Climate, Environment, Food, Land Protection

Why you should care about protecting farmland in Marin

September 6, 2019

Hold your breath and count to twenty. By the time you breathe in again, another acre of productive farmland in the US will have been lost to development.

In fact, across the US, we lose an average of 175 acres of farmland every hour. That’s one acre every 20 seconds.

Here in Marin, on the other hand, we’re working to write a different story. A story of hope.

Since 1980, Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT) has protected 86 family farms and ranches on more than 54,000 acres, and we’re not done yet.

And that’s just the numbers: the story here runs much deeper

So why does protecting farmland matter, you ask? Why should you care?

Here’s why MALT’s work matters:

Protecting farms and ranches forever is the cornerstone of a thriving community.

Farmland protection builds community. Conservation easements, which we employ to protect farmland, enable family farms to be passed from one generation to the next, maintaining a legacy of knowledge and land stewardship. Easements also open the door for new farmers and ranchers to launch their businesses and dreams. Land permanence is the building block for sustaining the agricultural community that we love.

protecting farmland
Protecting farmland goes hand in hand with community.

Protecting farmland benefits the environment.

Wildlife thrives in forests and streams and open space, miles from the dangers of suburban development and heavily-trafficked roads. When we create corridors of protected farmland, endangered coho salmon can swim safely in our streams, and families of foxes, raccoons and skunks can wander undisturbed through pristine forests and meadows. Land permanence also fosters forward-looking investment in innovative stewardship practices that focus on healthy soils, carbon sequestration, drought resilience and water quality.

Healthy ranches and a healthy environment are connected.

Protecting farmland ensures healthy food and a thriving local economy.

Working farms and ranches are a backbone in the local economy, producing milk, cheese and a variety of meats — all staple consumer products. Here in Marin, farms and ranches produce organic milk, seasonal vegetables, eggs, beef, hand-picked fruit, lamb, and the raw materials for cheese, butter, cider, ice cream and more. By protecting farmland, we can eat healthy, locally-produced foods, reducing our consumption of products shipped from halfway around the world.

Working lands directly create jobs which then means dollars spent in grocery stores and shops in the community. A strong agricultural community also bolsters a network of agricultural service providers, such as veterinarians, truck drivers and more.

Tour de MALT food
Farms and ranches mean healthy foods.

What we do in Marin is a model across the country.

As the first agricultural land trust country its kind, MALT has inspired land trusts across the nation. We are on the cutting edge of working with ranchers and farmers to pioneer the use of carbon farming practices. Marin has also become a model for successful small-scale farming and ranching.

MALT’s impact is so much greater than a simple tallying of family farms and acres protected. Our work also directly benefits a local and healthy food supply, wildlife and nature, and the coastal economy and community of West Marin, the Bay Area and beyond. The work we’re doing here today serves as a model for change across the country and around the world.