Saturday, May 08, 2010

Local Agriculture :: California's Placer Grown

image:: group picking, The Natural Trading Company

I've been following PlacerGrown since 2002, when I stumbled across their work while doing research  on direct-marketing and sustainable agriculture projects. I would stop by Newcastle Produce back when I had a place in Cool, CA, splitting time between there and East Bay. Newcastle sold PlacerGrown produce from local farms, which I've blogged about a bit last year.

My current interests are in creating local branding strategies and I saw this story about Brian Kaminsky's Natural Trading Company on the PlacerGrown site. One of the aspects of localvore consumption/production is how it can be tied to local land use strategies and how marketing can be a critical aspect to its success. I've read about strategies using easements, which Kaminsky is pursuing::
"Buying land in such a fast-growing county is a huge investment, so Bryan approached Placer Legacy, Placer County’s open space and habitat conservation program, for a solution. He is seeking an Agricultural Conservation Easement, which involves selling the future development rights on the land. It’s a way for farmers to bring needed cash for investment in infrastructure, further ensuring the economic vitality of the farm. 
'Because of Natural Trading Company’s well-regarded status as a viable agricultural business, coupled with the emerging agricultural economy in Placer County, the Board of Supervisors has directed us to pursue a grant from the State of California’s Farmland Conservancy Program...This program allows farmers to acquire land they couldn’t otherwise afford, and this property in particular has the good soil and availability of water necessary for a sustainable agricultural operation'". 
Bryan is engaging in innovative diversification strategies, leveraging natural factor endowments of soil and climate, with cultivation practices to help the farm remain viable, such as using hoop houses, starting a CSA {where consumers buy shares of produce for weekly delivery/pick-up}, and raising poultry for pest control, soil improvement, and meat for his customers.

In my opinion, one of the stumbling blocks to local agriculture in exurban areas like Placer County {the outskirts of Sacramento and encompassing the Sierra Foothills} is the threat of NIMBY-ism. When agriculture is seen as a "bad neighbour" due to pesticide drift, dust, odours, etc., which can impact the perceived quality of life ad/or property values, concerted political action against farmers may result. Sustainable practices and making the farm and its brand as part of the community can limit the effects of radical individualism-driven NIMBY-ism.

Song:: Hem-'Half Acre'

Twitterversion:: @PlacerGROWN farm showing how local can intersect w/land use policy & innovative strategies to remain viable. @Prof_K

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