Stanislaus Grown: Farming and Eating Bond Over Mutual Love of Food
Here in Stanislaus County, our agricultural roots run deep. But what does this agricultural connection mean when the food we buy in stores and are served at local restaurants is shipped in from other places in the world?
The rise of the global food trade over the last century has meant that our local bounty has had an ever-dwindling share in the local market, and more and more of our locally-grown produce is sent off to points distant. Until recent years, that is.
Today, Stanislaus County residents are increasingly concerned with buying and eating local. From seeking out farm-to-fork cuisine at Concetta (which prepared the beautiful local produce for this month’s cover photo), La Mo, Surla’s or many other local eateries; patronizing one of the county’s Certified Farmer’s Markets; buying into a direct-to-consumer CSA that provides fresh produce from locally run farms like Kline-Cushing or 3 Acre Farm; or just staying aware of the origins of the food they pick up at the market, consumers all over Stanislaus County are thinking, buying and eating local.
Jamie Meek, along with the rest of the staff of the East Stanislaus Resource Conservation District (ESRC), is taking this trend even further. Last year, moved by Stanislaus County’s bourgeoning local eating movement, members of the ESRC sought out a special grant from the US Department of Agriculture. The grant they received helped them establish a new brand: “Stanislaus Grown.”
Stanislaus Grown is a simple idea. If it’s clear to consumers where a piece of produce, cut of meat or product has been produced, they will be more likely to buy, eat and consume locally. By branding local food as Stanislaus Grown, Meek and the ESRC hope to give consumers a tool that can easily help connect them with the products of local farmers and producers. “We really want to make local consumers more aware of where their produce is coming from, and to support local farmers,” said Meek. “The hope is to create a recognizable brand that producers may use to assist with marketing their product locally and one which consumers will recognize and support.”
Along with the brand, the grant helped establish a new farmer’s market that is set to launch on May 27 at the corner of Yosemite and Mitchell Roads in Modesto. According to Meek, the location was ideal because it lies at the intersection of three “food deserts”—urban areas in which affordable, good quality fresh food is difficult to come by.
The market will be limited to growers whose products originate in Stanislaus County. “This campaign is meant to be a way for local small to mid-sized producers to more easily direct market their products,” said Meek. “Often, small producers don’t have the money available to do large marketing campaigns or use a distributor, so they’re always looking for ways to get their products out to the community. Farmer’s markets are a great way to do that.”
The new Stanislaus Grown Certified Farmer’s Market is scheduled to open on alternating Tuesday evenings from 3 p.m. until 7 p.m. from May until around September of this year. But according to Meek, there’s no guarantee on the market continuing into future seasons unless the community comes out in support. The USDA grant which funds the market will end in September. The hope is that public support both on the consumer and producer side will keep the market running for many seasons to come. “We want people to really take ownership of this project. We want them to get involved and support it so it can be sustainable beyond the grant.”
A wide variety of local farmers are already on board, including Sciabica Olive Oil, which has volunteered its facility as a site for the market. “Our Board is made up of local producers including nut growers, ranchers, farmers and dairymen who think this brand can make a difference,” said Meek. “With this project, we’re identifying some very obvious needs here in the county and working to make a change.”
Before the market opens, the ESRC is busy making efforts to grow a sense of ownership in consumers and producers alike. A public vote to choose the new brand’s logo closed at the end of April, with results debuting later this month, and a recently completed community survey is helping the agency spread the word about the new market and the Stanislaus Grown brand.
“We recognize there are many businesses in the county which are vital to the economy and support our local Ag,” concluded Meek. “And they can also become part of the Stanislaus Grown project through supporter membership.” Producers, supporters and anyone looking for more information about the campaign can reach Meek by email at [email protected].
Will the Stanislaus Grown brand make a difference in your shopping habits? Tell us about it at contentmenthealth.com!