Posts By AJ Hughes
The 2nd Annual GrowRIVERSIDE Conference: The Future of Local Food, held June 11-13 in Riverside, California, focused on production, new business creation, local food sales and community impact.
These four focuses were brought into sharp relief by numerous speakers and panelists as well as conference-goers, who discussed a wide variety of issues including local food marketplaces, developing urban farms, marketing and distribution, urban indoor farming, crop diversification, climate, farm-to-school, an update on the work of the Riverside Food Systems Alliance, compost management, water usage, and more.
“We are an extraordinary city, and we get it done.”
These words were uttered by Riverside Unified School District (RUSD) Director of Nutrition Services Rodney Taylor at the beginning of his keynote address on day two of the 2nd Annual GrowRIVERSIDE Conference: The Future of Local Food.
Taylor acknowledged the extraordinary progress made since last year’s inaugural GrowRIVERSIDE conference, but pointed out that great amounts of inequity still plague the food system.
At the 2nd Annual GrowRIVERSIDE Conference: The Future of Local Food, held last Thursday, June 11 through Saturday, June 13 participants from panelists to keynotes and breakout session leaders repeatedly honed in on the same key ingredient when discussing the development of robust local food systems: community.
And true to this theme, the first day of the conference ended fittingly as conveners partook of local food and beverages amidst an orange grove. Robert Egger, founder and president of L.A. Kitchen, spoke about how fresh fruits and vegetables not only build community, but change lives as well.
True community tends to grow and attract others to its orbit, and GrowRIVERSIDE is no exception, said Al Zelinka, Assistant City Manager for the City of Riverside.
“This is a movement rooted in community and entrepreneurship,” said Zelinka, noting that people came from as far away from Hawaii and east of the Mississippi to attend the event. “A small group of thoughtful and committed citizens can change the world,” he continued, paraphrasing anthropologist Margaret Mead.
While the demand for entrepreneurs in the realm of sustainable and innovative food and agriculture is strong, often, new entrepreneurs need guidance. The SCORE Inland Empire chapter is looking to fill this need with free face-to-face business counseling services at the upcoming GrowRIVERSIDE conference, scheduled June 11-13, 2015 in downtown Riverside, California.
SCORE, which has chapters all across the United States, uses mentors to guide and coach new and budding entrepreneurs. SCORE mentors draw from a wealth of business experience to guide and advise new businesspeople.
SCORE will engage with GrowRIVERSIDE for the first time this year. Thomas Evans, an Inland Empire SCORE mentor from Riverside, serves on the board of directors of a local water agency. It was through his connections there that he learned of GrowRIVERSIDE, and later he was able to connect SCORE to GrowRIVERSIDE.
It’s no secret that Southern California is suffering from prolonged drought, and according to a University of California, Riverside (UCR) professor and conservation specialist, compost can be used as a potent drought-fighting tool.
“Compost is a good source of organic matter, helps retain nutrients and helps conserve water,” says David Crohn. “Adding compost to sandy soil helps it to hold more water, which makes water management easier.”
Q&A: City Councilmember Andy Melendrez on the Importance of Sustainable Food and Agriculture to Riverside, CAApril 16, 2015 | AJ Hughes
Riverside City Councilmember Andy Melendrez is a supporter of local foods, and is enthusiastic about educating Riverside residents on the importance of local and sustainable food and agriculture.
In an effort to provide more education to the public about the importance of sustainable agriculture in Riverside and the surrounding communities, Melendrez started a lecture series on healthy sustainable living.
Seedstock caught up with Melendrez to ask him his thoughts about food and agriculture in Riverside, his hopes for the GrowRIVERSIDE conference, and more.
Seedstock: Why did you decide to launch a lecture series? How is that going, and what are your future plans for these lectures?
When consultant Richard Conlin attended the inaugural GrowRIVERSIDE conference in 2014, he talked to people about the many ideas involving Riverside’s Greenbelt that never materialized. Conlin, who has a history of helping members of a community and stakeholders hammer out policies, offered to help make some of these ideas a reality. They accepted his proposal, which resulted in the Riverside Food Systems Alliance (RFSA).
The RFSA started meeting last September, and on April 16, it will present its action plan to the Riverside City Council for formal adoption.
California Baptist University in Riverside, California is a vital part of Riverside’s local and sustainable food efforts through its Food Innovation Center, which opened in September 2014.
Part of the university’s Department of Health Sciences, the 4,000-square foot space provides extensive classroom, laboratory and kitchen space.
Ronald Ellis, president of California Baptist, and Charles Sands, dean of the university’s College of Allied Health, envisioned a cutting-edge facility for training students, according to Margaret Barth, program director. She came to California Baptist to lead the new center.