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From Humble Beginnings, Chino, CA-based Family Farm Emerges to Offer High Quality Healthy Produce to Families

June 23, 2016 |
Riverside, CA-based Gaytan Family Farm at the Vista Farmers' Market. Photo courtesy of Gaytan Family Farms.

Riverside, CA-based Gaytan Family Farm at the Vista Farmers’ Market. Photo courtesy of Gaytan Family Farm.

“Our goal is to teach other families how to eat healthy and bring them the best quality that we can – from our family to theirs,” says Maricela Gaytan of Chino, CA-based Gaytan Family Farm.

The Gaytan’s began growing produce more than 12 years ago to carry on a family farming tradition that had begun decades earlier in Mexico.

“Farming is in our blood,” says Maricela Gaytan. “It’s all family that works on the farm—cousins, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, all of us dedicate ourselves to farming.”

The family farm operation, which has since grown to encompass nearly 50-acres of farmland across multiple counties, emerged from humble beginnings in Mira Loma. Read More

6 Riverside County Farms Strengthening the Local Food System

June 13, 2016 |
Brian Griffith of Griffith Family Farm in Riverside, CA selling locally grown produce

Brian Griffith of Griffith Family Farm in Riverside, CA. Photo courtesy of Brian Griffith.

Riverside County, and the City of Riverside in particular, possesses a rich agricultural heritage dating back to the 19th century. However, in the 20th century as population growth fueled by families in search of affordable housing led to increased residential, industrial and commercial development the county’s agricultural roots, and production, began to fray. Lately, though, there has been a renaissance of sorts as local farmers strive to meet growing demand from local consumers. The GrowRIVERSIDE movement, through conferences and community-building efforts, has also helped to build awareness and interest in local food among Riversiders.

Below is a list of six Riverside County farms that produce a wide array of products for the local market ranging from oranges, goat’s milk and pastured lamb to value-added goods such as soaps and lotions. Read More

The Farmers Come out at Night in Riverside

June 7, 2016 |
The Magnolia Center Marketplace, Riverside’s first nighttime farmers’ market in more than 10 years, celebrated its grand opening on May 20. (photo courtesy Kathi Foster)

The Magnolia Center Marketplace, Riverside’s first nighttime farmers’ market in more than 10 years, celebrated its grand opening on May 20. (photo courtesy Kathi Foster)

If you can’t grab your locally grown, farm fresh Riverside produce during normal daytime hours, don’t fret. There’s a new market in town, and it’s open after hours.

This new night market, Magnolia Center Marketplace, is the brainchild of Rico and Rheiana Alderette, owners of downtown Riverside-based MADE, which sells furniture, vintage and handcrafted goods. MADE sponsors the market, which in addition to hosting a certified farmers’ market also features artisan and craft vendors.

“A Friday night market is great for both consumers and farmers,” says Rico Alderette.

Kathi Foster, produce manager for the Friday evening (and morning) Riverside Certified Farmers’ Market, agrees.

“Some people wanted a non-morning market,” she says. “It’s easier for some customers.” Read More

“Grow Local OC” Conference in Orange County, CA to Examine Future of Urban Food Systems

June 2, 2016 |

grow local oc conference future of urban food systems orange county(Orange County, CA) – Grow Local OC: The Future of Urban Food Systems, slated for Thursday and Friday, November 10-11, 2016, will explore innovative urban food system developments underway in Orange County and cities across the country that increase the supply of locally grown food in the marketplace, tackle food poverty and access challenges, improve health outcomes, and support entrepreneurship in urban and indoor farming.

On day one of the conference attendees will convene at the Titan Student Union at California State University, Fullerton for a series of panels and keynotes that will explore a variety of topics, including: Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Urban Food Production; Expanding Local Food Access; Building a Regional Food System Infrastructure; The Confluence of Food System and Community Development; and more. Read More

For Riverside, CA Food Co-op ‘Local is Micro-local’

May 31, 2016 |
Al Centro mini produce stand, operated by the Riverside Food Co-op, provides locally-grown fruits and vegetables to Riverside residents. (photo courtesy Alannah Leblanc/Riverside Food Co-op)

Al Centro mini produce stand, operated by the Riverside Food Co-op, provides locally-grown fruits and vegetables to Riverside residents. (photo courtesy Alannah Leblanc/Riverside Food Co-op)

The most important word for the Riverside Food Co-op (RFC) is “local.” Its definition can be broad, but for Nick Melquiades, RFC core team operations manager, “local” has a very specific meaning.

“For us, local is micro-local,” Melquiades says. “Ninety-five percent of our produce comes from within 25 miles of downtown Riverside.”

The RFC formed in 2011 in response to the recession in Riverside, has eventual plans to open a store. Not having a physical retail location to sell local produce, however, has not prevented it from playing an outsize role in local food system development in the City of Riverside. Read More

Ontario Community Garden Offers Hope and Health to Neighborhood in Need

May 24, 2016 |
Photo Courtesy of Huerta del Valle Community Garden.

Photo Courtesy of Huerta del Valle Community Garden.

Huerta del Valle Community Garden is a thriving community garden that offers hope and a source of fresh, healthy produce to residents of an Ontario neighborhood struggling with high concentrations of poverty, obesity and food access.

The garden took shape in 2010 when former Pitzer student Morgan Bennett organized local community members to create a garden on the site of a former elementary school. Today, 62 area families have plots in the garden and often sell the wide variety produce that they grow to community members.

Arthur Levine, who currently works as farm manager at Huerta del Valle Community Garden, would like to see the community garden model that has been established here replicated.

“Our interest would be to see that the whole city has gardens like this one,” says Levine. “We want to see one garden every mile. Each garden would be part of everyone’s life in some way.” Read More

On Land Once Owned by University of California, Riverside, UCR Student Launches Avocado and Citrus Venture

May 19, 2016 |
MIchael Johnson of Coronet Corner Grove in Riverside with avocado and citrus that he sells at local farmers markets, to the Riverside Food Co-op and through other local outlets. (Photo courtesy of Michael Johnson).

MIchael Johnson of Coronet Corner Grove in Riverside, CA with avocados and citrus that he grows and sells at the local farmers market, to the Riverside Food Co-op and through other local outlets. (Photo courtesy of Michael Johnson).

On agricultural land once used by the University of California, Riverside (UCR) for the development of the hybrid Gwen Avocado, Michael Johnson, a student who coincidentally happens to be attending UCR, has launched a burgeoning local food and farming venture.

Johnson has since rechristened the two acre plot of land, which his father purchased from UCR in 1995 as ‘Coronet Corner Grove.’

As a kid, he grew up working and playing on the farm land to which his father added oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes, kumquats and loquats to complement the avocados already growing there.

The farm slowly became a part of him and in 2012, when he was just 18, Johnson saw an opportunity to take advantage of the growing demand for local produce and create an economically viable farming enterprise. So, he launched ‘Coronet Corner Grove’ and began handing out business cards and selling his produce at the Riverside Certified Farmers’ Market. Read More

Crowdfunding Tomatoes: Technology Platform Allows Consumers to Fund Produce

May 12, 2016 |
ProduceRun stand. Photo courtesy of ProduceRun.

ProduceRun stand. Photo courtesy of ProduceRun.

William Pattison, co-founder and president of ProduceRun, a web-based service that allows farmers to “pre-sell” goods to local consumers via a crowdfunding-like platform, is no stranger to farming. His family has worked the land for four generations.

“ProduceRun started on our own family farm,” Pattison says. “We wanted a better way to be found, sell and distribute our farm products to the public. I feel that our technology can make a real difference for farmers, making it easier for them to do business, and creating easier access for buyers.” Read More

It’s Almost Summer in the Urban Garden: Tips for Planting Hot Weather Crops

May 11, 2016 |
Zucchini. Source: Wikipedia.

Zucchini. Source: Wikipedia.

It’s almost summer, and for many that means it’s time to plant the vegetable garden.

Of course, you may have put many of your plants in the ground already, but for those who like to put their vegetable garden in all at once, mid-May is often the time to do it.

The changing climate has complicated this somewhat, so gardeners in northern areas may need to wait until June to put in hot-season crops. This is particularly the case in cities where the city center may experience a several degree differential from surrounding areas. due to an urban heat island effect Check your local USDA zone map to see where you are..

Most summer crops discussed will not tolerate a frost, let alone a freeze, although a blanket on a cold night or row cover will provide a few degrees of protection. Read More

Despite Current Dysfunction in the Food System, Renowned Agroecology Expert Holds Out Hope for Future

May 10, 2016 |
Stephen Gliessm

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Stephen R. Gliessman, Alfred E. Heller Professor of Agroecology in UC Santa Cruz’s Environmental Studies Department, shares his thoughts regarding the state of the food system. Photo courtesy University of California, Santa Cruz

What is the state of the nation’s food system? Is it fundamentally broken and beyond repair? Does it need to be changed, and if so, how? What is it doing right?

To address these questions, we reached out to Stephen R. Gliessman, an internationally recognized leader in the field of agroecology, and the Alfred E. Heller Professor of Agroecology in UC Santa Cruz’s Environmental Studies Department, where he has taught since 1981. He was the founding director of the UCSC Agroecology Program (now the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems) and is the author of the renowned and pioneering textbook Agroecology: The Ecology of Sustainable Food Systems. In 2008, Gliessman became the chief editor of the internationally known Journal of Sustainable Agriculture.

Here is what we learned:

What is the state of the food system?

The current state of the food system is unhealthy. There is too much emphasis put on the business of growing food rather than long-term stewardship, care for the earth, and the people who grow food. That, I think, is a more important part of what’s going on. It’s amazing what the current food system is able to produce in terms of calories, but it’s also amazing in terms of what it doesn’t produce in terms of healthy nutritious food. Read More