Janet Zeller '08 (Communication Studies)

Zeller promoting fresh, urban flavors

Sac State alumna Janet Zeller is steadily growing a crop of city-based fresh food advocates by putting them in direct contact with the land where the food is grown. But she’s taking it one step further, making sure that healthy produce is also accessible to those in need.

At the Soil Born Farms Urban Agriculture and Education Project, where Zeller is co-founder and co-director, urban dwellers learn to incorporate more fresh fruits and vegetables in their lives by getting up-close and personal with the people who grow them.

“When people are having fun and eating food that tastes good, they are more open to hearing about eating healthy,” she says.

Believers and future converts receive that message at Soil Born’s original one-acre urban farm, located smack-dab in the middle of a Sacramento neighborhood, or at their 40-acre site just miles down the American River from Sac State.

The American River site offers a weekly farm stand that helps raise funds for its educational and outreach campaigns. They also provide produce to local restaurants and community-supported agriculture programs, helping to nurture the “eat local” movement in Sacramento.

And, with help from a cadre of volunteers, Soil Born efforts are putting fresh produce in the hands of area food bank recipients. Six acres at the American River Farm are set aside for the Sacramento Food Bank. They also run the Harvest Sacramento program, which relieves homeowners of excess fruits and nuts that are then given to people in need.

“We changed the quality of the food they distribute,” Zeller says. “People are getting fresh, organic, amazing produce.”

Zeller says they see Soil Born as a model project that they hope other cities will replicate.

“This feeds our souls,” she says. “It’s a practical, hands-on operation, but it’s also magical.”

This article was originally published in the Fall 2011 edition of Sac State Magazine.