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Some say Farm to Fork is all wet when it comes to new motto for I-5 water tower

Fly over the newly branded water tower

The water tower off Interstate 5 near the Pocket/Greenhaven exit now says "America's Farm-to-Fork Capital" instead of "City of Trees."
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The water tower off Interstate 5 near the Pocket/Greenhaven exit now says "America's Farm-to-Fork Capital" instead of "City of Trees."

As Sacramento changed its water tower motto from “City of Trees” to “America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital,” critics sharpened their knives Thursday.

A farm-to-fork logo has already replaced the “City of Trees” logo that had been emblazoned on the massive structure along Interstate 5 since at least 2005. Weather permitting, the makeover in the south area should be complete by mid-March.

Among the biggest dissenters is Ray Tretheway, a former Sacramento councilman who now leads the Sacramento Tree Foundation.

“I think the old words should stay,” said Tretheway, the group’s executive director. “It symbolizes why people think so highly of Sacramento – because of its glorious tree canopy. It’s the best (motto) for today and for the future.”

The new slogan is a collaboration between Sacramento Vice Mayor Rick Jennings and Visit Sacramento, according to the tourist organization.

Sacramento declared itself “America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital” in 2012 with the support of many of the region’s chefs and farmers. Visit Sacramento has led efforts to create a national identity that highlights the Sacramento area as “a leading home of, and destination for, fresh food,” the group said in a statement.

Visit Sacramento said it hopes the water tower will be the first of many Sacramento sites bearing the farm-to-fork logo.

“America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital is truly representative of Sacramento – it’s not just a slogan, it’s who we are, and who we’ve always been,” said Mike Testa, Visit Sacramento’s chief operating officer, in a statement. “We expect that the water tower project is a sign of more great things to come.”

“I want to make sure that everyone on Interstate 5 knows that Sacramento is America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital,” Jennings said in a statement.

Brandon Shimabukuro, a disc jockey for Hot 103.5, fondly remembers the “City of Trees” slogan from the days when his mother would drive him to school on I-5 from Elk Grove to Sacramento.

“I originally thought it was the dumbest thing, but I have grown to love it,” he said. “I open my show every day with ‘Tree City, what’s poppin?’ 

He said the reaction to the motto change in his social media feed has been negative.

“People are in shock,” said Shimabukuro.

Once mostly marsh and grassland, Sacramento planted an urban forest when former Bee editor C.K. McClatchy encouraged the city to turn itself into a shady valley area, said Tree Foundation executive director Tretheway. According to Wikipedia, about two dozen cities call themselves the “City of Trees,” including nearby Woodland.

“In Sacramento County we have an estimated 4.5 million trees,” said Tretheway. “Trees cool things down, they are nature’s dust mop and save on energy bills.”

Tretheway was on the council when another former councilman, Robbie Waters, came up with the idea of “City of Trees” for the big elevated tank. In 2003, Waters was driving past the silver water tower, thinking, “How blah.”

Then he had the idea of turning the tank from what he called a “big silver blob” into a “welcome” sign, telling motorists on the state’s main north-south route they were entering the city.

He proposed that the city paint in large black letters on its southeast flank: “Welcome to Sacramento, City of Trees,” and fly a large U.S. flag on top.

Waters worried that his fellow council members would think the idea for the 10-story structure, a 3 million-gallon storage tank, would be all wet. Instead, they embraced the idea and had a few tweaks.

Councilwoman Lauren Hammond suggested the “City of Trees” lettering be green. Then-Mayor Heather Fargo suggested the city plant trees at the tower’s base to back up the wording.

Not everyone was on board right away. Sacramento Bee editorial writers, responsible through the decades for pushing tree planting, instead advocated that the tower be painted red in honor of tomatoes, a regional crop of economic and gustatory importance.

“City of Trees” prevailed, however, and has graced the tower for more than a decade. For his part, former councilman Waters said Thursday he thought the “Farm to Fork” change was a good idea.

“I think it is time to be the Farm to Fork,” said Waters. “I don’t have any problems at all with it.”

Bill Lindelof: 916-321-1079, @Lindelofnews Bee staff writers Chris Macias and Tony Bizjak contributed to this report

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