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Resilient Humboldt

To transform Humboldt County, California into a food forest - where every resident has access to free healthful food.

Photo of Tamara McFarland
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Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Cooperation Humboldt

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small NGO (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

(This list is aspirational; hard commitments are not yet in place but we are hopeful.) Humboldt Permaculture Guild, Humboldt Food Policy Council, California Center for Rural Policy, Locally Delicious, North Coast Growers Association, North Coast Community Garden Collaborative, Wiyot Tribe, Yurok Tribe, United Indian Health Services, College of the Redwoods, Humboldt State University

Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 1-3 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?


Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

United States

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Humboldt County is in far-northern California, and covers an area of 10,494.63 km^2. (We may narrow the scope to the Mad River watershed.)

What country is your selected Place located in?

United States

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

I have lived in Humboldt County for 39 years (since I was 4 years old). Several others on our team are also native to this place, and we hope to involve local Indigenous People as well. Most of us who live hear enjoy a deep connection to the local environment, including through activities like hiking, boating, biking, and camping.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Humboldt County enjoys spectacular beauty and abundant natural resources, where mountains meet the sea. Natural features include Humboldt Bay and numerous rivers. The coastal climate is very mild (primarily zone 9, with some variation 8-10). The county's population is 132,000. Just over 20% are living below the poverty level, which is significantly higher than the national average of 13%. This is a very rural community - the county seat and largest city (Eureka) has a population of just 27,000. Physical distance between towns/cities is a challenge. Our economy is unsettled, both historically due to the volatility of the extractive industries that once flourished here (fishing, logging), and currently due to the legalization of marijuana, which has impacted small scale local growers as well as our larger economy (grocery stores, luxury goods, and more). We have a thriving local farming community and growers' association but lack a hub for aggregating and distributing produce and value-added food products. Much of our farmland exists in former salt marshes that were diked to create ag land 100 years ago; these areas are now threatened by rising sea level. This region is at high risk for earthquakes. We also find ourselves more frequently faced with dangers from storms and high winds due to climate change.

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

As mentioned previously, our current local food system is challenged by the lack of a hub where goods can be aggregated and distributed. This is also a very isolated region. Roads in/out of the county are regularly shut down due to weather events. In the event of a longer term emergency, our grocery store shelves would be bare within 2-3 days. The recent PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoffs have highlighted our vulnerability and heightened our awareness as a community for our the need for better systems for local resilience. Indigenous people in this region posses critical skills and knowledge and we need to work to build trust and relationships between local tribal and non-tribal folks to move forward in harmony with the earth to face the challenges ahead.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

One vision is for the creation of a cooperative local hub that would empower local farmers and food producers to get more of their products to local consumers. The second vision is to create food forests throughout our community, which will serve to re-connect regular folks to food growing skills, and provide plentiful oases of free nutritious food for anyone who needs it.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

All residents of Humboldt County experience access to healthy, locally produced foods as a human right. No one is hungry or under-nourished. The work of farmers and food producers is valued, and they are compensated fairly. Relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous folks are mutually supportive and we've taken the lead on how to address these issues from local tribes. In emergency circumstances, should we be isolated from other parts of the state, we are able to meet our own food needs. In non-emergency circumstances, growing food is viewed as normal and enjoyable, and we are enjoying the process as a community of meeting most of our food needs autonomously.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

This section is beyond where our team currently is in this process. :-)

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Email

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Sofia Lopez Nunez

Hi Tamara McFarland Great to see you joining the Prize!
Would be great to see a more developed version of your “Full Vision.” This will help the community provide you with feedback and possibly even collaborate with you. Feel free to make continue making changes to your submission and update it until January 31, 2020.