Sustainable Agriculture in California Parks (2007)

Sustainable Agriculture in California State Parks, Park Assessment and Implementation Strategy Publication

Date: December 2007 Client: California State Parks

Funders: United States Department of Food and Agriculture (USDA) Risk Management Agency, Columbia Foundation

Project Partners: USDA Risk Management Agency, Agriculture and Land Based Training Association, Bay Area Economics

This study reviews the potential for expanding and enhancing current agricultural operations on lands managed by California State Parks (CSP). The study originated through the efforts of Sustainable Agriculture Education (SAGE), a 501c3 corporation dedicated to sustainable agriculture at the urban edge.

SAGE has conducted prior studies defining the concept of a sustainable agriculture park (AgPark), which promotes active agriculture on publicly-owned and privately-owned lands at risk of urbanization. Some of the AgPark principles, including location on publicly-owned lands, integration of education and economic development with farming, and demonstration of sustainable agriculture by small farmers in the public realm, have evolved further and been incorporated into this report.

For this study, SAGE applied for and obtained a grant from the Risk Management Agency of the US Department of Agriculture. SAGE approached California State Parks staff with the idea of studying agriculture on parkland. The fit between USDA’s grant objectives and California State Parks Department was strong, as Parks had been exploring linkages between healthy foods and park activities. In addition, State Parks had just issued a Request for Interest (RFI) for a private farmer to develop a demonstration organic farm on a 10-acre parcel of Carmel River State Beach, which had been an historic agricultural landscape. Thus, this report has been framed as an assessment of initiating a sustainable agriculture demonstration program on state-owned lands in state parks, bringing together resource management, interpretive and education goals.

The purpose of this study is to assess current conditions in a selected group of state parks in order to identify candidates for future farmer solicitation to expand sustainable agriculture within State Parks. This expanded sustainable agriculture program would bring numerous potential benefits to State Parks, state residents, visitors, and educators, including as follows:

  • Provide a continuation of interpretation of historic agriculture using contemporary methods
  • Demonstrate agriculture with limited or zero environmental impact
  • Produce fruits, vegetables, grain, and dairy products that can be sold on-site, marketed to schools and hospitals in the area, and/or used in local restaurants, depending on the scale of the operation at each park
  • Restore the natural and managed landscape
  • Educate children, teens, adults, and visitors from around the world about the state’s vast agricultural commerce and heritage in a public setting
  • Link food to recreation, healthy lifestyles, natural resource conservation, and cultural tradition
  • Generate limited revenue to State Parks as appropriate
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