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

Project Overview

SW10-801
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

Commodities

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

Practices

  • 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

    Abstract:

    This Western SARE grant was awarded to Sequoia Riverlands Trust (SRT) in February 2010 for the duration of 1.5 years. The project’s principal investigator was Daniel O’Connell, SRT’s Farmland Conservation Director, in close collaboration with Holly King, the previous Director of Agricultural Programs at the Great Valley Center and who was a consultant on this project. In total, approximately 50 farmers and food system advocates participated in a series of producer meetings and subsequent engagement on other project deliverables and outcomes.

    The grant was successfully completed. By utilizing a cadre of five (Leonard had to drop from project) regional producers as “ambassadors” in conjunction with expert consultants, SRT brought together 30 producers and approximately 20 additional food system advocates in a series of three meetings, supplemented by four subcommittee meetings. The project has functioned as a catalyzing opportunity, culminating in a strategic implementation plan toward invigorating producer involvement in their foodshed and local food movements. In addition, action steps were developed from the project’s data collection, literature review and producer feedback, which created a basis for continued engagement of participants, expansion of the coalition and leveraging additional funds to realize identified priorities.

    Project objectives:

    There were four objectives for this grant. The first was to “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.” The Western SARE Strategic Implementation Plan is attached as Appendix A to this document.

    The second objective was to “educate and connect farmers beyond the five 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.” A series of three initial producer meetings, which were well-attended by additional farmers beyond our initial “ambassadors,” offered opportunities for sharing experiences, problems and solutions between producers. In addition, experts in fields like agricultural finance and sustainable infrastructure development gave presentations and answered questions from participating producers. Finally, some producers who had expressed interest in reviewing drafts of the strategic implementation plan were solicited for feedback during the drafting process.

    The third objective was to “establish the local framework to integrate with the expertise and resources that will be brought to the region through the Foodshed (Urban Rural Roundtable) and Food System Alliance projects.” Again this goal was significantly met, as several participants in this project have become members of the Fresno County Food System Alliance (FSA) facilitated by Ag Innovations. In addition, the facilitators of this project are also actively involved in the FSA and continue to engage members of the SARE project as opportunities arise. Several of the goals and projects chosen by the FSA, will either compliment the action plan of the SARE group (farm to school project to develop new markets) or will provide an opportunity for implementation collaboratively (Regional Food Assessment). Additionally, the FSA has decided to host the Urban Rural Roundtable Foodshed project in Fresno County.

    Finally, the fourth objective was to “have a fundable plan with which to seek implementation funding from sources like the Specialty Crops Block Grant Programs, Farm Credit/Ag Bank, etc.” This objective was met through the completion of the Western SARE Strategic Implementation Plan (Appendix A). Through this document and by successfully completing our initial producer education and learning project under this grant, SRT recently applied to the Columbia Foundation for a grant to continue our work with farmers and food system advocates in the San Joaquin Valley.

    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.