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.
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.
The 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.
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 email@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org so we can help get the word out.
BOOK REVIEW: “The Market Gardener: A Successful Grower’s Handbook for Small-Scale Organic Farming” by Jean-Martin Fortier
As 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.
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.
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!
Running a strong farm business is easier with the help of a knowledgeable attorney who truly understands the business of farming and can help farmers meet their financial and social goals. Rachel is generously offering legal advice on the “Legal” section of the Farmers Forum this week, so head over now to post your questions now (it just takes a moment to register before you can post)!
Rachel started Farm Commons because she thinks farmers deserve specialized legal information that addresses the direct market farm’s unique goals. The organization provides business legal services to farmers, creates useful legal education resources, and educates attorneys on issues relating to community-based farmers around the country.
Rachel has experience helping farmers establish an LLC or corporation to help meet their farm goals. In particular, she is skilled at negotiating ways for unrelated partners and individuals to create a long-term partnership or farm transition. Leases are an important part of Rachel’s legal services, and her farming experience helps her craft a lease that resolves problems before they start. Rachel has also studied conservation easements extensively.
The USDA announced major revisions to its Farm Storage Facility Loan (FSFL) Program, a major win for young farmers who specialize in diversified operations and CSA’s. Thanks to the efforts of NYFC and its allies, the new program is now more flexible and useable for a much broader set of farms needing to build or upgrade their storage facilities.
Our friends at the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project in Massachusetts just published their new guide for aspiring MA farmers, entitled “An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Farming in Massachusetts.”
The guide covers everything from finding land to business management to resources on developing farming infrastructure. While the guide is intended for Massachusetts-based farmers (and many of the resources are state-specific), anyone looking for advice and ideas should take a look. The guide can be downloaded for free, either as one complete packet or as individual fact sheets. Whether you’re just starting to think about farming or planning on expanding your operating farm, this information is for you!
Download it for free from the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project or from the Beginning Farmer Network of Massachusetts website. You can also contact New Entry directly at email@example.com or 978-654-6745.