Brentwood Set to Reduce Harvest Time Funding, Eliminate Agricultural Grant Program

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On Tuesday, the Brentwood City Council will vote on a resolution that would reduce the grant funding provided to Harvest Time in Brentwood and suspend all funding from the Agricultural Grant Program.

The program was originally funded at $30,000 per year for the first three years in 2012-15. The funding was then reduced to $15,000 between 2015-18.

According to the Staff Report Councilmembers Claudette Staton and Karen Rarey who are on the Agricultural Enterprise Committee, they are recommending a suspension of the program in favor of a new Agriculture Business Program.

Brentwood Cherries

The Agricultural Enterprise Committee also recommends that Harvest Time in Brentwood continue receiving funding for the next three years, to assist with the continued production of the Harvest Time Trail map.

This recommendation is based on the fact that Harvest Time in Brentwood has been the main grant recipient over the life of the program, and the Committee wishes to ensure that Harvest Time in Brentwood has time to ramp up their Mobile app, as well as time to prepare themselves financially for the reduction in grant funding.

The Committee is recommending grant funding to Harvest Time in Brentwood as follows:

  • 2018-2019: $7,500
  • 2019-2020: $5,000
  • 2020-2021: $2,500

Harvest Time Vice President Jessica Stonebarger stated they opposed the reduction in funding because it will hurt their future ability to market local farms to the public.

Harvest Time is a Non-Profit Organization that is dedicated to educating the public and “foodies” about farming and its products while improving Agri-tourism education in the Brentwood, California Region of East Contra Costa County. Each year, they produce an educational farm trail map that directs the community and visitors to more than 40 growers who sell direct to the consumer.

The program brings people from all over California to the city sparking tourism.

Stonebarger hopes to have discussions with councilmembers Staton and Rarey to provide context of the history and background of the program before a final decision is made by the council.

“In our opinion that is a very small price to be paying to get their name out,” said Stonebarger. “From our view point, we are not depleting the account, what we take is the interest that is built in the account. For them to want to suspend that is mind boggling to us. Although it doesn’t seem like a like a lot of money, it is going to double if not triple our members’ dues over the next three years. We have a variety of large farms and small farms being run by 1-2 people. $600 to $900 is a big expense to them that they otherwise would not gain the exposure they receive through Harvest Time because the city wants to remove the funding.”

Although details have not been discussed publicly about what the city plans to do with the agriculture grant in the future, Harvest Time hopes it can be a part of the discussions as a lot of the information of what the city plans to do has been hearsay and they would like to remain in the loop.

 

“This is not a lot of money, but we are really going to be advocating for the smaller farms in Brentwood which is what Harvest Time was established for, so that all the farms can market together versus each farm marketing by themselves. It made sense then and it still makes sense today because all the farms are being included. The smaller farms are getting just as much exposure as the larger farms,” said Stonebarger.

Currently, Harvest Time Brentwood has more than 50 members in its organization promoting agriculture both in Brentwood and East County.

When reached for comment Friday, Brentwood Mayor Bob Taylor stated he was unaware of the recommendation by Councilmembers Staton and Rarey because he had not yet received and read the staff report. He noted that based on his past experience with the topic, he said he believed the City was trying to wean Harvest Time off city funds in an effort to allow them to raise their own revenues for their programs.

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9 COMMENTS

  1. Someone should remind Karen Rarey what she said during her campaign which was protect farming and bring more people to the city. Can’t think of ANYTHING else Brentwood does to brings in MORE people to the community than Harvest Time.

    In fact, here is her Q&A taken directly from ECT.

    Rarey: We need to become business-friendly in order to entice companies employing high-wage jobs to plant their roots here in Brentwood. There is a multitude of emerging technology-based businesses out there that are ripe for the picking – clean technology, telemedicine, solar and biotechnology just to name a few.

    By bringing a high-quality, high-paying workforce here to Brentwood, whether these jobs are secured by Brentwood residents or reverse commuters, we ultimately increase dollars spent in town on shopping, eating and recreating – bringing a broader base for tax revenues for the city.
    One idea I have also been developing with the local farming community:

    We’re surrounded by agriculture, so why not create agribusiness above and beyond the U-pick farms? We need to work with the County so that our farmers don’t have to jump through hoops to open commercial kitchens, wineries, olive oil mills, restaurants and bed & breakfasts on their properties. By creating agritourism, Brentwood would directly see an increase in its tax revenue base due to tourists staying in our hotels and shopping & eating locally.

    It is this broader tax revenue base which will provide the funding we need to improve and enhance public safety and maintain the quality of life we have accustomed to in Brentwood.

    http://eastcountytoday.net/ect-qa-with-brentwood-city-council-candidates/

  2. If the City Council had any brains, they would be finding ways to give our local farms more funding and make it easier on them to produce for the local community, not make it harder. The city council continues to become out of touch with the community since hiring Gus Vina. Maybe he is the problem in stirring this city council in the wrong direction time after time.

    Gus Vina is bad for Brentwood!

  3. Without the Farmers purchasing the land many years ago, farming, building the community, supporting all the activities and developing a strong economy, Brentwood would not even exist today. It all started with farming. Shameful.

  4. Taylor, Rarey and Staton are bad for Brentwood. How many times must this be proven. None of them could hold on to jobs! Taylor a whiskey salesman and Rarey a hack for the press. What made anyone think they were acceptable choices to run the city is beyond the realm of rational thinking.
    Voters are easily fooled in Brentwood and it shows.

  5. I appreciate your concern. Let me assure you that while we are phasing out the Ag Enterprise Grant program over the next three years, we are working to increase agri-business for our farmers, which in turn will increase agri-tourism.
    For a little background on the Ag Enterprise Grant program – Harvest Time in Brentwood has received over $162K since the inception of the Ag Grant Program for the Harvest Time Map (2008). Other organizations have also received funding, however Harvest Time has been the primary recipient each year.
    In 2010 Harvest Time requested and received an additional $10K in funding in order to create and maintain a mobile app, with the clear intent of no longer needing City funding for the Harvest Time Trail Map. This intent was made extremely clear from the Harvest Time Board.
    In addition to the Ag Enterprise Funding that Harvest Time received from the City, it also receives another $25K and $30K annually for the Harvest Time Festival.
    With that said, I want to assure you again that we are not abandoning our farmers, instead we are expanding the ways that we can help them.
    During the Council’s 2-year strategic planning session in December, we identified the need to establish an Agriculture Business Program, which includes a Farm to Fork program, year-round Vertical Farming, Agri-Tourism, Ag Business Incentives and a Winery/Distillery Incubator.
    Over the past six months, I have not only met with farmers in the area, but also with Harvest Time President Steve Gursky to discuss these game changers. President Gursky not only embraced our ideas, he said he would help to identify farms to be included in a farm tour I have in the works.
    The farm tour, set for the spring, will include elected officials at all levels. We will not only highlight our farmers, but we will have speakers at each stop who will talk about the benefits of growing agri-business in the Ag Core. We plan to follow up this tour with an Ag Summit and game plan in the fall.
    I think you would agree that we have some of the best produce grown right here in our Ag Core.
    The Brentwood Farm-to-Fork program will make it easier for our farmers to provide their wonderful produce directly to Brentwood restaurants. The program will not only help to connect farmers to restauranteurs, but it will include educators, non-profits and hotels.
    Another game changer in our economic development action plan is to establish a Visitors & Tourism Bureau in Brentwood. This will not only help to increase tourism in general, but agri-tourism. Visitors will be able to call for information over the phone or have it mailed to them. Visitors will also be able to stop by the bureau to pick up a variety of maps, including but not limited to restaurants, shopping, things-to-do and Harvest Time.
    We are also looking at establishing a way-finder signage program throughout the city and ag core, making it easier for tourists to find areas of interest, including our local farms (Lodi is just one of many ag communities which use wayfinder signage in its ag core http://blogs.esanjoaquin.com/…/Lodi-Wine-Country…).
    And finally, we want to create an Ag Enterprise Zone, which would allow us to apply for state and federal grants to help our farmers.
    You are absolutely right, we need to embrace our agricultural heritage and help our farmers – the Agricultural Business Program and Ag Enterprise Zone will help us to provide more resources to our farmers than ever before.

  6. Yeah, I guess that is why farmers are embracing your decisions (not). Keep trying to convince yourself that you know better and remain in denial that you are remotely qualified.

    With district elections coming you will be gone soon enough. Worst Board ever!

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