Thanks to our wonderful CSA Volunteers!

Starting this past October, Veronica Bearce, Susan Neuhaus, and Annette Batchelor have been managing the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program in Benicia.  If you pick up farm-fresh food on Wednesdays at Heritage Presbyterian Church, say THANK YOU to these amazing women!  Their commitment of time and energy has made it easier for folks in Benicia to get high-quality products from surrounding farms and fisheries.  Sustainable Solano is very grateful for their involvement in this project.

if you would like to implement a similar program in your town, contact Stephanie Jordan, our Local Food Program Manager at stephanie@sustainablesolano.org

The Future of Food: A Community Conversation in Benicia

 

 

 

 

By Stephanie Oeslgigie Jordan, Project Manager, Chef

Can a community decide how it will access food for its members?  Is there democratic participation in our food system?  What mindsets frame the future of our local food systems?  These questions and more kicked off a fascinating lecture-discussion led by Dr. Gail Feenstra and Dr. David Campbell of UC Davis on October 25.  Coordinated by Sustainable Solano, the talk was part of an ongoing program hosted by Heritage Presbyterian Church in Benicia, titled “How to Make the World a Better Place,” which features presentations and learning opportunities for people of all ages in Benicia.

Structured as an interview akin to Terry Gross’ “Fresh Air” program on NPR, Drs. Feenstra and Campbell asked provocative questions to each other, to get at the heart of issues surrounding local food systems.  The idea of “Local Food” has grown exponentially in the last couple of decades.  Dr. Campbell pointed out that in 1997, he and his research team could find only 100 articles on local food, and in 2011 there were over 2000 articles!  (In fact, the USDA LFPP grant that Sustainable Solano was awarded didn’t exist 10 years ago.)  So, what is all the fuss about?  Communities are becoming increasingly interested in how food will be produced, distributed and sold.  Over the years, competitive grants programs began to pop up (i.e. Placer Grown, Solano Grown) along with other programs that help communities start businesses and projects that assist local farmers/growers.

When running a food project, Dr. Feenstra had 3 important tips for success (she called them the “3 Ps”):  1) Partnerships are key, and the more diverse your partnerships, the better; 2) Public Participation is necessary for a solid community base and the development of leaders; and 3) maintaining high Principles & Values will help projects achieve social and environmental justice.

Sounds easy, right?  Well….there are some challenges according to Dr. Campbell, when asked about planning future food systems.  There are 3 different frames of mind out there, each with a different focus.  The first is driven by the question, “How are we going to feed 9 billion people?”   This perspective is driven by the idea that we need “more”, and incorporates the latest farming technology to increase volume and production.  The second group has an environmental focus, driven by climate change.  A local example includes the fact that crops are changing location in California, due to increased heat, drought, and changing weather patterns.  (We might add that sustainable vs. unsustainable farming methods would affect this problem as well.)  The third group is focused on social justice, asking “Why doesn’t everyone have access to healthy food?” and “Who is really running the elements of our food system?”

Not surprisingly, the solution lies in the need for these 3 frames to work together, instead of compete for attention.  But how?  Dr. Campbell suggests that local communities have advantages of doing work that integrates these elements.  Referencing Daniel Kemmis’ book, Community and the Politics of Place, Dr. Campbell theorizes that it is this common love of place that can serve as a foundation to bring people together and allow communities to better tackle issues and develop their own systems.  At the same time, communities must have peripheral vision – they must learn to see what’s around them, and develop diverse partnerships with people who can contribute their own unique experiences.  If you are too local, you will fight the symptoms, but not the root cause.

And remember those 2000 articles that now exist on local food systems?  All that research has illuminated three challenges, which communities must keep in mind:  1) Economic challenges which dance between paying the farmer enough money (so that he/she can continue farming), yet making food affordable for everyone, 2) Social challenges, addressed by numerous studies showing how middle- and upper-class white people are the only ones who can afford healthy food, and 3) Political challenges which highlight the lack of cooperation between one side of the food movement which wants to make changes within, and the other side which wants to “blow up” the system and start something entirely new.

In spite of all these challenges, Dr. Campbell subscribes to what he calls “hopeful realism.”  The talk finished with a video of a UC Davis urban agriculture project, where youth work at a community garden in Oakland.  Instead of having the director of the program lead a tour through the garden, UC Davis asked the youth to talk about their experiences and knowledge while the camera rolled.  At the end of the video, teens and youth were using words such as “love” and “happy” to describe how they felt about their work in the garden.  When diverse groups of participants come together and cooperate to solve issues, everyone has the opportunity to benefit in some way.


About the speakers:

Gail Feenstra is the Deputy Director of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP), a program of the Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis and the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR).  For Dr. Feenstra’s full biography, click here.

http://asi.ucdavis.edu/people/Feenstra

 

David Campbell, a political scientist, is Associate Dean for social/human sciences in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at UC Davis. He was appointed Associate Dean in October 2014.  For Dr. Campbell’s full biography, click here.

http://www.caes.ucdavis.edu/about/directory/fsd/david-campbell

 

 

USDA Local Food Project Update

 

By Stephanie Oesligie Jordan, Project Manager, Chef

On October 25, Sustainable Solano kicked off it’s “Solano Community Food Centers” planning grant – funded by USDA -with an Advisory Board meeting in Benicia, CA.

Attending the meeting were an enthusiastic group representing UC Davis and Solano County, as well as Solano County farmers and community leaders. Board members discussed what aspect of the project each of them could help with, and where their individual expertise could bring goals to fruition. The first phase of the planning grant includes a feasibility study, which will begin with data collection and analysis. As we work through phase 1, we aim to have a clearer picture of Solano County’s local food supply, its existing distribution systems, and an analysis of historical sales data. To this end, Dr. Kristin Kiesel of UC Davis gave a brief presentation on the proposed structure of the feasibility study, and the types of data needed to achieve our goals.

Thanks again to our Advisory Board members! Sustainable Solano is grateful for everyone’s participation and willingness to volunteer their time and talents!

ADVISORY BOARD:

David Campbell, Associate Dean, Social and Human Sciences, UC Davis

Robin Cox, Sr. Health Services Manager, Solano Public Health

Gail Feenstra, Deputy Director SAREP, UC Davis

Simone Hardy, Agricultural Commissioner, Solano County

Mike Ioakimedes, Business Development Manager, Solano County Fairgrounds

Kristin Kiesel, Lecturer PSOE, Agricultural & Resource Economics Dept, UC Davis

Wendy Loomas, Health Services Manager, Solano Public Health

Ben Lyons, Farmer, Lockewood Acres

Denise Lyons, Farmer + Criminalist Supervisor, Solano County DA

Jahniah McGill, Environmental Health Supervisor, Solano County

Greg Morrison, Board Member, Cultivate Community Food Co-Op

Stann Whipple, Treasurer, Board of Directors, Sustainable Solano

For more information on Sustainable Solano’s USDA LFPP grant, click here.

Cultivate Community Food Cooperative, Inc. (CCFC)

By Cultivate Community Food Cooperative

The experts say it will take a startup food co-op about 3-5 yrs. to open a food co-op grocery store. Well if that is true, then Cultivate Community Food Co-op is right on course. After 18 months of Stage I development – Organizing, CCFC reached Stage II development – Feasibility and Planning, in July, when we filed our Articles of Incorporation.

In September we had an Incorporation party and sold 25 owner shares, (soon we will be selling owner shares online.) Which brings us to October, which just happens to be ‘Co-op month’. Co-op month has been celebrated annually in October across the United States for more than half a century. It is a time for cooperative businesses to reflect on their shared principles and to educate others about the value of belonging to a cooperative.

In doing our part, Cultivate Community Food Co-op will be joining Sustainable Solano in a panel discussion entitled, ‘How to Make the World Better’, on Wed. Oct. 25 at the Heritage Presbyterian Church in Benicia. CCFC’s founder, Paula Schnese, will share with the community the progress the food co-op has made, talk about our future goals and timelines, and answer questions from the audience. In addition to this educational event, during Co-op month, CCFC will
also be sharing information at some of the local farmers markets and at the Loma Vista Farm Harvest Festival on October 21st .

Become an owner of your local food co-op! We will be selling owner shares at all the events we attend! ��

Our Collective Goals
 To create a sustainable grocery business based on member ownership and democratic decision-making
 To support local producers and sustainable agriculture
 To provide health-enhancing foods
 To keep prices as low as possible
 To be fair and supportive to our employees and to be sensitive to the working and living
conditions of those who make what we sell
 To be a community resource that helps the people of Benicia and Vallejo lead healthier lives
 To be a place in the community where people can come to gather and create community
 To be good stewards of the environment through conscientious, sustainable use of resources
 To reach out to low-income members of the community and enable their participation.
 To welcome all.

Our Mission
Cultivate Community Food Co-op will be Solano County’s first community-owned, natural grocery store. We will be a one stop, brick and mortar grocer dedicated to providing high-quality, locally-sourced, culturally-relevant, ethically-produced and affordable products.

Offering health and wellness education, we aim to empower our community and provide a public meeting space to engage with others. We are committed to creating and maintaining a more sustainable economy with a just and equitable future for our farmers, artisans, employees and owners by decreasing the physical and social distance between producers and consumers.

Cultivate Community Food Cooperative, Inc. (CCFC) is a cooperative corporation organized under the Consumer Cooperative Corporation Law of California

Become an Owner of CCFC: Owners in good standing may vote in co-op elections, attend the Annual Meeting, and run for the Board of Directors.

Other benefits include:
 Coupons, Sales and Discount Days
 Case Discounts on Special Orders
 Patronage Refund
 Discounted Classes

Select a Plan: Online sales will be available on our website soon
 Full Fair Share*: Invest $300
Strongly encouraged to facilitate store opening
 Partial Share*: Invest $25
Now and every quarter (or more often) until the full Fair Share of $300 is reached

*A $5 processing fee is charged (this helps with the cost of creating membership cards)

Contact Us:
E-mail: info@cultivatecommunityfood.coop
Website: http://cultivatecommunityfood.coop/
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/cultivatecommunityfood.coop/
Mailing address: P.O. Box 94, Benicia, CA 94510

Solano County Local Food

A community supported agriculture box from Eatwell Farm.

 

As we move forward with our greater vision for our Local Food Movement Initiative, we aim to better connect area farmers to the people of Solano County. Eating locally and supporting our local food growers strengthens our regional food system by building community and keeping dollars in our own local economy.

There is also a significant environmental impact of local food production-distribution networks which provide a shorter distribution distance between the grower and consumer. Generally, farm products are processed directly on the farm itself reducing middle-man packaging and additional refrigerated trucking. With smaller, sustainable family farms, you can count on fresher produce, a greater variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables, and endless learning opportunities! Many farms offering Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)  box programs offer tours where you can meet your farmers directly and see how your food is grown.

Supporting local food growers through a direct-to-consumer CSA program allows customers to enjoy highly-nutritious produce, meats, dairy and other farm goods. Members can pick up harvest shares at a communal location or have them delivered directly.

Sustainable Solano has made it easy for you to start eating fresher, better foods by compiling a list of local CSAs that currently deliver directly to Solano County cities. Communal pick-up locations are established when the minimum number of memberships required by each farm is met in each city. The more friends and family sign up, the more convenient pick-up locations are created in your city.

Don’t miss out on these current promotional specials!

 

Our goal is to include all Solano County food producers on this list so please share with us any we missed so we can add it to our website and start providing our residents more options for healthy, local food!

Big News for Benicia’s CSAs!

Benicia’s CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) programs are now all under one roof!  Heritage Presbyterian Church at 1400 East 2nd Street has graciously opened their doors to host products from four local sources:  Terra Firma Farm (vegetables & fruit), Tara Firma Farm (beef, pork, chicken, lamb, eggs, cheese & produce), Siren Fish Company (fish & seafood) and Real Food Bay Area (raw milk, prepared foods and more)!  By consolidating these CSAs, “buying local” is now more convenient; it’s one-stop shopping for delicious, locally-grown food.  For more information on the farms/fisheries, and to subscribe, please visit these links:

 

Our vision for Solano Community Food Centers is funded by USDA

Food, environment and human health, local economy and resilient communities

By Elena Karoulina

Executive Director of Sustainable Solano

Image from Pixabay

When was the last time you had Solano-grown produce on your dinner table? The most possible answer is ‘never’, unless you grow your own food in your garden or your backyard food forest. It’s a very unusual situation for a Bay Area county that is still largely agrarian, at least in the land use patterns.

Sustainable Solano is embarking on a new project to bring more local food to our communities and to connect our local farmers, chefs, and residents with the gifts of our land and with each other.

At the very end of September we received great news from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA): our proposal to further our vision by developing a business plan for Solano Community Food Centers was selected for funding! Annually, USDA funds about 14% of grant applications for local food projects, and we are honored to earn support on a federal level.

What is a Community Food Center? It is a hub for local food activities: CSAs deliveries, cooking classes, community education, and large kitchens where chefs and community members can cook wholesome nutritious meals. Larger Community Food Centers can include a food co-op.

Although Solano County produces close to $354 million worth of agricultural products and exports these products to more than 40 countries, only a fraction of that amount remains in the county due to weak distribution system, lack of sales outlets and somewhat low interest in local food. You can hardly find any Solano-grown products in our farmer markets, stores and restaurants. Small  farmers struggle to hold on to their land and to connect with local customers.

Where do we buy local food? People who can afford it obtain their local ag products in the markets outside our county: Napa, Sonoma, Berkeley (thus spending local money outside our local communities). Some cities in Solano are blessed with Community Supported Agriculture, but not many people know about this option and take advantage of it. People with low means have to go without local fresh food at all. Solano is a county of commuters, and unfortunately, the only option available for families on a go is fast-food restaurants and convenience stores (you cannot find local food there!).

We pay dearly for this lack of access to local food with our health: Solano County is among the sickest counties in the nation. Obesity, diabetes, heart disease rates are above national average in our home county.


Food, human health, the environment and local economies are all interconnected; by creating a network of city-based Community Food Centers, there is potential to re-envision and re-construct Solano County’s food system so that it works for everyone in the local food supply chain.


Sustainable Solano has partnered with researchers at UC Davis, Solano County Department of Agriculture and Department of Public Health to conduct a feasibility study, develop an effective business plan, and outline implementation for local food businesses that aggregate, process and distribute locally-produced, healthy food products. Our big vision is the environmentally and economically sustainable, equitable local food systems in Solano County.

We are looking for urban and rural farmers, chefs and local food activists interested to implement this vision. We’d love to hear from you with your comments, suggestions, reflections, and offers to help. Please email directly to me at elena@sustainablesolano.org

Let’s make it happen! I am looking forward to meet all of you at the official launch of the program on Wednesday, October 25, at 7 pm, at Benicia’s Heritage Presbyterian Church (doors open at 6 pm). Please join our Advisory Board members Dr. Feenstra and Dr. Campbell in the conversation about the future of food and why local resilient food system is so important. Come meet the project team and all of us interested to bring this vision to reality.