By Allison Nagel, Communications Manager

Solano Local Food System Alliance members discuss the need to build community awareness about local food.

The Solano Local Food System Alliance held its first official meeting at the end of August to discuss how to foster a strong local food system within the county.

Though the Alliance is a new entity, its work grows out of the efforts of many Alliance members during the past two years as the Local Food Advisory Board. In that capacity, the group of leaders, including farmers, and those in private businesses, public agencies and local organizations, shaped the foundation of the tasks the Alliance will take on and address during quarterly meetings.

The advisory board’s work supported the vision to diversify, expand and safeguard a local, healthy food economy that will preserve farmland, its integrity and biodiversity in the county, and ensure food access for all our communities. The mission set before the Alliance is to do the work needed across stakeholders, organizations and agencies to create an environmentally sustainable, economically viable, socially just and equitable local food system in Solano County.

At the August meeting, Alliance members started the conversation and set goals toward accomplishing that mission. They discussed the challenge farmers face from the fees involved in selling their food at different venues, reviving marketing efforts around promoting food grown in Solano County, the need to gather better data about food grown and bought in the county and planning events that help promote local food, such as Bounty of Solano County, an event that would be held at the Solano County Fairgrounds to promote local growers and restaurants.

The Alliance received updates on ongoing efforts and discussed next steps.

Alliance members enjoyed seasonal items from local farms during their meeting.

Sustainable Solano continues its efforts to build a network of institutional customers, whether healthcare providers, schools or other institutions, that will source more of their food from local farmers. Part of that project aims to educate the public on where the food is coming from — building stronger community awareness of local food and offering experiences that help build consumer preferences for local food. There was discussion of promoting a “5 by ’25” approach, which would encourage that institutional customers and individuals seek to spend 5% of their food spending on local food items.

In October, Alliance members will meet with each other and key community stakeholders and policymakers for intensive listening sessions. Those sessions are supported by tribal funding that targets systems change, allowing time to work together to suss out the vital components of creating change in the local food system. More direction and action items will come out of those meetings.

Action items to be revisited at the January Alliance meeting include:

  • Determining the fees farmers pay and analysis of what is driving those fees.
  • Revitalizing marketing efforts for food grown in the county.
  • Informing Sustainable Solano of new retail and restaurants that source locally.
  • Moving Bounty of Solano County forward for 2020.
  • Starting a conversation around policy.

August’s Alliance meeting included a presentation on best practices from Greenbelt Alliance’s Amy Hartman, who also sits on the Solano Local Food System Alliance.

She discussed the value of encouraging policy change, such as urging Solano County cities to allow urban agriculture (Vallejo is the only one that permits urban farms at the moment). She talked about framing such conversations around new uses, such as San Francisco’s classification of “neighborhood agriculture” and focusing on the benefits to public health and activating vacant lots.

Curious about the Solano Local Food System Alliance? Learn more about the USDA grant that led to the creation of the Alliance and find out more about the group’s work here.