UC helps community develop local food systems

Nov 8, 2010

The movement in Lake County to encourage local citizens to consume locally produced agricultural products got a boost last month when a diversity of experts brought in ideas that have worked elsewhere in the state, according to a story in Lake County News.

Food systems analyst Gail Feenstra of the UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program explained how schools in Davis, Calif., increased students' fruit and vegetable consumption by tying the salad bar selections to school garden lessons.

To help fund the program, the coordinators turned food scraps into compost for the gardens. By reducing the amount of garbage, they saved the district $60,000 – enough to fund their positions and subsidize the gardens.

City of Davis voters also passed a parcel tax to help subsidize the program, finding it worthwhile to ensure all students were served nutritious lunches made from locally grown foods, the article said.

Shermain Hardesty, extension specialist for agricultural and resource economics at UC Davis, presented information at the gathering on establishing local food systems.

"Building things from scratch, by yourself, costs money. Look for partnerships using existing resources," Hardesty was quoted in the article.

She led an interactive exercise asking participants what was missing in Lake County's local food system, with grains, meat and dairy the most often mentioned. The group then discussed what infrastructure was needed to create local industries that would meet these needs.

Other projects supporting local agriculture addressed at the workshop were:

  • The Lake County Community Co-Op, an online distribution system that enables members to order certified organic products directly from local producers

  • “Lake County Grown,” sponsored by Lake County Farm Bureau, for online ordering of local produce

  • The LAVA Center, which buys overages and blemished produce from farmers and adds value by turning it into another product, such as sauces or chutneys.

By Jeannette E. Warnert
Author - Communications Specialist