What We Do?
At FGF, everything we do is tied to our mission, everyone pitches in, and slowly but surely, it all comes together.
Every day we’re keeping the soil rich and chemical-free. We’re introducing young minds to wonders of worms and sprouting seeds. We’re making sure no one has to skip their veggies, and nothing goes to waste. Last but not least, we’re growing a fresh crop of farmers to keep up this good work, and keep passing the torch, for generations to come.
Becoming A Farmer For Life
Urban Edge Sustainable Farming Program UESF
At First Generation Farmers, we believe that recruiting, training, inspiring, and mentoring the next generation of small and mid-size farmers is vital to the strength of our local communities, the health of our land, and the security of our food supply.
UESF is an immersive, full-time residential program designed to provide aspiring organic specialty crop farmers with the foundational production skills, business knowledge, and confidence they need to establish dynamic and resilient urban edge farm enterprises.
How we started..
First Generation Farmers began in 2013 when founder Alli Cecchini, then in her early twenties, persuaded her parents, Bob and Barbara Cecchini, to let her convert a few acres of the family’s vast, century-old asparagus farm to diversified organic production. Having grown up on the farm and watched her parents manage their business through many ups and downs, Alli was not driven by romantic notions about the farming life. She knew it would take plenty of old-school grit and determination to establish a viable farm operation of her own.
But Alli’s vision for FGF was unmistakably forward-thinking—defined by a socially-conscious mission, a passion for community outreach and education, and a uniquely millennial instinct for entrepreneurship. In this spirit, and with crucial mentorship from her mom and dad, she put FGF on an ambitious course to renew connections between farmers and the people they feed, create an innovative model of farm sustainability, and broaden the scope of possibilities for the next generation of farmers.
In its first three years, First Generation Farmers bootstrapped its way to rapid growth, nearly tripling their acres in production. At the same time, Alli and her dynamic team forged vital relationships with Bay Area market goers, restauranteurs, parents and educators, volunteers and apprentices, hunger relief organizations, fellow farmers, and others.
By inviting customers to “Take what you need, pay what you can,” FGF engages people from all walks of life in a conversation about the importance of making fresh, healthy food accessible to everyone, and about what it means to value the work of small-scale producers who live nearby and devote themselves wholly to growing good food and stewarding the land responsibly.
With its after-school programs, summer camps, and farm tours, and as one of the most popular WWOOF farms in the country, FGF draws hundreds of people to the farm each year. No matter their age or the language they speak, all are eager to get their hands in the dirt, discover the magic of composting, collect fresh eggs and honey, harvest bountiful veggies, and soak up the wholesome, industrious atmosphere of a people-powered farm.
In 2015 Alli resolved to protect her family’s farm from the relentless encroachment of population growth and development sprawl that has swallowed up some 24 million acres of fertile farmland in the U.S. since the early 1980s. Working with the Brentwood Agricultural Land Trust, she spearheaded the effort to put 550 acres (half of the Cecchinis’ parcel) into a conservation easement through California’s Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program (SALC).
Two years and reams of paperwork later, the deal was done. Just an hour east of San Francisco, a significant parcel of prime farmland was reserved for farming in perpetuity. This was a major accomplishment, but for FGF it was only an early milestone in a long-term quest. Increasingly, Alli and her team were building First Generation Farmers as a platform for inspiring and supporting as many new farmers as possible to take up the yeoman’s work of feeding their neighbors and restoring our food system to an ecologically sustainable, human scale. With this goal in mind, they decided to designate the 550 acres as space for scores of beginning farmers to put their skills into practice and develop vibrant, mutually supportive farm businesses.
After years of offering ad-hoc training and mentorship to individual apprentices (the hardest working volunteers, the ones who latched on and wouldn’t leave!), in 2017 FGF launched Urban Edge Sustainable Farmers (UESF), a formal training and incubator program to create new opportunities for beginning specialty crop farmers in California.
FGF is well-positioned to nurture young farm businesses well-beyond their early stage development. In addition to making 550 acres of protected, prime agricultural land available for incubator production and potential long-term leasing, the farm offers abundant, low-cost water supply through Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta irrigation; established farm infrastructure; established channels to regional direct and wholesale markets; and deep, multigenerational ties to the East Contra Costa farming community.
The ultimate vision is to build a community of 30-50 committed, independent enterprises to cooperatively farm the entire 550-acre parcel for the long term—all benefitting from shared access to tools, labor, distribution, collective purchasing, product aggregation, and other cost efficiencies. It won’t happen overnight, but FGF has enough experience to know that getting there is half the fun.