In 2022, San Mateo Resource Conservation District (SMRCD), Kitchen Table Advisors (KTA), Brisa Ranch, and TomKat Ranch Educational Foundation submitted a successful grant application
Food Hub It Is! San Mateo County Producer Working Group’s Proposal
By: Kathy Webster
In 2022, San Mateo Resource Conservation District (SMRCD), Kitchen Table Advisors (KTA), Brisa Ranch, and TomKat Ranch Educational Foundation submitted a successful grant application to UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP). With help from the grant funds, we formed the San Mateo County Producer Working Group. The goal of this collaboration was to identify regional supply chain challenges and opportunities, and develop proposals to move ideas from concept to implementation.
Since then, the Working Group has hosted five sessions with more than 10 local producers who represent a cross-section of the agricultural diversity in Coastal San Mateo. The grant funds provide a much-needed small stipend for the farmers and ranchers who took time out of their busy schedules to attend meetings and provide input.
San Mateo County’s rich agricultural landscape, and close proximity to major food markets (Silicon Valley to the East, San Francisco to the North, and Santa Cruz to the South), creates a unique opportunity for a strong, diversified, regional foodshed. There are more than 400 producers on small- to mid-sized farms covering 30,000+ acres between Pacifica and Pescadero. These local producers grow a wide variety of vegetables, flowers, meat, and dairy products.
Over the years, our region has explored collaborative opportunities for improved distribution and local food access, including a 2014 feasibility study by Community Alliance With Family Farmers (CAFF) for the San Mateo County Food Systems Alliance. The recent pandemic, collective supply chain issues, and the fact that our region’s farmers and ranchers are regularly driving their produce or meat on the same routes, renewed energy for exploring regional collaboration opportunities.
Gathering consistently in the same room to discuss challenges and solutions has been impactful. At a meeting earlier this year hosted by the SMRCD, local farmers and ranchers identified systemic challenges facing our region’s foodshed such as: transportation and distribution complexities, barriers to entering local markets, and lack of nearby processing facilities, echoing many of the 2014 feasibility study findings.
In the end, all agreed that a regional food hub would improve the viability of local farming operations, expand markets, and improve aggregation, distribution, and processing opportunities. To support our regional food hub planning, the Working Group reached out to FEED Sonoma and Capay Valley Farm Shop who generously shared their wisdom and experience.
Our intention in developing a regional food hub is to strengthen the ecological, economic resiliency of San Mateo County’s coastal agricultural community. The next steps from the Working Group include creating a food hub business plan, identifying funding sources, exploring potential sites and partnerships, and trialing collaboration opportunities.