When Ed Seaman took over Santa Barbara Blueberries, his family’s blueberry farm five miles south of Buellton, he didn’t know much about farming. His background was in marketing and technology, but he had a passion for agriculture and an appreciation of how hard farmers work to provide food. “I became heavily involved in talking to other farmers and started attending the agriculture commissioner’s meetings. I realized, though, the people that should be there couldn’t because they were farming, and it occurred to me someone needed to be an advocate for them,” Seaman said.

Seaman recently created Wild Farmlands Foundation, a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization, committed to supporting small, sustainable farmlands on the Central Coast. Its services include marketing and branding, public education, family-fun events and community outreach.  

Ed Seaman
Ed Seaman

Please Note:
T
his is not an argument for or against climate change, or whether or not climate change is caused by man.

It seems that we are measuring more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than we used to. So if we can reduce the levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide to, say, pre-industrial revolution levels, that's good, right?

Worldwide, small farms have a significant role to play in reducing greenhouse gases by doing just that, sucking carbon dioxide down out of the atmosphere and storing it underground. On the Central Coast, many of our small urban and wild farmlands are already top-of-the-line in mitigating greenhouse gases...

Ed Seaman
Ed Seaman

We get this question so often from kids and adults alike that I thought I'd take a crack at explaining it. We have a lot of ranches and a lot of farms on the Central Coast, and there are a lot of farms on ranches as well. What's the difference between a ranch and a farm? Well, in a nutshell, farmers mostly raise plants, and ranchers mostly raise animals.

Having said that, don't get too hung up on simple definitions like this, they are like pirate rules. As my favorite pirate Captain Barbossa famously said about the Code of the Order of the Brethren (Pirates of the Caribbean):  "...the code is more what you'd call 'guidelines' than actual rules...". A little bit more clarification:

In the 21st century, few are able to step outside on a warm summer morning and hear hens clucking contentedly and cattle lowing in the field. Nor are they able to walk to the garden and pull up fresh carrots, harvest succulent lettuce and pick tomatoes from the vine. This way of life is rapidly disappearing...

Ed Seaman
Ed Seaman

Californians produce more food than any other state in the nation. We are on the leading edge of agricultural technology, with farmers and agencies from all over the world coming to visit California to learn from our agronomists and marvelous private/public collaborations. The environmental movement, too, has great strength in California, with the support of state government and a population that embraces the idea of keeping our planet sustainably green and healthy for future generations. 

Surprisingly, California is also on the leading edge of losing her small and mid-sized farms. According to the latest USDA census, over the last 15 years California has been losing an average of 533 small farms annually. These farmlands are either abandoned, acquired by large corporate farming enterprises or absorbed into the urban sprawl.  When a small farm (or working ranch) expires, local communities lose an irreplacable buffer against urban development, a motivated steward of the natural environment, and a passionate champion of natural, sustainable local foods.

Wild Farmlands Foundation
Wild Farmlands Foundation

Santa Barbara News Press November 8, 2015

Berry farmers in Santa Barbara County are putting up a fight against codes that prohibit new growing practices. A number of farmers are concerned about a county ordinance that limits the height of temporary structures to just 12 feet, said 4th District Supervisor Peter Adam, a vegetable farmer who represents many in the North County agricultural industry.

The height limit means widely used berry hoop structures, which stand about 15 to 16 feet tall in most cases, are illegal. A.J. Cisney, general manager of Rancho Guadalupe Farm, said the hoop structures are essential for growing crops, such as raspberries, in the Santa Maria Valley. 

Wild Farmlands Foundation
Wild Farmlands Foundation

NEW YORK, Sept. 16, 2015 –

Today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Environmental Protection Agency Deputy Administrator Stan Meiburg announced the United States' first-ever national food waste reduction goal, calling for a 50-percent reduction by 2030. As part of the effort, the federal government will lead a new partnership with charitable organizations, faith-based organizations, the private sector and local, state and tribal governments to reduce food loss and waste in order to improve overall food security and conserve our nation's natural resources. The announcement occurs just one week before world leaders gather at the United Nations General Assembly in New York to address sustainable development practices, including sustainable production and consumption. As the global population continues to grow, so does the need for food waste reduction. 

Wild Farmlands Foundation
Wild Farmlands Foundation

Using compost and other organic matter to augment the soil is an age-old practice. However, over the last several decades, the U.S. industrial farming system has largely left it behind in favor of chemical-based fertilizers in the search for more efficiency and higher yields. Considering the steady rise in crop yields since World War II, it’s easy to see why: Chemical-based fertilizers work.

San Jose Mercury News, July 10, 2015-

"El Niño weather event is biggest since 1997, may trigger soaking winter storms..." is the actual headline in the Mercury News.  As any California farmer would say, this is wonderful news. Yet in spite of all our advanced algorithms, satellites and data, the meteorologists are still offering only educated guesses, not facts. Talk to our sagacious senior farmers, though, and you will be told that if the rain doesn't come this year, it will come next year, or the year after. The fact is, California is a generally arid region of extreme weather, and we have lived through droughts before. Now is the time farmers prepare for rain and conserving the water that does come.  

Sacramento Bee, June 19, 2015

If California farmers thought the uproar over the endangered delta smelt was big, just wait.... From here on out, even if we get record-breaking rain for the next few years, we will see changes to laws, subsequent lawsuits, political posturing, grassroots advocacy and who-knows-what wrangling over how to deal with the California drought. Faster than a bullet train leaving the station in Fresno, the Water Fight in California is going to get nastier and nastier.

The article below describes a California budget bill that would allow the state to force consolidation of water systems, exempt certain water projects from environmental review and make other far-reaching changes in response to the drought. It cleared the Legislature on Friday, June 19, 2015.

Healthy Soils Initiative
Healthy Soils Initiative

The California Climate and Agriculture Network, April 30 2015-

Yesterday, the CalCAN- and CAFF-sponsored Senate Bill 367: The Agricultural Climate Benefits Act passed out of the Senate Environmental Quality Committee with a unanimous bipartisan vote of 7-0. This follows SB 367’s unanimous bipartisan approval by the Senate Agriculture Committee earlier this month.

In January, Governor Brown signaled a new focus on ‘Healthy Soils’ in his inaugural address and budget proposal. This landmark effort would seek to increase the soil organic matter in California’s agricultural lands, producing benefits for water retention, soil stability, nutrient use efficiency, and greenhouse gas reductions.

SB 367 would provide funding and a policy framework to pursue many of these same benefits, and it is no coincidence that SB 367 and the state’s ‘Healthy Soils Initiative’ are highly aligned in their timing, goals and approach.

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, October 2, 2014- 

On September 30, the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) released more detailed organic agriculture data from the 2012 Census of Agriculture. The basic Census information was published earlier this year. The Census of Agriculture has been conducted since 1840 and currently is collected once every five years. NSAC’s discussion of the first release, from May 2014, can be found here.

The new data set includes national and state level data on all farms and farmers with organic sales as of 2012. The data set includes state level data on the number of farms producing organic crops, total acreage in organic production, value of production from farms with organic sales, farming practices employed by farms with organic sales, and the ownership characteristics of farms with organic sales among several other data points.

The full 256-page report can be accessed here.

As part of its press release NASS noted the following significant findings about organic agriculture:

Ed Seaman
Ed Seaman

Natural sustainable agriculture is agriculture that supports both people and the environment, for today and for future generations. Stewardship of the earth includes feeding people and preserving our finite ecosystems and resources.

Natural sustainable farming includes organic farming, but sustainable farming is not necessarily organic. This can get confusing for many people who want to eat healthy and think organic food is healthier than natural sustainably grown food. It isn't...

So what is organic? The USDA specifies that organic operations must demonstrate that they are protecting natural resources, conserving biodiversity, and using only approved substances.

This sounds an awful lot like natural sustainable agriculture with a twist. In fact, the only substantive difference between natural sustainable and organic in principle is that a governing body must approve inputs (substances).

     

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