Grow Local OC Conference Delves into the Future of Urban Food Systems in Orange County and Beyond

grow local oc conference future of urban food systems orange countyOn Nov. 10-11 hundreds of attendees from across Southern California and beyond showed up for the inaugural Grow Local OC Conference: The Future of Urban Food Systems held Nov. 10-11 in Orange County, CA at California State University, Fullerton to learn more about the community and economic development potential of fostering local food systems in cities.

The conference attendees were treated to lectures from the foremost urban farming experts, entrepreneurs, and community advocates in the sustainable and local food system space. Topics explored by the speakers and panelists included the role that food plays in bridging the rural urban divide, the potential for urban farming to generate community and economic capital, the challenges faced by entrepreneurs seeking funds for their local food and farming ventures, the potential for controlled environment agriculture in cities, and the power of community development initiatives to increase access to healthy, local food.

The conference provided ample opportunity for the local food champions, entrepreneurs, and advocates in Orange County to continue to strengthen their base of support to increase food access, improve health outcomes, and meet the demands of a thriving local food marketplace. Read more

OHG’s Megan Penn to Discuss Community Development in Local Food Systems at Grow Local OC Conference

Megan Penn, co-founder and executive director of Orange Home Grown will be speaking about community development and local food systems at the upcoming Grow Local OC Conference on Nov. 10-11 at Cal State University, Fullerton.

Megan Penn, co-founder and executive director of Orange Home Grown will be speaking about community development and local food systems at the upcoming Grow Local OC Conference on Nov. 10-11 at Cal State University, Fullerton.

The Grow Local OC Conference: The Future of Urban Food Systems slated for Nov. 10 – 11 at Cal State University, Fullerton is excited to announce that Megan Penn, co-founder and executive director of Orange Home Grown Inc. will speak to conference goers on the community development benefits of supporting a local food system in Orange County.

As a co-founder of Orange Home Grown Inc., which started in 2009, Megan is passionate about providing access to locally grown food, working to improve the local food system through education, and developing opportunities that create “community” here in Orange County.

Orange Home Grown Farmers & Artisans Market is the lone farmers’ market in the City of Orange, and despite its success over the past seven years, Penn and her co-founders realized that so much more could and needed to be done to strengthen the local food system in city.

“The farmers’ market was not enough,” she told Grow Local OC.

More community involvement was needed, and this realization led to the natural evolution into Orange Home Grown, which focuses on education, collaboration, camaraderie, advocacy and more.

Among Orange Home Grown’s numerous initiatives is a new seed lending library, in partnership with the City of Orange Public Library. It launched on March 19, and offers free seeds to participants. The expectation is that seed borrowers will replace the seeds with new seeds resulting from their harvest.

Another project that the organization recently launched is a community farm, the OHG Education Farm, the first of its kind in Orange. Orange Home Grown is partnering with Chapman University in this endeavor.

According to OHG’s website, the purpose of the OHG Education Farm is to create education around the local food system. As residents seek to have more input into how their food is grown, how it is treated after being harvested, and how it moves from one place along the food route to another, this community urban farm becomes a means to increase access to education around locally grown food and a way of reintroducing the public to the many aspects of food that we have lost as a culture.

Fruits, vegetables, flowers, and herbs produced from the education farm may be donated or sold to local Orange restaurants, sold at the OHG Farmers & Artisans Market, or sold to schools for use in their lunch program.

To hear Megan speak and to learn more about Orange Home Grown’s effort to build community by fostering a robust local food system in Orange County, register now for the upcoming Grow Local OC Conference: The Future of Urban Food Systems set to take place on Nov. 10-11 at Cal State University, Fullerton.

DTSA Farmers’ Market’s Spring Return Offers Community More Local Food and Increased Access

The Downtown Santa Ana Farmers' Market has returned. Photo courtesty DTSA Farmers' Market.

The Downtown Santa Ana Farmers’ Market has returned. Photo courtesty DTSA Farmers’ Market.

The Downtown Santa Ana Certified Famers’ Market (DTSA Farmers’ Market) is back in action this spring working to provide local residents and restaurants with farm fresh food as well as improve access to healthy produce for the underserved in the community.

Although the DTSA Farmers’ Market did not operate this past winter, its absence allowed the market’s managers to make some much-needed changes and improvements to the it’s physical structure and seller roster.

“Our winter closure was due to some shake-ups with vendors combined with timing issues with the season,” Sonora Ortiz, market manager of the DTSA Farmers’ Market, says. “It afforded us an opportunity to make some changes the community had been asking for, but we couldn’t address [these] while being open every week.”

While one of the Market’s goals is to get food to its Santa Ana customers, it’s also dedicated to promoting awareness, and making sure the public knows good food is available. “Our goal is doing our best to make healthy and ethical food accessible through any and all means possible—education, awareness, Market Match, EBT, WIC, etc.,” Ortiz says. Ortiz adds that this is the Market’s second year participating in Market Match. “We are excited to have just kicked off the grant’s second year by increasing our match amount to $15.”

The Market also is highly active in the community through its work with local organizations.

“We work closely with Slow Food OC, the OC chapter of the National Young Farmers’ Coalition, and OC Food Access Coalition (Christina Hall is on our Advisory Committee),” Ortiz says. “We also are connected with the urban agriculture movement in Santa Ana and do what we can to support their efforts, including helping them sell at the Market or to local restaurants.”

“We get a lot of community support and input (for which we are very grateful),” Ortiz says. “All of us behind the Market are a part of the Santa Ana community in our own rights, so this is just an extension of that.”

The Santa Ana Market also works to improve the local food system.

“We work with local growers, local food artisans (particularly with East End Kitchens to get community members who want to sell their food at the Market and grow their businesses), and are building a market-wide compost program with our friends at the Heritage Museum of OC to decrease our food waste while helping community agriculture projects.”

Ortiz explains that one of the Market’s main challenges has been outreach, and promoting its day and time change.

“As much as we are thrilled to shift to Sundays as folks have wanted, it’s been difficult to get the word out about Sunday after having been open on Thursdays for so long,” Ortiz explains.

Although the time change is causing issues now, Ortiz is confident that the Market will continue to grow in the years to come.

“In five years, we hope the Market will continue to thrive and meet the community’s wants and needs while inspiring more local production, and supporting more education and healthy lifestyle choices,” Ortiz adds.

The Downtown Santa Ana Farmers’ Market is open on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Orange Home Grown Goes Beyond Farmers Market Roots to Spread Local Food & Ag Education in OC

“In Orange County, the local food system is not good at all—it’s behind the times,” says Megan Penn, co-founder and executive director of Orange Home Grown. Penn and the organization she leads are working hard to remedy that.

Change is happening, says Penn, who believes that “food is the essence of everything.”

Penn was raised in the City of Orange, but it was not until she went to college at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo that her eyes were truly opened to the wonders of local and sustainable food and agriculture.

“There was a fabulous farmers’ market which was part of my college life,” she says.

Upon returning to the City of Orange, however, Penn noticed the lack of farmers’ markets and locally-produced food.

“My friends and neighbors felt the same way,” she says. Read more