Hand Eric Michielssen a business card, and in return he’s likely going to hand you a trading card. It looks much like a baseball card, and features a photo of a smiling Michielssen, and his business, Pozo (CA) Valley Farm. He gives them out at farmers’ markets, and even puts a stack out next to fruits and vegetables he’s grown for sale at a natural food co-op.
“Instead of just giving out a business card, it’s great because it’s got your picture on the front, and how and where to buy your stuff on the back,” he says. “It’s a unique approach to the ‘Know Your Farmer’ campaign.”
Another San Luis Obispo County grower, Joy Barlogio, would give out more of the cards too, but she’s finally run out as they were just too popular. Barlogio, who owns Jack Creek Farms west of Paso Robles, says people used to get excited when they saw the cards next to the cash register. “The whole point of the campaign was to put a face to the farm, and it was extremely popular,” she says. “It’s a program that I would love to see continue — and even add more farms.”
There were 10 farms in the trading card series when it was launched in 2011, says the executive director of the agency responsible, Jenna Smith of Central Coast Grown. Their mission is to help out local, diversified farmers, and the cards were a way to make growers more visible in the community.
“The goal was to create stronger relationships between consumers and local producers,” she says. “In San Luis Obispo County we grow a lot of produce, and if it were all consumed here every resident would eat 7 pounds of fruits and vegetables a day.”
The trading cards are all part of a buy-local strategy, says Smith. For example, last year the county Board of Supervisors agreed to institute a buy-local policy for county facilities such as jails. Central Coast Grown is also getting heavily involved in the Farm to School movement, so kids not only get the benefit of consuming fresh nutritious produce at school, but hopefully make it a lifetime habit.
Teachers can and do incorporate the trading cards into their lesson plans, says Smith. “It’s a way to
build enthusiasm among the kids,” she says. “We’re trying to create celebrity farmers.”
Barlogio would love to see that, though the Jack Creek Farms card actually pictures her daughters, Becky and Mandy, the farm’s fifth generation. Barlogio says she’s given away lots of card bundles to teachers and often hosts school groups. “Ninety-one first graders just left,” she said recently in a phone interview, understandably a bit out of breath. “But it’s not just the kids, it’s all ages. I’d like to see the type of thing where people visit all the farms and collect the whole set.”