Historic moment as Colorado River flows to Delta for first time in decades


Looking up river from Morelos Dam, last dam on the Colorado River. Photo by Kate Greenberg

Take a ride down the street view of the Colorado River, past Lake Powell and through the Grand Canyon. The river will narrow and calm after Lake Mead, the reservoir that feeds Las Vegas. As you approach the Mexican border you will have to get out and walk: what remains of the river is diverted to feed cities and farms on both sides of the border.

But, for a brief moment in time, that has changed. On March 23rd, following an unprecedented binational agreement, the flood gates of Morelos Dam in Mexico opened to release a flow of water into the parched Delta. The hope is that this “pulse” flow will help bring native habitat back to life. Besides a couple of floods in the ‘80s and ‘90s, this river has not met the sea since the 1960s. But for six weeks, kids will get to play in a river they have only heard about in stories.

The reason the river no longer reaches its delta is for all the salad bars across the U.S.: since the settling of the West, almost every drop of the Colorado River has been diverted to feed growing cities and grow thirsty crops. It produces nearly one-fifth of the nations’ produce and eighty percent of our winter vegetables, even as communities near and far are relocalizing the food system.

And the Delta is not the only part of the river growing shaky under stress. Two tributaries of the Colorado River were dubbed America’s Most Endangered Rivers for the second year in a row: the Upper Colorado River and the White River, both in Colorado.

The Colorado River and its Delta do not just tell a story of a river stretched thin. They also offer a glimpse into a possible future, where agriculture and the environment are reconnected as part of the same ecological system. There are farmers and ranchers all across the west who come to agriculture from this place. They are building soil, feeding communities, conserving water, and working hard to adapt to a changing climate. And NYFC is bringing their stories to light through case studies, guest blogs, policy advocacy, farm tours and more.

It is not often an environmental story offers a reason for celebration. But the Colorado River Delta is one such anomaly. This is a time to celebrate as we all push ahead strengthening our own food systems and the watersheds on which they—and we—depend.

Click here to watch a video of the return of water to the Delta. To read more about the Colorado River Delta and its pulse flow check out National Geographic, NPR, High Country News, Outside Magazine and more here and here.


Arkansas Farmers Speak Out in Support of BFRIDA

Mountain Bounty Farm

Mountain Bounty Farm, in Glenn County, CA. Mountain Bounty benefited enormously from the California FarmLink’s IDA program, which helped them save up for a livestock trailer and to develop their financial plans.  Photo courtesy of mountainbountyfarm.com

While the onset of Spring has farmers across the country sowing seeds, plowing fields, and preparing for a new season, the appropriations process for the Farm Bill is underway in Washington DC. This process—in which funding is allocated for specific programs—is markedly important in determining the Farm Bill’s ability to truly offer support for young and beginning farmers.


CLF Offers New Legal Resource for New England Farmers

CLF_new_logoThe Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), a non-profit environmental advocacy group based in New England, is piloting a new resource project for farmers: the New England Legal Services Food Hub.

The problem that CLF hopes to solve with the Legal Services Food Hub is an important and widespread issue; many farmers and food entrepreneurs are forced to sacrifice economic viability or even their businesses due to the costly fees associated with legal aid. In order to combat these fees, CLF is creating the Legal Services Food Hub, which will support farmers and food entrepreneurs via a network of attorneys willing to provide pro bono legal assistance.

The Legal Services Food Hub also aims to include agricultural organizations or community groups interested in social justice or member supported food cooperatives. Furthermore, CLF is working with the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic to create a guide to agricultural issues for attorneys who participate in the network. Ideally, these resources will not only provide necessary pro bono assistance to farmers and agricultural businesses, but also will fortify the growing local food movement in New England.

How does it work?

After CLF evaluates each case for eligibility, the client will be matched with the best-fit attorney via the Legal Services Food Hub network. CLF will initially concentrate on transactional legal issues, including land acquisition, taxes, and contract cases, and those chosen will, in part, be based on an annual net income cap of $25,000, in order to verify that CLF is providing aid to people in the most need.

While an attorney from the Legal Services Food Hub is attached to the case, CLF will oversee regular check-ins with both the attorney and the client in order to confirm that the representation is mutually constructive. Initially, CLF will oversee the Legal Services Food Hub for one year beginning in June 2014. Although at first it will be based in Massachusetts, CLF aims to expand the program throughout New England, pending the success of the initial outreach.

Lasting Effects

CLF founded the Legal Services Food Hub based on the idea that a given area’s climate, environment, and economy are inherently dependent on the local food system. By protecting ocean fisheries, cleaning up waterways, or expanding access to public transportation, CLF is tackling environmental problems using three main resources: science, market incentives, and the law. The Legal Services Food Hub is an extension of this approach to environmental advocacy, as it aims to solve legal problems related to the food system.

To check out more of CLF’s agricultural work, see its Farm and Food Initiative webpage. For more information about CLF’s environmental focus in New England, check out its list of projects. Finally, if you’re interested in getting assistance from the Legal Services Found Hub or if you’re an attorney interested in participating in the network, please contact Elena Mihaly at emihaly@clf.org. A dedicated website and phone line for the Legal Services Food Hub are in development as well, so check back to CLF’s website for updates.

Not in New England but know about something like this in your area?  Write to us at info@youngfarmers.org so we can help get the word out.

Introducing Caitlin and Jason of Sobremesa in Fairfield, VT

Sobremesa 1We’re excited to publish a new Farmer Profile of an inspiring beginning farmer every few weeks on the NYFC blog to help showcase the breadth and vision of the next generation of agricultural leaders.

Sobremesa begins this season under the stewardship of husband and wife team, Jason and Caitlin Rodriguez, on land at Stony Pond Farm in Fairfield, Vermont. We will grow vegetables and herbs on one-twelfth of an acre and tomatoes and hot peppers in a hoophouse. Each crop can be preserved into a marketable product such as fermented vegetables, dried herbs and canned goods.


BOOK REVIEW: “The Market Gardener: A Successful Grower’s Handbook for Small-Scale Organic Farming” by Jean-Martin Fortier

The Market Gardener book coverAs a farmer who subscribes to the adage “small is beautiful”, it was inspiring to read Jean-Martin Fortier’s book The Market Gardener: A Successful Grower’s Handbook for Small-Scale Organic Farming.  In it he describes in thorough detail how he and his wife make their sole livelihood on 1.5 acres of land. 


Introducing Courtney Leeds of Schoolyard Farms in Milwaukie, OR

We’re excited to publish a new Farmer Profile of an inspiring beginning farmer every few weeks on the NYFC blog to help showcase the breadth and vision of the next generation of agricultural leaders.

Schoolyard Farms - teaching about fish

Teaching the kids how to fish-in transplants

I’m Courtney Leeds, cofounder & director of Schoolyard Farms, a one acre urban farm in the schoolyard of Candy Lane Elementary in Milwaukie, OR.


Tomorrow: USDA Deputy Secretary Harden Hosts an Online Workshop on Credit and Farm Finances

Deputy Harden visiting with a group of young farmers last fall

Deputy Harden visiting with a group of young farmers last fall.

On Tuesday, April 1 at 4 p.m. EDT Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden will host a Google+ Hangout to discuss types of agricultural credit and ways to access them in support of your farm or ranch business.


Farmer Profile: Introducing Rock Paper Scissors Goat Dairy of Cummington, MA

Rock Paper Scissors Goat Dairy pic 3Partners Angie Arahood and Lee Lewis are launching Rock Paper Scissors Goat Dairy, a goat micro­dairy selling Certified Grade A raw milk in Cummington, MA. 


Introducing Hewitt Farms of Le Sueuer, MN

Hewitt Farm pic 2Mark and Sara Hewitt of Cleveland, MN are part owners and operators of Hewitt Farms out of Le Sueur, MN, in southern Minnesota.  On the farm they raise cash crops like corn, soybeans, and last year tried winter wheat as a cover crop for the first time.  


Apply Now: Two New Job Opportunities with NYFC

The National Young Farmers Coalition represents, mobilizes and engages young farmers to ensure their success. We’re hiring for two positions: a policy analyst and communications coordinator, ideally to work from our Hudson, NY office.

Details are below, or view all NYFC openings on the Opportunities Page!