November Food & Farms in the News


–by Kelly Sanderbeck, Annual Fund Manager & Story Catcher

Farmland as investment? It may be a bubble, but people are opening their pocketbooks – not to a volatile stock market or zero-rate interest, but to a speculative investment that is finite: farmland. The Midwest looks like a feeding frenzy with farmland being bid at double the price of just 5 years ago. “Farmland seemed like a much safer vehicle to get an income stream even though … it’s not a high-income stream, at least it’s more than you would get on treasuries at any duration,” says investor Andy Trupin.

For those interested in the broader future of food as well as investment, PCC Farmland Trust is looking at options for locally-focused “conservation financing” so that investors can support young farmers getting on the land. National organizations such as Farmland LP and Slow Money currently exist and will act as models as we explore further in this direction. In the meantime, we’ll continue to work with organizations such as FarmLink to help us connect a farmers with farmland.

Sometimes our work feels like pushing a boulder up hill, especially regarding GMOs. The battle against corporate food in California “wasn’t an election so much as a sale,” said Gary Hirshberg, founder of Stonyfield Farm and chairman of Just Label It!, a national G.M.O. labeling campaign. Then there’s the USDA’s GMO-friendly report which places the burden of proof of any contamination on organic farmers. Small farmers had hoped the Administration would help them fight Big Ag, but, says poultry farmer Craig Watts: “You had farmer after farmer after farmer telling the same story, basically pleading for help, and absolutely nothing has come of it.”

Luckily there are groups pushing back, such as the Humane Society’s work to turn around animal confinement farms and the Union of Concerned Scientists’ report on the economic benefits of organic farming. Even the ‘4-crop rotation’ idea used by Thomas Jefferson is coming around to conventional farmers, as it “produces the same yields, sharply reduces the toxicity of freshwater runoff, and eliminates many of the problems associated with genetically modified crops, including the emergence of glyphosate-resistant weeds.”

Keep pushing that boulder, and we’ll exact slow and steady social change through our pocketbooks, our persistence and our people power!

In other news:

With the end of the year, many donors reach into their pockets to support the organizations they love. With the looming “fiscal cliff”, and threatened cuts, the charitable gift deduction is in danger! Whether you’re interested in a tax deduction or not, right now is an important time to express your support to Congress for the charitable gift deduction that benefits citizens as well as non-profits, while providing a vast array of benefits to the community.

And finally, eat more produce to be happier!