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by Slow Food USA Intern, Sara Hoffman

According to the American Farmland Trust, “America is losing 1.2 million acres of farmland annually, much of it the best and most productive farmland near where most Americans live.” This is a problem not only because fewer farms mean less food productivity. Farmers can be excellent environmental stewards and the loss of farmland exacerbates the problem of unchecked developmental sprawl in the U.S.

Another problem? The loss of plant diversity that occurs when these lands are cleared. The National Plant Salvage Foundation, near Olympia, Washington, has found a wonderful way to rescue the native plants found on land set to be cleared for development. Though the areas to be bulldozed aren’t always farmland, these rescues help to preserve biodiversity and restore the vegetation lost to industrial development, much of which does occur on farmland. Their Salvage Program rescues native plants and then rehabilitates them with the help of volunteers. The plants are then replanted on land where habitat and water sources have been damaged by human enterprise.

This replanted native vegetation helps to repair a site by collecting stormwater run-off and replenishing underwater aquifers, for example. The foundation also holds educational workshops and field trips to teach residents about how the native plants can reduce pesticide use and improve natural habitat.

If you are interested in biodiversity protection such as this, you can also check out Slow Food USA’s RAFT Program (Renewing America’s Food Traditions) which works to identify, protect, restore and celebrate North America’s most endangered native seeds and breeds.