Michael R. Dimock’s Opening Remarks San Francisco Urban-Rural Roundtable

Michael R. Dimock’s Opening Remarks San Francisco Urban-Rural Roundtable

October 22, 2008 Michael R. Dimock

Thank you Ed, we appreciate you and American Land Trust for taking point on this incredible gathering. I too want to welcome the Mayor, the Secretary and all of you as distinguished guests in this very unique, and we hope, fruitful convening of important and thoughtful leaders.

As some of you know, Roots of Change is a statewide stakeholder collaborative focused on ensuring a sustainable food system exists in this state by the year 2030. What we mean is that Californians will, first, steward the complex ecological and resources base underling the system so that the biological and mineral resource base is maintained at a minimum and hopefully enhanced for future generations.   
Second, the farms, ranches, businesses and entrepreneurs within the system are economically viable, meaning sufficiently rewarded for their hard work and innovation to maintain their continuous commitment to, and constant improvement of, the food system. Finally, and perhaps most important to community cohesion and health, this system must be just. It must reflect America’s highest ideals and principles. Those most vulnerable in the system, the farm and food plant workers, must be honored and treated with respect and compensated fairly to ensure that they too remain committed to their agricultural careers. In addition, a just food system must ensure that for the health and welfare of our communities, all people, regardless of income level, have access to wholesome food that contributes to their long-term health.

Roots of Change has funded this endeavor because we firmly believe that cities cannot be divorced from countryside. These two worlds and cultures are inextricably linked and interdependent. We feel that our state and nation is increasingly at risk as we depopulate the countryside and concentrate people in urban and suburban settings and less and less people comprehend the realities associated with food production and resource stewardship. There must be a reawakening to the importance of our farmers and ranchers and to the fundamental need for healthy food for all our people.

We are gratified that this awakening is underway. Evidence of the awakening can be found in media, books, farmers markets, and health care circles. The danger is that urban people in their growing enthusiasm and exuberance for farmers and ranchers might just imperil them through policies and programs that do not respond to the complex realities farmers and ranchers face in managing land and competing in markets. At the same time, there is danger that those in the countryside will perceive this awakening of urban people as a threat before they perceive the numerous opportunities it provides.

You here today are the pioneers for what Roots of Change hopes will become many dialogs involving the State’s five or six largest cities. We believe that working together with clarity on the respective strengths of each, the common opportunities, and the potential for creative collaboration, both city and country may greatly benefit from deepening the concept of a food shed, which in addition to a source of food, may be seen as a meeting place of common values, goals, and aspirations for a better future.

With that, I want to turn my attention to the Honorable Gavin Newsom, Mayor of San Francisco. This beautiful city has a long history of innovation and fundamental links to the booms of the State and the countryside, beginning with the Gold Rush. We think the healthy food and agriculture movement that is sweeping the nation is a boom that, if managed well, will not bust, but will permanently benefit all. We know that Mayor Newsom understands this because he is committing time, money and staff to fostering this boom. We are grateful he has stepped into the field, at some risk, because this is a new and innovative idea. He has invited you to attend these three sessions and he has come to the countryside to dialog with you all. We respect this and appreciate this act of thoughtful leadership.

Mayor Newsom, please take the floor.  Thank you all.