Farm Food Facts

Ep 40 John Piotti, Kaleb J Hill, Farmers and Youtube

September 03, 2019 Episode 40
Farm Food Facts
Ep 40 John Piotti, Kaleb J Hill, Farmers and Youtube
Chapters
Farm Food Facts
Ep 40 John Piotti, Kaleb J Hill, Farmers and Youtube
Sep 03, 2019 Episode 40
USFRA
Show Notes Transcript

The thought leader for today is John Piotti, CEO at American Farmland Trust

The stories you need to know:
• Are young farmers the new starving artists? 
• Farmers are Earning revenue from YouTube.

Our farmer interview is with Kaleb J. Hill, Owner & Farmer at Oakvue Farms





Speaker 1:
0:01
Farm food facts where every farmer, every acre and every voice matter. Welcome to farm food facts for Wednesday, September 4th, 2019 I'm your host Phil Linford. Later in the podcast we're going to talk to Caleb j hill, the founder of OCO view produce a sustainable agriculture company, specializes in designing, installing, and maintaining edible landscapes and storm water management. But first we chat with John [inaudible], the president of American farmland trust. John joined American farmland trust as president in July, 2016 bringing more than 20 years of executive management and public policy experience and a passion for saving the nations farm and ranch lands from being lost to development. Under John's leadership, aft is engaged in the most comprehensive study of American land use, ever conducted hope secure an additional $200 million a year of financing in federal funding for agriculture conservation easements and launch new initiatives that advanced environmentally forward farming practices, combating climate change and supporting next generation farmers. So John, tell me about the American farmland trust and why is keeping farmland so important?
Speaker 2:
1:20
Well, American farmland trust was created in 1980 and where are unique organization and that we, I think have really the only national organization that takes a truly holistic view of agriculture. We focus on the land itself, but also on the practices that occur on that land. And then on the farmers and ranchers, the stewards of that land. But a lot of people do equate s principally with, uh, the farm land itself. And, and I guess in some ways we're known for that because we really championed and led the conservation agriculture movement before we were created there. There really was not widespread use of agricultural conservation easements. Protecting farmland is critical. It's not only critical because we need that land and will increasingly need it for our food. But also because farm land is so important as you know, for a whole range of environmental services. And I've, I actually often tell folks that long before we run out of the land that we're going to need to raise our food. We're gonna run out of land. We need to help you, our planet. Um, so farm land is really essential. Um, it is, it is the cornerstone. It is the foundation. It's the infrastructure really for a sustainable society.
Speaker 1:
2:37
So John, there's one fact that has me deeply concerned, nervous and scared that there's three acres of farm land that are lost per minute.
Speaker 2:
2:49
That is correct. Uh, aft has been tracking farm land loss for a long time. We were created just after the national ag land study, the comprehensive look at farmland loss, which was done by the president's council on environmental quality and USDA back in the 70s. And we've been sort of the holders of that data ever since then. Working closely with the national resources, um, um, uh, agency at USDA on that NRCS. Um, and we have found in our most recent analysis, which we completed in 2018 that in the previous 20 years we lost 31 million acres of farm land and that equates to 1.5 million acres a year and, or three acres a minute. And just to put that in perspective, 31 million acres of farmland is all the farm land in Iowa. It's that size.
Speaker 3:
3:46
Wow. So, I guess my next question would be, why are we losing so much farmland and can we replace it?
Speaker 2:
3:57
Well, we're losing it for two principle reasons. One, I think is readily obvious and that is that a development of particularly on the edges of communities on the urban edge, and it was pretty clear, um, new subdivisions, uh, uh, big box stores, shopping malls and in the like that gobbles it up. Um, and, uh, we need development of, but it could be smarter development, it can be development that occurs, farm land, soils is precious and, um, a lot of, uh, the land in this country, um, is suitable for development. But I would say prime farm land is something we, we shouldn't put new development on. So it's a matter of smart development, putting it in the right places, um, making it compact and certainly avoiding placing it on our, our most productive and resilient in soils. So that's one place where we're losing farm land, just sort of the obvious development that occurs in the urban edge.
Speaker 2:
5:01
But what we're also seeing is parcelization, um, pieces of farmland that are being chopped up in rural areas. And, and, uh, in rural areas, you could have one or two houses in the wrong places plopped down on a piece of land that end up taking large swaths of farmland out of production. Um, and uh, that is particularly, uh, frustrating to see because at least in if a hundred acres goes into 250 dwelling units, it is providing some kind of community good at a higher level. When, when you, when you see the loss in rural areas, it really hurts because often the, the, the societal value is minimal. And in more importantly, you're taking away an economic engine for that region. And so many parts of, of rural America, um, farming is, uh, the only viable longterm economic engine. So your question about what, what can we do about it?
Speaker 2:
6:04
Um, we really can't easily, uh, find more farm land. I think much of the land, there's some modest exceptions to this, but much of the land in the United States that's suitable for farm farming is being farmed now. Um, what we really need to do is halt the loss, um, and uh, and, and then use the land that is being farmed as wisely as possible. And of course, farming it as well as possible doesn't mean just food production. It also means farming, it falling the most environmentally sound practices. And those two issues go hand in hand because farming is amazing in that we can simultaneously grow delicious food, nutritious food, and provide environmental benefits. But the truth is you can't maximize both of those things. If you're maximizing food production on a piece of land, you can't also maximize, um, environmental benefits. And, and a lot of people miss that point and it plays into this issue of farm land loss because with every acre of farmland we lose, we don't only lose land that could be growing our food and land that could be providing environmental benefits, but we also put more pressure on the remaining land to be used to grow food more intensely.
Speaker 2:
7:29
Cause the amount of food we need doesn't change. And what that means is it becomes sort of a double hit. As that happens, less and less environmental benefit as possible from our land. It's sorta becomes a, a, a reinforcing downward spiral.
Speaker 3:
7:44
So John, how do we get these real estate developers to take some responsibility and really understand that we might not need, you know, another big box store where we're, where they want to put it. I mean, isn't there something that we should or could be doing to, to wake them up to this?
Speaker 2:
8:07
Well, it's a, it's a good question. And, and American farmland trust has tried to, uh, elevate consciousness around these issues for years. We were one of the founders of smart America back in the, in the eighties, and we've done a lot of work with different communities around better community planning. Um, and those things are all important. And I wished we had the resources to do, to do more of it. Um, I wouldn't put the blame on developers. Developers are following what is allowed under, under municipal ordinances and developers are responding to consumer interests. Uh, if consumers want three acre house lots on a farm or field, um, they're gonna respond to that. Now. Uh, having said all of, I think that we desperately need to up the ante on, on better land use planning. And I think, uh, most developers would be fine with that.
Speaker 2:
9:07
They will play within the rules that are, that are set. But I think it's our responsibility as a society to, to, um, to um, uh, make, make it clear as other nations do with other developed nations do that. Losing farmland is just, is not something that we can afford to do. I mean, if you look at, at, uh, at many European countries, they basically have no net farmland loss provisions in their law. You can't just easily convert farm land to another use. So we need something like that on top of it. The other vehicle which is so important it has been used in the United States is this idea of a agricultural conservation easement. And the reason that's important is zoning, particularly if you're just creating it new, um, often takes options away from land owners and sometimes farm land owners, they have all of their, all of their savings, all their equity tied up in that, in that land, and they don't want to see it developed. But maybe that's the only out for them. The beauty of an agricultural conservation easement is it's a way to permanently protect that property and simultaneously compensate the land owner for the development value that she or he is giving up. And we need both, I think. Um, we can't just legislate our way out of this with, with better land use ordinances, but that's important. Um, and we can't just buy our way out of it with conservation easements. We, those are each tools that work well on their own, in their own place.
Speaker 3:
10:49
So I know you attended the honor of the harvest forum a couple months ago and one of the first people to see the 30 harvest docu drama. Yes. What'd you think?
Speaker 2:
11:00
I thought it was great. I thought it was absolutely superb. It really points out what's, what's needed. Um, you know, American farmland trust, we've been talking about farm lands lost. But as I said from the beginning, we've always been about the land, the practices and the people. Um, and uh, and that documentary got touched on all of those. But a real focus on having the right people to follow the right practices. And, um, ultimately that's what we need. Um, as you know, uh, we see farming, um, as one of the few promising ways to substantively address climate change. It's so critically important. Farming done right can really sequester a lot of carbon and um, and put us on the right track. And, and of course there's all the most recent, uh, international studies have have made it clear, not only is that, um, would be a useful, but it's necessary that reduction of emissions is not enough.
Speaker 2:
12:07
That we also need to take carbon that's currently in the atmosphere and put it back in the soil. So farming practices are critical and having the right people who are willing to take on those practices are critical. And that's really my takeaway from that documentary was it really stress those two things. But I will stress that the third leg of the stool, the land itself is just as important. And it goes back to what I was, I was saying earlier on, as we lose every acre of farm land, our ability, even if we have the best of intentions to use the remaining land for maximizing environmental benefit, that will become more and more limited because the reality is we still need as much food more in the future. So we need it all. We need to ensure that we have enough farmland and we need to ensure that it is being managed by the best stewards following the absolute best farming practices.
Speaker 1:
13:11
Well John, thank you so much for sharing your insights with us on farm food facts today and good luck because we need your work.
Speaker 2:
13:20
Thank you so much. Appreciate your time
Speaker 4:
13:27
[inaudible]
Speaker 1:
13:27
and now for the stories you need to know our young farmers, the new starving artists, the Guardian reports that a small but growing movement of millennials are seeking out a more agrarian life, but the reality of life on the land is not always as simple as they hope their story follows. A woman named Liz Whiter. We used to work in digital communications but dreamt of life outside her cubicle. So she began volunteering on local farms and today Whitehurst grows a variety of produce on her owl's nest farm in Maryland. The handpicked produce includes sweet potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash. She runs the farm with two other millennials. Whitehurst was fortunate to be able to lease the land for family, was able to give her alone. However, for many others that keeping this is extremely difficult. Young people coming into the AG profession are fueled by idealism, but like the hippies have an other generation and the many traditional farmers who have been driven out of the industry by its brutal economics.
Speaker 1:
14:29
The reality of life on the land isn't nearly as simple as they had hoped. Farming requires a large amount of capital without offering an immediate way to repay it and the stats for new farmers are grim. More than half of us farm households report losses from their farm businesses every year. Young farmers also face inflating land prices as the cost of form real estate rose 47% from 2009 to 2017 and while procuring and maintaining farmland is becoming increasingly difficult, farmers are also finding creative ways to supplement their income. Farmers are earning revenue from youtube according to Bloomberg. It's assigned to the time when farmers make more money advocating for the industry on social media than they do actually farming. As more consumers are growing, curious about where their food comes from, farmers are attempting to answer their questions on social media. For some it's become even an extra source of revenue.
Speaker 1:
15:30
For example, Zack Johnson known as the Minnesota millennial farmer on Youtube made five times more in earnings from the video sharing platform then he can make on the family farm in a year and Youtube is by far the most popular social media site in rural areas with 59% of people using it followed by Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Now let's head down to the farm. Caleb. Jay Hill is the founder of New Orleans based OCO view produce, whose mission is to provide access to healthy foods and urban communities in an effort to address systemic issues such as food insecurity, food deserts and malnutrition. He's been focused on planting native plants and working with the land and nature instead of constantly fighting it. Caleb, welcome to farm food facts.
Speaker 5:
16:19
Well thanks for having me.
Speaker 1:
16:20
So I know in the past you had several community farms. You were selling directly to farmer's markets directly to restaurants, grocery stores, but the past couple of years have really been tough on you as a farmer. Tell us what's happened.
Speaker 5:
16:36
Well, the main thing that's happened, like in this political season is just past, it's just been hot. So like that. Even a nice cheese which prefer the cooler nights. It's just been hot all day and we had a couple of seasons that when a drought affected us, it will all, we'll have too much water. So the weather is, which is something that we as farmers deal with and that we can't control. It has a lot to do with the quality of product as well as the past. We have a lot of like tomato horns down here, the stinkbugs and you name it, they just attack the crossing because I grow naturally and don't use, um, you know, do conventional farming. It's a little bit more pressure on me because of the way that, you know, I choose the phone.
Speaker 1:
17:20
So you've now shifted your focus a little bit. You founded a company, OCO produce, um, as a sustainable ag company and designing, installing and maintaining edible landscapes and storm water management. Um, what I love is a quote I came across, um, of yours. I know food is something we cannot live without, but a lot of people can't afford to frequent places like whole foods. I want to provide access to healthy foods to general public,
Speaker 3:
17:50
especially those who live in food deserts. So Kayla, tell me a bit more about how you're achieving this.
Speaker 5:
17:59
Well, one of the, the main things with, because we'd have an, the issues with, um, running long roles, traditional agriculture introduced people to growing on their own properties and urban areas. So it's what people would normally have grass. I'm encouraging the residents to take that grass up cause I mean we can't eat grass or not no cattle. So, um, okay, I'll go to stuff. I actually own their property and allow them to be able to interact with nature and it gives them outside. And this, the things that we're doing with it, with a company knows just things that I've always known from agriculture. And we use in storm water because it floods here so much. Actually. Um, Tuesday one of my clients, neighbors actually lost their car because of the street flooding. So what we doing is things that we've done in agriculture long before I was around, which is, um, try to divert that water or directed into the way that you wanted to go. And then this def particular case, we're doing it with crops on residential properties. So you're giving them the food access and empower when people that have won otherwise wouldn't have the access to the produce, but also teaching them about growing. So there's just, it's the same day. I'll just, you don't give him people food access, but there's just a different way that I'm presented in doing it on a smaller scale.
Speaker 3:
19:18
So when you were at [inaudible], your studied biology, biomedical engineering, uh, did some research on diabetes and what did you find?
Speaker 5:
19:28
Uh, what I found when I was doing this study, um, is that a lot of people that had diabetes, they knew how to do the best thing is that to eat, but they didn't have access to the food. So I would go in there talking to them about their medical condition, thinking that they didn't really know no healthier ways and in ways to prepare foods in a natural way. But a lot of them did was just, you know, we have a grocery store not far from the political enabler while I was doing my studies and, but you pushed your book into the produce section, you know, it's quick, you push it in fast and you enter box foods and it's not a lot of fresh photos that is not a lot of variety in that particular store. And they put it there because it is a food desert.
Speaker 5:
20:12
They have a lot of those people get like commodities and you know, pantry. But full pantry boxes was, they stopped that program. So that data, even more of an issue. So that's what made me change the business model is hearing those people's testimonies about, well yeah I do have the stresses of this condition but it's really, I'm hungry, you know, and I'm not getting proper nutrients so it's sending me into hyperlipidemia and diabetes, hypertension and they didn't just have diabetes. That was another thing I learned. A lot of them didn't just have die because they will have some other chronic health conditions go with it, whether it be canceled or somebody with high blood pressure and diabetes at the same time.
Speaker 1:
20:53
Well Caleb, you're doing fabulous work. Keep it up. Um, we will, we will pray to make sure that the weather gets a little bit better for you. Uh, so it's a little easier. And thanks for joining us today on farm food facts.
Speaker 5:
21:06
All right. Thank you.
Speaker 1:
21:08
For more information on all things, food and agriculture, and to listen to our archives, please visit food dialogues.com under the programs and media tab and visit us on Facebook at us farmers and ranchers or on Twitter at USF Fra. Until next time.
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