MALT Extends Emergency Drought Relief Program for Marin Ranchers and Farmers
April 14, 2022
POINT REYES STATION, Calif., April 14, 2022 — As Earth Day approaches, the Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT) has announced a third phase of $250,000 in funding of its Drought Resilience and Water Security (DRAWS) initiative. Launched in April 2021, DRAWS has already allocated $500,000 in two funding phases to help Marin County ranchers and farmers address critical water shortages. This additional allocation approved by its board of directors brings the total funding to $750,000.
“Despite some early-season rains across the region, forecasts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other experts indicate yet another year of drought conditions,” said Scott Dunbar, MALT’s stewardship program manager—sustainable agriculture. “Given the seasonal weather conditions and ongoing drought, MALT’s board came to the conclusion that acting now to provide additional funding would have the greatest benefit for the agricultural community.”
An extension of MALT’s Stewardship Assistance Program (SAP), DRAWS awards grants of up to $15,000 per project to provide ranchers and farmers with technical assistance and funding to design and implement water infrastructure projects. As with the first two phases of DRAWS, 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.
DRAWS Initiative Generates Results—and Appreciation
The previous two phases of DRAWS funding translated into 41 ranch and farm drought-relief projects—including developing new water sources through springs and wells; building water distribution projects that expand and connect water systems across a ranch, often using pumps and piping; and adding and increasing water storage capacity. Applications received last fall are now moving ahead with the latest phase 3 funding.
Marin ranchers and farmers who received DRAWS grants have been very appreciative.
“Last year our ranch went completely dry. Storage ponds dried up. Wells dried up. We were completely reliant on trucked-in water,” said Linda Righetti Judah of Lazy R Ranch, which does not have a MALT easement. “Thanks to DRAWS, we have installed a rain catchment system and a new 5,000-gallon storage tank. This has been a game changer for us. Our DRAWS water infrastructure project is part of a broader effort on our ranch to fence off and restore riparian habitat along Stemple Creek. We are so grateful to DRAWS and other funders who make it possible for us to be good stewards of our land. Thank you!”
“With the DRAWS funding we were able to tackle an old spring that had been impacted by cattle grazing on the ranch,” said Terry Sawyer, co-owner of Hog Island Oyster Company and of the recently MALT-protected Leali Ranch. “Water quality and performance were poor. We were able to improve production, secure the spring with gravel and a casing, create water storage and install a water trough away from the source. What seems like a small step enhanced this section of the ranch and allowed us to be better stewards of the land.”
From Water Security to Drought Resilience
The DRAWS initiative is designed to offer short-term, emergency drought assistance, funding smaller, quickly completed projects to help enhance water security on Marin’s working lands.
For larger and more complex solutions that work toward longer-term drought resilience, MALT offers SAP grants to landowners with MALT easements, working closely with partners such as the Marin Resource Conservation District (Marin RCD), the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE)/Marin County, the Marin County Department of Agriculture, the Marin County Farm Bureau and Point Blue/Students and Teachers Restoring A Watershed (STRAWS).
“MALT is pleased to contribute to projects that make an immediate difference through the DRAWS initiative, while also working with partners through SAP to help local agriculturalists improve their water and soil quality over time,” said Dunbar. “It’s all part of MALT’s vision for a thriving agricultural community in a healthy, diverse natural environment.”
Marin Agricultural Land Trust is a nonprofit organization created in 1980 to permanently protect Marin’s agricultural land for agricultural use and establish Marin County as a thriving and inclusive agricultural community in a healthy and diverse natural environment. Some of the Bay Area’s most highly acclaimed dairy and meat products and organic crops are produced on farmland protected by MALT, which totals more than 54,000 acres. To learn more about MALT, visit malt.org.
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