Our Federal Policy “Asks” for a Resilient Food System
The small but mighty 2021 Food and Ag Cap-to-Cap Team is back prepping for the Metro Chamber’s annual regional advocacy program, which will be held virtually during the last week of October. As America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital, the Team strives to elevate the importance of the $12 billion+ food and agriculture economic cluster, highlighting innovations and initiatives across our food system, and leveraging federal policies, programs and investments.
After the Spring 2020 Cap-to-Cap visit was postponed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the team continued to work with regional, state and federal partners on issues that have even more urgency than before – strengthening the resiliency of the regional food system, and ensuring a strong workforce. Our third big issue – broadband connectivity, access and adoption, which focused on supporting our rural economies and driving adoption of agri-food technologies – has broadened to a high overall regional priority, given all the impacts from the pandemic. We’re grateful to the Cap-to-Cap Economic Development Team for taking on this issue, linking to it as one of the region’s key infrastructure strategies.
To strengthen the region’s resilience, one Cap-to-Cap priority is to target institutional procurement policy changes that will expand local purchasing and supply chains and support local growers, food processors, distributors, and more. We are seeking increased flexibility in the USDA National School Lunch Program’s procurement regulations so local school districts can receive Cash in Lieu of Commodities – meaning school districts can use funds to purchase local goods instead of having to obtain food products from outside the state. This is a true Farm-to-School approach. As we have for many years, we continue to support the development of food system infrastructure such as food hubs, central kitchens at schools, and other facilities and equipment to increase opportunities for farm-to-institution procurement, including for hospitals. We have excellent examples of local procurement initiatives such as with Sacramento City Unified School District’s Nutrition Services and UC Davis Health system that have greatly expanded local purchasing, supporting the local economy and also delivering more than 65,000 fresh and healthy meals daily prepared by our local chefs. We also have a goal to address SNAP eligibility requirements for food insecure college students across the region.
Our other Cap-to-Cap priority is supporting the food and ag cluster’s workforce. Pre-COVID, there was already a skills gap and a pipeline gap across the economic cluster. With the average farmer being 57.5 years of years of age and the average skilled manufacturing (food processing) worker being 55 years of age, we now face a new challenge of worker retention, along with increased demand for digital and agri-tech skills across the entire industry. And of course, we want to ensure that our farmworkers and other front-line workers who kept the regional food system and supply chain going – through health crises and climate challenges, to ensure safe and healthy food for all of us – have safe working conditions and opportunities for income mobility. The Team supports increased federal investments in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, including for training, industry partnerships, and apprenticeships among others, to reskill, upskill, retain, recruit and grow the next generation of farmers, food entrepreneurs and food system workers. We also support legislation to provides certified agricultural workers with a path to help achieve earned legal status.
The Cap to Cap team is led by Honey Agency, Sacramento City Unified School District Nutrition Services, Valley Vision and Wilson Vineyards. Valley Vision is excited that this year’s program also will benefit from the update of the Food System Action Plan from 2015, prepared in partnership with the Sacramento Region Community Foundation, and the new Food System Resilience Poll, conducted in partnership with Sacramento State Institute for Social Research. These linked reports will be released in early October, giving us new insights for our food system. It will help drive the success of our Greater Sacramento Region Prosperity Strategy, in which food and agriculture is one of our three competitive advantage clusters. We’re also excited that Cap-to-Cap will provide the opportunity to work with our supportive Congressional delegation and new leaders at USDA and other agencies who hail from the region. Please join us to lend your voice and expertise to our food and ag mission!
To continue staying up to date with efforts to strengthen our regional food system, subscribe to Valley Vision’s Food for Thought email newsletter!
Trish Kelly is Valley Vision’s Managing Director, leading its food, agriculture, workforce, and broadband initiatives.
Recap: Challenges and Opportunities in Our Region’s Food System
Valley Vision is proud to be researching and working alongside partners to support investment in the region’s food system.
Last month, as part of the 2021 Food System Action Plan update, Valley Vision hosted a series of Listening Sessions in topical areas as an opportunity to identify funding, capacity, and resource needs in the region’s Food System. We were joined by almost 200 participants who shared their expertise in workforce development and career pathways; viability of agriculture and land preservation; environmental sustainability and climate change; health and nutrition education; healthy food access and food security; and food economy and local market development.
Supported by the Sacramento Region Community Foundation, the 2021 Food System Action Plan (FSAP) is a regional food system investment strategy that will identify best practices, priorities, prevailing challenges, opportunities, and funding recommendations related to the region’s food system for the communities of El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento, and Yolo Counties. The goal is to increase the vitality of the region’s food system and to identify financing strategies and mechanisms to support a more equitable, health-promoting and accessible food system for all residents of the Greater Sacramento Region. The report will be released this Fall, and excitingly, for the first time, the report will be paired with a Food System Resilience Poll, in partnership with the Sacramento State Institute for Social Research (ISR) and Capital Public Radio. The poll covers similar topics related to the food system and will inform the Food System Action Plan. Both of these reports are slated to be released in Fall 2021.
If you weren’t able to attend the listening sessions, below is a brief summary of each session:
- Session #1: The participants in the Careers in Food and Agriculture session discussed the manufacturing, processing, and distribution networks of the food system, illustrating the diversity of farm operations in the region. Although the session reminded us that the region has many successful Career Technical Education (CTE) programs in food and agriculture-which prepare high school students for college – challenges remain in sustaining, building, and retaining a local workforce, including the next generation of farmers and food producers. Lack of awareness of workforce opportunities and less than positive image were also challenges.
- Session #2: Land, capital and broadband access, agriculture technology, local markets, and land preservation were constant themes in the Viability of Agriculture session. Despite land conversion being a threat to agriculture’s viability, our region is doing better than others in the state; however, access to land to start a farm or a community garden remains a challenge. Workforce is another challenge.
- Session #3: During the Environmental Sustainability session, participants discussed local food production, food waste, edible food recovery, and the impacts climate change has had (and will have) on the food system, as is manifesting now. Although food hubs were discussed in some fashion in every session, in this session they were discussed extensively as a mechanism to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with transportation of produce and international trade and to provide additional capacity for packaging, processing and distribution of local produce for local consumption.
- Session #4: The Healthy Food Access and Food Security session showcased the strong network of nonprofits in the region, especially those in the emergency food system, who work to provide access to fresh, local, and nutritious food to under-resourced communities. In spite of the increased impact on this sector due to the pandemic, participants shared that consistent and expanded funding for infrastructure, organizational capacity and growth to manage the increased levels of clients and food remains a challenge.
- Session #5: In the Health and Nutrition session, the importance of family-based nutrition education and supply chain awareness was emphasized. A number of participants mentioned that most people are not aware of the correlation between food, health, and eating habits, and that robust educational support is needed to help promote healthy eating and nutrition literacy.
- Session #6: The Food Economy session focused on institutional purchases, entrepreneurship support, and local procurement partnerships. There are a significant number of small farmers in the region, but corporate producers can produce food for a lower price, making local food procurement and local economic development challenging. There are innovative efforts through schools and hospitals that can be models for increased local procurement and purchasing partnerships, support local producers and keep more dollars local.
The listening sessions revealed what most of us already know: As America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital, we have a lot of work to do but we have the infrastructure and the strong networks to do it. If we are organized as a region, we can better promote, support, and partner with one another to bring additional funding to the region. We look forward to sharing additional challenges, opportunities, and funding recommendations in the Fall when we release the 2021 Food System Action Plan.
The full recordings and presentation slides are available on Valley Vision’s website. If you weren’t able to attend the sessions and would like to provide comments for the FSAP, we have created a survey to gather additional input. Please reach out to Grace Kaufman (Grace.Kaufman@valleyvision.org) should you have any questions.
To keep up with Valley Vision’s work to advance livability in the Sacramento region, subscribe to our monthly Food and Ag newsletter!
Grace Kaufman is a Valley Vision Project Manager working in the Food and Ag and Clean Economy impact areas
Valley Vision Continues to Support a Food System For All
In recent months, the COVID-19 pandemic has created extraordinary challenges for our food system as food and economic insecurity has sky-rocketed. In recent days our country and our community have experienced significant pain and grief over the manifestations of systemic racial, economic, and social injustice. As our region joins together to face the challenges of COVID-19, we also strive for a food system that works for all, as a vital part of equitable, inclusive, healthy communities.
There has long been a connection between food access and economic, social, and racial justice sought by black and brown communities. In fact, in 1968, one of the earliest and most successful actions of the Black Panthers movement was the creation of the Free Breakfast for Children Program.
The program was so impactful that, during a 1969 U.S. Senate hearing, National School Lunch Program Administrator Rodney Leonard admitted that the Panthers probably fed more poor school children than the State of California. However, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover vehemently disapproved of the Black Panthers and worked adamantly to squash the movement. He branded the Breakfast Program not just a “tactic” but a “threat” and authorized raids and destruction of any churches or community centers that were participating. By the early 1970s, the Black Panthers Breakfast Program ended. However, due to their efforts, Congress could not ignore the program’s critical role in the lives of students and their families, and in 1975 established The School Breakfast Program. Since then, funding has dramatically increased for both the National School Lunch Program, as well as the School Breakfast Program – the legacy of the Black Panthers. In 2019, over 100,000 schools received funding to serve over 33 million students breakfast and lunch at free or reduced prices. For many, school-provided meals remain these students’ primary source of nutrition.
Valley Vision has always been committed to securing an equitable food system in our region. In 2015, along with the Sacramento Region Community Foundation, published the Food System Action Plan. The report, developed in partnership with numerous leaders and community stakeholders, assessed the status or the entire region’s food system and gave specific actionable policy recommendations and strategies to strive for a sustainable and equitable food system. While investigating the status of programs targeting food equity and food accessibility, Valley Vision discovered that in the Sacramento Region only 71% of the 205,000 students eligible for the National School Lunch Program were participating, and an even smaller percentage of those eligible were enrolled for the School Breakfast Program. The same statistics were also true for families eligible for CalFresh and SNAP programs. The impact, aside from a growing number of food-insecure residents, was an estimated loss of $215 million in potential revenue for the region from farmers and distributors supplying fresh and nutritious foods to the community.In May 2020 Valley Vision, along with Greater Sacramento Economic Council (GSEC), Sacramento Metro Chamber, Sacramento Asian Chamber, and the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG), co-published the region’s new prosperity strategy along with Our Path Forward: The Prosperity Strategy, a bridge to economic recovery.
The framework bolsters the Greater Sacramento region’s food and agriculture cluster, a deep supply chain that extends from research to commercialization of technology, to production, processing, distribution, and consumption. The report recognizes the vital importance of our food and ag economy and the imperative for a sustainable and equitable food system.
Guided by the Food System Action Plan and our projects over the years – and with the new imperative of dealing with the crisis created by COVID 19 – especially with the dramatic increase in hunger and food insecurity and the impact on our farmers, food distributors and restaurants in particular – Valley Vision will continue to advocate for and drive efforts that invest in our regional food system. We are working with partners at the local, state and federal levels on strategies to increase institutional procurement of locally grown foods by schools, hospitals, and others; support school wellness and student nutrition policies; expand food and beverage manufacturing, including healthy new foods of the future and workforce pipelines; drive food and ag innovation and entrepreneurship; accelerate rural broadband initiatives to support AgTech and rural communities; and strengthen the nonprofit sector, especially in areas of food access and literacy.
With the Food System Action Plan at a five-year benchmark, we hope to update the key facts on food security and access that were identified in 2015, and work with the Community Foundation, stakeholders and the community to update and act upon the Food System Action Plan’s strategies and recommendations.
If you are interested in learning more about Valley Vision’s involvement in the Food and Ag space please contact Emma Koefoed at Emma.Koefoed@valleyvision.org.
Farm-to-Fork LIVE Hosts Webinar on Regional Emergency Food System Response
Since the start of COVID-19, families have been facing an uncertain and precarious new reality. From lost jobs to lost income, many worry about how they are going to provide for their families and put food on the table. What has not been uncertain, however, is the vigilance and drive of our region’s leadership that have joined together to make sure communities are taken care, of especially when it comes to addressing food insecurity and food access.
On April 17th, We Are Farm to Fork hosted its second Farm-to-Fork LIVE Webinar focusing on the emergency food system response. Speakers included Julia Burrows, City of Sacramento Mayor’s Office; Blake Young, Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services; Joy Cohan, Yolo Food Bank, Dave Martinez, Placer Food Bank; Andrea Lepore, Solomon’s Deli. Emma Koefoed, Project Manager at Valley Vision, moderated the discussion that focused on how each is addressing the needs of low-income families, elderly citizens, students, refugees, the medically fragile, homeless, and those transitioning into food insecure situations for the first time.
The City of Sacramento and the Mayor’s office have been extraordinary in launching initiatives to support the community. With so many people in need, Julia Burrows, Senior Policy Advisor to Mayor Darrell Steinberg, ensured that the City remains committed to three main objectives during this time. The first is to convene leadership as a way to match available resources to those who are seeking specific support. The City staff has since started facilitating weekly calls among community-based organizations, non-profits, and partners in the food space. Secondly, they are working on fundraising efforts to provide financial assistance back to the businesses. In partnership with Councilman Schenirer, Donate4 Sacramento was launched as an initiative to provide support for local families, individuals, non-profit, and small businesses struggling through the crisis. They have raised 1.2 million dollars thus far. Another example is the collaboration with the Family Meal Program, a project launched by local chefs, who are now able to distribute daily meals to 11 senior and assisted living facilities with the support of Paratransit, an achievement made possible through these partner relationships. Third, using the Mayor as a vessel to communicate information back out into the community and as an advocate for policy changes at the state and federal level.
Similarly, Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services (SFBFS) is working with the City to collaborate on ways to extend their reach into the community. Before COVID-19, SFBFS served about 150,000 individuals from 220 locations per month. Beginning in March, they, like many other food banks, had several distribution locations close due to the fact that many of their volunteer staff are senior citizens. Since then, they have centered operations on 30 locations that they identified to have the capacity to manage the increase of food distribution needs. With the support of the California National Guard and Conservation Corps, they have ramped up their efforts with two mega distribution drive-by pick up locations and continue to move food out the door. Blake Young, CEO of Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services, noted that with public support, donations, and partnerships, like with the City of Sacramento and companies like Raley’s Food For Families Program, they have been able to continue their mission and serve the growing communities need. To find distribution sites closest to you use the Food Finder online tool.
Yolo Food Bank (YFB) serves more than 52,000 people in 19,000 households every month to help end hunger and malnutrition. Joy Cohan, Yolo Food Bank Director of Philanthropic Engagement, outlined with a majority of their clients residing in rural areas, reaching those in need already had its built-in challenges. On top of continuing to serve their normal clients, they are the leading effort on food response for Yolo. With the help of the Yolo Office of Emergency Services, the Yolo Food Bank has developed a delivery model targeting at-home seniors. In the last five weeks, they have served 2,000 households and 4,200 individuals. In another partnership with the County of Yolo, they are also providing three meals a day to homeless populations that are sheltering in local hotels. These meals are being prepared by staff at the Food Bank and delivered by Yolo Bus; as most public transportation is currently out of service or on reduced routes. Yolo Food Bank acknowledges that they still face an uphill battle, as funding remains a critical need to carry out these programs as residents continue to adhere to stay-to-home orders.
Dave Martinez, Executive Director for Placer Food Bank, helps serve over 80,000 individuals living in El Dorado, Nevada, and Placer Counties. Facing a 25% uptick service needs, so far, they have been able to manage the increase but could potentially start facing food shortages in 3-4 weeks. Currently, operating through 70 partner sites, Dave was pleased to report little disruption to his daily operation as his networks have remained resilient. Still, he gave credit to local churches in which have been assisting with deliveries to seniors after they also saw a significant drop in the number of their volunteer services staff. Placer Food Bank is now gearing up to facilitate mass distributions, similar to what SFBFS is doing at Christian Brothers and Encina High Schools, to help reach as many in the community as possible.
In an innovative approach to prevent further outbreaks of COVID-19 among the most vulnerable Solomon’s, Sacramento Covered, Sutter Health, and the City of Sacramento partnered to provide meals for the elderly, unsheltered and medically-fragile individuals. Within 24 hours of shuttering the doors due to the virus, a small kitchen crew was brought in to plan, prep, and cook the meals from scratch. Sacramento Covered’s Community Health Workers help deliver meals to 25 sites daily and have distributed approximately 10,000 meals. Moreover, Andrea is well aware Solomon’s will still face a new normal when things come back online, assessing that it will not be like “turning on a light switch”. It is projected that 80% of the nation’s restaurants could face permanent closures; with limited access to small business loans and financial aid, Andrea, like others, is strategizing simultaneously on projects and plans to address near term and long strategies to keep the doors open and her staff employed.
Valley Vision will continue to highlight the important work that our food system partners are doing to support food access and recovery programs. Please sign up for our Food For Thought Newsletter to receive up to date information and announcements about what is happening in our region.
Emma Koefoed is a Valley Vision Project Manager contributing to the 21st Century Workforce and Food and Agriculture impact areas.
Solomon’s Provides Healthy Meals to Sacramento’s Most Vulnerable Communities
In an innovative approach to help prevent an outbreak of COVID-19 among the most vulnerable in Sacramento, Solomon’s and non-profit organization Sacramento Covered partnered to provide healthy and hearty meals for elderly, unsheltered and medically-fragile individuals in our community.
Within 24 hours of shuttering the doors due to the virus, Solomon’s co-founder Andrea Lepore (and our partner in The Food Factory project) enlisted a kitchen crew of four to plan, prep, and cook the meals from scratch. Sacramento Covered’s Community Health Workers deliver the meals to 25 sites daily and to date have distributed approximately 10,000 meals, using ingredients from local farms and purveyors including Reed’s Quality Meats, such as Chicken Curry, Chile Verde, Pasta Bolognese, and Carnitas Burritos.
The Sacramento Metro Chamber’s Metro Edge program highlighted these efforts this month as part of their Business Response Spotlight.
Sacramento Covered’s partners funding the Community Kitchen include Dignity Health, Kaiser Permanente, Sutter Health, UC Davis Health System, The California Endowment, and Union Pacific, all contributing to the hard costs of food and labor to prepare the meals.
Solomon’s honors Tower Records and local founder Russ Solomon and the first location was a historic preservation project and created a community gathering place where music and culture is celebrated and everyone is welcome.
Andrea Lepore is Principal of Lepore Development, Co-Founder of Solomon’s Deli in downtown Sacramento, and a Valley Vision collaborator.
An Integrated Approach to Innovation
On January 22, 2020, The City of Woodland, along with partners representing Food and Ag innovation, including Valley Vision, University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UCANR), Greater Sacramento Economic Council (GSEC) and UC Davis, presented its second Ag Innovation Forum – Ag, Food & Health: An Integrated Approach to Innovation. This event highlighted Woodland, and the Greater Sacramento Region’s, critical role in integrating food and Ag entrepreneurship, industry, academia, and policy for a healthy and sustainable future.
The discussion focused on the Region’s opportunity to align and mobilize its world-class assets to build a state-of-the-art Research & Technology Park. The planned site will become an epicenter for research, as well as a Global Ag, Food & Health Center – a proposed public-private partnership integrating science and technology innovation for agriculture, food, and health, similar to proven models in Texas, New York, Germany, and the Netherlands.
Situated close to the University of California Davis and complementary to the planned Aggie Square development in Sacramento, Woodland is recognized for its agricultural innovation, food and plant science, food processing, as well as its investments in startup ecosystems. Its unique geographical location has made Woodland the perfect candidate for this endeavor. Secretary Karen Ross spoke to the importance of Woodland and its agricultural assets and contributions to the state’s economy. With the effects of climate change becoming more prevalent, especially in agriculture, innovation for our regional food and farming industries is critical.
The Secretary, and Lenny Mendonca, Chief Economic and Business Advisor at the State of California, both agreed that adaptation and investing in resiliency across agricultural production to adjust these major disruptors (i.e. floods, droughts, fires), is imperative. They also affirmed that research and development in new technologies that enable farmers can address these changes must be a top state priority. Furthermore, aligning the Region’s industry goals will allow the right capital and the right people the chance to work together to lead us on the path to “durable, equitable, profitable solutions.”
A moderated panel discussion led by Lon Hatamiya, The Hatamiya Group, continued the discussion with leaders supporting initiatives for our food and agricultural industries. Santana Diaz, Executive Chef, UC Davis Health, Trish Kelly, Managing Director, Valley Vision, Gabriel Youtsey, University of California Ag and Natural Resources, and Adam Englehardt, Englehardt Agricultural Services, and Tim Schaedler, Panattoni Development, all echoed the importance of expanding region’s innovation ecosystem through investments like the Woodland Research Technology Park, institutional procurement, and comprehensive financing programs, to uplift our regional food and ag economy.
Extending the Table
On February 24th, WomenUp Network, Uptown Studios, and Slow Food Sacramento hosted “Extending the Table” a discussion with local women leaders in the farm-to-fork movement. These inspiring women spoke on the exciting developments in the local food scene, their careers, challenges they had faced and shared advice on what it is like to lead a woman in this industry. Jodie Chavious, Slow Food Board Member, Charmaine Magale, Legado Spirits, Gerine Williams, Neighborworks/Oak Park Farmers Market, and Rachel Wallace, Echo and Rig, all participated in the wildly exciting and informative discussion. Tina Reynolds, from Uptown Studios, moderated the discussion.
The evening kicked off at Uptown Studios, with a wonderful spread of local foods prepared by Brenda Ruiz and Jodie Chavious, Chefs and Slow Food board members. Citrus shrimp ceviche, braised meatballs, fresh rye bread from Faria Bakery, cheese, and charcuterie, KC Kombucha, and other cocktails from Drinks by Dru were all on the menu. Truly delicious.
The panel discussion, lead by Renyolds, focused on the highlights and challenges these women faced as they journeyed through their careers. Each speaker addressing how she had chosen to balance or blow past the barriers placed in front of them.
In September 2018, Charmaine Mageale and her partners founded Legado Sprits, a “ bold new American whiskey crafted to deliver incredible flavor, developed by the female palate.” Magale revealed that many times she found her passion, knowledge, and business partners being questioned simply for not being “white, a man, and old.” But she refused to be deterred from the nay-sayers and skeptics, setting aside society’s expectations of a whiskey connoisseur, and instead became obsessed with creating a phenomenal product.
Touching on her life-long experiences as a chef, Jodie Charious came up the ranks, rather unscathed by many of the stories we see across headlines today, but very aware of the existence of unfair and sexist practices. Charious noted, “I was very fortunate” but her career did not come without struggle, admitting “Today, I don’t have any shame in asking for help, reaching for something on the top shelf, cutting through a bone of animal I’m breaking down.” The need for thick skin in this industry is imperative; being emotionally tough is a basic requirement, but with the leadership from chefs like Chef Charious, culinary communities are stepping into a new era.
Gerine Williams, spoke to the trends of Sacramento’s food and culinary community and the importance of supporting new, small, and entrepreneurial business. She emphasized that smaller producers need to be empowered to get their businesses off the ground. For too long, “the same people seem to get the same shot, over and over.” The result, the same business owners, the same style of foods, and the same price points, continue to pop up. This means communities lose out on having a diverse range of options. Williams followed up asking “How many places in Sacramento can you get a Fried Chicken Sandwich? Let’s get real”. Putting her words into action, Williams tries her best to provide opportunities through the Oak Park farmers market and in her personal life – going as far as purchasing food from smaller homemakers off Facebook Marketplace as a way to support entrepreneurs in her community.
After being pushed into a pastry position early in her career, like many women in the culinary space, Rachel Wallace dedicated herself to breaking through that traditional position where women often find themselves. “It’s typical to place women in Pastry, which isn’t a bad thing. There are some badass women pastry chefs out there” but it’s not where she saw herself staying. Wallace was determined to break out of that space and prove her skills as a chef. Today Wallace is the Chef de Cuisine at Echo and Rig, working alongside a team that promotes and advocates for a healthy workspace for everyone. “Be confident, own your space, and don’t let people say you don’t belong” were some of the characteristics she believes are imperative for women if they are going to enter the culinary workforce.
This event was supported by Slow Food Sacramento, WomenUp Network, Uptown Studios, SMUD, Tri-Counties Bank, Rani Pettis, Charles Vincent McDonald Photography, Crooked Lane Brewery, Drinks By Dru, Faria bakery, GoldLineBrands, Haarmeyer Estates, KC Kombucha, Legado spirits, Macy’s, Real Pie Company, Revolutions Wine, and Sacramento Natural Food Co-Op.
Valley Vision continues to support Farm to Fork efforts, and work being done to uplift the Sacramento Region’s namesake as America’s Farm to Fork Capital. We are excited to see events like “Extending the Table” taking place and being well-attended and supported by local businesses.
Subscribe to Valley Vision’s Food For Thought Newsletter to learn more about Food and Ag events and stay up to date about other work happening in our region!
Newsom and First Partner to Support Farm to School Programs
Governor Newsom has proposed a $600 million dollar budget that includes funding support for initiatives that will enhance student nutrition and school meal programs.
First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom, who has been engaged in supporting Farm to School programs, will be championing these efforts. Most recently, Ms. Siebel Newsom, with coordination from CDFA, Valley Vision, Woodland Community College, and other partners, toured Farm to School Programs in Yolo County and Career programs hosted at Woodland Community College. The purpose of the visit to Woodland Community College was intended to show the connection between eating locally grown healthy foods at school and the potential for opportunities in food and ag career pathways
Late last year, Mrs. Siebel Newsom toured Yolo County and other areas to learn more about the thriving Farm to School programs led by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and Secretary Karen Ross, and food and ag career education programs. Nick Anicich, Farm to School Program Lead, CDFA Office of Farm to Fork, Valley Vision’s Managing Director Trish Kelly, and Carrie Peterson, Regional Director, Agriculture, Water, and Environmental Technology, coordinated the First Partner’s visit to Woodland Community College. This was an opportunity to showcase how food and ag career education programs are providing pathways for local students in this important regional industry, building on Farm to School programs in K-2. Faculty, Students, and College District Leaders hosted the First Partner as she toured the Greenhouse and other facilities, discussing programs and topics like Ag-tech, regenerative agriculture, and growing healthy foods. Valley Vision supports these career pathway efforts as part of the Community College’s Strong Workforce Programs.
Photo top: Jennifer Siebel Newsom tours Greenhouse at Woodland Community College (WCC)
Photo above: Yuba Community College District Chancellor and Board of Trustees, Woodland Community College President, and Faculty, Valley Vision, and California Department of Food and Agriculture, with First Partner.
Technology for the Food and Ag Economy
“Farm-to-Fork Live! is broadening across the region… [it is an] opportunity to show the ag-tech and food-tech assets that we are growing in our community.” City of Woodland Mayor Xóchitl Rodríguez
part i: introductions to ag and food technology innovation in the region
On a balmy August afternoon, Valley Vision — together with Woodland Community College and AgStart — hosted “Farm-to-Fork LIVE! Technology for the Food and Ag Economy.” The event was the Season 1 finale of Valley Vision’s Farm-to-Fork LIVE! series, which features conversations on a range of topics, with leaders who are shaping the future of Farm-to-Fork in the Capital Region.
The event kicked off at Woodland Community College with welcome remarks from Woodland Community College President, Dr. Art Pimentel, and City of Woodland Mayor Xóchitl Rodríguez.President Pimentel highlighted Yolo County as a major agricultural area for the entire region, as well as the College’s role in preparing the region’s youth for the future and ensuring that there are opportunities for them to enter the workforce once they graduate. Mayor Rodríguez likewise emphasized food and agriculture as the base of the community, with food products being one of its top priorities.
Following these welcome remarks,
Gabe Youtsey, Chief Innovation Officer at the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, provided an overview of global trends in food and agriculture technology. Youtsey drew attention to the serious threats facing sustainability in agriculture — climate change, resource challenges, shrinking wilderness, a projected increase in food demand. One of the ways to address these threats, Youtsey asserted, is to pluck at the so-called “low-hanging fruit” in food and agriculture, such as making use of robotics or growing food indoors. In addition, there needs to be an agriculture innovation system in California that brings in and hosts new people; opens up the space for different disciplines to get together and understand each other; and considers how to develop the workforce and its entrepreneurs.
The focal point of Part I was a panel discussion with food and agriculture leaders Dr. Martin Ruebelt, Head of Global Consumer Research and Development at Bayer Crop Science andDr. Amit Vasavada, Chief Technology Officer of Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc. Trish Kelly, Valley Vision’s Managing Director, rounded out the panel as its facilitator.
The panel began with self-introductions and overview of their respective companies – one a global life science company and one a home-grown company establishing a global presence. Bayer Crop Science harnesses cutting-edge agricultural and environmental innovations, in pursuit of “Science for a Better Life.” The company strives to deliver solutions that help maximize farm yields, secure harvests from devastating disease and pests, and keep living spaces healthy and vibrant. In the same respect, Marrone Bio Innovations creates products from microorganisms isolated from samples collected from unique niches and habitats such as flowers, insects, soil and composts. Their proprietary technology enables them to isolate and screen naturally occurring microorganisms and plant extracts to identify those that may have novel, effective and safe pest management or plant health-promoting characteristics.
Led by Kelly, Dr. Ruebelt and Dr. Vasavada discussed the most recent technological advancements in food and agriculture; the implications of these advancements on individuals and society as well as the industry; and the region’s role as one of the world’s hubs for food and agriculture innovation.
on the market rationale for operatilng in the region.
Dr. Vasavada explained that one of the reasons Maronne continues to expand its research and development operations in the region is the education pipeline available at the University of California Davis. UC Davis, one of the leading agricultural universities, provides Maronne with interns who are a perfect fit, many of whom return to work fulltime for the company after graduation. Dr. Ruebelt echoed this sentiment, describing the region as a powerhouse for academia, industry, and farmers to come together. He pointed out that people in the region have a passion and understanding of agriculture, having either grown up immersed in it, or gone to school for it, or perhaps both.
on emerging opportunities in the food and ag industry.
Dr. Vasavada submitted that artificial intelligence (AI) and sustainability are at the forefront of food and agriculture innovation. Additionally, he reflected on how to make use of data and information obtained in the field so that farmers can benefit. Dr. Ruebelt highlighted consumers’ desire for delicious, high-quality, organic food, and developing AI and robotics to address through the roof labor cost.
on current innovation relating to food and ag products.
According to Dr. Vasavada, the focus is likely to be on non-animal based products, such as almond milk and impossible meat. For Dr. Ruebelt, innovation in food will have a lot to do with the creation of new products enabling automation, in order to cut down labor and automize the process of growing and harvesting produce. Genetics can be controlled, but the real challenge in food growth is controlling the environment, especially because of the effects of climate change.
on regional support and the growth of the industry.
Dr. Vasavada emphasized regional partners need to help bridge the conversation between the people developing technology solutions for farmers and the farmers themselves. Additionally, they should fund students and give scholarships. For Dr. Ruebelt, regional partners need to continue the great effort of educating people on the advancements in agriculture, emphasizing how it is changing and evolving to address issues such as water quality, how to store energy, and how to feed people. This includes bringing science, technology, engineering, and math into schools early on.
part i: wrap-up
In their closing statements, Drs. Vasavada and Ruebelt reiterated the need to use technology in order to minimize inputs and maximize outputs, as well as the importance of sharing ideas, recognizing that one company cannot provide everything. The incredible ecosystem of food and agriculture players and partners in the region should be utilized to the fullest extent. The panel finished with an open forum, with questions and conversations that touched on information sharing; the accessibility of technology to small farmers; urban agriculture; and addressing ethical considerations related to new technology and processes.
Part I concluded with a brief presentation by John Hodgson on the proposed Woodland Research and Technology Park — a new technology hub going through the planning process in the City of Woodland, intended to serve an array of research and technology companies interested in locating and growing near U. C. Davis, and other research and technology institutions within the Sacramento region.
part ii: the entrepreneur spotlight and reception
“It’s not just an office; it’s a family.” Anat Bujanover, Saturas USA, Inc.
Part II of the event was an opportunity for attendees to tour AgStart in Woodland and hear from entrepreneurs about their respective technologies, and the ways that AgStart and other partners have helped them expand their capabilities and the reach of their companies.
AgStart, is a non-profit business incubator that is accelerating the growth of innovative food and agriculture technology companies, and strengthening the region’s innovation ecosystem. Its network-centric incubation model offers mentorship and connections, providing access to resources that new companies need to thrive. Through Economic Development Administration funding support, AgStart is a partner with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources in the Verde Innovation Network (The VINE), facilitating a statewide network of incubators and accelerators. AgStart Sponsors include Bayer Crop Science and HM. CLAUSE.
AgStart Program Director Leanna Sweha gave an overview of AgStart’s mission. Ken Hiatt, Assistant City Manager of the City of Woodland, communicated Woodland’s natural resources and culture of innovation have shaped the future of food and agriculture for over a century. He also highlighted The Food Front — a movement dedicated to keeping Woodland at the forefront of food and agricultural responsibility by cultivating existing relationships and warmly welcoming new ones. Supervisor Don Saylor, of District 2, Yolo County, elaborated on Woodland and UC Davis’ extensive network of collaborators, not just in the region, but in several other parts of the world as well. AgStart’s President John Selep introduced some of AgStart’s entrepreneurs and underscored the importance of their work in advancing food and agriculture technology in the region and around the world:
Anat Bujanover, General Manager of Saturas USA, Inc. Saturas, an Israeli irrigation company, is making its first USA home in Woodland at AgStart. Eighty percent of farmers irrigate their trees without any scientifically-based information. This causes water waste, affects the quality and quantity of the fruit, and reduces profitability. Although stem water potential (SWP) is scientifically recognized as the most accurate measurement of water status in plants, famers today can only use a manual, labor-intensive procedure for SWP measurement for optimal irrigation. Saturas’ SWP sensor-based precision irrigation system provides a solution that combines accuracy, ease of use, and affordability. It involves embedding sensors in the trunk, which provides direct contact with water tissues for accurate and continuous water status measurement.
Dr. Fatma Kaplan, Chief Executive Officer of Pheronym. Pheronym is a Davis-based ag biotech start-up that relocated to the region from Florida; it develops nontoxic solutions for plant protection. It is a tenant in the UC Davis-HM. CLAUSE Life Science Innovation Center. Without pesticides, there would be 50-80% crop loss globally, representing billions of dollars of financial loss to producers. Farmers have to use pesticides, but toxic chemical pesticides are being removed from the market. Nemastim™, Pheronym’s patented beneficial nematode conditioner, provides a safe and effective way to direct beneficial nematodes to attack target insects in a “pack,” resulting in a 5X insect kill rate as compared untreated nematodes. Pherocoat™, its patented seed treatment, directs plant-parasitic nematodes away from healthy roots
Daniel Cathey,Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Inputs. Daniel is a UC Davis graduate and home-grown entrepreneur. Inputs is an online agricultural marketplace which helps farmers obtain the best prices for their inputs while providing broader market reach, shorter sales cycles, reduced costs, and increased sales for retailers. Inputs addresses key pains facing growers and retailers, while bringing added value to both sides of the marketplace.
All three entrepreneurs noted the value they receive from being part of the region’s innovation ecosystem – the access to rich resources through UC Davis, AgStart, HM.CLAUSE, farmers, other companies, local jurisdictions, network partners supporting the food and ag economy, and overall community support. Attendees then had the opportunity to converse with one another while enjoying a selection of locally-sourced wines and snacks.
Valley Vision is grateful to its partners for the opportunity to collaborate in bringing Farm-to-Fork to the forefront of community discussion and engagement. We look forward to continuing our work in this area, and we hope to see you at Season 2 of our series! If you’d like to receive updates about future events, we invite you to subscribe to our Food and Agriculture newsletter.
Look for information on next Season’s Farm-to-Fork Live Series!
Isa Avancena is Valley Vision Project Associate supporting our Innovation & Infrastructure impact area, as well as an Executive Assistant to Valley Vision CEO Bill Mueller, and Managing Director Trish Kelly.
FCC Chairman Gets a Taste of California’s Digital Divide
In a quest to understand what the Digital Divide looks like from the vantage point of America’s farmers and rural residents, Federal Communications Chairman, Ajit Pai, spent time on the ground last week in the Sacramento region.
Hosted by Valley Vision and the Sacramento Metro Chamber, the Chairman visited agricultural sites in Yolo County and heard first-hand from farmers, business and community leaders about the Divide, literally 10 miles away (as the crow flies) from the state capitol of California – the fifth largest economy in the world. The tour of the region’s rich agricultural areas kicked off Monday morning at the Muller Ranch just outside of the City of Woodland. A group of about 20 regional, state and federal broadband experts and local business and community leaders was graciously hosted by ranch owner Frank Muller. Frank also serves as Chairman of the Board of Pacific Coast Producers and is a Member of the California State Food and Agriculture Board. In addition, his ranch serves as a site for Valley Vision’s Yolo County agricultural technology (AgTech) pilot funded by the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) and in partnership with California State University, Chico.
Frank welcomed the group and gave an overview of ranch operations, his role on State Ag Board and his work with Pacific Coast Producers. Muller Ranch grows diversified crops such as tomatoes, almonds, walnuts, grapes and vegetables on 10,000 acres in several different fields. Chairman Pai, dressed for a day in the fields in jeans and a hoodie, listened intently and engaged in the discussion as members of the group shared their individual stories. Frank gave examples of the impacts of the lack of high-speed internet, or broadband, from two perspectives. From the business side, the lack of broadband coverage in his fields inhibits the use of AgTech that can help farmers manage operations for increased resource efficiency and productivity.
Frank held up two pieces of equipment designed for the purpose of measuring water in the soil. The first, the reliable old tool that pulls a sample of soil that is analyzed for moisture by eye and touch. The second, a rod inserted into the ground with sensors on top that capture measurements for soil moisture and nitrogen level, which along with other data points, are uploaded to ‘the cloud’ for analysis and ability to apply accurate, real-time, prescriptive treatments. The return on investment of such technology is estimated to be 18-19 percent, according to Sunne Wright McPeak, President & CEO of CETF.
Frank described how this type of predictive analysis is the future of farming. The challenge for Frank, however, is access to a reliable broadband signal capable of uploading the information in real-time. Susan Strachan of CSU Chico’s Geographical Information Center, (which conducts broadband mapping for the California Public Utilities Commission), shared an overview of the Yolo County on-farm mobile broadband mapping project of 155 farms that she conducted for the AgTech Pilot and the results of tests on Muller Ranch. This granular mapping of coverage highlights where signals are clearly lacking as compared to higher level coverage maps. These types of tests and mapping help make broadband coverage and availability mapping much more accurate. This is vital for several reasons, including that eligibility for federal and state funding is based on the mapping data. This is the first project of its kind in the country. The Chairman also experienced first-hand the lack of cell phone coverage in Frank’s conference room, underscoring the disadvantage that ag businesses experience on a daily basis.
The second perspective Frank shared with the Chairman related to personal impacts of the lack of broadband. At his grandson’s home, a family with three school-age children who live a half-mile away, only one person at a time can effectively use the Internet at home. Fortunately, for his grandson, he has only to travel a half-mile away to his grandpa’s place to get online and get his homework done. But Frank and many others in community are concerned about those who aren’t quite as fortunate. The impact of the Digital Divide is felt heavily by those without reliable, high-speed internet access at home. How far will this Divide leave them behind in today’s digital economy?
The group then took a quick drive into the City of Woodland to visit AgStart, an innovative AgTech incubator where the group was welcomed by John Selep, President of AgStart; Leanna Sweha, Program Manager, AgStart; and Ken Hiatt, Assistant City Manager, City of Woodland. John provided an overview of the incubator, the programs, and participation in the VINE (Verde Innovation Network, funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration i-6 Innovation grant), a partnership with the University of California’s Agriculture and Natural Resources. The incubator helps local entrepreneurs grow and thrive in the food and agricultural space; these entrepreneurs provided the ag technologies used for the AgTech Pilot. The potential of innovative AgTech to improve the efficiency and productivity of the food system is exciting and seemingly unlimited. However, even in a state considered a power-house of technology, the lack of adequate broadband coverage, with adequate download and upload speeds to meet today’s business needs – let alone tomorrow’s – is a major barrier. This connectivity is essential not only on-farm but in town. Ken noted that Woodland is home to more than 100 food and ag companies, including processors and R&D – a vital part of the regional economy. Yet an updated map showing broadband grades across region, based on speed, number of providers, cost, and reliability of service, among other factors, had dismal showings for Yolo County.
The final stop for Chairman Pai was Wilson Vineyards in Clarksburg. There, the group was greeted by David Ogilvie, Vineyard Manager, Wilson Vineyards, Director of Production, Muddy Boot Wine and Silt Wine Co. David’s fields are also a site for the AgTech Pilot. David provided a tour of the vineyards and described a new project with soil moisture probes and solar panels. Similar to Muller Ranch, Wilson Vineyards is also challenged with access to broadband coverage capable of supporting his ambitions for advancing efficiencies through AgTech which are providing a 10-15% improvement. Some of the fields also lack cell phone coverage, stalling real time decision making and management. These challenges have spurred David’s involvement helping to solve the issue. For several years running, and in addition to serving the demands of farming and family, David has been an active leader of the Metro Chamber’s Cap-to-Cap federal advocacy program’s Food & Agriculture Committee. The meetings the Food & Ag team leaders held with the FCC while in Washington DC over the past two years, and the innovative AgTech Pilot, were the catalysts for the Chairman’s visit to Yolo County.
The evening before the field tours, the Chairman participated in a small roundtable discussion with local broadband, food and ag and rural development leaders. The evening included a signature Farm to Fork dining experience at Mulvaney’s B&L. Special thanks to broadband champions Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor, and California State Food and Agriculture and California Broadband Councilmember Joy Sterling, for their dedicated commitment to making sure all Californians have true connectivity.
Chairman Pai said he was very impressed by the level of collaboration and partnership shown at each stop along the visit, showcasing the special connectedness of our region across all aspects of the food and ag economy and the community. Valley Vision and the Metro Chamber, in partnership with the FCC, and all the leaders who joined in hosting the FCC Chairman and telling our story, look forward to delivering on our shared mission to close the Digital Divide. Valley Vision manages the CPUC-funded Connected Capital Broadband Consortium. Materials on the AgTech Pilot project, broadband mapping and grades by county and community, and the Yolo County on-farm mapping project can be found on Valley Vision’s website.
Trish Kelly is Managing Director at Valley Vision working on Food & Ag, the 21st Century Workforce and Broadband Access and Adoption.
Crossing Continents to Address Food Insecurity
It’s not every day that you get to discuss food security with a delegation of experts from across the world, but on Monday, March 25th, we did.
Valley Vision staff members Adrian Rehn, Emma Koefoed and Chloe Pan (myself) had the honor of hosting a group of food system experts from Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and 12 other countries as part of a visit organized by the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program in partnership with the Northern California World Trade Center. A cross-section of leaders from the science, education, NGO, and government realms from nations such as Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and Thailand came to our Oak Park office to hear about how the Sacramento region is collaborating to address food insecurity and nutrition.
We were at first hesitant about how to frame this discussion. We were going to sit down with people whose countries have not only been struggling with the effects of natural disaster on food security in real time, but it’s become a fact of life for more than half of their total population for months and even years afterwards. Imagine: hundreds of thousands of people without food or water and the destruction of roads and bridges impeding emergency response. Cyclone Idai ripped through Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi in mid-March, and while these residents were gathering together to make sense of this disaster amid the rubble of their former lives, Ms. Claudia Amelia Nunes Lopes and Ms. Prisca Nyagweta found themselves walking into our office to discuss food insecurity.
Ms. Lopes is the Director of Policy and Planning at the Technical Secretariat for Food and Nutrition Security in Mozambique (SETSAN). 80% of the country’s 28 million citizens cannot afford an adequate diet and as a result, 43% of children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years are affected by chronic malnutrition. The effects of this are aggravated by limited hygienic conditions and the lack of access to health services and potable water. Ms. Nyagweta is the Projects Coordinator and Area Manager at Linkages for the Economic Advancement of the Disadvantaged (LEAD), a nongovernmental organization whose mission is to build the dignity of disadvantaged communities in Zimbabwe through economic empowerment initiatives. 63% of their 15.6 million population live below the poverty line and 27% of children have stunted growth because of malnutrition.
With this in mind, we organized a panel of our regional nonprofit partners in the food space to share information on our ongoing work and the challenges we face here in the greater Sacramento area. Brenda Ruiz from the Sacramento Food Policy Council, Karen Strach from the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services, Davida Douglas from Alchemist Community Development Corporation, Shannon Hardwicke from Soil Born Farms, and Jaime Wilson from the Food Literacy Center each gave presentations to the international delegation about their work and role in advancing food access and equity.
According to the Sacramento Food Bank, 1 in 6 residents of Sacramento County are food insecure and few of them eat balanced meals, which directly impact these residents’ health statuses. We learned that unlike our visiting countries, our region does not have as much of a food deficit, but rather has difficulties with effective food distribution. To combat these barriers to food access, our local experts were able to discuss how all of our organizations’ missions are intertwined to provide healthy food and educate our communities on local food production, beginning in early education. Their immediate reaction was surprise at how well our region collaborated to elevate this work, but also the fact that a country as wealthy as the United States still had populations that struggled with food access like their own nations. Although the frameworks in which we view our comparative food security vary greatly, this was a unique opportunity to discuss our shared dedication to work that matters.
This visit made me even more grateful for our amazing network of partners in this region, collaborating to make sure that this basic right to food is provided to our residents. From hands-on agricultural education to farm-fresh food distribution at local elementary schools and all the way to our policy-makers at the Capitol, we have passionate leaders that are championing our communities’ access to healthy food. Our food and ag economy makes up a large part of our regional identity and as proud as we are to have title of the Farm-to-Fork Capital, we know that we still have work to do to help everyone feel this privilege, as well.
If you’d like to learn more about Valley Vision’s work in the food and agriculture economy, please visit our website. Further, reach out to Emma Koefoed if you’d like to partner with us on our ongoing 2019 Farm-to-Fork Live Speaker Series!
Chloe Pan was Valley Vision’s Executive Assistant to CEO Bill Mueller and Project Lead for the EPIC Trail.
Trish Kelly Talks “The Business of Food and Ag”
On Thursday, March 14th Sacramento Business Journal hosted the second Business of Food and Ag event at the Milagro Center in Fair Oaks. The event, sponsored by Bank of America, was a moment for regional leaders and those vested in the progress of this industry sector, to come together and dive into some of the most pressing issues relating to food and Ag.
Valley Vision’s Managing Director Trish Kelly was invited to participate as a research expert on the food and ag industry cluster, as well as on related workforce issues. Trish joined Thaddeus Barsotti, Chief Farmer and Co-CEO of Farm Fresh to You, Bill Easton, President and Winemaker of Terre Rouge & Easton Wines, and Joel Wilkerson, Food Safety Manager for Produce Express on a panel called “Food for Thought: Challenges and Changes in the Sacramento Agricultural Industry.” The conversation was an opportunity to identify situations affecting the landscape, understand how we can better support the region’s food economy, and the steps we can we take to do so.
One of the most significant changes happening in agricultural, as well as other industries, has been the adoption of increased technology in response to new labor regulations, labor shortages, and the decline of farm owners and operators, given that the average age of farmers is 58 years old. But for Bill Easton, whose wine grapes sit high in the Sierra Foothills, mostly inaccessible to large farm equipment, he depends heavily on a migrant labor force to pick and sort his vines. Thaddeus, who is supportive of the new minimum wage, notes that increased labor costs mean farmers, like himself, must adjust and offset those costs to continue business. “Labor is an issue for all companies, even at the large scale farming operations we see crop selection move away from things that require hand harvesting or certain crops leave the state entirely.” It is no secret that the Central Valley provides a considerable portion of the country’s fresh produce. Understanding that the landscape is changing, organizations like Valley Vision, and the Sacramento Area Council of Government (SACOG), are working to provide research and information on which crops could be better value replacement options and how to create more localized supply chains that will support the region’s food economy.
Trish cited the opportunity for increased purchasing of locally grown produce and new market opportunities for farmers through institutional procurement by schools, hospitals, and other entities such as the Golden 1 Center. Valley Vision is conducting a case study on the Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD)’s successful food procurement model. SCUSD is working to increase the amount of locally purchased food products directly from both growers and local food distributors for their student meal programs. So far, they have been highly cost-effective in serving 45,000 meals a day, which has allowed the SCUSD to expand its sourcing of locally grown food, qualify more families for free and reduced-cost meals, and provide fresher, from scratch, meals to the students.
Likewise, at UC Davis Health, Executive Chef Santana Diaz is shifting the procurement process to locally sourced products, providing healthier and fresher foods to patients, staff, and visitors, and doing their part to support the regional economy. In the last year, Chef Diaz increased the amount of locally purchased food by 40%, reducing its greenhouse gas emission along the way! Similarly, Produce Express, which is a supplier of fresh produce to both SCUSD and UC Davis Health, has recognized the potential for serving institutional clients, expanding its operations from serving primarily restaurants to also serving local institutions like hospitals and schools, which often have more challenging procurement processes. According to Joel: “These places have huge commitment to feed a lot of people… We hang our hat on the Farm to Fork model and are committed to helping it grow.”
Connecting the conversation to future opportunities, Trish noted that the Brooking Institution, which conducted an analysis of the Capital region economy in 2018, identified the food and Ag cluster is a cornerstone for growth and leadership in sustainability. In response, Valley Vision, the Greater Sacramento Economic Council, the Sacramento Metro Chamber, and SACOG, along with other partners, are developing a more cohesive strategy to catalyze the cluster. As part of this effort, Valley Vision is assisting the region’s community colleges, workforce boards, and employers strengthen the region’s ag-related education and workforce programs. See research and proceedings from the recent workforce forum held at Woodland Community College that presented new data from the Center of Excellence at Los Rios. As technology becomes an even greater aspect of the business of ag, the workforce will need new skills to be ready for the future of work. Programs like the newly-certified farm and farm manager apprenticeship program developed by the Center for Land-Based Learning are including technology skills in this non-traditional training program. Ag is truly a sector that is rooted in our history while looking toward a dynamic future.
Overall, events like the Business of Food and Ag are imperative if we are to move forward and to bridge the divide between people and helping them understand the food they eat. Making these connections, that otherwise would go unnoticed and misunderstood, is critical if we are going to ensure our region remains the Farm to Fork Capital.
Emma Koefoed is a Valley Vision Project Associate contributing to the 21st Century Workforce and Food and Agriculture impact areas.