County of Santa Cruz
BOARD OF SUPERVISORS
RE: RESOLUTION RECOGNIZING THE RIGHTS OF INDIVIDUALS TO GROW AND CONSUME THEIR OWN FOOD PRODUCTS AND TO ENTER INTO PRIVATE CONTRACTS WITH OTHER INDIVIDUALS TO BOARD ANIMALS FOR FOOD
Dear Members of the Board:
For many years, Santa Cruz County has been at the forefront of the local food movement. It has long been recognized that eating locally and growing your own food supports sustainability, local farmers, and healthy eating.
Santa Cruz County residents have supported this movement through community gardens, local farmers’ markets, and a plethora of locally produced foods. The farmers’ markets in Santa Cruz County sell not only local and organic fruits and vegetables, but local eggs and sustainably raised meat products as well. Many innovative county residents have also started shared garden plots where individuals who have large gardens share their produce with those who don’t have space for gardens in exchange for labor or other goods and services. In the past few years, county residents who desire fresh dairy products, but don’t live in a rural area where they can raise their own animals, have chosen to participate in what is called a herd share.
Herd shares operate like a private club, where a limited group of individuals purchase a share in an animal, most commonly chickens, goats, or cows. The members of the share then own a part of that animal and enter into a contract whereby the farmer (or owner of the property where the animal will live) feeds and boards the animal. The milk, eggs or meat are then distributed to the members of the share to consume as they wish.
The share member does not buy the milk, eggs or meat from the farmer because as part owner of the animal, the share owner already owns a portion of the product produced by the animal. Rather, the share owner pays a fee to the farmer to cover the cost of feed, vet bills, and boarding the animal.
Recently the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has begun sending cease and desist orders across California to small farmers and owners of herd shares that distribute dairy or meat products among their members. While it is legitimate for government to see that producers are following the law in order to ensure the highest level of food safety for the public, there must be a distinction made between those farmers engaging in direct commerce with the public, as in the case of a farmer’s market or grocery store, and those individuals choosing to take part in a private herd share or community garden share.
The County of Santa Cruz has a large rural area where residents have the ability to host share animals. In addition, many county residents desire and seek a direct relationship with their food and have chosen to participate in herd shares for this reason. Further, some residents have health issues that prevent them from consuming commercially produced dairy products and have turned to herd shares to provide milk and other dairy products that they can safely consume….”
Thanks to Jan Steinman for the tip.