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.


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

SAN JOSE, CA
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.

25 October 2016

Apply for a Fund-a-Farmer Grant!


Fund-A-Farmer Grant Applications Due November 21, 2016

FACT (Farm Animal Concerns Trust) is now accepting applications for the next round of Fund-a-Farmer grants to qualifying livestock and poultry farmers for projects designed to improve farm animal welfare. The program awards grants of up to $2,500 for 1) Animal Welfare Certification projects and 2) Pasture Improvement projects that help farms transition to pasture-based systems or improve access to pasture for their animals. Visit the website for grant guidelines or to apply online by November 21st.

Since 2012, FACT has provided grants to qualifying livestock and poultry farmers for projects designed to improve farm animal welfare. This year we will award grants of up to $2,500 for two types of projects:

1. Animal Welfare Certification projects: New this year, these projects are designed to help farms achieve Animal Welfare Approved, Certified Humane, or GAP (specifically steps 4 – 5+) certification through on-farm improvements. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA) is generously underwriting the Fund-a-Farmer Project’s Animal Welfare Certification Grants.

2. Pasture Improvement projects: Similar to last year, these projects help farms transition to pasture-based systems or improve access to pasture for their animals. To be eligible for a Pasture Improvement Grant, farms must already be considered highly welfare-oriented, as determined by holding or actively working toward one of six specified humane certifications for their livestock or poultry. View the full list of approved certifications.

To be eligible for either type of grant, farms must be working, independent operations that raise pigs, broiler chickens, laying hens, dairy cows, turkeys and/or beef cattle. Please visit our website to view all of the grant guidelines and to apply online. All applications must be submitted online or postmarked by November 21, 2016. Grants will be awarded in March 2017.

26 September 2016

CA$H FOR COVER! / SUB$IDIO PARA COBERTURA!


2016 Winter Cover Crop cost share program for Pajaro Valley growers

The Resource Conservation District (RCD) of Santa Cruz County offers financial assistance to growers in the Pajaro Valley to plant winter cover crops for erosion control during the rainy season. Growers are eligible for a $ 1:1 match rebate (up to $500 per grower) for cover crop seed of their choice that they have already purchased. Cost-share rebates are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.

Cover crops can help you slow down runoff and minimize soil erosion during heavy storms. This protects your fields from soil loss, and prevents excessive sediment loading onto downstream receiving waters. Cover crops can also help you avoid soil crusting and improve rainfall infiltration, which is important given the recent drought years and our region’s reliance on groundwater resources. Even crop residues may provide surface cover that protects structure and reduces crusting.

To receive up to $500 in cost share for planting a winter cover crop, please complete and sign this form. Submit form to the RCD along with a copy of your cover crop seed purchase receipt for this year and a signed W-9 form (attached) in order to get your reimbursement. Preferably, submit via E-mail to: slozano@rcdsantacruz.org , but you can also Mail to: Sacha Lozano, 820 Bay Ave suite 136, Capitola CA 95010. For further questions call 831-464-2950 x 11. 

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Programa de asistencia para control de erosión en el Valle de Pájaro

El Distrito de Conservación de Recursos (RCD) del Condado de Santa Cruz ofrece asistencia financiera (subsidios) a agricultores en el Valle de Pájaro, para plantar cultivos de cobertura para control de erosión durante la temporada de invierno. Cada agricultor podrá recibir un reembolso de 1:1 dólar por dólar gastado (hasta un máximo de $500 por agricultor) por gastos en compra de semilla para cobertura durante el invierno de 2016. Los reembolsos serán distribuidos por orden de llegada de las solicitudes.

Los cultivos de cobertura pueden ayudarle a detener la escorrentía y minimizar la erosión o pérdida de suelo durante tormentas fuertes. Así protege sus campos y ayuda a prevenir la descarga excesiva de sedimentos hacia cuerpos de agua cercanos. Los cultivos de cobertura también le ayudan a evitar la formación de costra en la superficie del suelo y a mejorar la infiltración de agua lluvia, lo cual es muy importante para contrarrestar los impactos de la sequía y para recargar las aguas subterráneas. Aún los residuos del cultivo de cobertura ofrecen buena protección para el suelo.

Para recibir un reembolso de hasta $500 por plantar cultivos de cobertura en invierno, favor completey firme esta solicitud. Envíela al RCD junto con una copia de su recibo de compra de semilla de cobertura para este año y un formato W-9 firmado (adjunto). Preferiblemente, envíe todo por vía E-mail a: slozano@rcdsantacruz.org , pero también puede enviarlo por correo postal a: Sacha Lozano, 820 Bay Ave suite 136, Capitola CA 95010. Para mayor información llame al 831-464-2950 x 11.


31 August 2016

RSVP for a Beginning Farmers' Field Day at UC the Santa Cruz Farm

Peppers and Potatoes Field Day for Beginning Farmers
Image result for peppers and potatoes field day santa cruzImage result for peppers and potatoes field day santa cruz
Monday, September 12, 1 pm – 4 pm
UC Santa Cruz Farm
Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS)

Join growers Darryl Wong, Kirstin Yogg, and Orin Martin of the UCSC Farm and Alan Chadwick Garden for a field day on organically grown peppers and potatoes.
Field day topics include varietal selection, soil fertility management, bed preparation, irrigation strategies, and pest and disease control techniques. Learn about planting to moisture to minimize weed pressure, as well as harvest and storage practices. The field day will also address value-added options for peppers.
This event is funded through a California Department of Food and Agriculture Specialty Crop Grant and is geared towards beginning farmers. All production growers are welcome, whether you are already growing these specialty crops or planning to add them to your crop mix.
RSVP to Melissa Betrone, mbetrone@ucsc.edu(831) 459-3770 for additional details and parking information (please include contact phone and email). 

29 August 2016

Register now for Strategies for Farm Business Success on 9/22!!

Strategies for Farm Business Success
September 22, 2016
 Conference: 2pm-6pm
Reception: 6pm-8pm


Join California FarmLink, Farm Service Agency, and other regional partners for this free half-day summit and networking reception
  • Learn innovative strategies and solutions for farm business stability and development that leverage FSA lending and risk management programs
  • Connect with diverse market outlets
  • Meet, explore, and develop business relationships with other farmers, retailers, wholesalers, chefs, and value-added producers
  • Share and collaborate on new ideas to advance our regional food systems

Keynote Speaker: USDA Farm Service Agency Administrator Val Dolcini

For more information or for tabling opportunities for your organization / business, please contact Mika Maekawa (mika@cafarmlink.org) or call 831.425.0303 x7022.







11 August 2016

Job Announcement for Dr. Ingham's Celebration Research Farm in Northern CA

Displaying
Seeking a full time employee that will be involved in every aspect of field operations. Farm experience desired, greenhouse, machinery, mechanical, and culinary interests appreciated. Great attitude, self-motivation, collaborative problem solving, and teamwork are necessities. We operate with a small team, which ensures engagement with most areas of operation, and many learning opportunities in breaking ground and growing a new farm. This is an entry level position starting at $15 an hour based on experience. Advancement based on performance and integration with the team is expected.

Job Description: Farm Worker
Crop Planning
Keep crop plans up to date and current
Prepare new season plans (Winter and Spring and Fall plans)
Prepare and keep wall maps of farm gardens current
Prepare Food Forest crop plan and map

Preparing Beds
When new areas are needed plan out and design new beds and coordinate prep
Before spring arrives each year existing beds must be prepared for the Spring planting

Planting Beds
Using compost, extract, cover plants and mulch.

Maintaining Beds
Keep troughs flowing and free of unnecessary weeds that restrict flow
Maintain cover plants on beds and reseed when necessary
Plan and schedule extract and compost (if necessary) to be added to beds that have those in their experimental design
Take videos and photos of all beds pointing out different experimental designs of each bed (compost and extract, compost, extract, and controls)
Plan watering schedule (troughs, hand-watering and drip irrigation in 2016 Meadow)
Assign employees to maintain certain beds or certain tasks
Coordinate employee schedules, so watering is always done by someone when needed
Harvest
Evaluate crops and schedule when to harvest.
As crops are harvested, weigh and date produce and put on harvest record
Evaluate harvest records for next season’s crop plan
Determine distribution of harvest (employee consumption, farmer’s markets, grocery 
stores, door-to-door selling downtown, etc.)

Scheduling
Maintenance of list of things that need to be done on the farm in priority order (ongoing)
Each week scheduling employees to do jobs that need to be done
Daily schedule of times to do each job for each employee
Confirm when jobs are complete, check employee’s work for quality and time
Readjust schedule during the week if needed

Maintenance of Farm equipment, buildings, outdoor and indoor spaces used
Compost making areas (large and small scale areas)
Compost materials areas
Shed
Porch
Kitchen area in garage
Bathroom area in guesthouse
Garden areas
Keep equipment in set places (hoses, attachments, hoes, trowels, buckets, etc.
Coordinate equipment cleaning and repairs

Greenhouse
Maintenance of greenhouse seedlings (watering and planting)
Maintenance of greenhouse area
Keeping area clean
Opening and closing of greenhouse flaps
Air circulation when needed
Schedule planting in beds (on the farm) or 6 packs (for selling) when seedlings ready

This is an entry level position starting at $15 an hour based on experience. Advancement based on performance and integration with the team is expected.Please send your resume and 3 references with qualifications to info@environmentcelebration.com. If you have any further questions, please call 530-589-9947. There will be an invitation sent for a preliminary interview via skype with qualified candidates.