Help Slow Food East Bay successfully transition the Sister Farms Project over to a sustainable farmer-centered distribution company
Slow Food East Bay has spent the past five months partnering with immigrant farmers in Fresno and the Salinas/Hollister area to connect them to customers in the San Francisco Bay area, helping create new urban-rural connections and getting money directly into the hands of farmers suffering under the Covid-related shutdowns.
As we enter the last month of the commitment we made in April, we are working with Cecilia Cengiz to transition this non-profit volunteer-run project to a full-fledged business. Cecilia grew up in the farming communities of the Central Coast and is deeply committed to creating a distribution model that puts the farmers first. Farmers earn, on average, 12¢ of every $1 we spend on food and the smaller scale farms often sell to aggregators who mix their goods with others. By creating a model rooted in the farming community, Cecilia plans to uplift these small scale farmers of color by creating a direct path from farm to restaurant and market where the names and faces of the farmers are known and acknowledged.
As Chef Reem Assil said “We know that building community resilience takes moving away from an extractive food system to one that supports BIPOC farms in restoring the land and their livelihoods” We couldn’t have put it any better!
We need another $1,000 minimum to help Cecilia in her first month of business by subsidizing transportation costs and continuing to fund produce boxes being packed by our urban CSA partners. This will give her the runway to establish deeper relationships with the urban partners and solidify her business plan.
Can you help us? Any amount gets us closer to this goal!
What have we learned since launching in April 2020?
When we originally conceived this project, in those chaotic first few weeks of the Covid-19 shutdowns, we never imagined what it has now become. From naive & concerned calls to organizations in farming communities and cold calls to urban CSA programs to a first delivery that fit in the back of a Honda CRV to dozens of farmers sending inventory, and buyers ranging from urban farms to award-winning chefs and small scale specialty markets -- and thousands of dollars of sales each week. Every penny of which goes directly to the farmer.
We’ve continued to work with our two urban CSA partners, Acta Non Verba and O2aa, each of whom are using Sister Farms Project produce to supplement what they are growing on their own urban farms. And we’ve been able to pay for each of them to pack 10 extra boxes of produce each week to be donated to families in need and to NorCal Resilience Network Resilient Hubs.
Meanwhile, we’ve expanded out to serving chefs, working with those both serving takeout and delivery and those generously cooking meals for World Central Kitchen and SF New Deal. We’re so proud to have our farmer’s produce in some of the most acclaimed kitchens in the area like Mister Jiu’s and Reem’s and Nightbird and Nyum Bai as well as up & coming spots like Friends & Family Bar and The Lede and Snail Bar.
It’s been an amazing ride! We’re thrilled that Cecilia has stepped up to take this over and can’t wait to see what the next five months - or five years! - brings.
Help Slow Food East Bay get fresh produce from COVID-19 impacted regional farmers of color to East Bay Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and food assistance programs.
The Covid19 pandemic and associated restrictions have highlighted major gaps in our local food system:
1. Regional farmers have lost longtime sales channels, yet they have crops to sell and bills to pay.
2. Local food sourcing options cannot keep up with demand as people cook more from home.
3. Already existing food insecurity is intensifying and many people are going hungry due to lost wages or inability to travel for food.
Slow Food East Bay has partnered with a group of local farms and support organizations to launch the Sister Farms Project, addressing these intertwined issues in our food system to create a grassroots, local solution that will leave our food system more diverse, equitable, and resilient than before.
Help us in our mission to assist regional farmers of color and feed more people in the East Bay!
The Longer Story of Why
Farmers have lost entire sales channels due to the closure of restaurants, schools and corporate cafeterias and farmers of color in particular are more likely than their white counterparts to fall through common safety nets and be left out of many federal programs. Those without the resources to seek out consumer facing and specialty market sales are especially vulnerable.
As communities shelter-in-place and people limit visits to public spaces, many, especially those physically vulnerable, are looking for food sourcing options beyond the grocery store. Local CSA programs and home delivery companies sold out their subscriptions in the first weeks of the quarantine and have long waitlists of folks eager to join.
Additionally, food insecurity is increasing exponentially. Neighborhoods already underserved by grocery stores or access to fresh produce now have community members dealing with lost wages, lack of transport and greater health issues.
Times of crisis lead to innovation. We're already seeing emergency food hubs pop up, neighbors helping neighbors through mutual aid, and food banks step up in the most tremendous ways. Despite its failings, we believe the food system, through these adaptations, will emerge more resilient than before. Now more than ever we can work together to build the food system we’d like to see survive and thrive long after our current crisis.
How it works
Through our partnership with Community Alliance with Family Farmers and Fresno Asian Business Institute & Resource Center, we connected with farmers of color in Salinas and Fresno (America’s Food Basket!) suffering most from lost sales and helped develop a current list of inventory and a planned transport schedule up to the East Bay.
Our urban farm partners, Acta Non Verba and O2AA Farm, committed to ordering from the farmers and distributing the produce through their current CSA infrastructure, allowing them to expand their capacity and fulfill their waiting lists. Our food distribution partner, NorCal Resilience Network, is taking donated produce boxes to their Resilient Hubs, bringing the food to community members in need. We continue to seek out local partners, and have started supplying chefs working with SF New Deal, cooking meals for frontline workers, homebound folks and the houseless.
Funds raised will be used to help our partners quickly and safely scale up distribution and ensure a base number of donated boxes of produce each week.
1. Purchasing supplies necessary for increasing the CSA’s current packing capacity (approximately $3,000)
2. Paying our farmers up front for their first food deliveries in order to assist with immediate need and guaranteeing that they are paid a fair rate for their food going forward. This is not a time to ask those already operating on razor thin margins to give more. (approximately $500)
3. Covering six months of delivery fees in order to avoid charging farm/chef partners or putting the burden on the farmers. (approximately $12,000 - really! Transport is a HUGE cost of food!)
4. Subsidizing 10 boxes of produce each week that will be offered for free to those most in need in the community, with the intent of increasing this number as we raise more funds. (approximately $300 per week or $7200 for the six months)
Solving an immediate need while building for the future
We're basing budgeting needs on a six-month program during which we will be working with the farming partners to identify alternative models that will support a more sustainable and just food system long after the crisis is over.
It will take months for farms, businesses, and distribution systems to figure out what their new normal is even after the shelter-in-place order is lifted. We see this project not only as a way to solve an immediate need, but also as a way to connect people to their local food sources. The Slow Food movement was built on the core tenet of knowing where one’s food comes from and a six month program will help to build urban-rural connections and a local food system that is more diverse, equitable and resilient than before.
Fresno Asian Business Institute & Resource Center: http://fresnoabirc-1347082944.us-west-2.elb.amazonaws.com/
Community Alliance with Family Farmers: https://www.caff.org/
NorCal Resilience Network: https://norcalresilience.org/
Acta Non Verba - Youth Urban Farm Project: https://anvfarm.org/
O2AA Farm - https://o2aa.com/
About Slow Food
Slow Food’s mission is to counter the rise of fast food and the lifestyle and choices that fast food represents, reconnecting eaters with the people, traditions, animals and soil that produce our food. We work to inspire individuals to think about their food purchasing and dining habits by telling the stories of the food system and educating eaters about their responsibility in the sustainability of that system. When we recognize our part in the story, we can work together to ensure that there is Good, Clean and Fair Food for All.