San Diego Foundation Climate Initiative Grant: Catalyzing Carbon Farming in San Diego County

Diagram: Marin Carbon Project

Diagram: Marin Carbon Project

We are thrilled to announce the launch of a new collaborative project to catalyze Carbon Farming in San Diego through a generous $25k grant by the The San Diego Foundation's Climate Initiative! This is a collaborative project between the San Diego Food System Alliance, Batra Ecological Strategies, Resource Conservation District of Greater San Diego County, and County of San Diego. The funding by The San Diego Foundation enabled the Resource Conservation District of Greater San Diego County to receive $10k from Jena and Michael King Foundation to develop San Diego County's first carbon farm plan at Montado Farms.

Carbon Farming is a process designed to maximize agriculture’s potential for moving excess greenhouse gases from the atmosphere into soil and vegetation, building fertility, productivity and resilience. Carbon Farming is a whole-farm approach implementing on-farm practices that increase the rate at which plants transfer carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere to the soil, which then increases water infiltration, water-holding capacity, soil organic matter and promotes long-term carbon sequestration. More on Carbon Farming:

Carbon Farming practices defined by USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service include (not all may be relevant for San Diego):
Compost Applications, Anaerobic Digester, Riparian Forest Buffer Establishment, Prescribed Grazing, Cover Crops, Silvopasture/ Shrub & Tree Establishment on Grazed Grasslands, Conventional Tillage to No-Till, Range Planting, Forage and Biomass Planting, Windbreak/ Shelterbelt/ Hedgerow Establishment and Renovation, Filter Strip, Riparian Herbaceous Cover, Critical Area Planting, Grassed Waterway, Field Border,  Conservation Crop Rotation, Improved Nutrient Management, Multistory Cropping/ Strip Cropping/ Alley Cropping

Out of all the practices listed, compost application has been shown to have a significant impact for sequestering carbon. A study conducted by UC Berkeley's Dr. Silver and Dr. Ryals of the Marin Carbon Project demonstrated that building healthier soil through a one-time application of a 1/2 inch layer of compost on grazed rangeland increased long-term carbon storage by 1 ton of carbon per hectare and increased forage production by 40-70%. The practice also led to increased water holding capacity to 26k liters per hectare. Soil's water retention capacity is important in this time of drought and San Diego's dry climate. 

Late last year, Montado Farms in Santa Ysabel, operated by Kevin Muno, was selected as the southernmost of the 17 sites across the state where compost application research is being expanded by scientists of Marin Carbon Project. After taking soil samples, researchers spread one-quarter inch of compost over one half of a one-acre site marked off on a hillside to show the levels of carbon sequestration. Over the next several years, the soil will be regularly tested to compare results against the original two study sites by Marin Carbon Project, which have still shown positive results for all of the noted benefits eight years after the single compost application. More on Montado Farms pilot test here

San Diego County is uniquely positioned to encourage these Carbon Farming practices, with the largest number of small and organic farms in the country. There are over 5,000 small farms in the county and 208,564 acres of rangeland. Permanent crops, such as San Diego County’s top food crops, citrus and avocados, are already effectively storing carbon. Farmers in San Diego County currently have in excess of 3 million trees, which sequester approximately 48 pounds of carbon per tree per year. 

Based on estimates by Marin Carbon Project consultants, costs and feasibility aside, the diversion of organics from landfill and application of compost on 200k acres of rangeland could mitigate and sequester a total of 3,065,988 MTCO2e of additional carbon over 10 years, approximately an amount of carbon equivalent to the entire 2014 emissions for all of the unincorporated area of San Diego County. Carbon Farming is a promising and practical solution to address climate change. 

This exploration project for San Diego County involves two parts:

Part I: Assessment of the opportunities to sequester carbon, fund carbon farming, and synergize with other programs in San Diego County
a) How much net GHG reduction can be achieved through carbon farming in San Diego County?
b) What funding mechanisms exist for conversions to carbon farming? What financial incentives might be employed to maintain carbon farming as an economically viable activity?
c) What state and local policy synergies exist that are compatible with the goals of carbon farming?

Part II: Piloting the carbon farm planning process at one farm in San Diego County

The goal is to complete both parts by end of June to inform the County of San Diego's Climate Action Plan process and to prepare for CDFA's Healthy Soils funding available in July.

The State is ahead of local jurisdictions in recognizing the potential of Carbon Farming. In an effort to further the vision of California's Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32), Governor Brown identified key climate change strategy pillars to reduce emissions and meet the 2030 greenhouse gas emissions target. One of the six pillars includes "managing farm and rangelands, forests and wetlands so they can store carbon." To support with the implementation of this goal, the State recently funded the Healthy Soils Initiative, a collaboration of State agencies and departments led by California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), to provide resources for farmers and ranchers to increase carbon stores in agricultural soils. 

Can farmers become part of the climate change solution? Stay tuned and find out more! We plan to share the findings of the analysis sometime this fall. 

A Gentleman Farmer, 100 small Lemon Trees, and a group of Senior Gleaners?

The Fragrant Smell of Lemons in the Air, Good Company, Fundamental Truths---everything you ever needed to know you can learn in this garden!

It is quite a wonderful way to spend a morning in a citrus grove, with a group of lovely people, picking fruit to donate to those in need---fruit which otherwise could have gone to waste. But thanks to the Gentleman Farmer Joe, and his lovely organic grove and evolving gardens, 800 pounds of fruit was harvested this day---with a donation value of nearly $800! More to come in another month or so as the fruit ripens.

Some of the Senior Gleaners today have been volunteering to harvest fruit for over 15 years. We are not sure how it all got started, but the urban legend is that two friends came up with the idea during a conversation while admiring a field of produce. One friend said to the other how sad it was that “all that produce” would just be plowed under, instead of using additional labor to harvest it all.

Sometimes, based upon demand, price, and market expectations (even our own personal expectations about foods we buy), it makes more financial sense for a farmer or a small orchard owner to not even pick a crop.  It may cost more to pick it than he can sell it for---and even after all the energy and cost put into the seeds, water, soil, amendments, and labor have already been spent. This does not make sense to me. We can do a better job to price food so that it is equitable, safe, healthful, and abundant for all.

But in the meantime, in San Diego County we have a strong and burgeoning Gleaner Network with five main groups today; Backyard Produce Project, CropSwap, Harvest CROPS, Harvesting San Diego, and Senior Gleaners.  This gleaner network helps to ensure that even more of this produce is harvested using the volunteer hands and minds and hearts that donate, ­­pick and deliver this food to those in need. What a joyful experience to be a part of something that is so wonderful and makes so much sense.

Gleaners in San Diego County rescued over 500,000 pounds of food in 2016, and are set to increase that amount exponentially as programs continue to expand. You can help. if you want to try it, trust me, it’s fun. I want to do it again. Find out more.

If we’ve learned any lessons during the past few decades, perhaps the most important is that preservation of our environment is not a partisan challenge; it’s common sense. Our physical health, our social happiness, and our economic well­being will be sustained only by all of us working in partnership as thoughtful, effective stewards of our natural resources. -Ronald Reagan

Save The Food San Diego

Post by Barbara Hamilton, Director of Strategic Initiatives

Tribute to JuliAnna

This is a tribute to JuliAnna Arnett, our dear friend and food systems colleague, who moved to San Franciso in February to work at USDA as a western regional farm to school lead. JuliAnna was instrumental in the development of the good food movement in San Diego. When you think about the key food systems work in San Diego County, JuliAnna was involved somewhere along the way. She was the master of collaboration and analytical thinking. San Diego misses you, JuliAnna.
Elly Brown, Director of San Diego Food System Alliance

Some of JuliAnna’s food systems work history in SD:

Community Health Improvement Partners (2007-2015)

Coordinator of the San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative
Food Systems Manager
Food Systems Director

During her time at CHIP she supported multiple grants/contracts including those from HHSA, The California Endowment, Kaiser Permanente, and UCSD, which was the Communities Putting Prevention to Work project (I think from 2010-2012). She was the catalyst for our food systems work for CHIP and also helped to write proposal to USDA for the Farm to School grant, which was awarded right around the time she left.

County of San Diego Health & Human Services (2015-Feb 2017)

Contract: Development of County’s Eat Well Practices  

Collaborations/ Coalitions (managed or played lead role in many)

San Diego Food System Working Group
Farm to School Taskforce
National Healthcare Leadership Team
1 in 10 Coalition
California Food Policy Council
San Diego Food System Alliance
CNAP Farm to Fork
Others that we don’t know about!


Dear San Francisco

We are entrusting to your care and protection someone special.
Don't EF this up; when she is ready to return we want her back in good shape.
This goes for you too Sonny Perdue.

San Diego

I worked closely with Julianna on the HealthyWorks / CDC grant wherein Victory Gardens San Diego was contracted to identify 5 Regional Garden Education Centers sites around the county and train their staff to teach sustainable food gardening.   She was great to work with, had a clear vision of what she wanted, and a good grasp of how to get there.   Plus, she sometimes laughed at my jokes. 

One of our deliverables was to improve our web site and create 3 garden manuals, which are still in active use.

The first is about how to start a garden and grow food, the 2nd is about starting and maintaining a school garden program, and the third covers the same info for community gardens.   Juliann led the team to pick a designer and got great results.  It was revealed that her good taste extended to design.  

The covers of the manuals are here:

Richard Winkler
Victory Gardens San Diego


I first met Julianna at our San Diego Food System Working group in the beginning of 2009. I had moved down to San Diego a year before this from Oregon, and at the time, I felt like the southern California food system scene was really in its infancy. But after meeting Julianna, I knew there was a real pulse here and that she was on it. We had a quick connection both being girls from the Midwest who came to West coast in search of something more than corn fields and chicken fried steak.

Julianna shared my interest in social justice, food security, food justice, thinking outside the box, and the common sense to know you gotta show up. And you show up on time. Through our food system work, we became great friends.  We spent hours dissecting data to write the San Diego Food System Assessment, hours working to bring school gardens into fruition while fighting to put chickens in our backyards. We worked together in San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento on Farm to School & with the CA Food Policy Council advocating for statewide food system change. And we spent a wee bit of time drinking some of San Diego’s finest IPAs in my backyard in OB.

I am so excited for Julianna to grow & learn from some of the original movers and shakers in the food system movement in the Bay area and West Coast in her new role. The changes that Julianna has made in San Diego will forever be deeply rooted in our community for years to come. I will miss her dearly.

Sadie Sponsler-Clements, RD
Assistant Director, Nutrition Services
UC San Diego Health


I was fortunate to meet JuliAnna during her first week with the San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative (COI), and was thrilled that the COI now had two staff members!  When JuliAnna immediately caught on to the technical as well as editorial aspects of putting together the COI enews, I knew she was going to be an invaluable asset to the COI.

It wasn't long before JuliAnna's role expanded to include groundbreaking work in food systems. Her ability to see the big picture while attending to the details are hallmarks of JuliAnna's exceptional capabilities. JuliAnna continues to inspire me with her ability to bring the right people together, create a welcoming and structured environment, and strategically map out paths to meet objectives. While I will greatly miss working with her, I am confident JuliAnna will continue to innovate and support improvements in our region's food system.

Deirdre Kleske
Healthy Works Program Specialist
Chronic Disease and Health Equity Unit
County of San Diego Health & Human Services Agency


JuliAnna was instrumental in the development of the County of San Diego’s Eat Well Practices, Meet Well Pledge, and the  Live Well San Diego’s Food System Initiative. She provided the County of San Diego with expertise to inform the County’s vision around food system efforts!  JuliAnna has strategically and significantly made a difference in the food system in San Diego though relationship building, forging new innovative partnerships and passion.  Her dedication, focus, and determination are admirable and inspirational.  JuliAnna’s expertise has left a sustainable footprint for all of us to benefit from and carry on the torch!

Naomi Billups
Public Health Nutrition Manager
Chronic Disease and Health Equity Unit
County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency


I’ll never forget the first time I met JuliAnna. We had flown her to San Diego from Ohio for a job interview. She arrived, freshly scrubbed in her neatly pressed, below-the-knees blue suit, ready for her interview for the coordinator position with the newly formed San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative. We knew two things right away…1) she was the right person for the job, possessing the perfect combination of enthusiasm, idealism, and Midwest work ethic, and 2) she really needed a So-Cal makeover!

JuliAnna and I worked closely together for the next seven years. As a valued member of Team CHIP, JuliAnna was my trusted and dependable counterpart. Her thoughtful and thorough approach to her work was enhanced by her innovative ideas and generous spirit. These qualities continue to benefit everyone who works with her. Her passion for improving food systems and advancing food justice flourished and grew while she was at CHIP and the County, and now will be carried out in her new position.

Although I am sorry to see her leave San Diego, I also feel a tremendous amount of pride, as her former “work mom,” to see her spread her wings. JuliAnna has much to be proud of. She has left a legacy of exceptional work, trusted colleagues, and good friends. Now, as she heads to the Bay Area and her work with the USDA, I am certain she will achieve much success and continue to make a positive difference.

Cheryl Moder
Vice President, Collective Impact
Community Health Improvement Partners


I probably first met JuliAnna around 2009 at a meeting of the 1 in 10 Coalition, a group which would go on to play a central role in bringing people together to successfully advocate to reform the City of San Diego’s community garden and urban agriculture ordinances. Over the years, I’ve seen her involvement in local food work from numerous angles: as she helped with the Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant, while building up the County’s Farm-to-School Taskforce to, finally, her work at the County where she facilitated the creation of the Eat Well Standards, worked on the Climate Action Plan and numerous other things that I got to collaborate with on or got to hear about. (We shared a cubicle, so I literally got to hear almost everything, though I don’t think I ever learned the full scope of what she was working on.)

JuliAnna isvery dedicated to improving not just the food we eat but the whole system of food production and disposal. Her modus operandi is to connect people together, the seemingly more distant, the better. She has a big vision of a just food system. She helps bring it to fruition by getting people who didn’t realize that they needed each other talking.

Parke Troutman, Planning and Policy Development Specialist
Maternal, Child and Family Health Services
County of San Diego Health & Human Services Agency


I have started a few different professional love poems as I sit down to write this. And fundamentally how I feel is tremendous love, appreciation and celebration of Julianna and everything she's so generously, intelligently and wisely produced to help San Diego's food systems movement over the last decade. Yes, her work deserves a majestic poem with just enough off-kilter rhyme and sass that nods to her fun quirky stylishness. 

But then I think about her deep diving into the murky waters of data, policy, and all the other frightening seas of bull-shit-less-ness. And then, I'm thinking a poem doesn't do her justice. She deserves footnotes, citations (MLA, not Chicago style) and lengthy acknowledgements and one heck of a bibliography. 

And so, here we are at a standstill and a heartbreak, a loss for San Diego and a boon for San Francisco...and the hope that she will go show those fancy folks in the Bay Area a thing or two about rockin' food systems change. Thank you for all you've given over the years! And enjoy your next great big dive up north. (And let's hope you pull a Sadie in a few years.)

Anchi Mei
Senior Program Manager
Food Security and Community Health Department
International Rescue Committee

In my time working in the San Diego food system as a farmer, educator and activist, I have collaborated with and befriended a number of outstanding leaders our community. Among these, JuliAnna Arnett has consistently stood out as an exceptional contributor, whether guiding a new initiative, representing her work at events or supporting others’ likeminded projects. Additionally, from urban food security to school gardens and more, the fruit of her efforts can be found in numerous documents that have served invaluably in improving public health and reconnecting people to the role of food in the San Diego area. Her legacy will long outlive her as she moves on to her new position in Northern California, and I wish her the very best!"

Thanks to you both for your care for JuliAnna, and your excellent work otherwise!

Colin Richard

JuliAnna Arnett is unlike anyone else I know. She is incredibly smart, motivated, tenacious, effective, and her motivation is derived from a true sense of wanting to improve the world she lives in and the lives of those around her. Anyone who knows JuliAnna, or has heard her speak about food, knows how infectious her passion for improving the food system is and her commitment is incredibly inspiring to me, especially working side-by-side with her at the County. JuliAnna may have left San Diego, but her impact on the San Diego food system continues to be palpable. I cannot wait to learn of her successes with the USDA and hopefully be able to soak up some more of her genius from afar. J

Ariel Hamburger, MPH, MA Healthy Retail Specialist
Maternal, Child and Family Health Services
County of San Diego Health & Human Services Agency

Want to submit a tribute for JuliAnna? Please contact Elly Brown with subject "tribute to JuliAnna" (

March Fisherman Highlight: Kelly Fukushima

Fish Tales: Stories of Local Fishermen in San Diego                       By Cindy Quinonez, Co-Chair of Sustainable Local Seafood System Working Group

Life-stories of San Diego fishermen are better than most big fish tales.  No exception is the story of first-generation fisherman Kelly Fukushima who has been catching swordfish, shark, tuna and more off San Diego’s coast for the past twenty+ years.  

Most San Diegans know fishing has been an essential element of life here at least since the time of the Kumeyaay. Fishermen unloading their catch in Tuna Harbor have been an ever-changing but ever-present part of the city’s core identity.   What not everyone knows is that today, more than ever, relatively young fishermen like Kelly are making the local fishing industry a powerful competitive asset, helping San Diego not only be different but better than so many cities around the world --- a showcase of seafood sustainability.

In 2000, with the help of an ACCION small business loan, Kelly bought a new boat.  Since then he’s been investing heavily in new technologies, and trialing more efficient, economical, eco-friendly seafood harvest methods.  Take Kelly’s big financial dive into Deep-set Buoy Gear (DSBG), which allows him and his crew to better avoid sensitive by-catch while harvesting healthy stocks of swordfish, shark, tuna, opah, dorado, and yellowtail. With DSBG, they can catch one fish at a time, in colder water that ensures top quality, while providing one-time use traceability tags for tracking catch from vessel to plate. Non-targeted species have a greater chance to be released unharmed. Precious ocean-based food resources are conserved for both future consumption and for future commercial fishing careers with promise enough to draw more youth into the trade.

Three Boys, Kelly’s boat, is one of the 131 commercial fishing vessels licensed in San Diego County. Together these boats harvest more than forty species of seafood using five major fishing gear types – hook and line, experimental and trolling, pots and trap, net, dive – each benefiting our economy differently. Sure, San Diego is no longer “Tuna Capital of the World.” Better -- the diverse harvest of San Diego fishermen like Kelly is helping ensure the industry can keep growing strong, well into the future. 

Fish business challenges are hardly few and insignificant, just faced with incredible optimism and energy.  Not only by Kelly and his crew, but his three sons and wife Jolene too.  The entire Fukushima family helps on the boat and even more with weekly sales, direct and through their Loaf and Fish seafood sandwich booth the every-Saturday, fishermen-run Tuna Harbor Dockside Market.  As Kelly told California Sea Grant researchers last September, “Selling our catch gets harder and harder each day.” The research study confirmed options for commercial fishermen to sell locally is limited by too many retailers finding it easier to fill their seafood cases with lower-cost unsustainably caught foreign imports.

Also, as cited by the study and experienced by Kelly and other San Diego fishermen on a continual basis, there are huge waterfront workspace challenges.  These include incredibly limited space for docking boats, maintaining gear, offloading and refrigerating catch. Currently, there are only two commercial fishing harbors in San Diego Bay. Neither are owned or operated by commercial fishermen, placing the maintenance and fate of these facilities in someone else’s hands.  Reliable, up-to-date waterfront infrastructure is needed, as well as space for selling catch directly to the public. The verdict is still out whether or not infrastructure improvements will come with the Port of San Diego’s planned Central Embarcadero downtown waterfront development, which encompasses historic Tuna Harbor as well as Seaport Village. 

Whenever you stop down at Tuna Harbor Dockside Market, and purchase catch just off the Three Boys for your dinner table, or savor the city’s freshest fish tacos, sandwiches and salads from Jolene’s Loaf and Fish booth, you’re doing a lot more: you’re supporting the future of San Diego that Kelly, his crew and their fishing cronies have spent their lives crafting, much to our benefit. 

Kelly is living proof that ethical fishermen can make a living from the sea while following the letter of the law intended to ensure the long-term survival of fisheries.  He helps the local fishing industry clearly fill front-and-center San Diego’s image as “America’s Finest City.”  There aren’t many better stories to tell than Kelly’s, in the fishing industry or our region.

Please share the history of your fishing business. How did the business get started? Why are you committed to it?

Kelly Fukushima has a 20+ year history of catching swordfish, shark, tuna and more off San Diego’s coast, doing it right with his commitment to seafood sustainability.  In 2000, an ACCION small business loan helped with the purchase of a new boat.  Since then Kelly has been investing big in new technologies, and trialing more efficient, economical, eco-friendly seafood harvest methods.  For example, Deep-set Buoy Gear (DSBG), which helps Kelly and his crew avoid sensitive by-catch while harvesting healthy stocks of swordfish, shark, tuna, opah, dorado, and yellowtail. With DSBG, they can catch one fish at a time, in colder water that ensures top quality, while providing one-time use traceability tags for tracking catch from vessel to plate. Non-targeted species have a greater chance to be released unharmed. Precious ocean-based food resources are conserved for both future consumption and for future commercial fishing careers with promise enough to draw more youth into the trade.

What is your vision for your business?

I’ve been doing this for 20 years, my entire family is engaged in the fishing industry with direct marketing or working on the boat with me. We aspire to be a fishing family. Fishing is a viable way of making a living and I think it’s a great job.

What are the biggest challenges for your business?  

Fighting to keep San Diego’s fishing industry infrastructure
Working to keep regulations within reason
Sales at a price that can sustain operations  

And what do fishermen need to succeed?

Power – they need the capacity / organizational wherewithal to maintain and grow their businesses in the face of unsustainable foreign competition, regulations and threats to the place in the harbor.

What would you like San Diegans to know?

The more San Diegans know their local fish and fishermen, the better.

March Grower Highlight: Stehly Farms Organics

For the March San Diego Food System Spotlights: Local Grower, the San Diego Food System Alliance partnered with the San Diego County Farm Bureau to interview Noel Stehly of Stehly Farms Organics. We asked Noel about why the history of his business, vision, and the biggest challenges. 

Please share the history of your farming business. How did the business get started? Why are you committed to it?

Years before the Stehly (pronounced Stay-lee) Family began farming in Valley Center, the roots of Stehly Farms stretch back to the agriculture days of Orange County, CA.  Nicholas J Stehly founded the original farm in the 1920′s, which was later acquired by Jerome Stehly Sr. where he continued farming. As the population in Orange County grew, farm land got thinner and the Stehly Family felt the pressure and knew it was time to get back to open land. In 1964, Jerome Sr. moved the farm to Valley Center, CA and in the late 1970’s, Jerome Sr. decided to shift his focus from inside the chicken barn to the groves that line the approximately 300 acre property. “My dad also had a store in Anaheim up until the early 80’s when he sold it to the man who managed it,” tells Noel. “We sold honey from our bees, eggs from our chickens, our avocados, and then nuts from the Bates brothers farm, now known as Bates Nut Farm.” 

Jerome and Noel Stehly acquired the operation in 2002 and Stehly Farms Organics was born. SFO has rapidly evolved into one of the largest organically producing avocado and citrus farms in Southern California. This well-known family-owned company grows, packs, and distributes their certified organic avocados, citrus, vegetables, and berries from their farm. To this day, Stehly Farms continues to grow and develop. They offer farm tours and strive to bring you the freshest most delicious produce both on their farm and at their markets!

“My father always told me that the best fertilizer is a farmer’s footprints.  In our case, we have two sets of footprints.”
-Jerome Stehly

What is your vision for your business?

“I had the idea to do a fancy farm stand in the city, open seven days a week, for a long time but I always thought Jerome would kill the idea so I never told him,” says Noel. “I actually looked at a spot when I was dating Stella, who’s now my wife. It was a flower stand in Hillcrest that had gone vacant. That was 15 years ago at least. Then, one day, Jerome called me and asked what I thought about doing a fancy farm stand in the Morena area of the city. The rest is history.” They named the store Stehly Farms Market and opened May 2013 at 1231 Morena Blvd in San Diego with 1,200 square feet of floor space. Fast forward a couple years to October 2015, Stehly Farms opened a 5,000 square foot full-service grocery store in the Kensington Market at 4142 Adams Ave in San Diego. Noel and Jerome have visions of expanding more and spreading the word about local organic farming. “It went from being a glorified farm stand to an actual store as we started down the road. Our idea, the concept, got better. We want to take really good organic products and produce, high quality product, and take it into a food desert situation where residents previously had to leave the area to get to a grocery store. That’s how it evolved. Our stores have a lot more items; you can complete a whole meal shopping there.” He also explains “To fill the shelves we start with Stehly produce, then expand to local farms; Suzies, BeWise. Then we go statewide to source the variety of produce we need to have in the store. We certainly do have some real unique items in there that are harder to find in bigger stores. In our store you find it right away. Turmeric root, really unique things; it’s bringing in chefs to find really cool items that they want to have in their restaurants.”

What are the biggest challenges for your business?

With any farmer, there are always the typical pest, water, and sustainability issues. The first two are simply up to Mother Nature. On the sustainability side, Noel explains “biodiesel and wells are just the beginning of how we try to remain green. From seed to table, we utilize many technologies in our commitment to the environment.” Solar Panels power the ranch office and their entire packing operation. Biodiesel is used in their tractors, road trucks and personal vehicles wherever possible. “Any fruit or veggies that do not get sold fuels our organic compost and mulch program, and we always aim for overall sustainability.” As Noel puts it, “Our commitment to the environment is just as strong as our commitment to bringing you the best tasting produce possible!”

What would you like San Diegans to know?

“Get as close to the source as possible”
“Look for relationships, not labels”
“Support your local farmers”
“Support the bounty from the county”

Announcing the launch of Save The Food San Diego!

Save the Food San Diego is a county-wide food waste awareness partnership that leverages the national “Save The Food” public service campaign, a partnership between NRDC and the Ad Council. What’s so exciting about "Save the Food San Diego" is the opportunity for us to have a collective impact for good via our collaborative and multi-faceted strategy.

The umbrella for the Alliance’s food waste reduction and recovery initiative is the national Save The Food consumer education campaign. In addressing food waste, consumer education campaigns offer the highest net economic value, or total cost plus benefit (ReFed 2016, 21). And although 40% of food in the United Sates is wasted, and 80% of all food waste is generated in consumer-facing businesses and homes, most people think they themselves don’t waste food.

A lot of wasted food comes out of good intentions. We may shop one week for more fresh, healthful foods, but then when the end of a busy week rolls around we realize that we did not use some of that food and it is starting to wilt or brown. Buffets and grocery displays may also over prepare and stock food to ensure there is plenty at all times. But there are solutions, and Save The Food San Diego is about to start spreading the word.

This year the San Diego Food System Alliance is fortunate to have received anonymous donor funding via the San Diego Foundation to specifically address the top two tiers of the EPA’s food waste hierarchy: food waste reduction, and food donation to people. Our strategy at the Alliance includes leveraging the national Save The Food campaign as a vehicle to engage local and state government to work together with us and their stakeholders. The Alliance is developing partnerships with all 19 jurisdictions in the county. Through these partnerships, we will engage both food waste generators and food donation networks.

The State of California has long been a leader in environmental policy, and has still managed to grow its economy faster than any other state in the nation. Some of that environmental policy now addresses food waste. With recent legislation, such as AB 1826 requiring commercial organics recycling and SB 1383 requiring city governments and residents to develop systems and processes to reduce, donate and recycle food waste, we have some challenges ahead---but none that we cannot tackle together.

Beyond regulatory compliance, a 2017 report from Champions 12.3, The Business Case for Reducing Food Loss and Waste, demonstrates that the average business will earn a $14 return for every $1 invested in food loss and waste reduction. The Alliance will engage food waste generators by sector: restaurants and food service; universities and hospitals; K-12 schools; grocery and warehouse; stadiums and venues. Working collaboratively, we will catalyze network building, identify best management practices, develop case studies, metrics and reporting, and a series of peer-to-peer webinar presentations.

In San Diego County half a million people are food insecure, and yet we dispose of approximately half a million tons of food waste every year. Working with our Food Recovery Working Group and the County of San Diego as they develop their Food Donation Action Plan, we will engage with food donation networks, including gleaners, food banks, meal service providers, food pantries, technology, storage, and transport stakeholders. We will catalyze and support capacity building within the networks to facilitate the growth and expansion needed to deliver the increased donations of food to people in need.  

Be on the lookout for some teaser Save The Food billboards this spring. If you see one, please take a photo and send to Later in the year you can expect to see many more billboards, as well as collaborative outreach from local government, business and education community, and donation networks. When we all work together we can accomplish great things.

Margaret Mead said it best in that we should “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has”.

For more information please visit Save The Food San Diego

March Community Leader Interview: City of SD Councilmember Georgette Gomez

For the March San Diego Food System Spotlights: Community Leader article, the San Diego Food System Alliance selected and interviewed City of San Diego Councilmember Georgette Gomez. We asked Councilmember Gomez on her thoughts about opportunities to ensure all San Diegans have access to high quality food at all times. 


During your tenure at the Environmental Health Coalition, you advocated to address the environmental injustices in low-income communities and empowered community members to speak their voice. How do you see this effort tying into the issue of food? 

I believe in balanced and equitable communities, and that all residents, regardless of their race, culture, or income level, should have access to healthy and fresh foods. I believe that it is incumbent upon elected leaders like me to do everything we can to promote higher access to healthy and fresh foods and I am committed to do what I can to ensure that the City of San Diego encourage the creation of more healthy options in neighborhoods with disproportionate access.

Food Access:

The predominance of unhealthy food and beverage options have been identified as important contributors to obesity and diabetes in San Diego County, particularly in disadvantaged communities that otherwise have limited access to healthy food options. What would you do to address these issues in the San Diego area?

Our residents deserve healthy environments in which to live, learn, and work. Health outcomes involve not only food access, but also our ability to walk, bike, and recreate. I’m passionate about ensuring all our communities have access to these opportunities and I am committed towards working to create healthier neighborhoods. One of my priorities is advocating for much-needed infrastructure improvements in my District, including the sidewalks, crosswalks, and bike lanes needed to safely access food and other retail and services.

Urban Agriculture:

City of San Diego City Council approved the first reading of the Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones AB551 in Feb 2016. We are eager to see this program implemented soon. We would also like to encourage the City to provide more support for urban agriculture, community gardens and urban farms. Do you see opportunities for the City to continue to support these efforts?

I’m eager to work with my fellow Councilmembers and support the implementation of these efforts. As a member of the Smart Growth and Land Use committee, I will ensure that the City takes every opportunity to advance the support of community gardens and urban farms, where there is strong community support.

Economic Development:

Some cities are creating food enterprise zones for value-added food products (processed, prepared or preserved), and are supporting small food business such as mobile vendors (food trucks and sidewalk pushcarts) as healthy food retail options in disadvantaged communities. How would you support the growth of the small and micro-enterprise food businesses sector?

I feel blessed to represent a District with a diversity of small businesses, many of which are food-related. I am excited to hear about efforts to increase these micro-enterprise opportunities, including commercial kitchens and micro-loans to incubate food entrepreneurs. 


San Diego County’s food service industry increased by 23% in 2015, yet many of the workers are underpaid or otherwise experience substandard working conditions. What labor issues in the food system are you most concerned with, and how would you address them?

It is very important that everyone has access to healthy foods, especially those who work in the food industry. This is why it is vital to ensure that the minimum wage is a livable one. In cases with substandard working conditions, labor unions are important to ensure workers are treated and paid fairly, and work in healthy conditions. By protecting a workers’ right to unionize and by advocating for livable wages, we can address the major issues our food industry workers face.

Farmers Markets:

Would you be interested in incentivizing farmers’ markets to enroll or continue use of CalFresh/EBT at their farmers’ markets, or to locate in disadvantaged communities?

Prior to taking office, I helped bring the first farmers market to City Heights. I wholeheartedly support farmers markets because they are an important component to ensuring residents have healthy food options. Just as in City Heights, I definitely support farmers’ markets use/enrollment of CalFresh/EBT and establishment in underserved communities.

Food Insecurity + CalFresh:

We know that 13% of the total population in San Diego County is food insecure and that rate is higher among low-income individuals and families, many of whom live in District 9. At the same time, San Diego County has one of the worst rates in the nation for CalFresh (California name for food stamps aka SNAP) enrollment with estimates putting in enrollment at only 49.5% of eligible residents. One of our members, San Diego Hunger Coalition, is spearheading efforts around this. What role, if any, do you think the city should have on a local, regional, and statewide level on this issue?

I’m eager to partner with the County of San Diego on this and other food and health-related issues in my District and across the City. I know the Health and Human Services Department has implemented many innovative programs across the region, and look forward to learning more about how I can be an ally in their work.

Future Partnerships:

What role do you see for the San Diego Food System Alliance in your administration?

Please do not hesitate to bring forward ideas for how the City can improve food access and health outcomes in San Diego. I hope the Alliance will keep me updated as opportunities to support these issues arise.

Client-Choice: A dignified and personal approach for food pantries

Thanks to the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank and Feeding San Diego for coordinating an illuminating tour of “Client-Choice” food pantries in our region. And thanks to the Jewish Family Service Corner Market, and Catholic Charities College food pantry for sharing your programs.

The two Food Banks in San Diego County operate in the “warehouse” style, whereby they procure larger quantities of both purchased and donated food, and then supply this food to intermediaries like food pantries, soup kitchens and other front-line meal service providers. Through these networks, they help to provide over 40 million meals per year in San Diego County. The Food Banks work together and with their approximate 400 partner pantries to understand operational needs and the needs of those they serve---whether that is assistance with food-safety certifications, nutrition, social services, grants applications, or new service models such as Client-Choice.

So what is Client-Choice and why is it a good option today? Historically, food pantries struggled for resources and donations, and with limited food supply they had to have very strict rules about distribution, which resulted in a practice of “pre-bagging” groceries for clients. This means that everyone gets the same food in their bag, which can result in a lot of wasted food, and may not actually serve the needs of the clients. Not every food-insecure person is the same. A mother with children will have different needs for food and nutrition than an elderly man with poor teeth. And a homeless person may not have a kitchen in which to prepare or store certain foods.

While there are several Client-Choice Models, we toured two types: “Grocery Model” and “Inventory List”.

Jewish Family Service operates a Grocery Model, their “Corner Market”. Brendan Rosen, Hand Up Food Pantry Coordinator, summed up an aspect of their client-choice philosophy, which is “to give a hand up, rather than just a hand out”. Clients make an appointment to shop, and can visit one time per month (up to 6 times per year). Shopping at this market is most like a grocery shopping experience. Clients use a cart to choose canned and dry goods from shelves and table displays, as well as fresh items from the refrigerator cases. Clients choose a defined number of items by category, and if they need assistance, there is a volunteer “cashier” happy to help. This more personal and dignified distribution model offers an opportunity to have one on one conversations with clients, which can lead to determining what if any other assistance is needed to give this client “a hand up”.

Catholic Charities College operates a customized “Inventory List” food pantry. There is still a bit of the “pre-bagging” by volunteers, as commodity items are pre-sorted onto trays. But additional items are available to choose from a list. Roxanne “Roxi” Ramirez, Food Pantry Manager, creates her Client-Choice List using images of the available items and stop-light color-coding (red, yellow, green for go) to denote nutritional value. She wanted to create a list so that clients from many cultures and backgrounds could all understand the options and feel empowered to make their best choices. The choice items are gathered together with the pre-bagged commodity items by volunteers and provided to the client, along with cookbooks from SNAP Ed. One key element that has helped Catholic Charities College to move to this model is the addition of a new table for sorting and a refrigeration unit, which has allowed them to provide more healthful, fresh foods for distribution.

Client-Choice can offer a more dignified and personal interaction, while also helping to reduce food waste. It is really interesting and inspiring to visit the pantries, to see the operations in action, and to network with the dedicated and creative staff and volunteers.



Here are a few grant opportunities that focus on hunger. These might be good avenues to apply and receive funding to support monthly food purchasing budgets or equipment like a refrigerator, freezer, or pallet jack.

Walmart Foundation -

Safeway Foundation -

Guides to Establishing a Client-Choice System

Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank and Feeding San Diego Client Choice Booklet

Charity Food Programs that can End Hunger in America - (pages 20-23)

Post by Barbara Hamilton, Director of Strategic Initiatives

We're Hiring! Director of Strategic Initiatives - Food Waste Reduction and Recovery

We are thrilled to announce that the San Diego Food System Alliance is hiring a full-time Director of Strategic Initiatives in an effort to move the needle on food waste in San Diego County, prioritizing the top two tiers of the food recovery hierarchy (reduction and recovery for people). With strong state mandates (AB1826 and SB1383) on the books, we are excited about the potential that this full-time role presents to strategically reduce food waste and support food recovery efforts for our region.

We are aiming to fill the position by the first or second week of January.



Oct 1 st, 2016
Contact: Elly Brown 919-328-0046 


SAN DIEGO, CA – Five groups and four community leaders in San Diego County were awarded the 2016 EMIES, Unwasted Food Awards at the San Diego Food System Alliance 2nd Food Waste Solution Summit on Tuesday, September 27th 2016. The EMIES awards were created to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, championed by Congressman Bill Emerson, to encourage donation of food and grocery products to non-profit organizations for distribution to individuals in need. Congressman Emerson died suddenly just before the bill was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996. The award aims to uphold his legacy of fighting food waste and hunger.

EMIES awards were selected based on exemplary practices around preventing wastefood donation, and composting/ recycling. Five groups recognized included barleymashCulinart Group and Francis Parker SchoolSDSU Dining, Sharp HealthCare, San Diego County Regional Airport Authority. The EMIES awards also recognized four community leaders championing food waste issues at a regional level including San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts andSupervisor Greg Cox for their food system initiatives, Supervisor Dave Roberts for zero waste initiatives, and City of Oceanside Deputy Mayor Chuck Lowery. Deputy Mayor Chuck Lowery has recently championed the investment of $400k in a kitchen facility at a senior center in Oceanside to rescue and process food that would otherwise go to waste.

“We aim to retire the idea of waste from the dictionary when it comes to food,” says Richard Winker, Co-Chair of the San Diego Food System Alliance Food Recovery Working Group and chair of the EMIES awards committee.

“This is a timely opportunity to promote food establishments that are doing great work around food waste,” says Elly Brown, Director of San Diego Food System Alliance. “The state mandate on food and yard waste recycling (AB1826) rolled out this April. But innovations to keep the food from going into the green bin are important because we don't have the systems in place yet. We also can't forget that 1/7 individuals in San Diego County are food insecure and there's a lot of edible food being thrown out.”

More information on innovative food waste practices by awardees and applicants are available on the 2016 EMIES site at

From left to right: Ana Carvalho of City of San Diego, Elly Brown of San Diego Food System Alliance, Mayra Garcia and colleagues of San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, Renee Huslin of Sharp HealthCare, Paul Melchior of SDSU Dining, Mike Cain and Jose Santiago of Francis Parker School, Executive Chef Kevin Templeton of Barleymash, and Richard Winkler of San Diego Food System Alliance


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If you would like more information and photos, please contact Elly Brown at 919-328-0046 or email at 

About the San Diego Food System Alliance:
The San Diego Food System Alliance is a coalition of organizations and individuals organized to affect positive change in the San Diego County's local food system. Our mission is to develop and maintain an equitable, healthy and sustainable food system for the benefit of all people in San Diego County. 


Elly Brown, Director of San Diego Food System Alliance
Richard Winkler, Co-Chair of Alliance’s Food Recovery Working Group

By now you have probably been hearing a lot about food waste; like the fact that we waste about 40% of our food supply while millions of people don’t have enough to eat. September is Hunger Action Month and it’s timely to dive into this issue further.

The first step towards solving this is to understand that although we waste food, there is really no such thing as food “waste”. The word waste indicates something of no value, something we want to get rid of. But all food has value, at every step of its lifecycle. Food feeds people but it can also feed farm animals and soil. Even when it is past edibility, it feeds microorganisms that convert it into compost, recapturing the nutrients that feed plants. Healthy soil absorbs carbon from the atmosphere helping to mitigate climate change, and stores water, providing resilience against drought.  But when we treat food as if it were waste by putting it in landfills, it decomposes anaerobically and gives off methane, a much more potent GHG than CO2.

Many food-serving organizations in San Diego are demonstrating leadership in recapturing the value embedded in food.  Some of these leaders will be recognized with “Emies” awards to be given out on Tuesday, September 27th at the Food Waste Solution Summit II at the Jacobs Center organized by the San Diego Food System Alliance.

These awards were created to celebrate the 20th anniversary of “The Federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act”, championed by Congressman Bill Emerson, to encourage donation of food and grocery products to non-profit organizations for distribution to individuals in need. Congressman Emerson died suddenly just before the bill was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996. The award aims to uphold his legacy of fighting food waste and hunger.

Following are recent larger efforts in San Diego County that move us closer to eliminating wasted food:

  • AB 1826, a state law mandating recycling of organic matter (food and yard materials), began implementation on April 2016 for the largest generators. SB1383 will be signed by Governor Brown this summer which mandates 75% organics diversion by 2025 with more monitoring by local governments.
  • The City of San Diego’s Miramar Greenery collects food for composting from approx. 80 large entities.
  • Specialty Produce, a wholesale produce distributor with over 800 restaurant customers all over the county recently launched Waste Not San Diego, a food recovery program. Leveraging their supply chain to reduce wasted food, the program allows participating restaurants to donate surplus prepared food which is distributed to nonprofit partners of the J&C San Diego Food Bank.
  • Starbucks just launched their food donation program, FoodShare, across 190 locations in San Diego County to provide unsold prepared food to Feeding America San Diego.
  • City of Oceanside is investing in a kitchen and processing facility in a senior center with the goal of processing food that would otherwise go to waste to create nutritious meals for food insecure individuals (at-risk youth, veterans, seniors, school feeding programs, etc).
  • The County is now developing a high-waste diversion and climate action plans with opportunities to include best practices to prevent waste and recapture the value of food, while building healthier soils. 

The Food Waste Solution Summit II on Tuesday, September 27th is a convening of advocates and multi-sector leaders in San Diego County committed to retiring the idea of waste when it comes to food. Our objective is to celebrate wins and strategize key actions to make a dent in the 700k tons of food going into landfill in San Diego County, recapturing the value of food for people, animals, and soil. Speakers include Chris Hunt of Rethink Food Waste though Economics and Data (ReFED), Darby Hoover of National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Hana Dansky of Boulder Food Rescue, Jordan Perkins of Solutions for Urban Ag, Brenda Platt of Institute for Local Self-Reliance, Cassie Bartholomew of StopWaste, Andre Villasenor of EPA, Jordan Figueiredo of #UglyReallyIsBeautiful, Elly Brown of San Diego Food System Alliance, Michael Wonsidler of County of San Diego, Jen Winfrey of County of San Diego, Mina Brown, Ana Carvalho of City of San Diego, Chuck Samuelson of Kitchens for Good, Jim Floros of San Diego Food Bank, Diane Moss of Project New Village, Richard Winkler of Victory Gardens, Nita Kurmins of ProduceGood, Karen Melvin of County of San Diego, Sarah Boltwala-Mesina and Susan Chambers of Inika Small Earth, Tracy Delaney of Public Health Alliance of Southern California, Diane Wilkinson of Hunger Advocacy Network, Allie Tarantino of Specialty Produce, Sarah Davis of City of Oceanside, Rich Flammer of Hidden ResourcesJessica Toth of Solana Center, Dave DiDonato of City of Chula Vista, Eric Larson of San Diego County Farm Bureau, Bill Prinz of City of San Diego, Joe Farace of County of San Diego, and many other event supporters!

The Summit will explore the following 7 Calls to Action for San Diego County

  1. County and Cities to invest in consumer education campaigns to change mindsets on wasting food
  2. County and Cities to incorporate carbon farming (roots), zero waste, and local foodshed strategies in Climate Action Plans
  3. County, Cities, and other public entities to dedicate land and other resources to grow food for donation
  4. County and Cities to proactively create economic incentives for food recovery and composting
  5. SANDAG or County to develop model zoning language to facilitate composting of all sizes
  6. County, Cities, and the private sector to proactively source imperfect produce
  7. Private sector and local government food service operations to prioritize source reduction and food recovery as it pertains to compliance with AB1826 and SB1383

The Summit also hosts a morning workshop from 8:30am-noon specifically targeted for food-serving entities to provide information, tools, and connections to support their food waste practices. The workshop offers in-depth guidance on food waste prevention, connections to community resources on donation, animal feed and composting, and a facilitated peer-learning session. Tickets can be purchased separately for the food waste workshop only if desired.

The event is sponsored by San Diego Food Bank, County Board of Supervisor Chairman Ron Roberts Community Enhancement Program, CalRecycle, Integrated Waste Management Technical Advisory Committee, County of San Diego Public Works Solid Waste Planning and Recycling, EDCO Disposal, City of Chula Vista Environmental Services Section, City of San Diego Environmental Services Department, and Feeding America San Diego, and UCSD. 

Detailed schedule and tickets are available on the Summit page:


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Media Inquiries:
Elly Brown
(919) 328-0046

Event Inquiries:
Marites Nguyen


About the San Diego Food System Alliance:
The San Diego Food System Alliance is a coalition of organizations and individuals organized to affect positive change in the San Diego County's local food system. Our mission is to develop and maintain an equitable, healthy and sustainable food system for the benefit of all people in San Diego County. 

Call for Nominations: "Emies" Unwasted Food Awards for businesses and institutions | Due Sept 7


AN DIEGO, CA –  San Diego Food System Alliance solicits nominations for "Emies" Unwasted Food Awards 2016 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. The Good Samaritan Food Donation Act was created to encourage food donation to nonprofit organizations by minimizing liability. Signed into United States law by President Bill Clinton in 1996, this law, named after Representative Bill Emerson (who encouraged the proposal but died before it was passed), makes it easier to donate 'apparently wholesome food' by excluding donor liability except in cases of gross negligence. 

The Alliance is soliciting nominations from businesses and institutions in San Diego County who are demonstrating exemplary food waste practices. Awardees will be recognized at the upcoming Food Waste Solution Summit II at the Jacobs Center on Tuesday, September 27, 2016. The awardees will also have an opportunity to share their practices with their peers at the Pre-Summit Unwasted FoodWorkshop from 8:30am-noon, targeted towards businesses and institutions. The Workshop will offer an in-depth guidance on preventing food waste by StopWaste and EPA, connections to community resources on food donation, animal feed and composting, and a facilitated peer-learning session by sector. 

Submittals for "Emies" nominations are due by Wednesday, September 7, 2016 and will be considered by sector: K-12 Schools, Institutions/Large Venues, Food Industry, Farms, and Meal Service Programs. Organizations will be asked to describe current practices in any of the following categories: Preventing Waste, Food Donation, and Composting/Recycling. Applications that demonstrate activities higher on the Unwasted Food Hierarchy Pyramid (above) will be ranked higher. The pyramid demonstrates the highest and best use for food. Self-nominations are accepted. 

This is a timely opportunity to promote food establishments that are doing great work around food waste," says Elly Brown, Director of San Diego Food System Alliance. "The state law on food and yard waste recycling (AB1826) rolled out this April. But innovations to keep the food from going into the green bin is important because we don't have the systems in place yet. We also can't forget that 1/7 individuals in San Diego County are food insecure and there's a lot of edible food being thrown out."

"Emies" Unwasted Food Awards applications are available online at (due 9/7): 
Registration for 9/27 Food Waste Solution Summit II + Pre-Summit Unwasted Food Workshop for businesses and institutions is available online at:

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If you would like more information, please contact Elly Brown at 919-328-0046 or email at

About the San Diego Food System Alliance:

The San Diego Food System Alliance is a coalition of organizations and individuals organized to affect positive change in the San Diego County's local food system. Our mission is to develop and maintain an equitable, healthy and sustainable food system for the benefit of all people in San Diego County. 

Member Highlights: Harvest Crops on Track to Glean 100K Pounds in 2016

Harvest C.R.O.P.S. (Community Residents Offering Produce Seasonally) is currently gleaning at over 3 ½ times volume from last year.  The first quarter of 2016 had a yield of 27,212 lbs vs. 2015 annual total at 31,150 lbs.  Our first quarter also showed the increase in the wonderful people that are helping make this happen with 30 residents donating their bounty and 231 volunteers spending multiple hours picking. 

To handle this surge we are now offering a number of different ways to volunteer such as businesses doing team building events, food pantries providing their own volunteers to pick locally and transport directly back to their pantry for distribution to those they serve.  We are engaging with large youth organizations in San Diego County to provide programs for gleaning as well as learning about waste, food recovery opportunities and being of service to those that need it.

Besides adding to our Volunteer drive we are in need of operational funds.  We are still borrowing the Founders truck and trailer and are in need of funds to pay for the additional gas, office equipment and volunteer insurance that we need to meet the growing demand.  We provide a value added service when monetarily valued at $.75 cents per pound we have already added over $20K worth of food to the existing food stream this year with a potential of over $81K for 2016 at our current rate.

We are putting out a call to organizations that have existing public information materials they are willing to share.  We need curriculum and marketing materials for adults as well as 4th through 12th graders.  These materials are needed no later than the end of April 2016 for curriculum selection and prep for the start of our summer programs in June 2016.  We are interested in teaching about the EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy and how the public can actually do something to help feed those that need it.

Please help us with our mission to help feed the hungry of San Diego County.  Thank you for your support.


Karen Clay

Chair, Harvest C.R.O.P.S.

Member Highlights: Ecology Artisans- San Diego’s First Public Food Forest

Ecology Artisans is proud to announce the completion of their water harvesting earthworks project at Coastal Roots Farm in Encinitas. Ecology Artisans was contracted by the Leichtag Foundation and Coastal Roots to pioneer the installation of San Diego County’s first public food forest.

For those of you who are not familiar with our company, Ecology Artisans is an ecological landscape and farmland design and development firm.  Now what does that mean? We work with homeowners, farmers, real estate developers, governments, and many other stakeholders to create regenerative living and built systems for their homes and farms.

We have been installing drought tolerant landscapes for homeowners throughout San Diego for the past two years. We have also been working with farmers and homesteaders to drought proof their lands and install resilient food production systems. We were very excited to partner with the Coastal Roots farming team to help kick start their public food forest project.

Coastal Roots Farm is a non-profit community farm that is being incubated by the Leichtag Foundation. The Leichtag Foundation Commons is a farm located on 441 Saxony Rd. in Encinitas, CA. Together, the Leichtag Foundation and Coastal Roots Farm are developing an amazing community farming project that is going to be a world class model for sustainable community development for generations to come.

Coastal Roots mission is to nourish connections—to ourselves, our neighbors, and the land. Inspired by Jewish wisdom and centuries-old agricultural traditions, Coastal Roots practices sustainable farming and shares their harvests with communities that lack access to healthy food. Their goal is to become a model for community farming and creative Jewish expression, both at home in Encinitas, California, and around the world.

The farm team hired Ecology Artisans to design and install the earthworks pattern for their future agroforestry/food forest project. At Ecology Artisans, we like to say that water management earthworks provide the whole pattern for the farm.

What are water harvesting earthworks you might ask? Water harvesting earthworks come in many different forms. There are swales, irrigation channels, water conversations channels, infiltration basins, dams, and many more forms of structures to harvest water directly in the soil. In the simplest description, earthworks are structures in the soils that are meant to alter the water pattern to achieve certain goals of moving water to a specific site (usually a drier site) or allowing it to remain on site (i.e. a dam).

Farming in a Mediterranean climate can be tough. With seasonal rains in the winter and long dry summers, farmers needs to capture as much rain as possible on their land during the dry spells. The goal with any water harvesting project are to slow the water down, spread it out, and sink it down in the soil profile. The act of slowing it down, spreading it out, and sinking it into the ground will dramatically improve the water budget for the whole site by increasing height of the water table.

Above is an aerial photo of the earthworks that we installed courtesy of the Josh Sherman of the Coastal Roots Farm communications team. 

Member Highlights: Wild Willow Farm - Food and the Value of Culture

by Mel Lions

Through every phase of human development, food has been central to human cultural identity. In every culture, everywhere, through all time, whenever humans come together in cultural moments, there is food. From our births to our deaths, in every family and civic celebration, for religious and secular holidays, at sporting and entertainment events, there is always food. If you’ve gathered with others and there’s no food there, you’re at a meeting.

Family and cultural heritage are strung together, meal by meal, with recipes from our ancestors. Food provides us cultural memory and enriches our lives as we share our heritage with other cultures. We know ourselves and each other through food. 

Throughout history, it has been common practice for humanity to express the value of culture by saving the best of our agricultural output for celebratory feasts. The freshest produce, the ripest fruit, the prize bull, the most-wholesome of grains. These were set aside for the moments when it mattered. 

What matters to our culture?

If I am forced to use food as the scale to judge the value placed on 21st-Century American culture, I’d say that we don’t have a high opinion of ourselves. We seem to value cheap food, no matter the cost. Over the span of just a few generations, we’ve outsourced most food production and preparation to a food-service industry whose only goal is to minimize costs and maximize profit. Cheap food seems to be a cultural goal, but at what cost? 

When I was a kid and introduced to the concept of the potluck, probably at a church function, I remember my mom putting real care into preparing her famous ratatouille, which in the ‘60s, was a pretty exotic dish. It must have been summer, because that was the only time that special blend of summer-garden veggies was available. Mom’s dish was put on the banquet table alongside other mom’s dishes (it was the ‘60s, remember), each of which had been as carefully prepared. For whatever reason we were there, we feasted because it mattered. 

At any potluck these days, carefully and consciously prepared foods are a remarkable and welcome rarity, and always the first things devoured, even by the vast majority of those who took the cheap way and brought something packaged and preserved. What does that say about the value put on our culture when bringing a bag of chips fulfills a cultural obligation? It seems like we all know what quality is, but don’t necessarily understand the role quality and care has in keeping our culture together. Cheap food, cheap culture.

Cheap Food

Cheap food — or what’s better described as the illusion of cheap food — has many hidden costs. There is no other human activity that is more devastating to the environment than how we grow food. Industrial agriculture is a leading driver of habitat loss, including soil, water and air pollution from agricultural chemicals; fossil fuel use; genetic modifications to allow for increased pesticide and herbicide spraying; poisoned and depleted aquifers; disruption of climate patterns; rising sea levels; and loss of biodiversity. The poor-quality food that industry sells us is harmful to human health and provides mostly low wage jobs that tax social systems and which perpetuates an underclass. As food prices have dropped, these conditions have all been exacerbated. 

When environmental and human health costs are not paid for by the producers of these problems, it does not mean that the costs are not paid for; instead, the costs are outsourced. Most environmental costs, aside from those that we’re hoping nature will take of (thus climate change, the depletion of fisheries, unaddressed pollution), are born by taxpayers, who pay to clean up industrial messes (Exxon Valdez, BP’s Deepwater Horizon). Human healthcare costs have skyrocketed as our food system has cheapened, largely because the cheapest foods are high in sugar, fat, refined flours, artificial ingredients and preservatives. By all measures, our culture is in a race to the bottom, a race that has only losers. 

The Value of Fresh Food

By and large, our culture has lost touch with the value of fresh, whole, ripe, delicious seasonal food: Produce grown in our yards, or coming from nearby farms. Milk and cheese from local dairies. Bread and meat from neighborhood bakeries and butchers. While there has long been a global food trade, until recent decades this was restricted to non-perishable foods such as grain, legumes, spices and herbs. It is only in recent years — as we have lost the threads of a fresh food culture — has there been a global trade system in fresh produce. We used to know and celebrate the seasons by the food on grocer’s shelves. In today’s society, we expect to have everything we want, when we want it, no matter if it’s in season or not. Produce is selected, grown and picked not for flavor or nutrition, but for its ability to be shipped around the globe. That may look like a tomato on your sandwich in January, but it is really a pale, flavorless shadow of a real one. We’ve been tricked into accepting this as okay, and convinced that cheaper is better. 

One rap that fresh, whole, delicious, locally grown food often gets is that it is elitist, that only the well-off can afford it. That argument has some legs as long as we — as a culture — accept that the producers of cheap food do not have to bear the social and environmental costs of providing it to us. You can bet that if they did, they’d quickly change their practices to that which causes the least harm as this would become the least-costly means of production. 

Rather than waiting for industry and government to change, we can re-energize our culture by growing food ourselves, in our neighborhoods, at our schools and places of worship, in our civic spaces. Food grown close to home is fresher, more flavorful, picked when ripe and full of nutrition. Kids who grow vegetables are likely to eat them, enjoy them, and ask for more. Food bought from nearby farmers helps strengthen our local economy. The character and nature of our back-country is preserved when populated by family farms.  

If you don’t know how to grow food but want to, there are people willing to teach you. San Diego Roots Sustainable Food Project has been offering food-growing programs in our area since 2008. Our Victory Gardens San Diego program give classes in people’s yards all over central San Diego, giving three-class, hands-on lessons in building a garden from scratch. Over the course of three weekends, a homeowner gets a garden and a dozen people learn how to do it themselves. 

For those who have bigger ambitions or agricultural pursuits, we have Wild Willow Farm & Education Center, where we operate the only land-based sustainable agriculture program in southern California. Our six-week Farming 101: Introduction to Sustainable Farming course gives students a solid base of understanding in what they need to grow food successfully in urban environments. Our agricultural philosophy is based on the development of healthy, living soil, and the use of the most environmentally appropriate means to grow food. The school operates year-round. Proceeds from produce grown by the farm is sold a local farmers markets and in a small CSA and supports operation of the school. School kids come to the farm on field trips and learn that not all carrots are the size of a little finger and shaped alike. Watching a kid pull a real carrot from the ground never gets old, and you know that that carrot will live in that kid’s memory, and become a cultural touchstone in her life. 

Please join me in regenerating our culture with delicious food. There is no reason that each of us, no matter our status, cannot be eating like royalty. We have the power, we only need to make the choice. 


Mel Lions is founder and director of San Diego Roots Sustainable Food Project, a 501(c)3 educational non-profit whose mission is to educate, cultivate and empower sustainable food systems in San Diego County.

San Diego County New and Young Farmers Needs Assessment Results

Wild Willow Farm

Wild Willow Farm

By Colin Cureton, CHIP Food Systems Director, Reducing Barriers to Farming Working Group

In Spring of 2015, the San Diego Food Systems Alliance’s (SDFSA’s) Reducing Barriers to Farming Workgroup conducted a needs assessment of new and young farmers in San Diego County. Data was gathered in person at several farmer mixer events at the Leichtag Ranch in Encinitas, CA and through an online survey. We received 80 usable responses from new and young farmers. For anyone who’s ever tried to survey busy farmers, you know that response rate is not bad!

As intended, respondents were young relative to the age of the average U.S. farmer (58 years old). 85% of respondents were under age 40 and 95% were under age 50. Most but not all are farming in San Diego County or Southern California. Almost 90% have less than 5 years of experience farming, with about a quarter (23%) in their first year. The most frequent growing practices cited was growing with organic practices though not being certified (71%), then certified organic (13%), then conventional (10%). Notably, and more on this later, over half (56%) of respondents were female.

What overarching trends emerged from the results? Of particular interest to SDFSA’s workgroup are the top barriers that these farmers face. The top cited barriers cited included access to affordable land (68%), access to credit and capital (48%), and business and marketing skills (32%). The top support strategies included farming mentors (65%), farm organizations and networks (51%), and beginning farmer training programs (46%). Also, a full 70% of respondents want support with business planning. Over half (52%) of respondents have no business plan.

As you might expect, barriers vary by the respondents’ years of experience. For example, new farmers (<1 and 1-5 years) are more likely to cite access to affordable land (76% and 50%, respectively) as a top barrier but this disappears in this sample with more experienced farmers (>10 years). Conversely, student loans don’t emerge as an issue until farmers reach >5 years of experience. Notably, access to credit and capital is an issue for farmers regardless of experience.

Returning to the gender breakdown, why is it an important result that over half (56%) of new/young farmers surveyed are women? Well, because nationally (according to the USDA's 2012 Census of Agriculture) only 13.5% of principal farm operators (PFO’s) are women. In California it's 18% and in San Diego County it's a little higher (19%). Furthermore, according to the USDA, between 2007 and 2012 the percentage of female PFO’s went down (6%). Even if many of the women farmers in our sample are not PFO’s, our sample suggests that there are many more women going into farming in San Diego County compared to State and national trends. This data matches local farmer training programs like Wild Willow and Seeds@City Farm, who tell us their incoming cohorts are increasingly female dominated. Either we have an extremely biased sample, or the future of farming may look very different gender-wise in San Diego County.

Moreover, there are some key differences among respondents when examined by gender. First and foremost is a difference in land and business ownership: 55% of male respondents own a farm business compared to only 38% of females, and 29% of male respondents own land compared to 18% of females. Mirroring this trend, 53% of women respondents work on someone else’s farm compared to 35% of male respondents. Furthermore, while the breakdown of barriers cited are roughly similar by gender, there are differences by gender in preferred support strategies. More specifically, females cited farm apprenticeships, farming organizations and networks, and farming mentors as effective support strategies at a higher rate compared to males.

SDFSA’s new and young farmer needs assessments results have provided all this and lots more useful information, and SDFSA members and partners are already using these results to take a data-driven approach to supporting the next generation of farmers. Stay tuned for SDFSA events and resources to reduce barriers to farming in San Diego County!


Survey was designed and implemented by SDFSA Reducing Barriers to Farming Workgroup including Leichtag Foundation, San Diego County Farm Bureau, Community Health Improvement Partners (CHIP), SDFSA staff, and SDFSA member and new farmer Laurel Greyson, and more. Survey design and analysis was led by Colin Cureton, CHIP Food Systems Director.

The Beginning of the End of Food Waste?

Written by Richard Winkler, Co-Chair of Food Recovery Working Group

'Food Waste is a national and a local issue. About a third of food grown goes uneaten. And food waste with other organics going into landfills is a major source of GHG emissions. But this week in San Diego could be the beginning of the end of food waste. We are amid an unprecedented increase of public awareness about the issue and there are multiple specific milestones to point to.

In March, ReFED published a comprehensive report called “a Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste" listing out specific food waste actions with a detailed cost / benefit analysis. The report posits a 5 to 1 Return on investment to reduce food waste.

The Natural Resources Defense Council has teamed up with the Ad Council – the public service advertising agency that brought you Smokey Bear and Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk – to launch a nationwide public service campaign to reduce food waste.  After over a year of research and development, the campaign will launch in April 2016.  A preview the soon to be released Nationwide Public Service Campaign to Reduce Food Waste will be held on Thursday April 28th at 1:00pm - 2:30pm ET Register Here 

In 2014 California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 1826, introduced by Assembly Member Wesley Chesbro, which requires the state’s commercial sector, including restaurants, supermarkets, large venues and food processors, to separate their food scraps and yard trimmings and arrange for organics recycling service. Commencing Friday April 1st, businesses that generate 8 cubic yards (cy) or more a week must source separate food scraps and yard trimmings and arrange for recycling services for that organic waste in a specified manner.

On Monday Apr 4th to Thursday April 7th, state and national leaders in organics management field will come to San Diego for the annual BioCycle Conference focusing on “Advancing Food Recovery And Organics Recycling.”

The conference will cover: 
Food Recovery for People
Clean Compost for Healthy Soils, Drought Resilience
Feeding People And Feeding Soil
Low Cost, Low Carbon Fuel And Power
Water Resource Recovery And Clean Energy
Strong, Local Green Economies

Wed. Apr 6 To coincide with these other events the San Diego Food System Alliance hosts the first in a series of Unwasted Food pop-up dinners where local chefs and partner restaurants will prepare dishes from ignored or un-coveted food that would otherwise go to waste.
Re:Source aims to…
•    Raise awareness of the staggering volume of food that is wasted
•    Inspire new applications for the overlooked byproducts of our food system
•    Redefine food waste as an important resource
•    Establish new revenue streams for local farmers

What Can Consumers Do?

Ending food waste is completely feasible. It is a 100% human created problem and like many other modern problems, has really only mushroomed since World War 2. Re:Source site has a set of practical recommendations on how we can individually make changes at home.

But policy is also important; the single biggest driver of food waste is consumer confusion over date labelling. “Date labels on food come in a dizzying variety of forms including “use by,” “best before,” “sell by,” and “enjoy by” dates, yet these simple markers are both poorly understood and surprisingly under-regulated. Confusing and misleading labels cause many consumers and stores to throw out perfectly healthy food, leading to 5.5 million tons of food dumped in landfills every year in California. Food is the single most prevalent item in our state’s waste stream and emits 8.3 million tons of greenhouse gases each year, contributing 20 percent of the state’s methane emissions.”   - Mar 23, 2016 Assemblymember David Chiu

So consumers can support AB 2725 which would simplify date labelling in CA.  The bill is now being debated in the CA Legislature. “AB2725 would make California the first state to have such legislation in the country, though Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, has been working on similar legislation nationally.

“This addresses the everyday experience that we all have, when we look at our refrigerator at dozens of products and have to decide if we should throw out products that may still be good but have different expiration labels,” said Chiu.”