The Riverside-Corona RCD (RCRCD) assisted growers with conservation, raised awareness and built capacity for an emerging local agricultural movement and network, including the new Riverside Food Systems Alliance (RFSA) and the Riverside Garden Council (RGC).
RCRCD provided technical assistance to local growers. The grant coordinator presented the EQIP program at three Growers’ Forums, which yielded some emerging farmers and others interested in applying for conservation assistance. RCRCD’s mobile irrigation lab completed nine farm irrigation system evaluations on 124 acres, which has the potential to conserve 9.45 acre feet of water at an annual savings of $8,979.
Awareness was raised about local foods, sustainable practices and water conservation. RCRCD connected consumers to local producers, farmers to conservation resources, those in financial need to food pantries, and community to educational and gardening resources, including community gardens. Staff developed the 36-page Fresh and Local Guide; 30,000 copies were distributed and it was posted to a variety of websites. Ads, flyers and links were distributed through a variety of Facebook pages and radio shows. The RCD also developed the newsletter Local Agriculture is on the Rise! It highlighted the organizations and activities of the local food system.
A variety of audiences were educated about resource conservation including tours of the LandUse Learning Center (LLC), a three-acre demonstration garden with sustainable practices for agriculture, native habitats and urban areas. RCRCD contracted an urban farmer to train emerging farmers and to manage the 1+acre sustainable ag area that demonstrates conservation practices.
RCRCD funded mini-grants for four school gardens along with gardening education and resources to the teachers. Staff distributed about 4,000 copies of free educational materials to local teachers and homeschoolers, including Healthy Soils Are Full of Life! booklets.
Capacity was built for the sustainable ag and local food movement. RCRCD assisted with and sponsored two GrowRIVERSIDE conferences with approximately 300 attendees each. Staff assisted with a three-county Agritourism Symposium, with “Dinners in the Grove”, Growers’ Forums and community gatherings.
RCRCD assisted RFSA and RGC with marketing and developed RFSA’s “Inland Grown” label that will be used on food/product packaging. Brand use will come as a benefit of RFSA farm membership.
RFSA applied for several grants and RCRCD assisted with grant applications and letters of support. RFSA, with RCRCD assistance, created a membership and sponsorship program. In addition, RFSA has received a $209,000 CalRecycle Food Rescue and Waste Prevention grant to divert edible food from landfills to feed those in need. RFSA received a $50,000 Kaiser Permanente grant to assist with capacity building, fundraising and outreach. The California Department of Ag has funded RCRCD $12,000 for updating the Local Guide for 2018-19. The City of Riverside received a Robert Wood Johnson Invest Health grant for $60,000 that helped fund RFSA board training and strategic planning.
The project coordinator developed a survey, food system update and an invitation to participate with RFSA which was sent to 1,200 stakeholders, who were also invited to a capacity-building workshop and strategic planning. An important outcome of the workshop is that RFSA and the Riverside Garden Council (RGC) have become better organized. Both have elected leadership and have defined their goals and board responsibilities. The RGC developed bylaws and took steps to become a nonprofit. The grant funded development of the RGC website.
The Riverside Unified School District (RUSD) received a California Department of Food and Agriculture grant to develop a pilot food hub that will expand markets for local and regional growers by aggregating, storing, and distributing fresh produce, meat, eggs, dairy and other agricultural products. The food hub will service corner stores; the Women, Infants and Children Supplemental Nutrition Program (WIC) stores; childcare centers; and smaller school districts.
RFSA partners held a two-day workshop to develop partnerships and plans for a Beginning Farmer Training Program (BFTP). RCRCD hosted one day of the meetings and a tour of the LLC. A donor has offered $50,000 toward beginning farmer curriculum development.