Tag Archives: local food

Growing Agriculture in the Provision State

Did you know that Connecticut was coined the “Provision State” by George Washington for the important role the state’s productive farms played in feeding the troops for the American Revolution?

Connecticut Valley farm and barnAgriculture is growing and changing in Connecticut again, with a need to reclaim pastures and cropland while rebuilding agricultural infrastructure. To help meet this need and boost the job creating activities associated with agriculture, the Connecticut Department of Agriculture will soon launch a new Farmland Restoration Program. Department of Agriculture Commissioner Steven Reviczky credits Governor Malloy for promoting the restoration provision, noting in his travels the number of overgrown fields were there were once productive farms.

In many parts of the state, there is great competition for the best farmland and little opportunity for beginning farmers to access land. The new program will help farmers and landowners restore private, state, municipal and land trust lands back into agricultural production. Up to $20,000 per project will be available (with a match required) to implement a number of different restoration and conservation practices. The restoration plan will be developed in consultation with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and Connecticut Conservation District Specialists, with federal funds being leveraged for some of the conservation practices. Potential activities funded by the new program include the removal of invasive plants and brush, installation of fencing for reclamation areas to protect crops and wetlands, the renovation of farm ponds and the planting of streamside buffers.

The Farmland Restoration Program is expected to increase the acreage of farmland available to help new and existing farmers grow their businesses, thus creating jobs and providing fresh local products to meet growing consumer demands so the state can once again reclaim its name as “The Provision State.”

Details about the program and application materials are available at the Connecticut Department of Agriculture’s website, www.CTGrown.gov (click on “Programs and Services”), or by calling 860-713-2511.


Kip Kolesinkskas, American Farmland Trust About the Author: Kip Kolesinskas is a consulting Conservation Scientist for the New England Office of American Farmland Trust.  For 20 years, he served as USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service State Soil Scientist for Connecticut and Rhode Island.

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Farm and Food News 2/3/12

From the Battlefield to the Farm Field

Around the country, an increasing number of opportunities are helping military veterans transition to civilian life through farm programs and apprenticeships. In San Diego, a retired Marine has trained about 60 people returning from Iraq and Afghanistan through the Veteran Sustainable Agriculture Training program. And 2012 TEDx Manhattan Challenge winner Howard Hinterthuer is running a similar initiative in Milwaukee to help veterans transition into food production.

Take Action to Protect North Carolina Conservation Funding

Due to an accelerated legislative timetable, Land for Tomorrow is urging North Carolina residents to contact members of the state’s General Assembly now to ask them to protect conservation funding.

Young Farmers to Gather in Michigan

From March 9 to 11, the Michigan Young Farmer Coalition is hosting a retreat for young farmers from across the state to gather and help strengthen the future of Michigan agriculture.

A Super Bowl at the Super Bowl

Centerplate, the NFL’s largest food and beverage vendor, has partnered with Farm Aid co-founder John Mellencamp to promote its new line of “Homegrown”-branded locally sourced concessions. The partnership will kick off this weekend with bowls of beef and pork chili at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Eight Former Secretaries of Agriculture to Convene

This week, USDA announced the commemoration of its 150th year by bringing together eight former secretaries of agriculture at the 2012 Agricultural Outlook Forum, February 23 to 24.

Addressing Unemployment through Agriculture

The Michigan Land Institute is seeking to lower the unemployment rate through farming. The organization recently kicked off a program that would help low-income families gain the tools and resources needed to start farming.

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Ideas on Farms and Food Come to the Big Apple

Growing concerns about access to locally grown foods, public health issues and the conservation of natural resources recently converged in New York City at this year’s TEDx Manhattan. Among a diverse group including farmers, chefs, educators, environmentalists and local food advocates, I joined in for a day of idea sharing around the concept of “Changing the Way We Eat.”

The "edible" TEDx logo.

The "edible" TEDx logo. (Photo/TEDx Manhattan)

The backdrop of the Manhattan skyline was a surprisingly fitting frame for a discussion about farms and food. TEDx Manhattan was a discussion of ideas rooted in the value of connections between rural and urban people—whether young or old, foodies or environmentalists—and about finding better ways to protect farms and food across the country.

For Patty Cantrell, a journalist working to make the business case for local and regional food, new roads to new markets are not paved in asphalt. Rather, the creation of market opportunities for local food products starts with connecting people. “It’s about making our way back to each other,” she explained, “and moving forward as a result.” Cantrell pointed to the Kalamazoo, Michigan-based Fair Food Matters as a model for empowering communities through food and for connecting people with the land that produces it.

The idea of community was a bit different for Fred Kirschenmann. A farmer in south central North Dakota who serves as both a Distinguished Fellow at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture and as president of the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, Kirschenmann appealed to the value of the land as a vital piece in the discussion about our food. “Soil is a vibrant, living community. A community of life,” he remarked. Using examples from challenging weather events of the past year, he warned of the pressures of environmental changes on soil that is continually slipping away.

Gary Oppenheimer, AmpleHarvest.org and Erica Goodman, American Farmland Trust

Enjoying a local food lunch with presenter Gary Oppenheimer, founder of AmpleHarvest.org (Photo/TEDx Manhattan)

Whether discussing how to safeguard soil quality to discovering new ways to provide healthier food options in schools, an undertone of the day was the critical need to think about the future today.  Michelle Hughes, Director of GrowNYC’s New Farmer Development Project, connected the rapid loss of farmland to development with the need to cultivate new farmers. The New Farmer Development Project works with immigrant families in New York City to provide access to farmland and to assistance in finding local market opportunities. As Hughes explained, connecting the new farmers to land is making a positive impact on immigrant families and communities while keeping farmland viable and healthy.

The farm and food innovators throughout the audience were an energized community in themselves. I was even able to catch up with Cara Rosaen of Real Time Farms after her impassioned talk on empowering eaters and farmers. In the end, I left with a hopeful feeling. The lesson of the day: When it comes to the health of our lands, access to healthy food, and a viable future for farms, ideas are worth creating, developing and believing in as part of a community invested in a healthy future for us all.


About the author: Erica Goodman is the Communications Associate with American Farmland Trust.

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Farm and Food News 1/27/12

Future Faces of Farming

In 2011, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack called for 100,000 new farmers a year across the nation. In the foodshed surrounding Washington, D.C., a young generation of farmers—a diverse mix including educators, chefs and budding entrepreneurs—is rising to meet this challenge with the goal of strengthening the local farm and food system.

1,200 Acres of New York Farmland Protected

The Agricultural Stewardship Association of upstate New York recently announced the completion of a 1,200 acre conservation project on three farms in Rensselaer and Washington counties. Included in the project is the Hooskip Farm, which straddles the Vermont border and has protected land in both states.

Hospitals Across the Mid-Atlantic Commit to Buying Local

In Maryland, Washington, D.C., and northern Virginia, hospitals have been working to support local farmers, the local economy and healthier diets for their patients through the increased purchase of local foods. More than 40 institutions are regularly purchasing seasonal fruits and vegetables while nine have stepped up to also source meat and poultry locally. Existing campaigns, such as the “Buy Local Challenge” in Maryland, have helped to spur these new purchasing initiatives.

1,000 Pounds of Butter Warms Pennsylvania Home

Once an agricultural fair or farm show is over, what to do with a decorative butter sculpture? In Pennsylvania, a 1,000-pound sculpture was brought back to the farm and converted into biofuel through a mix digester.

Hawaii Introduces Farm to School Bill

Hawaii State Representative Cynthia Thielen recently introduced a bill that would permit schools throughout the state to purchase more food products grown or raised in the state. Rep. Thielen explained that the bill would support farmers economically while improving the health of students.

Future Farmers Answer Farm Bill Challenge

Officers of the National Future Farmers of America (FFA) answered a challenge from U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to develop their own suggestions for the next farm bill. The organization, which focuses on school-based and extracurricular agricultural education, proposed recommendations in four categories: “Getting started in production agriculture; creating vibrant rural communities; who should care about agriculture and why; and planning for the future.”

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Farm and Food News 1/20/12

Farmers embrace conservation tillage

Farmers in the San Joaquin Valley are switching to conservation tillage at a fast pace. This increase in interest comes at a much needed time for farmers and the environment in California’s Central Valley. With a potential for reduced operating costs and improved soil composition, conservation tillage has many benefits.

Minnesota increases water conservation practices

The USDA, EPA, and state of Minnesota have come together to develop a new state conservation program that will protect rivers, streams and lakes by encouraging farmers to adopt conservation practices that reduce nutrient run-off and improve water quality.

Mayors discuss food policy

Food policy was among the topics discussed this week during the annual Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C. Mayor Menino of Boston heads the discussion of the Food Policy Task Force, covering topics from urban food policy  to SNAP benefits.

Bringing fair food access to you

Gus Schumacher, American Farmland Trust board member, discusses his passion for farming and fair food access. During his interview, he discusses the growth of farmers markets in our struggling economy and the volunteers who make them possible.

Renewable energy for farms

Alternative sources of energy are making their way onto farms. The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Initiative (SARE) has been studying the best opportunities for renewable energy on farms, including solar, wind and fuels from animal waste.

Coventry Farmers Market pushes ahead successfully

The Coventry Regional Farmers’ Market is happy to announce that they have made it past another hurdle in their efforts to save their market. The difficulties of finding a new location after their lease was terminated have made it difficult to begin planning for their coming season.

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Farm and Food News 12/9/11

Cutting back on development

Despite the recession, smart growth planning that limits poorly planned development is still important, and voters continue to support public funds for land conservation.

Don’t forget your farmer this holiday season

While preparing your holiday feasts this season, remember to support your local farmers. Even though farmers markets and CSA farms have finished for the season in some parts of the country, there are other ways to find local produce, such as food hubs.

Assistance in Keeping the Land Healthy in Ohio

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is offering programs again this year to help farmers in Ohio improve the health of their land. A variety of USDA conservation programs are available that can help improve soil health and protect wetlands, wildlife, water and farmland. Applications are due Dec. 15, so schedule an appointment to meet with your NRCS representative today.

Holiday farm photo contest

Grab your camera and take your favorite pictures of this holiday season on the farm. The Farm Industry News is holding its holiday photo contest and wants to see how you celebrate and enjoy the holiday season. But you better hurry because the deadline is Monday, December 12th!

Share your farming stories with Small Farm Quarterly

Small Farm Quarterly, a publication for farmers and farm families across the Northeast, is looking for submissions for their newsletter; farmers and farm advocates are encouraged to contribute and share their stories.

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Pacific Northwest: A Year of Progress

This has been an exceptionally busy year for American Farmland Trust in the Pacific Northwest. It has been a year full of changes: our longtime regional director, Don Stuart, retired at the end of 2010 but has continued to work closely with our office. It has been a year full of building and strengthening relationships as our alliances with a wide-range of agricultural, local food and smart growth organizations have flourished through collaborative efforts surrounding our shared goals.

The Pacific Northwest is home to some of the America’s most fertile and productive farmland. Farms and ranches in Washington, Oregon and Idaho reach consumers in the Northwest and throughout the nation with their abundance of food and other agricultural products, even as they face pressures from sprawling development. Here are just a few ways we have been working to protect farmland, safeguard the environment and provide fresh, healthy food throughout the region.

Rows of crops in the Pacific NorthwestThe Pioneers in Conservation Program: Helping Farmers Safeguard Salmon Habitat

Thanks to a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, we revived the Pioneers in Conservation program and will offer small grants to farmers for salmon habitat restoration projects along rivers and wetlands. American Farmland Trust offered a similar program from 2007 to 2009, which was widely supported by the environmental and farm communities and protected salmon while supporting farm businesses. We expect to announce the first grants in early 2012.

Making Farmland Protection Programs More Effective

We finished a study of farmland protection programs in the 12 counties surrounding Puget Sound. The county-by-county assessment covered zoning, land use regulations, tax relief, land protection tools and economic development programs. Skagit, King and Whatcom counties were recognized as having the best programs for saving important farm and ranch land. We will follow up our county study with a program for counties wishing to improve their farmland protection programs.

Can the Puget Sound Feed Itself?

We also completed the first phase of a foodshed study of the Puget Sound region focusing on what foods are produced and consumed within a 100-mile radius of downtown Seattle. With help from graduate students at the University of Washington, our next step is to identify how food travels from farmers to consumers, how much farmland is needed to produce local food for the area and how we can better promote locally supplied food.

Identifying the Most Threatened Farm and Ranch Landscapes

Which working landscapes in the Pacific Northwest are most threatened by suburban sprawl, second-home development, rural estates, competition for water and other issues? We are laying the groundwork and creating partnerships in Oregon, Idaho and western Montana to roll out a program that helps identify and protect the most endangered farm landscapes in those states.

A Look Ahead

We are prepared for another strong year in 2012. Along with our partners, we will be following up with our work to address sprawling development in the region, provide healthy food locally, and safeguard environmental resources such as clean water.

Thank you for your help, support and encouragement. We could not do our work without you.


Dennis CantyAbout the author: Dennis Canty is the Pacific Northwest Director for American Farmland Trust. Before joining AFT, Canty founded Evergreen Funding Consultants in 2001, a Seattle firm that focuses on funding strategies for environmental projects.

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New England: A Year of Progress

For many of us, this year will be remembered for its weather. The January blizzard and record winter snowfalls. The mind-boggling flooding that followed Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. The wild Halloween snowstorm and its ensuing power losses. We were reminded that things we take for granted—like the rich productive farmland soils that have been farmed for centuries along the Deerfield River in Massachusetts—can disappear in a day down a river. We were reminded, too, of how important it is to have effective programs and policies in place to help farmers manage the inherent risk in farming so they can stay profitable and remain stewards of our vital working landscape.

This year, we worked with a wide variety of partners in the region to promote the critical importance of farms and farmland to New England’s economy, environment, public health, community character and livability. Here are a few highlights from our work across the region:

New England farmCreating a Vision for Rhode Island Farms and Food

With the Rhode Island Agricultural Partnership, we presented a new strategic plan for the state’s farms to Governor Lincoln Chaffee and state lawmakers at Rhode Island’s Agriculture Day in May. The new five-year plan, A Vision for Rhode Island Agriculture—the culmination of a year’s outreach to Rhode Island’s diverse agricultural community—will guide consumers and officials in building a stronger and more resilient food system and farm economy.

Connecting Farmers with Land in Connecticut

Faced with some of the highest farm real estate values in the country, farmers in Connecticut—especially those just beginning—often struggle to find productive and affordable farmland. Farmland ConneCTions: A Guide for Connecticut Towns, Land Trusts, and Institutions Using or Leasing Farmland, published by American Farmland Trust and the University of Connecticut, helps towns, institutions and land trusts navigate the process of leasing land to farmers or managing it for agricultural use.

Working Lands Alliance Secures Funding for Farmland Protection

With new governors in four of the six New England states, we worked to educate incoming administrations about the importance of state and federal funding for farmland protection, including—through the Working Lands Alliance—Connecticut governor Dannel Malloy. We were thrilled when Gov. Malloy and state lawmakers enacted a two-year bond package with $20 million for farmland protection, allowing continued progress toward the state’s goal of protecting 130,000 acres.

Cultivating Local Farms in Maine

In partnership with Maine Farmland Trust and the Mainewatch Institute, we produced a new guide to give communities practical ways to support local farms and keep farmland in farming. Cultivating Maine’s Agricultural Future provides examples of actions local officials and residents can take to protect farmland and make their towns more farm-friendly. Please contact Peggy McCabe in our New England Office at pmccabe@farmland.org for a free printed copy of the guide.

Scaling Up the Region’s Institutional Markets

New England’s 14 million consumers are demanding more locally grown foods, and the region’s institutions—including public and private schools, universities and hospitals—are looking for ways to meet that demand. This year, we were excited to help launch a new effort, the Farm to Institution in New England (FINE) project, taking a region-wide approach to expanding processing capacity, identifying distribution channels and best practices, and increasing institutional procurement of New England-grown foods.

A Look Ahead

Agriculture is rooted in New England’s history and is a critical force in guiding the region’s future. As we look to 2012, we will continue to work to support thriving farms throughout New England while improving access to healthy foods and growing the resiliency of our region’s farm and food system.


About the Author: Cris Coffin is the New England Director for American Farmland Trust, where she leads efforts to promote farmland protection, farm viability and conservation practices in New England through research, outreach, advocacy and policy development at the local, state and national level.

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New York: A Year of Progress

At year’s end, we often reflect on the many challenges and successes of the past year. In New York, we are thankful for the tremendous impact that farmers, citizens and others have made to support local farming and the production of local food.

Across New York state, a movement is forming. People are coming together who care about jobs and our farm and food economy. They want to make it possible for more New Yorkers to have fresh fruits, vegetables milk and other products grown on local farms. And, New Yorkers are increasingly conscious that we need to stop losing farms to residential and commercial development. Here are a few examples of our work in 2011 as part of this growing No Farms No Food® movement:

New York farm and farmlandTransitioning Farms to the Next Generation of Farmers

Roughly 30 percent of New York’s farmers are over the age of 65—with five times more farmers over the age of 65 than under 35. The transition of farms from one generation to the next—if all doesn’t go smoothly—represents a time of risk when farms are susceptible to being paved over for development. But that period of transition also offers hope for a younger generation looking to farm. In November and December, we focused a spotlight on these issues with forums in the Hudson Valley and Western New York. These events brought together farmers, land trusts, agricultural educators and others to identify the greatest needs and opportunities for aiding senior generations with farm transfer planning and assisting younger generations with securing productive farmland.

Securing Funds to Save Farmland

We organized our second No Farms No Food® Rally at the State Capitol on March 30, bringing together more than 150 New Yorkers and 70 organizations. Together, we met with more than 100 state legislators in support of critical funding needed to protect farmland from development, create farm and food jobs and increase the availability of local foods for all New Yorkers. With this support, Governor Cuomo and state legislators passed the first budget increase for farmland protection in three years and restored funding for a series of farm programs that were on the verge of being eliminated.

Working with Communities to Support Local Farms and Stop the Loss of Farmland

In 2011, we released Planning for Agriculture in New York: A Toolkit for Towns and Counties to help planners, citizens and local officials take proactive steps to keep farms thriving in their communities. The new guide highlights 80 communities that have taken action through agricultural economic development programs, food and public policies, zoning and land use planning, purchase of development rights, public education and more. After releasing the new guide, we held a six-session webinar series highlighting chapters of the new publication that attracted almost 300 people from New York and other states.

Helping Farmers Protect Clean Water Across New York

For more than two decades, American Farmland Trust has worked with farmers to continue their legacy of environmental stewardship in New York. In 2011, we worked with farmers, landowners, conservation professionals and others to develop the Owasco Lake Agricultural Conservation Blueprint to help farmers enhance water quality in the lake while ensuring thriving farms. In addition, we kicked off a significant project in partnership with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County that will help sweet corn growers alter their fertilizer practices in order to reduce pollution in Long Island Sound.

A Look Ahead

The urgency for American Farmland Trust’s work in New York has never been greater.  Our society needs the jobs that will come from a stronger farm and food system. At the same time, the urgent need for protection of natural resources, including soil and water, is tremendous. In the year ahead, we hope that you will join the movement in responding to these challenges. Each of us can play a role, whether by shopping at a farmers market, serving on a town planning board or protecting your own farmland. All of these steps matter. Remember, “No Farms, No Food!”


David Haight About the Author: David Haight is New York Director of American Farmland Trust and aids state and federal legislators as they work on agricultural and land conservation legislation. He has helped coordinate projects that have permanently protected more than 4,000 acres of New York farmland.

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California: A Year of Progress

Producing one-eighth of all U.S. food and fiber—more than 300 different crops—on just three percent of its farmland, California is the nation’s biggest agricultural producer. It is also the most populous and fastest growing state. This combination presents considerable challenges for farms and farmland.

This year, we worked with partners throughout the state to make significant progress on each of the groundbreaking initiatives we’ve launched to address the challenges facing farms in California. To us, the challenges represent opportunities to advance our mission of saving farmland, promoting environmentally friendly farming practices and maintaining the economic viability of agriculture. Here is an update on how our strategy is working.

Hoop houses and vegetable farm in CaliforniaSaving  San Joaquin Valley Farmland

We’re helping to guide the first regional planning process in the San Joaquin Valley, California’s most important agricultural area. The Blueprint that emerged this year will save more than 120,000 acres of farmland by reducing urban sprawl. But to accomplish this, it must be incorporated into the land use plans of the region’s local governments, which is now our focus in the valley. At the same time, we have persuaded regional officials to produce a complementary “greenprint” that will inventory agricultural and natural resources and recommend strategies for their conservation and management.

San Francisco Bay Area Foodshed

The nine-county San Francisco Bay Area is losing about one percent of its remaining farmland every year as agriculture in the region struggles to compete—not only with development but also against farmers and ranchers in other areas of California who face lower costs and fewer urban headaches. To halt this trend, American Farmland Trust and partner organizations like the Greenbelt Alliance are promoting a regional agricultural economic development strategy to help farmers and ranchers capitalize on the market advantage they enjoy because of the region’s strong interest in locally grown food.

Environmental Stewardship

Our on-the-ground demonstration projects are helping convince growers that conservation practices do not have to reduce yields and profits. Our Nutrient BMP Challenge® program helped farmers growing feed for dairy cows adopt new environmentally friendly farming practices on 2,400 acres in the San Joaquin Valley. We are also beginning a new project in partnership with the Campbell Soup Company to help tomato producers reduce fertilizer and conserve water. And we are holding focus groups with farmers across the state to identify other obstacles keeping farmers from adopting practices that safeguard the environment.

California Agricultural Vision

One of the most significant things we have ever done in California is to orchestrate a process that led to the adoption by the State Board of Food & Agriculture of a set of strategies to address the major challenges facing California agriculture, among them water, regulations, workforce, invasive species and land use. This year, we have been working with leaders from agriculture, the environmental community and other interest groups to implement California Agricultural Vision, as the plan is called. Foremost among our priorities is an assessment of agriculture’s future land and water needs in light of a growing population, climate change and other factors likely to influence supply and demand for food, which we are pursuing in partnership with researchers at the University of California.

A Look Ahead

While continuing to make progress on the initiatives mentioned here, we will have to address new threats to farmland in the coming year. Among them is a high-speed rail system that—without good land use planning—threatens to encourage more urban sprawl. We also face hundreds of proposals to build industrial-scale solar energy facilities—you guessed it—on California’s irreplaceable farmland.


Ed ThompsonAbout the Author: Edward Thompson, Jr., California Director at American Farmland Trust has been with the organization since it was founded 30 years ago, serving in multiple positions and helping initiate a wide variety of projects.

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