Fortunately for chefs, restaurants, and foodies in the Bay Area, we're surrounded by arguably the nation's best and most diverse farmland, boasting some of the most coveted organic crops, dairy, meat, poultry, and pork available (admittedly, we might have a little regional bias here).
A large reason for this abundance of quality farmland is the Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT)--a 48,000 acre stretch of protected farms. For our next event and short film, we're exploring carbon ranching with True Grass Farms and Stemple Creek Ranch
The idea of MALT started in the 60's when Marin County introduced a plan to construct a town in West Marin with a projected population of 125,000. The plan threatened thousands of acres of farmland and a 150-year-old tradition of family farming in the area.
To fight this change, Ellen Strauss and Phyllis Faber, two early environmentalists in Marin, banded with other farmers to form a coalition that would become MALT. MALT eventually succeeded in permanently protecting 78 family farms and ranches that would have been developed or sold under Marin County's original plan.
While MALT is a model for similar trusts throughout the country and a huge reason why the Bay Area is able to produce such amazing food, many people aren't aware of it. So, with that in mind, here are 10 Things You Should Know About MALT:
1. Every hour of every day more than 40 acres of agricultural land is lost in the US due to development and sprawl. 1
2. 91% of our fruits and 77% of vegetables are grown on urban-edge farms under threat from development. 1
3. MALT's system is modeled after other land trusts like the Federal Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land, which compensate landowners who maintain natural conditions on their properties.
4. The system: MALT purchases conservation easements - development rights - from farmers, thereby compensating them for restricted land use and more sustainable farming practices applied on the respective acres.
5. MALT offers advice and funding for farms to create wildlife habitats, restore native vegetation, stop erosion and improve water quality.
6. The land trust also partners with scientists to develop and promote carbon farming initiatives in order to fight climate change.
7. Land and farms protected by MALT produce milk, cheese, beef, lamb, chicken, eggs, fruits and vegetables, and include known producers like Straus Family Creamery, Paradise Valley Ranch, and Cowgirl Creamery.
8. MALT promotes the farm-to-table movement by organizing events such as cheese tastings, farm bike tours, landscape art shows, and cattle herding, as well as advocating for policy measures related to sustainable food.
9. So far 44,100 acres of farmland that might otherwise have been sold has been preserved, but there is still 60,000 acres to go2 - and everyone can contribute financially by donating to MALT or supporting MALT farms at local markets and restaurants.
10. In 1980, MALT became the first farmland trust of its kind, and has been the model for several similar trusts throughout the nation.
In the coming weeks, we'll be creating a short film at True Grass Farms and Stemple Creek Ranch (both a part of MALT), as we work with the restauranteurs behind The Perennial to explore what it takes to produce some of the country's best beef. At our October 30 celebration, we'll screen the film and guests will get the chance to taste some of the amazing food produced at these farms.