SONOMA, CA-As Sonoma County land devoted to higher value wine grapes increases, officials are taking steps to preserve the rapidly decreasing acreage devoted to small vegetable “truck farms.”

At a recent Santa Rosa meeting, the Sonoma County Agricultural and Open District presented its Small Farms Initiative to the Board of Supervisors. The initiative proposes to bring small-scale farms to five of 15 properties owned by the district, which is offering three of them for lease to small farmers before next year.

The district says that small farm acreage in Sonoma County has decreased 50% in the past 10 years, or by about 850 acres. Under the initiative, small truck farms would average about 40 acres, in comparison to the three acres that most small truck farms currently average.

With competition from higher value crops, such as grapes, most small farmers are finding that land is scarce and unavailable. Currently, 58,000 acres in Sonoma County are devoted to vineyards, including 2,400 acres that are being converted to grape vines.

The initiative’s first phase calls for leasing about 50 acres to small farmers at a fair market value. While the board has yet to take action on the district’s initiative, its members endorsed the concept.

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