CIRS Blog about Rural California
We’ve all heard the drumbeat from nutrition experts: Eat more fruits and vegetables. We know this advice is good for our health. But what does it mean for our land—and for the farmers who grow food on our land?
With obesity rates at epidemic levels, easier access to fruits and vegetables is important, especially in low-income neighborhoods where healthy options can be hard to find. But ramping up demand for affordable produce means stepping up production, which means more demand on land and water.
How we use these resources will affect our environment and communities for years to come. We need to find new ways to protect both human health and the health of our land long into the future.
In the United States, and increasingly around the world, it’s easy for consumers to find high-calorie, nutrient-poor foods, including sugar-sweetened drinks, fast foods and highly processed snack foods — they’re abundant, easily accessible and perceived as more affordable than healthier foods.
The Farm Bill renewed every five years or so, plays a significant role in shaping this food environment by influencing what foods get produced, how they are produced, who has access to them and, in some cases, how foods are marketed.
The majority of dollars in the bill primarily support the production of agricultural commodities (corn, soybeans, wheat, rice and cotton) and food programs (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [SNAP], formerly called Food Stamps) for low-income Americans.
The San Joaquin Valley is the agricultural powerhouse of the United States and California. California accounts for an eighth of U.S. farm sales, largely because it produces high value fruit and nut, vegetable and melon, and horticultural specialty (FVH) crops such as nursery products and flowers. Over three-fourths of the state's $37 billion in farm sales in 2010 were crop commodities, and almost 90 percent of the $28 billion in California crop sales represented labor-intensive FVH commodities.
About half of California's farm sales and farm employment are produced in the eight-county San Joaquin Valley with four million residents that stretches from Stockton in the north to Bakersfield in the south. The leading U.S. farm county is Fresno, which had farm sales of almost $6 billion in 2010.
In the early 1970s, Geraldine Bardin chose to sell her family farm to an upstart community development corporation. She lit a spark that has provided nearly 40 years of educational and economic development impacts for farmworker families in the Salinas Valley. Over the years, cooperative development programs evolved into a small farm business incubator primarily serving farmworkers.
The Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA) is on a long-term trajectory to build upon its unique assets for community development. The model has been popular. Dozens of owner-operated organic farms have been launched and sustained. In recent years, organizations nationwide, inspired by the farm incubator, have called, visited, attended workshops, webinars and farm walks, to learn from ALBA’s work.
What ALBA discovered in this process, is that the more we helped others, the more the organization learned about itself. Inquiries from visitors and partners have informed our perspectives and strategies. In my work as development director, securing grants and contracts while helping develop ALBA’s economic engine, I’ve long operated by a core truism: the key to successful fundraising is to do good work. “Good work is rewarded,” stated Don Ralston, an early mentor, among a compelling collection of short essays on lessons learned by the Center for Rural Affairs. No doubt the greatest lessons at ALBA arise from working with and learning from aspiring and beginning farmers.
Danielle Boule, George Hubert, Anna Jensen, Alannah Kull, Julia Van Soelen Kim, Courtney Marshall, Kelsey Meagher and Thea Rittenhouse
This report was prepared by a team of graduate students at UC Davis in the spring of 2011 for the Yolo Ag and Food Alliance (AFA). The objective was to examine the plausibility of creating a food hub in Yolo and Solano Counties. To achieve this, the UC Davis research team explored recent trends in food hubs across the country and conducted a food system assessment of the two counties to provide a context for how and whether a food hub might be situated.
Although most of us have probably participated in agritourism at some point in our lives, not everyone may be familiar with the meaning of term agritourism. One source defines agritourism as “a commercial enterprise at a working farm, ranch or agricultural plant conducted for the enjoyment or education of visitors, and that generates supplemental income for the owner.” Agritourism encompasses a diverse range of activities such as farm tours, festivals that celebrate regional crops, farm stands, school group field trips, on-farm weddings, farm stay bed and breakfasts, vineyard wine tastings, picking fruit at a u-pick operation, culinary events, and farm classes etc. In addition, agritourism can include attractions that have little or nothing to do with food production but that offer entertainment such as hay rides, petting zoos, pumpkin patches, Christmas tree farms, and concerts.