Grown in Marin
University of California
Grown in Marin

Honoring Agriculture Diversification - 10/21/15

This fall more than 70 of Marin’s farmers, ranchers, and agriculture supporters joined in a half-day program entitled Honoring Agricultural Diversification in Marin, celebrating the accomplishments of the agricultural community over the last 40 years to diversify farming operations. These successes include additions of pasture-based livestock products, precedent-setting levels of organic certification, and value-added production, including artisan and farmstead cheeses. Warren Weber, grandfather of Organic agriculture in Marin and owner and farmer of Star Route Farms, provided the keynote for this program. Ralph Grossi, previously a Marin dairy operator and former Executive Director for of the American Farmland Trust, started the program with a review of the pivotal decisions made and programs implemented to protect agricultural lands in Marin and support its farming families. He also provided the closing comments, a summary of the ideas and motivations shared by participants during the program to build upon the past accomplishments and continue the momentum.

Plenary

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Topics of focus: partners and collaborators,
specialization and diversification, and scale.

Speakers:

  • Arron Wilder, Table Top Farm
  • Rick LaFranchi, Nicasio Valley Cheese
  • Claire Herminjard, Mindful Meats
  • Janet Brown, Allstar Organics

Breakout Sessions

What products to market?

  • Anthony Bordessa, Washoe Valley Duck Farm
  • Tamara Hicks, Toluma Farms
    & Tomales Farmstead Creamery
  • Guido Fronsini, True Grass Farm                          
   

How to market products?

  • Bobby Foehr, Coastal Hill Farm
  • Jim Jensen, Grown Local
  • Sally Gale, Chileno Valley Ranch
  • Claire Herminjard, Mindful Meats

Where to market Products?

  • Janet Brown, Allstar Organics
  • Tyler Thayer, AIM
  • Arron Wilder, Table Top Farms
   

Scaling to the next level

  • Dave Evans, Marin Sun Farms
  • Rick La Franchi, Nicasio Valley Cheese Company

Read Ralph Grossi and Warren Weber's speeches adapted for Grown in Marin News

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Five Principles of Agricultural Diversification

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Closing Reflections from Ralph Grossi

We have heard from many of the entrepreneurial farmers and ranchers who are operating successful businesses in a highly competitive environment here in the North Bay. They represent the best of our industry, and of course, our future. The scale of these operations ranges from very small part-time farms to highly sophisticated multi-ranch operations; but they share many common goals and values.

Many presenters spoke of the importance of knowing your customers and maintaining a high level of integrity - as one of our most important values is the trust we have built up over the years. Others spoke of the satisfaction of producing a quality product and working for one’s self. It is evident from your comments that farmers and ranchers in Marin clearly take a great deal of pride in what they do – both in the food they produce and in the stewardship of our exceptional land for all its social, economic and environmental benefits.

We also heard many speakers express their appreciation for the unique assets we enjoy here. As Rick Lafranchi said, “We have some of the best grass in the world here in Marin,” giving us a competitive advantage in producing organic milk, grass-fed beef, and more.
Of course, our proximity to some of the most discerning affluent consumers in the country is also a big plus. As food safety and quality have become more important in our society, Marin farmers are well positioned to deliver the quality and assurances that today’s consumer seeks.

We also heard about some of the challenges Marin farmers face, such as access to land for beginning farmers, competition from “local” produce from many miles away, financing and regulations; though some agreed that some regulation was important to maintaining the integrity of markets.

We were advised to “not chase every dollar,” hedge financial risk and to expect it to take time to develop markets. As one participant put it, “it took me ten years to become an overnight success.”

Finally, I am pleased to observe that I see many unfamiliar faces in the audience today – a sign that a new generation of leadership has emerged. In a world that will grow to 9 billion people in our lifetimes, a world with limited natural resources, the future for agriculture is bright.

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Local Stories on Agricultural Diversification

View more interviews on Agriculture Diversification here.

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