Growing Our Future: Peninsula Open Space Trust's Farmland Futures Initiative
“Farm to table,” “locally sourced,” “sustainably” grown are buzz phrases we see every day at grocery stores, restaurants and in food ads. Despite our desire to eat food fitting these descriptors, the amount of farmland in the Bay Area available to grow this type of food is decreasing rapidly.
In San Mateo County, for example, the amount of agricultural land has decreased by more than 35% since 1990. At the same time the cost of farmland in California is eight and a half times the national average; in the Bay Area, it is three and a half times the state average. New farmers struggle to get started in this economic scenario and some farms that go back many generations are finding it hard to survive.
To stem this rapid decline in available farmland, Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) has introduced a new Farmland Futures Initiative. The nonprofit organization’s goal is to raise $25 million to triple the acreage of protected farmland as well as tripling the number of farms on the San Mateo Coast over the next 10 years. They plan to accomplish this through two main strategies: purchasing land to lease to farmers, and placing conservation easements on privately held land or transferred properties to preserve it for future farm use. Since its inception in 1977, POST has preserved over 75,000 acres including 14,000 acres of farm and ranch land. This new initiative will focus even more resources on farm preservation and growth.
Farms: A Vital Link in Our Local Ecosystem
In addition to supplying fresh food to the community and a livelihood to farmers, farms play a large role in our ecosystem. They contribute to the conservation of open space by providing connective spaces and a habitat for local wildlife and watershed, improving soil health, aiding in natural carbon sequestration and providing recreational and educational opportunities to schools and families.
“Protecting local working land matters to our environment, our farmers and our community,” said POST President Walter Moore. “Farms are vital to the health of our local ecosystems, waterways and the region’s overall food system, growing the farm-fresh foods that we as a society value and cherish.”
Local farmer John Giusti of Giusti Farms in Half Moon Bay knows firsthand the importance of POST and its new Farmland Futures Initiative. POST helped Giusti and his family purchase the land where the family grows Brussels sprouts, peas, artichokes, beets and chard.
“There’s finally a future here on this property,” he says. “POST wanted us here while everyone else was trying to get rid of us.”
Jan Garrod, lifelong farmer and chair of the POST board of directors, makes a common-sense plea: “Once the land is paved over, it’s never going to come back. So conservation and farming work hand in hand.”
To learn more about the Farmland Futures Initiative and how to support it, visit OpenSpaceTrust.org.
Beth Lee is a San Jose–based food writer, marketing consultant, co-founder of the virtual cooking community Tasting Jerusalem and writes the food blog OMG! Yummy (OMGYummy.com).