West Sacramento has a vision to become a place where it’s easy to establish urban farms, and where those farms can quickly connect with their surrounding communities to maximize the extent to which farmers and nearby residents alike share in the farm's bounty. The Fellowship program aimed to increase local awareness of, and consumption of food from, local farms. Fellows looked to address food deserts by making it easier to start new urban farms, and enable local farmers to connect with their surrounding communities and promote the sale of farm-fresh produce directly to residents.
Code for America is rapidly transforming America by catalyzing civic innovation in America's cities to strengthen democracy and reimagine how we create value and services. West Sacramento is excited to lead the nation, in partnership with the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, as a Code for America city working not only to spur civic innovation in our own town, but to design that innovation for widespread adoption region wide...spreading Code for America's transformative impact to small cities and rural towns.”
Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, City of West Sacramento
Fellows spoke to over 60 stakeholders across the food ecosystem in West Sacramento, including residents, farmers, grocers, produce distributors, packing houses, institutional buyers, educators, county departments, community partners, and experts. Perspectives from partners and graduate farmers helped fellows understand needs of beginning urban farmers:
- Access to land. New farmers of the program would need land in order to establish their practice. The City of West Sacramento had been helping farmers find city-owned parcels, but the data wasn't particularly helpful and private owners weren't yet included in the conversation.
- Finding a market. Inventory and demand fluctuates so much per season, and market need is usually passed on anecdotally from distributors and restaurateurs down to farmers, but the information isn't quick enough.
Fellows heard over and over again that land access was or had been an issue. It could be unnecessarily time-consuming for aspiring farmers to find suitable farmland, so they created Acres to help new farmers find and express interest in leasing vacant, under-utilized, farmable lots of land. By using technology that aggregates data about soil and water availability of each parcel, Acres helps streamline a critical part of the process that helps farmers start urban farms.
What about after those farms are in production? The Fellowship team found that many residents aren't aware of the farms existence, or didn’t understand how to purchase food there. Fellows created Farm Stand to improve awareness and help urban farms better reach potential customers in West Sacramento. Residents will be able to see what farms are growing, what they plan to grow, and provide feedback through whichever communication channel they prefer.
The City of West Sacramento is planning to secure grant funding to continue the development and wider roll out of Acres. They plan to hire a technical advisor who will have the skills necessary to make updates to the data. The City owns the prototype in the short term and plans to transition it to SACOG, which is exploring partnerships with the Code for Sacramento Brigade for continued development.The fellows provided the city with documentation on what’s required to maintain and update the tool. The City will also be involved in executing a larger marketing campaign for a wider pilot. If the pilot is successful, Acres will be scaled regionally under the ownership of SACOG.
Meet the team:
Team Leads: Jon Robinson, Deputy City Manager and Raef Porter, Sacramento Area Council Of Governments, Director
Community Partners: SACOG, James Irvine Foundation