Local Food Security: Coops, Veggies, and Meat
Mini Coop Project
A large part of what we do at TomKat Ranch is focused on food systems change. While this work often is at the state level with programs like California’s Farm to Family, Growing the Table, and the Beef to Institutes pilot program which you can read about it in our August 2019 Newsletter under Beef2Schools & Hospitals, we also strive to be good and supportive neighbors in our local context.
As the impact of COVID-19 first began to be felt in our town of Pescadero, we learned through our friends at Puente de la Costa Sur (Puente), of increasing food insecurity in our community with eggs, in particular, being in desperately short supply. To help address this shortage, we joined up with Puente and Root Down Farm to initiate the “Mini Coop Project” and empower members of our community to produce their own nutritious and affordable backyard eggs
While staff and family members at TomKat Ranch designed and built the backyard chicken coops, Root Down Farm generously jumped in to order and nurture chicks until they were old enough to be handed off to participating families. When all the pieces were in place and ready to go, Puente organized distribution and reached out to local families interested in participating. In all, 15 families in our community are now egg-independent!
Food in the Gardens
In normal times, landscaping at the ranch focuses on the care of beautiful flowers, orchards, and a modest market garden; but 2020 has been anything but normal! When the impact of COVID-19 began to be felt, we knew we could do more to address food insecurity in the community. Immediately, we jumped in to significantly increase the amount of vegetables we were growing so we could donate as much as we could to the food drives being led by friends at Puente.
By mid-March, we had planned and planted the garden with a focus on vegetable donations. We increased the growing space in our main garden with five raised beds and multiple planter boxes. By the middle of May, we expanded to the west side of the ranch using a ‘no-dig’ regenerative method of planting. This method consists of spreading finished compost over layers of cardboard for weed suppression without disturbing the ground. It is an effective way to plant while improving soil biology with compost at the same time.
Fruits of Our Labor
Our first harvest happened at the end of May and harvests continued until the end of September. Each week, depending on what was in season, 50 – 400 pounds of fruits and vegetables–from apples to zucchini–were packed and donated. By the end of the season, donations totaled close to 1,700 lbs of produce. It was a satisfying team effort to pull together to help meet the needs of our community during challenging times!
The Pescadero community has been hard-pressed over these past several months. The pandemic has brought on increased issues of job insecurity, food insecurity, and inadequate healthcare for many. The CZU August Lightning Complex fire compounded problems with a majority of the Pescadero Area evacuated for a week or more, and many losing their homes. Tragically, while the troubles of this year have been widely experienced, they have been disproportionately felt by the most vulnerable in our small coastal town. To respond, , we made the choice to set aside a sizable portion of our LeftCoast Grassfed beef for donation. To date, we have donated close to 4,000 pounds of grassfed beef to local facilities and will continue to donate beef each week through the remainder of the year.
Puente has remained a pillar of strength and leadership for South Coast residents. Their work has included everything from managing a weekly food distribution program to providing emergency services to evacuees during the wildfires. Their food distribution program continues to be the main donation priority for the ranch and our LeftCoast Grassfed beef. We are so very grateful for Puente’s leadership and the care and work they do each day to address inequities in our community and support those in need.
You can donate to Puente’s efforts here.