The Davis City Council enthusiastically approved minor amendments to the plans for a specialty farm to be located off I-80 near Kidwell Road on Tuesday night.
Bridgeway Farms is an ambitious project proposed by experienced agriculturalist Rich Collins that aims to provide locally grown organic produce to Yolo and Solano County residents in mix of processing, retail and education facilities.
“The opportunities to directly engage the public and customers in a verbal and gastronomic dialogue about how and where their food is produced and why it‘s important is unmatched in any other setting that staff is aware of,” wrote Mitch Sears, sustainability program manager for Davis in the staff report.
The farm will occupy land designated as a conservation easement – a legally enforceable farmland preservation agreement between a private landowner and a local government or land protection agency.
“It really started with the city and its partners trying to conserve the farmland,” Sears said.
After securing the conservation easement, Davis and its partners – including Dixon and the Solano Land Trust – began receiving proposals and bids in 2004 from farmers who wanted to purchase the land.
“When we reviewed Rich Collins and his family’s bid and qualifications, it was a great combination,” Sears said. “It really worked well with what the city was trying to accomplish in terms of sustainable farming and educating the public.“
When completed, Bridgeway Farms will sell fruits and vegetables and feature a dairy complex with a creamery to make ice cream, cheese and milk, as well as a vineyard and winery.
“The public will have access to the farm fields to see the authentic agricultural process,” Collins said.
The farm remains in the conceptual stage and will be built in phases, beginning with an indoor and outdoor farm stand, kitchen space and cold storage space. The plan is to add the dairy, winery and eventually on-site housing for farm hands and their families as the project progresses.
“We‘re going to have an organic sustainable focus to everything we do there,“ he said.
Collins described the farm’s philosophy to City Council as going “back to the future” of traditional small-scale diversified farming practices. The dairy operation will be based on the pasture model in which cows can roam freely.
“Our objective is to have happy cows,” Collins said. “And that’s a cow that is on grass.“
While the Collins family is the legal owner of the property, Davis and its partners maintain the right to approve all development plans.
On Tuesday evening, the City Council approved an amendment to the original plan to allow expansion of the residential component from 25,000 to 60,000 square feet. Plans include six duplexes for farm families and a bunkhouse for single employees.
“We consider housing to be an important element,” Collins said. “We don‘t want to just house the animals there and have the people commute in.“
The council was unanimous in its support and excitement for the project.
“This is the kind of farming that we can all be morally comfortable with and that’s one of the reasons why we’re promoting it,” said Mayor Sue Greenwald.
Councilmembers expressed interest in the project as consumers as well as community leaders. The council was especially excited about the prospect of being able to purchase locally produced cheeses and made several suggestions as to which types to produce.
“It’s quite nice to see the plan shaping up and it’s everything we hoped to see when we embarked on this project,” Greenwald said. “And I hope you will consult us as to what types of cheese you make.“
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