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New farmers meet produce distributors


By TIM HEARDEN
Capital Press
DAVIS, Calif. — New and ethnic farmers in the Sacramento and Salinas valleys will be given an opportunity this fall to market their fresh produce to wholesalers in the San Francisco Bay area.
A University of California-Davis program will offer bus tours this fall to growers identified by their local Cooperative Extension farm advisors, and the farmers will visit terminal markets, produce houses and processing facilities to meet face-to-face with distributors, said Gail Feenstra, a UC food systems coordinator.
Immigrant farmers will be accompanied by translators, and the UC’s Small and Ethnic Farmer Market Tour Project will help growers develop a flyer that explains who they are and what they grow.
The tours aim to match small, specialty-crop growers looking for sales outlets with restaurants, grocery stores, hospitals and corporate lunchrooms around the state that are clamoring for locally grown food, UC officials say.
“If you take these small farmers who might be selling at farmers’ markets and introduce them to buyers and then step back, the learning just happens,” said David Visher, an analyst for the UC’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program here. “The business cards get exchanged and business starts to happen between some of those farmers and some of those buyers.”
The tours will be similar to those conducted last year in Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Francisco. This year’s trips will be geared to growers in the Salinas-Monterey area and Sacramento valley and will be funded by CoBank, a national cooperative bank serving rural America, and Farm Credit West, American AgCredit and Farm Credit Services of Colusa-Glenn.
“We are really excited about having the opportunity to work with ethnic growers, which is a very hard audience to reach,” said Feenstra, who works with the Sustainable Agriculture Research Education Program and the Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC-Davis.
Many small growers of niche commodities are Hmong, Mien and Latino.
“Having this experiential strategy for bringing growers to distributors and fresh-cut processors really is an effective way of helping to make business deals and educate both sides, really, about what’s needed to increase their sales,” Feenstra said.
To learn more about the project and the tours, contact Visher at dlvisher@ucdavis.edu or (530) 758-2429.
Online
UC-Davis Agricultural Sustainability Institute: http://asi.ucdavis.edu/front-page
UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program: http://www.sarep.ucdavis.edu


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