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Rookie Farmers Get A Boost From West Sacramento Farm Incubator

Photo / Wikimedia

Photo / Wikimedia

New farmers looking to launch their own business face hurdles like access to land and markets. West Sacramento Urban Farms is helping rookie growers jump-start their own farms.

On a windy Thursday, Sara Bernal seeds lettuce and beets on a modest patch of soil on the West Sacramento riverfront. 

The plot sits next to The Barn, the outdoor performance venue, with a backdrop of Sacramento's skyline and The Tower Bridge.

Eggplant, broccoli and lettuce planted here will eventually end up in a weekly farm veggie box that's launching in June.

The subscription program will offer produce grown by new farmers (in West Sacramento and Davis) who are all part of West Sacramento Urban Farms, where Bernal is project manager.

Unlike urban farms focused on education or community gardening, this one is a business incubator.

"We're actually focused on helping the next generation of farmers start small businesses," explains Bernal.

"So this is a five-year launch pad for them to build a market, gain experience and then launch off into new land, different places, where they can actually stay permanently."

People who apply for a spot in the program are not gardening hobbyists. They're new farmers with training and apprenticeships under their belts. A clear business plan is a must.

Beginning farmers get parcels of land and access to tools and a nearby refrigeration hub for aggregating produce. They also receive support in establishing business ties with grocery stores, restaurants, local schools and farmers markets. The farm veggie boxes, (also known as Community Supported Agriculture or a CSA) are another strategy for developing new markets for farmers.

The incubator operates under the umbrella of the Center For Land-Based Learning and the project received funding from Wells Fargo, Raley's and the City of West Sacramento. 

Bernal pitches the West Sacramento Urban Farms CSA as a "tangible investment in the local economy."

"You could be living in downtown Sacramento and you could bike over and meet the farmer who grew the tomato that's in your box." 

Subscribers will pick up their CSA boxes at Yolo Brewing Company in West Sacramento.

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