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The Marin Center for Sustainable Agriculture is on its way here

For years many of us have shared a vision of a permanent “center” for our local agriculture that would shelter an outdoor market, a collective farmgate to distribution facility for produce, dairy, shellfish and meat, an educational farm, a permanent indoor storefront for specialty and processed local foods and a meeting place to advance the cause for a sustainable food system. Bold thinkers have toyed with how to make it real. Finally it is happening.

       Today, we are more aware than ever that to be a complete, healthy, and responsible society we need to be serious about drawing on our local resources: our farmers and ranchers, our dedicated food and farming activists, and the wealth of talent and resources available to dedicate to such righteous action. Here in our own county, all of these exist in great measure.

       Early this year,  the Marin County Farmers Market Association Board of Directors put together The Center for Sustainable Agriculture to fulfill this vision. The Board of Directors is a dream team of talent: visionary, experienced, and practical, all selflessly committed to bringing the collaborative vision into reality. This is an organization focused on giving our agriculturists opportunities to not only survive, but to flourish and grow as our local market transforms from a common commodity-based agriculture wedded to diminishing energy supplies to a sensible, sustainable locally rooted food system.           

       The overall plan for the Center for Sustainable Agriculture is comprehensive. The cornerstone of the project is a permanent year-round home for the Sunday and Thursday Farmers’ Markets which serve 8,000 shoppers weekly, at peak season, with regionally local organic and sustainably grown fresh food. This has been the dream of the MCFMA for years. Equally important is the planned distribution system that will deliver fresh farm products from regional growers to schools, restaurants, hospitals, and institutional kitchens. This program has already begun with the MCFMA providing fresh produce to Marin General Hospital and Dominican University. In addition to the regular market days, producers will be able to sell product through a permanent indoor market that will be available every day, supplying us with fresh, local, organic, and sustainably-produced produce, milk, cheeses, meats, shellfish, and added-value farm products.

       A permanent indoor set of small market stores will be built into the structure, with a butcher shop that highlights and distributes Marin-branded beef, lamb, and pork.      

       The idea and plan for an agricultural education mini-farm has also been in the wind for years, and this umbrella may well end up giving that worthy project a permanent home. Also on the drawing board for the Center for Sustainable Agriculture is a conference facility for related events, as well as offices and a meeting facility for other like-minded not-for-profits.

        So where are we today with the Center? Where will it be located? When will it be completed? To all of those questions the answer is the same: it’s under way. Currently two steering committees are being formed: a design and building committee and a fundraising committee. If you are interested in serving on one or the other, contact the Center for Sustainable Agriculture at 415 456-3276. The Board of Directors has a number of sites under consideration, and the selection process is just getting under way. Stay tuned. Once the site is selected, the fundraising will begin in earnest.

       Yes, there is a long way to go, as in any worthy endeavor. But this one definitely has teeth. A professional, highly motivated, and selfless group of dedicated pioneers are focused on making the Center for Sustainable Agriculture a part of our lives here in Marin. They are building on the years of envisioning, planning, collaborating, brainstorming, researching, and just plain hoping of all of those who came before. So many people and organizations have contributed to this vision.

       Knock and the door will be opened. The highly educated public here in our beautiful county is ready and willing to support this kind of step forward. Our team, from county government to not-for-profits to educational bodies to the fine and dedicated producers themselves, is positioned to move us forward in our quest towards a sensible and sustainable society with this project. Working together harmoniously and selflessly we can continue to build on our reputation as innovators and creators.