Tag Archives: American Farmland Trust

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 www.farmland.org/restaurant or contact Gretchen Hoffman at 202-378-1251 or ghoffman@farmland.org.

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Which Way the Wind Blows: AgWeatherNet Gives Washington Farmers the Data They Need to Grow Greener

Alien-looking contraptions with metal arms protrude out of farm fields throughout the state of Washington. Look closer and you’ll see gauges on the arms measuring all kinds of weather data, from temperature and precipitation to wind, dew point, solar radiation and humidity. The stations—part of Washington’s AgWeatherNet—relay data to a website (weather.wsu.edu) that farmers and the public can check for free information on current weather and agricultural conditions.

“I don’t know a farmer or field consultant who doesn’t use it,” says Washington State University (WSU) plant pathologist and AgWeatherNet director Gary Grove. “Over an eight year period, we went from a few people using it to everyone.” The network—launched in part by a grant from the EPA and American Farmland Trust—is one of the most advanced of its kind in the country. Farmers use it to make decisions about everything from irrigation and pruning to fertilizer and pesticide use. (And can sign up for text messages alerting them to adverse weather conditions).

Grove and other WSU researchers are using the weather data—along with disease and insect models—to help growers predict potential insect and disease outbreaks. By better assessing the risk from such threats, the network is helping farmers reduce their chemical use. Grape growers, for instance, have been able to use the data to better time their efforts to combat powdery mildew that infects grapevines. “We’ve reduced fungicide use over 27 percent with wine grapes,” Grove says.

This profile, along with many others can be found in the Integrated Pest Management cover story of our 2010 summer issue of American Farmland magazine. You can get your yearlong subscription by becoming a member of American Farmland Trust today.

Kirsten Ferguson
About the Author: Kirsten Ferguson is Editor/Writer for American Farmland Trust. She works in the Saratoga, NY office and can be reached at kferguson [at] farmland.org

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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 ghoffman@farmland.org

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Colorado Meeting Addresses Climate Change’s Impact on Agricultural Production

Farmers and ranchers across the United States and throughout the world are already experiencing the repercussions of changing weather and climate.  The impacts are particularly felt in the American west where declining water tables, increases in temperature, and a rise of pests and diseases moving into new areas have been linked to the changing climate.

Our ability to adapt through transformations in technology and environmental conditions will be a key factor in the future of agricultural production and economics.  Reacting to these changes will require a broad-based effort from stakeholders across the environmental and agricultural communities.

On July 19, 2010, in Denver, Colorado, we are inviting members of the agricultural community to meet with representatives from the USDA and the White House Council on Environmental Quality in an effort to bring these stakeholders together.  The objective of the one-day session is to help in developing Federal recommendations for adapting to climate change impacts.  In addition to hearing about planning efforts and proposed adaptation strategies, farmers and ranchers will have the opportunity to contribute their feedback on how agricultural producers can adjust their operations to meet an unpredictable future.

The public meeting, Helping Agriculture Adapt to a Changing Climate, is organized by the USDA and co-hosted by American Farmland Trust and the National Center for Atmospheric Research.  A draft agenda and additional information, as well as registration material, are all available online.

Please join us for the meeting and help us to spread the word to other interested parties, including farm groups, trade groups, commodity groups, agritech and agribusiness representatives, insurance representatives, environmental/conservation groups, and local/national land managers/producers.  We look forward to seeing you soon in Denver!

About the Author: Jimmy Daukas is Managing Director, Agriculture and Environment Campaign

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New York State Food Policy Council Considers Farmland Protection

In New York State a farm is lost to development every three days.  This startling reality has helped make the Empire State home to three of the Top Twenty Most Threatened Farming Regions in America. Together with our partners, we have made great strides in reducing the acres of farmland lost but much more work needs to be done.

Click to see full graph

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to discuss our need to protect farmland from poorly planned development and other farm and food issues as part of a panel presentation at the summer meeting of the New York State Council on Food Policy held in Harlem.  The Council on Food Policy makes policy recommendations to the Governor that ensure both the availability of fresh, nutritious and affordable food for all New Yorkers and a strong farm and food economy for New York State.

The Council’s recent meeting on the “New York Food System: Supply, Demand and Delivery,” was one of the first times the Council heard directly about the critical importance of farmland protection to the long-term security of the state’s food supply. More than 70 percent of the fruits, vegetables and dairy products produced in the country are grown in metro areas and are at risk of being lost to unplanned development.  A focus on preserving our working lands during food policy discussions is critical as agriculture lies at the heart of a viable food system (No Farms No Food, remember?).

Our presence at the Council on Food Policy meeting is just one example of the many ways in which we are working to integrate farmland protection into New York’s food and nutrition policies. Interest in making locally produced foods available to all, improving nutrition and fighting childhood obesity has never been greater. Through advocacy efforts, such as our No Farms No Food Rally held this spring at New York’s Capitol in Albany, we are working to engage new partners and stakeholders who are concerned about food issues in the fight to protect America’s farmland.

The need for farmland protection in New York State continues to accelerate beyond the funding available. Getting the facts out about food, farming and farmland to our state government is vital  to ensuring that the precious dollars available remain committed to protecting our farmland and, in turn, securing a healthy and accessible food system.

About the Author: David Haight is New York Director of American Farmland Trust. To see more posts by David, click here.

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Don’t Forget Farmland is a Part of America’s Great Outdoors

Recently, President Obama attended the White House Conference on America’s Great Outdoors to speak and sign a memorandum that sets a 21st century conservation agenda to bridge public and private efforts to conserve outdoor spaces (including farmland) and connect Americans with the outdoors.

While the efforts of farmers and the importance of farmland conservation were mentioned by the President, I want to stress how vital farmland is to any strategy to protect the outdoors.

Why? Because farmers and ranchers are stewards of almost half the land in America. Moreover, farms produce more than food, fiber and renewable fuels. Increasingly we’re pressing farm and ranch land into service to also address climate change, air and water pollution and energy concerns.

The President also noted that “conservation is not contrary to economic growth,” but an integral part of it, and he’s right. Environmental markets mean new opportunities for American agriculture.  We no longer measure the production from our nation’s farms and ranches by just bushels, bales, pecks, or animal units ―but now also miles per gallon, carbon offsets, water quality credits and bird nesting sites.

However, if we’re going to have healthy farms, healthy food and a healthy environment, we have to remember that farm and ranchland is the critical component. We can no longer assume that increased agricultural productivity per acre will make up for the continued loss and fragmentation of our farmland, or offset the increasing demand on agricultural lands to provide these types of environmental benefits in addition to the basics of food and fiber.

Some of the broad goals of the America’s Great Outdoors initiative include building on local and state and private priorities for the conservation of land, water, wildlife and other resources; and determining how the federal government can best advance those priorities through public private partnerships and locally supported conservation strategies.

There is much to gain if we focus on stemming the loss of America’s farm and ranchland. Despite efforts to protect agricultural land, over 23 million acres has been lost since 1982.  We need to clarify and understand the multiple demands on, and the benefits provided by well-managed agricultural lands, and determine our country’s need for agricultural land as a national security asset in a sustainable green economy for food, environmental services, wildlife, energy and open space.

The Departments of Agriculture and Interior are accepting ideas to better support modern-day land and water conservation efforts happening in communities across the country.  We hope you’ll submit a comment expressing the importance of our farm and ranch lands in achieving any national conservation goals.

We can encourage the federal government to be an active partner and contributor to the efforts of private landowners, states and communities to secure and manage this resource base for future generations. At American Farmland Trust I know we’re ready to work with the administration and stakeholders, and I hope you’ll join in this effort, too.

About the author: Bob Wagner celebrates his 25th year at American Farmland Trust in 2010.  He has worked in the field of farmland protection since 1981. In his current position, Wagner helps states and local communities nationwide build support for and create policies to protect agricultural land. He can be reached at bwagner@farmland.org

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