Supervisors To Hear Study Touting Appeal Of Suisun Valley
By Barry Eberling
FAIRFIELD - A new study has dozens of suggestions to help make rural Suisun Valley a flourishing tourist destination renowned for world-class wines and the charm of its small farms.
"Suisun Valley has tremendous potential to prosper as a unique agricultural region," said the study by the American Farmland Trust, a non-profit group based in Washington, D.C.
Many farmers in the 10,000-acre valley west of Fairfield-Suisun say they're not prospering now. They blame global competition, state and county regulations, and other factors. With Interstate 80 nearby, hard times for farming could lead to development on land that nearby cities have long valued as open space.
Solano County, the Solano Irrigation District and the Suisun Valley Fund paid a total of $45,000 for the American Land Trust study on Suisun Valley. That study recommends such things as launching marketing campaigns and having an agricultural economic development specialist.
The county Board of Supervisors will hear a presentation on Tuesday. Supervisors meet at 9 a.m. in their chamber at the county Government Center, 675 Texas St.
Linda Tenbrink and her family farm about 100 acres in Suisun Valley, growing grapes, tomatoes, walnuts and other crops. She's seen studies before.
"It's when you're able to put your ideas into action that you get results," Tenbrink said Friday.
Talking with friends and neighbors, she sees more reason for optimism than in the past. The public seems to understand that simply keeping land from being developed doesn't make farming profitable, she said.
"I think we're actually starting to see hope for action," Tenbrink said.
The American Farmland Trust began work on the report in October 2006 by holding two meetings with local farmers. It invited more than 400 people. About 30 attended.
Based on the farmers' comments, the trust came up with vision statement. That statement describes the valley as "a destination for tourists seeking world-class wine, identifiable Suisun Valley farm products and a beautiful agricultural landscape with no fallow land. The Suisun Valley appellation is so famous that it creates new markets and increases demand for Suisun Valley wine and other farm products outside the region."
The challenge is making that vision a reality. Suisun Valley has only two winery tasting rooms, compared to the 10 or so some valley advocates would like to see. Farmers say regulations hinder such enterprises as bed-and-breakfasts to attract tourists. The valley has several produce stands, but farmers say regulations hinder creating more of these, as well.
"For agriculture to succeed in this relatively small but fertile valley, the county, city of Fairfield and other agencies must provide the same support and opportunities that they offer to other industries," the report said.
The American Farmland Trust study has four pages of recommendations. Among them is increasing the political will to support farming. Encourage farmers to run for the county Board of Supervisors and city councils and to be on planning commissions, the report said.
Solano County can change regulations and remove barriers to help farms thrive economically, the report said. Among the suggestions: Making it easier for a farmer to process a neighboring farmer's wine and allowing wine made at a communal crush facility to be sold at an on-farm tasting room.
The report called for an agricultural development plan that sets priorities and describes who will carry them out. An agricultural economic development specialist - a position that does not exist in the county - could help, it said.
Solano County will use the American Farmland Trust report when revising its General Plan for Suisun Valley in coming months. A county committee will hold a series of meetings on the valley. The first is at 7 p.m. May 29 at Solano Community College.
Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At a glance
Who: Solano County Board of Supervisors
What: Suisun Valley report
When: 9 a.m. Tuesday
Where: County Government Center, 675 Texas St.
Monday, May 21, 2007
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