Demand for local food in Riverside is growing as a result of awareness building initiatives like GrowRIVERSIDE helping to foster a robust local food system, support for weekly farmers’ markets that allow community members to connect with and purchase local produce from farmers. The fruits, and vegetables, of the growing local food movement in Riverside have also made their way onto restaurant menus across the county. So, if you live in the region, or plan on visiting, read on to discover 5 Riverside restaurants that are dedicated to supporting and serving food raised by local farmers.
Blackburn’s Farm-to-Table – Corona
Chef Bill Blackburn, the chef at Blackburn’s Farm-to-Table, wants to give everyone that comes into his restaurant the real-deal, farm-to-table experience. Everything Blackburn puts on the restaurant’s menu is in-season and comes from local growers in Riverside County and the broader Southern California region.
Community-based agriculture is increasing across the Inland Empire(IE) as more community gardens and the programs related to them are being established. As outlined below, these efforts include many new farm plots where residents are growing their own food, learning new skills and gaining food system awareness. But the people establishing these gardens are going further than just turning bare dirt into growing grounds. They are implementing ancillary programs as well, thereby adding even greater value to their communities. Each of these various enterprises benefits their local cities and neighborhoods by increasing access to healthy and fresh foods, as well as providing employment, educational opportunities and a greater sense of community to everyone involved in their construction, day-to-day upkeep and expansion.
A few years ago, Mary Petit and Eleanor Torres decided to tackle the problem of food insecurity in their local Upland area by working at a local community garden. Petit looked for an existing community garden with no success, so she and Torres began their own and named it the Incredible Edible Community Garden.
Market Demand and Pest Problems Prompt Rialto, CA Citrus Grower with Deep Roots to Diversify OfferingJune 28, 2016 | Kate Edwards
John Adams has deep roots in the Rialto, California citrus grove known as Adams Acres. His great-grandmother bought the original 20 acres back in 1899, and his grandfather put in the orange grove in 1907. Adams, now 72 years old, has spent most of his life on this land, growing and tending to the last orange grove in an area that used to boast some 6,000 acres of commercial citrus.
Today, Adams is down to just two acres and change on which sits the original farmhouse, a century-old stone outbuilding and an antique tractor. Ten of the original 20 acres were sold off to developers in the 1970s, and just this year, Adams was forced to sell about three-quarters of the remaining land. He sold it to yet another developer who is planning to build, as he says drily, “a gated community of houses set three feet apart.”
Adams sold the land for financial reasons. The wholesale price for Valencias, the oranges used in most commercial juice production, has been depressed worldwide for decades due to fading demand coupled with the influx of cheap fruit from Brazil, Chile and South Africa. This means that the local packing house stopped purchasing his crop awhile ago, and the citrus sales at his roadside stand weren’t enough to make up the difference.
From Humble Beginnings, Chino, CA-based Family Farm Emerges to Offer High Quality Healthy Produce to FamiliesJune 23, 2016 | Joy Leopold
“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.
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.
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.”
(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.
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.
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.”
On Land Once Owned by University of California, Riverside, UCR Student Launches Avocado and Citrus VentureMay 19, 2016 | Anne Meyer Byler
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.