Farm-to-fork means new opportunities for small growers

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The farm-to-fork movement has been good to many restaurants in the Sacramento region. Easy access to locally grown food has built revenue and reputations.

But it’s not all about the fork. Some small farmers also are getting a boost, selling more products directly to consumers and restaurants.

Growing consumer interest in how food is made has created new opportunities, particularly for growers who focus on popular niche products, said Mary Kimball, executive director of the Center for Land-Based Learning in Winters.

The first folks to build connections between farms and restaurants had a lot of explaining to do, Kimball said. The farm-to-fork movement has changed all that.

“You don’t have a lot of the barriers that existed before. It’s not unusual for a farmer to sell directly to a restaurant or a store, and a lot of that is due to the farm-to-fork message,” she said.

One example is Passmore Ranch in Sloughhouse, where Michael Passmore has raised sturgeon, black bass, trout, catfish and other fish for more than a decade.

“Being a small farm, we can’t compete with the commodity market,” Passmore said. He sells mostly to high-end restaurants, offering the freshest possible products.

When Sacramento launched its first farm-to-fork celebration in 2012, Passmore was a supporter. His fish were featured prominently on both Farm-to-Fork gala dinners held on Sacramento’s Tower Bridge.

“At the time I didn’t see any benefits for us,” Passmore said. “But it has increased our business in Sacramento. It elevated the idea of using our fish and spread our reputation with restaurants and chefs.”

Read the full article here.

* via CDFA Planting Seeds Blog
http://plantingseedsblog.cdfa.ca.gov/wordpress/?p=7588

California conservation projects in new USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Program

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Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that 115 high-impact projects across all 50 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico will receive more than $370 million in federal funding as part of the new USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).  In addition, these projects will leverage an estimated $400 million more in partner contributions—for a total of nearly $800 million—to improve the nation’s water quality, support wildlife habitat and enhance the environment.  Vilsack made the announcement near Phoenix, where the new program will invest in a project with five local partners to clean and conserve water along the Verde River, a tributary of the Colorado River.

“This is an entirely new approach to conservation efforts,” said Secretary Vilsack. “These partnerships empower communities to set priorities and lead the way on conservation efforts important for their region. They also encourage private sector investment so we can make an impact that’s well beyond what the Federal government could accomplish on its own.”

The RCPP competitively awards funds to conservation projects designed by local partners specifically for their region. Eligible partners include private companies, universities, non-profit organizations, local and tribal governments and others joining with agricultural and conservation organizations and producers to invest money, manpower and materials to their proposed initiatives.

Through the RCPP, partners propose conservation projects to improve soil health, water quality and water use efficiency, wildlife habitat, and other related natural resources on private lands.

Four of the selected projects are connected to California:

1) Expansion of Waterbird Habitat – The current sequence of events for rice production creates a situation where birds are frequently left with abrupt changes in habitat availability. The proposal extends the “watering” season of flooded rice fields beyond just the production phase and adds shallow water habitat in the winter/spring and fall months. This proposal supports the California Rice Commission in expanding the Waterbird Habitat Enhancement Program (WHEP) by 50 percent, thus enhancing the wildlife value of 165,000 acres of rice and the long term sustainability of rice agriculture.

2) Rice Stewardship Partnership – The Rice Stewardship Partnership, composed of Ducks Unlimited, the USA Rice Federation, and 44 collaborating partners, will assist up to 800 rice producers to address water quantity, water quality, and wildlife habitat across 380,000 acres in Mississippi, Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Missouri, and Texas.

3) Tricolored Blackbird Habitat – The Tricolored Blackbird once was abundant in California with a population in the millions. It now has an estimated 145,000 birds remaining statewide, and many predict that it is heading toward extinction. This proposal is a partnership between the dairy industry and conservation groups, with Audobon California as the lead partner, to address the factors that challenge California dairy farmers and threaten Tricolored Blackbirds, with the goal of finding a sustainable solution for management of colonies on farms and saving the Tricolored Blackbird from extinction.

4) Klamath-Rogue Woodland Health and Habitat Conservation – Many at-risk and listed species depend on quality oak woodlands that are threatened by conifer encroachment, densification, and severe wildfires in this project area, covering portions of Oregon and California. Working with landowners, including historically underserved producers, and using a sound, science-based approach, the partners will target 3,200 high-priority acres recently identified in a Conservation Implementation Strategy to preserve, enhance, and restore the structural diversity, ecological function, and overall health and persistence of oak habitats and their watersheds.

A complete list of the projects and their descriptions is available on the NRCS website.

* via CDFA Planting Seeds Blog
http://plantingseedsblog.cdfa.ca.gov/wordpress/?p=7543

Abundant California rain aids rangelands, fills stock ponds

All the rain that’s fallen on California is doing wonders for rangelands, but livestock producers are still relying on supplemental feed. Much more rain will be needed for ranchers to start replacing animals that were sold off because of the drought.
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RED BLUFF, Calif. — All the rain that’s fallen on Northern California in December has done wonders for rangelands, but it’s still too soon for ranchers to start planning for the end of drought conditions.

Ranchers are still supplementing feed with baled hay and other grains, even as fields and hillsides are lush and green as a result of precipitation that has approached records in some areas.

“After the years of drought we’ve had, it’s nice to actually have a fall like this,” said Josh Davy, a University of California Cooperative Extension livestock advisor here.

The abundant rains not only help the grass grow but also fill stock ponds, Davy said.

“We’ve had enough rain that there’s been some runoff and we’ve started to see these ponds fill up, which is crucial to winter grazing,” said Sunol, Calif., rancher Tim Koopmann, the California Cattlemen’s Association’s immediate past president. “At my place, we’ve had 9.3 inches of rain since the first of November.”

Three years of drought have taken their toll on forage lands throughout California, but annual grasslands have shown tremendous improvement lately, Koopmann said. The grass still has high water content, but it will gain nutritional value in a few weeks as it starts to harden, he said.

Aiding in the growth have been relatively warm temperatures, as most lower elevations have recorded “100-degree days” in which afternoon highs and nighttime lows add up to more than 100 degrees, aiding the soil, Koopmann said.

While Northern California has seen plentiful rainfall, precipitation in the Central Valley and areas south has varied, noted Mark Lacey, a CCA board member who runs cattle on several properties south of Fresno.

A property in the foothills near Visalia has received nearly 8 inches of rain this fall, while another at the south end of the valley has gotten about an inch and a half, he said.

“It’s starting to respond depending on where it’s at and how much rain it’s had,” Lacey said of the rangeland.

The rainy fall and early winter comes as cattle have been moved to lower elevations. The weather has helped fields, too, as rain has aided the emergence of a wheat crop of which 80 percent was rated good or excellent, the National Agricultural Statistics Service reported.

{Full story here}

*via Capital Press
http://www.capitalpress.com/20141222/abundant-calif-rain-aids-rangelands-fills-stock-ponds

Rice farms could provide offsets in carbon market

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Sometimes it takes a crisis like climate change to reveal a golden opportunity. Our rice farmers in Northern California have long been exemplary stewards of their land, both in terms of providing habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife and for their ongoing efforts to work with environmental and research organizations to improve their farming practices. Now, in response to climate change, they stand ready to take the next step.

This week, the California Air Resources Board will hear a staff proposal for a set of management practices that will give rice growers incentives that could be used to reduce the release of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. For these farmers, who grow more than 95 percent of California’s rice within 100 miles of our state capital, it presents a proactive opportunity to contribute to the state’s climate change objectives.

The proposed Compliance Offset Protocol Rice Cultivation Projects would allow rice farmers in the Sacramento Valley to generate greenhouse gas offsets that can then be sold in the state’s carbon trading market. Rice would represent the first crop-based agricultural offset protocol, paving the way for additional agriculture-based protocols to be developed.

The management practices listed in this protocol are based on sound science and have proved successful around the world. We know that these practices will be adopted slowly at first, but we are hopeful for increased participation in the future as more growers learn about the benefits of these practices.

Full article here.

*via CDFA Planting Seeds Blog
http://plantingseedsblog.cdfa.ca.gov/wordpress/?p=7348

Governor Brown, Secretary Ross recognize December as Farm to Food Bank Month

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Farm to Food Bank Month

California is America’s most robust and bountiful agricultural producer. With over 81,000 farms and approximately 400 crops, agriculture in the Golden State is responsible for feeding much of the nation and world.

As California’s economy recovers amidst one of the worst droughts on record, farmers and ranchers across the state are also doing their part to prevent the spread of hunger and expand access to affordable, nutritious food in their communities.

We owe those within the agricultural sector our gratitude during these challenging times. I urge all Californians to recognize the contributions of California’s agricultural community, as well as the food banks and partner organizations they work with to provide nourishment to the most vulnerable among us.

Sincerely,

EDMUND G. BROWN JR.

December is Farm to Food Bank Month. Help increase farm to food bank donations to 200 million pounds annually by making a product donation or future donation pledge today – contact Steve Linkhart, California Association of Food Banks at (510) 350-9916.

For our friends and foodies– tweet, Instagram or Facebook  – #CAGrown with a pic of California Grown produce and a pound of food will be donated to a local food bank.

* via CDFA Planting Seeds Blog
http://plantingseedsblog.cdfa.ca.gov/wordpress/?p=7273

Yolo County farm wins prestigious conservation award

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Sand County Foundation, the California Farm Bureau Federation, and Sustainable Conservation are proud to announce Full Belly Farm as the recipient of the prestigious 2014 California Leopold Conservation Award®. The award honors private landowner achievement in the voluntary stewardship and management of natural resources.

Full Belly Farm is co-owned by Andrew Brait, Paul Muller, Judith Redmond and Dru Rivers plus second-generation owners Jenna Clemens and Amon Muller. It has been a certified organic farm since 1985 and is a pioneer for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) marketing. Located near Guinda in Yolo County, Full Belly Farm produces a variety of crops sold year-round directly to consumers through their CSA program, at farmers markets, in restaurants and stores, and to distributors.

The owners are dedicated to exceptional land stewardship and strive to balance the farm’s bottom line with environmentally sound practices. They are committed to fostering sustainability on all levels, from soil fertility and care for the environment to stable employment for their employees. Full Belly Farm has an extensive education and outreach program, including popular on-farm tours, events, children’s summer camp and a farm internship program.

“When it comes to farming in ways that promote the long-term health of California’s land, water, wildlife and food economy, there’s no better example than Full Belly Farm,” said Ashley Boren, Executive Director of Sustainable Conservation. “They’ve pioneered a truly sustainable approach to growing food that prioritizes soil health, natural inputs, water efficiency, and wildlife-friendly practices. They also have a long history of inspiring new generations of California farmers to find innovative ways to balance a healthy environment with thriving agriculture.”

“Responsible care for our land and other natural resources has allowed California farmers and ranchers to sustainably produce the food and farm products we all depend upon,” California Farm Bureau Federation President Paul Wenger said. “The Leopold Conservation Award recognizes outstanding examples of the stewardship that family farmers and ranchers perform every day.”

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the Leopold Conservation Award recognizes extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. In his influential 1949 book, A Sand County Almanac, Leopold called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage, which he called “an evolutionary possibility and an ecological necessity.”

The Leopold Conservation Award program inspires other landowners through these examples and provides a visible forum where farmers, ranchers and other private landowners are recognized as conservation leaders.

The 2014 California Leopold Conservation Award will be presented December 8 at the California Farm Bureau Federation’s Annual Meeting in Garden Grove.

ABOUT THE LEOPOLD CONSERVATION AWARD ®

The Leopold Conservation Award is a competitive award that recognizes landowner achievement in voluntary conservation. The award consists of a crystal award depicting Aldo Leopold and $10,000. Sand County Foundation presents Leopold Conservation Awards in California, Colorado, Kentucky, Nebraska, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

* via CDFA Planting Seeds Blog
http://plantingseedsblog.cdfa.ca.gov/wordpress/?p=7287

December : Farm to Food Bank Month

December is Farm to Food Bank Month! Team up with the California Association of Food Banks, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, & California Grown to help out! For more information http://www.cafoodbanks.org/

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* via CA Grown
https://www.facebook.com/cagrown

Cost of Thanksgiving dinner rises, but is still under $50 for 10 people

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The American Farm Bureau Federation’s 29th annual informal price survey of classic items found on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table indicates the average cost of this year’s feast for 10 is $49.41, a 37-cent increase from last year’s average of $49.04.

The big ticket item – a 16-pound turkey – came in at $21.65 this year. That’s roughly $1.35 per pound, a decrease of less than 1 cent per pound, or a total of 11 cents per whole turkey, compared to 2013.

“Turkey production has been somewhat lower this year and wholesale prices are a little higher, but consumers should find an adequate supply of birds at their local grocery store,” AFBF Deputy Chief Economist John Anderson said. Some grocers may use turkeys as “loss leaders,” a common strategy deployed to entice shoppers to come through the doors and buy other popular Thanksgiving foods.

The AFBF survey shopping list includes turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and beverages of coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10. There is also plenty for leftovers.

Foods showing the largest increases this year were sweet potatoes, dairy products and pumpkin pie mix. Sweet potatoes came in at $3.56 for three pounds. A half pint of whipping cream was $2.00; one gallon of whole milk, $3.76; and a 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix, $3.12. A one-pound relish tray of carrots and celery ($.82) and one pound of green peas ($1.55) also increased in price. A combined group of miscellaneous items, including coffee and ingredients necessary to prepare the meal (butter, evaporated milk, onions, eggs, sugar and flour) rose to $3.48.

In addition to the turkey, other items that declined modestly in price included a 14-ounce package of cubed bread stuffing, $2.54; 12 ounces of fresh cranberries, $2.34; two nine-inch pie shells, $2.42; and a dozen brown-n-serve rolls, $2.17.

The average cost of the dinner has remained around $49 since 2011.

“America’s farmers and ranchers remain committed to continuously improving the way they grow food for our tables, both for everyday meals and special occasions like Thanksgiving dinner that many of us look forward to all year,” Anderson said. “We are blessed to be able to provide a special holiday meal for 10 people for about $5.00 per serving – less than the cost of most fast food meals.”

The stable average price reported this year by Farm Bureau for a classic Thanksgiving dinner tracks closely with the government’s Consumer Price Index for food eaten at home (available online at http://www.bls.gov/news.release/cpi.nr0.htm), which indicates a 3-percent increase compared to a year ago.

A total of 179 volunteer shoppers checked prices at grocery stores in 35 states. Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers are asked to look for the best possible prices, without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals, such as spending $50 and receiving a free turkey.

Shoppers with an eye for bargains in all areas of the country should be able to purchase individual menu items at prices comparable to the Farm Bureau survey averages. Another option for busy families without a lot of time to cook is ready-to-eat Thanksgiving meals for up to 10 people, with all the trimmings, which are available at many supermarkets and take-out restaurants for around $50 to $75.

The AFBF survey was first conducted in 1986. While Farm Bureau does not make any scientific claims about the data, it is an informal gauge of price trends around the nation. Farm Bureau’s survey menu has remained unchanged since 1986 to allow for consistent price comparisons.

*via CDFA Planting Seeds Blog
http://plantingseedsblog.cdfa.ca.gov/wordpress/?p=7236