More than just a meal

Local heroes find common ground at Rush Ranch

Located on Grizzly Island, Rush Ranch isn’t always on the way to most errands. But sometimes the geography of Solano County makes Rush Ranch a workable midpoint. And with ample shade, guaranteed birdsong, and the rustic charm of original ranch structures, the land you secured so long ago makes an exceptional gathering place.

That’s what happened last March, when a rancher from Dixon and members of non-profits and churches from Vacaville, Benicia, and Vallejo met here with a common goal: to feed their community. Paige Gillooley brought in 505 lbs. of premium ground beef from Five Mile Ranch, a Dixon ranch that has been in the Rasmussen family for five generations (Paige is engaged to Garret Rasmussen).

Tracy Ellison coordinated the drop-off with Paige, and Solano Land Trust bought the beef wholesale through the Farm to Community Food Connection Program. Paige was making her first visit to the property. She had admiring words for the scenic hills and waterways, and a landscape that looked less popular with rattlesnakes than her home.

Donna Marshall is the coordinator of the community meal at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Benicia, which received 150 lbs. of the beef. She noted that in March of 2020, they were serving hot meals and groceries to seventy-five people.

They now serve 300 individuals.

“We have no restrictions on who shows up,” Donna said. “They get a hot meal and a bag of groceries. We try to provide as much fresh fruits and vegetables as we can, along with protein and canned food. Beef is one of the hardest things to get. I can’t say how grateful we are.”

Pastor Mike Brown collected the other 150 lbs. for First Baptist Church of Vallejo. The twenty-year-old Sparrow Program they operate from their Sonoma Boulevard location welcomes many individuals experiencing homelessness and hardship.

At the Vacaville Neighborhood Boys and Girls Club, CEO Anna Eaton navigates other challenges of the pandemic. Students normally gathered in the program had to spread out or attend from home because of social distancing.

“Our outreach boxes have been one of the ways we’ve continued to provide support to the families,” said Anna. “Being able to add protein from the ground beef will be such an added blessing.”

At Opportunity House Vacaville, which offers beds for one hundred people, the hot meals from the beef would be warmly received by the residents.

Most food purchased through the Farm to Community Food Connection program has gone to the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, which fed a record 289,174 people last December. That’s more than the populations of the largest Contra Costa County city (Concord, 129,295) and the largest city in Solano (Vallejo, 121,692) combined.

But smaller food distribution operations play a vital role in addressing food insecurity. They bring convenience and community to the neighborhoods they serve.

And by serving delicious beef from Five Mile Ranch, the groups who gathered at Rush help local people access the bounty of a family ranch nearby. This nation’s local farms and ranches keep land productive in times when people need it most; every pound of food delivered from the program supports that fact.

It felt fitting to watch this hand-off happen in an idyllic working ranch that people like you committed to preserve over thirty years ago.

Photos by Laura Livadas and Samuel James Adams