When I first heard that city leaders were planning to designate Sacramento as America's Farm-to-Fork Capital, I was excited. And why not? The incredible bounty of fruits, vegetables, and nuts grown year-round in the Sacramento region is enjoyed by consumers, not just locally, but all over the world. What a wonderful thing to celebrate!
But my interest began to wane a bit when the most prominent supporters of the Farm-to-Fork movement appeared to be popular local chefs whose restaurants I don't usually frequent because there's rarely anything vegan on their menus, or even anything that can easily be made vegan. Upon request, these chefs will accommodate a vegan diner with a meal that's really good, but having to ask for special treatment instead of being able to order from the menu always makes me feel like an uninvited guest. So I started thinking that maybe Farm-to-Fork was just another marketing tool for these restaurants.
When I received an invitation to attend a "Blogging the Farm-to-Fork Movement" meeting at the Sacramento Bee last week, I decided to give Farm-to-Fork another look, and I'm glad I did. Two or three dozen local bloggers heard a presentation from Mike Testa, Senior Vice President for Convention Sales and Business Development at the Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau, about the potential to make Farm-to-Fork Sacramento's equivalent of Austin's annual South by Southwest festival, bringing millions of dollars into the local economy. He showed a short video featuring several local supporters of Farm-to-Fork, such as farmers, community leaders, and chefs, including Chris Jarosz, founder of the Wicked 'Wich food truck and the very vegan-friendly Broderick Roadhouse in West Sacramento.
We learned that plans are underway for Farm-to-Fork Week, which will take place September 20th through 29th. Special menus and events will be offered that week by several local restaurants, including such vegan-friendly favorites as Lucca Restaurant & Bar, Dos Coyotes, Lowbrau, Broderick Roadhouse, and Magpie Cafe. I hope to visit as many of these restaurants as possible during Farm-to-Fork Week. The week will culminate in a Farm-to-Fork festival on Capitol Mall on Saturday, September 28th, which will celebrate the food produced at the more than seven thousand farms in this six-county region. The festival will include a large farmers' market, educational displays, food and drink, live music, and more.
Of course, there will be events that week that are contrary to the vegan philosophy too, such as a cattle drive through downtown Sacramento and livestock displays at the Farm-to-Fork festival. I plan on skipping those things.
The Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau is looking forward to sharing Sacramento's rich agricultural heritage with tourists from all over the world. But Farm-to-Fork is an important concept for those of us who live here too. This movement and the events associated with it will help us develop a greater appreciation for the tremendously good fortune we experience by living in a region where we can dine on a widely-diverse selection of produce that may have been harvested just hours (or even minutes) before, and where we can establish relationships with the people who grow our food.
Non-profit organizations I respect are getting in on the action too. The California Food Literacy Center, which provides community food education, is an active participant in the Farm-to-Fork movement. Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services is working to provide more fresh produce to the people who seek their help, as discussed in yesterday's Sacramento Bee. And no discussion of Farm-to-Fork would be complete without a mention of Soil Born Farms, whose very mission embodies the farm-to-fork concept: To create an urban agriculture and education project that empowers youth and adults to discover and participate in a local food system that encourages healthy living, nurtures the environment and grows a sustainable community.
I think the Farm-to-Fork movement has the potential to change the way we think about our community, to establish the idea that healthy, locally-produced, sustainably-grown food is what Sacramento is about. We're not just a stop on the way to somewhere else, but a must-visit destination for food lovers everywhere.
More information about Sacramento's Farm-to-Fork Movement is available online at http://farmtoforkcapital.com/.