Posted by: aacantor | August 19, 2008

Local Food System Revamp in Order: Agricultural system to benefit Sacramento public

New local food activities in the Sacramento region described in the press release below:

SACRAMENTO, Calif.—Local food is about to become more palatable with a $50,000 pledge from the Board of Supervisors to address barriers faced by local farmers trying to sell food through local supermarkets, restaurants, and direct markets in Sacramento County.

“The end result is to get a distribution system in place so fresh, wholesome products, produced locally, are consumed locally,” said Charlotte Mitchell executive director of the Sacramento County Farm Bureau and coordinator for the Grow & Buy Local Committee.

To get a program and distribution system in place, the Grow & Buy Local Committee is aware of the barriers associated with the current global market, population trends, and land development pressures. The committee includes the University of California cooperative extension, agricultural commissioner, rural home owners associations, farmers and ranchers, and local officials.

Sacramento County agricultural production reached $365 million in 2007, according to a report soon to be released by Sacramento County Agricultural Commissioner, Frank Carl. The value reported is the raw value returned to the producer. As these commodities are packed, processed, and marketed, the impact of that production value is typically multiplied by one and one half times as a measure of its impact on the Sacramento regional economy, said Carl.

Studies such as Regional Agricultural Marketing: A Review of Programs in California, May 2006, will serve as a starting point for the Sacramento program. The 25 interviews conducted by University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program staff were with people connected to California agriculture marketing campaigns. The results will provide necessary guidelines and infrastructure for the Grow & Buy Local Committee program.

The committee also plans to tackle topics like: research identifying Sacramento consumer preferences, nutrition value differences, and educating the public about where food comes from.

Quality is the number one reason consumers shop at Certified Farmers’ Markets in California. Fresh-picked, vine and tree-ripened quality produce attracts shoppers. Everyone involved with Grow & Buy Local agrees that the time is ripe for action. This season, Certified Farmers’ Markets are reporting dramatic increases in customer attendance.

“Some markets have increased as much as 15 percent, others are up as much as 25 percent from last year attendance records,” said Dan Best, coordinator for Certified Farmers’ Markets. “What we do know is the family budget has taken a hit with the rising price of gas, so more people are cooking at home.”

“The time has come when local government and concerned grassroots organizations in Sacramento County should join hands to systematically explore the potential of this new movement,” said Bill Myers member of the Sheldon Rural Community Association and member of the Grow & Buy Local Committee. “Not only to raise the income of farmers and ranchers and the quality of food for urban consumers, but also as one important means for encouraging the preservation of agricultural lands and rural life.”

To learn more about eating local, visit the Sacramento County booth located in the California Building during the California State Fair starting this Friday, August 15 through September 1. Maps, identifying local strawberry growers, farm stands, wineries and Certified Farmers’ Markets, will be available at the booth. Also, free tomato seed packets will be available, which is fitting since some locals enjoy calling Sacramento, ‘Sacra-tomato.’

Grow & Buy Local Committee one-year action points are:

* Research market analysis—survey farmers and buyers to identify their preferences
* Best practices—review of other local grown programs for working elements
* Public outreach—develop strategies for nutrition education, workshops, Web-site, etc.
* Implementation—establish an independent working partner(s) resource infrastructure

For more information or to become a partner in the local food movement, contact Charlotte Mitchell sacfarmbur@msn.com or (916) 685-6958.

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