Views on Food: Farm-to-fork efforts deserve wide support

07/28/2013 12:00 AM

07/26/2013 10:58 PM

About 600 people in September will enjoy a meal together over the Sacramento River, savoring food planted, grown and raised on both sides of the river. The Tower Bridge is an appropriate spot to celebrate the local "farm-to-fork" movement, as the span symbolizes the links that help tie together our urban core and rich, rural farmlands.

Sadly, some have objected to the ticket price of this dinner and decided to denigrate this celebration with epithets such as "farm to silver spoon." Yes, the meal is expensive, but all the tickets for the Sept. 29 event sold out in six hours. Clearly, many residents recognize that this dinner isn't an end in itself. Instead, it is acknowledged as one way of recognizing a vast array of efforts focused on elevating our status as a food capital.

Our region is discovering the future by looking back upon its agricultural heritage. Beyond a river, our region shares the most committed and productive sustainable farmers in the nation. Why not celebrate that? And why not celebrate the far bigger picture that we can't afford to miss seeing?

Farm-to-fork is transforming our community, not as the fad of today but as a new reality in how we relate to food. Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services formed partnerships with local farmers, and today they're putting fresh, healthy food in the bellies of people who have never enjoyed access to the exceptionally nutritious produce growing only miles away. Meanwhile, restaurant owners volunteer their time to take students from schools such as Grant Union High School on field trips to farmers markets, showing them how to find and cook fresh, locally grown food.

These are only two of the exciting and innovative expressions of Sacramento's farm-to-fork movement. They reflect one of our favorite things about farm-to-fork: its ability to highlight what's great about our valley. No other region comes close to our potential in fulfilling the vision behind farm-to-fork.

From a national and even global perspective, farm-to-fork encourages a fundamental change in how we relate to food. Successfully making this change will go a long way toward figuring out how to feed the estimated 9 billion people who will be on this planet within a generation. The real challenge here will be growing and getting fresh food onto as many plates as possible.

Sacramento offers a stunning showcase of this sea change taking place around the world. We live in the epicenter of the world's richest agricultural valley, blazing a trail back to producing sustainable food sources locally and in quantities that can match demand on a regional scale.

Whether it is feeding the poor, increasing awareness about fresh food, learning about the new UC Davis World Food Center or joining politicians from across parties and jurisdictions to work together, there's a lot of good news swirling around farm-to-fork. Sacramento, as a region, stands to gain in stature and quality of life, and to better showcase what we offer the world.

Community leaders have inspired a sense of region-wide investment in farm-to-fork. They deserve our support. People are already turning to our renowned farmers markets in growing numbers, and kids are learning more about how to enjoy healthy food. There is soaring demand for systems that can feed large cities abundant quantities of fresh, local produce.

We're good at that, really good.

Farm-to-fork is something at which our region already excels, making us a place for all others to admire and aspire to be.

Patrick Mulvaney owns Mulvaney's B&L Restaurant in Sacramento and is helping organize the Sept. 29 Farm-to-Fork Tower Bridge Dinner. Shawn Harrison is founder and co-director at Soil Born Farms Urban Agriculture & Education Project.

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