Lessons from California’s urban farms

Source: CaliforniaAgNetwork.com

Image courtesy of the LA Times

Image courtesy of the LA Times

Sacramento, Calif., (October 16, 2014) – Urban farms are popping up around the state, and a UC ANR team recently took a close-up look at urban agriculture in California. In particular, we wanted to learn about farms in cities and on the edges of cities that are selling or distributing their products. We visited urban farms and interviewed farmers to find out about their operations, their challenges, and especially, what UC ANR could offer that would be most helpful. We used what we learned to create the UC ANR Urban Agriculture website, a portal where California’s urban farmers can find information they need on a wide array of topics. Here are a few of the insights we gained on our visits.

Among the 27 farms we visited, the median size was one acre (in other words, half of the farms were larger than an acre, and half were smaller). And the range in size was wide. The smallest was 3,000 square feet, while the largest was 1,000 acres! Excluding the 1,000-acre farm, the average size was 2.8 acres. Compared to the average size of a farm in California, which is 328 acres, according to the 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture, urban farms are very small.

Two farms were multi-generation family farms started in the 1950s by the current farmers’ parents or grandparents and these farmers are highly experienced. Although their farms now operate in urban environments, they didn’t start out as urban farms. “The city came to us,” as one farmer put it. The other farmers we interviewed have been learning farming from the ground up.

Among the urban farms we visited, most are part of a non-profit organization or government agency with a larger mission. Urban farming is used as a vehicle for reaching the organization’s goals, for example, teaching business skills to youth, or improving healthy food access in under-served communities.

When asked about challenges in starting up their urban farms, the most common issues farmers mentioned were business and financial planning, marketing, and accessing land. From a business perspective, most urban farmers were still learning how to make their enterprises profitable. They also struggled with production issues such as crop planning, pests, and irrigation. And many had encountered confusing zoning issues and regulations.
Of the 27 urban farmers we interviewed, 19 were also involved in advocating for local policy change to facilitate urban agriculture. As one interviewee said: “In order to start the urban farm, we have had to jump into policy work to get it off the ground.”

One theme that emerged through our visits and discussions with urban farmers is the need for a ready and reliable source of information on everything from starting a farm to production to local regulations. With experts around the state, UC ANR has access to research and information on a wide variety of farming and related topics. The UC ANR Urban Agriculture website has been created as a resource for urban farmers in California, where we’ll continue to add helpful material, urban farm stories from around the state, and updates on policies in our metropolitan areas. We encourage urban farmers and urban agriculture advocates in California to connect.

If you are in the market to buy or sell agriculture property in Northern California, Realtors associated with Century 21 M&M Agriculture is look forward to walking you through the process. Rest assured that Century 21 M&M Agriculture Realtors will do their best to make sure that both sides are protected during the transaction.

Strong Farm Incomes Hold Land Values in Check

Source: farmersnational.com 60 acres in Isleton at 15687 Isleton Road in Row Crops, contact Ron Stevenson (530)681-1092

Positive income results for farms, combined with a tight land supply, have bufferedeconomists’ previously projected downturn of farmland values, according to Farmers NationalCompany, the nation’s leading farm and ranch real estate company.

Farmers National Company recorded strong real estate sales for the first half of 2014, downsomewhat from record sales experienced in 2013. Aggressive marketing by Farmers Nationalagents and good demand for land have propelled this year’s sales.

“The big story is that the land market is stable, despite projections that farm income and landvalues would drop,” said Randy Dickhut, AFM, Vice President of Real Estate Operations ofFarmers National Company. “The anticipated large drop in farmland values hasn’t happened,as farm incomes were stronger than expected going into 2014. Original income projections of 20 percent below last year were not realized.”

In late 2013, forecasters were pessimistic for the year ahead.   However, Dickhut saideconomic trends and key market factors shifted in a way that paints a more positive picture forthis year.

While land values nationally are slightly down a few percent or stable,  Dickhut said valuesoverall remain historically strong. The northern plains area has experienced the mostsoftening of land values due to weather conditions and lower commodity prices last year.Still, good quality farms sell well as demand continues from buyers.   In contrast, the delta region has experienced land value increases of 13 percent due to good crop production.

Regionally, land prices remain fairly stable compared to the double-digit price increases seenin recent years. Prices per acre for high quality land range nationwide from $3,500 to as highas $12,500 per acre in parts of Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska. Values in the UpperMidwest remain strong overall with sales reaching $9,000 per acre in some locations.

As demand rises, prices for grass land continue to increase in places like Nebraska and Texas.Livestock producers are rebuilding depleted cattle herds, which puts pasture land at apremium. Reduced feed costs for livestock have helped boost income levels in this ag sector,allowing operators to acquire land

“The 2014 outlook for farms remains positive,” said Dickhut. “Farm owners continue tosearch for high quality land to expand their operations. I think economic forecasts overratedthe demise of the U.S. land market. Things didn’t fall apart, but instead held steady andstrong.

Profitability for operations helped to ultimately keep property values strong.”

If you are in the market to buy or sell agriculture property in Northern California, Realtors associated with Century 21 M&M Agriculture is look forward to walking you through the process. Rest assured that Century 21 M&M Agriculture Realtors will do their best to make sure that both sides are protected during the transaction.

 

Vending Machines Go Farm Fresh

vending-machine-2

Photo illustration by Jeremy Purser

Source: modernfarmer.com ~ Author: Tove Danovich

How can we make it easier to buy local foods? It’s a question that’s plagued everyone from farmers market organizers to food activists to state governments.

In 2013, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo set aside $2 million for a marketing campaign known asTaste NY, as well as a $60 million tourism initiative called “I Love NY.” As part of the initiative, visitors can now partake in programs such as local wine trails, where they can sample New York made wines. But perhaps more surprisingly, they’ve gussied up those much-maligned roadside features: rest stops. In addition to stores featuring local products and farmers markets, the state is now tackling vending machines, long-recognized sources of less-than-local fare.

Vending machines, invented near the beginning of the first century, have a surprisingly long past. According to Kerry Seagrave’s “Vending Machines: A Social History of the Devices,” the first one was coin-operated and designed to sell holy water. In 1888, food vending machines got their start with the advent of gum dispensers selling tutti-fruitti gum at train stations in New York City. By 1950, vendors had the ability to sell refrigerated sandwiches. Yet outside of the brief automat craze, few bothered to sell perishable goods. Until recently, the machines were mostly used to sell the 4Cs: coffee, cigarettes, cola and candy.

Then farmers and foodie companies realized the appeal of using vending machines to sell raw milk, eggs, or fresh meals on the go. Glaum Egg Ranch in Santa Cruz County, California was one of the earliest adopters, dispensing eggs with a side of entertainment. When customers purchase eggs, they’re also treated to an animatronic show complete with singing and dancing chickens. A more traditional vending machine called Farmer’s Fridge was unveiled in 2013. The company sells restaurant-quality, locally sourced meals in BPA-free containers. Farm-fresh vending machines in the United States often sport buzzwords or gimmicks to get customers (and the media) excited. In Europe and Japan, they’re a less flashy affair and many farmers use vending machines as an efficient alternative to roadside stands. The Brunimat milk vending machine was the first of its kind in Europe in 1994, long before eating local became a nation-wide trend in the United States.

New York decided to implement a vending machine program that was somewhere between practical and publicity stunt. Machines at rest stops are now selling items ranging from Red Jacket Orchard juices from Geneva, New York to Finger Lakes Fresh apple slices from Groton and Sweet Sam’s cookies from the Bronx. Health-wise, these vending machines are a far cry from dairy and eggs, but they’re getting people comfortable with the idea that local food is for everyone.

New York has installed 10 machines throughout the state and hopes to install more if they prove popular. This marks the first time local-fare vending machines have been sponsored by the public sector. Vending machines have a number of advantages over brick-and-mortar stores or even farmers markets. There’s no need to pay an employee to run the register and, unlike a weekly market, the machines can run 24/7 in many locations at once. As far as trends go, farm-fresh vending machines are surprisingly practical. They bring local foods to customers who aren’t likely to sign up for a CSA or visit their local farmers market.

Health-wise, these vending machines are a far cry from dairy and eggs, but they’re getting people comfortable with the idea that local food is for everyone.

“Tourism and agriculture in New York is a huge industry,” said Joe Morrissey, Spokesman for the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets. And that means that the state wants to get the most people possible on board with the local trend.

Especially in the last decade, eating local has developed the stigma that it’s only for a certain class of people. The state’s ability to promote local food in the most everyman of government buildings — a rest stop — is a huge step toward making such foods feel more accessible. The vending machines also boost farm income and offer a bit of brand recognition. Visitors who see a farm’s name in a vending machine, for instance, might be moved to take part in a farm tour or seek out their products elsewhere.

Finding unique ways to bring local foodstuffs to people who otherwise might not consume it is an idea that is taking hold across the country. In Vermont, another state with a strong interest in promoting local food, the state government has started placing local foods in veterans’ homes, hospitals, schools and state offices.

“Vermont has taken the successful farm-to-school model and broadened it into this larger farm-to-institution initiative,” says local foods administrator Abbey Willard.

By repurposing the decades-old technology of vending machines to support local food, New York is doing the same. Often, buying local means eating out at an expensive restaurant or cooking a meal from scratch with farmers market groceries. As Morrissey points out, “Vending machines are great for people on the go.”

If you are in the market to buy or sell agriculture property in Northern California, Realtors associated with Century 21 M&M Agriculture is look forward to walking you through the process. Rest assured that Century 21 M&M Agriculture Realtors will do their best to make sure that both sides are protected during the transaction.

Stanislaus farm income soars, with almonds chasing dairy for top spot

Courtesy of Modesto Bee

STANISLAUS COUNTY — Stanislaus County farmers had a record $3.28 billion in gross income last year, a report released Tuesday said, and almonds almost knocked milk from the No. 1 spot.

The 7 percent gain over 2011 came mainly from almonds, walnuts, chickens, tomatoes and grapes, Agricultural Commissioner Milton O’Haire told the Board of Supervisors.

He cautioned that the annual report does not account for production costs, notably the high-priced feed for dairy cattle. Nonetheless, board members took the 2012 total as proof that agriculture in general is thriving. Read more…

Read more here: http://www.modbee.com/2013/07/23/2821374/latest-crop-report-shows-agriculture.html#storylink=cpy

FARM BEAT: Local ag has room to grow, chief says – Modesto Bee

The state’s top ag official talked over lunch this week with the Modesto Rotary Club.

Her topic: the importance of lunch — not to mention breakfast and dinner — to the health of people around the world.

Karen Ross, secretary of food and agriculture for Gov. Jerry Brown, noted the growth in California farm exports during her remarks at the DoubleTree Hotel.

She also cited the growing interest among Americans in how their food is produced, something they can learn about at produce stands, farmers markets, festivals and other venues.

“We are in a time and a place when consumers here and across the country are yearning to reconnect with their food,” Ross said.

Read more here: http://www.modbee.com/2013/07/26/2829199/local-ag-has-room-to-grow-chief.html#storylink=cpy

Read more…

Ag Columnist Shares Funny Side of Ranch Life

BY RANDY DOCKENDORF randy.dockendorf@yankton.net

Amy Kirk Ag Columnist

Amy Kirk has found times in life where, if you didn’t laugh, you couldn’t help but cry.

So instead of shedding a tear, she has turned the funny misadventures of her ranch family into a weekly humor column.

Kirk and her husband, Art, raise their two teenagers on a cow-calf operation near Pringle in the southern Black Hills. She combines her passion for agriculture, the outdoors and writing into her column entitled A Ranchwife’s Slant.

Read More…

Ag sales brisk, values up

Price paid per acre tops $12,000

relkins@portervillerecorder.com

The strength of farming in the Central Valley is clearly evident in the strong demand shown for farming acres in Tulare County and the high price that farmland is bringing.

The Ranch Company, a real estate firm that specializes in the sales of ag land, reported that in 2012 the price per acre of farm land, excluding range land, was a whopping $12,162 an acre, an increase of 68 percent over 2011, and the most ever.

“That’s the healthiest its been,” said John Grimmius of The Ranch Company. “We’re in a very high market.”

Prices were up across the board, with the exception of dairies. Several years of low prices have made the milk business very difficult, with several bankruptcies and several dairies closing. However, that is beginning to turn around, said Patricia Stever-Blattner, chief executive officer for the Tulare County Farm Bureau.

“It’s very flat and still recovering,” she said, adding that prices paid for milk have improved to the point dairymen are no longer losing money.

Although dairies were not that attractive, land that can be used to grow dairy feed was popular in 2012.

Blattner said the prices paid for farm land are indicative of the strength of agriculture.

“Even though we’re in tough economic times, the ag industry has always been a stabilizing force. It is not surprising to see ag land prices remain strong and improve,” she said.

Grimmius said 235 farm parcels totaling 50,090 acres of land were sold in 2012 for more than a total of $221 million. That compares to 240 parcels sold in 2011 at a total value of $184 million.

Farm land values did take a dip in 2009 and 2010, falling to as low as $7,000 an acre in 2010, but have been rising every since.

Fueling the sales and higher prices was citrus, pointed out Grimmius. Read More…

Average California Farm Real Estate is $7200/acre

  • 2012 California farm real estate values are $7,200 per acre on average, an all-time record and $300 above the previous high set last year, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service Field Office in Sacramento.
  • California annual farm real estate values have continually increased since 1994.
  • Irrigated cropland, valued at $12,000 per acre on average, increased $500 per acre compared with last year’s estimated value.
  • Non-irrigated cropland value, at $3,550 per acre, was down 1.4 percent from last year.
  • All cropland, at $9,810 per acre, was up $360 per acre from last year. The average value of pastureland, at $2,800 per acre, was equal to the previous year.

2012 California farm real estate values are $7,200 per acre on average, an all-time record and $300 above the previous high set last year, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service Field Office in Sacramento.

California annual farm real estate values have continually increased since 1994.

Irrigated cropland, valued at $12,000 per acre on average, increased $500 per acre compared with last year’s estimated value.

Non-irrigated cropland value, at $3,550 per acre, was down 1.4 percent from last year.

All cropland, at $9,810 per acre, was up $360 per acre from last year. The average value of pastureland, at $2,800 per acre, was equal to the previous year. Read More at westernfarmpress.com

Central Valley agricultural marijuana grows informational briefing held

Sen. Tom Berryhill hosted an informational briefing for growers and grower representatives on agricultural marijuana grows in the Central Valley on April 6 at the Fresno County Farm Bureau. Berryhill said this meeting was not about punishing farmers, it about informing them.

Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims and Madera County Sheriff John Anderson were in attendance, as well Madera County District Attorney Michael Keitz, Fresno County Chief District Attorney Kelly Keenan and U.S. Attorney’s Office representatives. More than 50 growers, grower representatives, agricultural commissioners, district attorneys, partner law enforcement agencies, property owners and interested individuals took part in the event.

Over the last several years, law enforcement has observed a spike in large-scale marijuana grows occurring on agricultural land. In 2011, more than 110 agricultural-marijuana grows were identified in Fresno County alone, and another 60 were identified in Madera County.

Participants learned the scope of the problem in the Central Valley, the criminal and prosecutorial process for the producers and traffickers of marijuana and the civil asset forfeiture process for those landowners who choose to allow agricultural land to be used for marijuana production. Individuals had the opportunity to ask questions with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and other local and federal law enforcement officials.

Mims told property owners they need to know what is going on their land. She said that the Sheriff’s Office and wants voluntary compliance, we don’t want to seize property. Letters have been sent out to property owners informing them of federal law and the potential to have their property seized if illegal marijuana grows are present. To date there has been 100 percent compliance with land owners. Mims also informed attendees that the Sheriff’s office is available to assist owners by serving eviction notices.

Keitz urged land owners to examine their farmland and rental properties on a regular basis. He said property owners need to protect themselves by including exit provisions in their lease agreements that allow for inspections and language that permits them to get out of the contract when illegal activities, such as illicit marijuana grows, are occurring on their property.

Courtesy of Lee Whistler, Realtor for Century 21 M&M Clovis