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One Farm at a Time in California

On Halloween day last fall, Annie and Jeff Main of Good Humus Produce sat down with Equity Trust Executive Director Jim Oldham to place a specialized easement on their farm that will ensure it always remains a place where farmers can build a life growing food for their community, as the Mains have done.

This culminates a two-decade effort, inspired in part by a first-of-its-kind easement that Equity Trust created with Gloria and Stephen Decater for Live Power Community Farm in 1995 that requires that the farm’s owners make their living from farming and that future sales of the farm must be to farmers for no more than agricultural value. Chuck Matthei, Equity Trust’s founder, encouraged Annie and Jeff to believe they could do the same.

At the time, the Mains were building their farm from the ground up. Now, decades later, their farm boasts orchards, vegetable fields, wind breaks, and native hedgerows providing forage and habitat for pollinators, predatory insects, and other wildlife. The Mains built a beautiful house, a barn, greenhouses, and other infrastructure, and a business selling produce through the Davis Farmers’ Market, food co-ops, and a CSA. With that grew a community that loves and appreciates all that the farm offers.

That community has now guaranteed the farm’s future. Over the years the Mains worked with friends of the farm, including Equity Trust, to define appropriate protections for their farm and to begin raising funds for a future easement holder to buy an easement, but a larger effort was needed. So in 2009, the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op, Davis Food Co-op, California FarmLink, and other partners launched One Farm at a Time to preserve Good Humus and other small working farms for future generations.

After a successful fundraising campaign, the question remained: who would hold the easement? When no California-based land trust stepped forward, Equity Trust agreed to take it on. Further work followed—easement drafting, surveys, appraisals. Finally, last fall the Mains closed on the easement and held a celebration at the farm.

 

Photo of the easement celebration sign used courtesy of Pachamama Coffee.