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SACOG hosts rural-urban strategy forum

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Soil Born Farms and Mulvaney's B & L are among those being honored Friday when the Sacramento Area Council of Governments hosts a regional forum as the next step in the region's smart-growth plan.

SACOG is hosting the Rural-Urban Connection Strategy to provide an update on best practices they've uncovered here and elsewhere for containing urban sprawl and protecting farmlands from being lost, partly through expanding local markets for local produce.

This year, SACOG's Salutes! Awards have a rural focus after being incorporated into the forum. SACOG will present awards to 10 organizations, people and projects. More than 500 people are registered for the forum, set for 7:30 a.m. Friday at the Sacramento Convention Center.

The forum is the culmination of three years of meetings between SACOG planners and stakeholders such as farmers, ranchers, grocery store owners, restaurateurs and others involved in the agricultural industry and rural economy.

SACOG bills the upcoming forum as the “greenprint” to the Blueprint Transportation and Land Use project. That project was adopted by SACOG’s board in December 2004 to help plan more compact growth, protect natural resources, and reduce traffic congestion and pollution over the next 50 years.

"We've been losing farmland not just in our region, but all across the state and the country," said SACOG Government and Media Affairs Coordinator Erik Johnson. "Farmland has been converted to urban uses, for housing, for the last couple of decades. A lot of the farmland in our region is classified as prime farmland in our state. It's very productive."

The forum will include a look at how farmers, ranchers and open-space advocates can work together to protect natural habitat and resources. Glenda Humiston, California state director for U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, will provide the keynote speech.

The event will also introduce people to other issues that need to be studied regionally, such as water, labor and regulations, and inform them how they can be involved in future work, Johnson said.

The free event, which runs until 12:30 p.m., starts with the Salutes! Awards and a breakfast. 

Mulvaney's is being recognized as a “Business of the Year” for promoting local farmers and ranchers through the restaurant's emphasis on dishes that use local, seasonal products, as well as for its community service.

Soil Born Farms, which has two farms on more than 40 acres in Sacramento and Rancho Cordova, is being honored as "Organization of the Year" for its efforts to educate people about agriculture and ecology, promote access to healthy local produce and provide produce to schools and community groups.

Other Salutes! honorees include U.S. Rep. Doris Matsui as "Bill Hughes Elected Official," Yolo County 2030 General Plan for "Blueprint Excellence," Bogle Vineyards as another “Business of the Year,” Joanne Neft of Placer County as "Citizen of the Year," Jim Campbell of Yolo County as "Employee of the Year," GEO Environmental Science & Design Academy at Grant Union High School as "Mary Brill Youth Excellence," Highway 70 East Nicolaus Bypass as "Project of the Year" and Apple Hill Growers Association for "Special Recognition." 


Photos of Mulvaney's B & L, Soil Born Farms and Glenda Humiston provided by SACOG. Suzanne Hurt is a staff reporter for the Sacramento Press.

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