The History of First Generation Farmers

The History of First Generation Farmers

The Bay Area has always enjoyed a marvelously diverse bounty of local food grown in surrounding agricultural regions. Despite decades of rapid growth, the Bay Area still has significant farming on the urban edges of our cities. The largest agricultural region in the East Bay, the Brentwood farming region, has 12,000 acres of contiguous prime, irrigated farmland producing a diversity of fruits, vegetables and nuts. FGF is strategically located on Delta Road in the heart of the most productive farmland in the East Bay Area.

Because Contra Costa County is geographically divided between productive farmland in the east and dense urban populations in the west, the county is uniquely placed to build a local food system. However, many of Contra Costa’s urban neighborhoods lack access to fresh fruits and vegetables and face a public health crisis of childhood obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Most children growing up in our cities and suburban neighborhoods do not know where their food comes from or how it is grown. Many children have never been to a farm, met a farmer or eaten a tomato fresh from the vine.

At a national level, we know that over thirty percent of U.S. farmers are over 65, and it’s estimated that seventy percent of all farmland in this country will change hands in the next 20 years. This transition of land ownership over the next decades will be unprecedented and we desperately need training and land access for the next generation of farmers.
source: “Farmland Conservation 2.0: How land trusts can protect America’s working farms” 2013 National Young Farmers Coalition.

Between 1990 and 2000, the City of Brentwood grew from 7,500 to 50,000 people, sprawling out over prime farmland. The newcomers were unfamiliar with East Contra Costa County and it’s agricultural heritage. Many spend hours each day commuting to work, and had little time for community engagement. However, over the past decade, the community has matured. Yearning for a sense of place, Brentwood’s newer residents are forming a deep connection with the surrounding farming region. As the local food movement has grown in popularity, people are increasingly interested in where their food comes from and how it is grown. “Brentwood has become hipper and more connected to the “locavore” movement.” The community is seeking opportunities to connect with local farms.

In 2013, Alli Cecchini and Christian Olesen formed FGF to “facilitate food access from and for the local community while conserving natural resources, providing public education, access to open space and promoting beginning farmers, ranchers and agripreneurs.” FGF engages in the following broad categories of activities:

  • Providing the public with access to open space and the opportunity to gain hands-on farming experience.

  • Actively equipping beginning farmers with the resources they need, including special needs kids and adults.

  • Conserving and enhancing natural resources.

  • Educating food consumers about all types of food production through actual farm exposure.

  • Providing fresh organic food to our volunteers and to surrounding neighborhoods through our "Pay What You Can, Take What You Need" Donation-Based Retail Model.

FGF is blessed with a rather remarkable set of assets for a new farming operation. FGF was donated 60 acres of prime farmland with ample irrigation water. Barbara and Bob Cecchini provide the new organization with technical expertise, farm equipment and the community contacts of a multi-generational farming family.

FGF is the only organization in East Contra Costa County with an educational farm and farmer-training program that is open to the public. The immediate popularity of FGF’s volunteer days and community events is evidence that East Contra Costa County is ready for an organization that can connect people directly with local farming.