by Sarah Bodnar
Co-Founder, Good Farm Fund
This pandemic changes everything about how we live daily life – how we work, learn, shop, and eat. It’s a challenging time, calling us to evolve and think and do differently in the midst of much loss, suffering, illness, and inconvenience. It is testing the fabric of our society and all of the safety nets that support vulnerable populations from the elderly to the children who depend on their school lunch to get vital nutrition.
To me, the rainbow in all of this is the way our local food system has responded with remarkable agility to find new ways to feed us. I’m awed at how organizations like the Mendo Lake Food Hub and FEED Sonoma introduced home delivery of local produce within weeks of the Coronavirus outbreak. By the time we were sheltering in place, our local food infrastructure has pivoted from a wholesale oriented system to set up consumer-direct purchasing and delivery.
In the face of devastation, local food miracles are happening all around us. Getting food to people is what local economies are good at when they are in their natural state. This is a golden moment where the local food system is better able to respond to crisis than our industrial food system. The upside of sheltering in place is that we have never been better set up to eat in place.
How to get local food
Direct from local farms
Local farms and have organically become first responders and many have been ahead of the curve in terms of public health and safety precautions. In record time, they have launched or expanded their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes (offering delivery or minimal contact pickup), opened their farm stands for additional days, and many are using social media to keep the community informed of real-time availability of food. Some are still attending weekly farmers markets. And of course, this all comes during Spring, the busiest – and cruelest – time of year for our farmers, when they are hustling to plant their crops for the season ahead. This is a working list of farms that are open to the public for direct sales. With availability & schedules changing day by day, we’ve linked to their websites and social media accounts so that you can follow them real-time. If you know of any farms missing from this list, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mist Farm (Mendocino): Facebook, IG @mistfarmmendocino
Nature’s Tune Farm (Point Arena), Facebook, IG: @naturestunefarm
New Agrarian Collective (Redwood Valley): Facebook, IG @newagrarian
Wavelength Farm (Manchester): Facebook, IG @wavelengthfarm
Order through Mendo Lake Food Hub
While grocery store shelves are bare, we have an abundance of local food options available through the Mendo Lake Food Hub. The food Hub is a network of local farmers and producers that has rolled out home delivery in Ukiah and Willits, and is offering pickup locations in Redwood Valley, Willits, Lakeport, and Caspar.
Need eggs, flour, bread, beans, or rice? Or fancy mushrooms and the most beautiful salad mix you’ve ever seen? Order from the Food Hub! Options go way beyond local fruits and veggies – even including spices, olive oil, kombucha, and walnuts. This is like the Amazon of local food for our region, and it’s an incredible resource. You can view availability and order online. Go to www.mendolakefoodhub.com for more info and to sign up.
Additionally, the Food Hub has helped supply local produce like tangerines and sugar snap peas for school lunches to ensure that kids are receiving fresh, healthy options when the usual industrial suppliers could only meet a percentage of the schools’ needs. This is the power of regional food systems!
Shop at Local Farmers Markets
Our weekly farmers markets remain open. Shop at the farmers market to support local farmers and makers if you are 100% healthy, and consider picking up items for neighbors who may not be able to attend. Our farmers markets all offer EBT Food Stamp matching to help subsidize the cost of local food, which is one of the programs that Good Farm Fund supports.
Choose Local at the Grocery Store
Shopping for locally produced items like wine, beer, bread, cheese, olive oil, meats, and apple juice all help support our local business survive this economic downturn. Every single purchase matters. And be sure to show appreciation for all the measures our local grocers have taken to make shopping as safe as they can, including delivery and curbside pickup.
Support Local Restaurants
Add some variety to your quarantine routine and show your support for local restaurants so that they will be around when the shelter in place order lifts. Many restaurants are offering to go service for meals and even cocktails! Call them to see what their current offerings are.
Forage Wild Edibles
Use this time to get familiar with the nutrient-packed wild edibles that may be growing in your yard to add to salads, cook with, or make tea with. A quick and by no means complete list of things to look for right now:
- Fir tips
- Miner’s lettuce
- Nasturtium flowers and leaves
- Wild fennel
- Wild mustard
- Wild nettle
- Wild onion
- Wild radish flowers
Grow your own!
Now is literally the best time to plant your victory garden. Start where you are, with what you have. Swap seeds with neighbors, pick up some starts at the Farmers Market. Start a compost pile. Check out the Gardens Project online order form for seeds & starts, with home delivery. Contact the local nurseries and see if you can place your order for starts, seeds, and amendments and pay over the phone and do curbside pickup to minimize contact. Some may even provide home delivery options. This is a time to get creative and enjoy having some time to tend our own gardens.
How to Support Low-Income Community Members
At Good Farm Fund, we have always been dedicated to two primary goals: Supporting local farms to increase the supply of locally produced food, and making local food more accessible for low-income community members, especially through the EBT Food Stamp matching program at farmers markets. Even as we shelter in place, there are many ways to support low income and vulnerable populations through time, care, and monetary contributions.
- Offer to do grocery shopping, farmers market trips, or meal pick-up for community members if you are 100% healthy.
- Become a community volunteer: Are you a retired or active healthcare worker? If so, please consider volunteering to help your community face the impact of COVID-19. You can register with the California Disaster Healthcare Volunteer website. Or contact NCO Volunteer Network for questions or assistance (707) 462-1959
- Be mindful of when you shop. Some stores are having limited access hours for elderly/at-risk populations. Keep in mind that there are certain times of the month that food benefits are issued to them. For the rest of us, let’s avoid shopping at those peak times so that WIC users can purchase qualifying items first.
- Contribute to a local organization that helps feed our community such as:
- Community Foundation of Mendocino County: Has raised close to $300,000 so far and have just released $65,000 from their COVID-19 Relief and Hunger Express Poverty Funds to countywide nonprofits to support food relief.
- Fort Bragg Food Bank: Provides emergency groceries to low-income residents of Mendocino County, California.
- Gardens Project: A network of 56 school and community gardens. Now providing home delivery of seeds & plant starts (order online here) and fundraising to build victory gardens for elders.
- Good Farm Fund: Providing emergency funding to local farms and providing support for the EBT Food Stamp Matching program in Mendocino & Lake Counties.
- Mendocino Coast Children’s Fund: Providing crucial support to children and other vulnerable populations on the coast in the form of books, food, gas, masks, diapers and other essential items.
- North Coast Opportunities: Parent organization to so many important community initiatives including the Gardens Project, Caring Kitchen, School of Adaptive Agriculture, and the Volunteer Network
- Plowshares: Community Dining Room and Meals on Wheels
Stay home, be well, and take care of each other!