Participants at Idea Hack Pescadero discuss the future of local food markets.

Participants at Idea Hack Pescadero discuss the future of local food markets.

What do you get when you mix together innovators, entrepreneurs, farmers & ranchers? Great ideas that are already helping to change the landscape of local food production and consumption in California.

The Pescadero Idea Hack, held in Pescadero, Calif. on October 11, 2014, was the brainchild of The Mixing Bowl Hub’s Rob Trice and his wife, TomKat Ranch Executive Director Wendy Millet. Millet and her amazing team at the TomKat Ranch are our partners in the push to make grassfed beef the new normal. Like Morris Grassfed, TomKat Ranch is committed to considering the land, animals and people when producing its LeftCoast Grassfed beef and has worked hard to increase local, grassfed beef consumption in schools and restaurants in San Mateo County.

We started the day with introductions and it was humbling to be a in a room (a barn, actually) with so many people dedicated to producing good food and creating local markets that encourage and reward the work of farmers and ranchers.

“Our objective is to build upon numerous assessments and dialogues on the topic of the Peninsula’s local food production, and develop a range of actionable solutions.  A byproduct of the Idea Hack is to connect individuals and organizations that could potentially collaborate to bring about desired changes,” Trice said in his opening remarks.

Participants like Karen Liebowitz, co-founder of the soon-to-open The Perennial restaurant in San Francisco and Pete Hartigan, Founder & CEO of Trusted Ventures, LLC are not only innovative thinkers, but agents for social change. Liebowitz’s new restaurant will source foods from local farms and ranches that  go way beyond industrial, monocrop organics; they actively address climate change with their farming practices.

“We first started thinking about what can we do to engage with our environment more closely — not just farm to table, but really deeply engage,” Liebowitz said in a recent interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. The Perennial will be a “laboratory,” in which all aspects of the restaurant’s business — relationships with farmers, sustainable practices, choice of vendors — are seen through the lens of environmental impact, the article said.

The prize: $10 gift card to Downtown Local.

The prize: $10 gift card to Downtown Local.

Hartigan has put his money where his heart is. The founder of several successful start-ups, his latest is Trusted Ventures, LLC which aims to develop what he calls the “Impact 500” targeting existing Fortune 500 cash flows in areas like finance, healthcare and education, with a model where helping the community is how the company competes versus the traditional maximize shareholder profit model. If this sounds familiar, it’s because Hartigan has already created successful companies using the model, including the alumni-funded college loan business sofi.com, which he plans to take public this Spring.  He’s not wasting any time on his next project ether. Our breakout group’s challenge: How Can We Increase the Amount of Local Food Consumed by Local Institutions?

Our group's flip chart on how to get more local food into industrial markets.

Our group’s flip chart on how to get more local food into industrial markets.

After an hour-long discussion with institutional food buyers (Stanford and Google), distributors, farmers and ranchers we developed the “LOCAL FOOD MARKETPLACE, INC.” (LFM). Our idea is to develop a collaborative, digital market maker, facilitator/coordinator. LFM can create a demand book for local institutions looking to buy local food supply and aggregate local supply. To pay the premium for fairly priced local goods, dining services organizations can supplement their budget through HR budgets (since employee good food eating should result in lower health costs) or a company’s community social responsibility funding. Financial institutions with a social mission can finance working capital for growers. Participating growers can have an ownership stake in LFM’s success. (We won First Place, by the way.)  Bam.

Other challenges included: How to train and support the next generation of farmers and ranchers? How to scale local food production? and How to deepen the connection between SF Peninsula eaters and growers? We took a hike on the spectacular TomKat ranch after our breakout sessions and capped the day with a candlelight dinner around the ranch’s coi pond table: a stunning setting and perfect way to celebrate the beauty and bounty of local food. The Mixing Bowl plans several follow-up sessions and has started discussion groups for each idea we came up with. The real success here is the awareness that good, local food is not only delicious, it’s a force for economic, social and ecological good.

Dinner was served around the coi pond at TomKat Ranch in Pescadero, Calif.

Dinner was served around the coi pond at TomKat Ranch in Pescadero, Calif.

Organic food Pioneer Bob Scowcroft listens to The Mixing Hub's Rob Trice introduce speakers.

Organic food Pioneer Bob Scowcroft listens to The Mixing Hub’s Rob Trice introduce speakers.

 

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