UPDATE: March 12 – In accordance with a recommendation from public health officials that large public gatherings be canceled or postponed to help slow the spread of COVID-19, CDFA is canceling Ag Day 2020, which was scheduled for March 18 at the State Capitol.
Every year, about 50,000 acres of fertile California farmland and ranchland are lost to development.
That is why protection advocates will convene in Sacramento next month, March 18, in hopes of inspiring legislators during Ag Day at the Capitol. Immediately following the event, East County’s own local agency, California Farmland Trust (CFT) — the result of a 2018 merger between the Brentwood Agricultural Land Trust and the Central Valley Farmland Trust — will present a short film, “Concrete California: Preventing California’s Last Harvest,” produced by CFT.
“The goal of Ag Day is to bring together legislators, government leaders and the public to help them have a better understanding of the value of California agriculture,” said Katie Otto, CFT development and operations director. “California Farmland Trust will showcase ‘Concrete California’ to propel the conversation of how we need to be strategic in our development. We need to be focused on how we preserve our farmland, especially when we look at population growth. What are we doing to keep up? Protection plays a significant role in that.”
In terms of farming, California truly is the golden state, ranking far above the other 49 states, as far as production is concerned. The USDA indicates California produces 99% of the U.S. production of almonds, artichokes, dates, figs, raisins, kiwi, olives, cling peaches, dried plums, pomegranates, rice and walnuts; and nearly 95% of the nation’s apricots, grapes, lemons, mandarin oranges, nectarines, plums and strawberries, among other crops. A significant role for the trust is aiding farmers in preserving their property by placing easements on farmland per the request of the landowner.
The trust’s website notes, “Placing an easement on your farm is an effective way to ensure your farm remains a farm forever. When an easement is enacted, the landowner essentially either sells or donates the right to develop the land to the California Farmland Trust, which cannot exercise that right. The result is a property that cannot be developed and must always be used for agriculture. Putting an easement on a property is entirely voluntary, but once one is in place, it is permanent.”
“There are a lot of opinions about what ag is going to look like in 20 years,” Otto said. “What are we doing now that’s going to be helpful, and what are we doing now that will be relevant in the future?”
“Concrete California” is roughly 25 minutes long and follows the compelling story of California farmer Jean Okuye, who chose to protect her over-100-year-old farm through the CFT. The trust will showcase the film and host a discussion at the nearby Esquire IMAX Theatre, so participants from Ag Day can walk over after the event on the lawn.
“We’re really looking forward to sharing ‘Concrete California’ with our peers in the agriculture industry, our legislators and the general public,” said Charlotte Mitchell, CFT executive director. “The goal is really to get people thinking about the importance of protecting farmland in California and how conservation easements are one of the tools that will ensure the land stays in production. We’re all consumers, and we need to understand how the development- and growth-related decisions we make today will inevitably impact how we will feed our families and the growing population in the future.”
Ag Day at the Capitol will take place March 18, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., on the lawn. CFT will then air “Concrete California” at 1211 K St., in Sacramento, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. There is no fee to attend, but an RSVP is appreciated. To RSVP or for questions, contact 916-687-3178 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.