Marin seeks love of locavores with new producer label

05/02/2013

After a decade in which farmer’s markets and direct-to-consumer agricultural sales doubled across the country, a new coalition is seizing on the local-foods movement with the hopes of benefitting Marin producers.

Grown Local Marin, a pilot program spearheaded by the Agriculture Institute of Marin and supported by a $5,700 grant from the Board of Supervisors, aims to draw out the potential “locavore” in consumers the next time they choose between produce from around the corner and out-of-season, imported crops from further afield.

The program, which already has 13 participants, grew out of suggestions received at a massive agricultural summit at Walker Creek Ranch in 2010 and was inspired by a similar program in Sonoma County. Participants pay a $65 fee and must attest that 51 percent of their product is produced on land inside the county. In exchange, farmers can use the Grown Local label and signage and participate in the collective marketing effort. Agriculture constitutes $70 million of the county’s economy.

“The term local is used by anyone and everyone these days, so Marin producers wanted to be able to highlight their products and the fact that they really are local,” said Sarah Darcey-Martin, outreach director for the nonprofit Agricultural Institute. “Even Lucky supermarkets has a ‘farmer’s market’ and big chains promote things as local because it’s in vogue, so I know that people who are really doing things locally and producing agricultural products here in Marin are looking for a way to identify themselves as such and be part of a group they trust.”

Advocates say that food that does not travel long distances is fresh and in season, healthier and tasty, and has a less deleterious carbon footprint on the environment.

“An overarching trademark identifying products grown by Marin-based farmers and ranchers is not only needed but desired by both the farmers and consumers,” said Julie Rossotti, who raises goats and lambs on the historic H Ranch in Point Reyes National Seashore and at Rossotti Ranch in Petaluma. Ms. Rossotti was a part of the committee that founded the marketing effort.

Participants, who also include the Mendozas’ Double M Dairy on Point Reyes, True Grass Farms in Valley Ford and Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company north of Point Reyes Station, hope the label will help people think more deeply about the choices they make when shopping for food.

“I’m hoping that people are taking the time to be more thoughtful about what they eat,” said Marika Bergsund, executive director of Slide Ranch in Muir Beach, a farm-education nonprofit and member of the new marketing coalition. “Our best efforts are to help children understand the labels are out there and they’re worth paying attention to.”

Farmers, ranchers and consumers can learn more about the program at buylocalmarin.org.