District and UCCE to plan “Incubator Farm” to support Sonoma County farmers

January 14, 2015

Posted in: Press Releases


Media Contacts:
Amy Ricard | SCAPOSD

Stephanie Larson, Ph.D. | UCCE

Agricultural Preservation & Open Space District and University of California Cooperative Extension Plan “Incubator Farm” to Support Sonoma County Farmers and Ranchers

Public Invited to Attend Informational Meeting on Wednesday, January 28, 2015

(SANTA ROSA, CA) January 14, 2015 – The Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation & Open Space District (District) is thrilled to partner with the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) to consider plans to host an “incubator farm” on the Young-Armos property, a District-owned property located at the north end of Rohnert Park.  The District and the UCCE, along with Third District Supervisor Shirlee Zane, will host a public meeting on Wednesday, January 28, 2015 from 4pm-6pm at Crane Melon Barn to share ideas and goals for the project and to solicit input from the community. Speakers will include Supervisor Zane, Dr. Stephanie Larson of the UCCE, and District General Manager Bill Keene, among others. The public is cordially invited to attend this presentation to learn more about this concept, ask questions, and provide feedback.

“This project provides a unique opportunity for many stakeholders – neighbors, farmers, County agencies – to work together to support our agricultural community and economy in Sonoma County,” said Supervisor Zane. “We hope the public will join us in sharing their thoughts and ideas as we start the planning process.”

Support needed for local farmers and ranchers
The financial risks associated with farming and ranching are quite significant. Aspiring farmers need support for at least three to five years before striking out on their own in order to learn the skills necessary to become an economically independent and viable business.  Furthermore, land in Sonoma County is hard to find at an affordable price for a farmer or rancher who is just starting out. Across the country, the biggest hurdles for those wanting to pursue an agrarian lifestyle are access to land and capital. The “incubator farm” concept is the next step for many who cannot find or afford land on their own. It provides a small plot, shared infrastructure, access to equipment, business training, and mentoring for a reduced rate for up to five years. The use of incubator farms is becoming a national trend and the District and the UCCE are pleased to join that movement by supporting local farmers and ranchers in Sonoma County.

In addition to providing the land to host the farm itself, the District plans to contribute significant funds to prep the site for agricultural and programmatic activities. Further, the UCCE received a three-year USDA Beginning Farmer Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) grant to train up to 75 aspiring farmers and ranchers through business training and mentoring, and will pursue other grants and funding sources to back this project. For more information about the BFR program, please visit http://ucanr.edu/sites/BFRSOCO/.

“In today’s economy, farmers and ranchers need to think of themselves as entrepreneurs in addition to agricultural producers,” said Linda Peterson, coordinator of the UCCE’s BFR program. “Providing our beginning farmers with access to land, capital, and business training is essential in preserving small-scale agriculture in Sonoma County and transforming our food system as a whole.”

Farming and habitat restoration to occur side by side
The project also presents an opportunity to demonstrate the compatibility of best practices for farming and enhancement of habitat for sensitive species.  A key component of the project at the Young-Armos property will include restoration of seasonal wetland and upland habitats in support of the federally-protected California tiger salamander and rare plant species. The incubator farm at Young-Armos, in combination with habitat protection and enhancement actions on this property and other District-owned properties nearby, would expand a potential habitat corridor for these sensitive species, and could serve as a model for other multi-benefit projects.

“Transforming this property into an active and abundant agricultural space will provide fresh, local produce to the neighboring communities and to the community at large,” said District General Manager, Bill Keene. “Further, we are delighted to work with the University of California Cooperative Extension and others to help nurture beginning farmers and ranchers in Sonoma County, while at the same time restoring critical habitat for wildlife.”

To RSVP to attend the public meeting on January 28, 2015 please contact Alex Roa at alex.roa@sonoma-county.org.


About the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation & Open Space District
The Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District permanently protects the diverse agricultural, natural resource and scenic open space lands of Sonoma County for future generations. Since 1990, the District has protected more than 106,000 acres. Agricultural and open space lands have been protected through a quarter-cent sales tax approved by voters in 1990 and reauthorized in 2006. For more information, please visit www.sonomaopenspace.org.

About the University of California Cooperative Extension
The UC Cooperative Extension is a vast network of UC researchers and educators who work together to develop and provide science-based information to solve locally-relevant economic, agricultural, natural resource, youth development and nutrition issues. Nestled within the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, our CE advisors live and work in every California county, applying research from the University of California to help local businesses and entire communities thrive. In turn, our experts partner with local innovators to develop and disseminate best practices through UC’s expansive local and global networks. www.cesonoma.ucanr.edu