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We’re not just talking the talk when it comes to protecting farmland.
Since the launch of our Farmland Futures Initiative in the spring of 2016, we’ve protected 6 new farms and over 178 acres of farmland. It feels good to be making real progress toward our goal of tripling the number of protected farms and farmland acres on the San Mateo coast.
Through this work, we’re building a brighter future for agriculture in San Mateo County. But we know we can’t just stop at protecting the land from development. For local farms to really thrive, they need more than land.
To help explain what it takes to build a healthy farm on the San Mateo coast, we visited with Ryan Casey from Blue House Farm. He’s been farming on POST-protected farmland for the past 12 years and we’ve watched as he’s literally built his business from the ground up.
Watch Ryan’s video and see our list of 6 things needed for a healthy local farm:
Finding available farmland is probably an obvious barrier. But this is especially true on the San Mateo coast; an area where agricultural land can sell for ten times the national average and four times the state average.
We’re doing what we can to provide local farms with the room to grow by leasing protected farmland to qualified agricultural operations at an affordable rate.
We’re also selling our protected farmland at market value, subject to affirmative agricultural easements (assuring farms stay protected and in agricultural production). It’s not about profit for POST, it’s about securing farms that will be operated by good stewards of the land.
It takes a lot of hands to run a farm and in recent years many farms have struggled to find and retain enough workers. Availability of affordable and suitable housing is one of the reasons.
Last year, San Mateo County commissioned an Agricultural Workforce Housing Needs Assessment that identified an unmet need for over 1,000 affordable housing units for agricultural workers and their families.
Where we can, we are partnering with San Mateo County to build farm labor housing on POST-protected farmland. Farm centers that allow space for worker housing are also now a key consideration in our agricultural conservation easements.
Many of the farms on the San Mateo coast rely on surface water to irrigate their fields. In the summer months, when regulated creeks have low flows, that use is restricted to protect endangered fish like steelhead trout and Coho salmon.
You need a reliable supply of water to grow food, of course. On two of the farms we’ve protected POST has invested in new wells so our farming tenants could diversify their supply, which reduces pumping from creeks and improves water security.
We’ve also designed two new off-stream reservoirs to further reduce pressure on creeks and groundwater resources – and that means more water for fish too.
There’s a lot that needs to happen indoors on a farm. Products need to be stored and prepped for shipment, equipment needs to be repaired, seed and livestock feed needs to be stored from the elements and that’s just to name a few.
One of our greatest investments in farm infrastructure was in the restoration of the historic barn at Root Down Farm. This is just one example of the numerous farm buildings we’ve restored, rebuilt or just flat-out replaced.
All farms need healthy soil; this isn’t something that just veggie growers are worried about. The soil is what sustains all life on a farm – from cattle to cauliflower to…well, you name it.
We’re committed to working with tenants who are as devoted to building healthy, living, carbon-sequestering soils as we are. This is as much an investment in the future of their business as it is in the health of the land.
One of the greatest benefits to farming on the San Mateo coast is its proximity to communities that care about what they eat.
From San Francisco to San Jose there is a cornucopia of farmers’ markets, natural grocers and community-support agriculture (CSA) options. With increasing demand for sustainable food, local farms will continue to thrive.
You too can support the farmers and ranchers on POST-protected farmland. Download our local food guide (Plant, Harvest, Plate) and connect with our food system (click here).
Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects open space on the Peninsula and in the South Bay for the benefit of all. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 76,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties.