New Initiative Supports Underserved Farmers

Daily Harvest, American Farmland Trust (AFT), and California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) recently launched a partnership that aims to help underserved farmers in California strengthen their farms and transition to sustainable agricultural practices.

The program will provide a variety of resources including educational programming and technical and financial assistance that will support 100 farms across the San Joaquin Valley and Central California. To support this initiative, Daily Harvest will also offer growers market access, allowing them to join its supply chain with premium price guarantees. AFT, CCOF, and Daily Harvest hope to support as many farmers as possible through the transition as the organizations aim to advance a regenerative food system.

“This partnership will bring a flush of new capacity and resources that allow us to scale our existing approaches to better meet the needs of farmers,” Teresa O’Connor, AFT California Communications and Outreach Manager, tells Food Tank. “By scaling up organic and regenerative agricultural methods,” she continues, “we are conserving natural resources, reducing pesticide use, supporting wildlife, increasing biodiversity, and providing nutrient-rich foods necessary for human health.”

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, unlike conventional farming methods, regenerative systems grow food without the use of harmful, synthetic chemicals, making it safer for farmers, workers and consumers. Utilizing healthy, organic, and regeneratively-managed soil helps restore the earth by absorbing carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, which can help reverse the effects of climate change. Stronger than conventional soil, organic soil can also help stop erosion and runoff.

“This partnership also allows us to strengthen the connection between rural and urban communities, consumers and producers, as well as share important messages about the food supply and planet-friendly growing practices,” O’Connor says.

By providing rural farmers with the knowledge, tools, and resources they need to understand the importance of regenerative food systems, O’Connor says that this partnership will help scale up positive change in agriculture and food production. She also explains that it will heighten awareness among consumers.

“A regenerative food system must be about people as much as it is about soil,” Rebecca Gildiner, Director of Sustainability at Daily Harvest, tells Food Tank. “This program is unique in its objectives to both reach as wide of a network of growers as it can and also support growers in market-readiness for the Daily Harvest supply chain. Its simultaneous focus on soil health and equity in the farming community makes it particularly special, and is an essential framework for an aspiring regenerative food system.”

Gildiner says that they will need to be creative when building a supply chain that can meet both the needs of farmers and of Daily Harvest. She states that managing sourcing and outputs from small farms is one of the greatest challenges they face in this program. But AFT, CCOF, and Daily Harvest are monitoring production closely to stay one step ahead of the sourcing stage.

“If we can understand the cohort of growers who will participate in our program early on and start to work with them at the onset, we can set all of us up for success long before the point of sale,” Gildiner says.

Gildiner tells Food Tank that AFT will be a key partner in helping to measure the successes of the program. Through AFT’s expertise and close ties with the farming communities, they will be able to collect soil health metrics on the farm, knowledge acquired by farmers in regenerative agriculture, as well as the overall reach of the program.

And while the program’s leaders know that this is not a silver bullet that will address the challenges in the U.S. food system, they hope this is a step in the right direction.

“AFT recognizes the problems are not going to be solved by the end of this three-year project. We need bigger, more sustained collective action,” says O’Connor. “However, this partnership with Daily Harvest and CCOF is a great example of what’s needed right now.”

Gildiner also emphasizes that every person can help drive change in the food system.

“Changing the food system requires all stakeholders, including policymakers, NGOs, and companies, to work together–this means businesses partnering with subject-matter expert organizations like AFT and CCOF to drive science- and research-based impact.”

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Photo courtesy of Zoe Schaeffer, Unsplash

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