Brentwood City Council Agrees to Fund Projects for Agricultural Business Program

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On Tuesday night, the Brentwood city Council voted unanimously to fund Agricultural Business Program concepts to increase regional marketing and branding in Brentwood.

The action on Tuesday will have a total Fiscal Impact of just $32,710 which includes a Harvest Time website reconstruction ($6,110), a Brentwood Appellation Feasibility study ($17,000) and Harvest Time social media and communication strategy enhancement ($9,600 over 2-years)

The Brentwood Agricultural Business Program includes several ideas, all of which work towards advancing the importance of regional marketing and branding of agriculture and the benefits this brings to the region as well as to the local Brentwood community.

Associated with the program are both the Harvest Time in Brentwood and the Contra Costa Winegrowers Association.

Under the proposal Tuesday night:

  • Harvest Time in Brentwood Website Restructure
    The reconstruction of the Harvest Time website will include a feature that allows all members to update their farm hours and product availability in real time, and will create a user friendly opportunity for customers to quickly find information regarding the local farm stands.
  • Appellation Feasibility Study
    The Contra Costa Winegrowers Association is requesting funds in order to complete an Appellation Feasibility study. Through this study information would be gathered that would hopefully allow Brentwood and Contra Costa County to become part of the Central Coast Appellation region. The accreditation that comes with such a study allows the region to be recognized as part of the Federal Registry of approved  American Viticultural Areas. The economic benefits to the region, includes but is not limited to, broad consumer awareness of winegrowing in this region, higher grape and wine prices, greater opportunities to market and sell the products, establishes a unique identity for the grapes and wine in our region, and it allows vintners and consumers to identify with the quality and reputation of wine made from grapes grown in the area. In addition to these direct economic benefits, this accreditation will enhance opportunities for bed and breakfast establishments, hotels, restaurants, and shops adding value to the Agriculture Tourism economic base.
  • Harvest Time in Brentwood Social Media and Communication Strategy
    Harvest Time in Brentwood utilizes social media to communicate with agriculture tourist visiting our area. There is a need to create a more robust communication strategy that will enhance the use of social media, including Facebook, Instagram, videos, and other digital platforms. This component of the program requests that Harvest Time engage with a social media consultant to create an enhanced communication strategy.
  • Directional Way-finding Signage for Local Farmers
    The creation and installation of directional way-finding signs that would assist tourists when visiting our area and specifically the farm stands during the U-Pick season. This initiative will improve traffic circulation by keeping visitors moving in the proper direction, will help highlight local farms, improve overall public safety by reducing the number of drivers reading maps as they drive, bring a cohesive look to the area that makes it obvious we are an agritourist destination, and beautifies our agricultural area.

Additional concepts recommended for discussion are:

  • Trolley Pilot Program
    The concept is to hire a trolley operator and run a pilot program in 2019 where visitors would be guided to various locations in Brentwood where they could park their vehicles and jump on a trolley to visit as many of the farm stands as they wish. There would be extensive marketing of this new trolley program well before the season starts. Likely locations for trolley pick-ups include the Streets of Brentwood, the City’s parking facility, and a couple of other shopping center locations.  In addition to economic benefits to local businesses and farms, this program would reduce the number of vehicles visiting specific farm stands, alleviating the parking problems, improving overall public safety, and enhancing the experience for the agritourists. The costs and timing of this program are unknown at this time. The recommendation is to prepare a Request for Proposals (RFP) to solicit potential operators and explore the costs, methods, and feasibility of such a program. Whether or not this can occur in time for the 2019 U-Pick season is pending what is learned during the RFP process.
  • Farm-to-Fork Program
    The concept in this recommendation is for City staff and the working group to research these types of programs where there is success and bring these models back to the Agricultural Enterprise Committee and working group for more discussion. This program has the opportunity to better connect our local farms and agricultural richness to local restaurants and businesses, as well as enhance agritourism.

According to Steve Gursky, president of Harvest Time Brentwood, they draw more than 200,000 people each year and looking to expand that year round and not just the U-pick season.

Peter Petersen, of Petersen Vineyards in Knightsen, highlighted how an Appellation Feasibility study could have a big impact on the area.

“It has a big impact on our area. In regards to grape growers, it is not only that it affects us in regards to price, but by being part of an Appalachian, we are actually today limited, you can say by choice by some wineries, we will not be able to sell to wineries to use these grapes due to the fact we are not part of an AVA in large to the winery restriction,” explained Petersen. “There are a number of limitations that the TTB is putting on us that is related to the labeling related to the marketing of our products.”

Peterson explained they could get included with a neighboring AVA (American Viticultural Area) or they could establish a separate AVA.

Ron Nunn spoke during public comments saying the committee had done a commendable job on initiating policies to support agricultural and encourage the council to move this forward.

Karen Rarey highlighted that they have 10 farmers who participate in the farm to fork program and it seemed like a majority of them supported all the programs that were coming before you tonight.

“That was what was important to us in the working group is that it’s great that we have these great ideas or we think they’re great ideas, but unless the farmers’ support them, it’s not going to make any difference. They, they’re the ones who need to grasp them and run with them, not just what we think our ideas are. I would say 98 percent of the things were supported wholeheartedly,” said Rarey.

City Manager Gus Vina explained the Council they have allocated $200,000 to agriculture and this effort with ideas they have not even yet explored.

“We are limited by the amount of funding in the Ag Funds, but you will be able through your budget process to decide how you want to spend those funds as they are presented to you,” said Vina.

Vice Mayor Joel Bryant explained how the council, based on numbers provided by Mr. Gursky, will be the “sum of two cents per visitor to the area” and they spend more than two cents when they are here.

“Brentwood has always been an agricultural destination from everyone that I’ve talked to when we first moved here, they weren’t aware that Brentwood was anything more than a place to come get fruit, vegetables, corn and bring their families and when they came back out here and saw the growth and the type of growth that we had and the type of community that we had this process a our farmers and our growers out here were our original attraction,” said Bryant. “I would say that there’s a large amount of families that have the advantage of having new roots in the community of Brentwood that would not have even been aware that Brentwood would existed had it not been for coming out here and taking advantage of the agriculture that we have around here”

Bryant closed by saying he believed they owe it to the agricultural community to provide them with every opportunity to give them tools they need to bring the benefit to Brentwood.

The motion passed 5-0.

For more on this agenda item, click here.