Monthly Archives: May 2016

Northern California Farm Tour – Showcasing Marketing Opportunities for Beginning Farmers

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Finding a viable market for fresh fruits and vegetables can seem daunting for new farmers. To show new and small farmers innovative ways of connecting with traditional markets, institutions, and needy populations, the Office of Farm to Fork kicked off the Small Farm Conference this winter in Sacramento with a tour showcasing an array of possible marketing outlets.
The first stop on the tour was a large scale retailer – Raley’s at their Elk Grove location. Director of Produce, Greg Corrigan, discussed the details of buying from small farmers, including Raley’s 50-mile local produce program and the overall process of connecting and working with the store. As the tour entered into the backend of the produce section, Corrigan showed attendees a large bin of over ripe produce which would later be fed to a digester. Corrigan stressed Raley’s commitment to reducing food waste, describing the process of donating to food banks and the chain’s efforts to market imperfect produce in some stores.

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The second stop brought attendees to the central kitchen at Natomas Unified School District. There, the school’s food service director, Vince Caguin, discussed how to successfully sell produce to schools as a small farmer, and explained the daily work the central kitchen performs. Caguin also passionately talked about his commitment to connecting students to the farms where their produce is grown, often taking students on area farm tours. Attendees were treated to a lunch cooked by the school kitchen staff, featuring many of the fresh fruits and vegetables served in his meal program, including fresh salad greens and local potatoes.

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The final stop on the tour brought attendees to the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services warehouse facility. Erik Kintzel, Director of Food Bank Services, walked tour attendees through the cavernous space and discussed the benefits of donating produce and its impact on curbing food waste. “The tour was super informative and enjoyable! It’s great to see how farmers, retailers, schools, and consumers can work together to decrease food waste and make a positive impact on our community and environment.” remarked Tracy Wu, a farm tour attendee

The day sparked conversation on more traditional, direct marketing avenues for small scale farmers, as well as less conventional ways to connect others with their produce through community engagement and enrichment. The Office of Farm to Fork is committed to providing fresh local produce to all Californians and hopes to continue similar farm tours to increase exposure to agriculture.

– Farm to Fork Staff

This article is part of a series, chronicling the Office of Farm to Fork Specialty Crop Farm Tours held in Northern, Central, and Southern California. The tours aimed to expose farmers, community stakeholders, educators, and students to local specialty crop farms and their products.

 

Central California Farm Tour – Food Access Work in Action

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Even in the agriculturally rich San Joaquin Valley, food insecurity remains a pressing issue for many residents. Along with the CDFA organized Central Valley Food Access Working Group, the Office of Farm to Fork led a local tour of businesses and institutions working to reduce food insecurity and increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

The day commenced in Reedley, California with a tour of Keystone Fruit, a packing shed owned and operated by Randy Asadoor. The company purchases produce seconds (items that are too ripe to sell through traditional markets or are cosmetically defective) from larger facilities and then sorts into multiple streams to sell as cattle feed, processing fruit, or to donate to food banks through the organization Feeding America. Jaclyn Pack, a representative from the Fresno Community Food Bank, a Feeding America member, joined the group to discuss how their organization works as a team with Keystone Fruit to move products quickly.

 

 

During the tour, attendees sampled delicious Cara Cara oranges with a small cosmetic flaw that would traditionally be disked back into fields or fed directly to livestock. The experience showed attendees first-hand a working example of food innovation, not only creating a new path for perfectly good produce but also creating jobs, reducing food waste, and providing nutrient rich fruit to people in need.

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Attendees also visited the Fresno Unified School District central kitchen, which prepares over 16 million meals a year, including breakfast, lunch, snack, and summer meals. Currently over 80 percent of Fresno Unified students qualify for free or reduced price meals. Attendees toured the facility with Jose Alvarado, the district’s Food Services Director, witnessing thousands of pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables being packed for students and shipped out to 104 sites throughout Fresno. Jose showed attendees a box of fresh carrots, kiwi, and raisins to be served as snack later that day. The tour demonstrated to attendees the larger array of meals served through a school meal program. People typically think of schools as only serving lunch each day but they often provide the vast majority of some children’s daily sustenance with 32,300 breakfast and snacks served daily and over 222,000 summer meals served each summer. School meals are also a great way to introduce fresh fruits and vegetables to students who would not otherwise have access to them.

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Showing real life food access solutions is just a part of improving hunger issues. The Office of Farm to Fork is committed to improving food access issues in California. Resources and recommendations born out of the Central Valley Food Access Working Group will be available on the Office of Farm to Fork website. – Farm to Fork Staff

This article is part of a series, chronicling the Office of Farm to Fork Specialty Crop Farm Tours held in Northern, Central, and Southern California. The tours aimed to expose farmers, community stakeholders, educators, and students to local specialty crop farms and their products.

Southern California Farm Tour – Creating Farm to School Connections for Culinary Arts Students

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Despite Californians’ direct proximity to agriculture, many students have a strong disconnect to where their food comes from. A recent push has brought gardens into many schools but getting students to farms remains a challenge. To increase student exposure to where their food comes from the Office of Farm to Fork sponsored two pilot farm tours for San Diego Unified School District Career Technical Education Culinary Arts students. Over 60 high school students had the opportunity to visit a local farm, learn about the crops they grow, harvest some vegetables in the field, and cook a communal meal one morning at Wild Willow Farm and Educational Center outside San Diego.

Many of the students had never visited a farm and, living in the inner city, did not have the opportunity to grow their own fruits and vegetables. “I use to have a tomato plant but my new apartment doesn’t have a balcony,” remarked one student. Wild Willow is a mere fifteen minutes from downtown San Diego and within sight of the Mexican border and the ocean, but the majority of the students had never heard of it. The farm offers educational tours to expose visitors to small scale fruit and vegetable farming and the beauty of San Diego County.

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The trip was led by Areli Perez, farm tour coordinator, along with a group of knowledgeable and enthusiastic volunteers, all of whom had graduated from the farm’s introduction to small-scaling farming course. Broken into small groups, the students learned about the seasonality of vegetables and the importance of pollinators and composting. One of the groups got down on their hands and knees and weeded along a row of chard and broccoli, learning about edible weeds such as the culinary uses of stinging nettle. Harvesting vegetables was another exciting moment for both groups of students. Two students were chosen to pick beets and learn about the effects of thinning on final size. The tours created a direct connection to the fruits and vegetables these students use in their culinary arts classes.

My experience at Wild Willow farm was enjoyable and hands-on. I thought it was unique in the sense that it was an educational center as well as a farm. In the culinary arts class I take at Scripps Ranch High School I’ve learned a lot about the importance of food and nutrition. By going on a field trip to a prosperous farm my knowledge of eating real/clean food was dramatically increased. I want to grow my own garden now, because I learned that homegrown food has a better taste than food from a local grocery store. I’ve been encouraged to purchase food from a local farm because it would feel much better to support a local business
– Juliette 11th grader

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At the end of each tour the students prepared a meal – one day a salad of fresh lettuces, edible flowers, and apples and the next a stir fry of chard, kale, and beets. All of the ingredients were harvested by the students only minutes earlier. Time in the kitchen gave students an opportunity to show off their culinary skills and then kick back together to enjoy some fresh vegetables.

The Office of Farm to Fork hopes to continue exploring the benefit of exposing culinary arts students to fruit and vegetable farming to further the specialty crop industry in California and improve the next generation of consumers’ connection to the fruits and vegetables grown in our state.

-Farm to Fork Staff

This article is part of a series, chronicling the Office of Farm to Fork Specialty Crop Farm Tours held in Northern, Central, and Southern California. The tours aimed to expose farmers, community stakeholders, educators, and students to local specialty crop farms and their products.

 

 

Video – California agriculture contributes record amount of farm products to food banks

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The California Association of Food Banks’ Farm to Family program received a record 150 million pounds of donated produce in 2015 from farmers, ranchers, packers and shippers dedicated to helping their communities.

One in six adults and one in four children in California suffer from food insecurity. More than 150 farmers are committed to positively changing this situation by increasing the amount of fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and other farm products distributed by food banks.

Farm to Family takes excess or secondary products from fields and cold storage to a network of 43 member food banks throughout the state.

This video shows how the system works.

***Cross posted from CDFA Planting Seeds Blog***