Want to support local farmers? A new group will help you make a pledge

The next meeting on Monday at 5:30pm, Feb. 26 at the Little Lake Grange.


MENDOCINO Co., 2/26/18 — Do you want to show your commitment to local food — beyond stopping by the farmers market or scouring the grocery store for locally-produced items? There’s an exciting new project being organized in Mendocino County, called the ”Local Food Pledge 2018 – 2019,” that is designed to build support for local food, and it’s seeking new members. There will be a meeting tonight, Monday Feb. 26, at the Little Lake Grange in Willits, and ways to get involved in the future.

Mendocino County used to grow a huge amount of its own food, and people here ate mostly locally grown food. Yet despite the number of small farmers in the county, the percentage of local food grown and consumed here is a small fraction of what it used to be. The pledge group is seeking to change that by connecting people who have made a “local food pledge” with local farmers, stores, and restaurants. The project will be organizing large-scale purchases of locally grown food to make it easier for food producers and local food lovers to support our local foodshed through their daily diets.

Local food from a local farmer.
Local food from local farmer Ben Wolff…locally grown tomatoes definitely taste better!

Although similar projects like Eat Mendocino or the Good Farm Fund have considered these issues on an individual scale, the Local Food Pledge group wants to take it to the next level by building the local food community. By bringing together a group of people who will decide to regularly purchase a certain portion of local food, the pledge will create a “buying block” to encourage farmers, retail outlets, and restaurants to offer more locally-grown food throughout the year, and develop more ways to access local food.

The group currently has almost 40 members, says organizer Sara Grusky, but hopes to reach between 50 and 100 members. They’re currently holding meetings to figure out what will work best for those interested in making a pledge — which can be any level of commitment that works for the individual. Anyone is welcome to join, Grusky said, and plan to make a pledge in whatever way works for their life.

Group members are working together to determine how to define local — within the county? within 100 miles? — and how to best build mechanisms to purchase more local food over the next year. If you are a farmer or work in a grocery store or restaurant, they also want you to get involved: “The group is eager to invite potential new local food pledgers and farmers who may be interested in growing for the Local Food Pledge group,” Grusky wrote. She added that they hope to expand on the resources provided the farmers markets, Mendo-Lake Food Hub, and other local food focused organizations to support local food in the community.

The next meeting will be on Monday February 26th at 5:30pm at Little Lake Grange, 291 School Street in Willits.  For more information contact Sara Grusky and Michael Foley at Green Uprising Farm at 707 216-5549 or email [email protected] Read more about the project in a letter from Grusky below:

Join the Local Food Pledge

by Sara Grusky, Green Uprising Farm

Did you know that in 1864, the Coyote Valley flour mill processed a daily average of four tons of wheat?  In 1880, Anderson Valley, a community of less than 1,000 people, raised 20,000 head of cattle and 75,000 head of sheep.  By the late 19th century there were 28,000 apple trees, 2,000 acres of barley, 3,000 acres of oats, 375 beehives and 8 operating gristmills in Mendocino County.  By contrast agricultural production in Mendocino County today has declined drastically.  Most of the food we eat comes from great distances.  Analysts report that a single bite of food has traveled, on average, 1,500 miles before it is eaten.

A new group, Local Food Pledge 2018-2019, has gathered in Willits to organize a local food pledge drive that would create a group of 50 or 100 people (or more!) committed to eating a high percentage of local food in their daily diet (each pledger would determine the precise details of their local food pledge).  A major goal of the group is to create a hearty block of buying power that would flow directly toward the support of local farmers, ranchers and food producers.

The Local Food Pledge group began their first meeting by going around the room to discuss both the excitement and the fears about taking a local food pledge.  Many people were concerned about the impact a local food pledge would have on their social life,  (“…oh, sorry, I can’t eat that….”) not being able to eat at restaurants, or have meals with friends and family, or giving up coffee, chocolate, chai tea, and other spices.  There was also great excitement about learning how to face these challenges, getting to know our local farmers better, learning to grow more high caloric foods, and doing more foraging, gleaning and food preserving.  There was lots of interest in the idea of involving restaurants by encouraging them to have one “all local” dish on their menu.  The Local Food Pledge group could help the restaurants find sources for the local food dishes.

Many issues were discussed.  Preliminary decisions were made to be as inclusive as possible.  Each pledger will design their own local food pledge.  Some folks might eat only local food on weekdays, but allow themselves weekends to socialize with family and friends and eat less strictly.  Others might want to dedicate 50%, 80%, or more (or less) of their food budget to go only to local food.  Some pledgers might just go 100 percent local!  Others might pledge to eat local food minus a few specialty items like chocolate, coffee or spices.  Determining what the definition of “local” food might be was also discussed.  Definitions such as Mendocino County only, or Mendocino and Lake County, or a 100 mile limit were all discussed.  

As we start the journey of our local food pledge, we feel immensely grateful for all the resources already in place to re-build our local food system such as McFarm (the network of farmer’s markets), the School of Adaptive Agriculture, the Mendo-Lake Food Hub, Grange Grains, the Grateful Gleaners, the Anderson Valley Foodshed and all of the hardworking farmers in our county.  If we work together it’s amazing how much we can provide for each other!

The group is eager to invite potential new local food pledgers and farmers who may be interested in growing for the Local Food Pledge group.  The next meeting will be on Monday February 26th at 5:30pm at Little Lake Grange, 291 School Street in Willits.  

For more information: Sara Grusky and Michael Foley, Green Uprising Farm at 707 216-5549, [email protected]

Kate B. Maxwell, [email protected]

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