Puente is helping South Coast farmers explore finding a new footing in a San Francisco market eager for fresh, locally grown ingredients. Expansion is the key to survival, isolated as they are between major cities, says Puente Executive Director Kerry Lobel.
“We saw that farmers need more outlets for their products, and agriculture on the South Coast needs more visibility,” Lobel says.
And if local agriculture survives, so too do local schools and businesses.
“So many small farms have been here less than 10 years. It’s hard to say what their future will be. If there is more demand, the small farms can get to be medium-sized farms,” says Doniga Markegard, who co-owns Markegard Family Grass-Fed with her husband, Erik.
Pescadero Grown! and other markets offer a limited audience for perishables, and they require a farmer to give up a whole day of work just to staff a food booth. But what if the demand were consistent enough to justify the labor involved?
That’s what Puente hopes to help farmers tap into. And the signs are very encouraging. Betsy Rix, co-owner of the Red Vic Movie House, has offered a space in the former San Francisco movie house to sell Pescadero produce one day a week. Rix and her husband Jack hope to reopen the Red Vic in March as an event space and incubator for food entrepreneurs. The couple lives in San Mateo County, and Rix is a founding board member of Pie Ranch.
“We want to use our event space to bring Pescadero Grown! in – maybe it would give them a toehold into the local market,” says Rix.
Markegard has also heard from restaurants in San Francisco and Half Moon Bay who are interested in stocking up on South Coast produce. And she believes that if South Coast farmers are willing to collaborate, they could tap into a lucrative emerging online marketplace for farm-to-person sales. Sites like GoodEggs allow customers to place orders in advance. They get exactly what they want, and growers can bypass the farmer’s market altogether.
“Whether the South Coast is ready for that is a whole other question. But it’s an amazing opportunity,” says Lobel.
Do local farmers and ranchers have enough products to sell somewhere else? Will Puente need to take on a coordinating role to help them reach those markets? These are questions Markegard will explore in the coming months on Puente’s behalf.
To learn more or participate in Puente’s efforts, contact Puente Executive Director Kerry Lobel at firstname.lastname@example.org or (650) 879-1691 x144.