Employees from McClendon’s Select harvest celery at the farm in Goodyear. (Photo courtesy of Sean McClendon)
Phoenix steps in to save farms from extinction
The City of Phoenix is leading efforts to conserve farmland, prevent it from being subdivided and save farms from extinction. Open space and farms within the fastest-growing city in the nation are dramatically decreasing. Fortunately, the Phoenix City Council approved a budget setting aside $1,000,000 for its Farmland Preservation Program (part of the Phoenix Resilient Food System Program). Central AZ Land Trust (CALT), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is managing this effort.
“Phoenix is committed to conserving our farms in an effort to focus on a long-term resilient food system and maintaining our local food supply,” said Rosanne Albright, Environmental Programs Coordinator for the City of Phoenix.
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Working with willing landowners, CALT will place conservation easements on farmlands. Governed by A.R.S. 33-271, et seq., conservation easements are a voluntary contractual relationship between a land trust and a landowner whereby the landowner sells or donates their development rights while still owning the land. For example, a landowner can get paid 40-80% of the full sale value of the property (based on a qualified appraisal) and the farm will remain in agricultural production and open space in perpetuity. While the city will fund 75% of the value of the property, CALT is looking for additional donations and funding partnerships to cover the remaining 25%. Additional contributions and funding partnerships are needed to keep our valuable farmland.
In 2020 alone, Phoenix lost 200 acres to urban sprawl and development, which is equivalent to approximately 151 football fields. Now more than ever, community support and donations are needed in addition to Phoenix’s contribution.
“Once a farm is paved over it’s gone forever, “said Becky Ruffner, President of the CALT Board. “Protecting our farms, ranches and other open space is what CALT has been doing since 1989, and we are thrilled to be a part of these vital efforts to protect these farmlands.”
Applications for new conservation easements in the city of Phoenix are being accepted now. Interested owners of farmland in Phoenix should contact Sharma Torrens at CALT at firstname.lastname@example.org. To be a supporter, act now by donating to CALT at Save Our Farms. Contributions may be tax-deductible.