On-The-Ground Support for California Farmers and Ranchers
California agriculture is facing severe challenges that threaten the nation’s food supply and farmers’ livelihoods, including this year’s weather whiplash of heavy precipitation and devastating floods following a historic drought. That’s why a key priority for American Farmland Trust is to support the climate resilience and business viability of California farmers and ranchers. AFT has provided on-the-ground support for California farmers and ranchers across the state, from Fresno and Tulare to Santa Maria, Salinas, and Hoopa Valley. AFT’s technical specialists have worked with local community organizations for years to provide outreach to farmers.
Since March 2022, AFT and partners have supported more than 250 underserved specialty crop farmers through culturally relevant tailgates, trainings, conferences, and farmer events for women, Latino, Hmong, Punjabi, Chinese, Black, veteran, and Hoopa Valley Tribal Community producers. This work has impacted more than 2,228 acres across California.
“The average California farmer is of retirement age, and an estimated 40 percent of the nation’s agricultural land will exchange hands over the next 15 years,” explains Deborah Nares, California Senior Manager. “Creating an environment that fosters the continued viability of new, beginning, and historically underserved farming communities can help fill the void during this generational shift in our nation’s food system.”
The learning topics are designed to support farmers’ climate resilience and business viability.
For example, some training has focused on enhancing the producers’ competitiveness through more regenerative practices that help California farmers adopt consistent bookkeeping practices for general business health, specifically for soil health management practices. These training events have provided resources about everything from nutrient management to the transition to organic assistance.
One Fresno-based Punjabi woman farmer who attended a Learning Circle on water resilience said, “I’m so glad I came today. I work with my brothers on the farm, so it is very rare that I get to be in a place with all women who are also farming. And you brought all the resources we need into one place! This was so valuable.”
Other programs have provided information and training on negotiating skills for women farmers and landowners in English and Spanish.
Partnerships Key to Providing Support for California Farmers
AFT has partnered on events with four Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs), California Department of Agriculture (CDFA), USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF), Kitchen Table Advisors (KTA), Asian Business Institute and Resource Center in Fresno (ABIRC), Hoopa Valley Tribal Community, Daily Harvest, General Mills, and many others.
“Collaboration is essential in all our work,” adds Deborah. “We’re witnessing transformative changes in our food system, and it’s critical we work closely with partners so we can ensure a team effort to bring technical resources to producers in an equitable way. AFT is honored to work alongside a wide coalition of partners committed to accelerating conservation practices that conserve water, build soil health, and increase biodiversity.”