Marin Voice: Point Reyes A Model For Healthy, Local Sustainable Agriculture

Marin Independent Journal

By Albert Straus and Sue Conley

For decades, we have enjoyed a productive agricultural landscape and farming model for the rest of the country, amid wild open space at Point Reyes National Seashore.

As a community and as a culture, we have the responsibility to follow through with the original vision for this place as an example of environmentalists, community members and farmers working together to honor the environment and to protect our local food sources.

The park is in a unique position to demonstrate the value of sustainable agriculture as part of the ecosystem of rangelands and forests at the seashore.

Cattle can be hard on the land (as can elk), but when managed with intention, grazing animals can help repair the soil and revitalize the grasslands. A 2013 scientific study by the Marin Carbon Project showed that managed grasslands can pull carbon from the atmosphere in the same way forests can, and that this is one of the most effective tools we can use to mitigate climate change.

Many ranchers in Marin are using these techniques designed by this study to grow healthier pastures for their cows while improving water retention, soil and air quality. Rotational grazing has helped in controlling erosion on the hillsides caused by overgrazing, and the Marin Resource Conservation District has provided help to farmers in planting hedgerows and windbreaks along the creeks and estuaries in West Marin, that have brought aquatic life and native plants back to those waters.

PRNS leaders have been part of that effort in the past and they are currently working closely with farmers to establish leases that enable long-term investment in farm infrastructure. This effort will benefit the health of the land and will ensure the livelihood of the seashore as a cultural treasure into the future.

We would like to see a robust effort to display the history of agriculture in the park on maps and interpretive materials, accompanied by descriptions on the way the land is farmed today.  This should include the healthy, regenerative farming methods that the seashore’s leaseholders are currently using and plans for strict environmental requirements in future leases.

For decades, farmers and producers who sell directly to the public have been promoting the benefits of our local food system through farmers’ markets and our advocacy group, Marin Organic.

It’s time the seashore joins these efforts. These farms and ranches are perfect examples of how to educate next-generation urban populations about sustainable organic farming and food production. What has happened here is remarkable, and the seashore should be proud to take credit for the survival of these multi-generational families who bring us good, healthy, local food.

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