Soil Born Farms: Feeding Body and Soul
California may fill the nation’s grocery carts, thanks to a robust agricultural economy, but the health of residents living in urban spaces like Rancho Cordova continues to decline due to lack of access to healthy, locally-produced food, and health education. Soil Born Farms stepped-in to turn urban residents into farmers, teach good nutrition, and creatively leverage community resources.
Today, American River Ranch, a 55-acre historic community farm located in Rancho Cordova, is the permanent home of Soil Born Farms. This rare community asset provides a wonderfully diverse landscape which engages both youth and adults in hands-on activities that connect them to the natural world, healthy food, healthy eating, job and life skills, hard work and service opportunities.
Soil Born believes that high quality local produce should be affordable to all members of the community. Vegetables from their fields get to consumers through local markets and restaurants, local food banks and the American River Ranch Farmstand. They also provide a weekly or biweekly produce box program that families subscribe to through Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA.
Soil Born believes that hunger can be reduced “neighborhood by neighborhood” by getting people to grow fresh food – even inside the city. An important part of the strategy is to teach people how to do that. Since 2000, Soil Born has trained 59 beginning farmers.
Today, the city farming bug is catching on. In 2018, 1,795 adults attended classes at Soil Born ranging from “Plan, Design and Build a School Garden” to “Graceful Aging with Herbal and Lifestyle Wisdom.” There is an after school “Cook Club: Teen Empowerment” class, “Cooking Out of the CSA Box,” “Herbal Body Care,” and even an “Bird Walk” on the monthly calendar.
An important part of Soil Born’s vision is to teach children how food grows, the value of nutrition, and other intrinsic benefits of urban farming. Summer Camp experiences are offered for youth in pre-K through high school. Youth have opportunities to re-connect with the land and themselves while building community in a beautiful place. At the Ranch they make new friends and have fun tending the land and getting dirty in the garden, harvesting food to cook and eating together or listening and looking for wildlife, creating art with nature or learning survival skills. Scholarships are available for those who cannot afford fees.
An important part of the strategy to grow more food and grow more farmers involves cross-collaboration with schools and government to establish school gardens as learning labs for kids. Today, Soil Born engages more than 2,557 students in the garden during the school year at 10 campuses in South Sacramento and Rancho Cordova. In Rancho Cordova, the city supports this effort through grants to schools needed to start a garden. Overall, Soil Born is advocating for a garden at every school and is working to make it a reality in Rancho Cordova with the support of the city.
Another strategy is to work with residents from around Rancho Cordova whose fruit trees produce an abundance of nutrient rich produce but for one reason or another, falls to the ground and is wasted. Harvest Rancho Cordova is just one of several volunteer teams who pick this unwanted fruit and provide it to local food banks and other emergency food resources.
Rancho Cordova, CA- 2019 AAC Winner: Presentation
Founder, Soil Born Farms