The Wild Farmlands Foundation
The Wild Farmlands Foundation is dedicated to educating policymakers and the public about how we can manage climate change, gain and sustain food security, take pressure off of landfills, minimize packaging waste and regenerate Santa Barbara County's regional ecosystems through our local small farm sector.
The two most important tools we can utilize to manage climate change are healthy plants and healthy soils, the domain and passion of lifestyle farmers and ranchers in the small farm sector. Yet we are driving an army of our most passionate and capable managers away and at the same time telling the next generation that there is no way to make a decent living working the land any more.
The 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture reported more than 25 million acres of farmland and 77,857 farms in the state of California. 63,000 of the 78,000 farms reported were small and mid-sized farms of less than 180 acres. In the 1997 Census, there were 71,000 such farms. This represents an average loss of more than 533 farms per year, a loss of about 8,000 farms over the 15 year period.
California is not alone in her small farm losses. Across the world, all advanced industrialized countries are losing small farms to increasing input costs & paperwork, adverse laws and regulations, government acquisition, industrial agriculture and urban sprawl. According to a global research study by GRAIN published in 2014, small farms still produce most of the world's food on less than 1/4 of the world's farmland. Bigger is definitely not better, so what are we doing?
Small farms are more efficient, they are more knowledgable about the ecosystems they care for, they are climate smart and they have the most to contribute to local food security. Yet worldwide, governments and large enterprises in the global food system continue to acquire more farmland and industrialize the food producing land. There is less and less incentive to become a lifestyle farmer.
To demonstrate, educate and inform everyone, especially youth, about how small farms and ranches can effectively manage climate change, regenerate ecosystems, reduce pollution and provide local food security.
To see small, independently owned farms & ranches and their ecosystems thrive and increase in numbers worldwide. To see more young people become lifestyle farmers and ranchers, and earn a good living doing it.
Small Farms Are The Backbone Of Local Food Security
The small farm sector is the most important contributor to the local foodshed and food security. These farmers and ranchers also have practical experience and localized knowledge of the land, the weather and the foods that are grown and could be grown.
Small farm & ranch lands growing a diverse mix of products not only supplies better food, they furnish unique ecological, economic and social benefits to the regions the serve. Small farms grow nutritious food, they keep the soil healthy, they monitor and manage the wild animal, plant and insect life, and they protect against erosion and non-native species invasions. The small farm sector also defends against human invasions in the form of government-owned or industrial farming operations and land development.
Regenerative, Resilient, Sustainable Agriculture
The goal of sustainable agriculture, including organic farming, is to eliminate synthetics, chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides and "sustaining" the existing condition of the land while providing better quality food. While this is good, it is not ambitious enough.
The applied principles of permaculture design and practices effectively "regenerate" farm and ranch lands to the point that they have the stability and resiliency of natural systems. Regenerative, resilient agriculture couples an ecosystems naturally self-renewing capacity with the production of food.
Multi-generational sustainability happens naturally when human beings are stewards working with nature, not conquerors working against it.
The Wild Farmlands Foundation is piloting a production vermicast (vermicompost) system on Restoration Oaks Ranch to document and demonstrate the benefits of earthworm vermicast and vermicast teas and extracts on ecosystems in general, and on food-producing lands in particular.
Vermicast is, bluntly, worm poop. Because it is excrement, it is often treated like manure and categorized as a type of compost, which is a pathogen risk in most regulatory literature. It shouldn't be.
We are investing huge amounts of money and resources into marketplaces and technology to manage climate change, from methane digesters and wind turbines to electric vehicles, stack scrubbers and more. This is great, but we are not concentrating enough on the two greatest tools we have in managing climate change: healthy plants and healthy soils, the domain of farmers and ranchers. As a community and as a society, we need to change our focus.
Long before any local Wine Country existed, the rolling hills and wild oak grasslands of the Central Coast of California were home to cattle grazing and food-producing farmlands. These native oak grasslands are also home to rich ecosytems full of native plants and animals, a wonderful biodiversity of life. Of all the beautiful trees, bushes and flowers in our region, the majestic oak tree may be the most important. Although trees in general provide ecological strength, in many ways the oak tree is our key local species.