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With over one-third of the nation’s vegetables and two-thirds of its fruits grown in California, the Golden State has a unique interest in maintaining the sanctity and safety of its farmland. This is where the Central Valley Farmland Trust comes into play.
The Central Valley Farmland Trust (CVFT) is an operation dedicated to the preservation of farmland within California’s San Joaquin Valley. CVFT Executive Director Charlotte Mitchell works to conserve the nation’s domestic cultivation for all parties involved.
“It’s our goal at CVFT to be a part of that conservation,” Charlotte says. “It’s essential for us as a community to be the best stewards of the land, ensure that farmlands are protected and allow ourselves to feed our children and grandchildren.”
Charlotte’s lifelong love of agriculture stems from a childhood spent on her father’s ranch. She knew from a young age that she would eventually follow in her father’s footsteps and devote her life to the agricultural world. While attending California Polytechnic State University, she gravitated towards a career in protecting the land that enabled people like her father to provide for others.
To aid in the conservation efforts, Charlotte and CVFT assist willing landowners on a voluntary basis through acquiring an agricultural conservation easement. These permanent easements mark a farm or ranch as prime land that can only be used for agricultural purposes, protecting the land forever.
Once an easement has been placed on the land, CVFT partners with organizations such as National Resources Conservation Service and The California Department of Conservation to monitor the land, ensuring that the owners of protected lands uphold the components of the conservation agreement.
Through these easements, CVFT currently protects over 36 family farms and 13,500 acres of land throughout the San Joaquin Valley.
“There is only one land,” imparts Charlotte. “In the past 25 years, California has paved over one million acres of farmland. And once it’s paved, it’s hard to get it back. ‘Preserve and protect’ is CVFT’s commitment to the next generation.”
To expound on that commitment, CVFT partnered with Raley’s in 2016 to lead a variety of classroom tours aimed at educating the younger generation on the importance of farmland conservation.
“There’s a disconnect between the young and old,” Charlotte explains. “The generation that watched their parents and grandparents work land and farm has shrunk considerably. Many – both young and old – believe milk just comes from a carton, and don’t make that connection to the farm and the cow. It’s our mission to educate and build a foundation to ensure that our younger generations understand the importance of farmland.”
CVFT also encourages the everyday shopper to get involved in the conservation efforts by asking for and buying local produce. “Agriculture and farming is not about today – it’s about how you can set it up for the future,” Charlotte says.
“The Central San Joaquin Valley is a powerful place in terms of food production; if we make sure it’s viable, we can provide a sustainable food source for generations to come.”
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