Gurumantra Khalsa – Riverside, CA
Local Food Movement Celebrates Milestones In Riverside
Riverside’s Food Systems Alliance (RFSA) held their first gathering of 2016 on January 27. We met to celebrate our achievements. We also discussed opportunities and shared our aspirations for a vibrant, local food economy with the community members.
RFSA Executive Director Seth Wilson welcomed a full-house of enthusiastic, local food supporters. He condensed three years of extraordinary achievements since the first Grow Riverside in 2014. Then he introduced the diverse and growing numbers of local food growers and vendors in attendance to a receptive crowd.
The evening was hosted by Robin Meadows from Health’s Kitchen. Health’s Kitchen is the third local-food-friendly restaurant to open in Riverside. Robin joins Jesse Casillas of Wood Fire Cafe and Ronaldo Fierro of The Salted Pig as pioneers in Riverside’s growing local food, gastro pub scene. Robin served a menu of appetizers including a vegan pate with a forest of baby beet greens, veggies, dip, and crackers like nothing you’ve ever eaten before. The food was delightful.
Laurie Goalen-Anderson of Eta Maie Gourmet, a cottage food artisan specializing in homemade jams and preserves using seasonal, locally grown fruits; Janice Lake of Goat Rodeo Soap which is made from her goats’ milk; and Jacob Guiterrez of The Beautiful Olive who has a range of flavored olive oils and balsamic vinegars, representing a new wave of micro agri-economic development start ups based on locally sourced ingredients.
When asked about what their dreams are for the next 18 months to five years, “a second location”, “becoming the official jam of Riverside”, “keeping my goats healthy” or “being picked up by Whole Foods Market” were among the aspirations shared with the audience.
Nick Melquiades and Sue Struthers of the Riverside Food Co Op were right at home. About 30% of the attendees raised their hands showing their membership in the Co Op. Nick shared an inspiring story about how their support for the East Side Heal Zone initiative has increased awareness, and more importantly, delivered more access to locally grown food to communities where healthy food choices have been limited.
Programs like Weekly Harvest, a 10-week series of sessions with a weekly bag of fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables and workshops on good food habits, plus the Al Centro Mini-Produce Stand at Bobby Bonds Park, 2060 University Ave, Saturdays from 9:30AM-12:30PM until March 26, 2016 are filling a need and satisfying a common mission.
Scott Brendt of Fox Farm, Gabriel Ruiz of Unity Farm and Deborah Ghamlouch from The Grove Farm as well as the restaurant owners shared their desire for a food hub. Food hubs make for more efficient sourcing and distribution of locally grown food into local markets.
.Gabriel Ruiz, a certified organic farmer, said that the majority of his clients are in Orange County and that “chefs really appreciate the taste difference made by vegetables picked at times only twenty minutes before delivery.”
Why should Gabriel be taking his produce to O.C.? A food hub would offer the opportunity to expand capacity and develop Riverside markets more quickly. What If Riverside’s Restaurant Week chefs knew they could have fresh produce picked twenty minutes before delivery? What if they could specify crops that were grown just for them? What would “Riverside Grown” taste like in Riverside’s restaurants? Definitely food for thought.
Joyce Jong of Jongs.com, who offers natural and organic fertilizers, biological amendments, and compost tea brewing supplies, and Chris MacArthur, a greenbelt orange grower, rounded out the panel. Chris was celebrating having his orange crop picked. He reminded everyone that there is simply nothing on earth that tastes as good as Riverside orange juice. Nodding heads and recalled memories seemed the norm. This is another crop that can be easily integrated into local restaurants. Frozen or world class fresh? You choose.
Joyce also manages the local food initiative for the City and Councilman MacArthur has been a long time Green Belt advocate.They represent the depth and the hybrid nature of collaborative connections which have sprouted from Grow Riverside.
Diana Ruiz from the Riverside Corona Resource Conservation District announced the development of a Riverside Local Food and Green Guide and encouraged all stakeholders to claim their free listing.
“If this first community gathering of 2016 is any indication, we’re on the right track,” said RFSA Chair Gurumantra Khalsa. “Creating a world being well begins with what we eat.”, he added.
RFSA is creating a multitude of channels for expanding opportunities and influence. These come from growing, processing, distributing, selling, sharing and eating locally produced food. The more opportunities we create, the more community value we create.
RFSA’s secret sauce to engage community is to meet, mix and mingle over a shared appreciation for local food. That’s how some of the best ideas, insights, and new possibilities are germinated.
RFSA Chair Khalsa reminded everybody that our local food future is now. He said, “Your presence is the evidence that this is what it looks like when it’s working.”
For more ways to connect and get engaged, join us for these upcoming community events and opportunities.
Check out the events at Grow Riverside 2016
Community Gathering Feb. 24th – A preview of Grow Riverside 2016.
Community Gathering Mar 4th – A Grower’s Forum
Grow Riverside Conference Mar 21
Citrus Circle Dinner – Mar 21
Farm Tour – Mar 22
Green Riverside Festival and Summit – April 23
Like the Riverside Food Systems Alliance