Bay Area Farmers Come Together Amid Historic Drought

April 27, 2022

Farmers from around the Bay Area congregated this week at MALT-protected Black Mountain Ranch for a workshop on low water farming practices and to compare notes as to what’s working amid the region’s historic drought. This workshop, which was organized by our partners at the Agricultural Institute of Marin, UC Cooperative Extension and the Marin Resource Conservation District, was part of a series of events helping to support the greater Bay Area’s local farms and ranches.

The challenges and stress of the current drought conditions were palpable among the event’s fifty or more participants. The first three months of this year, a time when Marin typically receives the bulk of its annual rainfall, was the singularly driest such period on record—exacerbating what has become the West’s most extensive and intense drought in recorded history. Fortunately, late season rains this April have provided some relief in what was a historically dry, mid-winter season.

These extreme drought conditions as well as larger and more frequent flood events are what scientist have predicted for Northern California as the climate continues to change, realities that local farms are now working to navigate in addition to what is already a dynamic and difficult industry.

Mallika Nocco, Ph.D., associate professor at UC Davis and UC Cooperative Extension Specialist, was the headlining speaker at this week’s event and hosted a participatory discussion around the practical solutions to low water farming, funding programs available as well as other tools and support services available to farms during low-water cycles.

Unreliable winter rains, dwindling summer water supplies and increased temperatures were among the main topics of conversation in what was an open and honest group conversation among some of the Bay Area’s leading agricultural producers.

Molly Myerson, owner of Little Wing Farm, and Arron Wilder, the owner of Table Top Farm, also provided the participants with a behind the scenes look at their operations at Black Mountain Ranch and the water systems they have in place to feed those farms. It was clear through this event’s peer to peer, impromptu discussions that adapting to these changes in water availability is key to both the survival of these local business as well as the security of our local food supply.

As we sink deeper into the summer months, our local farms and ranches will brace for the driest season in another historically dry year.

MALT’s Emergency Drought Relief

In response to the ongoing drought crisis, MALT launched the Drought Resilience and Water Security (DRAWS) initiative in the spring of 2021. DRAWS awards grants of up to $15,000 for local landowners to design and implement water infrastructure projects. And, to date, the initiative has been a tremendous success with 41 projects completed.

Building upon this success and responding to ongoing need, in April 2022, we supplemented this program with an additional $250,000 allocation in funding in order to have even more impact. As with the first two phases of the initiative, all Marin ranchers and farmers are eligible to apply for DRAWS grants, regardless of whether their property is protected by a MALT agricultural conservation easement. 

For many, these timely investments are key to the survival of their small, agricultural businesses, and provide the support they need to continue producing our region’s food supply. Stay tuned as we continue to navigate the challenges of this historic drought.

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