Funder: United States Department of Food and Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (Sub-award of UC Berkeley)
Partners: UC Berkeley, The National Center for Appropriate Technology, (NCAT), Sustainable Agriculture Education (SAGE), the Alameda County Resource Conservation District (ACRCD), UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) for Alameda, Contra Costa, and Santa Clara Counties
Date of project: 2015-2018
The long-term goal of this project was to support the economic and ecological viability of the next generation of diverse California farmers and ranchers. These include Latino, Southeast Asian, African American and other ethnic groups farming in urban, peri-urban and rural areas in 10 counties (5 regions) within central California. This project builds on the successes and lessons of two concurrent Beginning Farmer Rancher (BFR) projects finishing in 2014 by forging a new partnership among UC Berkeley, NCAT, SAGE, ACRCD and UCCE; all organizations with bold visions and a strong track record in farming, education and management.
The need for this technical support and approach was a natural follow-on to two previous BFR projects (UCB/NCAT and SAGE/ACRCD), which developed collaborative relationships with immigrant and socially disadvantaged farmers, urban, urban fringe and rural farmers and ranchers, and organizations that work with these farmers. Building on the successes of the agricultural “learning hub” model in California, where beginning farmers are provided in depth training, farmer networks are built, land is made available for starter farms, and sustainable practices are demonstrated, we plan to deepen our support of four existing hubs we currently work with and support the launch of four new hubs in three East and South Bay Area Counties (Contra Costa, Alameda and Santa Clara) by providing in-depth training and technical assistance to their farmers in topics requested. Our proposed training topics and approach stem directly from expressed farmer and rancher needs, including increasing demand for urban and peri-urban farming opportunities and technical assistance in the Bay Area. An urban agricultural needs assessment conducted by UCANR in 2013 (Surls et al. 2014), confirms our analysis, indicating strong demand for urban farming training and educational materials in soil quality and integrated pest management, urban farm business planning and record keeping, water management, and value-added processing, among others. As such, our two programs have combined forces, working with the new UCCE Bay Area Urban Agriculture Advisor, to deepen support for already established beginning farmer training programs that we have been partnering with closely (including Puentes (Stockton), Soil Born Farms (Sacramento), ALBA (Monterey/San Benito) and SAGE’s Sunol Agricultural Park (Alameda County). We also plan to launch an innovative Network of 5 East/South Bay Agricultural Learning Hubs (NESBALH – covering Santa Clara, Alameda and Contra Costa counties) to expand training and peer learning opportunities, resources and support for aspiring urban and peri-urban farmers and ranchers within this region. Together with the Sunol AgPark, NESBALH will included:
- The Gill Tract Farm (Alameda County): an urban agricultural learning center managed by UC Berkeley’s College of Natural Resources, community groups, and UCCE.
- Martial Cottle Park (Santa Clara County): a collaborative demonstration and educational farming project between Santa Clara County Parks, SAGE and UC Cooperative Extension-Santa Clara.
- Frog Hollow AgPark (east Contra Costa County), a partnership between Al Courchesne, owner and operator of Frog Hollow farm and SAGE.
- Coco San Sustainable Farm (west Contra Costa County) a collaborative project between the non-profit AgLantis, the Contra Costa Sanitary District, and the Contra Costa RCD.
Our partners have bold visions and a strong track record in farming, education and management.
We believe the NESBALH may become a model for other regional BFR training initiatives. Providing ongoing in-depth training and resources to the next generation of urban/regional producers through NESBALH and the four established agricultural learning hubs, we will help keep farm and ranchland in production and strengthen urban-rural linkages, farmers markets, and the region’s food system as a whole.