UC Helps Maintain State's Agricultural Roots:Grown in Marin

The Issue

The University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) is increasingly offering support to farmers in counties where beautiful scenery and favorable climates threaten their agricultural industries.

Marin County in the 1850s boasted sprawling Mexican cattle ranchos. In 2005, Marin was the site of the highest median priced Bay Area homes. Despite the changing economics, half the county’s land is still actively farmed or ranched. More than 38,000 acres on 57 farms and ranches are part of an agricultural land trust that protects them from development. However, a UCCE survey of farmers found that 63 percent consider their operations unprofitable or marginally profitable.

What Has ANR Done?

In 2002, UCCE, working with a group of farmers, local government, educators, non-profit organizations and environmental groups, created “Grown in Marin” to strengthen the viability and long-term success of agriculture in the county.

Since January 2002, Grown in Marin has organized 23 educational farm diversification workshops covering organic strawberry production, on-farm composting, organic pasture certification, cut flower production, organic weed control and small animal agriculture. The overall average satisfaction rating from evaluations is 88 percent. The program also offers six newsletters per year that showcase successful diversification and organic transition examples. This educational piece has become a vehicle for sharing agricultural news and events throughout the county.

The Payoff

Organic Production Rapidly Increasing

UCCE programs have helped local producers expand their organic acreage from 357 acres in 2000 to 16,000 in 2006. Organic production gross values increased from $3.2 million in 2000 to $3.96 million in 2006. Membership in Marin Organic, a local organic farmers' guild and marketing label, increased from six in 2001 to 40 today. The efforts of the grass-fed workgroup, facilitated by UCCE and the Agricultural Commissioner's office, have resulted in the first county certified grass-fed ordinance in California. Marin County has become known as an innovator and leader in the development of organic and sustainable farming practices. The Grown in Marin Web site is a rich educational resource on organic and sustainable agriculture. The site averages 2,500 hits per month. The Grown in Marin newsletter offers timely and accurate information about organic and sustainable farm practices six times a year to 600 farmers and ranchers.

Clientele Testimonial

"Many thanks for the recent ranch field tour. It was so valuable for me, as a grower, to see how others build their 'brand' and 'product recognition.'" - Jim Normandi


Supporting Unit: Marin County

Steve Quirt, Sustainable Agriculture Coordinator, (415) 499-4204, wsquirt@ucdavis.edu.