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.
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.