Author Archives: Gretchen Hoffman


Girl facing goat

Vacation usually means relaxation, time for yourself, and perhaps a little adventuring. While researching your next vacation destination, a farm may not immediately come to mind. Destination farm vacations, or farm stays, are gaining popularity across the United States and may just be the perfect balance for your family’s next vacation.

Farm stays aren’t a new phenomenon, but are more commonly found abroad, such as in Italy and New Zealand. The growing interest in farm stays in the United States comes at a time when more and more people are getting reacquainted with the land, food and farming. What better way to learn about where your food comes from than to work the land yourself? Each farm stay experience is a unique one that allows you to be as involved in the farm as you desire.

While vacationing at your chosen farm destination, you may have a selection of activities offered to you, such as collecting eggs in the morning, cheese making classes, or feeding the animals on the farm. You will also have an opportunity to explore the area around the farm, and see what life on a working farm is really like.

Jupiter Moon Farm located near Charlottesville, Virginia, offers farm stays that are focused on knitting and spinning. If you don’t know much about knitting or spinning, they can also arrange for lessons during your stay. At Blue Heron Farm, in Massachusetts, you can participate in activities such as milking goats, picking berries and other seasonal farm tasks. For coffee lovers and for those looking for a more tropical experience, you can stay in the Hawaiian countryside on a Kona coffee farm. In California you can stay at Philo Apple Farm and enjoy a weekend of cooking using various techniques, ingredients and a healthy dose of creativity.

While searching for farms to stay on, you will also come across a wide variety of offered accommodations and amenities. Some farms, like this ranch in Montana, offer private cabins, while other farms, like Deepwater Bay in North Dakota, give the option of staying in the farmhouse. The types of farms and ranches that you can choose to stay at vary greatly. You might want to see what a cattle ranch in Arizona is like, or you may want to discover more about the winemaking process on a vineyard in Washington.

Whatever option you choose to explore and enjoy during your vacation, you will come away with a new meaning and appreciation for the food you eat, the wine you drink, and the farmers who take care of it. Happy farm-cationing!

About the author: Delancey Nelson is the market manager of the Lauraville Farmers Market in Baltimore, Maryland. She has worked on numerous farms and vineyards abroad and holds a degree in Historic Preservation and Community Planning from the College of Charleston.

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Farm and Food News 12/16

Olive oil from Georgia?!

A Georgia farm is returning to the state’s roots in olive trees, which means fresh  commercial olive oil is available from Georgia for the first time since the late 1880s. The oil has already been used in southern restaurant kitchens and will hopefully be available in larger quantities next year in order to supply other restaurants and increase regional sales.

Getting your hands dirty in education

Students in six Sonoma County, California, high schools have the opportunity to enroll in the Farming and Resource Management for Sustainability (FARMS) program. The unique program, put on by the Sonoma County Resource Conservation District, teaches students about “caring for the land,” using local farms as the classroom and laboratory.

New classes on old subjects

For three years, Madison High School in Portland, Oregon, has offered students an innovative a sustainable agriculture class. The class is part of a larger effort by the district to create a career technical education (CTE) program in sustainable agriculture.

Residents discuss the importance of farmland

Residents of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, joined together to plead for more county funding for farmland preservation and green space initiatives this week, citing the importance of saving land now before it’s too late.

Steps towards preservation

The Northern California Regional Land Trust has committed itself to preserving farmland in Butte, Glenn and Tehama counties with agricultural conservation easements. This push for preservation is occurring along the long-standing “Greenline” in Southwest Chico, which separates prime farmland and from land marked for future development.

New manure and fertilizer recommendations

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released new recommendations for manure and fertilizer use on farmland. According to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the new recommendations will benefit the land, waterways and farmers themselves.

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In Praise of Farmers Markets

It’s National Farmers Market Week, just in time for everyone to enjoy the bounty of summer’s last fruits and vegetables.

To kick off the week-long celebration, the USDA unveiled the growth of farmers market listed in the National Farmers Market Directory, which now shows that there are now 7,175 farmers markets across the country. With 17 percent more markets than last year, the more than 1,000 new markets represent an unprecedented increase.

Why Celebrate Farmers Markets?

Communities are embracing farmers markets and the mounds of fresh produce and other farm products that they provide locally. (Check out the Top 100 farmers market photos from Real Time Farms for a mouth-watering glimpse of farmers market offerings.) But farmers markets usher forth more than healthy farms, healthy food and healthy communities.

In his proclamation to ring in this year’s National Farmers Market Week, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack pointed to a number of key benefits. Farmers markets:

  • Serve as an important outlet for direct farm-to-consumer connections;
  • Provide access to fresh, healthy food, an opportunity that is increasingly being made available for SNAP and other nutrition assistance recipients; and,
  • Help support and develop local and regional food systems.

The growth and support for farmers markets helps keep farmers on the land. Direct farm-to-consumer business helps to provide income opportunities for farmers.

At the same time, the rising interest for local food straight from the farm highlights the urgent need to protect farmland to meet that demand! The USDA National Farmers Market Directory lists the top states for growth and the total number of markets. Texas ranked second in growth from 2010 with a 38 percent increase behind Alaska at 46 percent. However, Texas ranks highest for farmland loss at nearly three million acres (from 1982 to 2007), and has been losing more than 360 acres of farmland per day. Similarly, California, which has the most farmers markets in the directory at 729, ranks second for farmland loss and has been losing more than 135 acres per day.

Shopping at farmers markets is one of the best ways to support farms, farmers and local economies.

American Farmland Trust holds the annual America’s Favorite Farmers Markets™ contest to raise national awareness about the importance of buying fresh food from local farms and saving the farmland where it’s grown. As part of the America’s Favorite Farmers Market contest, we have released a real-time listing of the top 20 markets in the country. Vote for your favorite markets and keep track of how they do!

About the Author: Gretchen Hoffman is Manager of Engagement and Communications at American Farmland Trust.  She can be reached at

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Top Five Favorite Farmers Markets in Your State

We’ve released the state-by-state vote counts revealing the five markets in each state that are leading the America’s Favorite Farmers Markets™ competition.

Farmers markets in 49 states and the District of Columbia are competing in the third annual contest for America’s Favorite Farmers Markets that began June 1 and runs throughout the summer.  On August 31, four winning markets—one large, one medium, one small, and one boutique—will receive the title of America’s Favorite Farmers Market for 2011.  For the first time this year, the market in each state with the most votes will also receive a prize.

“This is one of the most exciting moments in the contest,” said American Farmland Trust President Jon Scholl.  “It’s fun to find out which markets are leading in each state.  However, as we’ve seen in previous years, anything can happen between now and August 31 when the online voting closes.”

According to contest rules, farmers market customers can vote for as many participating farmers markets as they choose, but they can only vote for each market once.

The contest is designed to promote the value of farmers markets in communities, and to help shoppers make the connection between fresh local foods and the local farms and farmland that supply them.

“There would be no local food without local farms and farmland,” Scholl added. “People can make a real difference in the economic health of their communities by shopping at farmers markets, participating in CSAs and buying direct from the farm.”

Throughout the contest, we are providing participating markets with tools that help them get out the vote through a variety of mediums such as blogs, widgets and e-mail. Sponsors of the 2011 contest include,, and Square.

For more information about the America’s Favorite Farmers Markets contest or to vote, visit

Pennsylvania Illinois Ohio West Virginia Virginia North Caroline South Carolina Kentucky Georgia Tennassee Alabama Mississippi Missouri Arkansas Louisiana Florida Texas Oklahoma Michigan Michigan Wisconsin Minnesota Iowa Kansas Nebraska South Dakota North Dakota Colorado Wyoming Montana Idaho Washington Oregon Caifornia Nevada Utah New Mexico Arizona District of Columbia Delaware Rhode Island
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The Quest to Find America’s Favorite Farmers Markets!

It’s summertime and that means two things: 1) There are loads of delicious farm fresh produce available at farmers markets all around the country, and 2) American Farmland Trust has kicked off the third annual America’s Favorite Farmers Markets contest!

The contest is a nation-wide challenge for communities to rally support for their farmers markets. The goal is to promote the connection between fresh, local food and the farms and farmland that supply it. When the contest ends on August 31st at midnight, one small, medium, large, and boutique farmers market will win the title of “America’s Favorite Farmers Market” for 2011. The reward for the winning market in each category will be a shipment of No Farms No Food® totebags, a feature article on the award winning foodsite, and other prizes from our partners and sponsors.

Here is what a few recent voters had to say about why their farmers market is special:

Why should you support farmers markets?

There are many reasons to shop at your farmers market, but one of the most important is the fact that nearly one million acres of farmland get paved over each year – most around cities where there is the greatest demand for food.

Make headlines for your local farmers markets!

Help bring the America’s Favorite Farmers Markets™ contest to your community by spreading the word or writing about the contest on your blog. You can use our free buttons and our new comments widget to spread the word.

About the Author: Gretchen Hoffman is Manager of Engagement and Communications at American Farmland Trust.  She can be reached at

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Five Ways You Can Join Us at the Table to Save America’s Farms

One of the finest ways to enjoy the bounty of the land is when it is prepared with a chef’s artistry and enhanced  by a warm and friendly restaurant atmosphere.  This fall we hope to offer you just that when you join us at the table for our inaugural Dine Out for Farms™ event!

Dine Out for Farms™  is a national, week-long event that will bring together restaurants and consumers to support a sustainable future for America’s farms. From October 10-16, participating restaurants will raise funds and awareness for our programs that support farms and help save the land that sustains us.

Here is how you can get involved.

1. Enroll a Restaurant. If you own or work for a restaurant we hope you will join us at the table for Dine Out for Farms™ week. By joining the Dine Out for Farms™ you will become a member of our “Friends of Farms” community. We are providing a host of resources to make participation easy and fun. Download this guide to learn more about participating!

2. Recruit. In 2006, 87% of restaurants purchased some of their menu items locally. By supporting the Dine Out for Farms™ restaurants, you’re helping support a vibrant local and regional agriculture sector. Tell us which restaurants in your area should participate in the Dine Out for Farms™ event and we’ll give them a call and invite them to join us! You can also download this enrollment packet [PDF] and take it to your favorite restaurants and ask them to participate. We will randomly select 5 people that make recommendations on our online form to receive a No farms No Food hat.

3. Buzz. By promoting the Dine Out for Farms™ event you are helping to grow the movement to save America’s farms and ranches. Share the Dine Out for Farms™ event on Facebook and Twitter.

4. Blog. Each year, the United States has been losing nearly one million acres of farmland. That’s more than an acre of land a minute, or an area the size of Massachusetts every five years. Once a productive farm is lost, it’s usually lost forever, and the ripple effect can be tremendous. Help spread the word about the Dine Out for Farms™ event and help educate your community about what is at stake!

5. Dine Out! Stay tuned to the Dine Out for Farms™ website and look for our special message as we unveil the participating restaurants for our first Dine Out for Farms™ week, October 10th-16th!

For information on joining as a participating restaurant in Dine Out for Farms™, go to or contact Gretchen Hoffman at 202-378-1251 or

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Heard Around the Nation – Farmers Market Customers Sharing the Love!

Enjoy these great comments from farmers market supporters from across the nation! Send your market some love by leaving a comment of your own. And if you haven’t voted in the America’s Favorite Farmers Markets or told all your friends to vote, do so today because the contest ends August 31st at Midnight EST!

This market has heart. It was the result of a community planning process where a diverse group of locals voted to start a Farmers Market.  It has grown each year and had diverse local food such as seaweed, berries, fish, oysters and of course garden vegetables. The market takes place in the historic Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall camp #1 and bring out huge numbers of Native and Non Native people. This is one of the most unique and most community building markets in the country.
~ Doug, Alaska

My market is the best community market because the farmers know me and know what I like to eat.  The farmers have a personal connection to the people they are selling to and greet you by name.  The market manger is always moving around and connecting with the public and the farmers. He has great free recipes which give me a different way to use what is at the market. I love seeing friends at the market and visiting in the comfortable, welcoming market atmosphere. It also makes me feel like I am doing something good for my self, by eating right, helping local famers and see in my friends.  This is the best market ever!
~ Duon, California

Locally grown food (including organic and heirloom produce), friendly venders, and various community activities make our Farmer’s Market a fun, nutritious destination.  In an area where housing tracts and shopping centers are replacing groves of fruit and nut trees it is reassuring to know that people are still using their land to provide healthy food for our population.  A fresh ripe garden grown tomato is better than a candy bar any day!
~ Mary Jane, California

I love my farmer’s market for a few reasons. 1) The growers do an outstanding job of bringing to the table fresh slow food. 2) They have jumped through tons of red tape to include the citizens who shop with food stamps. So all of our citizens can eat healthier, and support our local growers. 3) The farmer’s market is more than just local food, it is about our neighbors relating with each other. People talk, and smile to each other. Our local farmer’s market brings our community together in a basic fundamentally human to human level.
~ Lisa, Georgia

1. Variety of vendors: organic fruits & veggies, beautiful cut flowers, cheese vendors, fish monger, poultry farmer, bakers, coffee roaster, more!  2. Meets twice a week: Friday mornings and Monday afternoons, giving more people a chance of buying local.  3. Welcoming to families: the Friday morning market often features puppet shows or other entertainment for children, encouraging families to bring their children to market where they are exposed to farmers and “real” food.  4. Samples – on occasion, the vendors provide samples of their food for tasting. I bought haloumi cheese because I was able to taste it (LOVED it).  5. FUN!!
~ Katherine, Maine

I enjoy shopping here each week over the summer. The freshly picked produce is delicious and nutritious and I am glad to be able to support local farmers. It’s a wonderful sense of community.
~ Susan, Massachusetts

Our town is small with only 2 grocery stores,, the Farmers Market allows us to have “Real” fresh vegetables with out the packaging and chemicals that we are reduced to accept from the stores. The Market organizers are there every week to talk to the customers and the vendors bring the best they have to the markets.  The prices are usually less than the stores and we can hardly wait for Saturday to come around to enjoy the best tasting fruits and veggies of the week.
~ Linda, Michigan

Amazing selection. It has such a carefully curated selection of foods. I love the care and respect for the land that the farmers that sell at this market have. It inspires me to eat locally sourced food.
~ Brian, Missouri

Supporting local farmers, as well as the small businesses and artisans that so prevail our beautiful country is vitally important. Farmer’s markets present us with the healthiest, freshest way to do this. To get a real peek at what America really is all about, all you need is to leave the concrete jungle, and make your way to your local farmer’s market.
~ Joshua, New Mexico

I love the location of the market on the water and under cover!  I love that all the food sold there is grown or prepared locally.  I love that we can come to know the farmers and where our food comes from! I love that I can get to the market in 5 minutes on my bicycle! I love that in this town, kids not only know what tomatoes and potatoes look like in their whole fresh form, but many recognize the PLANT that the tomato and potato come from as well!  (referring to Jamie Oliver’s show from W. Va. where school age kids could not identify whole fresh tomatoes or potatoes!)
~ Marilyn, New York

Because we have just started our market and we have the most friendliest and good hearted people in this little ol town. Everybody helps everyone and knows each other and has really enjoyed this farmers market that we have come to love!!! We need to win best market to get the word out and draw a bigger crowd from out of town. 🙂
~ Paula, South Carolina

I love that the vendors are the actual people producing the meat, vegetables, and fruit. They’re always happy to answer questions and talk about the produce. I’ve gotten a few really good recipes and ideas about preparing produce from the farmers. It’s the very next best thing to having a huge garden at home!
~ Terri, Texas

My grandfathers all were family farmers with small gardens. Some of my great grandfathers had larger farmers. Most of my family lived long lives 80’s, 90’s, 104 years old. I feel it was due to growing their own foods and fishing the local waters. We look forward to the farmers markets in the summer to buy as much local grown produce as we can. I now can alot of our food we eat in the winter, like my g-mothers before me. My g-grandmother (lived to be a 104) always told me, it comes in a box it will kill you. I respect and appreciate my local farmers. Save Our Farms!!!!
~ Charlene, Virginia

Note: We will attribute these comments to the markets that they are associated with when the America’s Favorite Farmers Markets contest comes to a close on August 31st at Midnight, EST.

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Pick Up the Mantle for Farms, Farmland and Farmers Markets

When we say, “America has been losing more than an acre per minute of farmland,” what does that mean for you?

Let’s imagine that everyone in the U.S. was equally responsible for saving the land that sustains us. According to the last Census of Agriculture, there are about 922 million acres of land in farms. If we evenly divide responsibility with your fellow 308 million Americans, what is your slice to protect? Just over 3 acres of land. At the rate we have been losing farmland—your acres could have been developed in the time it took you to read this post!

You may not own a farm or be a farmer, but as an eater you depend on farm and ranch land for every meal. The good news is that there are many ways that you can make smart choices as a consumer and as an advocate to protect your “three acres” and beyond. This summer, American Farmland Trust is calling on you to help others make the connection between the fresh local food you buy at farmers markets and the local farms and farmland that supply them. “No Farms No Food®” is our mantra, which applies to the farms and ranches that sustain you wherever you live— after all, there is no local food without local farms and farmland!

Where to begin? Let’s start with the most delicious form of advocacy around—promoting the delights of your local farmers market. Yesterday, Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack released an official proclamation declaring August 1st – August 7th as “National Farmers Market Week.” Farmers markets play a vital role in keeping farmers on the land. They help keep farms viable, which is an essential way to save the land that sustains us. As we head into National Farmers Market Week, lets take advantage of the peak of the summer to support farms and farmers markets by participating in the America’s Favorite Farmers Markets contest.

Will you be our grassroots presence on-the-ground? The America’s Favorite Farmers Markets contest is a national outreach campaign, but we need your help to spread the word about farmers markets in your state. Let’s work together to make a big impact in every state by getting your fellow farmers market enthusiasts, local media, and local governments excited about promoting the farmers markets in your state. Check out the current Top 5 Favorite Farmers Markets in your state and use our tools for spreading the word!

About the Author: Gretchen Hoffman is Manager of Engagement and Communications at American Farmland Trust.  She can be reached at

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