Community connections

Linking agriculture and families in need

Sometimes challenges present golden opportunities.

That is what happened when Solano Land Trust brainstormed ways to help two communities affected by the fallout of the pandemic: local farmers and ranchers and Solano County families experiencing food insecurity.

With donations from our agricultural community, we purchased a pig from a Rodriguez High School senior who raised the animal for the Dixon May Fair. The pig was processed into chops and ribs and unseasoned ground pork, cuts selected to provide the most meat for the most people. We donated the resulting 220 pounds of meat to the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, which distributed it to families.

“It’s amazing that my pig was handed out to a lot of families to help out during this time,” says Kevin Moreno, the student who raised the pig.

Learning responsibility

Executive director Nicole Braddock was looking for a way that Solano Land Trust might help to connect the agricultural community with people in need of food, when conservation program manager Tracy Ellison had an idea.

Tracy, who had been a 4H and FFA member growing up in rural Fresno County, thought about the local students who after yearlong efforts to raise animals to sell at the Dixon May Fair would no longer have that culminating experience because of the Fair’s cancellation.

She was happy to learn that with support from the 2020 Solano Jr. Livestock Boosters and sponsored by Bids for Kids Solano, the auction was moved online to Solano Land Trust raised funds from farmers and ranchers and secured a bid in the last 30 seconds before the last pig lot closed. “It was pretty exciting to get down to that last pig,” says Tracy.

Kevin Moreno, the senior who raised the pig, is a recent graduate of Rodriguez High School. Listed as an “Independent,” and not enrolled in the FH or FFA programs, it was Kevin’s first time raising an animal for market. “Care and responsibility were two of the most important things that I learned throughout this project,” said Kevin in his auction letter. The pig sold at $1700, earnings that Kevin deposited in a savings account. Kevin, who was born and raised in Fairfield, plans to go to the local community college where he will train to be a mechanic.

Solano Land Trust’s efforts won’t stop here, says Tracy. “We have raised enough money to bid on a steer in the auction that will take place during this year's virtual Solano County Fair. The steer will yield even more meat for families in need.”

Linking produce to people

Through this Farm to Community Food Connection program, Solano Land Trust will also look for ways to purchase produce from local farmers who may be challenged to sell their products due to reduced restaurant sales. This will ensure that food will go to people who need it and not go to waste.

We have a strong agriculture community and economy in Solano County. Our hope is to harness our relationships with farmers and ranchers and connect their needs with those who are finding it hard to access nutritious food. Giving back in this way also allows us to remind the public about the wonderful food grown or raised just miles away from their own communities.

We anticipate that there will be a need for the program through at least October. To Tracy, the person who spotted the golden opportunity to help, the new program speaks to the longstanding values of Solano Land Trust. “It is in line with our mission to provide a healthy environment, support our farm and ranch families, and inspire our community to love the land through agriculture and food.”

Photos courtesy of Kevin Moreno.