The Open Space Council

 

Save Small Farms – A New Initiative with The Open Space Council for the St. Louis Region

 

On December 6th, 2008, a sign was planted at the Mueller Farm in Ferguson… ushering in a new era of organic farmers through the EarthDance Apprenticeship Program, and the beginning of a beautiful partnership with The Open Space Council for the St. Louis Region.

“EarthDance approached us in 2008 in hopes that we would assist in acquiring or placing a conservation easement on the Mueller Farm. We are still working to ensure that the property is protected for future farmers and for the benefit of the community,” shares Brittany Barton, Project Manager of The Open Space Council.

Since the summer of 2008, OSC has served as an umbrella non-profit organization for EarthDance, enabling the budding non-profit to apply for grant funding and seek tax-deductible donations until it achieves its own 501(c)3 tax-exempt status.

“The staff at The Open Space Council – Ron, Brittany and Amy – have been incredibly supportive of our mission since Day 1,” remarks Molly Rockamann.

The Save Small Farms initiative grew out of our partnership with OSC, and our desire to keep valuable farmland in production. We want to make it easier for beginner farmers to affordably lease or acquire land on which to grow food, so the OSC is helping to seek out other small farms in the St. Louis Region that would benefit from protection. In 2010, we will be working closely with OSC to identify these properties and determine conservation options for each property.

If farms are to continue growing food, they must be kept affordable for farmers.  In many real estate markets today, farms are being sold to non-farmers for prices that are out of the reach of farmers.  This is a problem not only for current and aspiring farmers who are unable to purchase farms, but for local communities that have an interest in preserving access to locally produced food.

The goals of the program:

  • To protect more open space in the region by conserving agricultural land
  • To explore alternative approaches to land ownership
  • To preserve the affordability of farms for farmers
  • To increase community access to locally produced food

Over the past few years, there has been an exponential increase in the demand for locally and organically-grown food, and with this comes the need for more agricultural land.  America is losing 1.2 million acres of farmland annually, according to the American Farmland Trust. So OSC is joining EarthDance in the Save Small Farms initiative as another part of their land trust program. OSC understands the important role agricultural land plays in our everyday lives and how quickly this land is changing uses.

The Open Space Council is a nonprofit organization that has been working for 45 years to conserve land and water resources in the St. Louis Region. As stewards of nature, OSC works to maintain the integrity of land and waterways for practical purposes, for recreation and for their natural beauty, to be enjoyed now and for generations to come.