From the Field: A Tour of the Bay Area Food System

A worker unloads organic produce from the Central Valley at a food distribution center in SF
A worker unloads organic produce from the Central Valley at a food distribution center in SF

We here at Global Green USA have always taken pride in our organization’s role as a facilitator and a convener, bringing together stakeholders to share their perspectives about some of the most difficult environmental problems facing our communities. Last week, we continued this great tradition by bringing together representatives from San Francisco and East Bay public agencies who are tasked with working toward waste diversion, CoRR members Bag to Earth and Wastequip, and other invited guests, and “followed the food” through the San Francisco Bay Area, from the point at which fresh produce is brought into the city to the point where the compost made from food scraps brought back into the soil of a farm.

When fruits and vegetables first arrive in the Big City, their destination is usually someplace like Earl’s Organic Produce, our first stop of the day. Fresh produce arrives at Earl’s from farms in the Central Valley and beyond, and are consolidated to be shipped to grocers and restaurants throughout the Bay Area (as well as points as far afield as Truckee and Arcata). Earl’s not only helps bring produce to the people of the Bay, but they have also implemented very strong sustainability policies on site, including a comprehensive recycling and composting program that even ensures that latex gloves get recovered.

The following stops included taking a visit to a residence where Global Green USA has been working with tenants to implement food scrap recovery and gather data on how providing bins and bags improves diversion outcomes, the transfer station where those food scraps are brought by brought by garbage trucks to be loaded onto larger trucks bound for a compost facility, and finally to the Ricci Vineyards Carneros in Sonoma, where that compost is brought into the soil to be turned into world-class wine grapes.

Jon DiPiero of Ricci Vineyards shows us the acres of grape vines that have been fertilized with compost.
Jon DiPiero of Ricci Vineyards shows us the acres of grape vines that have been fertilized with compost.

One of the highlights of my day was standing in the sunny vineyard in the heart of beautiful Wine County, looking across acres of grape vines each surrounded by compost-amended soil, and hearing from the vineyard manager that the use of compost has reduced their fertilizer needs by 25%! Not only is this an environmental win, but our guide also said that it has meant significant costs savings for their growing operation. I’ll drink to that!

Stay tuned for more updates from the field, including our upcoming tour this June in New York City.