26 July 2017

UCSC, CASFS 2018 Apprenticeship Program Application Open, New Scholarship Funding Available

Aspiring organic farmers and gardeners are invited to apply for the 2018 Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Now celebrating its 50th year, the Apprenticeship is the longest running university-based organic farming training program in the U.S.
The six-month, full-time residential program takes place at the 30-acre organic farm and 3-acre Alan Chadwick Garden on the UC Santa Cruz campus. The Apprenticeship blends experiential learning with traditional classroom studies on topics that include soil management, composting, pest and weed control, crop planning, irrigation, farm equipment, direct marketing techniques, business planning, and social and environmental issues in the food system.

The upcoming six-month program runs from April 9, 2018 to October 19, 2018. Scholarship support at different levels is available, including the new Food Justice and Equity Scholarship. With major support from Bon Appétit Management Company, the new scholarship is intended to support incoming apprentices presently committed to and engaged in creating food justice and equity in their communities and/or advocacy for responsible stewardship of the Earth.

The scholarship will be used to financially support individuals from low-income communities that historically have been underrepresented, and who would otherwise be unable to attend the program. Scholarships cover part or all of the course fee and on-site housing is available for free. Other scholarship support for the Apprenticeship includes the Matthew Raiford Scholarship for veterans, and the Simply Organic annual scholarship. AmeriCorps funding can also be used to cover course fees.

The Apprenticeship is managed by the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems at UCSC. It is open to all participants 21 years or older, regardless of educational background. Program information, application materials, details on scholarship support, and a list of dates for upcoming orientation tours are available online at casfs.ucsc.edu/apprenticeship. Application deadlines for the 2018 program are August 15, 2017 for international applicants, and September 30, 2017 for U.S. citizens.
The 39 apprentices accepted into the program each year come from all regions of the U.S. and abroad, and represent a wide spectrum of ages, backgrounds, and interests. Program graduates have established their own commercial farms and market gardens, developed farm- and garden-based educational programs, run urban garden programs, and more. You can read more about Apprenticeship alumni’s work at www.growafarmer.org.

For more information about the Apprenticeship, please contact the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems at 831.459-3240, or at casfs@ucsc.edu. Learn more about CASFS at casfs.ucsc.edu

19 July 2017

Working with Land Trusts: Proposals for PNW Opportunity Due August 21st!!!

California FarmLink has had a rich relationship with land trusts throughout the state who are interested in preserving agricultural lands and keeping working lands affordable for farmers into the future. Though we don't typically promote opportunities out of state (we are California FarmLink, after all), there are some exceptional exceptions-- not to mention the very daunting costs and scarcity of farmland here in California.

Lopez Community Land Trust
Read on for an opportunity in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with a great land trust, Lopez Family Land Trust, that shares our values:

LCLT is seeking a long-term lessee for the 48-acre Stonecrest Farm on Lopez Island. The lessee may be an individual, couple, family or a group, such as a cooperative. The lessee must be willing to commit to a minimum 60-month lease with the desire to enter into a longer-term lease. The lessee must be committed to the development of a successful, dynamic, ecologically balanced and viable farm enterprise that meets the following: 

  • Improves soils; 
  • Strengthens the local food system through access to local foods and farm products, which may include value-added products; 
  • Implements sound business practices; 
  • Retains and invigorates the working rural character of Lopez Island through regenerative economic and agriculture practices; 
  • Works with LCLT’s program coordinator to allow planned community access and classes on the farm. 
  • Works with LCLT's intern program. 
If this sounds like the right opportunity for you, click here to read the full Request for Proposals or contact Sandy Bishop at LCLT@rockisland.com. 
Good luck!

14 March 2017

Programa de Entrenamiento para Financiamiento y Conservación

Programa de Entrenamiento para Financiamiento y Conservación

Presentado en Espanol

Los talleres serán los miercoles de 1-4pm
  • 15 de marzo
  • 22 de marzo
  • 29 de marzo
  • 5 de abril

LUGAR: USDA // 744 A La Guardia St. // SALINAS, CA 93901

SOLO $ 40 (El dinero será devuelto al final del curso)
Registrarse: Deborah Nares al 831-425-0303 x 7070 o deborah@cafarmlink.org

Al final de este entrenamiento de 4 semanas los agricultores sabrán información sobre:

·         Financiamiento y planeamiento de conservación
·         Planificación agrícola, muestreo de suelo & manejo de nutrientes
·         Manejo de riego, regulaciones & control de erosión
·         Producción Agrícola, IPM, inocuidad alimentaria
·         Contabilidad de negocios & Mercado del producto
·         Prepararse para, seguridad & usos financieros
·         Seguro de cultivos & archivo de documentos

Agricultores recibirán GRATIS equipo de muestreo de suelo, asistencia técnica y con aplicaciones para NRCS-EQIP.  
Presentado de California FarmLink en colaboracion con el Condado de Monterey RCD.
Estos talleres son establecidos con el apoyado de CDFA Specialty Block Grant.

31 January 2017

Agrarian Elders: Planning for Succession -- workshop on 2/16/17 in Half Moon Bay!

Agrarian Elders: Planning for Succession 

February 16th from 10am-2pm in Half Moon Bay, CA

Many farmers across California, including pioneers of organic farming, are trying to figure out how they can retire. The pursuit is especially daunting if there are no family successors or the farmer (and her or his family) want the farm business to remain intact. FarmLink is hearing from people across the state whose products and supply chains have been disrupted by farmers' retirements. We've got tools and resources to help you retire well! By the end of this workshop, farmers will understand:
• the basic components of farm succession planning and how to get started with the first conversation.
• the key financial risks in retirement planning and how the use of options like financing, leasing, or easements can help.
• the first few steps in analyzing and valuing your farm business.
• the resources and advisors available to help this process along.
Click here to register! Your registration fee of $25 will cover the costs of lunch and refreshments.*
Thu, February 16, 2017
10:00 AM – 2:00 PM PST
Historic Train Depot
110 Higgins Canyon Road
Half Moon Bay, CA 94019
*Fee waivers are available. For more information contact mika@cafarmlink.org or call 831.425.0303 x7022

Immediately following the workshop, from 2:00-3:00pm, will be a forum for San Mateo County farmers and ranchers on Agricultural Succession Planning and Transition. This forum is free and available to all workshop attendees and the broader public.
The forum will discuss community perceptions of needs and opportunities to support farmers and ranchers with farm and ranch succession or transition. The forum is an opportunity for farmers, ranchers, agricultural landowners, and accountants, attorneys, bankers and others who provide professional support services to farmers and ranchers, to discuss needs related to technical assistance. Topics include legal and tax issues and access to conservation, marketing, and other Farm Bill programs to help with farm succession and help beginning farmers get established. Participants are encouraged to participate in both sessions.
The forum's agenda will be organized around four topics:
1. What support do farmers and ranchers and agricultural land owners need to develop succession plans?
2. What support do bankers, accountants, attorneys, insurance agents and other local professionals need to be able to provide more targeted assistance to retiring and aspiring farmers and ranchers?
3. What support do beginning farmers and ranchers need to establish new farming and ranching businesses?
4. What are the barriers to bringing more support to farm succession and transition and what resources can be brought to solve this problem?

10 January 2017

EQIP Funding Extension

Applications for 2017 EQIP Funding 
Accepted January Through May

Need cross-fencing or stock water improvements for better grazing management?  

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) accepts Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) applications year-round, but establishes cutoff dates to make funding selections for eligible, screened, and ranked applications. EQIP provides financial and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers to implement conservation practices such as stock water systems (livestock wells, solar pumps, tanks, troughs), cross-fencing, prescribed grazing, and more.  To be ready for EQIP funding consideration, interested applicants will need to: 
1) Develop a conservation plan
2) Submit an application
3) Meet program eligibility requirements
4) Approve their ‘EQIP schedule of operations’. 

The time needed to complete a conservation plan and process eligibility can vary, from a few weeks to more than a month, depending on the complexity of the farming operation.  
The FY17 cutoff dates to consider eligible, screened and ranked applications for funding are:  January 13thMarch 17th, and May 26th, 2017.  

To sign up, call the Hollister NRCS office (831)-637-4360 or email Erika.Boyland@ca.usda.gov

05 December 2016

Farmers: Prepare for tax season!

Farmers! Do you have a plan to get your 2016 records in order and file your 2016 taxes? 
There is still time, and still time to make choices to minimize your 2016 taxes.

Join SAGE (Sustainable Agriculture Education) and UC Cooperative Extension in two farm taxation workshops this December. These sessions will cover basic farm taxation and basic taxation for self-employed business owners

Have you created value-added products or held educational or marketing events on your farm?
Did you know these activities are not farming or ranching activities for tax purposes?
Did you know that livestock producers may use special and advantageous accounting methods to report income or loss from operations? 
Your accountant may not know either!

We will make sure you have the resources to ensure your tax preparer accounts for your value-added or non-farm land use activities in the way that makes the most sense for your tax situation.
The 3-hour workshop is for farmers and livestock producers who have questions about how to file their income taxes. We will walk through the federal income tax filing requirements for farmers and ranchers and answer your questions about how filing tax returns for your business, how your business income or loss affects your personal tax liability, and how to make a plan to go back and catch up on any 2016 recordkeeping for deductions you may have missed such as per diem expenses and business-related meals and mileage. You will receive a workbook to help you organize all of your 2016 tax information.

Thursday, December 8, 2016 // 1 pm – 4 pm
Santa Clara County Department of Agriculture
80 W Highland Avenue, Bldg. K
 San Martin, CA 95046

Monday, December 12, 2016 // 1 pm – 4 pm
Santa Clara County Department of Agriculture
1553 Berger Drive, Bldg. 2 Auditorium,
San Jose, CA 95112

For more information please contact Poppy Davis at poppy@sagecenter.org or 510.526.1793 x6 or Rob Bennaton at rbennaton@ucanr.edu or 510.670.5621

04 November 2016

Farmer-Tenant rights

Check out this SF Chronicle article by our partner Adam Calo, a PhD candidate in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley. He worked with FarmLink and others to develop The Farmland Monitoring Project. Currently, he is abroad on a Fulbright Fellowship to conduct a similar project in Turkey. 

For farmers, this land is often someone else’s

Bonifacio Solis harvests dino kale at the Golden Rule Organics farm in Hollister, Calif. on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2016. Photo: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle

Here is a romantic vision of agriculture: A young family rises early in its humble but well-kept farmhouse and prepares for a day of demanding and rewarding work. These farmer-owners are stewards of the land, protecting the soil’s long-term health. In return, they are rewarded by quality harvests and premium markets. This young family’s farm expands, offering an alternative to a harmful industrial food system and reversing the worrying trend of an aging farmer population.

Unfortunately, this vision barely exists.

The real problem here is to assume small-scale and beginning farmers are owners of the land they farm. In fact, they are most likely renters, often commuting long distances from their residences to their farm plots, paying rent, and carrying out a farm business under the shadow of their landlord. The owner is ultimately the one who shapes the form of agriculture while farmers, as tenants, operate with reduced autonomy. Despite this reality, a collective faith in the dream of individual farmer-owners blinds efforts to improve the food system.

The beginning farmer movement would benefit from the sense of urgency within the policy campaigns represented by fair housing advocates.

At a 19-acre farm in Hollister (San Benito County), a farm family of Roberto Gonzalez, Paula Rojas and son Eddie Diaz spent five years transforming an unused piece of land into an established organic operation, selling to markets throughout the Bay Area. Rojas works the farmer’s markets alongside her other day job, and Diaz, a college student, does a bit of everything, from farm management with Gonzalez to working the Thursday market. He often says he wants to continue work as an organic farmer.

But now, the landowner wants to sell, and it’s uncertain if they will be able to acquire the financing to purchase the farm outright. Doing so might bring on an overwhelming debt, but leaving in search of new farmland means abandoning the improvements to the land. For Gonzalez, this dynamic of being a tenant farmer played out in his decision to take out a loan to install a well on their rental property. He explains:

“Right now we are surviving because we put in our own well, that cost us $20,000. And that’s one of those things where you can’t take it with you when you leave. I think, maybe we have three more years here, but I don’t know if we will recover that investment.”

The experience of Gonzalez’s business, Golden Rule Organics, is more representative of the new farmer movement. A movement that must also contend with the complexities and challenges of tenant farming in landscape of increasingly stingy rental markets.

For prospective farmers in California, it is a renter’s world. Some 41 percent of the state’s farmland is rented out, and remaining an owner of these lands is incredibly valuable. California farmland owners surveyed in 2012 received $1.9 billion in rent payments. Consequently, these ag lands are not likely to change hands. Agricultural landlords overwhelmingly plan to place their parcels permanently into family of individual trusts, rather than electing to sell land at auction or other forms of public markets (79 percent of respondents).

Farmers who lease face a unique set of challenges that contradict the ideals of small-scale agricultural revitalization. Tensions between the owner’s and the farmer’s vision of production arise, and the landlords’ power to assert their authority is dominant. The plots of land that new tenant farmers can gain access to are often on regions of lesser quality, on sloping terrain, in semi-residential areas, and with poor access to water. All of these landlord-tenant dynamics occur within a national landscape of racially skewed farmland-ownership demographics. Nationally, 98 percent of farmland is owned by individuals identifying as white, extending the domains of potential tenant discrimination into the agricultural case.

To put this issue in other terms, if a farmer is on a month-to-month lease, they simply are not incentivized to take action for the long term, like make habitat improvements, or even plant a tree. Think of a tenant in a dilapidated downtown apartment under constant threat of eviction. What incentive would they have to say, repair cracks in the foundation?

By upholding an antiquated Jeffersonian ideal of yeoman farming, only certain types of farmers will benefit from the current status quo of efforts that facilitate land transfer to young farmers. Ignoring the structural issues of tenant farming is a failure of equitable reform, and it’s worth asking precisely who gets to be a successful new farmer in our agricultural system.

In San Francisco, where a housing crisis threatens vulnerable tenants’ access to shelter, there is a shared outrage that a basic social right is out of reach. So what do activists do? They lobby for the construction of new subsidized units; they urge reform of private-property policies that allow for owners to legally evict tenants with little cause; they challenge short-term housing models that favor private-property owners with ballot measures; they create institutional support for the increased enforcement of existing housing laws like rent control. Finally, they challenge developers in the city that only seek to build units for the uber-wealthy.

For tenant farmers, the opposite is true. A plethora of small-farm training workshops, incubators, training organizations, and federal funding mechanisms provide technical assistance for farmers in the hope that new competencies will bring agricultural success. In a renter’s world, this simply is not enough. It would be like offering a tenant with a broken heater a course on appliance maintenance instead of challenging the landlord to uphold their rental contract and make the repair.

A dialogue on equitable agriculture leases, profit sharing of capital improvements, incentives for long-term agricultural decisions, and the public oversight of more agricultural lands, would represent a sea change in the approach to addressing challenges for small farmers. The federal Department of Agriculture has recently made novel commitments to strengthening programs for small-scale farmers in comparison to a history of commodity agriculture policy supports. Addressing the vulnerable position of tenant farmers should certainly be a part of these reforms. Supporting small-scale farmers, and all the work consumers hope for them to accomplish means rethinking renter’s rights in an agricultural context.

Farming mostly happens on private lands, but it is still an intrinsically public act. We all have a stake in who gets to make the decisions on the land that shape our food system. The next time you are at a farmers’ market, instead of asking your favorite vendor about their tomatoes, try asking them about their lease.