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Farmland loss threatens ‘Farm-to-Fork' identity

Growth in the Sacramento area is destroying some of the best farmland in the world.

Land is one of the keys to California’s farming success but it’s also one of its biggest concerns.

The Sacramento area is growing, and as it does, farmland is being lost.

To learn more about the problem, we stopped by American Farmland Trust’s office here in Sacramento. The organization works with local governments to protect farmland.

American Farmland Trust estimates California loses 40,000 acres of farmland every year. That’s more than 4.5 acres every hour.

“The land that is our very best farmland is being lost most rapidly in the San Joaquin Valley where our ancestors in their wisdom settled on the prime farmland with the best water supplies,” said Virginia Jameson, Interim Director for American Farmland Trust here in California. That same land is “now being eaten up by urban development at the fastest rate.”

One of the big problems is a lack of density. American Farmland Trust puts density in the San Joaquin Valley at about 9 people per acre. In Kern County, it’s only about 6 people per acre. To put it in perspective, San Francisco houses nearly 28 people per acre.

Local cities are taking some steps to protect farmland. For example, Stockton is talking about an urban reinvestment line, per Jameson. That would allow the city to improve its downtown and discourage urban sprawl.
Ultimately, the loss of farmland could mean a loss of identity to our region.

“Sacramento is becoming known for being the ‘Farm-to-Fork Capitol,’ but if we start paving over our local farmland, we’ll see what happens,” said Jameson. “You can’t have local food if you don’t have local farmland.”

Growth in Elk Grove

Elk Grove is another city trying to grow and protect its farmland at the same time.

We caught up with Mayor Steve Ly at the Elk Grove Multicultural festival and asked him how he finds a balance:

“The struggle in the city of Elk Grove is when we look into expanding Elk Grove, either the infrastructure or expanding beyond our borders, people always look to us and say ‘what about the Sheldon area?’ said Mayor Ly.

“Well, those people don’t quite understand and appreciate that the Sheldon area, the Triangle, the Country Hills area, are areas in which we treasure. We want to make sure that our density feathers out that way… so we can continue to highlight what makes Elk Grove unique.”

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