The idea of linking agriculture and smart growth is gaining ground in California's booming rural areas.
"Even if you're only the slightest bit familiar with California's $30 billion-plus farm economy, you may have heard the lament: urban development is steamrolling the state's agricultural belt. Every day, bountiful fields surrender to big-box stores, fast-food restaurants, and residential sprawl. More than 100,000 acres were paved over in the Central Valley alone in the 1990s, and experts estimate that nearly 1 million more could vanish within a generation. Today's Country Mouse is tomorrow's City Mouse (or, more likely, a critter skittering across a cookiecutter suburban subdivision).
But while this threat is real and not to be taken lightly, it tends to obscure another phenomenon that is, in its own quiet way, gaining traction: cities up and down the state -- and, indeed, across the United States and around the globe -- increasingly are championing agriculture and forging beneficial bonds between urban and rural locales.
These links can take many forms, some more commonplace than others: bustling farmers' markets, "buy locally grown" campaigns, urban-to-ag water recycling programs, agricultural greenbelts and parks nestled in and around densely populated areas, city educational and recreational initiatives that regard the farm as a valuable asset. In each case, the key to success is getting people to recognize that the places furnishing our fruits, vegetables, milk, and meat are not separate from the regional metropolitan framework but, rather, an integral piece of it."