A San Joaquin Valley Quilt: Stitching Together a Region's Prosperity, Nutrition and Sustainability

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2010: $14,935.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: Western
State: California
Principal Investigator:
Daniel O'Connell
Sequoia Riverlands Trust

Annual Reports


  • Fruits: olives, citrus, peaches, general tree fruits
  • Vegetables: beets, broccoli, onions


  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer, participatory research, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, new enterprise development, community-supported agriculture, marketing management, farm-to-institution, market study, value added
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, urban/rural integration

    Proposal abstract:

    A sector of agricultural producers (including, but not exclusively, young, ethnically and product diverse producers with small to moderate size acreage) are trying to develop and build economically viable operations to address and meet the demand for locally, regionally, sustainably and/or organically grown food that has less impact on the environment and addresses the health of people from both a nutritional and access perspective. This project seeks to invigorate the linkage between consumer demand and producer supply of local and sustainable agricultural products by enhancing consumer awareness and by growing regional farmers’ business operations in the most fertile and agriculturally diversified region in the United States. This will be accomplished through strategic planning, development of implementable action steps and leveraging of resources to be focused on the area.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    An opportunity exists for research that will further define the challenges associated with a robust regional food system and provide a basis for laying out multiple actions that need to be taken to reap economic, social and environmental benefits for the region. Sequoia Riverlands Trust and the six participating producers will facilitate three research and education-based workshops in 2010 that will bring together farmers with diverse business models. These workshops will provide a forum for the fluid exchange of ideas on how to improve existing business models and involve more consumers, while elevating the entire region’s productivity and sustainability. With the Western SARE grant funds, we plan to accomplish the following:

    1. Develop a strategy to move forward, addressing the issues that are constraining progress and providing a roadmap of actions that will create a more sustainable food system in the San Joaquin Valley.

    2. Educate and connect farmers beyond the six producers involved in the project through farmer to farmer networking and co-learning opportunities about existing practices and activities, expose them to resources to help address issues, and engage them in the strategic planning process.

    3. Establish the local framework to integrate with the expertise and resources that will be brought to the region through the Foodshed and Food System Alliance projects.

    4. Have a fundable plan with which to seek implementation funding from sources like the Specialty Crops Block Grant Programs, Farm Credit/US AgBank, etc.

    Topics to be researched will include distribution channels, marketing practices, defining a regional food shed, improving upon and implementing safe and sustainable farming methods, food safety, positioning local efforts to take advantage of activities and resources that will be focused on the area surrounding the Fresno Metropolitan area, processing opportunities and developing a communication campaign to educate the public on the importance of a robust regional food system.

    Sequoia Riverlands Trust has identified six producers in the region, based on the diverse and innovative business models they’ve implemented on their farms, their geographic dispersion, and the respect that they command among their peers as leaders in regional agriculture. These six producers will be the project’s “Ambassadors.” They have all agreed to be leaders who will identify at least five other farmers to join the project (to make a total of 30 farmers), attend the three workshops, and provide information, insights and experience to inform the research.

    All 30 farmers will attend the workshops, contribute to the research, share information with their colleagues and be exposed to experts working on projects that will inform the development of a regional food economy in the Fresno metropolitan area. The workshops will be designed not only as an opportunity for research, but also as an opportunity for farmer-to-famer education, networking and co-learning.

    This project is foundational work as we will be building a coalition of diverse and innovative farmers who are committed to improving the overall food system of the region. In addition, the resulting strategic and implementation plan will be the basis to apply for financial resources from programs such as the Specialty Crops Block Grants and Farm Credit/US AGBank’s YBS Program (Young, Beginning and Small Farmers) to implement the action steps.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.