- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
The beautiful strawberry stand photos that graced a New York Times story yesterday about the locavore movement were shot at a UC event last Friday designed to remind Sacramento residents about the beginning of their local strawberry season and promote two UC initiatives to help local growers.
It was great that Time's photographer Max Whitaker showed up, but it would've been nice to have credited UC for the purpose of the gathering. UC researchers received a half-million-dollar grant from USDA to work closely with Southeast Asian farmers in Sacramento and Fresno counties on improving production practices, ensuring food safety and expanding their markets.
Not that the Times story wasn't interesting. It focused on a new advertising campaign for Lays Potato Chips that extols their connection to farmers and local communities. The story, written by Kim Severson, said food producers and large-scale farming concerns are embracing a broad interpretation of what eating locally means.
"This mission creep has the original locavores choking on their yerba mate," Severson wrote.
In fairness, the article did touch on the second program promoted at last week's strawberry stand event, but without mentioning UC. The "Grow Local and Buy Local" initiative - a collaborative effort with UC and the Sacramento Farm Bureau that is funded with a $50,000 grant from the Sacramento Board of Supervisors - is designed to take advantage of the close proximity of Sacramento's farms and consumers.
Part of the money is being used to encourage 3,000 area farmers to grow acres of what the Severson calls "grocery store crops," like strawberries and artichokes instead of "commodity crops," like safflower and alfalfa, or to sell more fruit fresh, rather than sending it to canners.
The fresh produce can then be marketed as "local" and sold to nearby hospitals, schools, jails and other institutions that want to buy food grown nearby, and sold direct to consumers at local farmers markets, flea markets and road side stands.
The New York Times wasn't the only media outlet to come to the strawberry stand. Sacramento County UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor Jenny Broome said representatives from the ag publication Capital Press, KCRA Channel 3 News, and the Elk Grove Citizen covered the event.