Bear Yuba Land Trust (BYLT), Sierra Harvest, BriarPatch Food Co-op and Tahoe Food Hub are excited to announce the first successful fundraising campaign for the Forever Farms program, raising more than $780,000 for the protection of critical farmland in Nevada County. The seven-week public campaign closed July 1, receiving over 650 individual contributions.
“Together, we did it! In these most uncertain times, we as a community are addressing the immediate and urgent need of food security,” said Molly Nakahara, Sierra Harvest Farm Institute Director. “Thank you to everyone who has contributed, ensuring farmland remains in production and is protected for generations to come.”
In February, fundraising began at the Sierra Harvest Food & Farm Conference with the announcement of the Forever Farms program. The program is a collaborative partnership between Bear Yuba Land Trust (BYLT), Sierra Harvest, BriarPatch Food Co-op, and its most recent member Tahoe Food Hub, with a vision to protect local farmland and provide affordable access and long-term land security to the agricultural community in Nevada County.
It was during the farm conference that the first acquisition endeavor was revealed: the purchase of 37 acres under threat of sale and currently leased by Mountain Bounty Farm. With community support of the program, BYLT will buy and hold the property in perpetuity, protect it from development and safeguard affordable access to the farmland by providing a long-term lease to Mountain Bounty Farm. BYLT will manage this property to ensure it continues to produce local, organic food in an ecologically responsible way for the benefit of the community.
Prior to the public campaign, 60 percent of the $650,000 fundraising goal for the first Forever Farms acquisition project was raised which included a $350,000 gift from an anonymous donor.
“This has truly been a coordinated effort between our partners and community members committed to a shared vision of Forever Farms in Nevada County,” said Erika Seward, BYLT Co-Executive Director. “Because of this, we have moved forward confidently with the first acquisition project, knowing full well its significance and what it means for the future of our community.”
On May 8, BYLT signed a purchase and sale agreement for the acquisition of the property on Birchville Road that includes 10 cultivated acres that produce over 40 different crops, and a single-family home plus 2,400 square foot barn that would be made accessible to the farmers. The land sits adjacent to the Pine Grove Reservoir that provides the property with irrigation water and fire protection. In addition, the parcel has 20 acres of undeveloped woodlands that offers opportunities for habitat restoration, trails and other types of agriculture.
BYLT is currently in escrow and set to close no later than October 1, 2020. Once the land is secured, the Land Trust’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 held in an endowment fund and applied toward other Forever Farms program activities.
“This is a game changer and just the beginning,” said John Tecklin, owner of Mountain Bounty Farm which feeds 850 households each week from Reno to Penn Valley and is a significant produce supplier for BriarPatch, regional restaurants, food banks, schools, hospitals and farmers markets. “We are looking forward to building on the momentum of this campaign, and through Forever Farms, establishing a model that creates a lasting legacy.”
Future Forever Farms projects will be identified in the coming months by the Steering Committee, with continued solicitation of input and support from the community.
Donate to protect vital community farmland at https://www.bylt.org/foreverfarms/