local food systems
The 2004 film A Day Without a Mexican presented a scenario in which fresh produce from California’s farms were being sold on the black market and out of car trunks as a consequence of the sudden disappearance of the country’s Mexican population. Although satirical in nature, the message behind the film is becoming more relevant due to recent Trump administration policies regarding immigration and deportation.
According to statistics from the Farm Labor Survey of the USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Service, in 2012, there were nearly 1.1 million farm workers, on average, working on the 2.1 million farms in the United States. Of those workers, approximately 50 percent were undocumented laborers. This percentage increased when broken down into specific crop production, with undocumented workers accounting for 67 percent of farm workers in the fruit and nut industry and 61 percent in the vegetable industry compared to nine percent and 17 percent, respectively, of farm workers who were U.S. citizens.
In Fight Against Food Poverty, L.A. Kitchen Embraces Imperfect Fruit and Intergenerational WorkforceMarch 21, 2017 | Charli Engelhorn
Fighting hunger is more than just about food for Robert Egger, founder and CEO of L.A. Kitchen, a non-profit in Los Angeles that engages, empowers, and nourishes the local community “by reclaiming healthy, local food that would otherwise be discarded, training men and women who are unemployed for jobs, and providing healthy meals to fellow citizens,” according to the organizations mission statement.
“Fighting hunger is a political act, a social act, an economic act,” says Egger. “I want to be a source and develop a model that shows how you can feed more people a better meal with less money.”
L.A. Kitchen is modeled after Egger’s first enterprise, D.C. Central Kitchen in Washington D.C. A chance experience of accompanying friends to feed the homeless there highlighted some inadequacies Egger couldn’t ignore, such as purchasing the food when so many people in the food industry he knew lamented over wasting food at the end of the night.
Since University of California Cooperative Extension established the first Master Gardener Programs in the state in 1981, its army of certified volunteer gardeners, who are today spread across more than 50 counties, have supported programs aimed at educating California residents, especially those living in low-income communities, about growing their own food.
In Los Angeles, one such program that Master Gardener Program volunteers supported was the Common Ground Garden Program, which was established in 1976 with funds from a Congressional appropriations bill to support a national Urban Garden Program. Working in collaboration with the Common Ground Garden Program, the Master Gardener volunteers played a pivotal role in helping to set up several community and school gardens across the county.
After funding from the Urban Garden Program ceased, the Los Angeles County branch of the Master Gardener Program formally took over the task of training community gardeners.
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.
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.”