Framework for a Bay Area Agricultural Plan (2022-23)

Partners: Santa Clara County Planning Department, Cultivate LLC, Urban-Rural Strategies

Funders: Sustainable Agriculture Lands Conservation Program (SALC)

Date: 2022-23

Investing in and preserving the vitality of the San Francisco Bay Area’s agricultural lands and economy is critical to building long-term regional resilience. Developed under the guidance of a seven member Advisory Council with input from a 60-member Working Group, the Framework will be completed in September 2023.The Framework provides a suite of strategies for multi-jurisdictional coordination and investment to make the Bay Area’s agricultural sector a foundation of regional resilience. In addition, the Framework sets out next steps to envision a new regional agricultural resilience entity that could champion and help fund the recommended strategies, convene stakeholders around common issues, and foster awareness and advocacy so that cities, counties and community stakeholders can act collectively. Currently, there are no clear existing regional organizations with the requisite authority that could enfold the interconnected agricultural issues and diverse stakeholders that the Framework strategies seek to address.

The Framework seeks to implement three key goals:

  • Craft a unified regional and organizational framework for the future: Bring together the agricultural sector, regional government agencies and community organizations to, together, address the challenges and opportunities that can only be solved at a regional level,
  • Recognize the importance of a thriving agricultural sector to a resilient future for the Bay Area: Ensuring the continued health, equity and vibrancy of the Bay Area’s network of agricultural lands is an integral piece in securing a resilient future for the region.
  • Protect and invest in agricultural lands and the agricultural economy: Amplifying the importance of a coordinated approach in supporting ranch and farm viability in land use and economic policies, preservation strategies, farmworker housing, stewardship approaches, and climate action planning is critical in effectively addressing the climate challenges—together.

The Framework is organized around four Focus Areas with associated goals and recommended strategies. Each of the Focus Areas is interrelated and critical to building a robust regional framework to protect and invest in agricultural lands while prioritizing equity:

  1. Agricultural Lands Conservation and Land Tenure. Goal: Permanent protection of key farm and ranch lands and capacity for new farmers to access and establish businesses on these lands. Equity focus: Land conservation and access mechanisms should prioritize current low-income/indebted, BIPOC, or other systemically excluded community representative farmers and ranchers, including beginning farmers. 
  2. Climate-Smart Agricultural Lands and Stewardship. Goal: Implementation of land management practices  that benefit water, habitats, and soil health; address climate threats; and provide social benefits. Equity focus : Leadership from Indigenous, BIPOC, women and veteran land managers will identify pathways to address specific local and regional priorities for climate-smart working lands while leveraging partnerships and networks, including philanthropic and NGO partners.
  3. Agricultural Economy & Infrastructure. Goal: Development of a thriving agricultural economy, including sufficient processing and distribution infrastructure, equitable and sufficient labor and workforce development, and engaged agritourism and agricultural education sectors. Equity focus: Mechanisms and incentives will be inclusive of land-based, capital-focused, and market-driven tactics that can lead to long-term prosperity and improved/safer working conditions for systemically excluded community representatives. 
  4. Agricultural Sector Housing. Goal: Sufficient, affordable, and accessible housing for the region’s farmworkers and limited resource farmers.  Equity focus: Identification of mechanisms to support  affordable agricultural housing that is connected to services, including transportation, grocery stores, schools and more. 

The key next steps in implementing this Framework  includes an “incubation phase” in which an advisory body would explore options for the creation of a Bay Area Agricultural Resilience Collaborative to advance the Framework goals, equity priorities and strategies.

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