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Arcata agriculture land and food capability
Our coastal home Arcata is an area notable for its vibrant farming communities. Due to our geographic positioning along the California North Coast, Arcata has several ideal characteristics for agriculture, including its mild marine climate allowing for yearlong productivity and fertile soils. In addition to the favorable environment, Arcata’s particularly locally-minded population creates the perfect conditions for a sizable network of small farms. Assessing the feasibility of depending on the production of our local foodshed, we examine the potential for the small farms of the Arcata area to sustain the dietary needs of its population given its 447 acres of available farmland.
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No matter how fertile the soil is, production will continuously depend on the available farmland. Without the appropriate land for agriculture, farmers simply cannot produce the needed quantities of food for their communities. The population of an area must take a vested interest in its foodshed by devoting effort towards securing farmlands and eating locally in order for a completely localized food supply to be realized. Local market interests also directly influence the makeup of our town’s farming communities, giving small farmers the ability to thrive in environments that have an expressed desire for their presence. These local markets make it possible for small farmers to exist outside of the world food distribution system, offering them a strong and reliable market through restaurants, farmer’s markets, groceries, food co-ops, and direct sales and shares.
Our Model Using the production capacity of three farms, the Arcata Ed Farm (a vegetable CSA), Wild Chick Farm (a pastured chicken farm), and Shakefork Community Farm (a grain CSA), we compared their weekly caloric production to the total weekly caloric demand* of Arcata’s 17,021 people. We based this caloric demand by calculating their nutritional needs with a calorie counter along with the standards provided by the Harvard Medical Food Pyramid (see Figure 2). Continuing this model we then compared the production capacity per acre of each farm to the production needs of the population, thus finding how much farmland would be needed to feed the population.
- Keep in mind that the basic dietary needs provided by the major food groups of fruits, dairy, and fats/oils were not included in this model.