Food, Water, Climate, People and Land - Eli Zigas, SPUR


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On November 22, 2013 the Open Space Council convened a Gathering on the importance of protected land to so many issues facing our region today. More about the Gathering can be seen here:

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  • NameExplain SPUR – planning & policy. Variety of issues – including food & agriculture.Explain my job’s focus on regional food system – including ag land preservation – approached from an urban perspective. Research report, Locally Nourished (some copies on the table) – came to three main conclusions for how a regional food system benefits the Bay Area.
  • First main benefit is that agricultural land supports a greenbelt strategy that focuses growth into urban areas.[Don’t need to get into details of that concept with this crowd  ]Within a policy that supports a greenbelt, ag land is economical. Less to acquire and less to manage (generally). Data, detailed in report, from Sonoma County Open Space District and Santa Clara Parks District.
  • While we gain these benefits from having agricultural land as part of the greenbelt, we have a challenge – 15 % of farmland, including some of the most fertile cropland, and 7% of rangeland is at risk of development in the next 30 years. That designation of at-risk, based on Greenbelt Alliance analysis of development pressure compared to policy protection. [Maybe walk the audience through the map]
  • Sameinformation, but displayed a different way.This shows more clearly why we think there’s the most need to focus agricultural land preservation policy in Santa Clara, Sonoma, and Contra Costa counties.
  • Reason 2 – food system is economically important1) jobs405,000 jobs total in food sector – 1 of every 8 private sector jobs throughout the regionOver time some sectors have grown – restaurants & wineOthers have dropped, but recently leveled off – processing and production2) LocalmultiplierReason 3: Diverting food waste from Landfill = GHG savings
  • [Photo of Brentwood in 1990’s]To get these benefits – and especially to hold onto the land – we need policy (as others have emphasized) Wide ranging:Zoning, urban growth boundaries, Williamson Act, funding for conservation easements and acquisition.We also need to remove obstacles to dense, development in our existing urban areas so that as the economy continues to grow, we are ensuring we’re making space for people to live and work.
  • To take a local example, the organization SAGE did a study of what it would take to maintain agriculture feasibility in the Coyote Valley. (If you haven’t read the report, I highly recommend it. Goes into a level of detail that few other reports do) They concluded that to reach their goals, they would need $3 million in start up phase in the coming few years and $50 million total over the next 25 years – with much of that money going to land protection. Some of that money could come from private sources, but there’s likely a need to have public funding to support the vision as well. How to get that money? Or the money for so many other projects? Or the policy to reach all the aims described by the earlier speakers.That’s what I want to talk about today.
  • Food is an avenue for building public support for land conservation. Why – because food is pleasure.Climate change, while so important, is scary. Water – especially drought – is scary. Fear can be motivating – for sure.But so can pleasure. A fresh strawberry = delicious. Seeing a baby goat – heart warming. This young boy picking apples – how can you resist that?!So – I’d like to propose a few strategies to continue building public support for land conservation – especially in urban areas
  • Meet people where they are. Demand for local food is growing. Farmers’ markets have seen steady growth in the past decade. The majority of chefs surveyed in casual and fine dining restaurants in a 2011 survey said they had seen customer interest in locally sourced menu items increase in the preceding two years; they also reported that locally sourced meats, seafood and produce were the top trends in their restaurants.We should do our best to connect the dots for the public. If you want local food, you need to hold onto local land for ag. Do you like have fresh food at your farmers’ market? Vote for the open space fund bond measure.
  • The economic viability is key, in addition to land-use policy
  • ELIJobs: Vast majority in food service and retail (80%) – many of them are in the urban areas. Certainly, not all Other sectors make up 20% or 3% of all jobs in the Bay Area
  • Education – lots of groups are doing this – reaching young people living in cities, up and coming voters. Classroom, lunchroom, Urban agriculture, rural agricultureWe should keep doing this – and do our best to ensure that the education includes a tie back to the value of land conservation.Last thing – connecting the dots from food to land conservation can be in the service of more than just agricultural land. Building a base of support – just coming from one angle.
  • Could we do a 9 county open space measure?Could multiple counties or multiple school districts collaborate to contract together from local farms – creating enough demand to spur the creation of aggregation for local farms to find it worth their while?Can enough public support be built for both urban growth boundaries and increased density to change the zoning and growth boundaries in and around cities ?The policy often comes down to political will – and I’d submit – that food offers another way to connect their hearts and stomachs back to the region’s land.
  • Food, Water, Climate, People and Land - Eli Zigas, SPUR

    1. 1. Land & Food Building Urban Support for Land Conservation Eli Zigas, SPUR Bay Area Open Space Council Harvest Gathering November 22, 2013
    2. 2. Reason 1: A viable agricultural sector is an important, and economical, component of greenbelt strategy that focuses growth in already developed areas.
    3. 3. Bay Area Agricultural Land At-Risk
    4. 4. Challenge: Agricultural land is at-risk Source: At-Risk analysis by
    5. 5. Reason 2: The regional food system is economically important.
    6. 6. Courtesy of Brentwood Agricultural Land Trust
    7. 7. Go for the heart and the gut!
    8. 8. Strategy 1: Yum!
    9. 9. Strategy 2: Economic Development
    10. 10. Food System Jobs, By Sector, 2010 Total: 405,000
    11. 11. Strategy 3: The Long Game / Education
    12. 12. Eli Zigas -