By Anya McCann
For this economic development series I’d like to drill down a little into some themes discussed by Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis and Yolo County Visitors Bureau executive director Alan Humason here. They touched upon capturing dollars from visitors of all types, including eco-tourism and agritourism.
It is Spring and Yolo and Sacramento Counties are once again flush with farm to fork activities. Davisites may have noticed that Sacramento has devoted significant energy and funds to declare they are the Farm-to-Fork Capital of America, featuring the farmers, chefs, and the foodie community in the Sacramento region. Though Davis is in the region, we are an afterthought to the Sac F2F leadership. Our city’s contributions have not been actively marketed in tandem. We have not stepped up to the dining plate.
Davis has much to offer. For instance:
- We are located in the midst of the agricultural seat of the country
- We have unparalleled access to fresh, local, organic vegetables and fruit—highlighted by our world famous Davis Farmers Market
- Most of the vintners in touristed Napa were trained at UC Davis
- UC Davis also has one of the premiere training institutes for craft brewers
- Davis is progressive, successfully moving towards the creation of a sustainable footprint
- We are recognized around the world for our leadership in sustainability policies
Now is an opportune time to tie all of these unique features together for residents and visitors. Let’s make Davis really distinct—a destination for plant-based diners as part of the City’s strategic branding and marketing.
Imagine, eco-foodie-tourists arriving by the Capitol Corridor train from the Bay Area to visit the farmers market in the morning, followed by an afternoon walk in the Arboretum, and staying for dinner downtown. They stay overnight in a local hotel and take a bike ride on our famous greenbelt on rented bikes in the morning, culminating their stay with brunch, a wine tasting, and a nap on the train on the way home.
Currently, there is little promoting that experience and how it fits our vision of a sustainable Davis. We have no “destination” restaurants in which to taste our local wines and brews paired with local fine cuisine, with which to anchor this experience.
When I moved to town several years ago, my friends in Los Angeles exclaimed that based upon their image of Davis as a model for sustainability; it must be the perfect place for a vegan to find a tantalizing dining opportunity! (My new Davis friends thought so, too.)
Alas, most plant-based foodies are disappointed by the lack of interesting options and feel unwelcome in many local establishments. Nevertheless, Davis’ reputation as a healthy place to live is an excellent opportunity for our restaurants to redefine themselves and build our city as a destination for plant-based, sustainable dining, attracting regional guests and tourism dollars.
Approximately 4% of Americans and 8% of Californians identify as vegetarians or vegans for many reasons including for their health (heart, obesity, diabetes), to eat more sustainably and protect our environment, to follow religious strictures, out of compassion for animals, or their belief in animal rights. Many of us also consider ourselves “foodies” looking for the next great or unique dining experience. I know plant-based diners in Sacramento who will drive as far as Berkeley on a Sunday morning just to find a great vegan brunch! It is a highly motivated clientele.
The availability of healthy and tasty food is an important factor in choosing a vacation spot, a place to live, a place to work, and a place to go to school. There are even plant-based cruise ships!
A handful of cities are known as plant-based dining destinations. Foodie travelers like me plan entire vacations to eat their way through San Francisco, Portland, Los Angeles, or New York. Davis could easily become one of these leaders.
Advertising to this clientele is very targeted and low cost using social media. These diners rush to share information about their latest “find.” We have many well-attended local Facebook and Instagram groups sharing restaurant and shopping tips and even have our own version of Yelp, called Happy Cow.
How can Davis take advantage of this opportunity?
COOL Cuisine is a coalition of many groups with a long-term vision of Davis as a dining destination for plant-based cuisine and tourism. We have the ability to reach thousands of plant-based diners who live within an hour’s drive of here. And we are actively working for improvements through our 3rd Thurs restaurant patronage.
To draw new food to town, COOL Cuisine offers to facilitate outreach with other city organizations to popular and excellent chains such as Real Food Daily (link http://www.realfood.com/ ), Veggie Grill (link http://veggiegrill.com/ ), and Native Foods (link https://www.nativefoods.com/ ).
How does the City of Davis integrate all of the things we are most celebrate? An update of forward-thinking dining choices can encompass our values of local agriculture, sustainability, and a healthy population. It is one contribution to draw more locals, visitors, and new employees and residents to spend in all local establishments.
Anya McCann is a member of the Natural Resources Commission. She is a founder of COOL Cuisine Davis, which partners with Cool Davis and other community groups. Her opinions are solely her own and not endorsed by the NRC.
Editor’s note: following the decision by Mace Ranch Innovation Center to put its pending project on hold, the Vanguard decided to re-start a community discussion on the future of economic development in Davis. As such, we are reaching out to a very diverse group of people and starting May 1 we are hoping to publish one op-ed a day on this subject. We are pleased to announce that so far we have over 40 commitments and counting. Beginning today, we will publish one article per day for the month of May into June. If you would like to add your voice – please submit your piece on the future of economic development in Davis (800 to 1000 words).
May 1: Robb Davis
May 2: Elaine Roberts Musser
May 3: Dan Carson
May 4: Matt Williams
May 6: Peter Bell
May 7: Bob Fung
May 9: Rob White
May 16: Alan Humason
May 17: Mike Hart
May 18: Judy Corbett
May 19: Mark Braly
May 20: Susan Rainier
May 21: Tia Will