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North Coast Food System Network is Growing

In our region there is strong, and growing interest in developing sustainable food systems that contribute to food security. This is evidenced by agriculture and food summits held in Sonoma in 2011, and in Marin, Napa, and Mendocino in 2010. A 2010 American Farmland Trust report outlined Bay Area opportunities for direct marketing and food system development and reinforces the need for region wide solutions to infrastructure problems. In 2011 area leaders initiated a North Coast Regional Food Systems Network. The group is composed of representatives from five Northern California counties including a county supervisor from each county, producers, farm bureau leaders, retail food outlets, local government departments, financial sector, and underserved communities. There are currently 85 individuals working on this multi-county effort focused on aggregation, processing infrastructure, marketing, and financing guided by a 15-member steering committee. USDA Rural Development is funding this effort with possibilities for a second 3-year phase.

So far, the Network has identified a four-priority area to address:

  • Processing aggregation & distribution
  • Marketing & promotion
  • Financing
  • Policy and advocacy

These are topics that were prioritized in the various county summits and forums but in many cases, within county partnerships alone can’t solve, hence the regional approach.  

One committee is working with Sonoma Golocal to license the use of their “ag” labels for each county, while another committee is preparing a grant to develop the county and regional co-branding.

The group is also working with the Buckelew food hub at People’s Harvest in Petaluma, and the CAM Foodworks Kitchen in Ignacio, and is inventorying other facilities that could assist producers in added value to their products, and get product to market.

Please contact Cliff Paulin, our network coordinator for more information or your county representatives. In Marin, email Ellie Rilla, Stacy Carlsen, or Liza Crosse.

Ellie Rilla, Community Development Advisor