Farm to Fork San Diego

In San Diego County, you’ll find that those who farm, fish, brew beer, make wine, and operate our local markets and restaurants, are deeply connected to their communities. They feed people and planet, both in nutrients and in spirit. They dedicate themselves to this hard work despite the thin margins and low wages. When we invest in our local food producers, we invest in us all: our collective health, shared environment, and local economy. 

That’s why Farm to Fork San Diego was started. Farm to Fork San Diego is a membership organization that verifies and promotes local businesses—mostly restaurants—that source from San Diego County farms and fishing operations. Farm to Fork also supports farmers and fishermen with marketing their products locally, and educates chefs and local business owners on how their purchasing decisions play a key role in scaling up the local food supply. By committing to purchasing freshly harvested food from our region, these businesses hold a critical piece to establishing a sustainable, equitable food system in our region.

Like many others during the COVID-19 pandemic, we were reminded of how fragile a long, industrialized supply chain can be—and how, in contrast, local growers and fishermen are able to provide for our communities when we support them with our business. The pandemic yielded a spike in demand for locally grown food, and our region’s farmers and fishermen stepped up without hesitation. This was one heartening moment of the pandemic: the sudden increase in public awareness of the health, social, environmental, economic, and flavor benefits of buying local, and new relationships developed between food producers and consumers.

Sustaining this awareness, making sure these relationships are not short-lived, and drawing in a steady stream of new supporters, is what we—the many of us who work in support of our region’s food system—need to do. Eaters who make changes in their own habits and chefs who commit to purchasing local in their businesses can become powerful advocates for wider and more lasting change. Let’s do all that we can to expand our movement and base of support.

Importantly, as we go about our work, we must ensure that the benefits of consuming local food and engaging in our food system are not held out of reach for anyone, as they historically have been, and in many cases, still are. A shift toward purchasing local food should not simply mean more quality food for some—it means recognizing the interdependence of us all.

This means we must put in the work. If we want to include voices that have not been at the table, alleviate diverse needs, and respect and represent the many cuisines and cultures of our region, we must reach out extensively to many small businesses, organizations, and community groups. This work is worth doing. It is the next step of our local food movement.

Trish Watlington is the Founder of Farm to Fork San Diego, and Board Chair at Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center. Trish has been a leader in San Diego's food system for decades, formerly owning popular farm-to-table restaurant The Red Door. She then went on to found Farm to Fork San Diego, a grassroots group of food businesses and producers that support local farmers and fishermen.

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