by Jim Durst
Food – growing and providing enough to those who work for us and those who share our community with us – is both our livelihood and a moral imperative to us as a farming family. Deborah and I own Durst Organic Growers in Esparto in Western Yolo County, A business built upon conscious, ecological principles, where both people and the planet are treated respectfully. As such, the dual objectives of SB 1383 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and re-direct edible food from landfills to hungry people caught our eye several years ago, when the legislation passed in 2016. As the implementation deadline draws near this January 1, we are dismayed and disheartened that neither Yolo County nor the four incorporated cities in the county have yet fully embraced these objectives in their plans to execute and fund this mandated work.
It is understandable that the COVID-19 pandemic caught our local governments off-guard and sent them scrambling to meet previously unforeseen and unimaginable community needs. The same is true for many private businesses, such as ours. However, we should not miss this opportunity to maximize the potential of this legislation. The simultaneous climate change and unprecedented statewide food security crises together are creating untenable conditions of human suffering, particularly for historically underprivileged community members who are often people working in agriculture and other essential industries critical to the economic backbone of Yolo County.
The highest priority for our County and municipalities should be ensuring the nourishment of its residents, especially vulnerable children, senior citizens, veterans, the unhoused, and farm workers. Implementation of SB 1383 is poised to solve many challenges of the pandemic for the cities and the county, Yet swift action seems to be mired in efforts that appear to strive only for minimum compliance, and varying interpretations of what the regulations require. Such an approach is unfathomable to us as farmers, as the employer of farm workers, and as people of faith who donate funds as well as over 100,000 pounds of our produce annually to Yolo Food Bank. Produce from our farm, and Yolo Food Bank’s resources, provide for critically needed food distributions at our Esparto church, reaching rural residents who live in ‘food deserts’ without consistent access to nutritious, fresh foods. These are among the people who most stand to benefit from maximized, well-funded SB 1383 implementation.
While we are pleased to be in a position to generously provide farm-fresh food and funds to increase food security for our neighbors, actions such as ours do not represent a predictable, sustainable food security plan for Yolo County’s struggling residents. A fully implemented and fully funded SB 1383 does do that. Through its unique provision of both surplus edible food and funding for logistics-intensive food recovery efforts required by Yolo Food Bank to rescue that nourishment from landfills and deliver it to the neighborhoods throughout our County where it is most needed.
It is our belief that every resident of our county has an innate right to healthy and nutritious food. The commitment of every city council in Yolo County, as well as the Board of Supervisors, is needed to ensure that this basic food right is met. On an environmental impact level alone, minimizing SB 1383’s potential for change one minute longer than need be is unjustifiable. But, when combined with its potential to alleviate food insecurity in our neighborhoods, any delay is unconscionable, especially amidst a continuing pandemic.
We request you to fully commit to the multi-faceted benefits of SB 1383 for the residents of our county. Please consider ours to be the voices of the farm workers, the single parents working multiple jobs, the isolated senior citizens, the schoolchildren and the babies, and so many others unable to speak to you for themselves.
Jim Durst is Co-Owner of Dust Organic Growers and a Member of the Yolo Food Bank Board of Directors.