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Farm-to-fork is paying off in Sacramento. Here’s how

A colorful display of organic vegetables from Capay Organics tempt visitors during the annual Farm-to-Fork event on Capitol Mall in Sacramento in 2016.
A colorful display of organic vegetables from Capay Organics tempt visitors during the annual Farm-to-Fork event on Capitol Mall in Sacramento in 2016. Sacramento Bee file

While the Sacramento Farm-to-Fork Festival this weekend will attract huge crowds downtown, there is much more to this subject than just two days of events.

Since the passage of our region’s Farm-to-Fork Capital resolution in 2012, community members and business leaders have championed the effort, improving the local economy, the health of our residents and long-term policy.

The city and county passed ordinances in 2015 and 2017, respectively, to expand backyard farming, farm stands and urban agricultural education. As a result, Yisrael Family Farms, Root 64 in south Sacramento and other community farms are feeding customers and making a living. The small but mighty Oak Park Farmers Market – which reaches out to CalFresh customers, an important mission in a community with high rates of diet-related disease – has seen 15 percent annual growth.

Opinion

It’s no coincidence that these improvements happened after the farm-to-fork resolution. Visit Sacramento enhanced marketing for efforts whose own marketing was limited. At the Golden 1 Center, chefs Michael Tuohy and Santana Diaz vowed to purchase as many products locally as possible. Last year, they reached 80 percent success, including all of their hot dogs, popcorn, rice, grains, wine, almonds, beef, chicken, pork, tortillas, tortilla chips, breads, and olive oil. Businesses including Sacramento’s Produce Express, Yuba County’s Rue & Forsman Ranch and Chico’s Rancho Llano Seco have all expanded, due in part to Golden 1 Center.

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Tim Johnson

Meaningful cross-sector partnerships have also formed in the last seven years. Diaz now serves as executive chef at UC Davis Health, improving the quality of hospital food. Businesses including Raley’s, Selland Family Restaurants and the California Rice Commission have made significant donations to nonprofits such as the Food Literacy Center, which expanded its free cooking program from one school to ten since 2012.

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Amber K. Stott

Farm-to-fork may have started as a marketing campaign, but it focused attention on the farmers already feeding local families and the nonprofits already working in our highest risk neighborhoods. Farm-to-fork brought these groups together in ways that continue to make the Sacramento region healthier, wealthier and more delicious.

Tim Johnson is president and CEO of the California Rice Commission and can be contacted at tjohnson@calrice.org. Amber K. Stott is CEO of the nonprofit Food Literacy Center and can be contacted at amber@foodliteracycenter.org.

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