Flanked by more than three dozen of the region's most notable chefs and restaurateurs, Mayor Kevin Johnson proclaimed Sacramento "America's Farm-to-Fork Capital" on Wednesday.
Standing in downtown's Cesar Chavez Plaza as shoppers browsed through the weekly farmers market, Johnson said the designation would serve as a strong marketing tool for the region.
"This is one of the cool things in Sacramento," the mayor said. "Everyone is always talking about what's wrong with Sacramento, but this is the best of Sacramento. We are learning to play to our strengths."
Johnson and tourism officials said the new label would expand beyond a marketing campaign.
Plans are being made for a food festival in the region next fall, culminating with a large culinary event on Capitol Mall. The festival also will include events at farms in the region, wine-tasting excursions and visits from renowned chefs from around the country and region.
The mayor and others said their goal is to brand Sacramento as a food capital the way Austin, Texas, is known for its live music scene and annual Austin City Limits Music Festival.
Steve Hammond, president and CEO of the Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the organization would work on "the promotion of this identity" that Sacramento is a culinary center. He said the bureau would promote the Farm-to-Fork campaign to food and wine writers, tour operators and newspaper travel sections around the country.
According to the mayor's office, the Sacramento region contains between 7,000 and 8,000 acres of "boutique farms" and is home to more than 50 farmers markets. Local restaurants are increasingly taking advantage of that access by serving food harvested from local farms and ranches.
"Within 50 miles of Sacramento you've got the most diverse array of crops grown anywhere in the United States," said local chef and restaurateur Randall Selland.
Elected officials from other parts of the region said the campaign would have a broad impact.
"Farm-to-Fork is a huge economic driver for communities like Elk Grove with a large number of small, family farms producing fresh fruits and vegetables and providing local jobs," said Elk Grove Councilman and mayoral candidate Gary Davis, who attended Wednesday's event. "In order for the movement to be successful, we must work together as a region to produce great produce and deliver it quickly to local restaurants and grocery stores."