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Monday, November 10, 2014

Hi everyone, 

A few great opportunities I thought to mention!

First, the USDA just came out with, "Building Sustainable Farms, Ranches,and Communities: A Guide to Federal Programs for Sustainable Agriculture, Forestry, Entrepreneurship, Conservation, Food Systems, and Community Development." Looks like an amazing resource for farmers looking to get assistance from the federal government for their farms. Check it out at:

Second, Slow Money is having their annual National Gathering this week (Mon night - Wednesday, Eastern Time) in Louisville, Kentucky.  Fortunately, they are live streaming the conference. If you have any interest in watching their presentations (includes Wendell Berry, Vendana Shiva, Gary Naban), please go here:

UCCE Marin is hosting a Succession Planning Workshop on December 3 at 6:30 pm at the Tomales Town Hall in Tomales, CA. The event will be preceded by dinner. Its a $10 registration fee and space is limited. RSVP to Co-sponsored by the Marin Agricultural Land Trust, Marin Organic, and the Marin Farm Bureau.

Fourth, California Farmlink (North Coast) is now on Twitter! I have been fairly active on this page, so please Follow us!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Are you a farmer looking for land or a landowner who is considering leasing land?

Please join California Farmlink for a Lease Workshop this Friday November 7 from 10am-12pm at the Druid's Hall in Nicasio, CA. RSVP Required: RSVP online

The Lease Workshop is sponsored by UC Cooperative Marin, the Marin Agricultural Land Trust & Marin Organic. 

The agenda includes presentations by:

- Paulette Swallow, UCCE-Marin Sustainable Agriculture Coordinator 

- Dr. Stephanie Larson, Sonoma County UCCE Director and Livestock Range Management Specialist

- Kitty Dolcini, owner of Red Hill Ranch

- Frederick Smith, North Coast Regional Representative, California      Farmlink

- Aaron Wilder, farmer & owner of Table Top Farms

Lunch will be provided after the talk by Matthew Elias Catering. $5 donation suggested. RSVP online

I hope to see you all there! 


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Fibershed Wool Symposium, Saturday November 15, 10-4pm, Dance Palace, Point Reyes Station

Hello everyone,

The annual Fibershed Wool Symposium is happening on Saturday November 15 from 10 am - 4 pm at the dance Palace in Point Reyes Station! The event sold out last year, so if you are planning to go, get your tickets soon.



Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Important news for farmers who depend on well water

Hello all,

This article is a must read. It looks like the State is going to start regulating groundwater pumping. I don't know what the limits will be for small and medium size farms, but its well worth paying attention to.

Frederick Smith, CFL North Coast RC

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

CalFresh is offering free wireless devices to accept EBT!

Hi all! Great news! CalFresh is offering free wireless devices to allow farmers to accept money from the EBT program. For more information, please call Diane Padilla at 916-654-1396!

Frederick Smith
Regional Coordinator, North Coast and Bay Area
California Farmlink

California is offering free wireless devices that allow farmers to accept money from CalFresh recipients at farmers markets, farm stands, and CSAs. The grant-funded program covers the $1000-value POS (point of sale) device for scanning CalFresh cards, and provides complimentary training for using the device. Farm marketing and promotion are built in as well: CalFresh customers have access to lists of farms and farmers markets that participate in the program, and the Foodies Project, and likely others, will promote individual farm participants online.

Farms should apply now to take advantage of this ultimate win-win program for the rest of the season. Food and food justice advocates, health workers, CSA members, and anyone with a favorite farm should encourage their local producers to sign up.

CalFresh is the federally-funded food assistance program for Californiathe state version of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the nations largest source of nutrition assistance. This major entitlement program is fully funded by the federal government, which is required to make funds available to all eligible applicants, i.e. individuals and families who qualify based on income level.Participation and costs for SNAP are higher than ever, with nearly 50 million program participants in 2013, and a total annual cost of nearly $80 billion. State and county governments cover a portion of the administrative costs to run the program.

Friday, August 29, 2014

"Raised to Farm"

Hello Everyone,

Many of you have likely read the New York Times opinion called "Don't Let Your Children Grow Up to be Farmers. A number of farmers and supporters recently released a response that is worth the read. Please share this with your friends.


North Coast Regional Coordinator

"Raised to Farm" 

Co-authored with Matt & Peg Sheaffer; Jennifer & Jeff Miller, Sandhill Family Farms; Mike Sands, Farm Business Development Center; Brad Leibov, Liberty Prairie Foundation; Karen Lehman, Fresh Taste.
We read Bren Smith's recent op-ed in The New York Times on the economic challenges of small-scale farming ("Don't Let Your Children Grow Up To Be Farmers," Sunday Review, Aug. 10) with concern. The column has provoked responses from many corners of the food movement, from farmers struggling to make the decent living Mr. Smith yearns for, to patrons of those farmers at local markets, in community-supported agriculture and farm-to-school programs, or at locally sourced restaurants. In policy and philanthropic circles, Mr. Smith's economic plight and policy concerns raise questions about the viability of smaller scale agriculture programs as effective tools for lasting economic development.
While we sympathize with his concerns about the economic difficulties farmers face, we strongly believe that business-minded folks can make a rewarding living farming. Working with nature is not simple. But you can make a good living at it when you get your business model and growing system in place. Several of us are partners of a successful organic vegetable farming business that currently supports two farm families as well as year-round and seasonal employees.
We also know many other farmers, both neighbors around the upper Midwest and colleagues around the country, who are making a decent living supplying the burgeoning urban and suburban market demand for fresh local food. What common characteristics do these successful farmers have? Perhaps the most important is that they have focused on and mastered the business side of the farming: business planning, credit management, cost accounting, labor management, market management, etc.
Off-farm income, particularly during start-up or lean periods, has often been part of the business plan. Historically, "part-time farming" has been the reality for much of American agriculture for generations. While some may decry the notion that farming as a full-time occupation often is not enough to pay the bills, in this economy there's something to be said - economically and socially - for households that have a measure of diversity in their income stream.
Farming is never an easy business, especially for new entrants. Capital costs (land, especially) are daunting, our new diverse businesses are complex and tough to explain to traditional credit institutions or other investors, markets are elusive and fickle, and then there's the rain: too much, too little, or just the right amount to give everyone a bumper crop that sends prices tumbling. And because the movement toward a more local and sustainable food sustainable system incorporates ethics and values that pay attention to the factors that conventional agriculture too often treats as "externalities," the odds have always been against it.
However, much the same must be said about any entrepreneur who bootstraps a small, independent, family-owned business. Whether it's a hardware store, a restaurant, a bookstore or a technology start-up, most struggle to make ends meet, and too many end up closing their doors.
The reality that everyone committed to local, sustainable and just food systems must face, however, is that we are still early on in the movement. We are still sorting out markets and reinventing cost-effective distribution systems. Continued growth in the market channels for such food - in schools, hospitals, food trucks, farmers markets and through locally-supplied retail co-ops, groceries and supermarkets - is critically important to ensuring that small "foodshed" farming operations are profitable contributors to sustainable economic development. Unfortunately, the regulatory environment for these innovative enterprises hasn't kept pace, making it even more difficult for these businesses to succeed.
No one wants non-profit ventures to drive out commercial farm entrepreneurs, but in our experience, foundations and other charities have rarely financed farming operations that undercut farm businesses. If anything, charities have invested in efforts to create and widen demand through marketing channels for fresh local food - such as the growing movement to get local food into our schools - or to make urban farmers markets attractive for food stamp beneficiaries.
Mr. Smith's essay does raise important challenges that the local farming movement and our larger community need to address head on. Two important areas for focus are high quality training and a more appropriate and equitable policy environment.
Young people are often motivated to take up farming by the excitement and rewards of growing food. But much, much more must be done to train new farmers, particularly in the business side of local food production: marketing, pricing, cost control, economic return to labor and so on. Programs such as Farm Beginnings, Holistic Resource Management and targeted business programs at our local educational institutions need support and investment. Experiential training programs such as apprenticeships and internships need to find better ways to discuss the business side of the farm. We need mentors to step forward who can build a financial spreadsheet as well as a composting system.
At the national policy level we need a farm bill that rewards all farmers who steward our common natural resources and holds accountable those who don't. We need a farm bill that provides support for the development of new local food marketing, aggregation and distribution systems. Recognizing the opportunity, the Farm Credit system has already moved to change its policies to improve lending to this sector. Others need to follow suit. At all levels, we need a regulatory environment that is more flexible and encourages innovation rather than stifling it.
Equally important are innovations that can provide local farmers with affordable access to land through long-term leases and even land ownership. Land trusts and public land protection agencies are particularly well positioned to play important roles here because these organizations own thousands of acres of farmland across the country and because local, sustainable farming is far more in keeping with their missions than conventional agriculture. By providing long-term leases to sustainable farmers and taking active steps to reduce the often-prohibitive cost of traditional farmland purchases, these organizations can foster richer soil, protect streams and lakes from pollution, support local pollinator populations and contribute to vibrant community life.
There is also a significant need for high quality information about the economics of this new movement. At this point there is a paucity of data regarding the range of returns that diverse local farming operations are experiencing. In the commodity farm sectors, we have accurate statistics on farmers' revenues, costs and net returns. In the immature local food sector we lack that data and must rely on individual anecdotes, such Mr. Smith's or that of Sandhill Family Farms.
We wholeheartedly affirm that the movement toward a culture and economy built on healthy, earth-sustaining food won't succeed if the people doing the hard work of growing that food don't flourish as well. The title of Mr. Smith's piece struck us as largely a plea from a place of pain. We know many farmers are haunted by the financial strain of making even the most productive operations economically viable. Yet we are hopeful that people who care about healthy food and a farmers movement together can create a new food paradigm in our country that will make farming an appealing career choice for the next generation. The good news is that the number of people who are committed to good, humane food is growing quickly and is far broader than the "foodie" label suggests.
Now is the moment to provide more support to the field to enable rather than discourage farm entrepreneurs. Local, sustainable farming is a critically important and noble calling. Our health, the health of our communities and even the health of our planet depend on more children growing up to be farmers and being able to grow good lives in the process.

Monday, July 28, 2014

New Lease Fact Sheets Available on California Farmlink website

Hello everyone,

We are excited to announce the release of some new lease fact sheets on our website.  In addition to posting a Sample Lease template, Farmlink has developed fact sheets that discuss the specifics of different types of leases, include Cash, Crop Share, Ground, and Lease-to-Own.

Please visit our website:

As always, California Farmlink would be delighted to provide technical assistance and act as a neutral third-party in lease negotiations and development.