Goal: To Provide Long-Term Land Security to the Region’s Largest Organic Vegetable Producer
Here in the Sierra foothills, the needs of local farmers are changing.
Today’s farmers are finding it more and more difficult to secure long-term access to land. The supply of properties with suitable soil, terrain, and size is limited. Pressure to subdivide and develop land is growing. Long-term lease agreements are hard to negotiate. Onsite housing for farmworkers is often not permitted. And land prices are out of range for new farmers.
We are Losing Farmers
Yet our next generation farmers are struggling here, and some have already left the area. Long-time ranchers are being offered irresistible offers to subdivide and sell. Long-established growers are still land insecure because of short-term leases.
John Tecklin began Mountain Bounty Farm in 1997. Today, his farm is the largest supplier of organic vegetables in Nevada County. 700 residents, from Tahoe to Penn Valley, subscribe to his community supported agriculture (CSA) farm to receive a weekly box of fresh vegetables. His is the oldest and largest CSA in the Sierras. Mountain Bounty Farm is the second largest vegetable supplier to the BriarPatch Food Co-op in Grass Valley, and supplies a variety of other stores, restaurants, and farmer’s markets throughout the region.
John and his crew grow all this food on just 18 acres spread over four properties. His largest acreage is on leased land located on Birchville Road, on the San Juan Ridge where he has farmed for 23 years. Over those years he has invested over $150,000 in infrastructure at this site, upgrading extensive irrigation, electrical, and fencing systems. Under John’s direction, a new generation of farmers is assuming leadership of the farm. The farm is now collaboratively run by a team of talented young farmers.
In December of this year (2020), the lease on this land is up for renewal with no option for a long-term lease. A short-term lease is simply not compatible with an organic farming business of this scale. Significant ongoing investments are required to keep the soil fertile and the infrastructure functioning. To fulfill produce commitments to hundreds of customers, many of whom have paid in advance through a CSA subscription, requires stability in the cultivation process. Most importantly, to pass the farm on to the next generation of farmers, land security is critical.
With your help, however, we can protect the land that Mountain Bounty farms—forever.
Mountain Bounty Farm Forever Farm Project
The landowner is willing to sell the property and, under the banner of our new Forever Farms Program, Bear Yuba Land Trust (BYLT) intends to buy it. BYLT and their partners in the Forever Farms Program, Sierra Harvest and BriarPatch Food Co-op, have committed to raise the funds needed to buy the farm by October 1, 2020.
Once acquired, the land will be a community asset that safeguards affordable access to farmland for generations to come. BYLT will provide a long-term evergreen lease to Mountain Bounty Farm with stipulations to ensure that the land remain productive farmland and that its management is ecologically responsible. Any leases to other farmers in the future would have the same stipulations.
John will continue to farm the land, which is directly across the street from another of his leased fields, so he can continue to benefit from existing economies of scale. John is already working on a farm succession plan to eventually transfer ownership of the business to several of his long-time farm managers. When that happens, the lease would transfer with the business.
BYLT’s role will be to keep farmer access to the land affordable, manage the lease, collect fees, pay taxes and expenses, and ensure compliance with lease terms. Lease revenue will be used by BYLT for management of the property and lease. Any revenue earned beyond that will be used by BYLT as an endowment for this land and for other Forever Farm Program activities.
Other Community Benefits:
The Birchville Road property includes an existing single-family house that will be available to provide housing for farmworkers—another resource that is in critically short supply in the region. Furthermore, the property holds the potential to add additional housing for farmworkers in the future. Mountain Bounty Farm is run by a crew of 14 people, 5-6 of whom are interns.
This potential for affordable farmworker housing is a significant asset provided by the property.
Protection of 20 Acres of Native Habitat
The 37-acre property includes 20 acres of scrub oak and mixed chaparral habitat. These habitats will also be permanently protected, providing a permanent buffer around part of the land and providing a potential for public access in the form of trails and create opportunities for restoration of native plant and wildlife habitat.
Please consider making a contribution today to protect this beautiful farmlandand the food it can produce for our rural communities for generations to come.