2014 Let's Go Local! Produce Showcase

Tuesday, November 4, 2014 by Julianna Arnett

LGL 2014

On October 24, the San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative's Farm to School Taskforce celebrated Food Day by hosting the second annual Let's Go Local! Produce Showcase for local institutional buyers, growers and distributors of fruits and vegetables. The event, which took place at the Ranch (441 Saxony Road, in Encinitas), drew nearly 40 local growers and eight distributors, as well as a number of critical partner agencies like the San Diego County Farm Bureau, UC San Diego Center for Community Health, County of San Diego, and hundreds of institutional produce buyers.

The Produce Showcase was generously hosted by the Leichtag Foundation, a Jewish non-profit foundation that is transforming that site, the former location of the Ecke Ranch (poinsettia growing capital of the world), into a hub for sustainable agriculture and Jewish community. The purpose of the Produce Showcase is to open up a new, viable market for local growers, and to direct more fresh, local produce toward institutional food procurement. This corresponds with Leichtag's focus on nurturing a strong, healthy regional food system that serves all San Diegans.

San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts spoke about the importance of the event to revitalizing our community's health and economy and praised this year's event organizers (who included staff from Community Health Improvement Partners, the OC Food Access Coalition, and a number of engaged participants) for nearly tripling the size of the event from last year. JuliAnna Arnett, the lead organizer, spoke about the importance of the Produce Showcase for improving San Diego County's institutional food offerings, and Christina Hall, of the Orange County Food Access Coalition, emphasized the event's significance to the broader Southern Californian food system. Jim Farley, Leichtag Foundation's president and CEO, welcomed participants to the Ranch and voiced hopes that one day the Produce Showcase might be made permanent in the form of a farmers' market at the Ranch.

The real test of the Produce Showcase's success starts now. It will be measured by how many buyers pick up the phone and call local growers to ask for local produce, or express interest in purchasing local when renegotiating contracts with distributors. In the days following the showcase, we are already hearing stories of success. An Orange County farm identified its first-ever school district customers. A produce distributor reconnected with a local mushroom grower after nine years of no contact and plans to once again purchase their product. A local restaurant left the event with plans to buy from three local farms, including an egg producer and a lettuce grower. A local school district scheduled meetings with multiple farms and has introduced the idea of a "cowpool", a group purchase of cut and wrapped locally-raised, grassfed beef, to a district principal and teachers. We hope to hear more of these stories in the following months and ensure that everyone in San Diego County has access to fresh, local produce, particularly our schools and hospitals, where a significant number of meals are served. We hope to see you at next year's Produce Showcase!

 

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