By David Lewis, with Paulette Swallow and Julia Van Soelen Kim
Welcome to the Summer issue of Grown in Marin News. The annual Marin County Livestock & Crop Report was just released by the Marin County Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures, documenting the fifth record year in a row of increase in the gross value of agricultural production in the County. This $111 million total is the value of “raw” agricultural products as they leave the farm for processing, distribution, and retail sale. This is no small contribution to the local economy, particularly when considering multiplier benefits of other supporting businesses that when combined, result in approximately $330 million for Marin and the North Bay region. Another indication of this often unrecognized contribution to our local economy is employment. In 2012, when the last USDA Agricultural Census was conducted, there were 1,072 on-farm jobs documented in Marin. It is estimated that for every on-farm job there are up to four off-farm jobs, meaning that combined on and off farm agricultural employment is more than 4,300 individuals working in the Marin agricultural industry.
While a recovering economy and other state, national, and even global market factors have a large influence on the trend in product prices, what is in the hands of Marin farmers and ranchers to influence is diversification -- and diversify they have! In 1992, dairy production comprised 70% of the total gross value of agricultural production in Marin compared with 40% in 2015. Growth in pasture-based eggs and grass-fed beef production are just a couple of examples of the changes and additions to Marin’s ranching diversity. Similarly, of the $45 million in value attributed to dairy production last year, more than 90% of that was attributed to organic milk production. This increasing level of agricultural diversification really does set the stage for a flourishing local food economy.
There is so much more behind this success story, from the ranchers and farmers themselves, to local institutions. Speaking of the producers, where are the next generation building skills they need going forward? Tomales High School junior, Jeanette Furlong, provides perspective on the Future Farmers of America Tomales High chapter, as she shares her leadership in communication and other agricultural projects.
Telling the story, much like the annual Crop Report, is often best done by gathering information from individual producers. UCCE Marin Staff Research Associate Lindsey Affonso shares the launch of a new UCCE research study on the Status of Marin Agriculture to compare with 2002 survey results. The 2016 survey will explore changes between then and now, thereby Painting the Picture of Marin Agriculture.
Farming is a complex endeavor that comes with the responsibility to provide safe and delicious food. Learn more about resources and practices Marin’s farmers are employing to accomplish this in the article Food Safety Tips to Bring Home to Your Farm or Garden by Julia Van Soelen Kim, Food Systems Advisor. Gain insights on how to apply some of these important food safety concepts to your own farm or garden.
Beyond the articles in this issue of Grown In Marin, be sure to review Around Marin County for upcoming events such as the Bolinas Museum’s exhibit celebrating coastal farming, entitled Opening of Bounty, Fine Food Production in Coastal Marin from 1834 to the Future, which runs from September 24th through January. Also, Dr. Paul da Silva is offering his popular College of Marin course about agriculture, Who Grows Your Food? Marin County Agriculture, this fall semester. Plans and fundraising are underway to build the Public Market Hall for the Farmers Market at the Marin Civic Center.
If you stop to look around Marin, there is undeniable interest and excitement about its agriculture, with many opportunities to learn more and become part of the success that is Marin's family farms. Enjoy this issue and don’t miss out on the upcoming opportunities to get involved.
All the best,
|Julia Van Soelen Kim
North Bay Food Systems Advisor
Sustainable Ag Coordinator