flow from roads and/or adjacent fields and participated in a demonstration of different types of soil moisture meters by AFT’s California project manager and irrigation expert Paul Lum.  

Erica Boyland from the Salinas NRCS office provided information on programs available to farmers and financial assistance that may help them offset the costs of new equipment. She explained the application process and timeline for the NRCS to respond to requests. 

This was a great event for farmers to learn, ask questions, and network with others to discuss opportunities and challenges. The Underserved Farmer Outreach Program will continue to do outreach and organize workshops across different regions of the state to help underserved farmers implement sustainable agricultural practices on their farms. 

This program is funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Marketing Service. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USDA.