The Open Space Council Blog


Be Our Guest: Farms at the Urban Edge

March 8, 2013

Our partners at California Climate and Agriculture Network recently released a report on the importance of protecting farmland from development. We thought that you – our members, partners, vendors, funders – might find their findings helpful as you make the case for preserving farms at the urban edge. The following is reposted from their blog.

A new CalCAN report says that California’s farmland is at risk from traditional pressures like urban sprawl and new ones including large-scale solar energy projects and oil and gas exploration. Despite mounting evidence showing the climate change benefits of protecting farmland and curbing greenhouse gas emissions related to transportation and energy use, California farmland is under threat of being paved over.

Triple Harvest: Farmland Conservation for Climate Protection, Smart Growth and Food Security describes the many essential services provided by California farmland and current development threats. It outlines policy recommendations for protecting agricultural lands to ensure their climate, food security and other benefits.

“California’s existing farmland protection policy tools are outdated and underfunded,” reported CalCAN’s Policy Director Jeanne Merrill at the summit. “They must be strengthened, especially at the boundaries of our cities where farms can provide the greatest benefit to avoiding greenhouse gas emissions.”

As California aims to reach its mandate of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, both smart growth planning and urban edge farmland protection will be crucial. For example, a 2012 study by UC Davis researchers found that in Yolo County, urban development generates 70 times more greenhouse gas emissions than irrigated cropland.

Triple Harvest summarizes the following pressures on farmland:

The report’s recommendations include:

  1. Clarify mitigation requirements for loss of farmland under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)
  2. Develop farmland mitigation requirements based on cumulative impacts of infrastructure projects, including the impact on future greenhouse gas emissions.
  3. Direct a portion of AB 32 cap-and-trade revenues to farmland conservation, targeting the creation of easements on farmland most at risk of development

Click here to download a copy of Triple Harvest.



Be Our Guest is a series we run periodically that highlights the work of our members and partners. Scroll through past guests here