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Touring the Region's Food and Ag Ecosystem

August kicked off with a focus on many aspects of our region’s food and ag systems, including a site visit from Bryan Zulko, our USDA Rural Development federal representative for the Central Valley AgPlus Food and Beverage Manufacturing Consortium. The visit was a follow up to the Metro Chamber’s May Cap-to-Cap trip, where the Food and Ag Committee connected with our federal agency partners as well as congressional delegation to advance our regional food economy. Valley Vision hosted Bryan for a week-long tour showcasing some of the region’s diverse assets, with opportunities to discuss some of our key challenges and brainstorm strategies and approaches given the still evolving changes in Washington, and taste some of our delicious farm-to-fork bounty.

Site visit highlights included: a special meeting of the Chamber’s Food and Ag Committee to discuss our policy priorities, especially pervasive rural broadband gaps and workforce needs, and upcoming topics for the 2018 Farm Bill; a meeting with Woodland city leaders and tour of Boundary Bend Olive Oil company; a visit with Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry in Winters to discuss broadband and food hub development topics; a tour of the Delta hosted by Muddy Boot Wine’s David Ogilvie, Food and Ag Committee Co-Chair, which included a visit to Greene and Hemly in Courtland where packing of the pear harvest was underway; a meeting of the several nonprofit partners at Leataata Floyd School, future site of the Food Literacy Center’s learning center, including the Food Literacy Center, the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services, River City Food Bank, Alchemist CDC (which has a USDA grant for a food business incubator feasibility study), and Sacramento City Unified School District; and a tour of the future site of the Food Factory incubator in downtown Sacramento.

The Week culminated with the Metro Chamber’s annual State of Agriculture event – Crushing It: How the Wine Industry is Influencing Agriculture. Four hundred regional food and ag supporters had the opportunity to network along “Winery Row,” sampling wines from 15 local wineries and meeting winemakers, then hearing about the important impact of the wine industry on the regional economy from wine industry leaders.

As noted by Congresswoman Doris Matsui, “A little less than five years ago, our region planted a flag in the ground and proclaimed ourselves the Farm-to-Fork Capital of America. While it was an acknowledgement of what we already knew, Sacramento is the heart of the breadbasket for the world, the designation recognized that we should play to our strengths and be proud of our heritage. The greater Sacramento region has over 200 wineries and that is something to celebrate. In our 21st century economy the intersection of agriculture and technology continues to be pivotal and I want Sacramento to embrace its agricultural heritage as a way to tap into this economic boom.”

Keynote speaker John Aguirre, President of the California Winegrape Growers Association, and a stellar panel discussed some of the major trends and challenges the industry is facing as it seeks to maintain a competitive edge in both California and the Capital region. Click here for a video by KVIE!

We closed the week with a continuing appreciation for the incredible people and places that make our region a center of ongoing collaboration, innovation and support for all aspects of our regional food system. Thanks to Bryan, we have new resources and connections for our mission and look forward to seeing him on Cap to Cap 2018!

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Trish Kelly is Managing Director of Valley Vision, leading the food system, workforce, and broadband portfolios.

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