Sustainability is Focus of Solutions from the Land

Solutions From the Land Focuses on Sustainability

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

Many California farmers are working toward a more sustainable future, according to Ernie Shea, president of Solutions From the Land.

“We are a North American climate-smart agriculture alliance that has come together with others,” Shea said.

Solutions from the Land, which has partnered with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, is the continental platform for farm and conservation groups that are looking at ways these landscapes can deliver solutions.

Solutions from the Land has been getting a lot of support from California.

“We’ve had the right enabling policy, and you’ve got a lot of that in California,” Shea said.

There have also been significant investments in technology and infrastructure that have allowed systems to deploy at scale. Solutions from the Land is producing wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, biofuels, or types of sustainable, domestically-produced energy sources.

“When we started, we were at about five percent renewables. Today, we’re in the twelve percent range. Twenty-five percent by 2025 is the new target that we established,” Shea explained.

Ernie Shea

“We have to be able to produce food and fiber with less water and with erratic conditions. There is a lot of conversation about how to adapt to these realities when you are right in the epicenter of drought, fire, and floods,” he said.

“Everything has become less predictable. Solutions From the Land is sponsoring state-level conversations around how to become more sustainable, resilient, and how to participate in the low carbon economy, biofuels, and renewable energy,” Shea added.

Carbon sequestration is one of the more exciting new areas of opportunity that are coming for agriculture. The focus is on farmers and what they care about.

“They care about resiliency, profitability, sustainability. An example of one of the pathways that we work on: initiatives like soil health programming,” Shea said.

This helps farmers realize that by improving the health of their soil and the organic content, the crops are doing a better job of soaking up whatever water does fall.

“They’re reducing the need to provide some inputs. They’re sequestering greenhouse gases. They’re delivering global solutions,” Shea explained.

Protecting Farmland in the Coyote Valley

Excerpted with permission from Sustainable Agriculture Education (SAGE).

Five years ago, the Coyote Valley, one of the last large swaths of agricultural land in the region, seemed destined to be plowed under and paved over for more housing.

Today, there is a viable option to choose a very different future for the Valley that would include protected open space, public trails and recreation, and expanded farming to serve demand for locally grown vegetables, fruits, and ethnic specialty produce.

This alternative vision emerges from a partnership between the Santa Clara Open Space Authority and the nonprofit organization Sustainable Agriculture Education (SAGE).

The proposal could save significant portions of the 7,500-acre Valley from development and foster increased agricultural viability for current farmers as well as a new generation of farmers growing high-demand and high-value crops.

The Authority approved a management plan for the Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve earlier this year for resource conservation and stewardship, and development of multi-use trails and other recreation amenities.

The partnership with SAGE to promote local-serving agriculture that also enhances conservation of natural resources on nearby Valley parcels was a natural fit.

SAGE develops urban edge Agricultural Parks and agricultural resource areas, in the Greater Bay Area and beyond, that support local food systems.

SAGE applied for and in September, won a State Dept. of Food and Agriculture grant for $252,000 to help revitalize diversified specialty crop agriculture in the Coyote Valley.

“The Open Space Authority is excited to work with SAGE to help revitalize the rich agricultural heritage of the Coyote Valley and contribute to local community health,” said Authority General Manager Andrea Mackenzie. “The Coyote Valley helps maintain the region’s clean air and fresh drinking water, offers families great outdoor recreation opportunities, and, through this partnership, will support local production of healthy crops such as fruits and vegetables for local consumption.

During the first three years, the Authority and SAGE will work to leverage the grant funding to raise more public and philanthropic funding to be invested in farmland protection and a new type of diversified, sustainable agriculture in the Coyote Valley.