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Sonoma-Marin Young Farmers and Ranchers August Ag Tour

Young Ag Professionals Learn About the Local Food System and Range to Table Program

By Michelle McClure, YF&R Public Relations Officer
Photos by Rachel LaFranchi

Published September 1, 2017

In August, in lieu of a general meeting, the Sonoma-Marin Young Farmers and Ranchers attended an educational ag tour. The group toured the Redwood Empire Food Bank (REFB), Bear Republic Brewery and Oak Ridge Angus to learn about the local food system and the Range to Table Program.

The day started with a tour of REFB. Jean Larson, Chief Operating Officer, brought the group around the warehouse showcasing the dry food storage, cold food storage, commercial kitchen, staging areas and the Value Market. Larson informed participants that the three pillars of REFB are food, funds and volunteers; without any of the three, the Food Bank would not function.

The group learned that in 2016, REFB received 1.2 million pounds of food donations from local growers, retailers and distributed 15.1 million pounds of healthy food that went to help 82,000 people in our community. Participants also learned about Kitchen Collective, a program through REFB which helps create meals with fresh produce that won’t be distributed before its expiration. The entrees made are then flash frozen to extend the shelf life and help teach those accepting the meals how to cook with the items available.

One thing often overlooked is students that receive free and discounted lunches during the school year don’t have access to these during the summer; the Food Bank helps collect and distribute meals to students during the summer.

Last year, as part of the Range to Table program, REFB received 31 head of cattle for harvesting which equated to 15,886 pounds of animal protein. The mission of the program is to provide protein in the form of meat to those in need in our community. The only costs to the Food Bank are the processing fees. Last year 22 cattle ranchers, local businesses and organizations partnered to make the Range to Table program possible.

The next stop on the tour was feed source for many of the animals in the Range to Table program. Clay Grosskopf, Marketing Manager for Bear Republic Brewery, brought the group around the Cloverdale facility. Each year, Bear Republic brews approximately 81,000 barrels or 2,511,000 gallons of beer, most of which is their Racer 5 IPA.

Bear Republic reserves their spent brewers’ grain for Oak Ridge Angus to pick up and feed to the cows. Oak Ridge Angus picks up approximately 25,000 pounds of grain six days a week. Cheryl LaFranchi, owner of Oak Ridge Angus, has been working with the Bear Republic to pick up their brewers’ grain since they opened their Healdsburg brewery in 1996. As the brewery has grown exponentially, LaFranchi has adjusted her business practices to be able to feed all the grain.

The partnership works well because Bear Republic needed somewhere to dispose of the grain to keep it out of the city septic system in turn Oak Ridge Angus can feed more animals making the donation to REFB possible.

Cheryl LaFranchi, owner of Oak Ridge Angus has been instrumental in developing the Range to Table Program. She started the program in 2012 with the help of Stephanie Larson at UCCE Sonoma and David Goodman, Executive Director of REFB.

The third stop on the tour was at Oak Ridge Angus where the group had lunch and then toured the Angus cattle ranch. LaFranchi gave the group a history of the ranch which has been in the family for more than 100 years. LaFranchi told the group how the ranch has grown over the years to accommodate the brewers’ grain from the Bear Republic Brewery. In addition to raising more cattle, LaFranchi has built more infrastructure and invested in more equipment to be able to feed the amount of brewers’ grain the ranch currently receives. Sonoma-Marin Young Farmers and Ranchers would like to thank everyone who provided a tour and arranged for it to happen. A special thank you to Sonoma County Airport Express for donating transportation for the day.

If you would like to contribute by donating a calf to be raised for the program please contact Cheryl LaFranchi at (707) 292-1013 or cheryl@lafranchi.com. If you have cattle that you would like to donate to the program please contact Stephanie Larson at (707) 565-3442 or slarson@ucdavis.edu. If you would like to volunteer with the Redwood Empire Food Bank or would like to make a cash donation please go to www.refb.org. To make a donation click on the donate tab. When making a donation be sure to indicate that it is for the Range to Table program.


Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the author and Sonoma County Farm Bureau when reprinting this item.