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Collaborating for Community Food Systems

I’m sorry I could not attend the two recent Redding area presentations by Ken Meter, president of the non-profit Crossroads Resource Center, because Happy Valley farmer and friend, Pedro Betancourt said Ken has an important message: collaborating to support local enterprises is the best way to promote economic recovery and health of our local economy.

Meter is a proponent of community-based food movements. He has examples of groundbreaking local foods initiatives across the U.S.  He talked this week in Redding and Anderson about a study just released this summer, 2012 of the Mount Shasta Region (6 counties) conducted in partnership with California Center for Cooperative Development. California Center for Cooperative Development’s mission is to promote cooperatives as a vibrant business model to address the economic and social needs of our communities.

Here’s a link to a video interview of Ken Meter on the topic of community food systems as an introduction for others like me who missed his important Shasta County presentations.

Shermain Hardesty (Director of the California Small Farm Program at University of California Cooperative Extension) and Glenda Humiston (California State director for Rural Development with the USDA) also spoke this past week.

According to the Redding Record Searchlight, of the 5,159 farms in the 6 county region (including Shasta County), 63 percent have sales of less than $10,000 annually, concluding that “people are barely hanging on.” But Meter also went on to say ” the north state’s food economy can be strengthened by “clusters of local business that support food production” encouraging all connected in the local food delivery chain to work together collaboratively and collectively.

Perhaps the Siskiyou Harvest Food Center, the only FDA certified shared use commercial kitchen facility in true Northern California is a prototype for Redding?

Similarly, the USDA’s SARE program suggests that “farmers and ranchers can boost their financial sustainability by using a greater diversity of marketing techniques: processing on-farm; creating value-added products and a strong brand identity; conducting market research to match product to demand; selling direct to consumers at farmers markets, community-supported agriculture (CSA) enterprises, roadside stands or through the Web; and delivering to restaurants, small grocers and local institutions—to name just some techniques.” SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) promotes sustainable agriculture and innovative strategies to produce and distribute food, fuel and fiber sustainably. While these strategies vary greatly they all embrace three broad goals, or what SARE calls the 3 Pillars of Sustainability:

  1. Profit over the long term
  2. Stewardship of our nation’s land, air and water
  3. Quality of life for farmers, ranchers and their communities
We look forward to creative collaboration and sustainable agriculture in Shasta County.
Let’s support our local food producers and suppliers and prevent money being sucked out of our region!