Former Modesto City Councilman and longtime farmland preservation activist Denny Jackman was just named President of the Central Valley Farmland Trust (CVFT). Jackman’s long history of activism includes successful implementation of the Stamp Out Sprawl initiative (with Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh), a long involvement with the Farmland Working Group, and decades of effort to educate and inform local citizens about the value of San Joaquin farmland. Denny was generous enough to answer our questions about his new position.
Valley Citizen: Is the Central Valley Farmland Trust affiliated with the American Farmland Trust?
Jackman: The Central Valley Farmland Trust is an independent 501c3 not-for-profit corporation in California. We are not affiliated with American Farmland Trust, yet work with them on issues that promote farmland preservation. For a clear understanding of what CVFT does visit www.valleyfarmland.org.
Valley Citizen: What are your immediate priorities?
Jackman: As President of CVFT my immediate priorities are the same as our long-term priorities, to provide opportunities for private property owners of prime and statewide important farmland to preserve it in perpetuity through the use of an Agricultural Conservation Easement (ACE). We currently are engaged with interested property owners in all four participating counties: Sacramento, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Merced.
Valley Citizen: Stanislaus County Supervisor Jim DeMartini says Stanislaus County farmland is “unique.” Do you agree? If so, why?
Jackman: Supervisor DeMartini’s comments were/are in reference to a combination of superior soil qualities of local farmland and availability of water, local processing facilities, access to markets, labor availability, well-educated farmers, and other features that make our region a world class food producer. Yes, I agree.
Valley Citizen: Over the years, what have you found most frustrating about trying to preserve farmland?
Jackman: One of the most frustrating aspects of my history of working to preserve the best farmland is an ever growing disconnect between knowledge and action. We established urban communities based on their proximity to highly productive farmland and connections to transport systems. We first used the rivers, then the railroad, then the roadways to expedite getting our local food production to world markets. That same roadway system has contributed to urbanization over some of our best soils. Vintage Faire Mall and most of the northern and western expansion of Modesto are examples. We now understand where the best soils are and what lands have superior water aquifer recharge qualities. Though our local governments hold that knowledge, there are no policies that restrict or promote avoiding the urbanization of those areas. The public has made it very clear through media and the ballot box that they want the best farmland not to be urbanized. Yet today, no city has a policy that considers soil quality or water recharge capabilities as part of their analysis of areas to avoid urbanizing.
Valley Citizen: What has been most encouraging?
Jackman: The most encouraging sign for farmland protection is that public support has not waned.
Valley Citizen: There’s an ongoing controversy about the proposed freeway extension of Highway 132. Does the CVFT have a position on that issue? If so, what is your position?
Jackman: CVFT is not a political entity. Thus it takes no position on Highway 132. I have personally been involved as a citizen and as a Modesto City Council member and Vice Chair of Stanislaus Council of Governments during my Council tenure. I personally favor improving the safety of Hwy132, as have two studies that recommend a four lane system.
Valley Citizen: Going forward, what do you see as your greatest challenge?
Jackman: The greatest challenge for CVFT is having funding available for purchasing property development rights from volunteering property owners when they are ready. Having a pool of funding, such as that created by local mitigation programs, such as in San Joaquin County, help us to leverage funding from philanthropic, state, and federal sources. It is important to understand that our charge is very intentional. Once the landowner has entrusted CVFT by placing an ACE on their property it then becomes CVFT’s sole purpose to protect that ACE in perpetuity. And that’s a long time…