Photo of farmer Ramon Mojica taken by Brian Lee, courtesy of Riverdog Farm
Finally, a government policy I can dig. And based on such a simple premise: Know where your food comes from and who produces it.
This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture launched Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food, a new federal initiative which culminated in Michelle Obama shopping for greens at a farmers’ market right outside the White House yesterday. (Critics sniff that there are already three farmers’ markets within walking distance of the Obamas.)
It’s easy to be skeptical. The U.S.D.A. supporting small farmers, sustainable practices, and local food? The same agency that has traditionally backed Big Ag? But the folks behind the government’s campaign say it is intended to inspire a national conversation on where food comes from and how it ends up on the plate. Bring it on.
An integral part of the initiative is a farm-school program that would make it easier for schools to use federal funding to buy fresh fruit and veg from local farms. The agency even has its own farm-to-school tactical teams, set up to scope out school cafeterias and find ways to get more local food into students’ mouths, according to an announcement this week by Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan.
I’ve decided to take the campaign to heart and make a concerted effort to get to know the folks who bring us our food. Yesterday, at a farmers’ market in Concord, an outer East Bay suburb, I quizzed vendors who grow divinely delicious dry-farmed Bartlett pears about their farming techniques.
If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area: This Saturday Pie Ranch in Pescadero, on the relatively undeveloped coast south of San Francisco, hosts its work day and barn dance. (If you can’t make it tomorrow, these events are scheduled every third Saturday of the month and folks are welcome at other times as well.) Tomorrow volunteers will help harvest potatoes, dry beans, tomatoes, and berries.
On October 3, Full Belly Farm holds its annual celebration of rural life at its Hoes Down Harvest Festival in the abundant Capay Valley. And on October 18, about a mile away from Full Belly, Riverdog Farm hosts a pumpkin patch picking and meal sharing under walnut trees. Or check out the Family Farm Days at Slide Ranch, which boasts an organic garden with dramatic ocean views and farm animals too, near Muir Beach.
These events are hands-on, kid-friendly, and encourage eating. Feel free to chime in with your own favorite get-to-know-a-farmer event. To learn more about the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, check out Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s YouTube video or submit your own food-related videos or comments about the campaign via email: KnowYourFarmer@usda.gov.
Photo: Darryl and Judy Pereira, Alhambra Valley Farms, courtesy of Contra Costa Certified Farmers’ Markets